The war after the battle

Photo by Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America. Image has been re-coloured. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic licence

How the far-right may lose the battle, but still hope to win the war

As many centre-right politicians and commentators have warned us, what used to be the Conservative Party has become a vehicle for the far-rightPhilip Hammond wrote: 

“the Conservative party has been taken over by unelected advisers, entryists and usurpers who are trying to turn it from a broad church into an extreme right-wing faction. Sadly, it is not the party I joined.”

Anna Soubry said 

“The right wing… are now running the Conservative Party from top to toe. They are the Conservative Party.”

Max Hastings, ex-editor of the staunchly right-wing Daily Telegraph summed-up the feelings of many former Conservatives:

“What’s heart-breaking, I think for all of us, is that our country does seem in the eyes of the world increasingly ridiculous. … they don’t hate us; they just look at us with complete disbelief: ‘what has this country done to itself over the last 15 years?’ … Nigel Farage has poisoned the Conservative Party … the [extreme] right is now running Britain and it’s a terrifying sight. … For the sake of the Conservative Party and for Britain, they’ve got to go.”

The Financial Times pointed out that:

 “The Tories are now the most economically right-wing major party in the developed world.”

And Ken Clarke spoke of dictatorship: 

“We are dangerously close to the ‘elected dictatorship’ that Lord Hailsham, the former Lord Chancellor, warned us about half a century ago.”

But this takeover looks increasingly like a Pyrrhic victory – the once formidable vote-winning machine looks as if is it about to be consigned (at best) to a distant second place in the coming General Election.

So, if you were one of those wealthy backers of the Right – of the Conservatives, of Reform, of the Tufton Street think tanks, of the Brexit campaign, etc, you could well be about to lose a major battle. But you are not ready to abandon the war.

If you lose the battle, how can you hope to win the war?

(What follows in this article is not to inform the Right – there is evidence that they are already thinking and acting this way – it is to make sure progressives (anyone from the left through to the centre-right) are planning to tackle the risks to come).

If you are on the Right, you have to play the long game, making full use of all the resources at your disposal:

  • Unite the far right, divide the rest;
  • Neuter Labour;
  • Sweep back into power in 2028/9 and complete the job the last 14 years have started.

Preventing this scenario from materialising will require Labour – and voters – to be bold and alert to the dangers.

Unite the Right, divide the rest

There are two major challenges for the Right in the coming election:

  1. The Conservatives, the party you could usually count on to win, have visibly failed the British people – notably by weakening household finances (falling real wages and the cost-of-living crisis) and by bringing the NHS perilously close to the point of failure – and the population has noticed;
  2. The Right is significantly divided: indeed, The Reform Party is now polling ahead of the Conservatives in some polls.

The first of these problems – the Conservatives’ track record – is devastating now but will be a diminishing problem over time. With the support of the right-wing media, any problems which have not been largely resolved by the time of the next election will be presented as being Labour’s fault.

The second one will not be so easily resolved; the options are:

  • Destroy the Conservative Party and throw your weight behind Reform;
  • Destroy the Reform Party and throw your weight behind the Conservatives;
  • Engineer some kind of merger.

The first option is high risk. The Conservative Party still has many assets which Reform does not possess and may not be able to acquire while in opposition – especially if they have very few MPs.

The second option may be better for the backers of the Right but would mean writing off all their past investment in Reform as well as some of the voters who have been attracted by Farage’s racist credentials. That investment has included the setting-up of GB News, a channel which has done more than any other to promote Reform.

The third option seems most attractive for the Right – and clearly some in the Conservative Party are already angling for it, as is Farage himself. For many of us, such a merger is a terrifying prospect: a party which is not only economically far-right and prepared to take steps to undermine democracy but is also overtly racist. When we assessed how close to full-blown Fascism Britain is today, we concluded that we are at most four steps away. A united Reform/Conservative Party would be much closer than that.

There is a risk for the Right that the remaining one-nation Tories may recapture their party, but they have not managed to do so – or even put up a serious fight – in the last 5 years. And a few long-term Conservative voters might turn away from a merged party. Nevertheless, if I were a backer of the Right, I would push for the merger option.

The remaining parties – Labour, LibDems, Greens, SNP, etc – are divided. Even during this general election campaign, when the extension of Conservative rule is self-evidently a disaster, we have seen fire directed by these parties at each other. Social media posts are full of messages like #11 and #12 -[there’s no difference between Starmer and Sunak and the Tories are toast so there is no need to vote tactically] which aim to reduce the chances of a Labour majority. A Labour government would be – quite naturally – the principal target of their attacks, as well as the attacks by the Right. And with the support of powerful media and social media campaigns, many Labour voters could be peeled-off to these other parties.

Labour’s only defence against this strategy would be to deliver tangible and undeniable progress for the UK population. Which brings us to the second part of the war.

Neuter Labour

The key for the Right to get back into power is, therefore, to use all the resources at their disposal to prevent a Labour government from being successful. And when you look at what those resources consist of, you can see the potential.

A diagram showing how the far right can influence UK politics

In opposition, because of the dominance of the right-wing media, Labour adopted a small target strategy – essentially, they decided to say nothing which the Mail and the Telegraph could attack. After defeats in 2010, 2015, 2017 and 2019, this was perhaps a sound strategy – according to the polls it has been – but it is bad for democracy. It means that no major party is unequivocally putting forward  a radical progressive agenda.

For the Right, influencing Labour in office will, of course, be far harder than influencing the Conservatives has been. Making them do what you want (eg cutting benefits to fund tax cuts) may be impossible. But it may not be so hard to prevent them doing what they want (eg investing in a green transition). If you can get them to stick to their small-target strategy in office, their results will be a bitter disappointment to many who are hoping for a significant change, and the scene will be set for another Conservative win.

As Robert Shrimsley writes, the stakes are high:

“A Starmer government may be British politics’ last chance to halt the populist radical right. A flatlining economy and stagnant real wages have left many voters angry — unsure that traditional politics can bring the better life they demand. Mainstream parties cannot afford to keep failing them.”

Martin Wolf wrote, comparing Rachel Reeves’s challenge with Gordon Brown’s,

“Reeves, if she indeed becomes chancellor, will not [inherit a sound economy]. Her task would be far harder. It would also be correspondingly more important. New Labour had to avoid messing things up. Today, a new government would have to effect a transformation.”

And Shrimsley also noted: 

“Starmer’s honeymoon will be short, assailed from the start by the right-wing media.”

Worse, it is not just the political opposition and the media that could stymie Labour’s plans: over the last 14 years, many British institutions have become unfit for purpose – unfit that is to safeguard the interests of the UK population – and, unless Labour is able to address these issues pre-emptively, Starmer and Reeves could end up looking like Truss and Kwarteng.

Should Labour fail – or even not succeed sufficiently – the stage could be set for a newly emboldened and even less ethical Right to recapture power in the UK.

Sweep back into power in 2028/9

A win for the Right in 2028/9 would mean an acceleration of what we have seen over the last 14 years:

  • Mass impoverishment;
  • The collapse of public services – including the NHS;
  • The conversion of the UK economy into a Plunderstate;
  • The demonisation of the victims;
  • The continued destruction of the environment;
  • The unwinding of our democratic checks and balances;
  • The restriction of our ability to protest – or even to criticise;
  • The removal of our Human Rights.

The Right would aim to complete the transition away from a modern democracy to a world where, as Lord Rees-Mogg wrote:

“The new Sovereign Individual will operate like the gods of myth in the same physical environment as the ordinary, subject citizen, but in a separate realm politically.”

If you do not want to live as an ordinary, subject citizen in such a world, avoiding this prospect is vital.


If the polls are to be believed, and it would be an unprecedented polling failure if they are wrong, the Right will lose a significant battle on 4 July. And this is grounds for celebration and a sense of relief.

But it is no grounds for complacency. To win the war, we need the next government to deliver. And to have a realistic chance of delivering, Labour will need to change gear from Day 1:

  • Abandon the small target strategy – anything radical needs to be done while the mandate is fresh;
  • Carry out constitutional repair;
  • Tackle the rewiring of Britain’s institutions while you can;
  • Think radically about how to reduce leakage and boost growth;
  • Ensure that there are no blunders on voters’ top two issues: the cost-of-living crisis and the NHS.

The five actions set out in Chapter 15 of the book 99%: Mass Impoverishment and How We Can End It and briefly summarised in this article give a framework for rebuilding the UK’s governance and social contract.

Failure would mean disaster, not just for Labour, but for the UK. To quote Shrimsley again:

“On July 5, the Labour leader is likely to stand supreme as liberal democracy’s most secure leader. A confident, decisive Starmer would match the moment. Voters need to see normal politics working for them again. He not only carries the dreams of a country demanding change, but the hope of all who fear what follows if he fails.”

If you think more people – and especially more progressive politicians – need to be aware of these issues, please share widely using the buttons below. Please make sure you are allowed to vote and that you use your vote wisely.

And please take a look at the 99% Organisation and join us.