Friday 16 February 2024

The More They Stay the Same

There was a lot of cope around the Tory party today. Reflecting on the largest collapse of an incumbent party's vote in 90 years and the biggest swing from Conservatives to Labour since before the war, all Jacob Rees-Mogg could do was pretend Keir Starmer is not on track for a big general election win by pointing to how Labour did not win more than 50% of the vote in Wellingborough. Likewise the Tories were brushed aside with ease in Kingswood too. The loss of these seats, which are as Tory as Tory can be, exposes the rot that's eaten away at the Conservatives' support base. If only someone had been banging on about this for years.

Labour's triumph and the Tory catastrophe reinforces the existing trends in establishment politics. These results can only have a stabilising effect on the strategies, rhetoric, and positions takings of both parties between now and the general election.

For the Tories, the old excuses have come out. Their supporters "stayed at home". This is the line of Lord David Frost, who has never been near an election and can almost be forgiven such naivete. Or Tory supporters are lending protest votes to Reform UK. This is what the so-called New Conservatives are saying, and this finds a reasonable echo on the Tory benches. Calling for Rishi Sunak to resign (again), Andrea Jenkyns sums up the right wing position: stop immigration, strafe the boats that brave the Channel, double down on anti-woke politic, and push back against the green crap. This is the path to electoral success. It obviously isn't, but there is an infantile logic at work here. Tot up the Tory vote, tot up the Reform vote. Unite the right and Labour wouldn't have won. At least not in Kingswood. Unfortunately for our back bench factions, it's not as simple as that.

How is this going to play out for the government? More Tory bellyaching and impotent grandstanding from yesterday's people. And Sunak? A pretence that everything is fine, that he's delivering for Britain - despite falling short of his own meagre targets, and hoping Rwanda and dumping on trans people in the earshot of a murdered girl's mother can swing it for him. Have the Tories ever been in as abject a position?

Labour, as we know, has had its own difficulties this week. Support among Muslims and other sections of its core electorate have taken a dive and it's looking increasingly likely that George Galloway will rub Starmer's nose in the political consequences of his depravity over the ethnic cleansing in Gaza. And so those who fancy themselves the political brains of the Labour operation are going to be over the moon with these results. No blowback for being soft on Israeli genocide. And no sign of a revolt over Labour's scaling back of its green ambitions. Though it's worth noting the Green vote increased enough in Kingswood to save the party's deposit - their best ever result in the seat. Their obvious take home is going to be that while Labour's core support are unhappy, jettisoning popular policy while advertising one's moral vacuity are no barriers to winning seats in Tory areas. Why not move on and water down those awkward pledges on workers' rights to win more of them over?

Here are the contours of the dying months of the Tories' 14 year stint in power. They have boxed themselves in to thinking policies that are the priority for a small minority of the electorate is the key to victory, when all it can do is hold a rump together. And despite Starmer's exhortations that Labour "shouldn't take anything for granted" and needing to "fight as if we're five points behind in the polls", never before has a party approached an electorate so sure of victory that its politics are shot through with the laziest complacency.


phuzz said...

Part of the reason Rees-Mogg might have been so quick to jump in about the Kingswood result is that, due to boundary changes, at the next election part of Kingswood will be merged with his existing constituency. This will probably bring more non-Tory voters.

Anonymous said...

I don't really see the point of Labour anymore, I feel so disappointed by them. Labour's stance on Israel and Starmer's back-tracking on all the promises he made to become leader just proves to me that the right wing media will continue to call the shots when Labour get into power.

Mr Disillusioned.

Sean Dearg said...

Oddly, after 130 days of slaughter, Starmer chooses today to say that "the fighting must stop now". One wonders why he waited until 30,000 Palestinians had been killed (12,000 of them children). Has he decided that that is enough to balance the 1200 israelis killed on 7/10/23? Each Israeli death required that 10 Palestinian children and 15 adults be murdered in reprisal? Once that simple arithmetic has been fulfilled, it's time to stop?

Or are the British establishment beginning to worry that they might be found complicit of Genocide? The Israelis will soon have to report to the ICJ on what they have done to meet the requirements of the preliminary findings issued on 26/1/24. When they turn up and have nothing but lies and bluster to offer, what then? At the very least, it will be highly embarrassing to all those who have failed to demand a stop to the killing. Accusations of antisemitism probably won't sway the ICJ, and fear of the label is the only (feeble) justification Starmer has for his failure to call for a ceasefire.

When our leaders are more concerned about what people say that could be construed as antisemitic than they are about the slaughter of thousands of people and the ongoing destruction of a community of 2.3 million, we know we have been utterly failed.