Brexit offered a real opportunity for the working class. With Corbyn, while not exactly in control of the ship (as we’ve subsequently realised), at least being somewhere on the Bridge, there was the prospect that the opportunity might have been taken advantage of. Alas and alack, such was the incoherent basis of his support (incapable of seeing Brexit as an opportunity and treating it as a disaster) and the nature of the man, the opportunity could not be grasped.
However, the policies which emerged under his leadership as well as the shock to the establishment in the 2017 election, where, despite throwing all it could at him, he attained a more than respectable result, provoked an unprecedented response. Not only did the establishment media then embark on the most vicious campaign against the leader of the opposition in modern times (central to it all being a doubling down on the antisemitic charge) but it also brought forth a significant response from the Tory party which reflected its superior capacity to “read” the British working class.
It was as a direct result of the 2017 election that the “Red Wall” became visible to the Tory Party. It was the strength of that visibility within the party that led to the election of Johnson as leader and it was Johnson’s capacity to understand his role by way of policies which won him the 2019 election – all aided by the inability of the Labour Party to understand what was happening.
What happened inside the Tory Party between 2017 and 2019 was just as dramatic as what happened within Labour but, such is the blindness of the membership and the arrogance of its leadership that its significance remains unlearned.
Aside from all the continuing issues surrounding Corbyn and suspensions/expulsions over anti-semitism as well as identity politics, the central issue is that the period between 2017 and 2019 showed the influence that the Labour Party, as an opposition party, continued to have over the governing party.
That influence was manifested in the policies the Tories developed in its efforts to win the “Red Wall”. Whether, Johnson or the Tories are capable of delivering on those policies remains to be seen. At present it seems that Johnson is holding firm despite a growing body of opinion within the party which is seeking to abandon them in favour of “fiscal probity”.
But it would be a mistake to see the outcome of the present struggle within the government as being outside the realms of anything the Labour Party is currently doing in opposition. The inept leadership that continues to handicap the ability of Labour to influence these events in opposition will inevitably be a component in the outcome of the struggle currently taking place in the Tory party. The longer that continues the more it will contribute to an outcome that favours traditional Treasury economics over Johnson’s version of One-Nation Conservatism.
From the Tory perspective as long as there remains the “threat” of a genuinely coherent and radical Labour Part emerging from the current turmoil the more that sustains the Johnson position. Should the turmoil continue within Labour or Labour fails to adopt policies that contain a genuine radical component, that will be reflected in how the Tories move towards the next general election.
At present, with Starmer failing to grasp the opportunity provided by the transport and energy crisis to formulate policies that offer some hope of an alternative to these market failures the situation is looking good for Sunak and his allies.
It could be argued that bringing down the Tories is all that counts and ordinarily that would be an understandable argument. But for the Tories to be brought down requires the electorate to bring them down and for that to happen the Labour Party must prove itself an attractive alternative. How attractive is the current Labour Party to the “Red Wall”?
As far as I can see the best prospect for the working class at present is for the Labour Party to recognise what is needed by way of policies that reflect the current popular awareness of market failures. In that way, even in opposition, the party can influence events inside government. But a failure to recognise that need by a return to policies designed around a Blair-light party will not only not result in a Labour government but, in the meantime, will prove an ally to the Sunak “fiscal probity” element within the Tory party as it seeks to dominate government policies moving forward.