What story has Starmer come to tell Britain?

by Jonathan Todd

At a recent meeting of the PLP, Kevin Brennan congratulated Keir Starmer on, “getting us from the carousel at Katmandu airport to base camp at Everest, in good shape for the long climb ahead.”

While Labour party conference should digitally pat itself on the back for six months of progress under Starmer, the challenges ahead remain daunting.

Harold Wilson won four general elections. Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair both won three. Absorbing what these different characters had in common might help Starmer.

“At their peak,” writes Steve Richards in his wonderful study of modern prime ministers, “they were all political teachers. They sought to make sense of what they were doing or what was happening around them. This was especially the case with Thatcher and Blair. Thatcher was an instinctive teacher, making complex ideas and contentious policies become reassuringly accessible.”

Thatcher came along at about the same time as Reagan, as Blair overlapped with Clinton, and Johnson with Trump. As if there is some Atlantic ideological synchronicity.

“In the competition with the USSR,” which Reagan won with the support of Thatcher, “it was above all the visible superiority of the western model that eventually destroyed Soviet communism from within,” writes Anatol Lieven in October’s Prospect magazine. “Today, the superiority of the western model to the Chinese model is not nearly so evident to most of the world’s population; and it is on successful western domestic reform that victory in the competition with China will depend.”

The global sense that quality of life was greatest in the west, which the Reagan and Thatcher era exuded, morphed into a hubris that left weaknesses within the west unaddressed during the Clinton and Blair epoch, so much so that the focus of the magazine in which Lieven writes is whether democracy can survive the Trump and Johnson years.

What goes on in America does not stay in America. Its preferences shape options elsewhere – we can have a Brexit that reimposes a border on the island of Ireland or, due to the role of the Democratic controlled House in agreeing US trade deals, we can seek a US trade deal. Its ideas colour thinking elsewhere – before bail conditions restricted him to the US, Steve Bannon found international buyers for his brand of nationalism. Its odour gets into all our nostrils – which, increasingly over the past four years, has reeked of corruption, anti-science, and twisted truth.

God help America if Trump wins again – no one else will. Yet what happens in America effects all of us deeply.

This benighted year of Covid should make obvious the virtues that have always been at the heart of the best of the west: reverence for truth, reason and science; recognition of the shared fate of humanity; the puny force of borders next to powerful ideas, climate, and diseases.

The same virtues are equally relevant to the bigger challenge of climate change. David Attenborough recently made clear the depth and urgency of this task on a primetime show.

Amid these dark clouds, at Labour’s virtual party conference this week, Starmer should be a political teacher to the country that he hopes to lead. He has already taught some lessons to Labour: the need to move on from the years of Corbyn and Brexit, and the importance of competence, rebuilding trust with voters, and, above all, winning elections.

The wider electorate have noticed Starmer communicating these messages to our party and are beginning to sense that our party has grasped them.

They are necessary but insufficient – because, as Wilson and Blair both provided in their contexts, we also need an inclusive, inspiring, and compelling story of national renewal.

Another world, as per Starmer’s leadership campaign, is possible. But it needs us to absorb Covid’s lessons and apply them to climate change. In ways that are made comprehensible to Britain by a political teacher.

Millions of well-paid jobs can be created in the UK in the transition to a zero-carbon economy – starting not with “moonshots” but with much more ambitious deployment of existing technologies.

These jobs can be the bedrock of an economy that gives Britain the pay rise that it has deserved for far too long. Labour should stay out of the culture wars and in the game of getting more money into back pockets.

Green investment, decent jobs, national regeneration: these can be leitmotifs for Starmer and Biden as much as privatisation, deregulation and union bashing were for Thatcher and Reagan.

Climbing Everest for Labour means getting back into government. If we get there, we will find another Everest to be climbed: rebuilding a way of life in the west that again enjoys global appeal.

The west’s rivalry with China will be fought as much in hearts and minds across the world as in the South China Sea. The battle for Britain must be joined this week by a teacher.

Jonathan Todd is Deputy Editor of Labour Uncut


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17 Responses to “What story has Starmer come to tell Britain?”

  1. John P reid says:

    Although thatcher was brave had coursge, for the first time in 34 years the Tories were prepare to say the post war concerns us wasn’t working and she had a extreme trade union controlled government then she had no opposition
    Although , selling counvil homes, controlling unions, the press on her side, a oppodition ovsessed with getting rid of nuclear weapons She for the last 3 year of her as opposition leader had her parties support and by the end of 1981- had her parties support
    Blair has a party that actually wanted to win
    Bluevlabour use to day upto a year ago the traditional working class were, the embarrassing uncle you invite to a Xmas meal, he sits in the Corner the Family dont want him there, but want his money when he died
    And labour don’t want to admit they want the traditional working class , associated with them but want their vote

    I don’t rhibk sincd April labour cares about the traditional working class vote even I Gareth Snell doesn’t win bwck his stoke in Trent seat
    Or the working class labour councillors in the Medway Kent ,keep their seats
    It’s just to much hassle to bother
    BkIr has a party that we’re prepared to tolerate him getting midgle class votes as they wanted him to win
    Yet the party would sooner increase its majorities in the cities rather than accept it needs the socially conservative working class vote ,as to do that 5”the party would have to stop being snobs tk them
    And that would have to admit not accepting the globalisation neo liberal capitalism of the EU or Blair or the positive discrimination as lefty councils give hand outs to minority groups as part of identity politics

    Wilson Ingeroted a outdated tory Party , a unoted Labour Party did you social democrat euro Skeptic ,Gaitskell snd JFK told him if you sell the image labour is a moral crusade when people who feel it’s their life’s work to Be moral people, they won’t ever question the winter of discontent snd the public rejected the ideas of the 74-79 government to the point
    The fans of the 60’S gov’t has to have new labour day they were different to the Wilson/Callaghan gov’t upset their romantic way of living their lives and had to wait till Ed Miliband ssid he wasn’t nes labour and new a Labour was immoral , so when he lost rather than listening to Dsn Hodges saying they lesson of Ed Miliband losing was never listen to a word Owen Jones said agsin, Thr party elected Corbyn and said we lost with Ed Miliband as he wasn’t left wing enough

    Then decided the bloke who lost labour 2.5m votes between 2017-2019 Keir starmer when he put remain on a second referendum on the ballot Paper
    That the architect of the 2019 defeat dan dome his deliver labour to victory in 2024

  2. A.J. says:

    Peter Hitchens amuses me when he claims the Conservative Party is New Labour but minus the charm. Funny, but I don’t remember too much of that from Gordon Brown or the likes of Alistair Campbell, two of the most repellant figures in modern politics.
    Chaps like Matt Hancock by comparison are simply absurd. Not even a good Lord Mayor of Birmingham in a lean year. Wouldn’t give him a position on the PTA.
    But they still mostly piss in the same pot and have done for years.

  3. Anne says:

    Starmer does face much more serious challenges than either Wilson or Blair. As a country we must learn lessons from this Pandemic- it could happen again with a different organism. Also the economy has taken a bashing and it will take some time to get back on track. On top of this will be the effects of Brexit – trying to hold the Union together. The challenges are great. What happens in America will also affect our country. To meet these changes Starmer must be much more than a teacher – he must be a leader – the slogan for the conference is true – we are under new leadership- he is the right man for the job – let’s hope for all our sakes that the country understands this.

  4. A.J. says:

    Is Keir Starmer now taking the knee before the Labour faithful? My memory might be at fault – it probably is – but I don’t remember anything more than a vague murmur from him during Corbyn’s time as leader about the Left’s Jewish problem or much else of value. It seems to me that he simply bided his time and hoped that Long-Bailey and Nandy would turn out to be as stupid and unacceptable as he always imagined they were before making his power grab. He thus remains a liar and a bullshitter, a woke, pro-EU, pro-immigrant, fundamentally anti-British London suit. He will doubtless lose the next election unless Johnson imitates Harold Wilson and fritters away his advantage within the lifetime of this so-called ‘Parliament’. Heath, though, must have cursed the day he walked into Downing Street. Talk about a poisoned chalice!
    No, the terrible, the shocking problem is that the English political class is no longer up to scratch. We have an allegedly ‘Conservative’ party that is more or less left wing, a Labour Party that wouldn’t recognise a labouring man if he fell over him in the street and a Liberal Democratic party whose last leader appeared to be virtually insane. Yes, you, Jo Swinson, Prime Minister In Waiting. Where’s the choice? Who can summon up the enthusiasm any longer? As a friend says, Conservative and Labour are now just two cheeks on the same arse.

  5. Alf says:

    Sir Keir has made it clear that he sees going back to a Tory-lite Labour party is the best way forward. He accepts that this strategy lost in 2010 and 2015, buthe hopes that it might just work next time. I think most members are prepared to give the idea another go.

  6. A.J. says:

    What fresh pack of lies has Starmer come to tell Britain? Surely that’s more to the point.

  7. A.J. says:

    Full marks to Charles Moore for pissing on Lord Ashcroft in today’s ‘Daily Telegraph’. Remember Mothering Sunday? My wife, having just endured her last chemotherapy and with no hair, was looking forward to seeing our grandson with his parents. They decided not to come. Yet our next-door neighbour – a nurse – had the full complement of children and grandchildren. Soon, whilst she sat in her garden smoking away and socialising with whoever dropped by, the idiots around us were sticking rainbows in their windows and clapping on their doorsteps whilst my wife wondered if, with her immune system lowered, it was safe to venture out of doors.
    Now we head towards another lockdown, doubtless with the tired old nonsense about protecting a monopolistic organization that’s supposed to look after each and every member of the UK population and signally fails to do so.
    No wonder Great Britain has become so dishonest. I guess it was last year, before the election was called, that Simon Heffer wrote that no honesty about the NHS would be
    forthcoming from either of the two main parties. By Christ, he was right – and I blame Johnson and Hancock. I don’t expect honesty from the Labour Party about the NHS – or much else.

  8. John P Reid says:

    As Renie anjeh said 2 months ago the Tories weren’t interested in fighting a culture war they had their outriggers
    Like Nigel farage and Marc Francois to portray labour as the loony left

    The real intalectuals like Michael Gove Domunic Cummings even The ERG as grass route voters all the up country who now
    With covid are being deflected from Government incompetence as The right can say the left are obsessed with the trans issue and the BLM and anti semitism

    So as such They may see it. A distraction for the Tories new vote in the red wall, the working class just wont go back to the Labour Party but ain’t at the moment as the Tories dont believe keir Starmers when he says we’ve moved on from brexit and him pretending to say “ I’m patriotic”

    Remember starmer was the architect of

    The middle class liberals saying have a second referendum for remain as he felt the traditional working class support had nowhere else to go

    And

    The changes in the economy there’s The big winner on struggle with low aged factory workers on anti social , hours to advance their lives and have to move to work but working hours in the U.K. beg to people to spend the money the country hasn’t got AT the moment

  9. A.J. says:

    There’s a fairly interesting article in ‘The Spectator’ right now alluding to the continuing stupidity of Labour activists (and, possibly, voters) concerning the last General Election. It reminds me of comments allegedly made by activists after the defeat of 1979 along the lines of the Party being insufficiently Left Wing – as opposed to stupid and out of touch, hogtied by the unions and unilateralism etc.
    I’m still convinced that Starmer will struggle and that we have blindly entered a very dangerous period in our national politics. That danger, however, is being driven by the so-called ‘Conservative Party’, the chancer who leads it and the mediocrities who surround him.

  10. A.J. says:

    Rather a good article by Martin Kettle in ‘The Guardian’ today, though with the usual drivelling responses from those who bolster that tired old rag. Comment from Kettle: Don’t write Johnson off, at least not yet. Drivel from Guardianistas: we’d still be better off in the EU, if only Labour did this or that, Starmer more popular than Johnson etc. etc. Hilariously, Kettle mentions how Labour activists in 1983 reckoned on Michael Foot getting a 50-seat majority over Margaret Thatcher. Chuckle chuckle. I was almost at my most wild-eyed for Labour by 1984, although a taste of activism soon had me rubbing my eyes and wondering. I was young enough to imagine I’d joined the party of Attlee, not Alice Through The Looking Glass.
    Anyway, Simon Jenkins, like Andrew Rawnsley, remains a decent journalist: pearls amongst swine, eh?

  11. John P reid says:

    Ive come to the conclusion labour would only win a election again ,If someone like
    peter hitchens was labour leader ( I pick him as he doesn’t like to have the culture war battle the way Toby ping would do A ssid Janes impression today Wind up Jess Ohilips by saying he fancied certain women and knowing a femenist would be outraged, or Brandan Oneill would love to Wind Up Laurie Penny at Novara media by saying his love for free speech that means he’ll defend Hilary Clinton’s right to call the rust belt A basket case of Deplorablex as king as he can defend Katy Hopkins free speech)
    But when Hitchens was in Question time 7 years ago , peter said something along the lines of poverty doesn’t cause crime people have to take responsibility for their own actions and even though in Squaller others who feel they’re in lawless areas bend the rules it doesn’t excuse it

    emily Thornberry the. By playing to the Woke masses
    About it’s not suprise a mail on sun day journalist judges the poor as below him and starts virtue signalling about feral council estates

    Emily thornberry leter Hitchens never said reason poverty on council estates
    is because they’re less people it’s her
    Judging him saying that he looks onthem as Benig Feral

    link to question time below
    Now if labour ever wants to win again and the year zero moment maybe when labour loses its councillors in Essex in 2022
    Thornberry May have to accept someone like Hitchens May have to be labour leader
    Or if not labour may feel if it has to be socially conservative or May suit it to begin permanent opposition
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-politics-18456466

  12. Tafia says:

    Starmer will never be PM. He will do what John Smith and Neil Kinnock had to do – curtail the Left and drag the party into modern day reality.

    The next Labour PM will be one of the young MPs now – or may not even be an MP yet.

  13. Rob says:

    A decent speech by Starner.

    Still don’t see how they can bridge the gap between the Simewheres and Anywheres and the Anywheres who revert back to Skmewheres.

    The Red Wall seats have much in common but what is often lost on the London Commentariat is many have new housing estates which are affordable for those who may commute to urban areas for better paid work. E.g.even Angela Rayner saw her majority slashed to 4k in Ashton. Heyqood and Middleton Redditch Blyth Valley Sutton in Ashfield not to mention the Stoke seats are filled with Grandpa Whiipet the Racist. Do the folk in Red Wall seats want to be told how Crap Everything iy sheet detached Metropolitan Liberaps. Doubtful.

    One other point the Red Wall provides a disproportionate number of Armed Forces regulars. The inner city kids can get same money working at KFC. Labour need to be mindful of this.

  14. Tafia says:

    Hungary, Poland and Czechia reject EU’s new migration pact

    Hungary, Poland, and Czechia have come out against a new European Commission Migration Pact sponsored mainly by Germany, which was presented on Wednesday, which all three countries say is woefully insufficient in addressing the issue of mass migration to Europe and also features unacceptable clauses that would require all member states to accept migrants or pay a fine.

    Slovakia, the Baltic states and Denmark will also oppose.

  15. Tafia says:

    Rob One other point the Red Wall provides a disproportionate number of Armed Forces regulars. The inner city kids can get same money working at KFC. Labour need to be mindful of this.

    As an ex-soldier may I just say that’s bollocks. Yes they tend to come from the North, Wales and England, but they earn considerably more than someone working for KFC. An 18 year old Infantryman straight out of basic training is on 20,000 a year starting pay. He gets six weeks paid holiday a year, lives on-site to where he works, living costs in barracks are £150 a month, all bills less food included., (married soldiers pay rents equitable to housing associations), he gets a massive range of High St discounts, a concessionary railcard, five star medical and dental treatment free of charge, free education up to degree level including time off on full pay where needed. free legal care, a 5 star insurance scheme (PAX) that covers him on or off-duty, peacetime or war, tax and duty free deals on cars, extra money when overseas, assistance on buying a house, first rate fully transferable pension scheme and much much more.

    I suggest you visit an Infantry Battalion – the sheer number of new cars will stagger you – as probably would the number with some form of higher education. (When I left I had a NEBSM and an NVQ5 in Business Administration as well as a whole host of City & Guilds levels 3 & 4- quite normal for 22 year infantryman. And soldiers that learn a trade in one of the Corps – such as Royal Engineers, REME etc, earn even more.

    Infantry rates, Pte to Sgt

    Recruits (in initial training); £15,985 a year (usually 17-18 years old, basic infantry training is 28 weeks)
    Private: £20,400 a year (usually around 18)
    Lance Corporal: £27,326 a year ( the soldier should strive to hit this at around 21)
    Corporal: £31,869 a year (Should strove to hit this around 24-25)
    Sergeant: £35,853 a year (should be looking at age 30)
    Then after that is Colour Sergeant, Sergeant Major, RSM (also known as God)

  16. John P Reid says:

    Take no notice of 1 poll showing labour a couple of points ahead
    Even before the boundary changes which will give the Tories a 10 seat advantage the
    boundaries are nor do stacked against labour, labour could get 4% more and still have less Mps

  17. Tafia says:

    Rob, you seem to know that area. I had JW Lees boozer in Heywood, followed by a town centre outlet with catering and private function facilities in nearby Oldham

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