Archive for June, 2024

The Tories will not be the only party to collapse on Thursday, so prepare for another election very soon…north of the border

30/06/2024, 10:43:12 PM

by Rob Marchant

Britain’s national media are naturally focused on the story of the day, the Tories’ disastrous polling and the perhaps worse signals given by their own campaign teams.

These include the apparent writing off of any Tory seats with majorities more than 10,000 for head-office help and diverting these resources to other seats, including some ministerial seats with majorities of more than double that. Defending majorities of this size is essentially unheard of in the modern era of “key seat” campaigning, practiced by all major parties.

But north of the border, a second story – in its way, as momentous as the Tories’ – is rumbling. The palpable slump in support for the SNP implies not merely that they will lose a chunk of their Westminster seats, but that they are likely to be heartily trounced and that Scottish Labour would end up being the largest party in Scotland.

For a party which has now been in power for seventeen years – three more than the Tories – next Thursday is shaping up to be a huge turning point.

Uncut predicted back in May that the SNP is going to lose badly, and its numbers have not improved in the slightest. The Electoral Calculus site is showing them with a predicted 18 seats remaining – a slashing by nearly two-thirds from the original 48 in 2019 – and they could still go as low as 7.

Credit where it’s due: compared to his dreadful predecessor, the Corbynite Richard Leonard, Anas Sarwar has made a reasonable fist so far of being Scottish leader, (if we can gloss over his risking the wrath of Scottish women by having to be dragged kicking and screaming into protecting their single-sex spaces). But the real story is not so much Scottish Labour’s renaissance, but just how fed-up Scottish voters are with the out-of-touch incumbents.


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Starmer’s Labour offers genuine hope of restoring Britain’s credibility in the world

24/06/2024, 11:30:58 PM

by Rob Marchant

General elections tend to focus on bread-and-butter domestic issues that affect voters directly. But what would a Labour government look like in terms of its relations with the rest of the world?

Britain’s reputation in the world is surely poorer than it has been for decades – not because it is seen as bad by its neighbours and allies, but because it is looked at with a kind of sad sympathy, as you would a friend who had recently committed an act of self-harm and had not yet turned the corner into recovery. The UK is fundamentally liked and admired abroad more than some cynics might think, but these days it is rather in spite of the Tories than because of them. In particular, the premierships of Johnson and Truss have hardly worked wonders for the credibility of British governments abroad.

At such a time, Labour has a huge advantage, as in some other policy areas, of being able to make major, positive changes, by dint of simply not being the Tories, and therefore not hidebound by Tory obsessions, such as being triggered by any mention of, well, that great continent of which Britain’s landmass forms a part.

Whether or not you agreed with Britain leaving the EU – and most of the country, for better or worse, no longer thinks it was a good idea – in 2024, the country is clearly not ready to rejoin and neither is the party – wisely – positing this as something they will look to deliver. After all, they are not even elected yet, and self-evidently need not to scare the horses and put at that risk. But we are looking to file off some of Brexit’s sharp corners with some simple and specific pledges.

Where the manifesto says “new trade agreements”, it seems to be talking about sensible, focused measures with existing partners, rather than of the Tory-style, “the government announces a terrific new trade deal with Lichtenstein” variety.

For example, exporters of many kinds of perishable goods have been for the last two-and-a-half years been subject to pointless veterinary checks on every load, causing delays and increased costs which have harmed their business; checks which Labour will seek to remove. Neither will they have Britain commit reputational hara-kiri by putting it outside the European Convention on Human Rights, something that only the despotic regimes of Russia and Belarus have managed since its inception.

A major area which requires a high level of international coordination is Miliband’s familiar hobby-horse of the environment and clean energy; while one might speculate on the practicality of his grand schemes, at least Labour will not be beholden to the cranky climate-change deniers of the Tory right.


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A big Labour win, or even a solid majority, will show once again that the ground game is wildly overrated in modern politics

22/06/2024, 09:34:47 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Heresy! Burn the unbeliever! Is someone really blaspheming against the hallowed environs of the #Labourdoorstep?

Yes dear reader, I am and if you too want to be damned by the high priests of political organising, read on.

Door-knocking, phone-banking and leafletting are the performative rituals of politics as a religion rather than practical activities that make much difference to the election result.

They provide a communal focus for activists. They give the candidate something to do (normally far too much, both in terms of time and financial commitment) and generate a faux flow of data during those frenetic few weeks of a campaign, cloaking local endeavours with the appearance of quantitative rigour.

But in truth, most of it is futile, certainly in terms of the overall election result.

How have I discerned this untold wisdom? By dint of remembering the 2019 election, the 2017 election, the 2015 election, the 2010 election and… well, you get the point.

Here are a few examples.  There are many more.

In 2015, Labour was wiped out in Scotland. The SNP was in the ascendant but they did not have an activist operation on anything like the scale to actively work and secure 56 out of 59 seats, constituency by constituency. But somehow, without a full ground operation, they still succeeded.

David Cameron’s Tories did similar to the Lib Dems in the south, once again, without any sign of a comprehensive ground game that extended across all of their target seats.

In 2019, the Tories smashed Labour across the Red Wall. These were not seats with huge, bustling Tory activist formations which had been assiduously working each constituency for years. Once again, in most of these seats there was no substantive Tory ground game, yet still, even without lots of social media posts about the #RedWall doorstep, the Tories managed to reduce Labour to its worst result since the 1930s.


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For this campaign and beyond, Labour needs to articulate a vision of freedom. The manifesto was a good starting point

16/06/2024, 10:41:51 PM

by Jonathan Todd

“There is a sort of sea change going on now and I would argue it is to the left,” claims Steve Richards on the latest edition of Not Another One, a new podcast and one of the most welcome developments of this general election.

The guide to this possible leftward turn sits, to some extent, in the Labour manifesto 2024. But, as Phil Collins observes, “a manifesto is only an opening gambit.”

1945 brought a Labour government of bigger and more enduring change than any other. Yet, as Collins notes, “Labour’s 1945 manifesto had just seven pledges. In 2019 the manifesto contained one hundred and sixty.”

What Labour did have in 1945 was an argument about freedom. “For once,” writes Richards in Turning Points, “a Labour leader won a case about ‘freedom’ … It was only through the ‘power of the state’ that people had become free … Future Labour leaders who lost elections might have fared better if they had been as nimble as Attlee in claiming the vote-winning term ‘freedom’ for their party.”

The freedom to be homosexual under Harold Wilson in the 1960s and the freedom to smoke-free pubs with Tony Blair in 2000s are relatively rare examples of Labour leaders embedding change through arguments about freedom.

“Freedom is a complex term, but one that (Margaret Thatcher) seized and defined in her own terms, a talent that has usually eluded Labour prime ministers,” laments Richards in Turning Points.

Isaiah Berlin’s famous Two Concepts of Liberty essay lurks behind these grand Labour and Tory battles. With Tories usually emphasising the negative (freedom from) and Labour the positive (freedom to).


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