There’s a British version of the Biden-DeSantis “post-populist” moment.
If you recall the last British general election, back in 2019, you may remember a — how to put this? — colorful contrast. The bumptious buffoon, Boris, for the Tories, and the anti-semitic socialist, Jeremy Corbyn, made a populist duo of sorts — both insurgents, both rebels, both darlings of the furthermost wings of their respective parties, both with bad hair, ill-fitting clothes, and bad teeth.
And now look, just three and a half years later: the diminutive, slickly-dressed technocrat, Rishi Sunak, and the boringly pudgy centrist, Keir Starmer. Both rose through the meritocratic ranks, won plaudits from their fellow partisans, wooed the Establishment, and both represent the inklings of the way British politics usually has been: no huge surprises, no massive polarizing divides, just a sharp but civil contest for the center.
I wrote recently of the promise of DeSantis and Biden in re-balancing American politics, toward a saner middle. I think something similar could be happening with Sunak and Starmer in my native land. Which is, I hasten to add, encouraging.
The basic politics remains starkly in Starmer’s favor. Labour’s lead in the opinion polls is almost 2-1. If Keir doesn’t become the next prime minister, I’ll be smacked right in the gob. After Boris’ endless lies and Liz Truss’ spontaneous combustion, the Tories have yet to recover meaningfully. They’ve been in power continuously since 2010, and it’s time for a change. Views of the economy are in the toilet. The Tory government seems like a dead parrot squawking. A new election will happen next year.
How has Sunak responded? Well, he has apparently decided, like Joe Biden, that getting normal but useful shit done is the way to do it.