Things can only get worse

Britain is about to be remade in the image of our deranged cultural elites.

Tom Slater

Tom Slater

Topics Identity Politics Politics UK

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We at spiked have spent a good chunk of this UK General Election campaign lamenting how devoid of substance, principle, or even a flicker of charisma, are the two main challengers for 10 Downing Street. Watching outgoing Tory PM Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Keir Starmer duke it out on TV has often resembled a bank manager arguing with a head teacher – and been about as enlightening. The sense that we have returned to the pre-2016 factory settings of British politics, in which big ideas are anathema and both parties are wedded to the same failed orthodoxies, has been palpable.

But that is not to say that the widely expected Labour landslide is somehow a non-event. For one thing, the Conservative Party – if the more dire polls are roughly accurate – could be about to be destroyed as a viable party of government. The latest YouGov MRP ‘mega-poll’ has Labour on 431 seats, with the largest majority for any single party since 1832, and the Conservatives on 102 seats. Even the more optimistic projections for the Tories – putting them on around 150 seats – would be worse than their worst-ever result, back in 1906.

This is testament to the volatile times we live in. Voters are more up for grabs – and more up for abandoning their traditional political homes – than ever before. For much of the past century, Labour and the Conservatives could, even at their lowest ebb, each count on roughly a third of the electorate to stick by them, bound to them by class interest and deep party identification. But no more. Brexit scrambled the old loyalties. The same volatility that gave us an 80-seat Tory majority in 2019, secured by the mass defection of working-class, former Labour voters, could be about to lay the Tories low.

This isn’t to say voters are fickle, flitting from one party to the next, almost thoughtlessly. The Conservatives simply squandered the opportunity to fortify their fledgling new coalition – reverting to backstabbing type after a brief, Brexity interlude. Clearly, voters are not rushing into Keir Starmer’s awkward embrace, either. If he does become prime minister this week, he will do so as the least popular opposition leader to win an election in recorded history. Even if he achieves one of those absurd predicted majorities, polls suggest he would do so with about the same national vote share – or lower – than Jeremy Corbyn won in 2017. Starmer’s ‘success’ will be entirely parasitic off the collapse of the Tories, and Labour could fall as swiftly as it rose come the next election.

That isn’t to say the Tory Party could bounce back just as easily, however. If it is reduced to a rump, this would drain the party not only of MPs, but also of resources, cash and party structure. Recovery could be slow and painful. And that’s if you think it deserves to recover. We at spiked don’t. The Conservative Party has for decades now been a relic of another era, staggering on despite representing no one other than the ruddy-cheeked bluffers it catapulted into high office. It had one – unlikely – chance to refashion itself as a more populist, blue-collar party. And we all know how that turned out. British politics has long been ripe for creative destruction, to clear the way for new parties, ideologies and movements that better reflect the cleavages in society today. We can only hope the Labourite wing of the uniparty is swept away one day soon, too.

But until it is, we need to be clear-eyed about what this Labour restoration means. The gloating from the great and good makes clear that the elites view a Starmer victory as an escape from the post-Brexit interregnum. As a repudiation of populism. As a repudiation of what they snottily dismiss as the ‘culture war’. As a repudiation of those few years in which the concerns of ordinary people – on gender, migration, Net Zero – were the stuff of political debate. While the Tories have proven themselves to be limp, ineffectual and often-sincere battlers against metropolitan groupthink, Labour is, without question, its primary political vehicle. It is the parliamentary wing of the new elite. The slow capture of our institutions by greens, identitarians and technocrats – in spite of (and sometimes because of) our Conservative rulers – will now become even more entrenched.

New Labour remade Britain in its image, leaving behind a legal system, quangocracy and technocratic state that would seal its policies in place for a generation. Now, Starmer’s tribute act appears keen to do a new riff on the old hits. Starmer even dug up Gordon Brown to propose grand, sweeping changes to Britain’s constitutional make-up. Brown’s report, published in 2022, envisages a new Assembly of the Nations and Regions – to replace the House of Lords. It would put devolution on steroids, unravelling the Union in the name of saving it. He even wants to give Scotland the right to enter into international treaties, in stark violation of British collective sovereignty. Brown also envisions new ‘social rights’ – to education, healthcare, etc. This would take what should be political questions and turn them into thoroughly legalistic ones, to be fought out in the courts by lawyers and judges, over the heads of the people and their elected representatives. As Joanna Williams has argued on spiked, Brown’s proposed constitutional revolution manages to be even more anti-democratic than the status quo. Starmer claims constitutional reform isn’t a priority for now. But let’s see how long that lasts.

What is a priority, apparently, is taking the divisive, authoritarian and reactionary identity politics that has been curdling on the left for some time and putting it into law. After briefly pretending to know what a woman is, Starmer is keen to press ahead with ‘modernising’ gender-recognition laws, making it easier for men to barge into women’s spaces. The manifesto also calls for a ban on ‘trans conversion therapy’, which is code for any form of therapy that doesn’t uncritically ‘affirm’ the beliefs of those struggling with their so-called gender identity. There’s also talk of beefing up laws against anti-‘LGBT+’ hate crime, which is code for knowing and saying what a woman is. A cryptic passage in its manifesto says Labour will ‘reverse the Conservatives’ decision to downgrade the monitoring of… hate’, suggesting Britain’s police will once again have free rein to collect and report those dystopian ‘non-crime hate incidents’ against the names of law-abiding citizens.

Then there’s the Race Equality Act, which Starmer clearly fancies as part of his legacy. Apparently, it will enshrine in law the ‘full right to equal pay’ for ethnic-minority Brits – even though that was enshrined in law way back in 1965, with the passage of the Race Relations Act. Here we see the yawning chasm between equality as the woke left understands it and equality as everyone else in society understands it. The bill would essentially make equality of outcome – not equality of opportunity – the lodestar of race-relations policy. Which as we’ve seen in the US is a recipe for permanent division and grievance-mongering. Woke racialism will be smuggled into law in the language of old-fashioned anti-racism, making it all the more difficult to oppose and dislodge. Indeed, it would take a brave future government to repeal something called the ‘Race Equality Act’.

There’s also the small matter of Brexit – our righteous blow for independence from the European Union that was so nearly thwarted. Thanks to the Tory implosion, the man who five years ago was leading the charge for a second referendum is now on his way to No10. If you think ‘Brexit is safe in my hands’, as Starmer has taken to saying, you probably deserve to be conned. He’s already talked about striking up a new, closer arrangement with the Brussels oligarchy. Plus, what you might call the Rest Is Politics crowd – those upper-middle-class irritants for whom opposing Brexit is a substitute for intellect – are among Starmer’s most excitable and influential backers. From day one, they will be spluttering about the need to forget about sovereign democracy and slink back into the EU’s orbit.

Keir Starmer is not an ideologue. He is bereft of ideas, let alone an ideology. But the empty vessel needs to be filled by something. And it’s clear it will be filled by all this crap. By wokeism, greenism, unabashed technocracy – all of the worst ideas of our age, desperately clung to by Starmer and his ilk, even though they can’t always articulate why. Should Labour return to power tomorrow, Britain looks set to be remade – once again – in the image of our deranged cultural elites. Brace yourselves for a fight. But don’t despair, either. Ordinary people are the bulwark against the insanity of the elites. And as the past decade has taught us – and Reform UK’s surge in this election reminds us – a populist revolt is never far away.

Tom Slater is editor of spiked. Follow him on X: @Tom_Slater_

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Identity Politics Politics UK


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