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Editorial: Look closer and Labour’s lead is a house built on sand

LABOUR is polling at 41 per cent — still substantially ahead of the Tories, who are hobbled with a disastrously low public opinion of their record in government.

Only a quarter of the electorate are content with their performance. This is the aggregate sum of the rich, the propertied and the entitled, who know whose interests the Tories serve, and the deluded, who don’t.

Both the Greens (on 7 per cent) and the SNP (on 2 per cent) have slipped a bit, while the Lib Dems plod along with just one in 10 favouring them.

The significant figure is Reform’s 13 per cent, which is up two points. Assuming that a larger portion of Reform UK’s vote might otherwise have gone to the Tories the right-wing electoral total is somewhere just under 40 per cent — perhaps more if we factor in a proportion of neoliberal Lib Dem voters who just a short while ago were content to be in the Tories’ austerity coalition.

Under Britain’s wildly unfair first-past-the-post (FPTP) system Labour should be a shoo-in but a deeper dig into the polling figures show just how vulnerable is Labour’s lead.

The justifiably cynical observer might speculate that the unashamedly neoliberal Labour leadership might be the best bet for a ruling class that is heavily invested in a policy continuity that Starmer is unlikely to disrupt. Our rulers can indulge a squabble over the decaying bones of the Brexit issue.

But our rulers have options and a reprise of the tactic in which Eurosceptical voters were only given a chance to vote for Reform UK’s predecessor party in seats held by Labour while Tories had a clear run should not be discounted.

Labour’s best chance of maximising its vote would be a reprise of its own remarkable manifesto-led 2017 success under Jeremy Corbyn. But even if Starmer were to complete a policy U-turn again it would lack credibility for creatures other than a goldfish in the Westminster bubble.

Membership of the European Union is the unspoken undead of electoral politics. No-one, apart from a few deluded Lib Dems and the rump of Alastair Campbell’s lost legions, think the issue is an electoral runner.

The consensus politics that drives the EU Establishment — on all important questions firmly in bed with our political class — coalesces around two questions; firstly the joint EU-Nato posture over the Ukraine war, which drives a new initiative to ramp up arms expenditure, the better to prolong the war at the cost of much blood and treasure to both Russia and Ukraine.

Ursula von der Leyen is not yet guaranteed endorsement for a further term as the EU Commission’s president but she has leapt to match Joe Biden’s latest $60.8 billion package to bolster the Ukraine bloodletting.

On the second priority, what is significant is the revolt by trade union leaders in Belgium, France, Italy and Spain where all major union confederations — socialist and communist, liberal and Catholic — are united in opposition to the EU’s new austerity regime agreed this week.

The unions say: “This agreement, forced by the austerity approach of some European capitals, will require member states to reduce their debts rapidly and in ways that are economically and socially unsustainable: this will mark a return to austerity.

“At the same time, the new rules will also act as a disincentive to invest towards the social and climate objectives EU member states have agreed upon, by limiting the margin of manoeuvre of public deficit.”

The “new fiscal rules,” the unions say, “will make the necessary transformation of our societies impossible, leaving workers and citizens behind at a time when they need protection more than ever.”

Another Europe is possible. Another EU is not.


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