When you wake up on 5th July, the chances are it will be to headlines telling you that not only has Labour won but they have done so with a record-breaking majority. If opinion polls are correct, then it could well be a majority of around 400, entirely unheard of in a multi-party democracy.

But, hiding beneath the headlines could well be another story that has emerged through the campaign. The resurgence of the hard-right in UK politics. It is possible that Reform, now led by the odious racist Nigel Farage, could have taken one or two seats. They are currently polling around 13-15%, with one poll putting them on 20% and, if it were not for the massive swing to Labour, they would certainly be on course for enough seats to look like a serious party in Westminster. 

We estimate that they could well get over 3 million votes, which would make them the third biggest party in the UK, ahead of the Lib Dems.

That is worrying, to say the least, electorally. But, bearing in mind the rightward shift in Europe’s electoral calculus, it is more worrying for what it tells us of the state of the consciousness of ordinary workers.

There is no doubt at all that the rightward shift has been aided by Farage, who must have been given his own parking space in the BBC car park given the amount of time he spends there. Since announcing that he would be taking over the leadership from the hapless Richard Tice, there is no politics or news programme on any BBC platform that has not featured him.

This, however, is not just about one man. This is about the way in which ordinary voters are being seduced by simplistic explanations that have little or no basis in reality. Farage and his followers draw a simple causal line between immigration and the cost of living crisis. For people who have found their living standards squeezed the simple linkage to too many immigrants is too tempting to resist. If there are queues at the GPs that must be the additional people brought in through so-called ‘mass immigration’.

In fact, the strain on public services which racists continually talk about has less to do with net migration than natural population growth, mainly caused by the success of the welfare state in allowing us to live longer. 

According to official figures, it is true that net migration has been positive for the past 20 odd years, meaning that more people have entered the UK than left. However, at the same time natural population growth has increased even faster over the same period. In 2001, 481,000 people entered the UK, whilst 309,000 left. In other words, net migration was 172,000 people. But at the same time the population rose by 200,000, meaning that 28,000 people were added to the population irrespective of immigration. 

By 2011, ten years later, whilst net migration was 215,000, the UK’s population rose by half a million. In other words, the increase in population is less to do with migration and plenty to do with people living longer. Farage and his ilk take migration statistics and say that they should be net zero. That means a person can only enter the UK if somebody else leaves. But, for every year since 1930 (with the exception of 2020) the number of people entering through birth has been greater than those exiting through death. In other words, population increase is mostly a function of the difference between births and deaths than of migration. And, if anybody is putting a strain on our public services, it is the number of babies and the number of elderly, nearly all of whom were actually born here.

It is never clear whether those who want to stop immigration are concerned about over-population or just hate foreigners, I rather suspect the latter. But, if they are really concerned about the impact on public services, why do they have nothing to say about natural increases in the population? Why is it that population decline is regarded as a problem rather than a good? 

As the right gain a foothold, it will inevitably mean that the centre will shift even further rightward to try to capture that demographic. What that means is that, far from anything emerging from this election providing fertile ground for a left renaissance, we will be pushed further on to the back foot as the political environment will become more racist, more intolerant and more extreme. Will Friday 5th become our rightmare?


The best way to enjoy the Election Special is by reading the PDF. You can find it here or just look through here.

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