Tory hegemony will end in the 2030s.
We’re in for at least another decade of uninterrupted Tory rule.
When will this fever dream of Tory government end? When will people finally wake up to the fact these Etonian charlatans have an absolutely dire governing track record on everything from public services to foreign affairs to the economy, and that they shouldn’t continue in office another second if there’s any justice in the world? We often ask ourselves these questions, for right now, Tory government doesn’t just feel like the national default, it feels like a cold, cruel inevitability.
The Conservative party, as I’ve written before, is the most successful election winning operation in the world. In popular culture we use Tory as an insult, but in the political arena the House Of Commons has had a majority of Tory MPs for something around 80 of the last 100 years, and right now, in 2021, it’s enjoying a majority the size of which we haven’t seen since the 1980s and the heyday of Thatcher, when defectors to the SDP split Labour’s vote down the middle and denied Michael Foot the keys to No 10.
The Labour party story is a story of infighting and opposition, with very occasional spells in government under exceptional circumstances, so rare that any Labour leader who wins at the polls is almost immediately iconic because a Labour Prime Minister is historically such a rare thing in this country. There hasn’t been a Labour Prime Minister since I was a young child, and there hasn’t been a social democratic Labour Prime Minister since my parents were young children.
The Tories have a distinct grip on the British public, be it traditionalist, deferential attitudes to power, or some lingering nostalgia for Empire and the ruling class that brought it to us, we seem to instinctively WANT to vote Tory, unless something major throws us off course. The default setting in the public’s minds is to vote Conservative, voting Labour (or anyone else) is the leftfield choice; a truly bizarre state of affairs, when most places at least have intermittent alterations between two or more parties, even if there aren’t huge gaps between the parties politically, no one party has these sort of undiluted stints.
I have a hypothesis for when Tory hegemony ends, and I believe it ends in the 2030s. That’s not to say there won’t be Tory governments after that time, but that their intrinsic grip and inbuilt advantages will begin to erode, and the prospect of a progressive government will look and feel much more realistic than it does today, or has for a while. Indeed, the aftermath of 2017 may have been the last chance to get these people out between now and 2030.
And what a squandered opportunity it was. A progressive Labour party at last, with a radical Labour leader who has set the imaginations of the public alight, won 40% against the odds, and was on a collision course with No 10 and the Prime Ministership within a year or two. Jeremy Corbyn had the best chance any Labour leader had of taking power since Blair, and it looked like, despite unprecedented attacks from the establishment, he just might do it, with modelling indicating a modest Labour majority.
Alas, the Labour right joined in the attacks, and actively worked to sabotage the prospect of a Labour government, all to stop Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister. Any friction now from the Labour left was absolutely nothing compared to the all out assault these people carried out day after day, damaging their party far more than any Tory attack line could; that’s why Corbyn’s ratings sank so low by the end, when your own party attacks you, the public pays attention, and actually take it as credible.
So, that golden chance, that golden chance to take power on a radical Labour platform, in many ways a once in a generation chance to put someone with Jeremy Corbyn’s commitment, principles, and worldview into No 10, was passed upon, because the same political tradition who allowed Thatcher her landslides by forming the SDP, decided to become Europhiles, and kill Labour’s electoral coalition stone dead, before blaming the leader trying to hold it all together, and taking power after blaming him and his ideas for the disastrous defeat in the midst of all this.
And now, Keir Starmer is at the helm, and his political strategy is wildly out of step with the public. He’s seen as Mr Remain, when the centre of political gravity is resoundingly Eurosceptic for the time being, and he’s failing to deliver radical policies, which is exactly what voters (especially potential Labour voters) want; they want a transformative vision, third way centrism as an electoral force is dead, dead, dead.
The problem for the next election in (likely) 2023, and the following one in 2028, is structural AND political. Structurally, a Labour majority is now near impossible save a swing so huge Jacob Rees-Mogg looses his seat. Alongside that, Scotland may be gone, so parliamentary support from the SNP had a ticking time clock and conditions Starmer won’t want to commit to, and not to mention a Tory majority of this size will be extremely difficult to dislodge, and a coalition of Green, Liberal, Scots and Welsh nationalists, all around a minority Labour government which without the other parties would be jarring for those who still think Labourism on its own is a viable political project.
As for the politics of it, the politics is plain and simple: the Labour right don’t care what the evidence says, they will keep attacking and expelling the left, demonizing and patronising young people, and pivoting to the right, spurned on to do it even more every time there’s an electoral defeat. These people are the political equivalent of suicide bombers, as they showed during the Corbyn years, and as they show now. Keir Starmer is a tool for them, and after him, they’ll find someone to his right, and continue the pattern into the 2030s.
So why is there hope in the 2030s. Well, as current younger generations become more dominant within the political system, as demographics erode the Tory advantage, and as Labour begins to shake off the relics and the next generation of Labour people come up (most likely to have been inspired all those years ago by Jeremy Corbyn), Labour will potentially begin to change direction for the better, just as the political climate becomes far more receptive electorally to an alternative government to the Tories.
There is hope that in the future we can become a normal country and have a progressive, decent, radical government that begins to address and face up to the challenges of the 21st century at last, but if Labour pushes the great moving right show for the next decade, this’ll have to wait for the next decade.