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Opinion

Gift-wrapped power

09 May 2024 4 minute read
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer with former Conservative MP Natalie Elphicke in his parliamentary office in the House of Commons. Photo Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Ben Wildsmith

Less than a week after the English electorate made it clear that the Conservative Party was about as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit, Sir Keir Starmer responded by adding a little more Tory to his Labour offering.

This time the newcomer is Natalie Elphicke, the MP for Dover. There is a tradition of Tory MPs jumping ship when it starts to list, but these have generally been from the One Nation end of the party, the ‘wets’ as Margaret Thatcher dubbed them.

Nowadays, of course, there is no One Nation end of the party so all that remains are different flavours of Brexity. Even in that context, however, Elphicke, who succeeded her ex-husband as candidate for Dover following his conviction for sexual assault, is considered a right-winger by ‘Brexit hardman’ Steve Baker, the Minister of State for Northern Ireland.

‘I have been searching in vain for a Conservative MP who thinks themself to the right of Natalie Elphicke,’ he tweeted after her defection.

Suspension

She previously made the headlines for receiving a suspension from the Commons for attempting to influence the judge during her husband’s trial.

None of this, however, is considered any bar to her joining the Labour Party as it is today.

Her decision was announced moments before PMQs and allowed Sir Keir an unmissable opportunity to skewer wretched Rishi.

His point, that the country needs an election because the Government cannot rely on the support even of its own MPs is indisputable.

The price he is willing to pay for these moments of triumph, however, may prove to be higher in the long term than he appreciates.

You will have noticed, thanks to the work of this vigorous organ, that our own Labour supremo has not got off to the best of starts.

Greasy pole

As Vaughan Gething begins to slide down the greasy pole he has so tenaciously, and recently, clambered up, it is telling how few voices are being lent to his support.

The allegations against him are serious, for sure, but not of the Jeremy Thorpe dog-shooting order usually required to shake the political class from self-serving loyalty.

Gething’s problem, as much as the accusations surrounding him, is his political emptiness. When scandals arise, a politician needs to be able to point to his principles and ask those around him, ‘Are you willing to throw away all this good stuff we believe in over this temporary embarrassment?’

What, of that sort, can Gething stand on? For which crucial reforms is he the driving force? What of substance will Labour, as a whole, be losing if he goes?

Now, think a few months past the honeymoon of a Starmer victory and apply the same test to him. His current strategy is to position Labour so that it wipes the Tories off the map.

To do that he has reversed not only the commitments he made to Labour members, but even subsequent pledges to the wider electorate.

Only this week, union leaders are warning that his flagship workers’ rights charter is poised to be watered down.

Messy

All governments become embroiled in scandal. Their work is messy, compromised, and done in a rush.

From the moment they assume office they need to be able to rely on the benefit of the doubt and, ultimately, the forgiveness of those who share their fundamental principles.

Labour, at the moment, seems to have one fundamental principle, which is to achieve power. When that is achieved, most likely without any external threat for many years, around what will its leadership inspire loyalty?

By glad-handing right-wing Tories, diluting policies, and prevaricating on issues of international morality, Starmer is weakening his own position as he piles up votes.

We know a thing or two about Labour hegemony here in Wales and it can be an ugly business.

As the First Minister discovers the limits of gift-wrapped power, the putative Prime Minister should take note.


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Y Cymro
Y Cymro
12 days ago

If UK Labour are attracting those deemed to the extreme right of Suella Braverman is a warning to those who think electing the Labour party is the change we need. All I can see is more of the same with Keir Starmer. He’ll focusing mainly on the South East England, those English red wall constituencies in the “North” that voted Tory in 2019 , and to offer untold riches to entice Scottish voters to reject any idea of independence and to come back into the Labour fold. Wales will not even be a footnote. Nothing will change for us. No… Read more »

Neil Anderson
Neil Anderson
7 days ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

Fast forward a decade or two, Y Cymro, to when a decision is being made about protecting London or Cardiff from rising sea waters. Guess which city would get Westminster’s vote? And when coastlines around Cymru, Scotland and England are under similar threat, where will Cymru be in the queue for funding?

Once again, it will be too little, too late for us.

Cymrians all, we must separate urgently from this poisonous union and create our own future.

Sefyll ar wahân fel Cymru ond sefyll gyda’n gilydd fel Cymry

Gall Cymru!

Annibendod
Annibendod
12 days ago

Spot on Ben. I think this piece sums up the despondency those of us on the progressive left feel. I have never felt able to vote Labour. The preposterous finger wagging hostility of the likes of Neil Kinnock at the evils of people like me identifying as a Cymro and wanting democracy for my nation. Nationalism they called it. Mark Drakeford telling people like me that we’re “inherently right wing” … breathtaking intellectual dishonesty. The reality for me was that Labour never cared for me or the cause I believe in which is in all its simplicity, democracy for Wales.… Read more »

J9 1968
J9 1968
11 days ago

If people on “the progressive left” say they never felt able to vote Labour anyway, what does it matter to them that they find Starmer’s Labour even more off-putting than previous incarnations? They’ll have plenty of other candidates to choose from when it comes to voting in the next GE. Or is the dawning realisation that they can’t somehow prevent others voting Labour that distresses so many contributors in the Nation Cymru comment sections these days? People are so wayward, especially in the privacy of the ballot box, so perhaps just worry about placing your own vote – after all,… Read more »

Annibendod
Annibendod
11 days ago
Reply to  J9 1968

Nah mate. A Labour man preaching humility. Good grief, don’t make me laugh! And I will worry about other people’s votes thank you very much. I’m very much concerned with winning them for Plaid Cymru so we can rid Wales of being subjected to the Tory governments your infernal unionism inflicts upon us. But you don’t care do you. You welcome Tories into yout party and you treat Wales as your fiefdom. And you come here preaching humility. I can’t wait to see the back of the Tories, Labour and this abomination of a UK. The sooner the better!

j91968
j91968
10 days ago
Reply to  Annibendod

Assuming a person who asserts a sociopolitical point of view must be male and then also assuming that person is a member of the Labour Party says far more about you than I think you wanted to reveal.

CapM
CapM
11 days ago
Reply to  J9 1968

“All these opinions, but only one vote. Humbling, isn’t it?”

Much better to leave opinions to the apparatus of political parties and the millions of pounds they get from “donors” keen to invest in the patronage of governments they’ve paid for .Not to forget the press and their unaccountable owners.

Opinions are for the likes of them not us little people who should lap up what’s put in our bowls and trot off to the ballot box when summoned.
Content with our role as humble apparatchiks.

J9 1968
J9 1968
10 days ago
Reply to  CapM

You can have and (if you must) even express those opinions until you are blue in the face, but you still only have one vote, as do I. We are all little people. It’s the impotent rage that goes alongside realising that which some people find depressing and frustrating. But those people are in the minority. Political activism is a minority practice, even when you add all the parties and factions together it is still a niche hobby. Most people are so occupied with survival on a personal, professional and family level they just don’t have the bandwith or the… Read more »

CapM
CapM
9 days ago
Reply to  J9 1968

There are a range of political advocacy contributions on view on NationCymru as there are elsewhere. Do you think all those other contributions are also “impotent”?

Your contribution appears to be a combination of -nothing to see here – and – don’t bother it’s a waste of time anyway.
Which looks like a contradiction as you have bothered to spend time saying – nothing to see here!

I look forward to your thoughts on this as you clearly have the bandwidth and the energy available for the consideration of such minutiae.

J9 1968
J9 1968
7 days ago
Reply to  CapM

It is the rage that is impotent, not the person, in the sentencde I typed. No-one is impotent, unless you think turning up and casting our precious vote in the way we think is purposeful, thoughtful and (one hopes) also altruistic is a sign of impotence. I imagine the chartists and the suffragists would be appalled at such a dismissive attitude to a hard-won civil right.

I am more concerned THAT people should vote, not HOW they should vote. In my book, that is democracy in action, that we credit other people with the nous we claim for ourselves.

Last edited 7 days ago by J9 1968
CapM
CapM
7 days ago
Reply to  J9 1968

It is the rage that is impotent, not the person,”
So a person that rages is not impotent?

Also it depends on how you are define and limit the definition of rage. Even criticism could look like rage depending on the definition. The chartists and suffragettes you draw attention to either did or were prepared to commit acts of violence. Was any rage involved or is rage only rage when it has no effect. Shouting on the internet = rage, storming the barricades = not rage.

Voting is the absolute minimum that is involved for a democracy.to function.

J9 1968
J9 1968
6 days ago
Reply to  CapM

Ha! “Voting is the absolute minimum that is involved for a democracy.to function.” What sententious rot.

CapM
CapM
6 days ago
Reply to  J9 1968

“Voting is the absolute minimum that is involved for a democracy.to function.”

“What sententious rot”

Spoken like a true apparatchik

Glwyo
Glwyo
10 days ago
Reply to  J9 1968

Give us run-off voting and we’ll see how many want Labour. Alas, Keith’s party is wedded to electoral psy-op theatre so wonderful that even those vile dictatorships and theocracies that exist overseas do not embarrass themselves to use it.

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