Back in December 2019, I wrote the following A tale of two parties in two countries – afiscalconservativepointofview . Since then both Labour and Tories have changed leaders and both new leaders be it Keir Starmer in UK and Erin O’Toole in Canada have made efforts to moderate party, yet both parties still struggling in the polls. This shows how fixing problems with a party is not something one can just paper over, it takes time.
Reason neither are seeing dividends in polls is partly due to COVID-19 and people focused on other things. But more importantly, it comes down to brand image. Both Labour in UK and Tories in Canada have a negative brand image with the majority of the public. Bad brand image is not something you change overnight, it takes time. More importantly points to the danger that when you let a party slide to point where its toxic with much of the population, it becomes a very deep hole to dig out of it. If you were to ask Brits and Canadians to identify Labour and Tories respectively in one word; its probably fair to say most would give something negative not positive. Just like with firms, companies with strong brand image tend to be more profitable while those with negative go under eventually. Now yes one can be rehabilitated but takes lots of work and means taking the long view not short view. Both O’Toole and Starmer are trying to appease both sides; appeal to moderates while keeping base happy and that just won’t work. People want to know a party stands for something and trying to please all sides just pleases no one. As people are cautious especially in those tough times, they are going to prefer to stick with the devil they know than take a risk on the one they don’t.
Both also have problems with more radical base. As long as more radical elements are making a lot of noise on social media, people will rightly fear party has hidden agenda and won’t buy moderation is genuine. As such both parties need to expunge the more extreme elements. Yes it may lead to a short term dip or even split, but long term that is the only way either has a chance at returning to office. In long run, rabid base hates the other side so much they may complain about moderation, but when push comes to shove, they will vote for it over their opponent. Many in Labour go on assumption since they have big lead amongst millennials, they will win as older voters die off. But that is at least a decade away and also no guarantees millennials will continue to support Labour as they age. When Tony Blair was prime-minister; Tories were in low 20s amongst 18-30, but that same cohort is now in 40s where Labour and Tories are neck and neck so its not impossible millennials will follow same trajectory. In Canada, demographic trends are even less promising for Tories unlike Labour. However, many Tories say once bills come due, people will switch. I am not so sure about that. Yes people may be concerned about big deficits but aren’t going to switch if they fear alternative will be worse. Even if we get to situation like Greece was in about a decade ago, not sure even that would guarantee Tories winning. Otherwise both parties need to change and not assume future events will automatically work in their favour.
It does seem despite being in different countries and of different ideologies, both parties still in same pickle a year and a half later. How things will go is hard to say, but my guess is neither is forming government anytime soon.