20th February 2021
Latest opinion polls currently show a Conservative lead over Labour of between 2% and 6% with most leaning towards the upper end of that spectrum. This comes almost a year after the first COVID-19 pandemic lockdown; the infection spreading Eat Out to Help Out farrago in the summer; the slightly less than ‘world beating’ test and trace programme; the debacle over school examinations; the equally diabolical return to campus of university students; a second lockdown; the dithering over who could see whom , where and when at Christmas; a wave of infection sweeping the country since the New Year; a third lockdown; the death toll heading towards 120,000, the highest in Europe; and the poorest prospects for recovery of any G7 economy.
This catalogue of calamity does not even include the amateur approach to the Brexit negotiations, being shamed into feeding poor children during school holidays or the lack of insight that allowed Dominic Cummings, with his poor eyesight, take a trip to Barnard Castle.
Even with the collusion of the right wing press and the BBC, determined to emphasise the positives of the successful vaccine roll out, the government record of handling the pandemic is nothing short of a national scandal, which should be hitting the headlines as such. At the very least it would be expected that some of the Opposition punches would land and that the government, if not on the canvas, would at least be on the ropes.
The problem is that in the red corner, the Kier Starmer led Labour opposition have not only failed to land any punches, they have not even laced up their gloves! In fact Labour have spent more time reassuring the government that they are not really in the red corner at all but are merely a paler shade of blue, quite happy to cosy up in the blue corner and try to persuade the audience that there is nothing to see here, there is no fight.
Labour have come to such a pass by flying the flag of ‘national unity’, not wanting to create strife and division at a time of national crisis, not wanting to ‘play politics’ with the pandemic. This is the politics of ‘playing fair’, obeying the rules, being decent chaps. The Tories meanwhile are making hay whether the sun shines or not, crisis or no crisis, with contracts awarded to cronies left, right and centre without so much as a tip of the hat to fair procurement practices, experience in the field of PPE manufacture, pandemic management or public health awareness.
However much the business sector whinge about the economy being closed down there are plenty of the Tories’ mates who have made a tidy sum from the pandemic and appear to have no compunction in profiting from the deaths of thousands.
Kier Starmer made a ‘big speech’ this week setting out Labour’s position. We know it was a big speech because the public relations trailers told us so, but it would have been difficult to recognise as such otherwise.
So, what is the inspiring vision set out by Starmer? Well firstly Labour would “forge a new contract with the British people, introducing British Recovery Bonds to give households a stake in our country’s future and a role in creating the infrastructure of tomorrow.”
Really? If this was tripping off the tongues of those in Labour’s focus groups they were talking to the wrong people! However, there is more…
“Together, we would invest in a new generation of British entrepreneurs by providing start-up loans for 100,000 businesses, making sure support and opportunity is spread across the country.”
Top of the list when you cannot pay the rent, feed the kids or find a decent job! Way to go Kier!
Finally, a modicum of reality poked through as Kier promised that in,
“Reversing Tory cuts to Universal Credit, properly funding local councils, giving our key workers the pay rise they deserve – there is a real alternative to Boris Johnson’s approach.”
On a more philosophical note Kier also acknowledged that,
“Coronavirus has pulled back the curtain on the deep inequalities and injustices in Britain, as a result of a failed ideology that weakened Britain’s foundations and left us exposed to the pandemic.”
That failed ideology is capitalism, if only Starmer would spell it out, the deep inequalities and injustices are as result of its endemic exploitative character. No amount of recovery bonds will change that.
No Labour leader yet has made a call for revolution and no one is expecting that from Starmer. However, investment in Council housing; tackling Rachman landlords; investing in comprehensive education; taking away the ‘charitable’ status of the private education sector; committing to abolish Trident nuclear weapons; investment in job creating green technology, all of these things and more are possible under capitalism and would be a popular campaigning platform.
More will be necessary to achieve the real shift in the balance of power needed to move towards a socialist economy. However, indicating some intent to move in that direction would be a start. Starmer needs to limber up and get himself into the ring or make way for a real contender.