'Labour's wishy-washy policy may not stop Starmer from becoming PM - but they are a sign of trouble ahead' - Mark Littlewood

Keir Starmer

Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party

Mark Littlewood

By Mark Littlewood

Published: 09/06/2024

- 05:00

'What the Conservatives need more than anything is some sense of momentum,' says Chair of Pop Con, Mark Littlewood

If we are to believe the opinion polls, Labour is on course for a comfortable victory on July 4th, but Britain’s two-party system is still intact.

The Conservatives may have had a wobbly start to the campaign and are trailing Sir Keir Starmer’s party badly, but no survey of public opinion has the Tories dropping into third place.

The standard belief is that a winning electoral coalition is secured by appealing to floating undecided voters who are in the elusive “middle ground” of politics to get to the magic 40 per cent threshold which is typically enough to win a majority in Parliament.

Dig below the surface of public opinion though and that’s not how this election is panning out. We may still have something that looks like a two party system, but the blocks of voters they represent have started to come apart at the edges. It might not be long before they unravel completely.

First, look at Labour’s strategy. Their core plan is twofold – to say as little as possible and frighten no one. The fewer the number of people scared by the prospect of a Labour government, the more confident they can be of victory in July.

Sure, there will be policy announcements and a manifesto but nothing to frighten the horses. The main themes of their campaign will be extraordinarily vanilla. They will talk vaguely about a “decade of renewal” and deploy other such word salad terms.

This could well get them over the line but already they face problems on their left flank. Jeremy Corbyn is running as an independent and has every chance of being re-elected in his Islington seat. George Galloway stunned Labour by winning the recent Rochdale by-election and his Workers Party of Britain will peel votes away from Starmer’s party, particularly where there is a high Muslim vote.

These nascent signs of disillusionment with a wishy-washy Labour Party may not stop Keir Starmer becoming Prime Minister but they are most certainly a sign of trouble ahead. If an alternative left-wing force can get its act together, this will be a permanent drag on a Labour administration – pushing them ever further leftwards for fear that they can’t permanently keep together an electoral bloc which is a mile wide but only an inch deep.

The Conservatives have already seen their coalition melt away. Their strategy is rather different. Hovering around the mid to low twenties in the polls, the first aim is to win back some cohort of voters who might typically be expected to vote Tory.

The key message that a vote for Reform will only assist Labour will be repeated endlessly. If the polls fail to shift soon, the Conservatives might even tacitly accept defeat but urge people to vote blue to stop Stramer from securing a mammoth majority.

What the Conservatives need more than anything is some sense of momentum, however modest. But that begins with a desperate scramble to reassemble some sort of respectable base vote. Until the party can get to about 30 per cent of the vote in the polls, there will be an impression that Rishi Sunak is barely making a fight of it.

Inspiring those who have defected to Reform or are considering abstaining is the primary aim. So promises about national service and more generous state pensions are unsurprising. This is a core voter strategy.

Whatever happens on July 4th, both major parties are going to have to recalibrate the coalitions upon which they are based. Labour may already be losing votes to the hard left and that could become an avalanche if they disappoint hardcore socialists in government, which they would be bound to do. The Conservatives don’t currently have a big enough coalition to win an election and that means vacuuming up those on the right to get anywhere close to the finishing line.

The two party system will likely remain in place, but both main parties are going to have to radically change who they think they represent.

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