The UK: A Return to the Past Masquerading as the Future

Photograph Source: Simon – CC BY 2.0

It is an understatement to say that 2022 has been a dismal year in British politics, except of course for the plutocrats who have their nasty paws on the levers of power with the active connivance of the Tory government.

Alas, 2023 is not likely to be any different and will probably be even more chaotic than last year.

UK excess deaths are currently running at 1000 a week/over 50,000 a year, the worst figures since 1951.

The plutocracy is immensely relaxed about the prospect of a Labour government led by Keir Starmer. For one thing, Starmer will not threaten them with wealth taxes. Starmer is more interested in what the hedge fund managers think, as opposed to the growing number of wretched and impoverished.

At the same time UK opinion poll puts the Tories on 19%, with Labour 45%, LDs 8%, SNP 6%, Gr 9%, Reform 8%, “Others” 4%. This is a pattern seen in many polls in recent months.

Electoral Calculus calculates these figures into House of Commons seats:

Tories 38 seats. Labour 507. Lib Dems 27. Reform 0. Greens 1. Scottish National Party (SNP) 54. Plaid Cymru (Welsh independence party)  4. “Other” 1. North of Ireland parties 18.

Labour therefore governing with a majority of 364 seats, the SNP are the 2nd biggest party group so would be the Official Opposition.

This however is merely a dreamscape in all probability.

Opinion polls are fickle and there has long been a propensity for voters to return to their “natural” party of affiliation as the general election approaches. Given the unpopularity of the Conservative government, there are a lot of “shy Tories” out there hiding themselves for now but who will become less inhibited when election day beckons.

Labour is committed to putting itself on the chopping-block of the “soft” Tory vote. Being “incredibly relaxed”– a phrase used by Tony Blair’s senior advisor Peter Mandelson, now advising the wretched Keir Starmer— about the filthy rich has undergone a little touching-up and is now a key Starmer principle. Labour has deserted the striking nurses, postal workers, and other key workers.

Neither main party is using the word “Brexit” in interviews or speeches. The Tories have abandoned the word because the government department tasked with looking for Brexit “opportunities” has been shut-down after not being able to find any Brexit “benefits”. These have been as impossible to find as the proverbial unicorn.

Labour won’t mention Brexit because they are terrified it could trigger “Red Wall” voters who abandoned Labour for the Tories over Brexit in the 2019 general election. Labour hopes these “Red Wall” voters will have time to forget about Brexit when the next election is held in 2024 or early 2025, so best pretend Brexit is buried for now.

Brexit was calculated to appeal to 2 groupings:

+ Joe and Gladys Bonkers next door or down the road with their barely concealed imperialist, xenophobic and racist convictions. Those inclined to condemn Joe and Gladys wholeheartedly should however remember they and many in this grouping are also the “left behinds”, victims of Thatcherite and Blairite neoliberalism.

+ the already wealthy who want to avoid the chafing EU restrictions on their ability to become even richer (the former minister of Brexit Opportunities Jacob Rees-Mogg; Nigel Farage and his super-rich backer Arron Banks, among others; the “patriotic” billionaires owning the right-wing media who live in overseas tax havens).

Brexit, perhaps even more than the costs incurred by the mishandling of the Covid pandemic, is responsible for the UK’s economy going down the drain, and neither party wants to address this vital fact so important for the future of the British economy.

Both main parties believe they can’t afford to alienate these 2 groupings, and they therefore have to avoid the obvious truth that those in the second grouping helped bankroll the Tory propaganda efforts which won over those in the first grouping.

A poorly-framed referendum in 2016, with a crude yes/no answer on leaving the EU required of voters, paved the way for a Brexit fraught with missteps.

It is hard to recall any other period in UK history where those who purport to be on the left have been so timorous, unimaginative and docile, so lacking in principle and self-belief as today.

There are exceptions of course— Jeremy Corbyn, never New Labour, is frequently to be seen on the picket lines of striking workers. But then politics for someone like him does not exist to further naked self-interest or the acquisition of pound notes and gold bars.

For New Labour 2.0, having taken the parliamentary whip away from Corbyn, it is another story– a return to the past masquerading as the future.

Kenneth Surin teaches at Duke University, North Carolina.  He lives in Blacksburg, Virginia.