Is Keir Starmer the man to reconnect with Labour’s base?

by Kevin Meagher

The video put out by Keir Starmer yesterday, as he officially launched his bid for the Labour leadership, was brilliantly affecting, with a series of talking heads reflecting on the legal support he gave to striking miners, environmental activists and other worthy causes throughout his long legal career, which culminated in him heading in the Crown Prosecution Service.

He is clearly an admirable man, self-effacing and well-liked by those who know him. A quiet radical, he has used his legal skills to fight the good fight. The video is quiet and sensible, qualities presumably, his team want to associate with him over coming weeks.

The problem for Starmer is not his illustrious legal career but what he has done in politics since first being elected to the Commons in 2015. Creditably, he stayed on the frontbench under Jeremy Corbyn, while other moderates ripped up their tent pegs and went to sulk, to no obvious effect, on the backbenches.

Starmer has been at the centre of Labour politics as the party’s Brexit spokesman, but it’s not clear what effect he has had. I cannot help but wonder what Robin Cook might have done in the same role. Nor can I recall Starmer skewering ministers for the multiplicity of failings throughout the Brexit imbroglio. Or, for that matter, a particularly memorable speech or media performance from him.

What he has done, along with others, notably Emily Thornberry as shadow foreign secretary, is to tilt the party’s policy around Brexit away from the 2017 manifesto commitment to facilitate leaving the EU and towards supporting a second referendum.

Starmer – and many other continuity Remainers in the party’s high command – blithely assumed working class voters in Brexit-voting constituencies in the north and midlands had nowhere else to go, so the priority was stopping any leaching of middle-class Remainers to the Liberal Democrats.

Labour has paid a heavy price for this miscalculation.

The election saw the Lib Dems flatline, while Labour’s northern heartlands fell one by one. Yes, Jeremy Corbyn was a big factor on the doorstep, but so was the perception that Labour has been blocking Brexit. To many voters, the party was duplicitous and utterly contemptuous of the choice they had made to vote to leave the EU. It was a breach of trust. Last month, they made dozens of Labour MPs pay for it.

Of course, the task of the next Labour leader is to win these seats back quickly. As I argued the other day, that’s all we can reasonable expect over the course of this parliament. The new battleground in British politics cuts through swathes of seats in the north that were once solid Labour redoubts.

No more.

Does Starmer understand all this? Has he got the appeal to connect with voters in places like Mansfield, Bassetlaw, Bolsover, Stocksbridge and Leigh – having played such a critical role in dismissing their concerns?

Labour’s next leader doesn’t have to wear a flat cap, but he or she does need to listen to what voters in the party’s backyard have been saying for years. They are sick of being taken for granted and we may even be witnessing a realignment, where cultural identity rather than traditional party allegiance, drives voters’ choices in future – with many never returning to the fold.

If he is to have any hope of repairing the damage inflicted on the party’s core vote last month, Keir Starmer needs to stoop to conquer. Perhaps he could start by saying sorry for taking them for granted?

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut


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17 Responses to “Is Keir Starmer the man to reconnect with Labour’s base?”

  1. Jason says:

    Well Nandi being the only ‘new’ one makes it for me. The others are still ultra Corbanistas to the core !

  2. Alf says:

    I’ve never been impressed with Starmer. He was a chicken coup plotter, for example, back in 2016. He also abstained on the Tory Welfare Bill back in 2015 along with the Blairites. it would be wrong to characterise him as “Tory-lite” though: he’s a soft left animal who is cynically taking a left posture for the election really.

  3. Anne says:

    Yes – Kevin, he answers your questions in the interview with Andrew Marr. Brexit is going to happen – we must now focus on getting the best trade deal with the EU. I am from the north and I trust Keir Starmer.
    For leader – Keir Starmer
    For deputy – Angela Rayner

  4. John P Reid says:

    Labour uncut endorsing someone is the biggest curse of Death since Margaret Hodge endorsed Jess Philips

    Lisa For leader

  5. Labour's Filthy Hospitals says:

    We need a leader who will stand up for the IRA by voting against the Good Friday Agreement. Someone like Jeremy Corbyn.

  6. Alf says:

    John P Reid

    At last, we agree!

  7. steve says:

    A Starmer victory would be a victory for the Westminster stuffed-shirt elite.

    Starmer may love himself. But the narcissist 2nd referendum chump has lacks appeal outside the Westminster New Labour clique.

  8. Tafia says:

    The average decline of Labour vote in a Remain seat was around 6%. The average decline in a Leave seat was around 11%

    Amongst Labour Leavers, Starmer is the face of the snidey, sneaky, slimey, dirty and deceitful Labour-clique that was doing all it could to overturn the leave vote.

    Make him leader and unless he 100% renounces the EU and any desire to remain in it or rejoin it, and you will not get those voters back at all, ever and cannot possibly ever win an election with him at the helm.

    Just so some of you dolts are aware of the realities of the position you are in:-

    1. Labour have never won a majority in a General Election without winning the majority of seats in Scotland.

    2. Only one leader has ever won on a left wing Manifesto – Clem Attlee in 1945. He won again in 1950 but by then the electorate were largely pissed-off with socialism and his 1950 government only lasted less than 2 years.

    3. Only three Labour leaders have ever won an election with a majority – Attlee, Wilson and Blair.

    4. When the boundary review is implemented (which it now will be), the Constituencies will be leveled out population wise. This further disadvantages Labour. If the proposed new constituencies were in place now, the Tories would have been well north of 100 seat majority and Labour would be down to around 160 seats.

    5. England has the vast bulk of Constituencies. The key to even a minority election victory (see point 1 regarding a majority) is the floating voters in England. They don’t actually ‘float’ – they are fixed in position and vote for the party that actually shifts to them as opposed to the other way around. They are right-of-centre socially (tough on crime, controlled immigration, tough on terrorism, limited access to benefits, strong defence, strong on personal responsibility, pro-business, low taxes etc etc), and only mildly left-of-centre economically (an affordable NHS, affordable pensions, affordable higher-education, affordable safety net etc). That’s where elections are won – Wilson knew it, Thatcher knew it, Major knew it, Blair knew it, Cameron knew it, May knew it, Johnson knows it.

  9. Tafia says:

    Anne- we must now focus on getting the best trade deal with the EU

    Who is this ‘we’? The Future Trade Arrangement is not a Parliamentary issue – it’s entirely government. If Labour are lucky government might throw the odd sop to them now and again, some junior Minister or other bag-carrier making a short statement now and again but there will be no repeat of the Withdrawal Bill rubbish that took place over the last 2 years.

  10. CJ WILLIAMS says:

    Starmer is listening so hard he has appointed Thangham Debonaire, a revoke supporting MP as Shadow Brexit Secretary. Classic

  11. John P reid says:

    labour actually did worse in London in 1987 than 1983 ( losing Battersea And Thurrock) seats kept in 1983, I remember the reason being given was the So called loony left if the GLC , new candidates standing Like Bernie grant, ken Livingstone and Diane Abbott had swings against them yet neighbouring mp moderate Paul Boateng didn’t have a swing against him Also the biggest swing against labour was the 1979 election when it was more than 20% followed by another 17% swing in 1883 as in 1974 Dagenham was the second most safe seat in the country it relied on the Vote in the Dagenham wards , not doing anything of putting any money in South of Havering in 2006 & 2010 which come election 2010 he thought he’d lost the seat The fact his majority went up to 5,000 in 2015 was mainly due to the Work

  12. anon says:

    I hate to intrude on Labour’s private grief, but – the Tories must have been immensely relieved when Labour overlooked the common sense choice of candidate Dan Jarvis.

    Being too Queen and country-ish, and not being too intimidated by the ‘progressive’ globalist club, I suspect Jarvis would have been too much for this country’s people to suit the Fabian eugenicists.

    I am wholly of the traditional working class and Starmer, like the rest of the offerings, is anathema to me.

  13. Dave Roberts says:

    Tafia.

    We haven’t exchanged correspondence for several years but, once again, you are a fount of wisdom.

  14. Tafia says:

    Hello Dave,

    Are you well mate?

  15. JoHn P reid says:

    Anon, Jarvis has come out for Lisa nandy, not sure if he is all you think, but if he is, then it’s because Lisa has similar values

  16. anon says:

    @John P Reid – I didn’t know that: for Labour, a huge leap to common sense – unfortunately, I’m afraid, the Labour Party have been devoid of common sense for a long time now.

    For Labour there is a line to be walked between appealing to the conservative (small ‘c’) values of the traditional working class and an authoritarian globalist progressive New World Order.

    The values of the average working class voter are entirely different to the right-on progressives in the Labour hierarchy, Jarvis and Nandy would be a massive leap towards that traditional working class.

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