Labour Party news website LabourList recently ran a survey looking at members’ views on the party’s chances of winning the next election, which is due to take place in 2024.
The survey was likely intended to demonstrate some sort of ‘Starmer bounce’ effect. No doubt the hope was that the new ‘forensic’ leadership would be shown to be uniting the membership and preparing the way for a Labour government.
The result of this polling, however, suggests the opposite. Excluding the ‘don’t knows’, some 55% of members responded saying that they anticipate a Tory victory in the next election.
These figures also need to be taken with the current political context in mind. The Tory government is lurching from one crisis to the next: struggling to control the COVID-19 pandemic; presiding over a sharp economic collapse; and U-turning in the face of pressure from students and workers.
Not so long ago, the Blairites were demanding to know why Jeremy Corbyn wasn’t ‘20 points ahead in the polls’. And yet, despite all this Tory chaos, Labour is still lagging behind the Tories under the new, ‘respectable’ Starmer leadership.
From bad to worse
These figures are bad news for the Blairites. But the survey contains much worse news for them. For example, the percentage stating that they were “very unhappy” with Starmer’s leadership stood at 34.3%, up from 25% in May. Those saying that they were “very happy” amounted to only 33.8%, down from 36%.
But the worst news of all relates to policy. Support for Labour’s left-wing 2019 manifesto remains high, according to the same survey. This demonstrates the continuing left majority amongst the party’s grassroots. And this, in turn, reflects the real mood amongst the working class more widely.
We have entered a highly unstable period, economically and socially. This comes on top of an already extremely volatile situation. By comparison, the Blair years came at a time of relative calm.
The Labour right wing therefore faces an uphill task in shifting the party back to the right. The ‘centre ground’ that they desire a return to has collapsed – in Britain, and internationally. The polarisation in opinion towards Starmer’s leadership is a clear reflection of this wider political polarisation in society.
Pretty damning Labour list survey results here.— Juliet Brown (@JulietB270880) August 17, 2020
- 55% of respondents predict a Tory government after the next election
- Top answer for satisfaction with Keir Starmer is “very unhappy”
Clearly no confidence in the new leader #Starmerouthttps://t.co/3LbGXzzYhU pic.twitter.com/WSt0OoZKqx
No appetite for Blairism
Amongst the popular policies mention in the LabourList survey are: large-scale cuts to carbon emissions (82% support); creating one million green jobs (74%); closing tax loopholes for private schools (73%); increasing the top rate of income, for those on over £80,000 (71%); nationalising mail, rail, energy and water (67%); repealing anti-trade union legislation (64%); and scrapping tuition fees (61%).
The only two policies listed that didn’t secure a majority of members’ support were: free-and-fast broadband for all, on 49.6%; and renewing Trident, on 12.3%. This suggests that a majority of Labour members are in favour of scrapping Trident – a policy that the right wing would of course oppose.
The 2017 and 2019 manifestos represented a major, and welcome, shift from the pre-Corbyn era; a breath of fresh air compared to the Tory-lite policies of the past. And the results of this survey show that there is still a strong appetite for radical demands amongst Labour’s membership. There is no desire for the reheated Blairism that the Labour right wing is pushing.
Unity – on whose terms?
Starmer’s big pledge has been to provide ‘unity’ and put an end to so-called ‘factionalism’. Of course, what he and the Labour right wing mean is to enforce ‘unity’ on their terms, by purging the left from the party. They certainly intend to ‘end factionalism’ – by crushing all opposition! This is the meaning behind the sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey.
Members are growing increasingly tired of Starmer’s failure – or refusal – to land a punch on the Tories. Instead of siding with workers and youth, in struggle and on the streets, the right-wing Labour leadership are cosying up to the establishment. This is why Starmer’s support is fading.
In the final analysis, there can be no unity between the Blairites and grassroots members. The former represent the interests of big business; the latter yearn for a socialist alternative to cuts and crisis.
On this basis, the prospects for peace and harmony in the party are extremely slim. Instead, the conditions are being prepared for a renewed outbreak of the civil war inside Labour. This will especially be the case as party meetings begin again, and members emerge from their enforced political hibernation.
The biggest asset the right wing holds is the disillusionment and demoralisation of layers of the left. The problem the Blairites face, however, is that they have nothing positive to offer in place of this; no solutions to the problems that workers and young people face.
Offering meek and mild resistance won’t cut the mustard. Working people are looking for answers to the questions of mass unemployment, poverty, and austerity. But Starmer and the right wing have nothing to say on these vital matters.
We need a bold opposition – both to the Tories, and to Labour right wing. Building such a force is the essential task that lies before us. And this can only be done by mobilising activists around clear socialist policies.
The role of the Marxists – in the labour movement and amongst the youth – is to link the day-to-day struggles taking place, along with the popular left-wing demands highlighted above, to the call for the socialist transformation of society. This is the only real alternative to the crisis of capitalism.