international analysis and commentary

Labour’s coming victory, and the serious challenges for a new government

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The snap elections, called for on July 4th by UK PM Rishi Sunak, are expected to produce a landslide win for the leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer, and his Labour Party. The results are projected to be similar, or superior, to those of the 1997 win by Tony Blair, which followed 18 years of Tory governments led by Margaret Thatcher and John Major. According to data collected by YouGov, the Tories could be left with only 140 seats (out of 650). This would be the greatest electoral loss for the Conservative Party since 1906. While there are similarities between the late 1990s and the current Labour momentum (the long series of Tory-led governments and Labour defeats are the most prominent), the differences are far more significant.

Tony Blair had a new vision with the Third Way, while Keir Starmer is mainly looking at turning back the clock to those days, but without Blair’s charisma or vision. Furthermore, we are in a different world, where the far right has gained momentum, also thanks to the neoliberal path followed by socialist and social democratic parties.

It is also a world in which Britain’s global influence is not as strong as it was at the end of the 1990s. In addition to the rises of India, China and other emerging economies, Brexit has certainly not made the country any more influential. So, what is the outlook for the Labour electoral campaign, given the party’s history over the last few years?

Labour’s Keir Starmer

 

From Corbyn to Starmer: a Labour momentum, or not?

Jeremy Corbyn was able to make Labour the party with the biggest membership in Europe, but figures have been declining since his defeat in the December 2019 elections. The Islington North member of parliament was not able to win in the elections against Boris Johnson, also because his leadership was undermined from within and because of grave mistakes, such as not facing antisemitism in the party head on.

Keir Starmer was then elected leader, in a competition with Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy. The current leader was, however, elected on a manifesto that aimed to continue a socialist path, however one that was different from Corbyn’s.

Despite this, Starmer has increasingly shifted the party to the center and to the right, openly challenging the party’s left wing, by either isolating or expelling its members. The Labour leader has, in fact, decided to follow a path opposite to the one embraced by Joe Biden in 2020, when he gained the support of Bernie Sanders and the Democratic Party’s left.

 

Read also: How Labour will win the next UK election

 

Overall, while Labour enjoys an impressive lead over the conservatives, this does not seem to have much to do with Starmer’s new course. Instead, it is much more linked to voters’ dissatisfaction with over a decade of Tory rule, as well as scandals, the pandemic, Brexit, a cost of living crisis, inflation and deep cuts to public expenditure, with the National Health System bearing the weight.

However, Starmer and his leadership’s decision to bring down the party’s left could turn out to be problematic for them on July 4th, as their stance on Gaza, in particular, has created rifts with people of color, Muslims and left-wing voters.

 

Independent left wing, Greens, Lib Dems and all the Labour challenges

Jeremy Corbyn was suspended from the party and had his whip removed, but has decided to run as an independent in his constituency of Islington North, where he has been a member of parliament since 1983. Local Labour councilor and candidate Praful Nargund is certainly expected to have a difficult challenge, and in case of his defeat, Labour would lose a seat that it has held since 1929 (with the exception of a shift of two years between 1981 and 1983 when Labour MP Michael O’ Halloran joined the Social Democratic Party and then became an independent).

Diane Abbott, the first Black woman elected to the House of Commons had her whip removed following a letter on the hierarchies of racism in The Observer (for which she has long apologized) and is running for Labour for her Hackney North constituency (which she has represented since 1987). However, this outcome is largely due to Abbott’s stance and the support she received. Given her long alliance with Corbyn and her socialist battles, Abbott’s stance is not in line with the current Labour leadership. However her history has made it much more difficult to exclude her.

The same cannot be said for the candidate Faiza Shaheen, who was due to represent the party in the Chingford and Woodford Green constituencies. Shaheen’s deselection was caused by social media posts she liked between 2014 and 2024, including a sketch of Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. Shaheen has also announced a decision to run as an independent following the treatment from Labour, and this is likely to cause trouble for the Labour candidate Shama Tatler, given the great support and backing in her area and the reaction of residents to her exclusion.

Shaheen’s exclusion and Abbott’s mistreatment also speak of the issues that Labour has with anti-Black racism and Islamophobia, issues that the party chose to ignore after the findings of a report funded by it, the Forde Report.

In this light, Starmer’s stance against antisemitism seems to have much more to do with factionalism that with actually fighting hate. Labour candidate in North Durham, Luke Akehurst, has recently deleted some tweets advocating for the Palestinian genocide in Gaza and calling the UN antisemitic.

The last battle on the independent side is the one from Leanne Mohammad, the 23-year-old British Palestinian who is challenging Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting in Ilford North.

All of these challenges speak to how the Labour Party is alienating women of color, Muslim voters, left-wing and minority voters. However, while the road to Downing Street is more or less certain for Starmer, a permanence at the address in 2029 may be in doubt.