The Labour Party really are in a tricky situation at the moment, aren’t they?
You would think with the number of problems Boris Johnson and his party currently have, Labour would come together to fight the Tories on two of the biggest issues of the 21st century – the Coronavirus pandemic and Brexit.
Instead, all factions of the party have used this much-needed energy to squabble with each other on social media, blaming each other for their failures since 2010 and providing no real alternative or opposition to the government of the day.
But why am I so angry? These Tories has made many, many mistakes during this pandemic. Of course, this virus is something we have never faced before – so I do withdraw my cynicism about the government to some extent – but Labour needs to step up to the plate.
When the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report came out last Thursday, this was meant to be a turning point for the party. However damning the report was, Sir Keir Starmer had to face up to the facts and implement the new measures needed to shift any whiffs of ant-Semitism out of Labour. However, it has only plunged the party into turmoil once again, with Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension the hottest topic on a day where there needed to be reflection and remorse for those hurt within the Jewish community.
From what he has said since becoming the leader in April, Starmer seems to be grabbing this anti-Semitism issue by the scruff of the neck, although the way he’s done it has caused controversy. Rebecca Long-Bailey’s sacking and the Corbyn fiasco has only deepened the former Director of Public Prosecution’s woes with the left.
Despite this, if Labour wants to get themselves back into government, everyone from the centre to the left must come together to support the leader. Corbyn was unable to provide this unity and unless the infighting stops – Starmer will not be able to provide it either in 2024. However difficult it might be for all sides to accept this; they need each other’s votes.
So, when some socialists on social media told undecided voters to go and vote for the Tories because they weren’t fully behind Corbyn, why were they surprised when previous supporters deserted them? If history repeats itself the other way round in four years with soft-left voters telling socialists to go and vote for another party, Starmer will suffer the same fate.
All this just shows how much of a mountain the Leader of the Opposition has to climb. The worst-case scenario for Labour would be the Corbynistas splitting off to form a new party. People must not underestimate how much support the previous leadership between 2015 and early 2020 still has. Although it would allow Labour to move more towards the centre, their voting power would be reduced. Quite simply, Starmer’s shadow cabinet cannot rely on people to ‘stick with what they know’, as Nick Clegg put it in the morning after the 2010 general election.
The most likely outcome would be the new Corbynista party and the Liberal Democrats splitting Labour’s vote, although Starmer may tempt voters from the Lib Dems to come back to Labour with a move away from socialism. Either way, we could still be looking at another Tory majority even if Boris Johnson proves to be incompetent up until the next election.
There is no doubting the Conservatives have had their problems in the past too – especially in terms of Eurosceptic backbenchers during the John Major and David Cameron years. Now the EU referendum is firmly behind them and they seem to be on course to exit the transition period with or without a deal, this could be a real opportunity for Johnson and his top team.
If Brexit proves not to be disastrous like many have been predicting and they can finally get a grip on this pandemic amid continuing Labour infighting, the Conservative Party could be in Downing Street until 2029 and beyond. This is the real danger for the Labour Party, who looked a sorry sight on the night of last December’s election.
Taking action with 203 seats is hard. However, this next election is for the taking if they can reunite and reinvent themselves as a party that can win votes from floating voters. Even with 365 seats, this government is in a precarious position. How will the centre-left be able to get socialists onside though? Solving that will end up being the key to number ten.
Starmer’s party has four years to get rid of the remaining shameful stains of anti-Semitism and provide a real alternative to a government that has been in power for over a decade. Usually, voters get tired of a certain party in power after a certain amount of time, as the likes of John Major and Gordon Brown found out. But can they fight against adversity and win a huge number of seats to kick the Tories out of office in the next election?
Although Labour could be sticking to their principles in 2019, they wanted to shift their potential voters towards their policies, instead of pulling themselves towards what the British people wanted from the party. They need to win back trust – and who knows what could happen if the shadow cabinet manages to achieve this.
With a depleted Liberal Democrats and a government currently in chaos, the country needs some opposition – now is the time for Labour to supply that.