Tories out, Labour in? Reproachment with Europe and the Parthenon Marbles

Tories out, Labour in? Reproachment with Europe and the Parthenon Marbles

In a dramatic twist that could only be scripted in the hallowed halls of Westminster, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has thrown the political gauntlet down with the flair of a Victorian gentleman duelist. His audacious call for a general election has not only blindsided his opposition but sent ripples through his own cabinet, marking what could be the largest political wager of his tenure.

As the Continent dives into its own electoral escapades, back in Blighty, the Tories seem poised on the precipice of political purgatory. After enjoying the reins of power in three dominant decades post-war – 1950 to 1965, 1979 to 1997, and our current streak starting 2010 – the Conservatives’ grip on governance is showing signs of serious slippage. Indications are aplenty: A notable number of Conservative MPs are bowing out, not wishing to stand in what may be an historic overhaul. The demographic doomsday clock ticks ominously for the Tories, with only the over-70s preferring Sunak’s squad over Sir Keir Starmer’s. Labour, on the other hand, is readying a revolutionary roll of the dice by potentially enfranchising 16-year-olds, a move that could tilt the electoral table for tides to come. 

Starmer, Labour’s leading man, has finally shown he can swing the disciplinary sword with precision, by ousting Jeremy Corbyn from party ranks. His campaign, while lacking the Blair-era buzz, resonates with a populace perturbed by the current Tory tableau and Sunak’s less-than-stellar statesmanship.

Across the Channel and closer to home, the Labour-Lib Dem potential coalition could warm up the frosty EU-UK relations. Even in the case of a Labour majority, the prospect of fresh-faced, Europe-friendly Labour MPs entering Parliament signals a potential pivot towards a more congenial connection with the Continent. One first step, for example, could include accepting the EU’s proposal for the free movement of young people between the age of 18 and 30. Or forging a closer working relationship in terms of trade and immigration at large. 

And what of the Grecian gems, the Parthenon Marbles, under a potential Labour governance? While the return of these historic treasures isn’t atop Labour’s agenda, they wouldn’t barricade the British Museum should it opt for an artifactual arrangement with Athens. “They would not encourage reunification, but neither obstruct it,” as one informed source tells me. Whether loaned for years or lent indefinitely, the fate of these marbles may yet carve out new cultural corridors between the UK and Greece. Labour is, after all, on principle in favour of the repatriation of cultural artifacts to their country of origin. Nous verrons, indeed.

As the election engine revs up, the British public is bracing for a bout of political theater that promises both high stakes and high drama. Will Sunak’s gamble pay off, or will Starmer stage a sensational comeback? In the immortal words of the theater, the show must go on, and indeed, it will – right here on the unpredictable stage of British politics.

Ioannes Chountis de Fabbri is an adviser at the UK House of Lords and PhD candidate in the history of political thought at the University of Aberdeen. 

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