The battle lines have been drawn for the New Year.
Johnson has a Brexit triumph to trumpet and a vaccine to roll-out, Starmer has a vision for a renewed Britain to sell.
It’s Christmas Day, and you’re never too early to see how the political battle lines are being drawn for the ensuing New Year. 2021 will be a unique cocktail of political forces none of us could have foreseen this time last year, in the wake of Johnson’s electoral triumph and the promise of a decade of Tory hegemony. 2021 will be the year that hegemony is either locked in, or Keir Starmer seizes the accolade of PM in waiting.
Prime Minister Johnson has a lot to back him up in 2021. He’s just secured the Brexit deal we always knew he would, and no matter how awful the deal is, it’s a political boon for Johnson like no other. It allows the Tories to dominate the political debate, divide Labour’s coalition, delivering the referendum result, and ticking off the promise they were elected to deliver. Britain elected a Hard Brexit government, and they’ve delivered a Hard Brexit just in time for Christmas. Above all else, this sets Johnson up for a political revival.
Johnson’s other saving grace in 2021, is the vaccine rollout. If this goes off without a hitch, Johnson can position himself and his government as the heroes of COVID-19, with the ensuing feel good factor washing away the cobwebs of resentment towards the dire handling of the pandemic thus far. Sunny Boris can wax lyrical about Rule Britannia, and all will be well for him politically, as his tone finally suits the mood.
Sir Keir Starmer has a mountain to climb to have even a hope of toppling Johnson in 2024, and 2021 could be looked back on as the make-or-break year for his prospects as a potential Prime Minister. Starmer has to offer leadership, contrasting his style with that of Johnson, and demonstrating how the country would have weathered this storm better with him as the helm. He has to offering a coherent and compelling vision of a renewed Britain, powerful enough to overcome the singing siren of Tory faux patriotism, and coalition-dividing culture wars. Johnson may have delivered Brexit, Starmer must unite Remain and Leave behind a true Taking Back Control, with federalism, localism, radical economics, and a new politics. If all this goes out without a hitch, internal party divisions are overcome, and Johnson stumbles during the latter phases of the pandemic.
It’s too soon to predict the 2024 general election, but one thing is for certain: by Christmas 2021, we’ll have much more of an idea than we do right now.