Labour leader Keir Starmer should fear result of Unite election - Bernard Ingham

Every Wednesday.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

You may think I am nuts worrying about apathy this week. There’s not a lot of it about even though England just failed on penalties to become the kings of European football. But, on the basis of recent history, apathy is alive and well and could bring the downfall of Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer.

I refer to the election now under way to replace the retiring Liverpudlian hard Leftie, Len McCluskey, as general secretary of one of our largest unions, Unite.

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There are three candidates: two hard Lefties in Steve Turner, who has McCluskey’s endorsement, and Sharon Graham, plus Gerard Coyne, a moderate, who came only about 5,500 votes behind McCluskey at the last election in 2017.

But thereby hangs a tale.

The turnout then was a mere 13.2 per cent of the union’s 1.4m members.

In fact, the highest turnout in the three previous elections was 15.3 per cent in 2010 which brought McCluskey on the scene with just over 42 per cent of the vote.

Could you have a more sobering example of apathy than that?

It all the more remarkable when their union is so destructively active in the nation’s politics as a Labour Party paymaster.

Do they want to perpetuate McCluskey as the Corbynistas’ cheerleader?

If not, they had better vote Coyne for there is no chance of a Labour government – or a viable alternative government – with the McClukseyites, Corbynistas and Momentum lot in charge of the party’s purse strings.

The old Red Wall of Parliamentary seats in the North and Midlands would never have fallen to the Tories had the Labour Party not lost touch with reality.

The average Briton is not in the business of relentless denigration of the nation’s past and present or the totalitarianism of the hard Left and the wokery who apparently find each other congenial.

Yet they are still in charge of Labour even if Starmer has succeeded Corbyn.

Mr and Mrs Average are patriotic and anything but revolutionary.

They are the moderate, evolutionary folk from whom Gerard Coyne has sprung.

But – and this is the crux of the problem – they are human beings not automatons.

They want a quiet life to indulge in their hobbies, pastimes and pleasures once Covid restrictions are out of the way.

They are not zealots like the hard Left whose every waking moment is directed towards establishing their repressive dictatorship.

In short, the zealots to a man vote at elections.

Only the more motivated of the silent majority bother in Unite elections as the 21st Century voting record clearly demonstrates.

If that pattern prevails over the next few weeks – the election result will be declared on August 26 - it will almost certainly spell disaster for Keir Starmer.

He will be hog-tied by the hard Left and wokery.

Any chance he may have had of reforming Labour will be vanishingly small.

The hard Left will also be spurred to do what comes naturally: hounding moderates out of office.

It may be that some simpletons who call themselves Tories are already rejoicing at the prospect of the Left ascendant and Starmer in trouble.

That, they will say, hands us the next election.

That is quite simply naivete in all its arrogance, given the multitude of economic, social and international problems facing Britain.

No peace-time government has faced such a test of its principles, resolution and political acumen. Not everything will come right by 2025.

Much could go wrong. And of one thing you can be sure: when it comes to an election there will inevitably be those who feel disappointed and neglected.

It is true that before Covid restrictions are swept away – let’s hope permanently – the economy is beginning to roar.

But we have a budget deficit of £300bn, a soaring national debt of around £2 trillion – roughly the value of what the economy produces annually – and the threat of costly inflation that would do no one any good.

The first law of politics should be: “There’s many a slip twixt cup and lip”.

And those slips are all the more likely if there is next to no serious political opposition in Parliament that offers a credible alternative government.

I learned this the hard way in No 10 during the havoc Liverpool’s Militant’s caused to Labour’s prospects in the 1980s.

By now the message to Unite’s moderates should be loud and clear: vote to give Labour a chance of rebuilding. Abstain and you deserve all the Corbyns you’ll get.