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Labour and the Tories are becoming a uniparty

"Is Labour the party of Angela Rayner or the Tony Blair Institute?". Credit: Getty

August 18, 2023 - 4:30pm

Every July several thousand trade unionists converge in the Dorset village of Tolpuddle. They do so to commemorate the Tolpuddle Martyrs — and what is widely regarded as the genesis of the British Labour movement.

When I attended last summer, it was obvious the crowds were much smaller than during the Corbyn era. Perhaps the lingering memory of Covid was why, but even for those present it was clear that the energy of recent years had gone. 

There were some exceptions, however. One was Angela Rayner. Taking to the stage Labour’s deputy leader was every inch the firebrand and felt like an emissary from the recent past. Labour would scrap zero hours contracts she cried, while workers in the gig economy would immediately benefit from getting the Tories out. Importantly, there would be a single category of worker endowed with rights from day one. 

I was sceptical about these promises at the time, and it now appears such scepticism was warranted, at least partially, with the Financial Times reporting that Labour wants to row back on workers’ rights by watering down elements of its “New Deal for Working People.

That isn’t to say Rayner is in on it. The briefing to the FT likely came from those close to Peter Mandelson, and the New Deal for Workers Rights is the only remaining area where Rayner’s imprint is notable. The point, then, is to underscore that she has lost control of this crucial policy area — and is increasingly irrelevant.

Rayner has always been a strange figure within the emerging uniparty of Westminster. Rather than coming from the Labour Left, she is simply a trade unionist who joined the ranks of the political class and wants to fight for working people. Given 90% of her parliamentary colleagues attended university, she is something of a throwback. 

Yet even a figure like Rayner, whose biography embodies Labour raison d’etre, is too radical for the dominant forces within her own party. Why? Because her default isn’t to genuflect before the business lobby, and equate their demands with “common sense” and “pragmatism”.

Alongside radical supply side reforms in addressing the country’s major problems — namely the need for cheap energy and cheap housing — there also needs to be a sustained pursuit to increase productivity and for real wages to rise. But for the passenger politics of Jeremy Hunt and Rachel Reeves, this is simply too close to actually doing something. 

On issue after issue the two major parties agree
on inaction. One could call this a “consensus”, but I think that’s wrong given the ideas and presumptions were never debated in the first place. Public ownership of water? Both parties reject it, but it’s just that Labour wants to, performatively, make it seem they are committed to reform.

On fiscal rules, both parties are committed to national debt falling as a percentage of GDP over a parliament term — making Labour’s pledge to not include capital expenditure within deficit targets broadly irrelevant. Meanwhile both parties support tuition fees. It’s just that Labour MPs are more likely to virtue signal that they were, in fact, the first person in their family to  attend university. Good for them.

Is Labour the party of Angela Rayner or the Tony Blair Institute? Because, for all the talk of a coalition, it increasingly feels like it can’t be both while upholding its basic commitments. This should be overwhelmingly obvious given Blair’s desire to “renew the centre” — an entreaty which means little beyond overseeing national decline and allowing the winners in today’s winner-takes-all economy to become yet richer still. 

Does any of this matter? Perhaps, but only when those cheering Rayner on that sunny Dorset day understand the scale of what is happening. With Labour in office they may end up building coalitions with various other deplorables. That, more than anything else, is what the uniparty fears most.


Aaron Bastani is the co-founder of Novara Media, and the author of Fully Automated Luxury Communism. 

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Andrew Buckley
Andrew Buckley
9 months ago

It doesn’t matter what name the ruling Parliamentary party comes under they will all serve the same master. The financial markets and globalisation. A side order of unelected and unaccountable quangos such as WEF, WHO and maybe even a little lip service to the UN.
Hidden, invisible, unelected, unaccountable (well to voters!) masters of all our fates.
A few crumbs here and there to keep the majority quiet.
A bit of virtue signaling now and then.
And a few trite “tough on this or that” tweaks to a few rules to look like something is actually being governed.
Totally disagree with Angela Rayner about the things to do (I am a committed small state conservative, she is a big state socialist) but at least someone is shouting about the iniquity of the present political system.

Andrew Buckley
Andrew Buckley
9 months ago

It doesn’t matter what name the ruling Parliamentary party comes under they will all serve the same master. The financial markets and globalisation. A side order of unelected and unaccountable quangos such as WEF, WHO and maybe even a little lip service to the UN.
Hidden, invisible, unelected, unaccountable (well to voters!) masters of all our fates.
A few crumbs here and there to keep the majority quiet.
A bit of virtue signaling now and then.
And a few trite “tough on this or that” tweaks to a few rules to look like something is actually being governed.
Totally disagree with Angela Rayner about the things to do (I am a committed small state conservative, she is a big state socialist) but at least someone is shouting about the iniquity of the present political system.

David McKee
David McKee
9 months ago

It’s possible that it’s a grand conspiracy to defraud the voting public. Alternatively (and, possibly, more likely), neither party has a clue how to solve our problems.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
9 months ago
Reply to  David McKee

Don’t be so negative; it can be both!

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
9 months ago
Reply to  David McKee

Don’t be so negative; it can be both!

David McKee
David McKee
9 months ago

It’s possible that it’s a grand conspiracy to defraud the voting public. Alternatively (and, possibly, more likely), neither party has a clue how to solve our problems.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
9 months ago

I don’t think the UK (or any other country) needs “cheap” housing. Mass construction of “cheap” housing is going to cause more problems than it solves long term. What you need is housing which is decent quality and AFFORDABLE. “Cheap” and “affordable” are not the same thing.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
9 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Slightly pedantic there, the two words are largely interchangeable and most people know what he was referring to

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

The author might not have meant it, but it is an important difference and the difference is dignity. Saying people have access to “affordable” housing allows them self respect. Saying they live in “cheap” housing strips away that self respect. Words are important. And making sure the people at the bottom of the pile can live with dignity and pride is important too. I live in Vienna, and this is a city that gets housing right to a far greater extent than the UK does. Nowhere in this city do you see people in “cheap” housing.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

The author might not have meant it, but it is an important difference and the difference is dignity. Saying people have access to “affordable” housing allows them self respect. Saying they live in “cheap” housing strips away that self respect. Words are important. And making sure the people at the bottom of the pile can live with dignity and pride is important too. I live in Vienna, and this is a city that gets housing right to a far greater extent than the UK does. Nowhere in this city do you see people in “cheap” housing.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
8 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

We have all the housing we need. Some of us just occupy too much of it because the housing market is one in which there is no disincentive to hoarding. Much better to store your wealth in housing than any other asset because no politician will ever dare to tax the profits in the same way as they tax other, more productive forms of income

George Venning
George Venning
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Yes and no. The distribution of housing in this country is highly unequal but British houses are also among the smallest in Western Europe. Do we, on average consume too much housing? Depends what you mean.
Could we fit everyone into the existing stock, if we redistributed it more equitably? Certainly. Can we we figure out how to redistribute it more equitably without building a whole lot more? Perhaps not.

George Venning
George Venning
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Yes and no. The distribution of housing in this country is highly unequal but British houses are also among the smallest in Western Europe. Do we, on average consume too much housing? Depends what you mean.
Could we fit everyone into the existing stock, if we redistributed it more equitably? Certainly. Can we we figure out how to redistribute it more equitably without building a whole lot more? Perhaps not.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
9 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Slightly pedantic there, the two words are largely interchangeable and most people know what he was referring to

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
8 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

We have all the housing we need. Some of us just occupy too much of it because the housing market is one in which there is no disincentive to hoarding. Much better to store your wealth in housing than any other asset because no politician will ever dare to tax the profits in the same way as they tax other, more productive forms of income

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
9 months ago

I don’t think the UK (or any other country) needs “cheap” housing. Mass construction of “cheap” housing is going to cause more problems than it solves long term. What you need is housing which is decent quality and AFFORDABLE. “Cheap” and “affordable” are not the same thing.

Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
9 months ago

Many of us have been saying this for some time. I noted Andrew Bridgen talking about the ‘Uniparty’ a couple of days ago.
Starmer gave the game away with his sycophantic performance at Davos. His policies have become aligned with the central UN/WHO/WEF plans, just as Hunt and Sunak’s are.
The only real difference that I predict is less obvious corruption, for a few years at least, when Labour come in.
Populists left (Bastani), and right (Bridgen), recognise that the technocratic blob in the middle is not good for anybody except the elites.
Let’s work together, get rid of these parasites, and then we can argue about the rest.

Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
9 months ago

Many of us have been saying this for some time. I noted Andrew Bridgen talking about the ‘Uniparty’ a couple of days ago.
Starmer gave the game away with his sycophantic performance at Davos. His policies have become aligned with the central UN/WHO/WEF plans, just as Hunt and Sunak’s are.
The only real difference that I predict is less obvious corruption, for a few years at least, when Labour come in.
Populists left (Bastani), and right (Bridgen), recognise that the technocratic blob in the middle is not good for anybody except the elites.
Let’s work together, get rid of these parasites, and then we can argue about the rest.

N Satori
N Satori
9 months ago

Taking to the stage Labour’s deputy leader was every inch the firebrand…

…and people of the activist persuasion (eg. Aaron Bastani) just love a firebrand. Cue lashings of SJW indignation, emotionally satisfying denunciations of the powerful and privileged, the ‘disadvantaged’ given recognition and promised inclusion and a better life. Seen it all before. The egalitarian dream never dies it just degenerates into an administrative mess because firebrands and their disciples prefer revolutionary conflict to the dull work of governance.

N Satori
N Satori
9 months ago

Taking to the stage Labour’s deputy leader was every inch the firebrand…

…and people of the activist persuasion (eg. Aaron Bastani) just love a firebrand. Cue lashings of SJW indignation, emotionally satisfying denunciations of the powerful and privileged, the ‘disadvantaged’ given recognition and promised inclusion and a better life. Seen it all before. The egalitarian dream never dies it just degenerates into an administrative mess because firebrands and their disciples prefer revolutionary conflict to the dull work of governance.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
9 months ago

Isn’t this fellow a bit late to the party? I suppose it’s never too late to open your eyes and look around.

polidori redux
polidori redux
9 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

That’s what I thought. This has been obvious for some time. Our MPs are interchangeable, and whoever they represent it certainly isn’t the common man. Peter Hitchens referred to them, derisively, as bohemian metropolitan liberals.

polidori redux
polidori redux
9 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

That’s what I thought. This has been obvious for some time. Our MPs are interchangeable, and whoever they represent it certainly isn’t the common man. Peter Hitchens referred to them, derisively, as bohemian metropolitan liberals.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
9 months ago

Isn’t this fellow a bit late to the party? I suppose it’s never too late to open your eyes and look around.

William Cameron
William Cameron
9 months ago

Labour needs to learn to count. The Trans mob represent 0.005% of Voters (approx) . Women-who the trans mob seek to destroy -represent 50% of the vote.
Time to make women’s rights top of the offering.

Peter B
Peter B
8 months ago

Didn’t Harriet Harman try that with her pink van ?

Peter B
Peter B
8 months ago

Didn’t Harriet Harman try that with her pink van ?

William Cameron
William Cameron
9 months ago

Labour needs to learn to count. The Trans mob represent 0.005% of Voters (approx) . Women-who the trans mob seek to destroy -represent 50% of the vote.
Time to make women’s rights top of the offering.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
9 months ago

Judging by that photo, Angela Rayner was born too late to fulfill her destiny as a minor apparatchik in some backwater Soviet satellite.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
9 months ago

Like Quislinton perhaps?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
9 months ago

Like Quislinton perhaps?

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
9 months ago

Judging by that photo, Angela Rayner was born too late to fulfill her destiny as a minor apparatchik in some backwater Soviet satellite.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
9 months ago

There is a shared ambition by the Treasury, Bank of England, Liberals, Labour, Scot Nats and a good portion of the Conservative Party to try for the euro again.
All of the above appear to maintain a consensus about keeping borrowing and spending in alignment with the Eurozone and its membership requirements, disastrous though that monetary and fiscal policy currently is.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
9 months ago

There is a shared ambition by the Treasury, Bank of England, Liberals, Labour, Scot Nats and a good portion of the Conservative Party to try for the euro again.
All of the above appear to maintain a consensus about keeping borrowing and spending in alignment with the Eurozone and its membership requirements, disastrous though that monetary and fiscal policy currently is.

Susan Grabston
Susan Grabston
9 months ago

Old news. But white space.always creates political opportunities to left and right. Excellent “These Times” podcast this week where Tom and Helen interviewed Dominic Sandbrook about the 1970s and what is cn teach us about 2023. They concurred that in the period just before Thatcher the feeling was apolcalyptic but one of “apocalyptic hope”. They conrrasted that with the feeling today of apocalyptic nothingness. Politicians are either out of big ideas or unprepsred to make the case for them. Much of this can be laid at rhe door of “focus groups” back in the noughties. Following voters’ views is not leadership. More hopefully, Neil Howe in The 4th Turning is Here (mostly a rehash of his earlier book for anyone thinking of buying it), states that we do not see the 4th turning leaders appearing. They are forged from the moment and arise in response. Let’s hppe so. Either that or we’regoing to have to ask generstive AI for the answer!! After all, Schwab has said that elections are redundant in a world where AI will provide better solutions, as well as knowing our voting intentions better than we do ourselves. Hmmmm …… must be Friday night

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
9 months ago
Reply to  Susan Grabston

Excellent! I enjoy reading your posts, always informative.

Along with our not-yet established sexual preferences, if AI can predict our voting intentions too we might just let it take over the democratic process, based on our online output. If The AI Party evolves, it’ll naturally engineer votes and disputed election results will become a quirk of history!

Last edited 9 months ago by Steve Murray
Ian Barton
Ian Barton
9 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

This would kick off a quantum computing war between parties to generate as many favourable fake posts as possible – maybe best to just use AI to select candidates.

Last edited 9 months ago by Ian Barton
Ian Barton
Ian Barton
9 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

This would kick off a quantum computing war between parties to generate as many favourable fake posts as possible – maybe best to just use AI to select candidates.

Last edited 9 months ago by Ian Barton
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
9 months ago
Reply to  Susan Grabston

Excellent! I enjoy reading your posts, always informative.

Along with our not-yet established sexual preferences, if AI can predict our voting intentions too we might just let it take over the democratic process, based on our online output. If The AI Party evolves, it’ll naturally engineer votes and disputed election results will become a quirk of history!

Last edited 9 months ago by Steve Murray
Susan Grabston
Susan Grabston
9 months ago

Old news. But white space.always creates political opportunities to left and right. Excellent “These Times” podcast this week where Tom and Helen interviewed Dominic Sandbrook about the 1970s and what is cn teach us about 2023. They concurred that in the period just before Thatcher the feeling was apolcalyptic but one of “apocalyptic hope”. They conrrasted that with the feeling today of apocalyptic nothingness. Politicians are either out of big ideas or unprepsred to make the case for them. Much of this can be laid at rhe door of “focus groups” back in the noughties. Following voters’ views is not leadership. More hopefully, Neil Howe in The 4th Turning is Here (mostly a rehash of his earlier book for anyone thinking of buying it), states that we do not see the 4th turning leaders appearing. They are forged from the moment and arise in response. Let’s hppe so. Either that or we’regoing to have to ask generstive AI for the answer!! After all, Schwab has said that elections are redundant in a world where AI will provide better solutions, as well as knowing our voting intentions better than we do ourselves. Hmmmm …… must be Friday night

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
9 months ago

Becoming ?

Do you remember Cameron, Brown and Clegg on telly, all looking like identikits of each other except for the different colour ties ?

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
9 months ago

Becoming ?

Do you remember Cameron, Brown and Clegg on telly, all looking like identikits of each other except for the different colour ties ?

j watson
j watson
9 months ago

Next GE is still probably 14mths away and it’ll be when we see the manifestos we have a better sense of ‘Uni-party’ similarities, even though both main parties will look for ‘wedge’ issues too.
Right now of course an extended period of competent stable government by folks who aren’t disconnected multimillionaires seems to be what the core of the electorate want. We had the ‘radicalism’ of Brexit and then the KamiKwasi/Truss growth shambles such that majority may well be reflecting these big radical projects ain’t quite what they were cracked up to be.
So if the will of the people is a return to some sobering, boring moderate centrist governing is it a surprise the Parties reflect that to a large degree? What could be more British?
Nonetheless whoever wins in 24 will inherit a dire public realm especially which will take at least two parliaments to address and some radical action. Whether either party has entirely worked out how it’s gong to tackle these problems I doubt and much work still to be done.
As regards our Ange – the Deputy role has more often been deliberately filled by such a personality and background – Prescott, George Brown etc. Labour remains a coalition and needs this

Peter B
Peter B
8 months ago
Reply to  j watson

You seem to imply that Rishi Sunak is more “disconnected” than Keir Starmer. I’m not convinced. Thye’re both a bit disconnected, in slightly different ways. But the British electorate will sort the answer out for you – they seem to have a good instinct for smoking out disconnected politicians.

Peter B
Peter B
8 months ago
Reply to  j watson

You seem to imply that Rishi Sunak is more “disconnected” than Keir Starmer. I’m not convinced. Thye’re both a bit disconnected, in slightly different ways. But the British electorate will sort the answer out for you – they seem to have a good instinct for smoking out disconnected politicians.

j watson
j watson
9 months ago

Next GE is still probably 14mths away and it’ll be when we see the manifestos we have a better sense of ‘Uni-party’ similarities, even though both main parties will look for ‘wedge’ issues too.
Right now of course an extended period of competent stable government by folks who aren’t disconnected multimillionaires seems to be what the core of the electorate want. We had the ‘radicalism’ of Brexit and then the KamiKwasi/Truss growth shambles such that majority may well be reflecting these big radical projects ain’t quite what they were cracked up to be.
So if the will of the people is a return to some sobering, boring moderate centrist governing is it a surprise the Parties reflect that to a large degree? What could be more British?
Nonetheless whoever wins in 24 will inherit a dire public realm especially which will take at least two parliaments to address and some radical action. Whether either party has entirely worked out how it’s gong to tackle these problems I doubt and much work still to be done.
As regards our Ange – the Deputy role has more often been deliberately filled by such a personality and background – Prescott, George Brown etc. Labour remains a coalition and needs this

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
9 months ago

This is happening throughout the Western world. Our parties are realigning.
In the US, the Dems have adopted the views of the uber-educated and wealthy. The GOP is gradually shifting toward the working class. (“populism” = “right wing working class”)
In the UK, the Tories cracked the red wall with Brexit but appear to now know what to do with those voters, who the Tory establishment essentially despises. Meanwhile Labour is going full culture-war like the Dems.
Even in France, the working class is increasingly turning to right-wing vehicles as Macron makes it clear he doesn’t give a hoot about them. In Holland, similarly.
Either the right-wing parties will learn to make the transition to working-class populism, or they will be replaced. That applies even to the Republicans in America, where it’s REALLY hard to replace a party. You just can’t have a republic when the 75% of your country that’s not college educated is without a political vehicle. That’s a vacuum that will be filled, one way or another.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
9 months ago

This is happening throughout the Western world. Our parties are realigning.
In the US, the Dems have adopted the views of the uber-educated and wealthy. The GOP is gradually shifting toward the working class. (“populism” = “right wing working class”)
In the UK, the Tories cracked the red wall with Brexit but appear to now know what to do with those voters, who the Tory establishment essentially despises. Meanwhile Labour is going full culture-war like the Dems.
Even in France, the working class is increasingly turning to right-wing vehicles as Macron makes it clear he doesn’t give a hoot about them. In Holland, similarly.
Either the right-wing parties will learn to make the transition to working-class populism, or they will be replaced. That applies even to the Republicans in America, where it’s REALLY hard to replace a party. You just can’t have a republic when the 75% of your country that’s not college educated is without a political vehicle. That’s a vacuum that will be filled, one way or another.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
9 months ago

“Becoming”?

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
9 months ago

“Becoming”?

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
8 months ago

Labour is the party of property-owning middle class professionals who live off the state. Everything else is performative window-dressing. Including Angela Rayner.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
8 months ago

Labour is the party of property-owning middle class professionals who live off the state. Everything else is performative window-dressing. Including Angela Rayner.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
9 months ago

Aaron has been fooled. Starmer is a dangerous Leftie.

William Cameron
William Cameron
9 months ago

He has no fixed positions.

William Cameron
William Cameron
9 months ago

He has no fixed positions.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
9 months ago

Aaron has been fooled. Starmer is a dangerous Leftie.

Richard Abbot
Richard Abbot
9 months ago

All the Westminster parties are left-ish. So this feels a bit like talking about the Judean Peoples Front.

Richard Abbot
Richard Abbot
9 months ago

All the Westminster parties are left-ish. So this feels a bit like talking about the Judean Peoples Front.

Will K
Will K
9 months ago

Decisions by Committees are rarely good ones. The better system would be an Autocracy with a limited term. “Its easier to find one good man, than many” (Dio Cassius, arguing for rule by an Emperor rather than a Senate)

Will K
Will K
9 months ago

Decisions by Committees are rarely good ones. The better system would be an Autocracy with a limited term. “Its easier to find one good man, than many” (Dio Cassius, arguing for rule by an Emperor rather than a Senate)