ARE we heading for the most right-wing General Election in living memory? It certainly looks that way.

The Tories are cheerfully tearing themselves apart over their thwarted desire to ship asylum seekers to Rwanda unlawfully. And while it’s grimly amusing to hear Suella Braverman predict the death of her own party, it’s worth remembering it could soon be reborn under the leadership of Thatcher fanboy Keir Starmer. After all, together with Rachel Reeves, the Labour leader has jettisoned any policy, promise or slightest whiff of hope that a new Labour government would reverse decades of Tory cuts, cruelty and mismanagement.

Even though the electorate looks fairly ready for change – 54% of British voters are ready to rejoin the EU (70% with don’t knows removed). Yet that prospect is snorted into touch by the Tories and Labour lest it prompt a Reform revival by the King of the Jungle, Nigel Farage.

Why is everyone so scared of that man? So scared that it blinds them to the “moderate” votes they’re set to lose in the other direction – to the SNP in Scotland, Plaid in Wales and the Greens and LibDems in England.


In 2021, Labour’s new strategy director, Deborah Mattinson, said the party must change to attract the “millions” who’d voted Tory in 2019. That received wisdom has remained relatively unchallenged.

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But according to Andrew Fisher, Labour’s executive director of policy from 2016 to 2019, there never were any swinging millions. He maintains that according to internal party analysis after the 2019 defeat, Labour lost only 300,000 votes to the Tories. A similar number defected to the Brexit party and 600,000 voters were lost to the LibDems and Greens.

You could as easily use “left” votes lost as a reason to tack in that direction. But with Sir Keir shifting right, younger voters could pony off to “minor” parties in England or stick with the SNP and Greens in Scotland or stay at home.

Disillusionment on the left leading to low turnout is as real a threat to Labour as not being Tory enough. Maybe more.

Analysis published last year in the Financial Times shows that millennials — born between 1981 and 1996 – “are by far the least conservative 35-year-olds in recorded history”. The FT’s chief data reporter John Burn-Murdoch uses British Election Study post-election surveys from 1964 to 2019 to argue: “Millennials have developed different values to previous generations, shaped by experiences unique to them, and they do not feel conservatives share these.

“Having reached political maturity in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, millennials are tacking much further to the left on economics than previous generations did, favouring greater redistribution from rich to poor.”

The National: Keir Starmer's appeals to the right-wing in England won't play well north of the BorderKeir Starmer's appeals to the right-wing in England won't play well north of the Border

And there’s more bad news for Tory-lite Labour; these redistributionist young voters are very likely to actually vote: “UK millennials and their ‘Gen Z’ younger cousins will probably cast more votes than baby boomers in the next General Election. After years of being considered an electoral afterthought, their vote will soon be pivotal [and] could consign conservative parties to an increasingly distant second place.”

So why, oh why are Labour leaning over backwards to placate a relatively small and diminishing set of voters – the Nigel Farage fan club?

The only credible explanation is that caution and right-wingery come fairly naturally to Keir Starmer. After all, he’s got serious form.

First came his order in 2022 that Labour MPs should keep away from picket lines. It seemed unbelievable at the time – after all, the Labour Party was actually formed by trade unionists. Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar was pictured days later with striking RMT workers and shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy was seen with CWU workers on a picket line in her Wigan constituency. But according to Labour HQ, that was okay because she was chatting to constituents, not holding a placard.

Aye right.

This pointless policy has been bending Labour all out of shape, because Starmer miscalculated badly on strikes in England. First – they have dragged on, since the Tory Government has no idea how to negotiate settlements, and that’s kept heaping the pain on his ill-fated picket-line ban.

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Second, he misjudged the public mood. It turns out, most folk actually support workers striking for better pay and even considerable disruption has done little to dent that. In January, 59% of British voters backed industrial action by doctors and nurses. Admittedly by March support for striking rail workers had dropped to 32%, but support for striking ambulance workers was up to 58%. And then it appears those who fund polls decided to stop asking.

The Tories have been wildly out of step with voters over pay, poverty, the never-ending cost of living crisis and trying to look tough with strikers. That tactic worked in the past –distracting from the inequality that bedevils Britain. But not now. And Labour have saddled themselves to the Tories’ bad call.

Nice one.

Some may have thought the picket-line ban was a temporary rush of blood to the heid by a relatively new Labour leader finding his feet.

Not a bit of it.

In quick succession came his refusal to axe the two-child cap, refusal to axe Universal Credit, decision to postpone reform of the Lords and Britain’s antique first-past-the-post voting system (shared in Europe only with Belarus) and announcement that a border poll in Northern Ireland is “not even on the horizon”. Not your shout, son.

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Ditto indyref2 for Scotland. Even though 54% back independence and many more want a second vote. And Palestinians are basically expendable. Who would have thought they would ever live to hear this from a Labour leader?

IF Starmer believes he can consign real change to a second term, he will need the luck of the Irish to survive the crushing disappointment of his first five years in office.

But as each rightward lurch draws criticism from voters, Starmer doesn’t hesitate, apologise or draw back. He keeps moving righteously rightwards, meeting the ghost of Margaret Thatcher en route.

Stephen Flynn’s mockery at Prime Minister’s Question was just the first well-deserved jibe for a man who simply doesn’t understand the visceral loathing that exists for Thatcher – the prime minister who frittered away Scotland’s oil wealth to sweeten up privatisation deals that wrecked Britain’s real economy.

But it’s not just Thatcher worship and individual policy betrayals that characterise Labour’s lurch to the right. It’s the sheer gloom surrounding the chance of wealth redistribution or modernising democracy in this country.

Former Labour media spokesperson Matt Zarb-Cousin argues that Labour’s self-flagellation roadshow – “the political equivalent of football fans chanting ‘we’re shit and we know we are’” – is massively self-defeating for the whole “left project”. In his first conference speech as Labour leader, Starmer said the party “deserved to lose the 2019 election” and that Labour must “earn the right to be heard”.

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According to Zarb-Cousin: “This implied the 10 million people who voted Labour in 2017 and 2019 were mad or delusional for believing the manifestos they backed could ever be delivered.”

In short, Starmer has helped create the public doubt he now seeks to assuage with ever-more Tory-leaning policies, just as voters are tacking left. Which means a 2024 General Election in which whole swathes of the English electorate are unrepresented by any major party.

So, Humza Yousaf and the SNP are right to stick by their redistributionist guns, and to suggest that the next Scottish Government will only be held back by a dad-dancing British Labour Party whose leader thinks the return of council housing (it never stopped in Scotland) is as politically exciting as David Tennant’s return as Doctor Who.

The next election will be thuggish, depressing, right-wing and hopeless south of the Border. It’s up to the SNP to guarantee that rightward slide isn’t contagious.