May 24, 2022 - 4:45pm

The Democrats and the UK’s Labour Party have a long and intertwined history — something Joe Biden himself can personally attest to. Their recent electoral outcomes may have differed, but both have been going through a similar kind of identity crisis: two historically working class parties drifting from their base. It is a problem recognised on both sides of the Atlantic, but what are leaders Joe Biden and Keir Starmer doing about it?

According to Oren Cass, former political advisor to Mitt Romney who spoke at the Onward and Create Streets’ ‘Restitch’ conference in London, the President has effectively given up on trying to reclaim the working class. Asked by the BBC’s Justin Webb about the division between “those interested in identity versus those who believe in place and the dignity of labour?”, Cass responded:

Unfortunately the fight is close to over on the Left and it’s going in the wrong direction… If you look at President Biden’s actual policy agenda, what he’s stuck his neck out on, is almost all the identity-related issues and things like student loan forgiveness, which would overwhelmingly favour the upper class. So I think there is an overriding shift away from the concerns of the working class on the Left.
- Oren Cass, Restitch

Labour, meanwhile, is not in much better shape. Jon Cruddas MP warned that the differences within the Labour party today are far more “profound” than they were during the Blair era:

It is very challenging for the Left. Under New Labour we discussed bolting the working class back into the economy, but instead we pursued a pact with capital based on low regulation and tax credits. We chose this ahead of rebuilding the status of vocational work.

There’s a similar sort of debate going on in Labour now that is even more profound around the very nature of work. It’s now between whether we should be seen as a post-work movement that celebrates a life of luxury and abundance and universal basic income.

- Jon Cruddas MP, Restitch

Radical ideas like universal basic income and student loan forgiveness do not hold much sway over the ordinary voter. But as David Schor argued after the 2020 election, the Democrats have been “hijacked” by liberal activists — a problem that the Labour party faces too. This disconnect between the party machine and voter base has widened in recent years, yet this has not let to any kind of change of tack from Biden, whose approval rating hit an all-time low this week, and Keir Starmer, who is seemingly incapable of capitalising on a scandal-prone PM. With the midterms in less than six months and a General Election on the horizon, both leaders may wish to take heed of the warnings heard today.

is UnHerd’s Newsroom editor.