the planet can wait

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Muhammad Ali wore his opponents down to exhaustion before delivering the coup de grace. The strategy of the Roman general Quintus Fabius Maximus to gradually undermine Hannibal's resistance in the Second Punic War, break his supply lines and avoid a frontal confrontation, was controversial in Rome at the time, but history proved him right. Labor leader Keir Starmer imitates both in his approach to the British general election scheduled for the autumn or winter of next year.

He does not want to risk anything, convinced that the conservative exhaustion after thirteen years in government, his austerity policies, the lies and arrogant populism of Boris Johnson, the monumental mistake of Brexit and the lack of brilliance of its leaders, from Cameron to Sunak through Theresa May and Liz Truss, will serve him the title on a platter. Traditionally, the key to Labour's successes has been to be radical without appearing dangerous. He now doesn't even want to appear radical.

After the Thatcher-Major era, Tony Blair offered in 1996 a new modernizing vision of United Kingdom society, articulated in his third way, with a greater regional balance, creation of autonomies, a certain dose of federalism and redistribution of wealth. But he knew that the British people mistrust Labour's ability to manage their money, which he thinks is like giving a teenager a credit card, and he vowed from the outset to respect the Conservative government's budget spending limits. The result was three straight victories at the polls, though in the end he paid the price for the Iraq war and corruption. And, when the financial crisis of 2008 struck, the electorate blamed it on labor “waste” rather than the banks and the lack of scruples of the global capitalist system. And Cameron won.

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Raphael Ramos

The fear and anger of the electorate are greater than when Blair won in 1997 after the Thatcher-Major era

Now the country finds itself in a much more delicate situation than the one Blair inherited from John Major a quarter of a century ago. Inflation is worse (almost 8%, the highest in the G-7), the economy is flirting with recession, the Bank of England has skyrocketed interest rates and made many unable to pay their mortgages, public health is collapsed, there is more corruption, Brexit is taking its toll, the Johnsonian promise to equalize North and South has been broken, and all this breeds cynicism and skepticism. The anger, fear and despair of voters is greater than in 1997.

Does Great Britain need an injection of revolutionary illusion, or prudence? Starmer believes the latter, because "the only thing worse than lack of hope is false hope." So he tells his compatriots not to expect much except a neat and orderly administration, because there is no money, the tories they have left the coffers empty. And little by little he has been abandoning, one by one, all the more or less radical “guarantees” with which he rose to the leadership of the party after the collapse of Jeremy Corbyn in 2019: tax increases for the richest, nationalization of the railways, electricity companies, and water and gas companies; reconsideration of Brexit and possible re-entry into the single market and the customs union; transgender rights; expansion of the welfare state and public aid to the most disadvantaged and families with more than two children; electoral reform to change the majority system for a proportional one; investment of 35,000 million euros in green energy projects that generate employment...

The initiatives have been falling like cards from a house of cards, while Starmer mercilessly purged, in true Stalinist style, elements of the Labour's left wing, starting with Corbyn and continuing with any "dissidents" who did not follow the official line to the letter. The wide advantage of between 15 and 25 points in the polls has made him feel vindicated in his prudence-prudence-prudence tactic, lest voters panic at the last minute.

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Keir Starmer thinks he can win by risking very little so as not to scare off British voters

Labour's once-progressive environmental policy has not been spared from an obsession with "restraint", especially after Labor failed to win Johnson's former seat for the London constituency of Uxbridge on Thursday, amid residents' anger at the extension of the "emissions zone" to the entire metropolitan area of ​​the capital - meaning owners of polluting vehicles (older ones or diesel-powered ones) would have to pay nearly 15 euros a day for circulating in the midst of a serious crisis in the standard of living due to inflation.

The application of that rate was scheduled to start next month, but Starmer has called his impositor (the Labor mayor of London Sadiq Khan) to order, and has demanded that he reconsider it, perhaps giving users more time to change their vehicles, or making a more generous offer for the delivery of old ones, or some other type of stimulus. Having learned the lesson of Uxbridge (where they still lost 7% of the vote), the Conservatives are preparing to go to the elections as environmental skeptics, appealing to those who believe that in the midst of the economic crisis this is not the time to change boilers to heat pumps, nor to adopt electric cars, nor to insist on completely eliminating the carbon footprint by 2050. That we must go much slower.

So be careful, says Starmer, lest people reach into their pockets with decarbonization and decide to vote for Sunak (the Labor leader also questions the policy of not granting more licenses for the exploitation of oil and natural gas in the fields of the North Sea). And prudence also in gender issues and the rights of transsexuals. When asked if a woman can have a penis, his answer is that "99% of them can't." And the rest is debatable.

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Customers inside a Japanese restaurant in central London, in a file image

One by one, Starmer has abandoned all the radical ideas with which he won the Labor leadership in 2019

Desperate by the prospect of an unprecedented electoral crash, the tories they are moving ever closer to Trumpism, and are tempted to turn the election campaign into a culture war, with them as defenders of ethnic “whiteness” and “Christian values”, the nation state, identity protection, questioning multiculturalism, reduced subsidies, harsher sentencing, curbing immigration, environmental skepticism, law, order and homeland. For the tories It would mean renouncing the youth vote for a long time (their support among those under 40 is already minimal). But Labor risks, with such timidity, losing it too.

To win, Starmer believes that he needs to unite the vote of the middle classes with that of the working classes, based on centrism and prudence. But, what for him is prudence, others interpret as cowardice or lack of leadership. The tories they need a miracle to maintain power, but the world is in turmoil and there are many X factors (the climate emergency, inequality, waves of migration, the social impact of the excesses of capitalism, Ukraine, China, Putin, international tensions…). In his opinion, being radical consists, as the Welsh thinker Raymond Williams said, in making hope possible instead of despair convincing. He thinks he can succeed like Ali or Quinto Fabio Máximo.

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