Illustration by Ben Beechener
With the turmoil of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, British politics has essentially become a joke. From the lies of the Brexit campaign to the infamous Christmas parties, the Tories have created a tainted reputation that they may struggle to redeem. Meanwhile, the Labour Party seems hilariously incapable in exploiting this situation to its advantage.
It seems to me as if Keir Starmer is the pure definition of Labour: disengaged, unconvincing and a truly lost opposition… And what about the rest of the party? Where are the members? What are their names? The Labour Party’s failed campaigning stands in a disappointing contrast with its progressive manifesto. And this all boils down to one question: if we are to have faith in British politics, is it time for a new party to make an entrance?
Let’s start by examining the current party in office, our beloved Tories, who seem to believe that Boris Johnson’s campaigning hacks will continue to pave a path to victory. The main problem with the Tories is not their manifesto or their lavish campaigning but the morality of their politicians. I must admit, I am rather impressed by Tory cabinet’s ability to lie so boldly in the face of public outrage, seemingly unfazed by the thousands of mocking memes floating across Instagram and Tiktok. But do you know what strikes me the most? Their absolute ignorance of public opinion. We don’t need increased arms spending, Boris, we need increased salaries to protect our keyworkers.
But not only is the Tory party increasingly out of touch with public opinion, I don’t think they actually care. Whether it be Priti Patel or Rishi Sunak, Tory cabinet members seem to be consumed in a ‘fight’ to the top, oblivious to that at least a modicum of personal appeal is needed if they want any chance of winning. Initially rather fond of Sunak’s charisma and ‘Eat out to help out’ scheme myself, it didn’t take him long to derail the idealised image of ‘heroic furlough chancellor’. As for Priti Patel – let’s not get started on that one (I’ll need a whole separate article to discuss this issue).
And now to Boris Johnson, an Oxford graduate himself, who thought that prioritisation of the economy was a sufficient reason to risk thousands of lives by failing to enforce a tight lockdown on time. To add further fuel to the fire, he deemed it morally correct to obsess over cheese and wine all while laughing in the face of the electorate. I wonder whether he has realised that the rules his party creates are to be abided by universally, not just designed to exclude those with significant political power.
Then we move to the Labour Party, whose progressive regional policies in the arenas of healthcare, environment and social housing seem rather impressive. Their catchy pledge to ‘unlock the potential of London’ by building 35,000 new council and social homes a year, for example, showcases their commitment to socio-economic change.
As for the leader himself, ‘the son of a toolmaker’, Keir Starmer has a promising background. His career has seen him go from successful barrister to Director of Public Prosecution (for which he received a knighthood) to becoming leader of the Labour Party having been in politics for just five years. You get the message, he seems like a good guy. With Labour’s manifesto so appealing and its leader so impressive, you may be wondering what the problem is…
Well, firstly Starmer is too nice – he needs to be bolder. And there’s another problem, a big one. Apart from Starmer and Angela Rayner, I am not aware of a single member of the shadow cabinet, and this is precisely because of Labour’s failure to remind the British public that they exist. They need to ramp up their campaigning, increase their visibility across media sources, and most importantly – stop playing it safe. This is where the irony comes in. The Tories may be great campaigners, but they fail to remain in touch with public opinion. Meanwhile, Labour are poor campaigners, but have just and genuinely necessary policies. You see the problem? The wrong party is in power, and the right party doesn’t know how to acquire it.
Some may argue that Labour is, in fact, gradually reaching its highest potential. On the Politico Poll of Polls, Labour held a 9 point lead on 18th January – their highest since the poll began 8 years ago. Although it is true that this has been achieved without any real campaigning, this strategy of actively avoiding headlines has its limits. As the Tory party recovers from these scandals and eventually changes its leader, Labour will no longer have a valid excuse to continually play it safe.
This leaves me pondering the potential for a new party in our British Political system. We need a new breath of fresh air, a party which knows how to campaign with a progressive manifesto to drive Britain forward. We need passionate, bold, just leaders with universal expertise in socio-economic and political affairs.
Is this possible? Yes. Yes, it certainly is. And how can this be achieved? Through encouraging people from all walks of life to enter politics, not for power of fame, but for a genuine drive to create positive change in society. The current issue with British politics is that it primarily attracts a certain type, the wealthy Oxbridge, private school educated politicians, completely out of touch with the change that Britain needs. Not only does this lead to the implementation of regressive economic policies that widen the inequality gap within the UK, but also steers the British political system towards serving the interest of the politicians rather than the people.
So perhaps it’s prime time for a new, innovative party that focusses on bringing new voices and greater diversity into politics. One way in which this can be achieved is through introducing a long-term education strategy which aims to foster the political ambitions of state comprehensive students.
We need to create a spark in British politics, and for a spark to be created, a new party is the right place to start. Perhaps such a party could find a middle ground between Labour and the Conservatives and take the name: ‘The Centralists’.
So, have we lost all faith in British Politics? No, not entirely. If there’s one thing life in Oxford has taught me, it’s that it’s not hard to succeed at politics with the right strategy, it’s just that the players need to learn how to play the game.