Hello again from the little read and much hated Social Review website!
England has survived a debatably cautious and allegedly irreversible re-opening and made it to August, when Parliament winds down for recess. This means two things: that the Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be nervously eyeing infection rates and hospitalisations, hoping that he will not have to lock the country down again – even as the “pingdemic” means there are more than a handful of awkward situations along the way. It is worth keeping in mind that consistently through the pandemic, the British public has been consistently pro-restrictions and tended to resent both the government and Boris Johnson whenever forced to abandon them; in this case, both approval ratings and poll standings have taken a considerable hit that all but erased any remaining “vaccine bounce”.
The attempt at a return to normalcy, at least for now, means a bigger focus on bread and butter issues of politics. This is currently taking form is not a straightforward fight between Labour and Conservatives, but rather from interventions from the right on issues related to crime and immigration. One only has to look at the recent interventions by the Prime Minister and Home Secretary Priti Patel to see there are concerns from the government that it has written a check it cannot afford to cash on these matters.
The Tory government’s hesitation is teling; having humiliated themselves by provoking an incredibly successful England football team, they have found themselves being branded crass and unpleasant, but having won and planned their opposition to Labour partly by stoking “identity” issues, they cannot now fully abandon the pitch either. With Nigel Farage having found an enemy in vulnerable migrants crossing the sea and those who help them, including the RLNI, expect the month to feature more unpleasantness and performative aggressiveness both from the media and from politicians. Culture wars are many things – in most times, they are boring, aggravating, and humiliating for public discourse – but in this one, there is the possibility of real casualties whose lives matter more than social media debates about electoral outcomes.
For Labour it is an opportunity to finally find a consistent and alluring tone. Keir Starmer’s new staff have reportedly made progress by recognising the need for sharper, more positive messaging – after months of the leadership saying “I wouldn’t vote for us either” yielded little electoral rewards.
Though it may seem obvious, it is easy to forget sometimes that politics is not done solely through Westminster nor does it only affect politicians; able to properly talk and return to their constituencies, many MPs will shape and change their opinions about what is happening within their parties. Party problems won’t disappear just because they might go silent for a little while, and so what happens in this period matters just as much as any Cummings-esque plot to bring down the Prime Minister.
Through all of this and more, The Social Review will be with you. Onward to Conference Season!
The Social Review’s monthly catch up:
- Alex Maguire talks about coverage of the unions
- Harry Balden debates the personality of the centrist leader
- Cathleen Clarke talks about building back better house
- The Mike Hill employment tribunal: another gut punch for Labour women
- The Post-Heroic Legacy of Angela Merkel
- Britain’s racism problem—we’ve made progress, but not enough
- Asset strippers are preparing to feast on Britain’s COVID-ravaged economy
- Wembley under siege: how England fans stormed the Euro 2020 final
- “It’s the poorest in society who are being surveilled”: the quiet rise of citizen-scoring algorithms