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If Britain is becoming a ‘one-party state’, blame Labour

From Gordon Brown (L) through to Jeremy Corbyn (R), Labour lost four elections in a row. Credit: Getty

April 20, 2020 - 5:09pm

The average Briton is now more likely than not to be a Tory voter. Most polls have the Conservative Party at 50 per cent plus. It’s all beginning to look a bit… Hungarian.

The blue ascendancy isn’t just a function of the corona-crisis. The Tories have won the last four elections — each time with an increased share of the vote.

Now, with a majority of 80, a death-defying Prime minister, effectively unlimited spending powers and carte blanche to do “whatever it takes”, this is one of the most dominant governments in British history.

Writing in The Guardian, Andy Beckett is worried:

…the UK may be moving closer to becoming a one-party state. Not a totalitarian one, but a democratic one, like postwar Italy or Japan, where one party is in power for decades, on its own or in coalitions, absorbing ideas and policies from rival parties, shamelessly moving rightwards or leftwards according to circumstances, and winning the pragmatic support of ever more interest groups.
- Andy Beckett, The Guardian

Even if this doesn’t lead to Orbanesque over-reach, there’s something horribly incestuous about such a state of affairs — or, as Andy Beckett puts it: ‘The life of a single party – its ideological trajectory, factional struggles and leadership contests – becomes almost the whole of politics’.

Yet as much as I agree with this diagnosis, Beckett’s argument is infuriating. That’s not because it’s written from a Left-wing point of view. Nor is it that he bashes the Government throughout. After all, it’s his opinion and his job to express it. But if the Tories really are that awful, then why have the opposition made so little headway? Beckett provides no clue. There’s not a hint anywhere in his article that the Left — and the Labour Party in particular — may be in some way responsible for the current state of British politics.

It wasn’t the Tories who chose the wrong Miliband brother, or who elected Jeremy Corbyn (twice), or who forbade Labour from cooperating with other opposition parties, or who ordered the EHRC anti-Semitism inquiry, or who promised to call a second referendum on (and campaign against) their own Brexit deal.

As for Beckett’s contrast between “amateurish Tory figures” and “New Labour’s bland but often competent and hard-working ministers”, would these be the ministers who tried to push Britain into the single currency, or who plunged us into the second Gulf War, or who lost their own supporters’ trust on immigration, or whose ‘tripartite system’ of financial regulation so completely failed to prevent the banking crisis, or who sacrificed vital public sector reforms to a decade-long feud between the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Labour, whether under Brown, Miliband or Corbyn, has lost four elections in a row. Surely at some point they have to stop blaming the winners.


Peter Franklin is Associate Editor of UnHerd. He was previously a policy advisor and speechwriter on environmental and social issues.

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Keith Brockwell
Keith Brockwell
4 years ago

Keith Brockwell

The majority of the UK TV and print media support Left and Liberal views, recently enjoined by the Daily Mail under its new editor. Will the luvies ever forgive the DM for it past crimes?

In spite of the media vastly outgunning the government, the efforts of the front line newscasters and journalists are ever more desperate to win a GOTCHA. The Daily Briefing on the virus attracts a bevy of political journalists
trying to trip up a team of people fighting the pandemic on our behalf.
The voters see their elected leaders and health experts remaining calm and collected whilst the political try every trick to rubbish their efforts.
If the media hope to win by this, they should be examining their lack of success against BREXIT even though they had the TV and print media sewn up, with a corrupted Parliament playing a dirty game. Clue: Its called Democracy

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
4 years ago

The media will never examine itself or ask itself why it has drifted so far from the views of most normal, decent people. This is because it has become a vile entity, devoid of all intelligence, knowledge or integrity. Most of the people working within it are privileged progressives who wouldn’t know how to relate to a normal person even if they tried, so vast is the gulf between their experience and their outlook. (I absolve one or two people such as Richard Littlejohn and John Harris from this accusation).

I consume far less mainstream, legacy media than I used to. and I certainly will not fund it in any way. (No TV, no newspapers, no magazines). The danger is that these people run to the state for money, as they have done in Canada, so that they can continue to ram their propaganda down our throats 24/7.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
4 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

They don’t need to run to the state for money, because the self-regulating BBC are funded by a tax which is 100% hypothecated, while Channel 4 is also independent of any customer choice.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
4 years ago

Exactly right.

Anne W
Anne W
4 years ago

Could not agree more

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
4 years ago

Well I stopped even looking at The Guardian site some time ago because, with one or two exceptions such as John Harris, the views expressed tend to be as mindless as they are repulsive.

Andy Beckett appears to be maintaining this honourable (recent) tradition. As Peter Franklin says, it is not the fault of the Tories that the Labour Party abandoned the working class in the 1990s (and possibly even earlier). It is not their fault that Labour is obsessed with identity politics. It is not their fault that Labour MPs tend to be as thick as mince and extraordinarily unpleasant.

I have never understood this thing about the need for a ‘strong opposition’. If the only opposition available is revolting rabble of teenaged Marxists, that is not the fault of then party in power.

craig
craig
4 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

“thick as mince” ðƾ˜‚ðƾ˜‚

Simon Newman
Simon Newman
4 years ago

The article is obviously right – Labour aren’t fit to govern, neither are the Lib Dems. As for the Tories, they have changed radically since 2010 in response to voter demand. If voting has the effect of changing the government, despite the ruling party still having the same name, I don’t see a big problem. There’s a problem for Guardian-readers of course – not many people agree with their politics.

Kevin Thomas
Kevin Thomas
4 years ago

The last time Labour won a majority without Tony Blair was in October 1974. Labour’s majority was 3 seats. The last Labour landslide minus Blair was in 1966. Blair only did as well as he did because he distanced himself from traditional Labour as much as he possibly could and because the Tories were at an all time low ebb. I think the party is finished and people on the left who don’t want a permanent Tory government would be wise to use the Boris Johnson years to start a new party and get it established as a serious alternative.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
4 years ago

Well if the stories we are now seeing about Labour’s potential bankruptcy come to pass, we really will be a one party state. Well, a two party state, I suppose. The Tories and the Media. Either way, it will make a change to see Labour bankrupting itself instead of the country.

David Waring
David Waring
4 years ago

Surely what we really need is informed discussions and comment on neutral platforms not what is currently described as Gotcha Journalism pushing political biased left wing poison.

katatjuta2011
katatjuta2011
4 years ago

Lab created vacuum which thatcher filled. Lab in my life, im 55, occasionally picks electsble moderates Blair Smith, Starmer maybe. But it has habit of voting Foot Corbyn who might be socialists etc but electorate have rejected for decades. Lab is 2 parties in one, one utterly repellent to many voters, corbyn, the other utterly winnable, blair. Lab just flip flops between them

airmailpilot
airmailpilot
4 years ago

In the past the UK didn’t have to look west to understand capitalism. They created it themselves by starting the Industrial Revolution . They did it so well a large economic pie was created that pushed the country ahead for 110 years. But Marxism has eaten away at that pie for 80 years until now we find ourselves on the edge of total government dependance by the masses…
VPN

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
4 years ago
Reply to  airmailpilot

“But Marxism has eaten away at that pie for 80 years until now we find ourselves on the edge of total government dependance by the masses”

This is because of Corona rather than Marxism, surely? (Although I agree that Marxism is a pernicious evil which needs to be fought against tooth and nail.)

d.tjarlz
d.tjarlz
4 years ago

Why not just blame the voters? If there’s any need to attribute blame.

Stephen Follows
Stephen Follows
4 years ago
Reply to  d.tjarlz

‘Dissolve the people and elect another one’, to paraphrase Brecht.

Andrew Baldwin
Andrew Baldwin
4 years ago

In one respect the Conservative governments from Cameron forward have certainly been inferior to previous Conservative governments. The Major government, which introduced inflation targeting to the Bank of England, recognized that the BoE’s target inflation indicator should differ from the RPI generally used as the household-oriented consumer price measure. In 1992, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Norman Lamont actually adopted RPIX, which became much more sensitive to house price movements once a depreciation component was added to the RPI in 1995. The Blair Labour government seemed to buy into this approach. Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown’s move to the UK Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) as the target inflation indicator, somewhat confusingly renamed the CPI, actually made the target inflation indicator much more clearly a macroeconomic price index rather than a household-oriented measure. While not a perfect measure, the major defect in the UK CPI as compared to the RPIX as a macroeconomic measure was its exclusion of housing prices, a deficiency that Brown thought would be quickly removed when Eurostat added an owner-occupied housing component based on the net acquisitions approach to the HICP. Unfortunately, this never happened, and now the UK is no longer a member of the EU anyway. Starting with the Cameron coalition government, the UK has moved towards a J.R.R. Tolkien approach to consumer price indices. It seemed to want one index to rule them all, and in the darkness bind them, and to that end, it added components to be found in the RPI like vehicle excise duty and the TV licence fee to the CPI. The only thing to be determined was whether the one index to rule them all was the CPI or the CPIH. Neither includes housing prices and so monetary policy would risk creating housing bubbles. Why doesn’t the Labour Party advocate for the Bank of England’s target inflation indicator to be basically the HICP that Brown designated in December 1993 augmented by an OOH component based on the net acquisitions approach? This is one issue where it is not playing the role of a responsible opposition party, proposing a better alternative where the Government’s policy is weak.