Whatever happens, Keir Starmer has put Labour on track for government

by Jonathan Todd

The local elections showed that Keir Starmer has put Labour on a trajectory to form the next government, irrespective of whether a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) prevents him making it to Downing Street.

I offered 5 reasons for Labour optimism at the end of last year. Each has strengthened.

  1. Boris Johnson will never again be the political force that he was in December 2019

The unique circumstances of the 2019 general election will never be repeated. They were unusually favourable to Johnson.

Now he is one of the least popular prime ministers ever and blamed by his party for larger than expected losses in the local elections.

There is little sunlight on Johnson’s horizon. Cost of living crisis. Record NHS waiting lists. Northern Irish unrest bound up with his Brexit deal.

Many leaders suffer midterm challenges and recover. Johnson may be another. But he confronts big problems, which will not create a context as hospitable as December 2019.

  1. The next general election will not be about Brexit

We – as I wrote last December – are tired of Brexit. We do not want to refight old battles. We just want things to work properly.

But things are not working properly. In Northern Ireland. At our borders. With our exports. These problems all follow from Johnson’s Brexit.

If only these were the only failures of 12 years of Tory government. The rot of austerity and endemic poverty goes deep.

We see this all around us: homelessness and food banks; whenever we try to access NHS services; when we work long hours to not meet ever rising bills. These Tory failures hobble our civic life and economic performance.

We cannot sustain the growth needed to pay for the public services that we need. The Tory response is to further weigh us down with taxes. They are, as Rachel Reeves has said, a party of high taxes because they are a party of low growth.

The right approach is to liberate our potential. We are so much better than they have allowed us to believe. We can thrive with proper backing.

The next election won’t be about ‘getting Brexit done’ but getting Britain started. It is a turn the page election. The next Tory page is ‘Brexit opportunities’ and ‘levelling up’.

Labour needs messages and messengers to own the future much more convincingly.

  1. Johnson’s kingdom of sand bequeaths little to the next Tory leader

In the morning of his 1997 defeat, John Major drew warm applause from Tory activists for saying that they could look back with pride on what they had achieved in government. Applause in equivalent circumstances in 2024 will be entirely hollow.

3 Tory prime ministers and very little to show for it. 2 cons: austerity and Brexit. 1 big lie: that they have any idea how to do any better.

They lack the (misplaced) verve of Thatcher. The national unity of Macmillan. The – despite Johnson’s delusions – resolve of Churchill.

Labour is now living up to our history. Blair appearing in campaign videos. Starmer celebrating Wilson. An Attlee moment pregnant in the national mood.

We know who we are and what we are here to do. To write a new chapter in our national story. As we did in 1945, 1964 and 1997.

The best parts of our Covid response – the vaccine rollout, clapping for carers, looking out for each other – harnessed compassion and wisdom in a national mission. We need the same urgency and virtues around improving economic performance.

This will never come from a government that only wants power for its own sake.

  1. Liberal Democrat revival helps Labour

There are places where the Liberal Democrats competes with Labour (e.g., Hull). In many places, however, the Liberal Democrats now fulfil a traditional role: soaking up anti-Tory support where Labour victory is a distant prospect.

The Liberal Democrats can be a hammer to the blue wall, the bedrock of Tory support in the south of England.

  1. Labour strength across the UK builds Labour recovery in Scotland

These local elections were Labour’s best performance in Scotland for a decade. A solid foundation for Scottish Labour under Anas Sarwar – with Labour re-established as the dominant pro-UK party.

The more that Labour looks like returning to government in Westminster, the stronger Labour’s recovery in Scotland.

These local elections show a building possibility of Labour making such a return:

  • “These local election results suggest Keir Starmer could be prime minister,” concluded John Rentoul.
  • “The Conservative vote is in trouble on two fronts,” according to James Johnson. “Most stark is the serious attrition in London and the south, especially in areas with more educated and middle-class voters: to go backwards by so much in these areas spells serious trouble for southern marginals at the next election … Nor were the results good for the Conservatives in the red wall.”
  • “Labour has reached base camp,” tweeted Nick Boles. “Assault on Everest still lies ahead. Daunting but doable.”

Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay did not have to contend with lockdowns and Durham police. But success still depends as much on teamwork as it then did.

Labour was a team recovering from our darkest depths when Starmer took over. He has brought the summit back into view and, hopefully, will be able to take us there.

Jonathan Todd is Deputy Editor of Labour Uncut  


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11 Responses to “Whatever happens, Keir Starmer has put Labour on track for government”

  1. John P Reid says:

    Labour does better in Scotland than last time

    In other news the Welsh nudist party doubled its vote from 3 to 6

    BJ will never be the force he was
    Apart from Half time blues Maggie lost the GLC in 1981 and while the Tory percentage was down in her next two victories she went from strength to strength

    There were seats labour won in outer london on 33% of the vote on a 20% turnout 3 seat wads
    If there was a 80% turnout and labour did the same at a general election
    That’s losing their ballot paper money
    Territory

    There’s other red walls outside Of london, not just the north ,
    And try to understand

    Tories can win a election without london and Scotland

  2. John P Reid says:

    Yes the next elections not about brexit but the culture war of telling the working class they’re thick and racist and should know their place is still here

    Also wrong in rhe next tory leader
    The last 2 Tory old didn’t want their successor to take iver
    No reason why savid Javid won’t get it or
    penny Mourdant
    She appeals to lord John Taylor Dwayne Brooke Molly samuels Jamaican Tories
    She appeals to Ruth Davison she appeals to Essex Tories and the north london liberal Tories Like Selina short Iain Dale and Simon jobs

  3. Tafia says:

    ENGLAND (can’t get overall percentages yet)
    Lab –
    Con –
    LDem –
    Grn –
    Aspire –
    Reform –
    SDP –
    UKIP –
    Res.Ass. –
    Ind –

    Total Seats (4411 across 150 councils)
    Lab – 2265 (+22)
    Con – 1078 (-336)
    LDem – 712 (+193)
    Grn – 116 (+63)
    Aspire – 24 (+23)
    Reform – 2 (+2)
    SDP – 1 (+1)
    UKIP – 0 (-3)
    Res.Ass. – 51 (+7)
    Ind -144 (+26)

    There were 7 Mayoral elections:
    Labour 4 (-1)
    Con 1 (new position, Croydon)
    Ldem 1 (nc)
    Aspire 1 (+1)
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    SCOTLAND (first preference)
    SNP 34.1% (+1.8%)
    LAB 21.8% (+1.6%)
    CON 19.7% (-5.6%)
    LDEM 8.6% (+1.7%)
    GRN 6.0% (+1.8%0

    Total Seats (1227 across 32 councils)
    SNP 454 (+23)
    LAB 281 (+19)
    CON 215 (-62)
    LDEM 67 (+20)
    GRN 35 (+16)
    IND 152 (-15)
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    WALES (can’t get overall percentages yet)
    Lab –
    Plaid –
    Con –
    LDem –
    Grn –
    Propel –
    Ind –

    Total Seats (1233 across 22 councils)
    Lab – 526 (+66)
    Plaid – 202 (-6)
    Con – 111 (-86)
    LDem – 69 (+10)
    Grn – 8 (+8)
    Propel – 1 (+1)
    Ind – 315 (+7)
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    NORTHERN IRELAND ASSEMBLY (first preference)
    Sinn Fein 29.0% (+1.1)
    DUP 21.3% (-6.7)
    NIAP 13.5% (+4.5)
    UUP 11.2% (-1.7)
    SDLP 9.1% (-2.9)
    TUV 7.6% (+5.1)
    PBP 1.2% (-0.6)

    Total Seats (90)
    Sinn Fein 27 (n/c)
    DUP 25 (-3)
    NIAP 17 (+9)
    UUP 9 (-1)
    SDLP 8 (-4)
    TUV 1 (+1)
    PBP 1 (+1)
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  4. Anne says:

    Labour Uncut is like waiting for a bus – none for awhile then three come along in succession. However, Jonathan’s piece is well worth the wait. Excellent. can’t offer any criticism- says it as it is.

  5. Anne says:

    I like the line despite Johnson’ delusions he lacks the resolve of Churchill. Describes Johnson well.
    Liz Truss seems to be quietly getting on with the job. Must now be in the running for Johnson’s replacement.

  6. Tafia says:

    Labour does better in Scotland than last time

    On a lower turnout, it’s vote share increased 1.6%. The SNP’s increased 1.8%

  7. Anne says:

    Johnathan is correct when he stated we just want Brexit to work, but there are still major consequences, principally NI. In December, Liz Truss used her first call with the European Commission to state that the UK was prepared to trigger Article 16, which would effectively detonate the agreement. Truss argues that N.I elections provides the justification for this course of action, using her justification the the fact the DUP refuses to support the creation of a government unless there is action on the protocol. The DUP are now not the largest party. The vast majority of seats won in the Assembly last went to parties that want to make the Protocol work – Sinn Fein, Alliance and the SDLP. It is quite remarkable that the DUP were completely unaware that Brexit would cause issues to N.I. Border. Did they not understand what they were voting for? What also seems evident here is that Truss does not seem to have the capacity to form meaningful thoughts about the direction of policy. The DUP should uphold what the people of N.I. elected them to do – get on and govern – there is a cost of living crisis going on. If they are unwilling to do this they should be asked to stand down and disbanded. N.I and indeed the rest of the UK should not be put in danger of a trade war with the E.U. this is the last thing we need.

  8. John P Reid says:

    Anne
    Liz truss initially was the preferred replacement as a ex Libdem she could get beck Leo EU Tories who voted Libdem last time Like Heseltine

    But not they’ve twigged keep the red wall and try to don more red walls like Dagenham off of labour

    So it’s gonna be penny Mourdant
    Also she’s not part of the Boris tribe so isn’t discredited by being near him

  9. In Scotland we are sharing the unionist vote with the Tories. We can take votes away from them but not the SNP. There once was a time when our core vote didn’t vote nationalist. The Westminster controlled Labour Party made a major mistake during the referendum. Instead of sharing a platform with Cameron it should have been just pushing devolution max. Similar could be said about the EU referendum.

  10. Imran khan says:

    It’s too early to tell anything and Starmer’s future depends on the cops! I rest my case.

  11. Tafia says:

    Anne, you said The vast majority of seats won in the Assembly last went to parties that want to make the Protocol work – Sinn Fein, Alliance and the SDLP.

    That is nonsense. They won 48 out of 90 between them. Incidentally, Sinn Fein for all their pious posturing, also brought the Assembly down in 2019 using the same tactic.

    It seems you also have little idea how the Assembly works. Not only can it not sit until the largest nationalist party AND the largest unionist party agree to both sit (every party and every MLA has to register as either nationalist, unionist or non-aligned) and that nothing is allowed to be agreed once it does sit without the majority of MLAs of both groups registered as nationalist or unionist both agree. The Alliance Party is registered as ‘non-aligned’ and as such it’s vote does not count, even if it became the largest party. And that cannot be changed without the agreement of both sides as well as both Dublin & London. And the unionist vote and nationalist vote are tied on 35 seats each, meaning that once the Assembly finally elects a Speaker and does sit, it isn’t going to be able to do very much of any consequence about anything.

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