‘I can’t vote for a man who gives a speech about future policy, and not about Brexit, and who then doesn’t mention Brexit’.
‘Keir Starmer? More like Blair Starmer, if you ask me. And what did Blair ever do for The Party?’
‘I’m a socialist. I’m not going to vote for a Sir. Whose backside did he fondle to get that?’
‘Of course I’m going to protest loudly at some of Starmer’s views and policies. We’re a party of protest, not of government.’
And so it goes.
A party that dislikes its most successful leader because he made one (admittedly large) error; that then anointed his successor without competition; then chose the wrong brother; and then elected a leader with zero leadership skills. A party that’s spent years kow-towing to a couple of Trades Union leaders, one of whom was elected on 12% of the vote. But, heavens be praised and corn in Egypt, a party that’s finally elected a leader who is competent (i.e. doesn’t frighten the horses), is a communicator (if a little formally) and who is centre-left enough for most to rally round.
But is that enough?
And if they don’t, then whither the Labour Party – and the country? We have over three more years of this UKIP-Tory government. Then, given their majority, perhaps five more. By then the demographic pendulum might have swung enough, and HM’s Loyal Opposition entrenched themselves as an alternative government enough, to send the right-wing back to the holes-in-the-ground they came from. In the meanwhile, eight years of the blusterer, the rich-kid-next-door, the tailor’s dummy, the smirker, the eternal traveller, the man-boy, the ex-UKIP candidate, the unelected one et al. (Hancock? All the above are briefing against him and plotting to make him the fall guy for all of blondie’s mistakes.)
Back to Labour and Starmer. We’ve left the EU, on just about the worst terms imaginable, and we’re in the middle of a world-wide pandemic. The harm that leaving the EU is doing hasn’t got through to the public yet, whilst the damage that Covid is doing is all too obvious – illness, death, lack of schooling, unemployment etc. The vaccine is giving us all hope and we can start to imagine a world post-pandemic. We can also see the financial cost of the pandemic and start to wonder how we are going to pay for it. In the next twelve months this is not only going to be a very real discussion, but the only discussion that has any traction on the street and in the media. Meanwhile, re-allying ourselves with the EU is a ten-to-twenty year project – something for the long term. And that, surely, is why Starmer is concentrating on the immediate future and not giving hostages to fortune on a subject that’s years away and that few currently care about.
If, in the next two years, Labour can establish itself as a traditional centre-left party, parade its acceptably competent front bench and see off the extreme left (whatever happened to Jeremy Corbyn?), then there is a chance that the country and parliament will have the Opposition that they and democracy badly need. And a slight chance that electoral fortunes can be reversed.
Or Labour can wallow in in-fighting (which it does rather well) and become the irrelevance that the previous leader’s acolytes seem to devoutly wish.
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