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June 14th 2024

Do you suffer from de ja vu? It’s quite common. Some people believe - quite sincerely - that it is a symptom of reincarnation: that we all live many lives and that there is much commonality between them. Others, in a philosophy popularised by the Matrix, that these are the blips that tell us we live in a simulation. Far be it from us to call either theory - or the myriad others - bunkum. But maybe de ja vu isn’t as exciting as any of these theories: maybe it’s just a by-product of the extreme boredom of this election.

Tonight, the same seven people who met last week met again. They debated the same things. They said the same things. There were differences, of course, it wasn’t a fully relived trauma. Penny Mordaunt’s hair was less sci-fi baddie coded, there were a lot more burgundy suits. everyone was less fighty (I mean, they’re living through this as much as we are, the enthusiasm gap is understandable).

But the essentials were the same. Three parties telling the country that Labour are a neoliberal nightmare, one party claiming that the Soviet United Kingdom is nigh, one party claiming that it was the immigrants what did it (whatever ‘it’ is).

Much was made of the idea that Wes Streeting is about to privatise the NHS. I mean, he isn’t. But at this stage, who cares? The Labour Party is going to win the next election, you can hear it in the words of each and every one of the contributors to this evening’s debate. Why didn’t Angela go hard? Why should she? Why are Plaid and the Greens and the SNP obsessing over conspiracy theories about Labour’s health policy? Because that’s the game now, how many Labour votes can we take in order that we might reduce their majority? How can we position ourselves as the opposition to the left of a Labour Government? How can we be relevant in an election where the overwhelming momentum of change means we are a friendly irrelevance?


They talked with all the coherence of someone emerging from a general anaesthetic, about tax. The Green leader shouted a lot - her debate trainer clearly thought she needed a bit more pep. The Plaid leader had a couple of turns of phrase that he clearly liked and which sounded velvety in his enunciation - ‘the fat cats have had a lot more cream’. But… nothing really hit home and nothing, certainly, was changed.

Stephen Flynn performed well. He had a sharp attack on Labour - on both immigration as an issue and on the wider question of the credibility of Keir Starmer. There must be many a Scottish nationalist who wishes that they had been able to replace Sturgeon with Flynn, but such is the nature of devolution.

Angela Rayner won this evening. I mean, she probably didn’t because Nigel Farage wins all such events by virtue of his inside-outside ‘truth teller’ status. Having a platform helps in the polls. But Angela won really. Why? Because she successfully projected an imperial disdain for the battery of parties whose only hope is to engage and beat Labour from the Left. She wasn’t interested. She didn’t rise to it. She chose to answer Big Nige over little Carla. And it worked. Like a great basking shark, so huge and so apparently immortal that nothing matters or batters, Angela sailed on. Untroubled, uninterested, unperturbed. She knows what she’s doing, she knows she’s going to win.

We all do, don’t we? We see in the future a thing we saw in the past. It’s all about to happen… again.