AN insight into how Sir Keir Starmer could campaign to win the next General Election, assuming there is no revolt against his leadership in the wake of the possible loss of Batley and Spen in the forthcoming by-election, could be provided by Labour’s behaviour during World War II.
The party and their fellow-travellers campaigned against their coalition partners throughout, but it would have been in extremely bad taste to be constantly sniping at the government response in general rather than in specific areas such as the reduction in liberty and its patchy enforcement. Instead of verbal attacks from soap-boxes or in packed meetings of the faithful against either their Conservative opponents or wartime government policy, which could have been subject to legal sanction under emergency laws (the Daily Worker, newspaper of the Communist Party of Great Britain, which was in effect Britain’s opposition party after May 1940, was actually banned for a while), the criticism was of the pre-war governments led by Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain, over the policy of appeasement of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, and was literary.
The attacks started when Britain faced the invasion crisis of 1940 with a book called Guilty Men authored by three journalists under the pseudonym ‘Cato’, of whom one was Michael Foot. It was an instant bestseller. This was the first of a series of works published by Gollancz called ‘Victory Books’. In vain did Conservative MP Quintin Hogg try to stem the flow with his own counterblast The Left Was Never Right. Gollancz’s slim volumes were published through the war right up to the 1945 election, culminating in Can the TORIES Win the Peace, and How They LOST the Last One, which was authored by Konni Zilliacus, a pro-Stalin Soviet sympathiser who himself was elected for Labour in 1945, but was later expelled from the party due to his opposition to Nato. Remind you of anyone?
Today Labour, in the words of Shadow Education Minister Kate Green, cannot let a good crisis go to waste. In fact Green has outlined in this recording precisely what Labour’s attack line will be.
Labour will denounce the ‘Guilty Men’ who left Britain unprepared, pointing to government underspending for the last decade and a failure to focus on the threat of coronaviruses. Another line could be to suggest that there were disproportionate fatalities amongst the medically vulnerable, and that the government is somehow responsible for not prioritising them. That could also state the vulnerabilities were caused by a failure to address what passes these days for deprivation. However, what are now described as ‘health inequalities’ are linked to numerous factors other than personal economics. The problem is that the argument is simpler to make than it is to refute, mainly because it is emotive rather than based on medical facts and population statistics. There are other factors, such as immigrants already resident here having the right to bring over medically vulnerable adult relatives from countries whose health and care services compare unfavourably with the NHS.
The hard Left are already blaming the government for every single one of the 150,000 deaths attributed by statisticians to the pandemic, presumably believing that alternative action could have led to zero deaths. The comrades are also demanding a policy aimed at ‘Zero Covid’. (It is strange in this context why these Stalin fanboys have never before demanded ‘zero flu’ during any of the winter months.)
The government’s response to the ‘Guilty Men’ strategy may be helped by increasing evidence that the offending virus was lab-engineered to be more infectious than its natural source. On that basis we have witnessed the release of a biological weapon of mass destruction. So Labour’s leadership does run the risk of supporting the wrong side. But any government refutation in this context could ramp up anti-China rhetoric, and foreign policy considerations might militate against that.
In the absence of anything else, and Boris Johnson parking more of his tanks of what used to be Labour’s lawn, the ‘Guilty Men’ strategy might be an election winner. Just as Adolf Hitler helped Clement Attlee to his election victory in 1945, so Xi Jinping, or one of his incompetent or malevolent minions, may do the same for Sir Keir. He may have no choice but to use the ‘Guilty Men’ strategy, as he seems to have nothing else in his political armoury. Since he is still just an opposition leader, and a quite inexperienced one held in low public esteem, he does not have much more to lose.