In every general election since 1979, I have voted Labour. It is fair to say that my voting record, in terms of voting for a winner, has not been particularly successful. It goes like this:

  • Lost
  • Lost
  • Lost
  • Lost
  • Blair
  • Blair
  • Blair
  • Lost
  • Lost
  • Lost
  • Lost

If I had been a betting man and literally bet the house on each election result, I’d own the entire street by now. But I’m not and anyway I’d feel dirty making money off the back of the Conservatives winning anything.

The painful truth is that England is a Tory nation. It used to be the wealthy shires and suburbs that provided the Tories with parliamentary representation but that’s no longer the case. Vast swaths of de-industrialised England, including mining towns, have switched from Labour to Conservative, areas described as Labour’s ‘Red Wall’. Now, places like Bolsover, where Dennis Skinner once held sway, is Tory blue. Partly, I suspect, because of Brexit, partly because of Jeremy Corbyn being Labour leader, partly because since New Labour the party has lost its way.

I’m still a Labour man today and I will probably die one, too. My fear is that I may never see another Labour government.

It was all I could do in the general elections of 2017 and 2019 to vote Labour at all, with the hard left in control of every level of the party. Reluctantly, and with little enthusiasm, I did both times, opening myself to suggestions of hypocrisy after previously expressing my utter contempt for Corbyn and of his general unfitness for office. Having led Labour to its worst defeat since 1935, Corbyn’s successor Keir Starmer has taken on the worst job in politics, leader of the opposition. And at a time when the country was in crisis because of COVID-19, Starmer has been reduced to making speeches in empty rooms as Boris Johnson has ruled the airwaves. Despite Johnson’s disastrous handling of the pandemic, his relative popularity has remained steady and he’s far more popular than Starmer. This is because of one word: vaccines. People want the vaccine programme to succeed and many are giving Johnson the benefit of the doubt. This will not last forever but I don’t think this means Labour will step to the fore, not straight away at least.

If things open up again and Labour is able to develop a coherent vision for the future this may change. Even after Winston Churchill helped lead Britain to victory in the Second World War, he was annihilated at the following general election by a resurgent Labour Party who gave us, among other things, our NHS. People had suffered for many years and they were desperate for change, for something better. Labour’s Clement Attlee had none of Churchill’s charisma but it didn’t matter. The people wanted better lives and they voted Churchill out.

It is entirely possible that when and if we emerge from the pandemic the public will not thank Johnson for the success of the vaccine but instead blame him for many of the 150,000 deaths, plus the near destruction of the economy. We may wake up one morning and decide we no longer want to be governed by a liar and a fraud like Johnson or a government that hands out billions of pounds to its friends. I feel this is most unlikely, but not impossible.

A priority in my view is that we change our electoral system and introduce proportional representation. It seems absurd to me that a government like Johnson’s should have absolute power when over 56% of voters did not vote for him. The current system of first past the post means that millions of votes are worthless. PR would change that. Whilst I do not want some kind of Rainbow Coalition to stand against Johnson at the next election, with parties standing down for each other and that kind of thing, I’d like to see all forward thinking parties commit to PR in their manifestos and see to introduce a referendum on the subject straight after polling day.

I admit that part of my thinking is that Labour is unlikely to win a working majority and this is one way to stop the Tories doing the same, but it’s bigger than that. We need to take the extremes out of politics and make all votes count. I accept that under PR, we might none of us getting a pure version of what we want to see, but I reckon we’d have a country where most of us could unite around most issues.

In 2021, we live in an elective dictatorship where we elect a government for five years who can then do whatever they like, regardless of their election promises. Our only accountability applies five years later. I’m not sure that’s democracy at all.