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Will Starmer be Britain’s Merkel? His Blairite reshuffle still leaves him visionless

Starmer after this week's reshuffle (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Starmer after this week's reshuffle (Leon Neal/Getty Images)


September 6, 2023   7 mins

A smell of death is now seeping out of Westminster, choking the atmosphere of the nation, poisoning everything it touches. With each new crisis, the smell only gets stronger and the reaction from the public more visceral. Where there was once frustration with the Government, then anger, and then contempt, now there is something closer to disgust: sewage in the sea, poison in the rivers, crumbling concrete in the schools, councils going bankrupt, and unknown ministers demanding to be thanked for it all.

The truth is, when such a stench gathers, it is all but impossible for a government to decontaminate. It happened to the Tories in the early Sixties, Labour in the late Seventies and then again to the Tories in the Nineties. Regardless of the personal strengths of the prime ministers at the time — and the weaknesses of their opponents — there comes a time when the public and the media can only wrinkle their noses in disgust. When this happens, a different transformation takes place on the other side of the political aisle. Suddenly the leader of the opposition changes into that altogether different beast: a prospective prime minister.

“Whether the government is as good as dead or not” wrote Guardian’s Peter Jenkins in 1977, two years before Margaret Thatcher’s defining triumph, “the psychological moment may have arrived at which people begin to look at the Tory leader in a new way…” There are dangers in such moments of course. Back in 1977, for instance, Jenkins noted that “the sweet promise of success may… give release to her high-spirited instincts which lie naturally a good deal farther to the right than she cares to let on”.

How true that would prove. Yet before she became prime minister she would keep these instincts in check. From 1975 to 1979, “caution and ambition [were] the two reins of her passion”, as Jenkins put it.

Today, something similar is true of Keir Starmer, though perhaps it is not his own high-spirited instincts he’s worried about revealing but those of the party he leads. Either way, it is certainly true that, like Thatcher before him, Starmer has led his party with skill and restraint, reining the Labour party to his own ambition.

Consider, as evidence, this week’s carefully managed but effective reshuffle, sidelining enemies and promoting ideological allies. In many ways, in fact, Starmer’s leadership is more effective than even Thatcher’s at the same stage in the electoral cycle, having now demoted almost anyone who has challenged his authority while also forming a degree of ideological cohesion in the process. It would take Thatcher much of her first term — and a foreign war — to truly stamp her authority on the party.

The big winners from this week’s reshuffle were obviously the Blairites. Six of his shadow cabinet are not just Blairite by inclination — they were actually special advisers under Blair himself. This is quite a turnaround for Starmer, whose instincts have always appeared to lie much further to the Left than Blair. In 2010, for instance, when the Labour party was agonising over whether or not to return to the Blairite playbook with David Miliband or to begin its journey of rejection under Ed Miliband, Starmer was in Team Ed. When Jeremy Corbyn’s behaviour became too much for many Labour MPs to swallow, Starmer held his nose and gulped down his responsibilities, rising to shadow Brexit secretary and remaining in place throughout Corbyn’s leadership. There is a steel to Starmer which is perhaps more revealing than anything else — a discipline we should take note of.

Like Thatcher, then, Starmer has his eyes on the prize. He became Labour leader only three years ago, standing as the soft-Left candidate, able to bring all wings of his party back together again. Instead, he has completed an extraordinary takeover, expelled the former leader, and asserted his total dominance over the party from the Right. As Blair noted, Starmer is attempting to do in one term what he, Neil Kinnock and John Smith tried between 1983 and 1997.

Today, the defining reality of British politics is that Labour is running away from the Tories in the polls. As it did for Wilson before 1964, Thatcher before 1979 and Blair before 1997, an air of inevitability has set in. But there is one crucial difference, which is a problem for Starmer. In each of these watershed political moments, when a rotten smell attached itself to the government of the day, the opposition offered a simple diagnosis of its cause — and a treatment plan.

In 1964, Wilson painted the Tories as stuffy old amateurs blocking the professional modernisation of the country that only he could deliver. In 1979, Thatcher argued that she was the country’s last chance to reverse the spread of collectivism that was choking Britain. In 1997, Blair was able to define the Tories as corrupt ideologues clinging to a set of old dogmas that no longer worked, destroying public services and Britain’s influence in the world. The country had 24 hours to save the NHS and to restore its influence in Europe.

A year out from the next election, Starmer’s story about the cause of Britain’s problems today — the original sin behind our woes today is not entirely clear. And this is important. As Boris Johnson told me, people live by narrative; they understand the world through stories which make sense of the chaos. It is the job of politicians to shape that national story to their advantage. In Britain, we always complain about our poor productivity and failing public services, while bemoaning our national decline. All this only becomes deadly for a government when it culminates in a collective sense that it is all linked and the government is to blame. We are living in that moment. But why have things gone wrong?

You might say the rot began with austerity in 2010, and that, at heart, the economy is not fundamentally broken, but has been strangled by dogmatic cuts which must now be lifted. In this account, Britain can slowly start to breathe again once adequate resources start flowing into public services. Once they do, the potholes will begin to disappear, schools will no longer be dangerous, doctors will stop striking and the new green economy of the future will flourish. I think of this as the Lion King story: all that needs to happen to save the Pride Lands is for Simba to return and put things back in harmony.

To others, though, the problem is much more fundamental — usually in one of two ways. Either the rot began in 2007/08, an explosion which revealed that the British economy was never as strong as it looked, or in 2016, when Britain chose to leave the EU. For increasing numbers of people — particularly on the Left — it is Brexit that remains the great wound to the body politic, from which no recovery is ever truly possible until it is reversed.

But which of these stories does Starmer believe? It is still not entirely clear. In The Way Ahead, his 2021 pamphlet for the Fabian Society, Starmer offered a kind of amalgamation of these three stories. “After the global financial crash,” he wrote, “the Conservatives’ reckless economic approach failed to deliver growth or repair the public finances.” This is standard Labour fare, tracing the crisis back to 2007 and its aftermath — though not the conditions which allowed the crisis to be so destructive to Britain in the first place. But for Starmer, the Tory response to the 2007 crisis can then be broken up into three “distinct but related” periods. First, the Tories used the global financial crisis as “a smokescreen for rolling back the state”. This then led to “a lazy, complacent veer from patriotism to nationalism” which resulted in our “botched exit from the European Union”. And finally, to maintain some popularity amid the general economic failure, the Government attempted to “import American-style divisions” into the country. As analysis, it is not very subtle, but it is revealing.

Logically, the period Starmer wants to unwind stretches back to 2010. Starmer wants to re-grow the state and to somehow end divisions about social and cultural questions. And yet now we have a fundamentally different economic and diplomatic settlement thanks to Brexit so we can’t just unwind the clock. What, then, is Labour going to do about this?

Starmer has five “missions” as he calls them: to secure the highest sustained growth in the G7; to make Britain a “clean energy superpower”; to build an NHS “fit for the future”; to make Britain’s streets safe; and to “break down the barriers to opportunity at every stage”. These missions are a kind of amalgamation of Thatcher’s “five tasks” and Blair’s “five pledges”.

But at the heart of it, an obvious question: can these missions be achieved outside the EU? If so, why did Starmer and his entire shadow cabinet go to such lengths to avoid leaving in the first place? If you can have the highest growth in the G7, great public services and energy independence, who cares about Erasmus or a few extra queues at passport control? Is Brexit at the heart of our national decline or not? You don’t need to be an expert to know that pretty much everyone in the Labour party thinks it is.

It is painfully obvious, given who Starmer promoted this week, that the party believes the problems facing Britain simply cannot be addressed without a fundamentally different relationship with the EU. If you were to ask the shadow cabinet privately whether they believed Brexit was a mistake that can only be mitigated and not exploited for Britain’s benefit, they would all surely agree. So how could we possibly sustainably grow our economy faster than France and Germany over the long term?

Take Hilary Benn, now shadow Northern Ireland secretary. It was Benn who gave us the “Benn Act” of 2019, barring the government from ever leaving the EU without an agreement. If Labour wins power, he will be responsible for the constant negotiation with the EU now required to make Northern Ireland function. Does anyone seriously doubt that Benn long ago concluded the only way to manage this situation is closer alignment between the UK as a whole and the EU? And so the inevitable question once again rears its head: if the UK voluntarily aligns with EU law, why not rejoin the EU to have a say over that law?

None of this is a major problem for Starmer now. Even though Thatcher was disciplined and measured in opposition, she was still seen by many as too ideological, lightweight, divisive and “shrill” — yet she still won. A tired and visionless Wilson won in 1974. You don’t have to be Blair in his prime to win power. What’s more, the Conservative Party is now so clearly devoid of a narrative of their own it may hardly matter.

And yet I think the lack of a clear Labour narrative goes some way to explaining the lack of hopeful anticipation in the nation at large. It is not clear what exactly Labour believes needs to be undone and, therefore, what will be fundamentally different. Starmer is offering quiet, incremental improvement — better management, leading to more economic growth and, in time, more money for public services. Part of this package will be a closer relationship with Europe and a greener economy, though one that will have to come into being more slowly than previously imagined because of the state of the public finances.

In some senses, Starmer reminds me of Angela Merkel more than any British political figure. Whether in terms of personal style, charisma, political nous or vision, she did not seem particularly impressive before becoming Chancellor in 2005. She was belittled by Gerhard Schröder, who would sometimes greet her speeches in the Bundestag with mocking laughter. Some of her advisers were far more economically Right-wing and there was just a general sense that she did not have a feel for public opinion. She was not a great campaigner, made near-fatal mistakes, and was seen as too stern and moralistic. Like Starmer, she had no obvious grand vision. But she won and governed for 15 years. What, though, has Germany got to show for it?


is UnHerd’s Political Editor. He is the author of Betting The House: The Inside Story of the 2017 Election.

TomMcTague

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Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
7 months ago

1 – You have to be exceptionally dumb, cowardly and visionless to see Brexit as the heart of national decline. One might very well ask what – in the absence of some larger, coherent national renewal project – the point of it all was. But thinking that reversing Brexit is going to solve all the UK’s problems is absolutely ridiculous.
The EU itself, if it does not reform (which I don’t think it can), will simply decline over the long-term. So how would rejoining (which the 27 wouldn’t agree to anyway) then help Britain’s decline? Pinning everything on Brexit is just one massive cop-out. Is that the current intellectual standard of Labour? If yes, God help you.
2 – Why does anyone still look at Angela Merkel and see anything except negligence? Germany might still look marginally better than Britain but this really is relative. Germany is in some serious trouble and facing at least 10 very difficult years. And alot of their current problems have to do with the fact that Merkel just let stuff go, tried to sit it out, never coming up with any grand, wealth-saving strategy – and the Germans basically let her. Because she gave them this feeling of comfort and that things would always be as cushy as they had been.
Merkel’s departure and Brexit have a lot in common: it was like ripping off a massive bandaid and leaving the populace with no other choice than to face up to the problems which have been brewing up for literally decades but which no one really wanted to address.
Bringing Merkel back won’t do anything to solve Germany’s deep structural problems: rejoining the EU won’t sort out what really ails Britain.
When I read the 1st paragraph of this article, I thought McTague was being a bit histrionic – but I think he is absolutely justified in using that kind of language. The British political establishment really is awful.

Last edited 7 months ago by Katharine Eyre
Walter Marvell
WM
Walter Marvell
7 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Excellent. I would go further. It is plain that a chain of mega crises have tipped the UK over an edge and rendered any remedy by Starmer or Tories quite impossible. First came the Banking Crash and 900bn QE/Bailout (some austerity!). Then the NHS breaking Lockdown Catstrophe and further vast bailouts which – atop our addiction to welfarism – has now bankrupted the State and made it a high tax vampyr sucking enterprise dry. Add too the scorching inflation these two mega disasters made inevitable. The reason why the UK State cannot EVER arrest this decline has nothing to do with Brexit – a non event beyond them being truculent and nasty over sausage custom forms. The terrible truth is: we remain legally systemically and administratively the full blooded EU Progressive/Blairite Statelet created in the 90s by Blair/Brown. National resilience in strategic areas like energy and labour was utterly ignored for decades as the likes of Ed Davey felt the Euro and global market would always work for us – hence no gas reserves. Unplanned free movement saw over 6m arrive, shattering the national labour market and further smashing our no new homes no new airport no new reservoir no see GP public service sector too. Food security is the same – no plan no resilience. Our Elite functioned as part of an interconnected Empire and took their lazy eyes off such national interests as their 100k annual capital gains from their London housing heist made them feel we too were Mad Rich and prosperous. Well we are not. No markets are functioning – housing labour energy you name it – because of botched regulation. The State’s cultish devotion to Net Zero degrowth also came to us first from the EU via Ed and then the hapless May. Look too at the vast overhang of suffocating Regulations and the crippling adherence to the EU’s Precautionary Principle and risk aversion that blights us still. To say that the Brexit Non Event is the cause of these woes is just laughable, a symptom of their derangment and terror at losing the property status quo . But there is nothing funny about the doom loop this cluster -Fy combination of flobal crises and a failed reaction by a progressive/EU UK administrative State has created. This is why Keir cannot and will not diagnose the problem of decline. It is in Labour and the Blairite Blob’s genes.

AC Harper
AC Harper
7 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

So true. Labour (secretly) hope that Rejoin will be the magic Magnificent 7 riding to the rescue of the beleaguered village… but I suspect it is more of a ‘Get into jail free’ card. Do not pass Go. Do not receive £200.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
7 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

It would be the mother of all kicking the cans down the road.

Sam Hill
Sam Hill
7 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

On your first point, I suspect that outside of the media politicking (social and mainstream) more people would agree than would disagree with you. In at least the short to medium term most I think would agree with your thinking. Rejoining the EU is not a panacea that solves all ills. Similarly I suspect that Starmer himself (if not perhaps some of those around him) would also agree that the EU is no magic wand.
For what it’s worth I agree with you that EU stagnation is a very possible outcome. Further enlargement would be, to say the very least, a challenge.
In fairness to Keir Starmer, not something I say often, he has been willing to confront the more fanciful parts of the current labour movement with things they don’t like – more so than I thought he would be. He has for example gone as far as openly saying he thinks that immigration is to high – and didn’t get that much kickback either. Similarly he’s not got the movement’s hopes up on the EU. And this is before anyone mentions the single currency. Gender self ID has quietly been dropped (at least in England). I don’t think he shares the seeming pathological wish of some progressives to keep fighting out 2016.
A Starmer 2.0 may even be the person able to ask hard questions of the NHS or the triple lock pension. But by that token I’ve not got my hopes up – he did after all kneel for BLM.
I do feel however that the Merkel analogy is a bit misleading. A much under-remarked upon (at least in the UK) aspect of Merkel’s time is that she went on for so long in part because she was able to find coalition partners willing to take a hit for her. Indeed it is interesting and telling that the one party (AfD aside) to come out of the Merkel era in a reasonable condition were the Greens who never volunteered themselves for coalition. Starmer so far at least has shown no interest in coalition. With Starmer the possibilities that Coalition might throw up is by far the more interesting issue.
You are right I think that the wider establishment rather than one person is the problem in the UK picture. It’s far too narrow, and too readily captured by narrow thinking and Starmer and Labour won’t change that. It’s not easy to know how to fix the problem.

Last edited 7 months ago by Sam Hill
Alex Carnegie
RC
Alex Carnegie
7 months ago
Reply to  Sam Hill

Agree with most of what you say. Could you enlarge on what was behind your remark With Starmer the possibilities that Coalition might throw up is by far the more interesting issue? I was intrigued.

Sam Hill
SH
Sam Hill
7 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Thanks for the reply. Whilst I think it far more likely than not that Starmer will win the next election with a majority I don’t think it’s quite the slam dunk the media tell me that it is. A coalition perhaps in the future is I think a real possibility. That would then open the door to a lot of things.
I assume that the Liberals would want Proportional Representation as a priority – that is something the Labour movement has always liked to talk about but without actually doing it. I don’t think of Starmer himself as a PR man, but coalition would throw up the possibility of him becoming so. I suppose that the prospect of another Scottish referendum would become a possibility as the price of forming a government.
It is a bit hard to say what the interests and wish-lists might be – perhaps a harder push on net zero would be something that would be a minority party wish. That wouldn’t play entirely well with the Labour base.
I think that if coalition became a possibility then there would be a waning of enthusiasm for the EU once it became a matter of confronting voters with the single currency, schengen etc rather than just being people on social media reliving their 2016 glory days.
But in my view there has been remarkably little discussion of the possibility of Coalitions so far.
It is also worth adding that the other issue hanging over any future government is the need to accept talking to Russia over Ukraine, but no one is vaguely close to that discussion yet. I do wonder whether some minor coalition partner might see absolutism on Ukraine as a ‘selling point’ in a possible Labour led Coalition.
This of course is all rather different to Merkel and her coalitions – in Germany the choice is ordoliberalism in one flavour or another. There’s nothing like that set up in the UK.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
7 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

It’s extraordinary that the people who accused Brexit campaigners of being inward-looking little Englanders can be so ignorant of the EU’s decline. Perhaps they know that if they look too hard their fantasy world will collapse.

Marcus Leach
Marcus Leach
7 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

The continuing obsession by Europhiles about Brexit is really quite odd. In terms of the economy Brexit was an almost imperceptible bump in the road. Subsequent events such as the disastrous response to Covid and the consequences of the war in Ukraine are like being hit by a freight train. The cost and damage to our economy from the pursuit of net zero is like being hit by a nuke.
To have the same leftist Europhile type who demanded the economically catastrophic lockdowns and government handouts, and fully support spending over a trillion to destroy our industry, prosperity and freedom on a futile attempt at net zero – continue to howl about how disastrous Brexit was for the business and economy, is intellectually embarrassing.

Last edited 7 months ago by Marcus Leach
Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
7 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

It is irrational – but at the same time understandable. Being part of the EU for a lot of people was/is bound up in their vision of what Britain is/should be and who they themselves are. Questions of identity are always the most fraught to deal with because they cannot be explained or dealt with by presenting facts, figures and economic data or anything else we regard as “rational”.
However: Brits (including hardcore Remainers) will never feel part of the EU or love it in the way that many continental Europeans do – your fundamental approach to it is completely different, far more transactional (and that’s why you’ll never rejoin). But that doesn’t change anything about the fact that ripping the pro-EU people out of the Union was/is a big emotional upset which takes time to get over.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
7 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

The very hardest, most bitter and unanswerable question about our recent history is whether – perhaps at an unconscious level – there is any link or connection between the violent hysterical Remainia expressed by our governing classes as we entered 2020 and the over- long perpetuation till 2022 (not the genuinely panicked start of the outbreak) of lockdown which instantly crippled and suffocated our economy and would naturally lead to the bankrupty.. post kamikaze money tree policy – of the State. Did that intense hatred of the brand new Brexit/Boris State in any way influence the extension of a lockdown policy which would deliver economic ruin..just as the Remainers had always promised as part of their Project Fear?? Wish fulfillment? There are certainly a few groups – like the Leftist Teachers Unions – who knowingly were adopting a Leninist playbook in lockdown from day 1. Maximum disruption- and damn the suffering children caught in the wake of their political action. But what of others? How many in the vast state public health bureaucracy – almost 100% progressive and surely all anti Brex – allowed the toxic hatred and mind virus to spill out or over into policy making, consciously or unconsciously?

DenialARiverIn Islington
DenialARiverIn Islington
7 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I really wouldn’t worry too much Katharine.
1/ Starmer has seen first hand what Brexit does to British politicians. He’s not so stupid as to mess with it. He’ll say a number of things, but when it comes to doing, it’ll all, mysteriously, be too difficult. We’ve all had enough Civil War now.
2/ Britain is at the end of the road for both taxation and borrowing. Neither can be significantly increased. That leaves spending cuts and, in this case, we’re talking of between £100Bn and £200Bn annually (you can debate the exact amount). At some point, it will occur to Labour, that to find the £20Bn annually to re-join the EU, must mean cuts to education, health or welfare. Nothing else will do it. As soon as this becomes (as it must) obvious……..
Brexit is done. We won’t (and, really, cannot) re-join.

Glyn R
Glyn R
7 months ago

Starmer will come after property owners and wealth taxation before he starts to cut spending.

Christopher Chantrill
CC
Christopher Chantrill
7 months ago

Five missions:
High growth; Clean energy; Build the NHS; Fix crime; Break barriers to opportunity.
I assume everyone understands that this combination of missions is physically, economically, and culturally impossible.
Otherwise, it’s great!
See, Britain spends about 40% of GDP on government. That means you can’t touch pensions, can’t touch the NHS, can’t touch education, and don’t even think of touching the sacred quangos providing sinecures for the educated class.
So what do we do?

Last edited 7 months ago by Christopher Chantrill
Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
7 months ago

Much depends on whether you think most people vote for or against things. Did Thatcher win in 1979 because the voters bought into her economic prescription or because they thought Labour had made a complete mess of things and it could only get worse? I believe the latter and, more importantly, suspect that is also what Starmer believes.

No one remembers more than three points no matter how long you talk. My guess is that Starmer will hope to drive home three relatively bland messages which promise perhaps that Labour will be

1/ Steady, sane, sensible – the opposite of the Tories who will be portrayed as erratic, incompetent, corrupt, factional etc. In particular, Labour will put a lot of effort into being seen as a safe pair of hands on the economy and then contrast this with the Tory record.

2/ Able to fix the NHS – no brainer

3/ Green but not mad – suggest Labour knows how to stop global warming without any distressing personal inconvenience. 

This may seem uninspiring but it will probably be enough to get them elected.

I think, however, that the lack of a powerful grand narrative will bite later after Labour get into government. Labour will find it hard to set clear priorities. It would not be surprising if they drift into a bland but incompetent managerialism which is over centralised, obsessed with message discipline, unable to make much positive happen in the real world and over influenced by various NGOs and corporate interests. Think Nicola Sturgeon with an English accent or Blair without that grin. Merkel? A beacon of effectiveness in comparison.

Last edited 7 months ago by Alex Carnegie
AC Harper
AC Harper
7 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

<i>”It would not be surprising if they drift into a bland but incompetent managerialism which is over centralised, obsessed with message discipline,”</i>
Much like the Conservatives now. Boris Johnson (for all his failings) offered something other than bland managerialism; so did Liz Truss; so did Jeremy Corbyn for Labour. All were too unsettling for the Powers That Be.
“Steady as she goes, but more careful” is not a great political idea. It might win against a tired Conservative Party, but could easily be ruined by ‘events’ later.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
7 months ago

May I politely suggest a revolution? You don’t need to burn down everything like the French…but one of the biggest problems in the UK is to do with your own culture and psyche – and specifically the dogged British refusal to complain until things get really, REALLY bad.
We’ve all had this “keep calm and carry on”, “mustn’t grumble” attitude instilled in us since before we could even understand those words. And it’s basically a virtue that Brits don’t get flustered the second something doesn’t go right. But it’s been taken to extremes.
The problems with the NHS have been brewing since I was a kid and I’m now middle-aged. There’s been plenty of grumbling about it but no massive, game-changing showdown: because it’s not in the British mentality. Check out the popular comments on Aris Roussinos’ article the other day about Britain being depressed. How many of them were essentially saying “it’s OK really!”, “stop complaining, you big girl’s blouse” and similar?
Sticking rigidly to those responses when things truly are going wrong is precisely how you end up with a broken country. It’s not just the political establishment. It’s the ordinary person too.

Last edited 7 months ago by Katharine Eyre
Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
7 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

A very good and perceptive point. The difficulty is that even if popular pressure on various issues was intense, I am not sure that – generalising – government is capable of effective response. Less a case of “will not” and more of “can not”. A good start would be at the centre of government which appears highly dysfunctional. Whitehall needs structural and cultural reform. In its golden age 1940-60 it could move mountains – WW2, NHS, etc – but now it can barely deal with a molehill. Absent a restoration of effectiveness, what you correctly suggest is necessary will not be sufficient.

Martin Butler
MB
Martin Butler
7 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Yes I agree with much if this. But when you say the ordinary person I think that’s not quite right. More like the ordinary baby boomer house owner who is either in retirement or heading that way. For them things really aren’t that bad. In fact, for people like me, who fit that demographic, I might even say I’ve never had it so good. Kids left home, no mortgage, reasonable pension & triple locked state pension – what not to like? And unfortunately we seem to be the demographic that politicians endlessly pander to. I think I have the insight to realise that although a steady as she goes policy might be good for me, it’s sure as hell not in the long term interests of the country.

Last edited 7 months ago by Martin Butler
Katharine Eyre
KE
Katharine Eyre
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin Butler

Yes, I do tend to agree with the baby boomers having been the generation who have kept this kind of “bung” in place, stopping anything getting done “because we’re alright and everyone else just needs to pull themselves together”.
But there’s also plenty that younger generations are doing wrong.

Martin Butler
Martin Butler
7 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

You’re exactly right about baby boomers – unfortunately. Find it difficult to understand how all the young things in the 60’s I remember – The Who’s ‘My Generation’ – turned into this lot who are so backward looking and grumpy.

N Satori
N Satori
7 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Where are all these dogged Brits I wonder. In my North London Neighborhood all I see is immigrants, mostly from the old Soviet Bloc countries or the Commonwealth. I’d be glad to see a few Stoic Brits for a change. Mustn’t grumble? Social media forums are one gigantic grumblefest.
Call for an angry citizen’s outburst (like Jan 6, 2021?) if you want but revolutionary change needs focussed leadership, ideas (rather than ideology) and above all vision. The leadership needed to oppose those prevalent Woke certainties so many of us despise is barely visible. Is there a political movement which unashamedly opposes NetZero or Transrights? The advocates of these beliefs have thoroughly colonised public life.

George Venning
George Venning
7 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

A quiet revolution sounds lovely. Yes please, I’ll take one. But do you know how to construct such a thing?
.
The fact is that, under our political system, we have only two parties capable of forming a Government and neither of them seems to be all that keen on doing what their partisans want.
.
I’m not a tribal conservative but there are plenty on here who are and who complain that they haven’t seen a proper conservative government since.. oh, I don’t know, Baldwin or someone. Since we’re still living in the aftermath of the revolution that Thatcher launched upon us I don’t pretend to understand their platform or their problem. Doubtless one of them will be kind enough to explain.
.
Over to the left we have people like me, who saw in Corbyn’s programme the closest thing we had seen to a quiet revolution in my lifetime – a rolling back of the privatisation of the last 40 years, directed investment in greenery, investment in public services, a recognition that progressive tax reform would be necessary to accompish those things. These policies weren’t revolutionary from a global standpoint, if implemented in full over several parliaments, they’d have left us somewhere between Germany and Scandinavia but they felt revolutionary in the context of Britain’s rightward drift.
.
And what happened to that revolution? Well, Corbyn was vilified in the press for everything from terrorist sympathies to wearing the wrong hat to being the wrong sort of anti Aparthied campaigner until eventually the charge of Anti Semitism stuck. It’s a serious charge, and, to avoid a fuss, let’s say it was warranted. He gets kicked out. Starmer replaces him on an explicit platform of Corbyn’s policies without Corbyn’s baggage. But no sooner is Starmer elected than he breaks every pledge he made in order to get voted in, chucks a whole bunch of people out of the party. And the press says nothing about this except to admire his ruthless determination to restore the party to electability. They now routinely pretend that Corbyn’s policies were as unpopular as his person and they routinely ignore their own role in making him/them so.
.
The truth is that the PLP and the media do not want a change. What they want is not Corbynism without the baggage but Conservatism competently administered.
.
And I’m sure that there are lots of Right wingers on here who don’t give two hoots about any of that. But they’d probably glumly agree that, if Kemi Badenoch had somehow ended up leader, she’d have been brought to heel pretty sharpish.
.
I genuinely don’t know how the self-appointed centrists pull their trick but I am confident that they won’t be permitting any quiet revolutions any time soon. And, thanks to the new policing powers, and a pincer movement of US digital censorship and the EU’s DSA, I doubt that they be collapsing in a welter of public dissent either. A future of ignominious decline stretches before us…

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
7 months ago
Reply to  George Venning

I find it hard to disagree with what you say (apart from the Corbyn fandom)…but the result of all these quite reasonable points is that you’ve given up on any kind of change and are resigned to the status quo.
And when reasonable arguments all lead back to an unsustainable, unsatisfactory status quo – the only option for change is something radical along the lines of a revolution.
I don’t talk about stuff like this lightly – mainly because revolutions do tend to get out of control and become very destructive. And the lesson of Truss was that anything that comes from the political establishment which isn’t to the tastes of the financial markets will flick you out of power faster than you can say “bonds”.
But how else can you create the drive required to effect the change the UK needs?

Last edited 7 months ago by Katharine Eyre
George Venning
GV
George Venning
7 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I’m not resigned to the status quo. I’m furious about it. I’m merely pointing out that the forces arrayed against revolution are very broad and very well dug in. Which is why I asked how you think you get to a quiet revolution.
You may not have liked the look of the “revolution” that Corbyn tried to launch but you should be clear how ruthlessly the centre acted to stop it and, simultaneously, how they were able to pretend that they weren’t doing anything at all.
And Corbynism had the advantage of not being some new and untried theory, but actually looking a lot like the social democracy that is commonplace across most of northern Europe.
So I think talk of a revolution, quiet or otherwise is rather glib unless you;re talking about what you want to do and how.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
7 months ago
Reply to  George Venning

Talk of Revolution is good! But Corbynism was not revolutionary at all! The Johnson Government has adopted all of its core Manifesto measures by a factor of 100!. Magic Money Tree Economics. High Taxation and radical extensions of Welfarism and the ‘Tax For Redistribution Only Brownite’ policy…plus nationalisation, a failure to tame the Blob and all the crippling cultish progressive credos which attack prosperity and communal bonds- net zero and toxic US style identitarianism. Everything except the hugging Hizbollah and PIRA murderers and hating the Royals. No – at risk of repetition- the truly Great unavknowledged Revolution happened 1992/1997 to present. It was the Blairite then Cameroonian Progressive New Order which dismantled via devolution and NMI) the old nation state and its common laws. In its place arose a supposedly modern vast and wholly EU compliant unelected admin machine that has governed us ever since; and is the root of our paralysis. Brexit was a peoples only counter revolution against Londons greed and tyranny which was squashed like a Peasants Revolt ant at birth. We drift on now a bankrupt vampiric quasi socialist progressive State technically outside the EU but systemically of it still…and in need of a genuine Revolution still.

George Venning
George Venning
7 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

If you think that Boris Johnson implemented the substance of Jeremy Corbyn’s programme and that Tony Blair represented a transformational break from Thatcherism then I think that you’ve flipped your lid.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
7 months ago
Reply to  George Venning

What do you call magic money tree economics? Jezza argued for it and we slated him as a loony. Johnson and Rishi did it. Billions and billions. Did you zizz through lockdown and furlough? Miss the monster bailouts in energy housing and benefits to 5 million with anxiety? Not many would think this is Tory or Thatcherite. Have you missed the highest ever tax bills? If you think we follow the Lawson way still you have plainly..yes… flipped your lid. The aggression of the Leftist Progressives in the Blob invisible to you? The total repudiation by media poloticians all of the quasi Thatcherite Truss pass you by? Lordy. You really think we live in a Thatcherite Britain?? Its comical! Do you see anyone now supporting enterprise and wealth creation? There is a Boris and Tory backed project eco cult called Net Zero which is designed to curb something Thatcher rather liked – a thing called economic growth. Boris and Rishi have spread the nutty ESG anti capitalist credo in the City, scaring entrepreneurs away to America. Very Thatcher!! Punitive windfall taxes just a Labour thing? NHS set to employ over 2m and the State set to devour GDP?? Thats Blarism. His devolution working for you? Bank of England independence working for you? Human rights and progressive laws not Blairite? The suffocating EU mega regulationary machine not constructed by him? Unions crushed and welfarism tamed? You have missed just everything.

George Venning
George Venning
7 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

You’re hilarious. Thanks for making me chuckle

Simon Neale
SN
Simon Neale
7 months ago

Like Starmer, she had no obvious grand vision. But she won and governed for 15 years. What, though, has Germany got to show for it?

Millions of unassimilated immigrants that Germans need to appease, to the detriment of their culture and prosperity.

Stephanie Surface
SS
Stephanie Surface
7 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

Merkel was also the politician, who invented “Energiewende”, trying to rely solely on renewable energy, closing down all nuclear plants (pleasing the Green Lobby) and getting cheap gas from Russia. She is a living example of how to deindustrialise a successful industrialised nation. Germany is becoming the “sick man of Europe” again.
This should give Starmer and any other politician a good example of how to destroy an economy without cheap reliable energy. You only can provide Health, Education or any other State subsidised goodies, if you have money in the coffer.
But sadly I can’t see that any current politician in Europe or U.K. learned the lesson. All seem to obediently follow the Green Religion till doomsday.

Last edited 7 months ago by Stephanie Surface
Mark Polden
Mark Polden
7 months ago

Brexit was actually the primal scream of the North & regions against London & SE. It was to say we demand you fix the inequality properly so we will take away your metropolitan liberal toy

Martin Butler
Martin Butler
7 months ago
Reply to  Mark Polden

Yes an element of truth in that although plenty of comfortable southerners voted Brexit. The tragedy (or irony) is the Brexit project will lead in exactly the opposite direction – more inequality.

Sam Hill
SH
Sam Hill
7 months ago
Reply to  Mark Polden

It is worth saying that it was even narrower than that. At the referendum the South East voting region actually voted LEAVE.
The basic problem with politics is that we have an ultra narrow set of people and interests. It might be a ‘London’ mindset. But the referendum results were telling in that it was basically large university towns voting remain. There is a mindset issue – viewpoint diversity is lacking. But that problem is far easier to identify than to solve.

N Satori
NS
N Satori
7 months ago

Ah, Democracy – the dream that never dies. The media pundits try to convince us that elections make a big difference. McTague talks about Sir Keir in the way sports writers talk about Premier League managers (‘eyes on the prize’ and all that stuff about putting together a winning team).
And yet, the Conservatives are hardly looking like a worthy opponent in their present situation. Just like 1997 there is a sense, not only that they will lose the next election, but that they would like to go into opposition and leave the national mess to their rivals. The fact that many Tories are already looking to careers outside politics betrays a lack of conviction.
The comparison with pre-1979 Thatcher is certainly interesting but we live in very different times. Thanks to decades of multiculturalism, the capture of our institutions (and even our popular culture) by aggressive identarianism and of course ubiquitous use of social media, the country and the electorate are not what they were 45 years ago.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
ER
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
7 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

One correction. Economically the Major government left Britain in a much better state than it had been for many years. Something of which Blair/Brown took full advantage

N Satori
N Satori
7 months ago

You are right about the economy of course but there was a distinct feeling, remarked on by quite a few Conservatives at the time, that the Tories had grown weary of government. John Major, an able managerial type, just didn’t have that spark of leadership. Quasi forceful statements were put into his mouth by his speech writers but it was never convincing. That’s probably why one of his back benchers likened him to a ventriloquist’s dummy.

Kevin Godwin
KG
Kevin Godwin
7 months ago

Indeed, Blair inherited a ‘golden chalice’.

Hugh Bryant
HB
Hugh Bryant
7 months ago

It’s invidious and misleading to compare Starmer with Thatcher in any way. Thatcher had clear principles and beliefs. Starmer is a shallow careerist who will flip-flop his way through a disastrous premiership – just as Sunak has done.

D Glover
D Glover
7 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Correct. Starmer is certainly not an anti-semite. His wife is Jewish and his daughters are being raised in the faith. So how did he serve as a loyal lieutenant to Corbyn? How did he campaign for Corbyn to be PM?
What was he doing while Margaret Hodge, Luciana Berger, and Louise Ellman were being hounded?
It takes ‘careerist’ from being something shallow to being really rather dark.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
7 months ago
Reply to  D Glover

What was he doing while Margaret Hodge, Luciana Berger, and Louise Ellman were being hounded?

Well, he certainly wasn’t getting elocution lessons. That’s for sure.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
7 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

He really is Blair’s heir.

ben arnulfssen
ben arnulfssen
7 months ago

OK, so when are we REALLY going to discuss what people are REALLY concerned about?

Mass immigration of ALL descriptions is hugely, bitterly unpopular. Conservative and Labour alike are colluding to stifle all discussion of the obvious fact that both intend that it shall continue.

Housing is a huge problem. Again, no action.

The NHS requires reform. No meaningful action.

The whole “trans” issue needs rolling up, submerging in a bucket and drowning. Again, no recognition of this whatsoever.

The police increasingly require a thorough clear out. No action.

We have can energy policy which defies description. Again, both sides the same.

Both sides are trying to pick up the same t**d by its clean end.

Kevin Godwin
KG
Kevin Godwin
7 months ago
Reply to  ben arnulfssen

Agreed!

Hilary Easton
HE
Hilary Easton
7 months ago
Reply to  ben arnulfssen

I’m afraid I agree with you on all of these points, but literally no-one seems to have a plausible plan to tackle any of them. It’s a grim situation.

J Bryant
J Bryant
7 months ago

A very fine article, imo. Interesting analysis of what will likely be the next UK government and its (rather opaque) priorities. Am I the only one sensing both Labour and Tory are, at bottom, floundering around, groping for a way forward in an increasingly uncertain world?
If Starmer really is Merkel reanimated, the UK is probably in trouble. Merkel was a technocrat who managed a time of plenty. The time of plenty is over.

Katharine Eyre
KE
Katharine Eyre
7 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Nothing illustrates Britain’s lack of understanding of Europe than this continued idolisation of Merkel, it is laughable.

Rob Britton
Rob Britton
7 months ago

This article was OK until he mentioned Tory austerity and then it went off the rails. It is a funny sort of austerity that doubles the National Debt, increases taxes to the highest level since the War, and leaves the country virtually bankrupt, all in the space of just over a decade.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
7 months ago
Reply to  Rob Britton

I’d recommend reading the unbearable Paul Krugman. Austerity is self-defeating.

Colin Haller
Colin Haller
2 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Or Mark Blyth’s “Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea”

John Riordan
John Riordan
7 months ago

Quite apart from the likely Brexit betrayal Labour will introduce which makes them impossible to vote for even while holding my nose, where on earth is a Labour government going to get the money to pay for any expansion in public spending? The existing government has already tested to destruction the idea that a large and expensive state is sustainable – ironically by doing all the sorts of things that a Labour government would be expected to do.

There is no bigger-and-better version of the British state available: the big state experiment is already maxxed-out under this useless Tory government. The only way to fix it is make it smaller and less rapaciously-parasitic upon the tax base.

So how is that going to work?

Last edited 7 months ago by John Riordan
Martin Butler
Martin Butler
7 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

So Brexit itself has not turned out to be a betrayal? Most think it has not done a thing for them. But the more important point is that those who go on about a ‘low tax smaller state’ economy are like communists of yesteryear. All theory. Point to a successful country in the world that you would want to live in with a small state? The US perhaps? – fine if you’re rich otherwise a nightmare. And actually the US has quite a big state despite all the talk. The places that are high up the the ‘desirable place to live’ charts seem to have lots of state intervention. Canada, Denmark, Germany even. Not only that they are usually more successful economies than the UK.The small state economy is the failed experiment – or rather it’s too dumb to even get off the ground.

John Riordan
JR
John Riordan
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin Butler

I don’t really think this extraordinarily childish comment deserves a reply, but I’ll give one anyway. Why do you assume that there are only two possible levels of government size? Are you really incapable of grasping the possibility that I might mean a smaller state in which government spending was only, say, 40% of GDP instead of its present 45%?

A government that didn’t allow self-identification of sickness in people who wish to claim the associated state benefits without needing to prove their entitlement? One in which it would be unacceptable for there to be a central government bureaucracy that has not faced efficiency measures in almost thirty years? There are more examples of profligate waste carrying on in the public sector at a time when the private sector is in the worst pain it has faced since the financial crisis but you, presumably, can’t understand that this is a disgrace requiring urgent resolution?

Everything in your comment is a load of ignorant tripe. I’m amazed you weren’t too embarrassed to post it.

Last edited 7 months ago by John Riordan
Martin Butler
Martin Butler
7 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

So it’s about efficiency is it? But that’s not the same as a smaller state at all. You can have a small inefficient state or the reverse. You only mention smaller state, not a more efficient state. Everyone’s in favour of efficiency but that wasn’t your argument. Re-read your original post.

John Riordan
John Riordan
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin Butler

Your powers of misunderstanding know no bounds, it seems.

Hugh Bryant
HB
Hugh Bryant
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin Butler

Point to a successful country in the world that you would want to live in with a small state?

Switzerland.
The reason the British state is such a shambles is not so much that it’s too big, but that it is massively over-centralised and there are few or no means of holding anyone to account for it’s failures in so many areas.
We should adopt the Commune/Canton system.

John Dellingby
John Dellingby
7 months ago

As I’ve heard others say about Labour under Starmer, the support is wide, but also shallow. I was only 6 when Blair become Prime Minister in 1997, but it does seem that many who did vote for him did so because they liked what Labour was offering (older readers might be able to correct me). Now though, it’s more anger with the government that explains Labour’s lead in the polls. Assuming they win the next election comfortably and Starmer continues to not handle descent very well, it’ll be interesting to see how Labour handle things after 6 months and nothing has improved or looks like it will.

N Satori
N Satori
7 months ago
Reply to  John Dellingby

Blair was offering a Labour party with the dominance of hard left trade unions drastically reduced. As an older reader I still remember with amusement Arthur Scargill storming out of Labour, following Blair’s amendment of Clause IV, to form his own “true socialist” party. In Scargill’s one track mind true socialism is what the people really craved. His electoral achievements tell a different story – I think the Monster Raving Loony party have enjoyed more success at the polls.

Last edited 7 months ago by N Satori
AC Harper
AC Harper
7 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

The joke going around in the coal industry at the time was that Scargill started the strike with a large union and a small house, and ended the strike with a small union and a large house.

N Satori
NS
N Satori
7 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Also worth mentioning the hypocrisy of that ‘true socialist’ when he was head of the National Union of Mineworkers. The admin staff at the offices of NUM went on strike because they were so poorly paid. Industrial action from this particular group of exploited workers drew no sympathy or solidarity from Scargill.

Martin Butler
Martin Butler
7 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Why are you going on about Scargill and the miners?

N Satori
NS
N Satori
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin Butler

If you need to ask that you have not been following the discussion (or history).
McTague talks about the return of the Blairites in Starmer’s reshuffle and the consequent sidelining of Labour’s hard Left. This naturally brings to mind Blair’s takeover of the party in the 1990s. Scargill, as a key representitive of hard Left Trade Union power saw this as a betrayal of socialism. He left the party in disgust, certain (as hard line Lefties so often are) that his poliitics would be widely popular with the working class. He was in for a well deserved collision with reality. Democracy often provides an antidote to ideology – that’s why Lefties are so keen to subvert it.
Scargill’s political activism is the issue here rather than his representatiion of the Mineworkers. More recently we saw union leader and activist Len McCluskey attempting to reestablish that hard Left power over Labour.

Last edited 7 months ago by N Satori
Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
7 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

“Democracy often provides an antidote to ideology, that’s why Lefties are so keen to subvert it.”

Well said. Precisely what is happening in America at present.

Richard Rolfe
RR
Richard Rolfe
7 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Corbyn was going to make Scargill minister of mines…or was that in Private Eye?

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
7 months ago
Reply to  John Dellingby

Blair understood that what middle class Boomers wanted was a government that would talk left and act right. Pretty well every graduate I know became a millionaire while he was in office. Meanwhile, rents went through the roof and wages were squeezed. Young blue collar workers were driven out of the housing market.
We should never forget that it was a Labour Chancellor who changed the way that the official cost of living figures are calculated in order to conceal from his own voters the extent to which he had stitched them up.

N Satori
NS
N Satori
7 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Yes, Gordon Brown was deft at making the economy appear to be in better shape than it really was. Problems with the PFI/PPP situation, for example, would have been highly embarassing to the government circa 2007/8 if the financial tsunami of the credit crunch hadn’t made the debts seem less significant by comparison.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
7 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Yes, Brown’s ingenious working tax credits that disguised an increase in benefits spending as a reduction in taxation.

Malcolm Webb
MW
Malcolm Webb
7 months ago

An article crammed full of express and implied absurdities. That undoing Brexit is possible or desirable. That more State spending/ borrowing is desirable and will stimulate growth. That Starmer will have any money to spend. That a green revolution ( presumably Net Zero) is going to happen and what’s more be lead by U.K. . That Merkel was not simply a colossal failure . That the awful truth of the negligent ( cross party) wrong headed (headless in fact) handling of Covid is not now fully apparent and a major factor in our current troubles. That no mention is made of immigration – and Blairite culpability in ushering in uncontrolled immigration . That the British public are not aware of all of this nonsense and have not become extremely and understandably cynical about all politicians. That Starmer is a man of vision. That Starmer being anything like Merkel could be anything other than a disaster for his party and this country. That Europe is prospering. A thoroughly absurd piece throughout.

Last edited 7 months ago by Malcolm Webb
Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
7 months ago

The rot started in 1997. For all the failings of the Tories in the 90s, they delivered balanced government finances, a balanced current account and an undervalued currency. The stage was set for a Labour government to rebuild industry for the 21st century. Instead Gordon Brown decided to launch a number of Ponzi schemes: large scale immigration largely of single adults; rising house prices and share prices; increased government spending; the creation of the NGO-charity-government industrial complex. By 2008 the short term benefits from these policies could no longer hide their redundancy. Cameron saw Blair as ‘The Master’ and he doubled down on Blair/Brown’s policies with the exception of the latter. As a result we have a chronic government budget deficit, a chronic current account deficit and a broken housing market.

Susan Grabston
Susan Grabston
7 months ago

Not a bad analogy and I have no doubt that h8lis legacy will be equally disastrous. I find myself increasingly looking forward to the chaos and crisis ahead as the 4th turning hits its apogee. Anything is better than the current slow death by 1000 cuts, and Winter always gives way to Spring.

Chuck Burns
CB
Chuck Burns
7 months ago

How about some reality! As long as you Brits, I am an American, as long as you Brits cling to the USA NeoCon coat tails and follow them over the Progressive Leftist Globalist Reset cliff your situation will continue to deteriorate. The USA Neo Cons are using you as consumables just as they are using the Ukrainians as cannon fodder.

The same can be said for Germany. What Germany must do is cut off relations with the USA, think NordStream! Why was that gas pipeline destroyed? Who is reaping massive profits by selling Germany over priced liquified natural gas?
What Germany and the UK must do is align themselves economically with Russia and BRICS. Turn the cheap Russian Gas back on, close your borders, and rebuild your economy. Oh yes, and tell the EU to get lost. They are not your friends.
Now, if only we in the USA can take this same advice then maybe, just maybe we can be saved too.

Jeff Carr
JC
Jeff Carr
7 months ago

I think it needs to be mentioned that Northern Rock got into difficulties in 2007 as the Financial Crisis started to gain traction resulting in the collapse of Lehman Brothers and systemic stress in 2008.
It should also be remembered that the Labour Party remained in Government until 2010, almost three years after Northern Rock.
To imply that the Conservative Party is entirely responsible for the response to the financial crisis is, stretching a point. Many of the decisions were taken whilst Labour were in Downing Street.

Gordon Arta
GA
Gordon Arta
7 months ago

Starmer is showing all the signs of learning nothing from the Blair and Cameron years, and repeating all the same mistakes.
He should; admit that the Blair policy on immigration was wrong, and that curbs are necessary, and his government will introduce and implement them.
That New Labour didn’t know the difference between spending and investment, so spent more money than it invested.
That the NHS model promotes bureaucracy over service delivery and requires radical reform and much greater accountability.
That Osborne’s chancellorship and austerity measures were more designed to protect wealth owners from paying tax than get the nation’s finances back on track, so his government will simplify the tax system, close loopholes, and ensure that the wealthy pay in proportion to their wealth.
That arguing over the policies for handling the Covid pandemic are counter-productive, and a forward-looking, evidence-based set of policies and measures are needed for the next one.
That putting a date on ‘net zero’ is an albatross, not a practical target.
That a complete reform of the HofL is needed, to put membership on a totally new, and more expert, basis.
That 5 year FPP parliaments are past their sell-by date, and a rolling electoral system, 1/3 elected every 2 or 3 years, would lead to fewer policy lurches.
That the welfare safety net has spawned a dependency culture, so will in future require a more participatory approach from claimants.
That the judicial systems and organs, and the rights industry, have overreached, and need to be reined in.
And a few more.

j watson
j watson
7 months ago

‘Is Brexit at the heart of our national decline or not?’ as the Author puts it. And he concludes current Lab leadership believe it is as the fundamental conclusion to his article.
However I don’t think they do think that and I suspect it’s an attempt to create a ‘wedge’ given some desperation on the Right.
I think Lab leadership think Brexit was a symptom of the decline. That the Hard Brexit we ended up with was stupid and driven primarily by a small Tory cabal of eurosceptics who never represented the majority view in the Country. That we will inevitably need to stay in close alignment to our biggest market although any full return to EU at least a generation away. (Prediction – we eventually end up similar to Norway, but not yet). But that fundamentally there are issues at the core of UK economy and body politic beyond Brexit that need addressing and that just perhaps Brexit allows us to better see as we can no longer blame the EU.
I also suspect large elements of the UK and international Business community do think Brexit at the heart of a slow decline. That’s separate to Lab leadership and something they’ll have to navigate alongside the reality that the UK public really doesn’t want to replay 2016. It wants competent Govt to move us in sensible directions. They don’t want a Govt spouting slogans like they are still in Opposition having been in power for 14yrs.

Sam Hill
Sam Hill
7 months ago
Reply to  j watson

‘That the Hard Brexit we ended up with was stupid and driven primarily by a small Tory cabal of eurosceptics who never represented the majority view in the Country.’
So those indicative votes where Parliament beclowned itself by not actually being capable of organising a run off vote were what then? I’m sorry but this line is just hand-waving. If those who wanted ‘something else’ cared that much about it then they could and should very easily have worked together.
Those who wanted ‘something else’ put all their eggs into the high stakes gamble of a second referendum and got what they deserved. That’s not the fault of a small Tory cabal.
‘just perhaps Brexit allows us to better see as we can no longer blame the EU.’
A good thing, surely?

j watson
j watson
7 months ago
Reply to  Sam Hill

I agree SH that too many missed the opportunity to ‘soften’ Brexit because opponents fixated on getting a 2nd referendum. A historical mistake IMO and you are correct to flag it.
Yes and if there is an upside to Brexit it is that last point you highlight. We continue to toss and turn don’t we about what is now before our eyes without the excuse of the EU, and herein lies one of the fundamental problems for large sections of the Right – they got what they wanted, now what? Public clearly, and quietly beginning to sense been mugged off a bit by a group who hadn’t really thought it through.

Chuck Burns
CB
Chuck Burns
7 months ago

Merkel was, is a liar. Remember MINSK I and MINSK II? She was one of the NEO CONS who got us into the Ukraine situation pushing us to WWIII. Is Starmer also a liar? I suspect so, he is a politician and a Leftist politician at that. What is worse than a despicable Right wing liar politician? A left wing liar politician.

Malcolm Powell
Malcolm Powell
7 months ago

Thefundamental poit (which has already been mentioned) is that many of the UK’s problems are probably insolvable. We dont have the poliival mechanisms or courage to enable them to be overcome

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
7 months ago

I learnt much about the author from this article, but nothing new about the authoritarian neoliberal we’ll have in power next.

Steve Murray
LL
Steve Murray
7 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

To be fair, the article was an improvement on his last effort, about country music and his blindness to the British music scene away from the over-hyped elite.

Dylan Blackhurst
DB
Dylan Blackhurst
7 months ago

Starmer is an odd character.

A supposed republican who then takes a knighthood. Really?!

The kneeling for BLM looks particularly uncomfortable now.

He feels so disingenuous.

Does he need to have a clear vision and value set?

At this point in time. Yes. I really think he does. We bemoan the lack of drive and clear direction in our leaders. A complete absence of clear thinking.

People are looking around genuinely looking for a leader to speak, make sense and describe what what it is we should be aiming for in the nation.

In Keir I don’t see it. In fact I don’t see anything. He’s practically invisible.

Colin Haller
CH
Colin Haller
2 months ago

True, but in the words of a highly successful provincial politician in Canada, “bland works.”

Douglas Redmayne
DR
Douglas Redmayne
7 months ago

At least Starmer has purged Labour of leftist trash such as Corbyn and the Abbotopotamus and all the grubby Corbyn acolytes have cancelled their membership too.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
7 months ago

Starmer is much more of a lefty than people realise.

Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
7 months ago

I see no evidence of this from his latest actions. I suspect he is a pragmatist and considers that the vest way to hold and exercise power is to follow the Blair playbook. If, as seems likely, he is elected with a big majority this should not be too difficult

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
7 months ago

Abbot is still there

Douglas Redmayne
DR
Douglas Redmayne
7 months ago

No she isnt. She doesnt have the Labour whip. Don’t make things up

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
ER
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
7 months ago

Sorry. You are correct

Right-Wing Hippie
RH
Right-Wing Hippie
7 months ago

Will Starmer be Britain’s Merkel?
God help Britain if he is.

Andrew Wise
AW
Andrew Wise
7 months ago

Maybe Starmer will turn out to be a Neil Kinnock rather than an Angel Merkel?
it’s not impossible, however unlikely it seems now.

Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Wise

So you hope. The Tories are corrupt and incompetent whereas John Major’s Tories in 1992 were at least perceived as competent and not corrupt

polidori redux
PR
polidori redux
7 months ago

deleted.

Last edited 7 months ago by polidori redux
polidori redux
PR
polidori redux
7 months ago

“The Tories are corrupt and incompetent”
So are the blairites. Take off the beer goggles.

Charles Stanhope
CS
Charles Stanhope
7 months ago

John Major was an abject disaster.
Turning the Polys into Universities was lunacy, as we now see! And the so called privatisation of the Railways, the most deceitful confidence trick since the Resurrection.
Off to the “pit of eternal stench” with the man!

Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
7 months ago

Rail privatisation was utterly stupid and disastrous

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
7 months ago

I made no value judgement on the question and your memory is short – cash for questions, Jonathan Aitken et al – they most certainly had the corrupt label put on them.

Last edited 7 months ago by Andrew Wise
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Wise

And let us NOT that other arch scoundrel the late (Sir) Michael Grylls.

Andrew Martin
Andrew Martin
7 months ago

I have to take Starmer’s mission of being a clean energy superpower with a pinch of salt. There are too many problems with Wind turbines, they can’t run when there is no wind and they can’t run when there is too much wind. A Swedish wind operator is cancelling offshore Wind turbines due to unsustainable costs They also have a short lifespan and are expensive to maintain.
Then there is the fractious Conservative Party. Sunak recently announced a U turn on onshore Wind turbines after being bullied by a cabal of MP’s from the Conservative Environment Network with financial backing from the European Climate Foundation a group committed to the elimination of greenhouse gases. So he has given carte blanche to these Eco Zealots to destroy the Countryside and Wildlife. Well that would be a vote winner eh? Expensive Electricity here we come for the masses.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
7 months ago

As incompetent as the Tories are I’m afraid Labour will be a thousand times worse.

James Knight
James Knight
7 months ago

The last sentence hit the nail on the head. I’m terrified Starmer will do irreversible damage to the country.

Rose D
Rose D
7 months ago

Why so silent on the economy, or rather, the absence of any plan to increase economic growth in the UK? The thread tying together the strikes, the state of the NHS & the plethora of potholes is a lack of government funds, aka tax revenues aka economic growth to address them.
Until the UK’s political leaders recognize the root of the aforementioned problems, the odds of them crafting a potentially course correcting plan strike me as indistinguishable from zero.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
7 months ago

The Anglo press conveniently forgets that A Merkel presided over a tumultuous decade while keeping Russian imperial interests in check via trade.
Now every media outlet bends over backwards to indulge their neocon fantasies while overlooking the fact that the project for a New American Century has been an absolute disaster since the invasion of Iraq.
As for Starmer, he is just a company man who has climbed up through the Establishment. So predictable has been his rise as a smooth liberal without political character or vision that a journalist based one of her characters on the young Starmer for the Bridget Jones book.
And Germany is the 3rd biggest economy in the world, that’s what Chancellor Merkel has to show for it.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
7 months ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

Perhaps they were 3rd once but today, according to the IMF, they’re 4th.

George Scipio
George Scipio
7 months ago

This is a pretty good analysis. But the pompous tenor of the long-winded, self-indulgent armchair warriors commenting is, as almost always, such a disappointment. Look: Tories are dead in the water; Starmer is keeping his powder dry until the campaign; inexorable political-economic logic demands that the UK realigns with the EU as much and as quickly as possible. The decision to leave was an error of world-historical proportions, and its advocates are exposed as clowns or villains or both.

Colin Haller
CH
Colin Haller
2 months ago
Reply to  George Scipio

I would encourage you to wear what will no doubt be an avalanche of downvotes as a badge of honour, respecting the very premise embodied in the name “Unherd” itself, something which too often escapes the commentariat hereabouts.