The Tory government has brought the NHS its worst-ever winter.
The Tories are floundering on many other issues. A 60%-29% majority thinks they are handling Brexit badly, and a 52%-18% majority, that Brexit has gone badly since December 2020.
Yet Keir Starmer’s eyes remained fixed on reconciling Labour with big business. He told the CBI bosses’ group (22 November) that “Labour is the party of business”. It was the same keynote in his soon-forgotten pamphlet just before Labour Party conference in September, and in his conference speech.
The government is setting records for u-turns. Yet the Labour leadership never seeks to mobilise the labour movement and the working class to force a u-turn.
The 29 November Shadow Cabinet reshuffle points to more of the same.
Solidarity campaigns for the labour movement, and the unions in the first place, to push Labour into an active fight against the Tories. Several unions have recently passed motions for street protests against anti-union laws, or for Labour’s “New Deal for Workers”, in spring 2022. Protests now on the NHS and the Borders Bill, and active support for the university workers’ strikes, will be even better.
The argument that Labour can only win currently “middle-ground” voters by being weak and conciliatory towards big business and the Tories is false.
More left-wing policies do not automatically bring more votes. But if “middle-ground” working-class people see Labour as too weak to make much difference on issues like the NHS, if they see no hope of replacing capitalism or even of modifying it largely, then will go with the thought that the Tories know best how to run capitalism.
Labour feebleness tends to lose votes even in the middle ground. It pushes younger and more left-wing voters not to vote at all, or to wander to the Greens or SNP or even Lib-Dems. And it gives the Tories a free hand to recover their balance and confidence.
Check out recent decades. The Tories floundered and lost morale after their defeat on the poll tax, the Exchange Rate Mechanism fiasco, and the house-price crash from 1989. Those factors established a big opinion-poll lead for Labour, around 15%, long before Tony Blair became leader in July 1994.
In 1994, Blair had a media “honeymoon”. Labour was also supporting, and winning new members from, an on-the-streets campaign by the Communication Workers’ Union to block privatisation of Royal Mail, which forced the Tories to back down. The Labour lead grew.
It then narrowed as Blair settled in, but remained large to 1997. Many people thought that Blair was a smooth performer cunningly opening the door to a “real” Labour government.
They were disillusioned bit by bit. By 2005 “New Labour” policies had reduced Labour’s score to 35%; by 2010, to 29%.
Ed Miliband’s shelving of his occasional leftish talk blocked revival, so Labour’s score was still at 30% in 2015. More left-wing policies then increased the score to 40% in 2017. Missteps by the Corbyn leadership (and not left-wing ones, in our view) brought it down to 32% in 2019. That was still higher than 2015 or 2010.
Keir Starmer had relatively good ratings in early 2020, on the basis of his leftish pitch in the Labour leadership contest, but has developed a poor “approval” score (about 10% to 15% more “disapproval” than “approval”) as he has pushed to the right.
The Starmer road is the one that has taken the once-strong French Socialist Party and Dutch Labour Party to near-extinction; and impedes the labour movement from pushing back the Tories now.