The past week’s exam fiasco has shown the government’s image to be of incompetence, inefficiency, clumsiness and deficiency. The rhetorical nature of their 2019 election campaign may well have come back to bite them as the substance of the last eight months falls well short of promises made.
The unaccountable nature of ministers and special advisors in what Johnson himself calls the “people’s government” is at the forefront of their inadequacies. This, inevitably, leads to questions surrounding the next election.
Will moments like this prove to be the downfall of the government?
Do these failures improve Labour’s chances of winning the next election?
Did ‘mission impossible’ just become possible after six months of incompetent governance?
At this point, I stress for Labour to win the next General Election, they will need a swing of around 10.5% in order to win the 124 additional seats needed to form the smallest majority possible. These seats are geographically disparate, ranging from Scotland to North Wales to the ‘Red Wall’ to London. This disparate geography presents an additional problem as voters from these areas have different political outlooks, different geographical issues and in some cases, major constitutional problems (yes, is Scotland by the way).
A voter in Bolton North East has a very different outlook and set of priorities to someone in Kensington, for example. This electoral problem can be summed up as two-fold: a historically high swing is needed, coupled with a divided electorate and major geo-political differences. This is a near impossible mountain to climb in time for 2024. It took Labour three elections when it was last in a similar position before it won power in 1997 (1987, 1992 and 1997 general election).
Admittedly, one may be inclined to think the issues emanating from the halls of government over the last six months may lead to a bump in the polls for Labour. Surely, with a presentable leader, a purge of some lefties and some seriousness surrounding the problems of anti-semitism, the prospect of an election victory may well look positive. Certainly since Mr Corbyn left the top job, leadership ratings have increased and in many cases, overtaken Mr Johnson. The polls have certainly narrowed to between 6% and 2% in recent weeks.
But there are still some obvious problems.
First, the Conservatives are still ahead and haven’t shown any signs of relinquishing lead despite an exams fiasco, an economic crisis and the highest excess death rate in Europe.
Second, the Conservatives have not dropped below 40% for the past nine months, suggesting their electoral coalition is largely intact.
Third, polls suggest voters don’t know Keir Starmer, or don’t know him well enough, but they do know Mr Johnson very well, and so a possible issue with cut through in these challenging times is a potential worry.
There is a lot to be positive about. Labour is certainly more competitive than in December and the performances at PMQS, the sense of a strategy and strong action on anti-semitism are all positive. Yet, there are some worrying signs. Granted we’re still more than four years away from 2024, the signs so far tell a story of a government still yet to be toppled from its perch since its election victory back in December.
I am very sceptical about a victory in 2024 and I think those jumping to conclusions need to be wary about making assumptions. Mission impossible remains dubious at best, but for how long it remains this way only the next four years will tell.
Daniel is a political activist and Senior Associate Editor of Liberal Base. His interests are in populism, democratic crisis, western party politics and automation. He tweets @danny_hod and blogs at dannyhodson.com