Wishful Thinking – 11 May 2023


Local election results were disastrous for the Tories and good, but not great, for Labour. It’s resulted in thoughts of taking power for the latter and among the SNP of being kingmakers. But it’s still wishful thinking as Labour look well short of an overall majority and the SNP in Westminster have shown little ability to negotiate their way out of a paper bag.

The Tories got trounced across England’s green and pleasant land, hurrah for Olde England. Perfectly understandable as even stalwart true blues have seen their incomes devalued and their savings trashed. But covering the country in red, white and blue bunting and hosting coronation celebrations didn’t ease pressures. When the Royal Jamboree was all over, it was still Brexit Britain, not a revitalised modern Ruritania.

But despite that, Labour are still only on course to be the largest party and capable of forming just a minority government. That’s quite extraordinary given what they face. This mob that has been in power now since 2010 make Thatcher and Major seem paragons of virtue.

Moreover, whatever criticism you had of either, and there was much, there was still a grudging acceptance of their competency and certainly their credibility. Indeed, that generated fear, especially of the Iron Lady, no doubt partly explaining the hate for her, whilst Truss and her ilk are rightly viewed as a joke.

What’s worse is that Labour could still snatch defeat from the jaws of even a muted victory. Blair offered something new, even if Cool Britannia was still to be unveiled. It was to be winds of change transforming the country as a new millennium approached. It was to be a change in not just postholders but policies.

But Starmer offers nothing but Tory-lite. We’ll get rid of the corrupt Tories but not their contemptible policies. So desperate is he to obtain the keys to Number 10 that it’s easier to think of commitments he’s jettisoned than to recall anything he stands for. Out goes proportional representation and revocation of hated Tory laws, in comes well, just Labour not Tory suits in office.

That’s dangerous for them. Underlying trends showed many abstaining or voting for other parties such as the Greens, unable to stomach Starmer’s shameless abandonment of any principle other than power. Much of the hatred is vented against Johnson and Truss, with Sunak just the sap left to soak it up.

But what if he does put distance and time between them and him? The new Tory party he’ll be leading will as shamelessly bury his predecessors as Starmer has his party’s policies. Polls show Sunak is more popular than Starmer. Cue a presidential-type election, a vote for Sunak’s Tories, not the old ones. In TV debates he may well win and what then, Labour the largest party but only just?

A minority government’s hard to form and harder still to run. A Labour government in office but not in power, just as public expenditure cuts set by Jeremy Hunt explode. It’s a recipe for instability and continued British decline amid hard choices and necessary actions unable to be taken.

The idea that the SNP can influence Westminster remains fanciful. Starmer will ignore them, their failure to achieve anything since 2015 confirming the route to independence doesn’t lie there.