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WEAK and boring. Correct — it’s Keir Starmer we’re discussing.
Thus the choices of a representative cross-section of voters asked by a polling company to sum up the Labour leader in a word.
Untrustworthy leaps out of the word cloud too.
It can all be rendered in a number as well. The one that counts is 35. That is the percentage of the electorate intending to vote Labour at the next general election, according to extrapolations from the local election results.
It is an astonishing figure. It is just 7 per cent ahead of the Tories, dramatically less than the score recorded in various opinion polls over the last year, which gave Labour leads of up to 30 per cent.
It is also, note carefully, just 3 per cent up on Labour’s score in the 2019 election, and 5 per cent less than a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour secured in 2017.
On these projections, there will be no Labour landslide at the next election, and perhaps not even an overall majority in the House of Commons.
All this after 13 years of austerity, authoritarianism, a cruelly bungled pandemic, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, and the dystopian prospect of “national conservatism” a la Braverman next on the menu.
Now — the figures could be out somewhat. There were no local polls in London, Scotland and Wales, so no new data to input into the projections.
That could make a difference, but probably not a decisive one. Labour has few seats left that it could reasonably expect to win in the metropolis and a handful more in Wales.
There could be bigger gains in Scotland if the SNP’s support does actually implode under the weight of scandal and incompetence. That is very much an unproven assumption at this stage, however.
The indisputable conclusion from the local elections is that the country is heartily sick of the Tories, but unpersuaded by Labour. The gains made by the Lib Dems and the Green Party, in terms of councillors, underline that point.
So we are back to talk of pacts and coalitions. The weak, boring and untrustworthy guy has ruled out any arrangement with the Scottish nationalists, but has carefully left the door open to some stitch-up with the Lib Dems.
I claim no insight into whatever passes for Lib Dem strategic thinking, but I imagine they would be rather cautious about plighting their political troth to Starmer.
Whatever gains they make at the next election will be at the expense of the Tories — they will win seats in the suburban south which normally vote for the Conservatives.
Supporting what will likely prove to be an ineffective Labour government will be no more popular than their alliance with David Cameron’s Tories proved to be in Labour-inclined constituencies.
Perhaps they might take the risk if Starmer’s Labour was to offer electoral reform, which is what the party’s own conference has mandated.
However, he shows no interest in doing so, any more than he intends to repeal the Public Order Act used to such brazenly repressive effect over the coronation, or the Tories’ voter suppression measures.
One word that certainly never appears in the Starmer cloud is “liberal.” As has been widely noted, he is a servant of the state, its core repressive functions very much included. Any measure of real democratisation is anathema to that perspective.
Nevertheless, Starmer should worry that his authoritarianism will give the Lib Dems political oxygen.
But it is perfectly possible that he would rather enter a relationship of dependency with the Lib Dems than with whatever remains of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs after the general election.
It is the fear of left pressure on a Labour government that drives the ruthless exclusion of socialist and trade union candidates from consideration for running in seats winnable by Labour.
That may exaggerate the coherence and resilience of the parliamentary left right now, but the Blairites pulling the strings of the mendacious Mr Weak are taking no chances.
Labour’s hostility to any whiff of radical change is also helping put wind in the Green Party’s sails. Its gain of 241 seats in the local elections was nearly half that of Labour and its “Blairism-on-steroids,” as promoted by the leader.
The abandoning of the political space opened up by Corbynism has created room for the Greens to accrue support. It no longer seems impossible that their party may reach a sort of tipping point before long, wherein it ceases being a “wasted vote” and becomes a plausible challenger in a number of constituencies.
Their sole MP could become half a dozen. Green abandonment of opposition to Nato is doubtless designed to grease their way into respectable parliamentary horse trading.
That would leave Labour fighting on two fronts in some parts of the country.
All this points to the relative failure of Starmer’s agenda, and the course he has followed over three years. As the focus feedback underlines, it is not his personal charisma and dynamism that is keeping him in the leader’s office.
Instead, he profits from a combination of last year’s extraordinary Tory meltdown, which doubtless will shape politics for some time yet and the passivity of those sections of the Labour Party which have the capacity to act, mainly the affiliated trade unions.
He further depends on the support of Labour’s hard right, the capitalist class and the state, the forces which united to destroy his predecessor.
It is surely past time that Starmer’s strategy was questioned. Blairite authoritarianism is only adding 1 per cent a year to Labour’s vote share. “Useless” and “idiot” loomed large in the word cloud too.
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Without comment: “Regulators are always likely to be outwitted, if not captured, by the profit-driven businesses they are trying to curb” – Martin Wolf, Financial Times.
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You read it here first:
Eyes Left, May 3 2023: “…there is little or nothing in the national conservatism agenda which Labour’s leader would find objectionable.”
Keir Starmer, May 13 2023: Labour is the real party of conservative values “and I don’t care.”
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