September 1, 2023 - 7:00am

The British public is increasingly willing to place its trust in a centre-right party with no major spending commitments, which is looking to make Brexit work and which aims to reduce the national debt over the next parliament. The only problem for Rishi Sunak is, that party is Labour. 

Polling conducted by YouGov and reported earlier this week found that Keir Starmer’s party is now more trusted than the Tories on issues such as immigration, tax and crime. In areas of its own historic strength, Labour leads appear unassailable. It is 23 points ahead of the Tories on housing, a figure which rises to 27 points on the NHS. Even on Brexit — perfidious terrain for the party in recent years — the Opposition has inched two points ahead. 

That same poll confirmed something we hear repeatedly: that the growing gulf between the two parties is more the result of Tory collapse than enthusiasm for the Opposition. Benefitting from an opponent’s mistakes requires no little political skill, certainly, but it also means Labour should remain circumspect as to whether it’s a lead the party can hold.

This was brought home by the fact that more voters are undecided than support either Labour or the Tories on a single policy area. Among respondents, 22% think Labour will do a better job on immigration — a higher figure than the Conservatives, but measly beside the 46% who didn’t know or felt neither party would do much. On law and order “Don’t Know” and “None” accounted for 43% of respondents (for Labour the figure was 24%), while on Brexit that figure was 48% (Labour’s was 19%). On policy issues, if not the parties themselves, we are fast approaching a moment where a majority of the electorate is blackpilled. A belief that politicians won’t do anything is becoming the default.

For Tory strategists this could be good news. If the polls even slightly change six months from now, it’s not implausible that the Government could gain momentum. Just maybe, some ponder, the next election could mirror that of 2010, when Gordon Brown’s Labour received only 28% of the vote — and yet managed to force a hung parliament.

This is undoubtedly a wishful scenario for the Tories. Ultimately, what matters most is the simple fact that Labour is more trusted than the Government in areas in which it has struggled over the last 13 years. And yet in government, that may prove a problem. The reality is that the dregs of Blairism could soon gain a majority on a par with what the master himself achieved in 1997. But rather than energy, ideas and enthusiasm, that edifice would be built on a low turnout, indifference and dejection. As with François Hollande after 2012, any failure to deliver could quickly see hopes for change turn to anger (Monsieur Hollande’s approval ratings fell to just 4% by late 2016).

Somewhat reassuring for Labour, however, is that in defeat the Tories will likely commence Westminster’s version of the Royal Rumble — its clashing personalities and beliefs no longer emolliated by the grease of power. The newly prominent GB News and TalkTV also mean the party’s period of self-reflection in Opposition will be like nothing we’ve seen before. 

Regardless, it seems misguided to presume an incoming Labour government would mark an end to the seemingly permanent instability afflicting British politics since 2008. This was best captured in another recent poll, which found that a third of voters would be willing to vote for a new party. Among those presently undecided, 44% would be tempted by something different — yet the same applied to almost a third of both Tory and Labour voters. The core constituency of all the major parties feels soft, meaning fashionable shorthands such as the “red wall” and “blue wall” fail to capture what is in fact a much broader shift. 

Far from a realignment, what we are seeing instead is something far more profound: an intensifying disenchantment with the entire political process.

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