The Uncuts: 2023 political awards (Part II)

Politician of the year: Team Starmer

For the 2023 award, Uncut is bending the rules a little to hand the politician of the year gong to a team. There is a logic. Keir Starmer had an excellent year, he has palpably learned, adapted and overcome the challenges in front of him. But politics is a team sport and while he has been front of office, the back-office team have made much of this progress possible.

In the 1990s, Tony Blair had a close-knit team around him that propelled him to power. The big names are well known – Jonathan Powell, Anji Hunter, Alastair Campbell, Peter Mandelson and Sally Morgan. Even at the time, each had their own distinct profile, just as Gordon Brown’s team with Charlie Whelan, Ed Balls and Ed Miliband, each had their own media profile.

The difference in the 2020s is that team Starmer is just that, a single unit, there is little briefing or publicity for the different members. No running storyline on tensions with the shadow chancellor’s team where the advisers become the story. After the psychodrama of the TB-GBs, fuelled in large part by advisers, and the scorched earth of Dominic Cummings tenure, a return to the days when advisers remained firmly in the back-office is a welcome change, not to mention an important part of minimising stories of splits and backbiting in any future Labour government.

So, congratulations to Morgan McSweeney, Matt Pound, Matt Doyle, Deborah Mattinson, Peter Hyman and Muneera Lula for not being the story with an honourable mention for Sue Gray, only recently in post as chief of staff, following a highly publicised exit from the civil service, but resolutely absent from the headlines in her new role.

Most underrated in 2023: President Biden

America is heading towards a presidential election between a candidate facing nearly 100 criminal charges and another that has delivered unprecedented and, given the shocks of Covid and Putin’s war, unexpected economic strength.

It should be a no brainer that the latter will win. By a landslide. And yet the polls suggest otherwise and nervousness – Democratic (as in the party) and democratic (as in the political system) – is pervasive.

When Americans vote, Democrats win. In the 2022 midterms, Democrats won by larger margins than in the 2020 presidential election in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania — all battleground states. Democrats also performed strongly in 2023: flipping a Supreme Court seat in Wisconsin; defeating a six-week abortion ban in Ohio; and keeping the Virginia state house.

Two things that these electoral results say are: first, Democrats are performing well among engaged voters – those that turn out in mid-term elections; second, the stripping away of women’s reproductive rights by a Supreme Court, with three members appointed by Trump, is energising Democratic voters.

The presidential election will bring participation from less engaged voters. But the Supreme Court’s decision is hardly any more popular among such voters and these voters are acting in ways that indicate confidence in Biden’s economy: spending by American households has helped their economy to a GDP growth rate of over 5% in Q3 2023, putting more Americans in work than at any time in history, with wage growth outstripping an inflation rate that has fallen much more quickly than in the UK.

Polling on economic sentiment is less positive for Biden. The proportion of Americans who think they are worse off than they were a year ago outnumber those who think they are better off by 10%. The conviction that much is rotten in America is core to Trump’s campaign. Under dark clouds, Trump thinks he is more likely to appear as a saviour.

But Biden’s economy should encourage Americans to push these dark clouds away and gives him a robust platform from which to seek re-election, meaning that the president is winner of our underrated 2023 award.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply