By rights, the UK must be located in the midst of what some politicians call a moment of change: one of those periods when the fall of a government and its way of thinking becomes absolutely inevitable.
Examples from the past are easy to cite. In some cases, such as 1945 and 1979, the change was seen as almost revolutionary, marking the point at which the country withdrew from an old set of security and was pushed to a whole new place, with all the noise and fury it implies. . In others, such as 1964, 1997, and 2010, regime change has been important, but not just a matter of one historical period leaving the other: a matter of serious change, perhaps, but not quite the kind of transformation of depths of society and economics that historians see as indisputable moments.
As this strange, chaotic summer unfolds, the scent of great political drama is in the air. If the old saying is true, that governments tend to lose elections rather than win the opposition, many of the preconditions of a moment of change are easily met. Boris Johnsons’s broken, desperate, institutionally stupid government is clearly in free fall. Loud talking about conservative conspiracies against the prime minister is now an integral part of the weekly political cycle, revelations about Johnsons’ behavior stretch into the distance and instead of a coherent agenda, he and his allies have only endless panic and opportunism bad. I recently spoke with enough voters to know that millions of people see the prime minister as a liar and amoral chancellor, he is already steadfast.
At the same time, there are signs of change that go deeper and wider. The pandemic has seriously shattered long-held assumptions about the extent of the state and people’s relationship with it. The incompetence of the rank of governments has certainly tested our absurd centralized system of government towards destruction. The fragile mix of negligible inflation and insanely low interest rates, which almost sustained the post-Thatcher economy after the 2008 crash, has finally exploded. As proof that something fascinating could happen, consider the sudden rise to prominence of RMT’s much-admired general secretary, Mick Lynch. Until last week, almost the entire political and media class, including the Labor panel, had assumed that the majority of the public would always be hostile to strikes and that any union leader placed in industrial action should always be treated as a badass. . The way Lynch has shattered those prejudices by calmly stating the basic facts suggests that our cost-of-living crisis is flooding into politics in ways that some people are just beginning to understand.
And yet. The state of the public is complex, almost to the point of confusion. During the week of the last two elections I spent time in Wakefield, where the Labor party was getting very excited about regaining a place that had been a victim of the Johnson red wall demolition. But many of the people I met, including those with direct experience of our growing social urgency, were hardly enthusiastic about Keir Starmer and his party. It was not difficult to find others who, though inadvertently, were associated with the Conservatives. Today, the turnout was below 40%. Meanwhile, the sharp reversal of 24,000 conservatives in Tiverton and Honiton showed that some of the most powerful aspects of this year’s anti-conservative humor have nothing to do with the official opposition, highlighting something that has been obvious. for at least two decades: that the left and center left have become fragmented and pluralistic, something camouflaged only by our distorted voting system.
It is clear that the current combination of Westminster tectonic shifts and inertia highlights the Starmers ’inevitable shortcomings. One of the craziest aspects of life in 2022 is that just as the government has no plan, Labor leadership seems to have no history of modern Britain and how they can change it.
But we must also keep in mind much more fundamental realities. Whoever is at the helm of the Labor Party, it has almost no realistic chance of winning a Commons majority in the next election. To do so would require occupying the seats it has never before, also in 1997. Scotland has long since taken itself out of Labor control. In considerable parts of England, politics is once again divided between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats (note to every hard-working Labor: yes, they entered into a coalition with the Conservatives and deservedly kept the bruises, but your party plunged the UK into war Iraq). In local government, the Green Party is an increasingly strong presence, underlining the fact that any significant progress in the climate crisis will necessarily involve its energy and ideas.
This column was written in a caravan at the Glastonbury festival, where every day there were filled political debates on the great peak known as the Left Field. On Saturday, an event entitled Politics in Crisis was addressed by the mayor of Greater Manchester Labs, Andy Burnham, who arrived full of vivacity and optimism. maintaining a three-point plan for the transformation of the governance system in the UK as a precondition also for the beginning of the harmonization of politics with the growing need for major social change. Britain, he said, needs a proportional voting system. The House of Lords is a farce offense to democracy and should be replaced by a senate of regions and nations. Power must be taken away from Westminster and transferred completely. The next election should mark a turning point along the lines of 1945 or 1979, but if our political parties continue to do business as usual, that may not happen.
There was only one thing about the old-fashioned laborism: his insistence that he was resolutely against any electoral pact. But the difficult and divided family of progressive parties in the UK, he insisted, must now start co-operating on a political reform program.
The crowd loudly approved of what he said. When asked if they had ever changed their votes between parties to defeat the Conservatives, the vast majority raised their hands. Here, apparently, was the living proof of something Green MP Caroline Lucas once crystallized in a metaphor very similar to Glastonbury, which briefly became a rallying cry for the multi-party pressure group, dividers: The fact that Labor’s big old-fashioned tent policy is being replaced by what she called a progressive camp, in which cooperation will be given and everyone will have to accept that no party has the right to monopolize power. Herein lies the solution to this summer’s mismatch between politics and reality, and the key to something much more urgent, the end of a rotten, desperate, dangerous government and an era that is unfolding before our eyes.
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