Left in Pieces

BY JON ALEXANDER

The last few days have shown us that the country still doesn’t have an appetite for the Labour Party, Boris and his Conservatives are still popular and again we are going to be treated to another Labour civil war.

You will read numerous analyses from across the political spectrum about the problems the Labour Party has and why it’s struggling, everything from accents to skin colour to not being far Left enough.  A lot of points will be valid, but mostly we will sit on social media and mock. A lot of arguments will take place over what went wrong.

I have no doubt that Labour will not learn a damned thing and will continue to make the same mistakes going into the next general election, currently set for 2024. Leaving aside seat calculation, constituency demographics and the dreaded Brexit argument that still rages on, I’ve narrowed it down to three key issues, that unless addressed, will mean Labour is likely to be on a par with the Lib Dems in the 90s – maybe even worse.

The problem goes deeper than just the Labour Party, it is the Left in general. In their desperation to show how open-minded they are they have split into so many factions, it’s like Game of Thrones, without any break-out lead stars.

Firstly, yes, we are into the eleventh year of a Conservative-led government and History says it should be struggling by now. Having gone into power pushing an austerity agenda, having overseen our departure from the EU and ruling during a global pandemic, this government should be taking a thrashing in by-elections and local ones. But it isn’t. Despite accusations from the likes of Richard Burgon MP that this government is a far-right Thatcherite government, which it isn’t, the fact remains that the Conservative Party is not the same Conservative Party that it was forty years ago. It isn’t even the same party it was two years ago. It’s not clear if the Left recognise this and just hope repeating the same old mantra will convince the descendants of old Labour voters to vote against the Tory chameleon. In the 90s, Thatcher had ruled for eleven years and people began to tire, she was set stubborn in her ways and eventually she became more and more isolated. We ended up with John Major and his ‘Europe above all else’ policy that gave the party their worst defeat in recent history. When David Cameron came to power in 2010, the Conservatives were supported by the Liberal Democrats and arrived on a manifesto of austerity and change. This allowed them to occupy the centre ground and set the Tories up for a victory in 2015. In 2017, Theresa May’s agenda was to focus on leaving the EU, a global Britain and social justice. Her term was defined by her own incompetence, but nevertheless, she had a vision and she sought to move from the Cameron agenda she served under. Once May had stepped aside, Boris entered the ring, causing the Left to brand him “far-right”, “racist” and “Thatcherite”. The truth is, he’s no such thing – his brand of Conservatism, one nation Conservatism if you will, is popular. It gained him enough support within the party and the membership to stand up to the Remain supporters within the party, push them out and go into the 2019 general election as a minority leader and emerge as a majority leader in a landslide victory. Eleven years in power, but four different governments, this is part of the party’s overall success. Rebranding is key for political longevity and right now the Tories are the most successful at real change.

The second factor is Labour itself – starting with a Keir and likely ending with one. They are incapable of real change. Brown, Miliband, Corbyn and Starmer have all presented different manifestos, but their ultimate message has been the same. Their inability to acknowledge that their policies aren’t bringing the voters in is their undoing. Yes, “free” stuff is nice, but we are no longer gullible enough to believe these things are actually free. Labour went into 2019 thinking that people didn’t see the obvious flaw in their plans and still believe that if they keep plugging away it’ll eventually wear people down and they will just believe their promises with nothing to back them up. If a Labour policy fails to grip the general public, they don’t go back to the drawing board and rethink the idea, they just determine that the public are too thick to understand their brilliance. It’s the equivalent of the 30-40 year old women on Facebook that post daily pictures of themselves in their bathrooms, wearing tight clothing or next to nothing, opining on how men can’t handle what strong independent women they are, when in actual fact men avoid them because they’re high maintenance and expect 100% control of the relationship and his finances without contributing anything themselves except for bad attitude, constantly complaining and the knowledge that she’ll be slagging him off down the pub with her mates every Friday and Saturday nights whilst he’s sat at home wondering how he got into that mess. If Labour don’t change, their voter requirements will. If voters in Scotland and Wales want a serious opposition to Boris Johnson’s government they can vote for the SNP or Plaid, if they want Green policies, they have a Green party which – perhaps most dangerous of all recent developments – is increasing its popularity every year. If they want a radical identity politics driven grievance manifesto, they can vote Lib Dem. What do they need Labour for anymore?

Finally, the Left is so splintered that it is incapable of unifying when it needs to. The Conservatives are successful in elections because they present one option to the Right – most voters will come home to them eventually, whether they like the party or not, just as 2019 proved. This presents a huge problem for the Left, they couldn’t even unify on an anti-Brexit ticket in the general election held in 2019, how are they expected to unify to present a potential government to the electorate? These local council elections have seen the demise of UKIP while the Brexit Party didn’t field any candidates, leaving the Tories to go up against Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP, Plaid and the Greens. Factor in other smaller fringe parties and the Left won’t get a majority. The Left don’t compromise, no one will give up their shot at a little bit of power, not one person will stand there and say, “You know what, for the sake of the country, I won’t stand today, and I’ll let the other party take that seat as they have the better chance.” This was evident when the Scottish Conservative leader attempted to create a Unionist voting pact with Scottish Labour and other parties, only to be rebuffed. The argument has now shifted to how broken the electoral system is, despite it returning many Labour victories in the past on national and local levels and despite it probably resulting in a Conservative/UKIP coalition in 2015 that would have likely been extended to this year due to the Covid-19 situation – and with Brexit delivered, would like deliver us another coalition with the same players for another five years. The Left’s problems run much deeper than a simple explanation, but until they grasp that and really look at themselves, they’ll be in opposition for the next twenty years. In the meantime, popcorn for all – enjoy Labour’s very public meltdown.

Jon Alexander is one of the three founder writers of Country Squire Magazine.