Does anyone know if the Labour Party is still going?

It seems as if Labour's idea for winning votes back is to hope the Conservatives are so terrible that everyone chooses Labour instead, even if they’ve disappeared

Mark Steel
Thursday 11 February 2021 18:14 GMT
<p>Labour leader Keir Starmer – maybe?</p>

Labour leader Keir Starmer – maybe?

Does anyone know what the Labour Party is doing? Are they still going? Maybe they were wound up in November, and have retrained as yoga instructors or pig farmers.

Occasionally someone on the news mentions that the Labour Party has commented on something, such as: “Labour’s shadow minister for education said, ‘I am currently out of the office until 19 May. If your inquiry is urgent, please contact Mrs Tilbury at the Post Office and she will try to suggest a policy.’”

Luckily it’s been a calm year, with only the usual issues no one takes much notice of, so it’s been an ideal time to stay quiet.

One task of an opposition is to “hold the government to account”. But Labour have said it’s difficult to criticise the government during a pandemic. That’s understandable, because when a government causes the worst rate of infections in the world, you shouldn’t criticise that, as it can seem ungrateful. And when it offers tens of billions of pounds’ worth of contracts to companies that were often useless, and usually connected to people in the government, it would be churlish to find fault.

And how do you criticise people such as Dominic Cummings and Jacob Rees-Mogg? Whatever you say about them, their behaviour is above criticism.

Keir Starmer criticised the government on one issue, insisting they “should have opened the schools earlier”. So the one thing all scientists agree was done too early, he attacked them for doing too late.

Maybe he should have tried something similar with Dominic Cummings, complaining he didn’t drive far enough. He could have surprised Boris Johnson by saying: “Mr Speaker, if the prime minister’s senior adviser was concerned about his eyes, he should have tested them far more thoroughly. Instead of simply driving to Barnard Castle, he should have driven to Aberystwyth and organised a rave with 500 of his mates.”

It seems as if their idea for winning votes back is to hope the Conservatives are so terrible that everyone chooses Labour instead, even if they’ve disappeared. It might work, and in four years time, millions of people will say, “I’d like to give that other lot a go, that no longer seem to exist.”

Part of the problem is it’s hard to work out what Labour is trying to do. Who are they trying to persuade? And what are they trying to persuade anyone about? It’s like someone who opens a shop that only sells Lego, marmalade and hardcore porn – no one can work out what market they’re aiming for.

They have one strategy they seem sure of, which is to distance themselves from Jeremy Corbyn. Anything Corbyn approved of has to be discarded, including Corbyn himself. At their next policy review they’ll support napalming allotments.

They’ve made a start with their document that proposes winning back lost voters by “making more use of the union flag, and dressing smartly”. That should do it. Across Mansfield, people will say: “I don’t know what Keir Starmer stands for, but he wears a bespoke Italian silk suit and has a union flag tattooed over his face, so that’s good enough for my vote.”

One question Labour should try and answer at some point, is how they can win back support in Scotland, or alternatively how they can win without any MPs in Scotland. Ever since they lost all their seats except one to the SNP, their approach seems mostly to have been to call the SNP a bunch of idiotic scum, insisting Labour is more anti-independence than ever. This has proved so successful, Labour is down to 16 per cent in Scotland.

Maybe this will work, it just needs more time. In the same way, one day we’ll all realise that Millwall fans, when they roar “You’re full of ****, **** and more ****” at opposing fans, and lob bottles at them, they’re trying to win them over by reaching out.

Anas Sarwar, a member of the Scottish Parliament for Glasgow, published his “five-point plan for taking on the SNP and Tories”, of which the first is a “digital directorate, adapted to modern campaigning”. That’s the main thing, because no one’s bothered what a party says, as long as it’s said digitally. From now on, instead of saying they support staying with Britain on old-fashioned leaflets, they’ll dance it on TikTok in Paul Smith union jack suits, and Aberdeen will be theirs.  

Number two is: “We must talk about health, education and poverty.” That’s a good point, but does make you wonder what they’ve been talking about until now. Have they been knocking on doors and talking about canoeing, the route from Glasgow to Greenock avoiding the M8 and the best place in Motherwell to go dogging?

The Green Party is now at 8 per cent in the polls across Britain, so Labour has lost a couple of million supporters there, but they’re probably only young passionate people so they can afford to let those ones go.

If you suggest Labour could be doing better, you invite retorts such as “He’s doing better than Corbyn”. This is possibly true, but that’s quite a low bar anti-Corbyn Labour supporters have set, to do better than the person they derided as the worst person ever. It’s like a football manager brought in because the team lost 7-0, announcing, “Never again will we be humiliated like this. Under my leadership I’m determined to lose 6-0.”

Similarly if you suggest Corbyn made any mistakes at all, you’re told by some of his supporters to “Piss off and join the Tories, you traitor”, a debating point that might need smoothing down at some point.

So I suggest one half of the party spends a year teaching yoga, while the other half looks after pigs, and they all start again in 2022.

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