international analysis and commentary

How Labour will win the next UK election

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Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party will lose the next general election. The ruling Conservatives have presided over an era of low growth, rising prices, and failing public services, while being seen to repeatedly break the core bond of trust they struck with the electorate. Whether it’s Brexit, Covid and Partygate, Levelling Up, Austerity, National Health System, Inflation, Sewage, Rwanda, BBC Government Bias, Metropolitan Police, Food Prices, Energy Prices, Covid personal protective equipment Scandals, Dirty Donations, three Prime ministers in a year, Truss/Kwarteng Disaster Budget, Cash for Honours, Unaffordable Housing and Higher Mortgage Rates. There has not been a single significant pledge made by the party over the past decade which it has met.

The Conservative Party is now going to try to avoid any real responsibility for what looks set to be a truly catastrophic defeat at the next general election. According to Professor Tim Bale, the UK’s foremost academic authority on the Conservatives, the party is now in danger of leaving “the mainstream centre-right and sailing off into the shark-infested, migrant-bashing, war-on-woke, multiculturalism-has-failed, conspiracy-fuelled waters of national populism.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak approval rating now stands at 35% against 65% disapproval. Labour has a 20% lead over the Conservatives. This is more of a problem for the Conservatives than for Labour because they are also fighting a lot of seats where the main challenger is the Liberal Democrats, whose support has fallen to 9%. The main beneficiary has been Reform, the populist right party which has risen from an average of 6% to 12%. It’s not hard to think of things that could push Reform towards 15% of the vote: a couple of big defections; further prominent failures on immigration; the return of the more charismatic Nigel Farage to lead the party.

Labour Party’s leader Keir Starmer

 

Labour had an exceptionally strong run in two recent by-elections (See Table 1). Keir Starmer has now achieved swings of 20 points or more four times in the last year, equaling Tony Blair’s record in opposition. And the 28.5-point swing in Wellingborough this February was just a whisker away from Blair’s record for the largest swing to Labour ever achieved in a by-election, the 29.1-point swing recorded in Dudley West in 1994. Even the more modest-seeming swing of 16.6 points in Kingswood is in fact very large by historical standards – it is larger than Labour managed in any by-election between the mid-1990s and 2022. These by-elections confirm what is also evident from the polling averages: nothing has changed. Labour remains dominant, and on course for a crushing win.

Table 1: 15th February 2024 by-election results

 

Real household income has not increased for the past 15 years. The average UK household is 20% poorer than citizens living in northwestern Europe. A survey for the Resolution Foundation in January 2024 found that 11% of Britons (the equivalent of 6 million people) had not eaten when hungry because they did not have enough money for food.

Britain’s low-growth economy is not only relentlessly reducing the country’s living standards. It is also forcing everyone to pay higher taxes for worse public services: The British live in a world of over-crowded emergency health services, and ever-lengthening NHS waiting lists (See Table 2) Britain has one of the lowest ratios of doctors and hospital beds per patient in the whole of the OECD.

Table 2

 

The Conservative government bears much of the responsibility for these dismal facts — it has presided over the biggest fall in labor productivity growth in 260 years of data. Brexit has clearly done direct economic harm: The Bank of England has estimated that Brexit reduced investment by 25% during the five years to 2021, largely due to uncertainty. It also distracted politicians from the mundane work of fixing day-to-day economic problems. The natural state of the civil service is inertia unless it is directed by knowledgeable and experienced politicians: Britain has had four Prime ministers since David Cameron resigned in 2016. Theresa May was succeeded by Boris Johnson. Johnson was replaced by Liz Truss in September 2022. She lasted a mere 44 days, being driven from office when her so-called Kwasi Kwarteng mini budget rapidly lost the confidence of the markets and raised the price of British government bonds, and sent the pound tumbling (See Table 3).

Table 3

 

The Conservative governments since 2010 have failed on delivering policies and improving the lives of the people. Brexit has permanently damaged the economy (See Table 4). There is hardly a sector that is not being adversely affected by the poor deal that Boris Johnson concluded with the EU in January 2021.

Table 4

 

The latest Ipsos Political Pulse, taken 16-19 February 2024, reveals former Prime minister Liz Truss with by far the lowest net favorability score. She is followed by Sunak, Cameron, Johnson and May (See Table 5).

Table 5

 

The Conservatives will lose the next election. They have had 14 long years in power, and nothing is working. Westminster is busy waiting for the general election. Many Conservative MPs have given up on winning their seats, which partly explains their ill-discipline. Rishi Sunak cannot spend time even trying to win the next election because he is so busy balancing the various factions in his own party. The Conservatives are already thinking about the next leader of the party in opposition with the added threat from the right-wing populist Reform party as a competitor for votes on the right of British politics.