I BELIEVE the opinion polls that suggest we are heading for a Labour government at the General Election because there is an unmistakable sentiment across Britain that the Tories are past their “sell-by date” and that it is time for a change. 

There is nothing in my opinion that Rishi Sunak can do about it. 

The conclusion was firmly ­embedded in the mind of voters some time ago because of several ­factors: the Tories have been in ­government for 14 long years, the boorish ­behaviour of Boris Johnson during the pandemic convinced millions he too was unfit for office [particularly many former Brexit voters ­ironically], the economic incompetence of Liz Truss, the pain inflicted by the cost of living crisis and the deteriorating state of our public services. 

These are not all the explanations, just quite enough.

That being said, I see no reason for believing things will get any better for working people under Keir Starmer, again for a multitude of reasons. He is the most right-wing leader Labour has ever had. Tell me one thing he advocates that is materially different from the Tories? 

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Not his neo-liberal economic ­policies, not his health and social care plan, or his solution to the ­climate crisis, or his plan to foster peace in the world. And frankly he is the least of it. Right-wing Labour leaders like Starmer have historically failed ­working people, all of them.

Clement Attlee was dragged screaming and kicking toward ­significant change post-war by forces much ­bigger than the Labour Party. He was no socialist. A Tory in his youth and a lifelong monarchist he ­introduced NHS prescription ­charges for ­example to pay for the war in ­Korea and saw his 145-seat majority in 1945 fizzle away at the subsequent vote such was the ­widespread disenchantment with his performance in office. By 1951 he was gone altogether. 

Harold Wilson started on the left and moved steadily rightward throughout the 1960s and 70s. He is remembered primarily as a ­wheeler-dealing and fixer, not a man to ­respect high principles.

And Tony Blair? Mr War in Iraq, Mr PFI, the man who attacked the benefits of single parents. People should not forget how unpopular he was before he finally stood down in 2007. 

Of the other “Labour” premiers, Ramsay Macdonald led a National Government made up mainly of ­Tories, whilst Jim Callaghan and ­Gordon Brown never won an ­election. Not an inspiring list, is it?

The National: LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 29: In this photo illustration, copies of "Keir Starmer: The Biography" by Tom Baldwin are seen on display in a branch of the Waterstones bookstore on February 29, 2024 in London, England. The first official biography

We must not fall into the trap of thinking Sir Keir Starmer will be any different. Like the others, he ­represents no fundamental ­challenge to the ­status quo or the British ­establishment. On the contrary, he ­aspires to be one of them. 

He will not confront what Ted Heath called “the unacceptable face of capitalism” – the greedy spivs and sharks in UK boardrooms – nor ­affect the kind of change Britain so ­desperately needs.

Starmer is a social liberal, just like Sunak, David Cameron and Blair. ­Voters have no right to expect ­meaningful improvement in their material conditions, or those of their children, from him. 

He fully intends for example to privatise even more of the NHS than Blair and Brown did between 1997-2010. Nor will Labour improve educational attainment, address the grotesque UK inequalities, or the appalling state of social care provision.

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I expect Labour to win the election as I said and even enjoy a brief ­“honeymoon” as Britain ­acknowledges it has finally got shot of the Tories after 15 years.

But they will have been elected on the lowest common denominator of “not being the Tories”. Labour’s big problems begin thereafter when their political inadequacies are exposed at home and abroad. 

For me the words of Antonio ­Gramsci remain true and offer a guide. He wisely concluded that: “All progress for working-class ­people comes through mass struggle.” ­Without struggle labour moves to the right, he added.

It is the absence of that organised political struggle that is moving ­politics to the right across Europe

The Financial Times for example ­recently highlighted the phenomenon.

“Opinion polls suggest that parties on the far right could win a quarter of the seats in June’s elections to the ­European Parliament. Marine Le Pen’s National Rally and Eric ­Zemmour’s Reconquest in France, Poland’s Law and Justice Party, Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, the Alternative for Deutschland, Vox in Spain, Fidesz in Hungary are all making ground.”

The National: Keir Starmer

The prospects for Scottish independence are likewise impeded in the short term by the basic desire to get rid of the Tories. Starmer will win seats here too and the SNP will face a period of introspection until they decide what kind of a party they truly are; electorally opportunist or ­principled and determined. 

The incoming Labour ­government will however present new ­opportunities for the independence movement to grow as never before, of that we can be certain. 

As a movement we need to use this time to improve our appeal, our economic message and our strategy for achieving our goal than hitherto.

Only when the Yes campaign has harnessed the working-class majority in Scotland around an intelligent political strategy can we be confident in securing our illustrious prize.