Tuesday 7 March 2023

The Gapes of Wrath No More?

What, if anything, is the Labour Party going to do with Mike Gapes? It did not do a lot with him last time, he is now 70, and it is not much more than three years since he stood against it at a General Election.

But it will certainly not be making him Chief of Staff to Keir Starmer. If Gapes had wanted that, then he would have had to have stayed out of the Labour Party. There is officially no one in it who is capable of being Starmer's Chief of Staff.

That is hilarious. The faithful sons of the right-wing Labour machine were venting their spleens in the Commons yesterday. They were the only Labour MPs who had turned up. But try and imagine their reaction if Jeremy Corbyn had appointed a Chief of Staff who had not been a member of the Labour Party. 

Or if Corbyn had welcomed someone who as a sitting MP had left the party to stand against it at what, at the point of readmission, had been the most recent General Election. Starmer has now done that at least three times, for Gapes, for Luciana Berger, and for Angela Smith, who gestured to Ash Sarkar live on national television and made a remark about "a funny tinge".

All three must now be Brexiteers after all, complete with staying out of the Single Market and the Customs Union, since that is now Starmer's position. The same must also be true of Lord Sainsbury. Or have I missed something? And then there is Christian Wakeford. But Corbyn cannot have the whip. Why would he want it? Does he want it?

Like Sue Gray, Starmer is one of those types who think that people call them "The Enforcer", and who therefore believe that the rules do not apply to them. We now see on full display how they would run the country, and how Gray has famously been doing so for decades. The nearest thing to a rival to her power has been the Prime Minister of the day. But what if that were Starmer? Be very, very, very afraid.

Still, when I say that there is going to be a hung Parliament, then you can take that to the bank. I spent the 2005 Parliament saying that it was psephologically impossible for the Heir to Blair’s Conservative Party to win an overall majority. I predicted a hung Parliament on the day that the 2017 General Election was called, and I stuck to that, entirely alone, all the way up to the publication of the exit poll eight long weeks later. And on the day that Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister, I predicted that a General Election between him and Starmer would result in a hung Parliament.

The opinion polls bear no resemblance to real votes cast, and even the Labour poll lead has halved since Sunak took over. Halved. The Labour vote has gone through the floor at all but one by-election since Starmer became Leader, with one of those recording Labour's lowest ever share of the vote. Council seats that were held or won under Corbyn have fallen like sandcastles, taking control of major local authorities with them. That is the bread and butter of the party’s right wing, who are not otherwise the most employable of people.

With nearly two years still to go until the next General Election, Starmer's personal rating is negative not only nationally, but in every region apart from London, and it is still in decline. Starmer's dishonesty is becoming a story. He lied to his party members to get their votes, so he would lie to anyone else to get their votes. We are heading for a hung Parliament.

To strengthen families and communities by securing economic equality and international peace through the democratic political control of the means to those ends, including national and parliamentary sovereignty, we need to hold the balance of power. Owing nothing to either main party, we must be open to the better offer. There does, however, need to be a better offer. Not a lesser evil, which in any case the Labour Party is not.