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A Labour victory isn’t as likely as we might imagine

Leon Neal/Getty

Keir Starmer is a politician of “grossly unsung excellence”, says Janan Ganesh in the FT. He took over a Labour party in such electoral ruin “that it might never have won again”, and in such “ethical disgrace” that it probably didn’t deserve to. He lost his first year to a pandemic that made the act of opposing government seem borderline “treasonous”. Yet the polling swing he has secured since then is “monstrous”. Even if he achieves no more than a hung parliament, he will still have been “the best leader of the opposition since the war”.

Despite all this, his chances of getting into Downing Street are much overrated. For one thing, Labour only wins when the country is “feeling robust”. In 1945, Britain was “demobilised and victorious”. In the mid 1960s, we had “millions of new entrants to the consumer middle class”. In 1997, households felt richer than ever. Is Britain really going to put Labour in charge now, when taxes, inflation and interest rates are at such high levels? Politicos will doubtless point out that those are Conservative failures. “Yes. And so?” For ordinary people, politics is an exercise in “sniffing out the lesser evil”. Voters may be “sick of Tory nonsense”, but that’s only because the party has been in the spotlight so long. Once we get close to an election, people will be reminded of Labour nonsense: the “identity neuroses”, the “moralising overkill” of NHS rhetoric, and so on. That’s the thing about elections – they “have a way of equalising the scrutiny”.