Sunday 12 May 2024

New Labour, New Britain

30 years today since John Smith died and we lost the class war. Although Bryan Gould would have been better and his 1992 Leadership pitch now looks astonishingly prescient, Labour would certainly have won the General Election that was then expected in 1996. But as it is, no one from a state school has led a party to an overall majority since 1992, and he was a Conservative. Such Leaders have presented themselves in 1997 (as Prime Minister), in 2001, in 2005, in 2010 (as Prime Minister), in 2015, and in 2017 (as Prime Minister). Yet they have never won unless you count Theresa May's loss of her majority, and this year there will be no such option.

As soon as the ink was dry on the death certificate, then the little-known Tony Blair was announced as the new Leader bar the formalities, over the heads of two vastly more experienced candidates and of the man whom everyone had simply assumed would succeed Smith in due season, since none of those three had Blair's public school accent. We have been living in that Britain ever since.

In that Britain, Natalie Elphicke's attempts to interfere in the judicial process are the kind of thing that MPs of the governing party do, not necessarily unsuccessfully. But she ratted, and now she has to pay the price. Efforts are being made to depict defection as highly unusual, but that its true only in one direction. It has been 47 years since a Labour MP last joined the Conservative Party, and that was only the third time that it had ever happened. Both earlier cases had been in 1948, and both had been over the nationalisation of steel. Yet eight Conservative MPs have joined the Labour Party in the last 29 years alone, an average of one every four years, always without having recanted any part of their previous records. That said, Elphicke has always supported the two-child benefit cap, so she has nothing to recant there. Although its consequences were anything but "unintended", newfound opposition to it is presumably what keeps Suella Braverman out of the Labour Party, as Wes Streeting has pretty much said in so many words.

But when I tell you 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 Keir Starmer would result in a hung Parliament.

I have no plan to join the Workers Party of Britain, although nor would I expect to stand against it. But if it did not contest North Durham, then I would. 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. But there does need to be a better offer. Not a lesser evil, which in any case the Labour Party is not. We have made a start.


  1. The most important even in British politics that many of us can remember.

    1. And the most important death in Britain in the 1990s. Or since, really.