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What Starmer can learn from George Smiley The future PM can't escape his fate

(Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)


May 25, 2024   6 mins

For so long Labour had been preparing. “Everything has to be brilliant,” was the motto. There could be no mistakes, no risks, no complacency. The Tories could not be underestimated. And then the Prime Minister walked out of No. 10 and was shambolic. “Frankly, we’re all in disbelief at how badly they handled it,” one senior Labour figure messaged me the day after Rishi Sunak’s surprise announcement.

Wading through similar messages from Labour shadow ministers, aides and the like, I couldn’t help thinking of the scene in John Le Carré’s Smiley’s People as the disbelieving Foreign Office mandarin, Saul Enderby, questions whether George Smiley has finally discovered the great Soviet spy chief Karla’s one lethal vulnerability. “It’s not all a wicked Bolshie plot, George, to lure us to our ultimate destruction,” Enderby asks. “You’re sure of that?”

This seems to be the instinct which still lies deep in the Labour soul as it looks at the Tories with incredulity. Can they really be this bad? Surely it must all be some kind of wicked plot? “I’m afraid we’re no longer worth the candle, Saul,” replies Smiley, wearily, trying to reassure his political master. Something similar is true here. For Sunak and the Conservative Party, it seems the burden of power is no longer worth the effort to maintain it. Brexit, lockdown, Partygate and Liz Truss have combined to drain the party’s spirit. The challenges facing the country have simply proved too great. Exhausted and bewildered, they now stumble towards the end knowing they’ve lost, but unsure quite what to make of it.

For the Labour Party’s electoral strategists, the great danger in all this is a sudden loss of discipline. Keir Starmer and Morgan McSweeney do not want to become the great rope-a-dopes of modern political history, surging forward, arms swinging, looking for a knockout that never comes. And so, the strategy is to stick to the plan they have been working on for months. “Do not give the Tories the election they want,” Starmer’s campaign coordinator Pat McFadden likes to say. This, in other words, means do not make spending promises you don’t know how to pay for which will allow the Conservative Party to run “tax bombshell” headlines. But more than that — don’t allow the Conservative Party any attack line against you. Play it safe. Stand for “change”, but ensure it is not unfunded or unsettling.

The danger in such a defensive strategy is that it leaves voters feeling as though there is nothing to choose from. Introducing Keir Starmer at Labour’s first-day rally in Gillingham — Conservative majority, 15,000 — the deputy leader Angela Rayner revealed the party’s own concerns about this charge gaining traction over the next six weeks: “Politicians aren’t all the same,” she declared. “There is a choice at this election.” That is not the kind of thing you say if you don’t think it is what people are already thinking.

Labour is right to be concerned about this. In 2017, Jeremy Corbyn seemed to tap into a pent up desire for something different and almost swept Theresa May from power. In 2019, it was Boris Johnson who became the candidate best placed to take on the broken establishment, even if he was already prime minister. Rishi Sunak today cannot do the same; he is simply too much of an establishment creature. But what if some other figure manages to do so at the margins of this story? Richard Tice, say, or George Galloway. There are always sinkholes out there.

In one sense, this is not the campaign Starmer and McSweeney expected to be running when they secured the Labour party leadership back in 2020. Back then, they were facing a populist street fighter in Johnson who, in McSweeney’s analysis, was following the successful populist-right playbook, which “talked Left but acted Right” on the economy.

“This is not the campaign Starmer and McSweeney expected to be running.”

To deal with this, McSweeney believed the old Labour strategies — whether Blair’s “radical centrism” or Corbyn’s Left-wing populism — were doomed to fail. In one sense McSweeney’s answer was simply to do the opposite and talk Right but act Left. Traditional Tory aspirations would be adopted — home ownership, lower taxes and the like — but underneath there would be a much greater focus on boosting the incomes of the average worker and the real economy than was ever the case under New Labour. This, in effect, remains the Starmer-McSweeney strategy for government, should they get there.

Yet, the fact is the Conservative Party abandoned its “talk Left, act Right” Tory populism two years ago, when they removed Boris Johnson. Since then they have swung from madness to technocracy. Starmer’s sensible demeanour can no longer be contrasted against the wildness of Johnson’s or the recklessness of Truss, but must do so against the emptiness of Sunak. There is a charisma hole at the heart of this campaign and the danger for Labour is that something will fill it.

Writing a book about the 2017 general election, I remember being struck by the conclusion reached by one veteran campaign insider. “She’s not as good a candidate,” he said of Theresa May, as she struggled to cope with the demands of a national campaign. “She has never run for anything before other than her own constituency. No one could’ve been ready at such short notice, but especially not if you’ve never run before.” This is true for both Sunak and Starmer today. We will swiftly find out who can deal with the pressure.

The difficulty for Starmer will be to rebut the accusation that he really isn’t offering much of a change — for in the basic sense it is true. The Labour Party, after all, has accepted the Conservative Party’s spending plans and so for the first few years, at least, the “change” the party is offering can only be marginal: one of personality, competence, discipline, character. These things matter of course, but they are not structural. The house will continue crumbling, and Labour can only continue to plaster over the cracks up until it finds a way of earning more money.

But what if real change is impossible? Perhaps the Tories are stumbling, dazed and disorientated towards their annihilation, not because they are inherently incompetent and useless, though that may also be the case, but because the challenges we face are now simply too big for the tired old ideas of our political class.

It is hard for political parties to make this point, naturally. It’s not a comfortable message for any voter to hear. In Le Carré’s novel, Smiley notes how Saul Enderby “did not care to be reminded of the limitations of British grandeur”. But nor do many of us, beyond the usual superficial grumbles. No-one wants to hear, for example, that for deep structural reasons beyond our control we cannot ever be a rich country again.

Look at the challenge that a future Starmer government faces. Taxes, already at their highest level in decades, will have to rise because nobody believes the spending plans offered by either party are deliverable. But this isn’t the worst of it. Both parties are pretending that we can decarbonise our entire economy and re-industrialise it at the same time. In reality, of course, if we are to use the energy transition to re-industrialise our economy, it will require cheap polluting energy in the short term, protectionist tariffs against competition, and more government spending. And we could do all of this and still get blown out of the water by China.

We have been here before. In 1964, Harold Wilson came to power promising to sweep away the tired and out of date Conservative Party which had spent 13 years in power. Twelve years later, having won two elections, lost a third and won a fourth, he left power a broken man, tearful and spent. As he prepared to leave, he was asked about his plans. His answer was grimly revealing. He would retire to “think about the problems facing the country”.

Starmer and McSweeney believe that part of Labour’s problem since its last victory, in 2005, is that its leaders stopped “narrating the changes” that were affecting voters. The party stopped trying to explain the great trends in the world and how the government was reacting to protect people’s standard of living.

If this is the test of leadership, the most successful prime minister since 1945 is certainly Margaret Thatcher. She had a diagnosis of Britain’s ills, proferred a course of treatment, claimed to have the iron discipline to see it through, and owned the results she liked. Whether she actually transformed the economy and arrested the country’s decline, as her supporters believe, is far less clear. Another way of telling the Thatcher story is that she left office with Britain in recession, inflation again running too high, monetarism abandoned and the currency locked into the Exchange Rate Mechanism.

Something similar could be said of Tony Blair. Even his critics would admit that he “narrated the change” that was happening in the world, which lay beyond Britain’s control. Blair’s story was that globalisation was happening — and a good thing. The future was open and liberal and European. Some industries would die, but the free movement of goods, people, capital and ideas would leave Britain better off and the winners of this great global revolution would vote Labour. In the end, Blair departed a few months before the great financial crisis blew up the economic foundations of the political settlement he had constructed.

The likelihood is that whatever narrative Starmer alights on to explain the great changes happening today, they will at some point be shown to be inadequate. But no prime minister escapes this fate. Right now, the important thing for him is to win. And given the state of the Tory party, he probably doesn’t even have to explain what change he represents in order to do that come July 4.

“I want his body, George, hear me?” Enderby tells Smiley in the end. “Hand me a live, talking Karla and I’ll accept him and make my excuses later.” For now this is Labour’s instinct too. Kill the Tories and think about events later. But Enderby had a final warning for Smiley: “Don’t you ever go thinking they’ll go away.”


Tom McTague is UnHerd’s Political Editor. He is the author of Betting The House: The Inside Story of the 2017 Election.

TomMcTague

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Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
25 days ago

Spooky. Spook-y, geddit? Not 30 minutes ago I turned off Smiley’s People.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
25 days ago

“…because the challenges we face are now simply too big for the tired old ideas of our political class.”
We’ll be hearing a lot of noise and wind over the next few weeks, but here – in essence – is what we’re faced with. I’ll be turning up at the polling station on 4 July out of a sense of duty but in the meantime, unless i hear someone speak who grasps the above, i’ll be switching off.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
25 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

I can’t stand the thought of 6 weeks journalistic hyperventilation about two dead ducks with no real differences between them either.

Maybe by July 4th, the whole population will stay at home and put two very large fingers up to the whole shitshow.

Thomas Wagner
Thomas Wagner
24 days ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

I sympathize, but here in the US we have eighteen months of braying, shenanigans, accusations and general mud-throwing carried on by two parties, each worse than the other, ending up with the election of someone 75% of the nation doesn’t like. Yay.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
24 days ago
Reply to  Thomas Wagner

I dunno. Huge crowds of surprising people turn out to cheer for a guy the media claims everyone hates. It’s not his fault that the two parties have lost their minds. It’s the parties’ fault that they’re utterly corrupt and he was going to put a stop to it. Now they’re completely freaked because they’ve been exposed and will pay. As Hillary Clinton said during her first match with Trump, “If that b*****d wins, we’ll all hang”. A fitting end to this entire travesty.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
25 days ago

personality, competence, discipline, character
All words I certainly know I associate with Labour.

David Lindsay
David Lindsay
25 days ago

Labour’s slogan in 2024 is “It’s time for change”. In 2019, it was “It’s time for real change”. Spot the difference. The single word “Change” next to a Union Flag as good as says “Change UK”, thereby announcing the fact of having become that to anyone who might remember it.

If, as the media would have it, D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better is “the Labour Party’s anthem”, then let it be sung at Conference, as The Red Flag used to be, and at funerals, as The Red Flag still is. The Red Flag is like the old Clause IV. Disagree with it all you like, but it is well-written and it has something to say. Things Can Only Get Better is superior both in style and in substance to the new Clause IV, which most people assume does not exist. Many of the song lyrics of the 1990s were formally and materially out of sight of that decade’s vacuous public relations drivel. Nowhere is that contrast clearer than here.

A party that is on for a landslide does not start a General Election campaign 100 candidates short. At Islington North, Labour has selected Praful Nargund, a private healthcare venture capitalist who is already a Labour councillor as a private healthcare venture capitalist. He is rich enough not to be damaged by the loss, and he is probably on for a peerage straight afterwards.

On Question Time, Bridget Phillipson not only refused to rule out an increase in undergraduate tuition fees (even if that is the least of the youth’s worries), but also managed to be outflanked on the left twice by Tim Montgomerie, who called first for the renationalisation of water, and then for the execution of the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrants while calling for others to be issued, including against the Saudis over Yemen. The biggest Labour rebellion of Jeremy Corbyn’s Leadership was the organised mass abstention over Yemen, in which Phillipson participated. This week, she added that nor should the Israeli Prime Minister and Defence Minister be arrested if they entered this country that the Hamas leaders would in any case never seek to visit.

J Bryant
J Bryant
25 days ago

As the author notes, the challenges facing the UK are immense and, I would suggest, can only be handled over several decades of concerted effort.
Fundamentally, what’s required, imo, is national unity, a spirit of daring and willingness to sacrifice in the short term for a better long-term future. Yet somehow the UK has imported the US’s divisive racial politics, and hatred of its own culture. How is the nation supposed to come together when Labour has spent years stoking the fires of US-style progressivism? What does it even mean anymore to be a citizen when the UK’s borders are open to all comers?
Starmer’s challenge is to first promote national unity, almost a wartime spirit, before embarking on the extremely hard work of national economic renewal.

John Murray
John Murray
25 days ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I think they’ve embraced US-style identity politics because it doesn’t cost them anything to do. Given that they will not be able to do much substantive because of the fiscal state of things, I suspect instead they are going to get in and it is going to be reparations, trans this and that, anti-racism, and whatever else might become newly fashionable.

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
25 days ago
Reply to  J Bryant

The country lacks confidence and belief in itself. It could be surprising how fast things could turn around, even if it’s only superficial at first, if those qualities were regained. However, I don’t see anyone with the capability of achieving that.

Peter B
Peter B
25 days ago
Reply to  Dennis Roberts

One of the main reasons the country lacks confidence and belief in itself is 40+ years of left/Labour politicians systematically undermining and destroying these things.
These people are part of the problem and not part of the solution.
Real leadership is about doing things not talking about doing them – and certainly not cheap talk about “narrating change”.
I don’t believe that at heart ordinary people in this country are that much different from what they were in the past, nor any less capable. They’re just allowing themselves to be held back by their “leaders”.
Nor do I believe that the country’s problems are really that difficult or insoluble. It’s simple the case that we’ve built up a caste of politicians and civil servants that have no interest in solving them.
When Michael Gove railed against the “experts”, perhaps he should really have targetted the entire top level of government and administration.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
25 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

Since 1979 (45 years) Labour have only been in power for 13, so less than a third. Seems a bit rich to single handedly blame them when the Tories have spent well over double the amount of time leading the country

David Harris
David Harris
24 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

But power comes in many forms. The huge ‘march through the institutions’ by left wingers has created the situation where a Tory govt has to be actual Conservatives to make real changes. Sadly they haven’t been. Vote Reform in ’24.

Peter B
Peter B
24 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I’m not only blaming Labour (where did I say that ?). The Tories are equally to blame for not standing up for what they are supposed to believe in and challenging the destructive changes. And the whole civil service/administrative side of government as well as most of the health service, police, post office, BT, etc has been one long litany of incompetence and failure.
The left like to complain about “rewards for failure” – and often with justification. But let’s not forget that the spiritual home of rewards for failure is in government and the public sector – at least since around 1970 (there have been times in our history when this was far less the case).
Having said all that, the hordes of gutless, cowardly Tory MPs currently running for the exits and waiting to trouser their huge (doubtless tax free) “adjustment packages” isn’t a good look.

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
24 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I agree with a lot of what Peter says, though with something of a different slant – it’s the constant chipping away of Britain. ‘Our politicians are an embarrassment’ (when they’re much the same as everywhere), ‘our past is shameful’ (focusing only on the bad stuff, never acknowledging the good), the denigration of the working class (when all they want is to earn a reasonable wage and provide decent lives for their families), the obsession with minority issues when huge numbers of the young can’t afford their own house or families.

Where I differ with Peter is that I have no strong opinion regarding Starmer – I just haven’t paid him much attention. I’m hoping he’s just been keeping his head down to avoid controversy whilst out of power and we’ll see what he’s made of when in power. What worries me is if those on the left think that they are what the country really wants – hopefully Kier gets a big enough majority to not have to pander to the left.

Michael Johnston
Michael Johnston
24 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Thirteen out of 45 years is a misleading figure. That 45 years is bookended by conservative governments. Eighteen of the last 50 (two Labour governments and two conservative governments) would be better. A majority of that time has been under the conservatives, but they have served for less than double the time that Labour has.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
22 days ago

Since the end of the Second World War, 79 years ago, Labour has been in power for about 25 years; the Conservatives 54. So Labour has been in power more than a third, but less than half, of the time. I haven’t looked into the exact dates of key elections, but that’s unlikely to make a significant difference.

A reasonable observation might be made that we’ve never had a true “national conservative” style party in the United Kingdom – the conservative party is today much more accurately described as a predominantly Gladstonian classically economically liberal party. Perhaps such a “true conservative” would have done a better job, especially on immigration, although on other issues that is much more debatable.

Josh Woods
Josh Woods
24 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

“When Michael Gove railed against the “experts”, perhaps he should really have targetted the entire top level of government and administration.”
Perhaps the reason he didn’t target them was because he is one of them, and in fact one of the ringleaders according to many sources!

Eleanor Barlow
Eleanor Barlow
24 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

‘One of the main reasons the country lacks confidence and belief in itself is 40+ years of left/Labour politicians systematically undermining and destroying these things.’
Over the 45 years since 1979, the Tories have been in power for 32 of them. Labour fail to get elected into government with left wing manifestos – and if anyone has been doing undermining and destroying, it’s the Tory government of the last 14 years to date.
As for the civil service – it might make a difference if they recruited the best brains instead of those whose parents bought them an education which provided access to the top jobs.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
22 days ago
Reply to  Eleanor Barlow

The Civil service DOES recruit highly intelligent people, but a key problem is they come from a very narrow caste, getting rise to group think etc.

Thomas Wagner
Thomas Wagner
24 days ago
Reply to  Dennis Roberts

“Things fall apart, the center cannot hold…”

William Cameron
William Cameron
24 days ago
Reply to  Dennis Roberts

There is no economic model that will accommodate a 2% increase in population per annum and increase GDP per capita at the same time.

John Turnbull
John Turnbull
22 days ago

You must be pleased that we have given up having children.

James Kirk
James Kirk
24 days ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Trouble is Starmer doesn’t accept challenges, he is one of the challenges. He’s getting the benefit of the doubt just now. If he had a sudden fatal heart attack which political delinquent would replace him?

Karen Arnold
Karen Arnold
24 days ago
Reply to  James Kirk

That’s a good point, and how we ended up with Tony Blair.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
24 days ago
Reply to  J Bryant

You have correctly diagnosed why Labour cannot and will not promote national unity. They are wedded to toxic identitarianism and will enact a new race equality act to double down on the insane whites are raycist non whites victims credo. National economic revival is also impossible. They are wedded to a second deranged cult ideology, namely the pursuit of a Net Zero policy which will destroy our national oil and gas industry in the conscious pursuit of our Degrowth and the growth of Chinese green coffers.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
23 days ago
Reply to  J Bryant

We’re not being offered national unity. We are being offered the political unity of the three main political parties. That is not the same. Genuine national unity would be an attempt to accommodate the views of the majority of the electorate. What is on offer instead is the enforcement of the elite’s views on the majority of the population.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
25 days ago

Ok – I live across the Atlantic so help me out here. I understand there is concern about too much migration / refugee claimants in the UK as ther is in much of the Western world. Wouldn’t a Labour government continue that trend? If so – why are they so far ahead. Apologies if my assumptions are incorrect.

Dr E C
Dr E C
25 days ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

You’re entirely correct & it’s mind-boggling. Our current Tory government oversaw the largest increase in immigration in the nation’s history. The opposition is going to continue this trend on steroids & is currently making noises about housing thousands of Palestinian refugees (you know, the side that started the war & hates Britain).
The anti-mass migration party, Reform, will come third but because of our FPTP system will have no influence at all. It’s a stitch-up.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
22 days ago
Reply to  Dr E C

It’s not a “stitch up”, it is the established system we’ve had for decades, the one that enabled Clement Attlee to introduce the welfare state and Margaret Thatcher to make her far reaching and long lasting reforms on economic issues. It has usually been the right wing in the vanguard of opposing any change to the First Past the Post system.

There is no perfect electoral system as I believe has been mathematically proved, you can always get perverse results in certain circumstances. We can greatly overstate the importance of the exact electoral system. Germany has a PR system but this tends to give a lot of power to power to centrist parties. The Israeli system on the other hand can empower tiny extreme fringe parties. Even if you take away my subjective opinion of some of those religious and other parties, the Israeli system is often very unstable because of its pure PR system.

Reform is likely to do poorly in this election, and probably would even in a more PR system – simply because it doesn’t have any charismatic figures. Nigel Farage would certainly make a difference there but he is not standing.

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
25 days ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

There is concern about migration with some people, but the Tories haven’t exactly excelled when trying to deal with it, so I guess it’s not a strong issue when choosing between Lab and Con.

It’s also just one factor amongst many and the Tories have not governed well, going through leaders at a rate unusual for the UK. Many of them are brazenly self-serving. Plus the country has clearly gone downhill under their leadership, and regardless of how much of the blame for that sits with them, they were the party in charge at the time.

When they were voted out in 97, many Labour supporters thought the Tories would never come back. That was a ridiculous belief in 97, I’m not so sure it’s so ridiculous this time.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
25 days ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

Even though I live in Central Europe, I’m going to take the liberty of answering this. As regards illegal immigration under the guise of asylum, we are going to witness the absurdity of Labour getting rid of the Rwanda policy just as such policies are gaining traction across Europe (where countries like Germany, Austria and Italy are inundated with asylum claims). What will happen is what we briefly saw between the UK and Ireland when the law was passed, people just move to sidestep the risk. So, as countries across Europe get tougher and harsher, while the UK gets softer, you don’t have to be a genius to work out what will happen. All countries across Europe are in the habit of waving as many possible claimants through their own countries as possible so they don’t “stick” and become their responsibility (or problem, if we’re being honest). So France will happily stand back and let people flood across the Channel. Au revoir, don’t come back!
I don’t think British voters want this, not at all. Labour’s relative popularity is not a sign of people being in favour of them, it’s a sign of how unpopular the Tories are.

Peter B
Peter B
25 days ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Labour have already fessed up to their plan for an amnesty for “asylum seekers” already in the UK. It’s only going to be around 115K. Apparently. But we all know perfectly well that it won’t be. The Lib Dems also ran on this “let’s not bother upholding the law and reward the cheats and criminals” policy in the recent past.
This isn’t getting widely reported yet and hasn’t registered.
Not that the Tories are really any better.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
22 days ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Although I broadly agree with you I’m not sure the Rwanda policy would be quite as successful as people think. I understand that Rwanda is saying that any asylum seekers on its soil will be free to move. Well as a recent UnHerd article said, migrants are already able to move between African countries over thousands of miles, so I don’t see why they wouldn’t just be able to return to Britain. Of course it would make things much more difficult for them and they could be deported a second time.

Andrew Buckley
Andrew Buckley
25 days ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

Slightly different perspective perhaps but my view on the whole immigration situation in the UK both legal and illegal comes down to money.
Big money people really like a situation where there is lots (unlimited supply) of cheap labour. This also feeds into other areas. With a clear shortage of housing the cost is pushed up. Most of us just with a home don’t benefit, even when sitting on a really valuable asset it has little benefit for most people.
The BoE insanely low interest rates for over a decade simply inflated asset prices. Brilliant for those with money and those managing money. Cheap loans meant lots of interest collected and lots of opportunities to persuade people to over gear themselves.
Then there are people who, for all sorts of reasons, want to seem to be “kind” to the “disadvantaged”. This kindness doesn’t go as far as thinking of paying a reasonable wage to the lower paid, they seem to be happy to take advantage of low paid labour supplies whether this is cheap take away deliveries, tradespeople, nurses or whoever.
In my view Blair started all this with buying the middle income people by not increasing taxes to pay for his (extreme) state spending. Allow people to spend NOW and feel comfortable and ignore the future. Same with the past 15 years. Low interest, borrow (or save money on borrowing) and spend. Buying things allows people to feel well off.
Hence immigration keeps asset prices high and lets people buy things for less than these things should reasonably cost. Opium to the masses!

Eleanor Barlow
Eleanor Barlow
24 days ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

Labour has promised to be more competent at managing migration than the Conservatives. Whether this is true remains to be seen.
The Conservatives have focused on the issue of migrants arriving illegally by boat – but they pale into insignificance as compared with the numbers entering legally on work or study visas. I think voters are beginning to suss this out and regard the Rwanda plan as too much money being spent on so much hot air.

j watson
j watson
25 days ago

It is true the inheritance challenge may be v similar in 2024 to 1964. We are broke (and broken by 14 years of Right wing philosophical contradictions as well as incompetency). But the 64-70 Govt still changed the UK for the better.
I think there is considerable ignorance, and hardly a surprise on a Right wing journal like UnHerd, on who the real Starmer might be. This is not an idealogue, nor the caricature Non-Dom Lord Ashcroft tried to create. Remember this is the lawyer who defended Private Clegg and won, resisted demands to prosecute a police offer over the death of Ian Tomlinson and has expelled Corbyn. The far Left detests Starmer for this sort of thing. He also appears to be a person much more interested in practical solutions than theoretical purity. He’s no great campaigner but neither was Atlee.
The greatest challenge is the capital investment culture in the UK. The diagnosis and actions arising aren’t the sort of thing the Public can often grasp – much like most of the Un herd subscription perhaps, but we can sure Reeves et al well aware that if the UK continues to have only 2% of it’s pension funds invested in UK companies we are not going to resolve many of our problems. This can’t be changed quickly and capital markets will always be more dangerous to Labour than Tory (although Mad Liz did her best to change that), but do not be surprised if over time this underlying problem is not ignored as it has been.

Peter B
Peter B
25 days ago
Reply to  j watson

If you think that a government mandate on where our pension funds should be invested is the answer you’re in for a severe disappointment.
If UK pensions funds choose to invest overseas it’s because the returns are better. And that’s largely a product of the taxation/financial, regulatory and business environment created by the government. Those are the things that need to change (like crippling ourselves with Net Zero) and not telling pension companies how and where to invest.
If there’s one certainty about the next Labour government, it’s that they will again wreck UK savings and pensions. They simply don’t understand what a shareholder or investor is – other than a hate figure.

Andrew R
Andrew R
25 days ago

Nothing will change

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
25 days ago

It is so tiresome to pretend that our new post 90s system of governance offers the electorate decisive choice for change. It is pure displacement activity. A new EU Empire was forged which dismantled the Executive power of Nation States. Its progressive ideologies were embedded in State law top down from the Brussels kaw makers. All of our strategic crises – open border multiculturalism; radical net zero degrowth energy policies, equality cult; goveranance devolved to permanent NMI institutions like the Bank of England, NHS, the Regulatory Of- Army, the insane Scottish and Welsh shambles of devolution- derive from the silent EU/Blair Revolution. Progressives control this machine in the same way the CCP governed the USSR. The law and State media openly attack any and all challengers to the Progressive State – launching Project Fears on Brexit Climate Deniers and White Raycists etc to defend the Order. They crushed Rishi and the Wet Cameroonite Fake Tories easily enough (enforcing Socialist high and windfall taxes, knee vowing to the sick monolith NHS and screwing his attempt to defend the borders). The dim blank No Policy Starmer actually WANTS this Governing Order to take charge of him and his All Public Sector MP rabble in the Parliament his monstrous People Vote/2 Ref campaign shrivelled and further diminished. His is the Party of this entitled appalling public sector. So the public who say – they are the same; there is no choice – are 100% right. It is simply dishonest and unprincipled of Unherd authors not to explain the nasty, scary reasons why.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
25 days ago

The only real difference between all 3 main English parties is their degree of wokeness – we have the tepid push back against the woke that they allowed to happen on their watch from the Tories Vs the rabid drive for more wokeness backed by more hate speech laws from the other 2.
Reform does offer a clearly different agenda which closely resembles the sort of conservatism the Conservative party has forgotten or is too cowardly to pursue, but a good result for them would be maybe 3 seats in Parliament, where they can be completely ignored on the cross benches.

Ron Wigley
Ron Wigley
24 days ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

Adrian, if and it’s a big if conservative voters truly switched their support to Reform it would trigger true change, the problem is the two party system, Reform needs to beat the Tories, what’s to lose if we try?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
24 days ago
Reply to  Ron Wigley

My hope is that Reform will split the Tory vote in very many constituencies. Labour will then end up with a majority so enormous based on less than 50% of the vote that it will be blatantly and embarrassingly undemocratic. Then they will be forced to change the voting system, something their membership has been pressing for.

Martin M
Martin M
23 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Did I read that right? Labour will win a huge majority, which they will find embarrassing, and they will then change the voting system so they win a smaller majority in future?

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
24 days ago

He and Ms Reeves will find their legacy in getting the UK into the single European currency. Three factors will help them:
More Labour-voting immigrationVoter apathy elsewhereA dilution over 15 years, and amidst a pandemic, of the 65-80-year-old age group who voted out of the EU.

David Harris
David Harris
24 days ago

“The danger in such a defensive strategy [by Labour] is that it leaves voters feeling as though there is nothing to choose from.”

There IS nothing to choose from. We have a ConLabLib uniparty that agrees on almost everything (check what they do not what they say). If anyone is still voting Lib, Lab or Con then they have no right whatsoever to complain about Net Zero, woke institutions, high taxes, or out of control immigration – since the ConLabLib uniparty will pursue them regardless. Labour will get in anyway this year so if you care for your country vote for The Reform Party at GE24.

Philip Stott
Philip Stott
24 days ago

“Both parties are pretending that we can decarbonise our entire economy”
And therein lies the problem.
If we abandoned net zero, and went hell for leather on new nuclear (both big and SMR) we would turbo-charge our economy and our future prospects (and likely have a greener economy than tinkering with ridiculous things like gas boiler bans).
The price of energy affects everything. We are impoverishing ourselves by making it more expensive than it should naturally be.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
24 days ago
Reply to  Philip Stott

We are impoverishing ourselves by making it more expensive than it should naturally be.
A cynic would think that this is the goal.

Saul D
Saul D
24 days ago

Nominations by the 7th June with a £500 deposit. You still have time…

Eleanor Barlow
Eleanor Barlow
24 days ago

The problem is that no political party is going to win a majority by forcing the electorate to face reality – that there is no easy way out of the mess we are in, and no strategies that are guaranteed to work. Too many politicians have promised sunlit uplands and prosperity for all in various ways over the last 40 years, so voters have been used to politicians waving the wand that they claim will unlock the magic money tree – whether it be promises of lower taxes or increased expenditure on public services. Now voters are starting to become more cynical, but there is still a hard core that believe we have a divine right to ever increasing prosperity and that it’s up to the politicians to deliver in accordance with their expectations.
Whichever party wins, the next 5 years are going to be very very interesting as per the Chinese proverb – whilst Britain continues its slide to banana republic status and international irrelevance. I really don’t envy the politician who will be presiding over this shit show from Downing Street.

Karen Arnold
Karen Arnold
24 days ago
Reply to  Eleanor Barlow

I believe Margaret Thatcher did tell the country that there would need to be tough times ahead in 1979, the country knew it and the Conservatives won. It’s not been done since though.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
23 days ago
Reply to  Eleanor Barlow

Expect 3 elections in that 5 years .. this shit show is not going to be resolved until we tackle welfarism … which has destroyed our economy and our values

James Kirk
James Kirk
24 days ago

Somewhere in the maelstrom of political hullabalou called the UK MSM there is a photo of the Shadow Front Bench. Accepting the fact it’s most likely game over for Sunak, if anyone can point me to a single one of them with the vision, intellect or determination to run a single government department, I’m all ears.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
23 days ago
Reply to  James Kirk

In fairness you could say that about the Conservative front bench … there is no choice but to disrupt this election by not giving our votes to LibLabConGrn

Leigh Dixon
Leigh Dixon
24 days ago

Australia, like the rest of the Western world is addicted to the cheap Chinese “sweeties”, manufactured using the cheap, reliable energy source that we deny ourselves out of guilt – coal, gas and oil – as punishment for the ‘climate’ harm we have been falsely convicted and sentenced,

John Dewhirst
John Dewhirst
24 days ago

The fundamental problem is that Keir Starmer is devoid of personality and is miles from being able to provide charismatic, inspirational leadership. His band of brothers is equally devoid of charisma and yet in six weeks this is supposedly the bunch charting our future.

William Cameron
William Cameron
24 days ago

Listening to Rachel Reeves this morning (An overrated lady in my view) her references to “growth” were there again.
But this time the Politicians have been rumbled . People now know the difference between GDP and GDP per capita. And GDP per capita will change the political landscape.
Politicians will see that increasing the population size will make GDP per capita (and the perception of their management) worse. And the implications of that are huge for UK politics.

Ken Bowman
Ken Bowman
22 days ago

The very great majority of the electorate are totally unaware of what GDP means.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
23 days ago

“No-one wants to hear, for example, that for deep structural reasons beyond our control we cannot ever be a rich country again.”
———————————————————————————————
What nonsense … the structural problems are clear for all to see … except of course our political class who are in denial.
Welfarism is at the root of our problems, it has destroyed our economy and our values and stolen our freedoms.
The World will become a richer place, at an increased pace thanks to AI, but sadly we must undo the mess of the last 25 years first.
3 Elections in the next 5 years before we grasp the nettle and put commonsense front and centre of our policies to grow the economy.

John Turnbull
John Turnbull
22 days ago

The sooner we wake up to the fact that old style yahboo politics is dead the better. Rather than focussing on ideology we need to focus on competence. We need people with skill to run the country instead of people of the “right” class. We test would be dentists for their knowledge and skills, why not MP’s?