British Labor very cautious about a promised victory

To analyse. Birmingham, late November. The bosses flock to the annual congress of the Confederation of British Industry, the main British employers’ union. Rishi Sunak gives them a speech on the necessary fight against inflation and the virtues of innovation to relaunch growth. Remarks without much interest which do not mask the gloomy reality of the moment: the United Kingdom is on the verge of recession and its government has just presented an austerity budget which leaves almost no room for maneuver for the Prime Minister in office since barely a month.

It was above all to meet Keir Starmer that the bosses made the trip. Because the Labor leader is now considered a “prime minister in waiting”, a “prime minister in waiting”, and many prefer to bet on this likely future leader, rather than the current resident of Downing Street. That’s good: at 60, this former attorney general, who entered politics just seven years ago, has adopted a resolutely centrist line, refusing to support workers on strike for better pay, insisting on growth and the need rigorous management of public finances.

This summer again, the return of the left to power – in the next general elections, by 2024 – after at least twelve years in opposition, seemed unlikely. Admittedly, Labor had an average lead of ten points over the Conservatives in the polls, but Keir Starmer was considered too timorous, not charismatic enough. Above all, the party’s historic slap in the 2019 election seemed insurmountable. Divided over Brexit, having headed to the far left under Jeremy Corbyn, he had lost the vote of the working classes in northern England, seduced by a petulant Boris Johnson who gave them the attention they were missing and promised to “make Brexit happen”.

Negative spiral of the British right

The tide turned on September 23, with the announcement of Liz Truss and her Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget: tax giveaways for the wealthy financed by public debt. It unleashed a storm in the markets, damaged the Conservatives’ reputation for competence and forced Liz Truss to resign at the end of October after six weeks in office. In the polls, Labor’s lead over the Tories has reached twenty points. “Keir Starmer believes in it, he has found his way”estimates Alastair Campbell, the ex-director of communications of Tony Blair, met at the end of October.

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