Hello again from the little read and much hated Social Review website!
Unlike Geronimo the Alpaca, the country has survived the silly season, which can only mean one thing for September: Conference.
It is easy to spot a theme in many stories around the alleged high stakes of this conference season for both leaders. For the government, the scenario is full of omens; the Prime Minister is increasingly unpopular, the news around the Afghanistan evacuation gives the government a callous if not outright irresponsible look, and because of a combination of Brexit and the pandemic, supply chains have been badly hit and food prices are rising.
It is said Boris Johson has no friends in politics. His ascendency came from the fact that in 2019, the Tory party was desperate not to lose power to Jeremy Corbyn and saw him as the only way out. Having fulfilled his role by winning the 2019 General Election there will be an increased feeling that some other, perhaps younger and more popular minister would make better use of that large majority. Conference could be a time to settle nerves and set an agenda for government post-Covid, and it would only take the Prime Minister finding out what his politics are and sticking to them.
On the subject of small miracles; there will be plenty of people on Keir Starmer’s team, which now includes former Tony Blair speechwriter Phillip Collins, praying for one. This conference speech has been described as make it or break it for the Labour leader, who is still trailing both at the polls and popularity-wise.
It is easy for the press to fall into one single narrative. Where they see urgency and danger, there is actually a listless slog toward the inevitable. The truth is that the Labour party is hesitant to remove much worse performing leaders, and much of the PLP is still frightened of losing control to the hard left again. While it might be exciting to think of Starmer as in a fight for his political life, it is worth remembering that Theresa May had possibly the closest thing to a waking nightmare speech that there has ever happened in a Conference, and carried on in her role for some time after that without much effect to polling at the time.
This is not to say the Labour party should therefore be glad with whatever happens. The truth is that the party is in a worse shape now than it was when the vaccine bounce gave the Tories incredible leads. Labour is currently walking toward irrelevance with some hurried steps and there is nothing to say it cannot do worse than Jeremy Corbyn did in its historical defeat. Like the Prime Minister, Starmer does not have that many friends in politics: he has come from outside and often appears out of his depth. The promise of his leadership was that yes, things would be unexciting and maybe slightly compromised, but this would be a period of peace and quiet to rebuild. If he cannot provide even that, then one would do well to reflect what exactly is the point here?
In any case, we are in for some news. The Social Review will be covering Conference by our usual means, but keep an eye out in your podcast feeds for special editions of The Social Review podcast, from our editor on the ground Cathleen Clarke. Through all of this and more, The Social Review will be with you. Grab your redundancy notes and hop on that taxi!
The Social Review’s Monthly Catch Up
- Englishness and the England football team by Rabbil Sikdar
- Know your Unions by Alex Maguire
- Sick of the housing crisis by Liz Fox
- ‘Without her, I wouldn’t be here’: Covid patients reunited with the medics who saved them
- Why public schoolboys like me and Boris Johnson aren’t fit to run our country
- The fall of Kabul has exposed the intellectual void at the heart of British foreign policy
- UK truck driver shortage signals a broken labour market
- Capitalism Is Making You Lonely