Britain After Starmergeddon

Preparing For the Next Election

Labour has won a massive majority but without a mandate to match.

The world is flat. London, March 2024.

Bewildered by the end of the Tory era, right-wingers are calling it ‘Starmergeddon’.

Everything has changed, and yet nothing has changed.

Under 34% of the electorate voted for Capital’s B-Team last week. I was one of the millions of voters who decided to sit this one out.

Since I live in a safe Labour seat, I have little reason to participate, and, for the first time in my life, I sympathise with non-voters who have concluded party politics is a sham.

It’s hard to argue otherwise these days.

I decided it was time to cast a vote on the Westminster system itself by withdrawing from it entirely. The non-vote in this election was over 40% of the total electorate, dwarfing the Labour vote.

National turnout dropped to a historic low of 59.9%, the lowest since 2001 and the lowest since 1885.

Even in Starmer’s constituency, the turnout was 54%, and the Labour leader lost half his vote to a left-wing independent.

Labour owes its great victory to Tory collapse and mass disaffection. The perversity of the first-past-the-post system means Labour won over 64% of parliamentary seats with just 20% of the electorate behind it.

Many of Starmer’s devoted fans want this victory to be historic. They want it to be 1997 all over again, but the truth is quite different.

Keir Starmer’s negative ratings climbed to 60% during the campaign, while his popularity dropped to 22%.

The lack of enthusiasm among Labour voters is impossible to conceal.

This is a source of considerable awkwardness for our esteemed commentariat, who so loathed the Jam Man of Islington North.

After 14 wretched years of Tory misrule, the Labour Party won a stonking majority on the smallest vote share in decades – less than 34%, just 1.6% higher than in 2019.

But the Tory collapse was clear. The party of the British right lost over 23% of its support.

It’s worth noting that the combined Tory-Reform vote comes to 38%. Labour may have gained 64% of seats on a tiny swing, but these gains could be swept away at the next election if Starmer fails to deliver.

The people uncritically cheering for Starmer are a minority of a minority of a minority.

Most Labour voters held their noses and drew an X on the ballot to get rid of the Tories. What else could they do in our system? Staying home is one option.

But we are in a new era, aren’t we? We’re about to discover what Starmer is about and what this “changed Labour Party” is about.

Many believe it will be more of the same. There may be hope, just not in Labour.

What Must Be Done

Despite my cynicism, I stayed up all night watching the results and was overwhelmed with schadenfreude at the scale of the Tory defeat.

It may be hard to have faith in a man as duplicitous as Keir Starmer, but the end of Tory misrule is worth cheering.

However, there is more to this story.

Independent candidates did very well in this election, with Jeremy Corbyn winning his seat back, four other pro-Palestine independents winning, and several others coming very close to unseating Labour MPs.

Meanwhile, the Green Party of England and Wales quadrupled their presence in Parliament.

Furthermore, the Greens have become the official opposition in 40 constituencies up and down the country. This is an outstanding achievement.

These gains are testament to a more robust electoral strategy focused on greater vote efficiency than in the past. The Greens concentrated their resources and efforts on winnable targets – just as Labour, the Lib Dems and Reform did.

The Green Party can no longer be dismissed as the party of ‘Islington-on-Sea’.

Many leftists have long scoffed at the Greens for various reasons (there are too many to list here). Whether we like it or not, there is space for a coalition here.

The British left could have a better unity and solidarity track record, putting it politely. Everyone wants their group to be in the lead, so no group is in the lead.

No one is willing to back down for another organisation, so no organisation succeeds. Now is the time to change this record.

We can look across the English Channel to see what it can achieve. The French legislative elections are the total opposite of the UK poll.

Turnout surged to 66.7% in the first and 66.6% in the second rounds, the highest for legislative elections since 1981.

Voters understand the significance of the choices they face.  Young people played a key role, turning out to vote in droves. The left offered a populist alternative to the far-right, which millions identified with.

It’s a massive victory for the Nouveau Front Populaire and a great sign of things to come in French politics.

Many British leftists are now cheering ‘Vive la France!’ and rightly so. Down the centuries, English and French radicals have looked to each other for lessons.

This should be such an occasion. Of course, the British left can’t just recreate the NFP in the UK because it’s a very different context, but the basic model of a red-green alliance should be emulated.

We may need to build a new anti-austerity movement if Labour moves to make big spending cuts rather than raise taxes on the rich.

But we also need to go much further than we did during the Cameron era.

Leftism With British Values

There are plenty of ideas already on the shelf.

Former Labour adviser James Schneider was making the case for a new left bloc before the election. He argues it should be a federation of parties with a secretariat established with trade union backing.

Schneider would know. He helped found Momentum during the Corbyn years.

At its height, Momentum had around 40,000 members. These numbers could have been the basis of a breakaway party in 2020. Alas, it stayed in Labour.

Just as Corbyn was too slow to break with Labour, he still managed to win a great victory over the party’s nasty, anti-democratic campaign to replace him with a healthcare profiteer.

Unfortunately, the post-Corbynite left has been rudderless for the last five years.

Most leftists decided to leave Labour without any clear plan of what to do next, while the socialists who stayed behind told themselves the plan was ‘stay and fight’.

The voters are out there, as evidenced by the Green Party’s gains and the performance of independents nationwide. But establishing a serious alliance will take work.

Something like the Nouveau Front Populaire is achievable in the UK. It’s just a matter of building such an alliance.

Furthermore, the British left has more time to organise something like the NFP to defeat Reform UK.

The 2024 election has just confirmed the obvious: the Labour Party does not have a monopoly on the left-wing vote.

Even though around 34% of voters backed Labour, the evidence suggests this was just to remove the Sunak-Hunt regime.

We can expect the 2024 election to be written up as Starmer’s historic landslide victory. Labour’s significant gains in seats will be emphasised, while the low turnout and low vote share will be downplayed.

Once the next election is called, Reform UK will be ready to fight.

The Conservative Party might have transformed into Reform 2.0 or become another electoral vehicle for Nigel Farage.

There can be no more waiting from the left. The time to build is now; we can’t stand on the sidelines forever.

British democracy can be revived, but only the left can save it.

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Photograph courtesy of Jake. Published under a Creative Commons license.