In recent weeks, much has been made of the positive bump in Labour’s polling. On average, the party has been ahead of the Tories in voter surveys since early December.
By mid-January, for the first time in years, Labour was recording a large lead in the polls. One estimate by Opinium gave Labour 41% of the vote share, compared with just 31% for the Conservatives. Other surveys have shown similar leads since.
This surge has led the Blairites to boast about the supposed superiority of Starmer’s so-called ‘sensible’ politics, marking the triumphant return of New Labour.
What does this look like in practice? It means imperialist posturing on the question of Ukraine; a nauseating love letter to NATO; pouring scorn on Corbyn’s popular left-wing policies; endlessly singing the praises of big business; and welcoming former Tory MPs with open arms.
Contrary to the delusions of the Labour right wing, however, the truth is that this poll lead has far more to do with the deep crisis enveloping Boris Johnson and the Tory government, than with any genuine support for Starmer and his establishment programme.
The Tory Party is beset on all sides by scandals, corruption, and instability. From the revelations around #Partygate to the cost of living crisis: any shred of support the government once had is rapidly being swept away by this maelstrom.
This growing feeling of discontent is reflected in the polls also. Of those who voted for the Tories in 2019, a majority now say that they would not vote for them again at the next election.
Clearly, therefore, any boost in Labour’s support is relative – down to the Tories unpopularity, not Starmer’s success.
Unfortunately for the ruling class, however, there is no real replacement for the tainted current occupant of Number 10.
Recent articles by the serious mouthpieces of the capitalist class – such as the Financial Times and the Economist – have bemoaned as such. Were Johnson to go, these commentators correctly note, those lining up in the wings would hardly be any different, and would offer little stability or respite for British capitalism.
The ruling class has effectively lost control of their own party. After all, it is the rabid ranks of the Tory Party that will ultimately decide who succeeds Boris as leader and prime minister.
As such, in order to win, any future leadership candidates will have to appeal to the ‘swivel-eyed loons’ that make up the Conservatives’ membership.
The British establishment is therefore growing concerned about the chances of a reliable, safe pair of hands emerging from this process – and are increasingly looking for a backup option.
New New Labour
Enter ‘Sir’ Keir Starmer, whose number one mission since becoming Labour leader has been to transform the party back into a secure B-team for British capitalism.
This has seen a two-year-long purge of the left-wing membership, including the proscription of Socialist Appeal and the expulsion of our supporters.
At the same time, the leadership has actively attempted to push hundreds of thousands of members out of the party through disgust and demoralisation. This has even included withdrawing the whip from Jeremy Corbyn, one of the most popular leaders the party has ever had.
So is this strategy – of expunging socialism and Corbynism from Labour – what has led to the party’s apparent surge in support?
First of all, it is worth examining the effect of this rightwards turn on Labour’s traditional bases of support.
Many trade unions have responded with revulsion. Already, Unite – the party’s largest financial backer – has docked ten percent from their donations. And with Unite members, such as the Coventry bin workers, battling against Labour-controlled councils, general secretary Sharon Graham is now threatening to halt the rest.
Let me be very clear - the remaining financial support of Labour Party is now under review. Your behaviour and mistreatment of our members will not be accepted. It's time to act like labour, be the party for workers. #CovBinStrike @coventrycc pic.twitter.com/yVZxVSa9IP— Sharon Graham (@UniteSharon) February 9, 2022
GMB are also potentially set to cut their political funding completely, having already done so to the London regional Labour Party. Meanwhile, the CWU has lowered its funding to the minimum level required to remain affiliated.
Last year, furthermore, the bakers’ union voted to disaffiliate. And now ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, affiliated to the party since 1903, is set to discuss following suit at their next conference.
The youth and the oppressed are also continuing to turn away from the party, disgusted by Starmer’s defence of the status quo.
Take deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner, for example, who caused justified outrage in a recent interview, after she voiced support for ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ type policing – a statement that was clearly designed to alienate the millions of young people and minorities who have taken to the streets in opposition to racism and police brutality.
Despite their stated aims, however, the Labour leadership has not even been able to win over 2019 Tory voters. One poll, for example, showed that – of these voters – only 5% would now vote Labour, while 33% would not vote for any party on offer.
In short, instead of aiming at workers and youth, or posing a serious socialist opposition to the Tories, Starmer and the Labour right have sought to appease the capitalists and the establishment at every turn, no matter the cost.
Knight in shining armour
With growing hatred towards the Tories, and the Labour Party no longer under the control of the left and the trade unions, the establishment are increasingly building up ‘Sir’ Keir Starmer as a potential replacement for PM – ready to swoop in as their knight in shining armour if needed.
In many respects, Starmer is a better representative for the capitalists than much of the Tory Party. After all, it was big business that backed his leadership campaign.
At the same time, he has always proved himself to be a reliable representative (and member) of the establishment, willing to defend their interests without question: whether this means refusing to indict the police who shot Jean Charles de Menezez; pushing for the extradition of Julian Assange; or helping lock up those involved in the 2011 London riots.
This explains why the capitalist press have rushed to Starmer’s defence recently, after Boris Johnson suggested that the Labour leader, during his time as head of the Crown Prosecution Service, had failed to pursue Jimmy Saville in relation to allegations of paedophilia.
It is clear that the bourgeois establishment will always close ranks when it comes to protecting their own.
One need only compare their outrage over these Saville smears to their treatment of Corbyn to see the stinking hypocrisy and double standards of the establishment, and to show how they view Starmer as ‘their man’.
Far from defending the left-wing former Labour leader, it was the so-called ‘respectable’ media commentators and politicians (red and blue alike) who led the charge against Corbyn and his supporters, with a constant barrage of lies, abuse, and attacks.
Era of instability
Boris Johnson increasingly resembles a dead man walking, presiding over a party riven with splits and a government rife with corruption.
The ruling class is therefore seriously weighing up their options – including the possibility of a pliant Starmer-led government.
But what would such a Labour government inherit?
Blair’s New Labour were in power in an era of growth and stability, both in Britain and internationally, when some reforms could be afforded to the working class, and relative prosperity prevailed.
A ‘new New Labour’ government, however, would inherit a ‘new normal’: rampant inequality; rising inflation; economic chaos; political polarisation; and a dis-United Kingdom that is being torn apart by centrifugal forces.
Unfortunately for the ruling class, the epoch we have entered will not be one of stability, regardless of who is in Number 10. The capitalist system, far from being full of dynamism and vigour, is in a state of terminal decline.
For the working class, this means austerity and attacks. But workers and youth are already moving into action. And with no alternative from Starmer and the Labour Party, they are turning to the industrial front and to protest to defend their living standards and fight the bosses onslaught.
The class struggle is sharpening. And this ferment is shaking up the labour movement – and the whole of society with it.
This is why we must urgently build up the forces of Marxism, in the trade unions and on the streets. We must be ready to play the decisive role that is required to put the working class – not Starmer’s Labour – into power.