Demoralized and broken: yes, the British left is in decline. But here’s why it didn’t come out | Owen Jones

There are now three certainties in life: death, taxes and Keir Starmer who will become Prime Minister within a year. A coalition of panicked conservatives and bored opponents are publicly opposing this inevitability: the unthinkable has recently triumphed more than once, they coo. Maybe, but maybe not if you are 20 points behind we’re just months away from an election and your strategically hapless leader wears a permanent, awkward grimace proving that even he knows the game is truly up.

This reality has Starmer’s allies dreaming of a huge Labor landslide. The price for this? It’s not something as parochial as transforming the country – boring! But a massive majority would instead be seen as a chance to bury the Labor left once and for all, as a former speechwriter for Blair and Starmer put it. proclaimed in the Times. Starmerites fear that a small majority will provide “Corbynite” leverage. Their preference is a landslide victory that would give loyal apparatchiks the right to make solemn speeches about “hard choices” – the kind of people who would vote for the King Herod (Refinement of Childhood) Act if party whips demanded it. I, for one, can’t wait.

In truth, Starmer’s ice pick-wielding allies are unlikely to find themselves in a scenario in which a small section of left-wing Labor MPs can influence his agenda. They already have sewn party selections to exclude candidates who believe in dangerous and extremist nonsense, like, uh… the social democratic policies that Starmer proposed to his members when he ran for the leadership. As a seasoned journalist Notes by Michael Crick, this search for ideological purity leaves the Labor Party with a parliamentary influx of dubious quality and few candidates from the working class. A senior party figure told me that the new arrivals are far more “caricatural Blairites” than even those from the New Labor era.

But the top brass could go further. Some Blairites regret not having purged the left when they could. A few Corbynites like Beth Winter, Sam Tarry and Mick Whitley have already had the wind in their sails. Fortunately, a desperate attempt to deselect the young left-wing Muslim MP Zarah Sultana failed. But it wouldn’t be surprising if a file of old tweets and Facebook statuses were mysteriously discovered, leading Labor to suspend left-wing survivors, effectively preventing them from running. They can just add some non-lefties are being investigated for misconduct in order to cover their tracks.

If the embattled socialist parliamentarians survive and a modest Tory revival leads to a narrow Labor majority, Starmer’s allies will view the left’s new influence as catastrophic. But catastrophic for whom? Not for the public. Imagine if the left had had more influence under New Labour. There would have been no war in Iraq, no private finance initiative, no scrapping of the 10p tax rate, no a better regulated financial sector, greater redistribution of wealth and an interventionist industrial policy focused on the communities who subsequently voted for Brexit. The horror.

If Starmer had a slim majority, the socialist campaign group would face a challenge. With around 30 left-wing Labor MPs in the group, Starmer could pull a Harold Wilson and call a second election to try to rid them of leverage and get a bigger mandate; a decision beyond the control of the left and dependent on the public’s electoral fatigue. Second, leaders will claim that MPs’ mandates are based on an agenda with no commitment to higher taxes on the rich or significant public investment – ​​or even anything else meaningful.

Here the left can simply repeat Starmer’s trick. Just as the Labor leader excused his abandonment of radical politics if circumstances change, so does the left. Our recurring political crises and staggering levels of inequality are conditions that lend themselves perfectly to socialist politics. Whenever there is a failure of the private sector, one can make a case for public ownership. When a crisis hits an underfunded public service, it’s an argument for more investment. When the Sunday Times Rich List reveals billionaires pocketing record fortunes while frontline workers struggle, the call for tax justice will resonate. When a summer of extreme weather makes headlines, calls for more radical climate action arise. You understand the gist.

But purely parliamentary struggles will fail. Today, younger generations are more politicized and unions more assertive. Expectations will be increased by the expulsion of the conservatives. If things don’t improve noticeably – a likely scenario given Labour’s modest offer – expect a growth in movements demanding change. Think about the struggles for workers’ rights and wages, housing, racism, climate, civil liberties and foreign policy. The massive mobilizations around Gaza surely foreshadow all of this. Close links should be forged between these movements and left-wing parliamentarians so that they act in tandem.

In truth, given the current Tory self-immolation, a large Labor majority is highly likely and the resulting parliamentary army of Blairite clones will likely immunize the leadership from such pressure. A landslide would trigger a period of unabashed triumphalism within this cohort. But that may not last long. Boris Johnson felt quite invincible when he secured an 80-seat majority. Remember that we live in troubled times; that Labor wins by default; that there is little enthusiasm for its leader; and that Britain will continue to feel in a state of constant social emergency unless it has a transformative agenda. Today’s left seems demoralized, broken and leaderless. Tomorrow: well, we’ll see.

  • Owen Jones is a columnist at the Guardian

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