Weeks in to the local election campaign and I’m still none the wiser about what the results will be. There has never been a great deal of enthusiasm amongst voters for local elections, with turnouts often well below a third. Perhaps many people detect that councils are often unable to make a significant difference when their hands are tied by central government. ‘Localism’ it has to be said doesn’t have that stirring feel to it either, especially if genuine local choices lead to ’postcode lotteries’ in the delivery of services.
So it’s a mixed picture on the doorstep, although I have not come across any hostility—there have been a lot more friendly responses in fact. But it is clear that voters are still scratching their heads about what Labour stands for, and there is no denying I have come across quite a few people who think of Starmer negatively. Perhaps this leadership factor explains why Labour isn’t leaps and bounds ahead in the polls in the midterm of one of the worst governments we’ve ever experienced.
The cost of living crisis should provide Labour with the opportunity to radically reappraise how the economy is run, but nothing has been proposed (so far as I can see) which addresses the structural deficiencies of the economy. For Starmer ownership is not an issue. The invisible hand of the market only needs the occasional gentle slap to put things right. That gentle slap, in the form of say a windfall tax on energy company profits makes a good line for election leaflets but only addresses the symptom not the cause.
Are we allowed to question causes? Apparently not. Anyone foolish enough to ask whether NATO’s expansion up to Russia’s border was a good idea risks being disciplined in the Labour Party, on the grounds that this question suggests that there is an equivalence between NATO and Russia, as Starmer put it. The question does not suggest an equivalence, but what the hell, Labour is the party of NATO, and NATO is part of our flag-waving patriotism. It is deeply ironic that our fear of mutually assured destruction has not stopped this war, and has stymied NATO’s response to it. But to question what NATO is for is now deemed reprehensible.
Still the fight goes on. The alternative is nihilism. And we can glimpse what that means the more ‘social’ media intrudes into the public discourse.