Labour is on the back foot. In recent weeks it has played an entirely defensive game — denying Boris Johnson his preferred EU exit date and further denying him a General Election on his terms.
With each of these blocking moves, Labour backs closer into the corner, seemingly devoid of a strategy beyond frustrating a Tory prime minister.
The fact that Johnson’s party climbs ever higher in the polls suggests that the public takes a dim view of an opposition that has become nothing more than an obstacle.
Where is their hunger for power? Where is their enthusiasm for unleashing their campaign upon the voters?
People are rightly sceptical of a party that doesn’t appear to fancy its own chances. Labour’s top team is bitterly divided over the merits of backing a General Election but it will come — and when it does, the risk for Labour is that it could start from the disadvantaged position of having tried to avoid it.
However, while Tory strategists seek first-mover advantage, the truth is that once a campaign starts the way in which we got there will matter less than the defining policy positions around which parties and candidates coalesce.
It seems unlikely that the UK will have left the EU before a General Election, and in such circumstances there are only two parties who really would like it to be a Brexit election: the Liberal Democrats and the Brexit Party.
The former seeks to cancel Brexit while the latter needs a “Brexit betrayal” narrative to remain even vaguely relevant.
While “get Brexit done” will be a central plank of any Tory campaign, domestic policy will come to the fore, with one Downing Street insider describing the recent Queen’s Speech (with its focus on eduction, policing and the NHS) as the biggest focus group ever carried out.
As for Labour, be in no doubt that when the election comes the party will unleash a plethora of populist promises that will, at the very least, force the Tories into responding.
Free prescriptions, free dental care, free education, free social care, nationalisation, wholesale redistribution, higher pay and a shorter working week will all be on offer.
Critics of Labour’s platform would do well to read a new report released today by Policy Exchange, which offers a comprehensive analysis of the party’s economic policies and underlying philosophy.
Crucially, it also analyses shadow chancellor John McDonnell — identifying his “political skills and considerable tactical sense”.
McDonnell has huge and far-reaching plans for this country, and he won’t waste an election campaign by talking about Brexit.
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