As this hapless government lurches from one catastrophe to the next, and we continue to see sterling performances by our frontbenchers, it is little wonder that many people are asking “how long can Boris last?” and saying: “bring it on”.
That’s understandable, but three things stick in my mind. First, learn the lessons of history. Think Thatcher in ’81. Massively unpopular in both the country and in her own party. But with the Falklands, she turned things around and led to 14 years of misery for our people.
I do believe that there may be enough sympathy for Boris Johnson as he faces the huge challenge of Covid because many still think of him as one of the lads doing his best. He is still not seen as a consummate politician, and that may help him.
Secondly, this man has obsessed about this job for half a century. He will do anything he can to cling on, no matter what mess he leaves behind for his successor and regardless of which party the next Prime Minister belongs to. The sycophants who own their existence in Westminster to him will not be moved easily by more sane heads as the implosion goes on.
Thirdly, I do believe that the Tories will spend big time to get re-elected and in doing so they will steal some of our clothes. They’ve already shown in this crisis that they will not let ideology get in the way: this is a man who has no real ideological soul. We believe in spending public money for public good; he will spend it to ensure his own part in history.
We in Labour will continue to face huge difficulties in regaining the power we need to lead our country forward. If we are to have any chance to do that, we need to focus our collective strengths and experience in a united way.
We must stop tearing each other apart. As a candidate in the Constituency Labour Party (CLP) section of the national executive committee (NEC) elections, I’ve been amazed at the number of different factions that are vying for support. From Tribune to the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance and others along the way, I fervently hope that we aren’t seeing the entrenchment of opposites on our ruling body to continue the sad and sorry infighting that has epitomised so much of our recent past. We can’t afford this to continue. Of course we can disagree with each other – but if disunity becomes the focus of the NEC, it will poison the chances of us getting into power.
We also need to listen to the people we’ve lost in the last two decades. I’m aghast that I’m living in a Tory-led constituency for the first time in almost 60 years. The local people aren’t swivel-eyed loonies, but they do feel that they’ve been deserted and that the security they took for granted in their lives in heavy industry and manufacturing is now a distant memory. We must talk with them, not at them, and develop an offer that will attract them to believe in us once again.
We must not lose sight of our comrades in the trade unions either. By and large, they have never deserted us, despite many of their members expressing their dissatisfaction with us and more and more of them turnIng away from us at the ballot box. Their members could and should be the bedrock on which we build our party back up again. They know their workplaces and communities – and if we reinvigorate a proper political education programme jointly with our comrades, we could reach deeply into communities where we are now regarded with suspicion.
I would hope to play my part at the top of our party in taking us back into the hearts of our nation, but whether I’m sitting around the NEC table or not I will still be urging our leaders to accept the advice I have given in this article. Stop the infighting, develop an offer to the nation by working with the real people, fully engage with our union comrades to build a party for the future from the ground up.