Labour are Back on the Path of Government, but Obstacles Still Remain

(Photo: LabourList)

By Max Abdulgani – Contributor

In the leader’s party conference speech this week, Sir Keir Starmer set out his vision for a brighter future under a Labour government and did not disappoint.

The struggle for Labour is still at large. The party’s chances of governing are still slimmer than ever. But there is hope, and that was shown last week in their party conference. Amongst the heckling there was also a shimmer of hope in the eyes of the audience, full of members both old and new.  After five years of the party being riddled with incompetent MPs in high positions, policy proposals not fit to be put in a pamphlet let alone to a vote and the wide-scale tolerance of anti-semitism, it seems to have emerged from the mud of irrelevance. From the days where people were ok with having a leader who had had dinners with holocaust deniers, conducted tea meetings with members of banned political movements and not to mention tolerating the staggering level of inaction over these numerous allegations within Labour’s own ranks. Division still remains, and that is evident in the heckling. But for the most part, Starmer and his team have succeeded in dealing with these concerns.

Not so long ago, I accused Starmer of not having a vision of Britain to offer to the voters. It seems he may have just proven me wrong. Now, though, it is about propelling that vision of Britain to people everywhere, all of the time. When meeting and greeting voters out and about, when challenging the Tories on the ongoing crises facing this country. We’ve got a record shortage of fuel and a government determined to spin it the other way and blame panic buying. We’ve got chaos in the supermarkets as supply chain issues kick into effect. We’ve got a Prime Minister who literally lies on a regular basis and fails to follow the Nolan principles of public life every single day; objectivity, accountability, honesty, openness, leadership, selflessness and integrity.  And make no mistake, none of this lets Labour off the hook. Just because we have a government not committed to the preservation of a better United Kingdom doesn’t mean people will switch sides and vote Labour. Time and time again, we’ve seen that that doesn’t work. Labour have yet to earn the trust of the electorate back, but they’ve become the party the country needs them to be. They are no longer a protest group talking to themselves. But neither are they are a party of government quite yet. 

So where does that leave us? The stodgy bit in the middle. All parties have been there before. Michael Howard, Neil Kinnock, Hugh Gaitskell. Figures who were never Prime Minister but came close to declaring their party as the winning one. To emerge from this, Labour must stamp out the leftover mess. There are, I’m afraid, still traces of incompetence and stupidity that lie within its ranks. Just the other day in a speech the deputy leader Angela Rayner denounced the Tories as ‘Etonian scum’ in a professional capacity. And that was her holding back. To speak candidly is one thing, but to use language such as this is simply counter-productive and does more damage to the Labour Party’s image. Members and activists haven’t quite got it yet. No one apart from members and activists themselves appreciate an angry, incoherent, confrontational type of politics that ignores the power of debate and constructive opposition. They make the mistake of thinking that this ‘constructive’ style does not include passion or heart. They are wrong. 

If Labour is to make it back from the brink it has to present itself in a professional way. They need to be asking questions like why Rayner hasn’t been sacked; why Starmer is not prepared to denounce her for what she said; why the party aren’t prepared to ignore the activists on occasion and actually listen to the concerns of voters, thereby setting out a credible alternative vision for Britain. It may not seem like a lot, but little episodes such as Rayner’s add up I’m afraid. We shouldn’t make them a problem because we don’t have to. We can’t allow the public to hear more on the news about Labour divisions than Labour policy ideas. Rachel Reeves’ speech on the economy was tremendous. A fiscally responsible Labour Party is what everyone wants. A future government that is prepared to invest radically but sensibly. You can’t call spending £28 billion every year for the next decade on the climate not radical enough. The problem lies in taxation which will be a big challenge for Labour to overcome at the ballot box. Then again, it’s also one the Tories have.

It’s difficult at the moment to imagine a Labour government, mainly because Britain has lacked one for so long. But day by day, even if the party takes two steps back before one step forward, it is looking more and more like a credible and radical alternative to the current government. Whether they reach power or not is still very much up in the air. But its also up to them at the end of the day. Britain, contrary to popular belief, will be watching closely and wondering whether Labour have listened. Whether they’ve understood. Labour can’t afford to let them down.

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