I it is only natural that people campaigning for a party and identify with its history treat its traditions with a certain reverence. It is also a role model in British politics.nick that effective party leaders - those who win elections - treat these traditions crudely.
This is why Boris Johnson is not too worried that many conservatives think his " Health and Social Services Levy betrays their sacred creed of low taxation. He hears the complaint as proof that he belongs to the pantheon of prime ministers who have brought new categories of believers to their parties. There could be No Thatcherites without Margaret Thatcher, nor Blairites without Blair.
The job is already half done in the sense that Johnson's electoral coalition is built on voters with no previous cultural affiliation to his party. Some have had to overcome the ancestral aversion to all that is to bery. That doesn't mean these new supporters will be grateful to see their take-home pay drop when the social care tax goes into effect. politics could be.
A question now hanging over the Conservatives is whether their famous victory in December 2019 indicates a radical and permanent change, or an abnormal tide caused by gravitational pull when different political planets have aligned in a one-time fashion: frustration over Brexit not happening, a Labor Party led by Jeremy Corbyn, the postman celebrity "Boris ". Is Johnson rehabilitating the traditional Tory brand or accelerating its decay under the damp blanket of his charisma?
Opinion pollsion does not shed much light on the matter as people cannot accurately predict how they would vote in a future election when something might happen in the meantime. But for now, the curators take comfort in Rishi Sunak's endorsement notes . Political successions are never straightforward, but having a relatively popular Chancellor is a rare luxury for one. party in its 12th year in government.
In contrast, there is no obvious backing up Labor leader and Keir Starmer's lukewarm style. has not yet inspired much confidence in the party, nor much interest elsewhere. After a solid start, his personal notes have gone down and gonent now stabilized. They are not catastrophic, but the trajectory does not point to Downing Street either. He is confident with the Prime Minister, but no one can say what he is ready to do.
The pandemic has not been easy for the opposition. Social restrictions limited the leader's ability to appear in public. In the fire of the national emergency, there was a risk that attacking the government would be seen to be ready to fail, and thus side with the virus.
These constraints, and Starmer's apologies, long expired. He can't afford to come out of this fall's party conference season as limp as he goes. Inevitably, the rival factions of Labor have conflicting diagnoses of unrest and conflicting preions. Much of wh at comes dressed as a request to be more radical is really a complaint that the current leader is not quite like his predecessor. Much of what looks like a request for new leadership is code for a sharper repudiation of Corbyn's legacy.
The hints until now is that Starmer will not satisfy either party by trying to appease both. He is a Labor sentimental at heart. Brutal handling of party icons is not his style. Such delicacy is good for avoiding confrontation with members but it limits its ability to reach a wider audience. Most voters are not interested in what it means to be genuinely Labor and if Starmer's discourse is unity in left it won't go much further.
But even a Rising Majesty's conference speech might notimprove Starmer's outlook if something more interesting happens that day. (The leader of the opposition spoke at the target TUC Annual Conference yesterday, outlining some policies aimed at securing workers' rights. This did not cause a stir to the surface of the day bulletins, which focused on Prime Minister 's Covid winter plan.)
Johnson can steal the show from Starmer at will, or be wrong. With Labor mired in gray and restless soul-searching, the opposition leader is still just a colorful Conservative rebellion far from all relevance.
This is partly a failure of political art in Starmer 's office, but mostly according to Johnson's 80-seat majority. If the Conservatives support the Prime Minister, he can faSay pretty much whatever he wants in Parliament. The Labor vote against it is not news. It is only when there is serious dissent on the government side that Starmer gets a buy on the agenda. The social levy is an example. Before its unveiling last week, there was a lot of talk about the Conservatives' concerns. So the whips set to work; a the cabinet reshuffle was mentioned as a warning shot on the front seat; the government line outfit.
Starmer has been criticized enough for his lack of agility and clarity in the attack, but even with a brilliant headlong charge, he would have needed Tory MPs to open a second front. They could still do it as ande devilishness emerges in the details of politics. Smart opposition can eliminate some of that, but not dictate how Conservatives then react.
This reaction is the factor decisive, not only on the question of social care, but in the eventual fate of Johnson. The drive to reshape a party may be a standard feature of successful leadership in British politics, but so can the eventual backlash when these parties tire of being shoved around. One relevant item here is the list of modern day Conservative leaders who have either been removed from office by their own MPs or weakened and driven to defeat by persistent rebellion: all.
Labor MPs and their partiesIt is not wrong to demand that Starmer improve in order to fight Johnson. But there is also a limit to what the Leader of the Opposition can accomplish when every historical precedent says that the prime minister's nemesis, whoever he is, is a conservative.
- Rafael Behr is a columnist for the Guardian