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Editorial: Johnson may be out of fans but Labour’s still without a plan

THE local elections this spring are predicted, even by Tory pundits, to very likely result in more than 500 Tory losses.

While local elections are animated by local concerns — the East Anglian movement for comprehensive NHS dental services is a good example — the outcome often turns on popular perceptions of the national government.

So to the various inadequacies and malfeasance of Tory councils these local representatives of the governing party have the vast unpopularity of the Prime Minister and his ministerial colleagues to contend with.

You might think that, as Labour is defending the huge harvest of seats that the Corbyn-led Labour Party delivered last time round, the Tories might have a chance.

Keir Starmer was on the wireless today bigging up the fact that Labour under his leadership has dragged itself from being 20 points behind to being a few points up front.

Good news indeed, even if his failure over months and years now to fully acknowledge how Labour’s last leadership and its radical programme delivered such an advance in a matter of a few weeks — and in the face of unremitting media hostility and sabotage by the Westminster Labour faction — remains unspoken.

Pressed by the BBC’s Martha Kearney on the vexed quest of public ownership — this in the context of an examination of Labour’s proposal to offer a partial subsidy to meet energy bills — Starmer flatly ruled out a full programme of public ownership.

Of course he was right to insist that the priority is dealing with the cataclysmic rise in energy bills with a windfall tax. And Kearney was right on the BBC/corporate media track that windfall taxes on business somehow threaten the viability of pension schemes.

As if anyone thought that the super-profits accruing to the energy companies are going to find themselves in the pockets of pensioners rather the bank accounts of shareholders.

Labour has decorated its local election campaign with a marketing drive to flog warmed-over ephemera from the New Labour years. This vastly misconceived idea is an unseemly reminder that among those who remember his blood-soaked time in office, Tony Blair ranks with Gary Glitter in the unpopularity stakes.

For the generations who came to political consciousness in the decades since, he has significance only as a reminder of his lies that launched the Iraq war.

The truth that reincarnated New Labour cannot stomach is that the social spending and tax credits that the “golden years” of the Blair-Brown partnership delivered were based on a slice of the profits in the financial bubble that burst with the banking crisis of 2008.

These days are never to return and Labour — in these local elections and in the coming general election — needs policies to take the real-life problems of this decade.

If chief among these is the energy crisis, we can see that in addition to the wholesale nationalisation of the energy supply and distribution industry we need a foreign policy devoted to finding a negotiated and peaceful solution to the war in Ukraine which, coupled with the opportunism and greed of the energy companies, is the proximate cause of this crisis.

The scale of the problems that the runaway energy prices, unwarranted tax rises on working people and the massive round of benefits cuts working through the system presents, requires radical solutions.

If Labour does not find a voice that takes solutions to these problems to the British people, then that fragile lead will evaporate.

And we might add that a system of proportional representation in local elections might invigorate this withered vine of democracy.

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