• Development Intelligence

Keir Starmer: now what?

Jeremy Corbyn - CC by 2.0

When Gordon Brown lost big in 2010, we all thought that it was Labour’s low point. But then along came the younger, less talented Miliband, and even lower Labour went. Not content with its death spiral, Labour then installed Magic Grandpa. And the painful to watch socialist sideshow then ensued, when in December last year Labour surely hit rock bottom electorally. Like the Tories in the noughties after their historic drubbing at the hands of Tony Blair in his prime, Labour had in its post-2010 electoral pain elected a couple of successive duds. Its ‘Michael Foot phase’ elongated for two terms rather than one.

And now Sir Keir, named after Kier Hardie, the most famous Labour folklore hero no less, has taken the floor. He’ll do well but please understand that Starmer is not Blair. Labour is about to re-do the Kinnock phase.

The climb back to power is just way too steep to achieve in one Parliament, even with a polished (but rather dull) performer like Starmer at the helm. The largest election swing in British political history was recorded by Tony Blair in 1997 at just over 10%. The next largest, but note at half that, was Thatcher’s in 1979 which reminds us just how huge Blair’s victory over the Tories really was in 1997. From this historical low point, Starmer’s challenge is truly Herculean. When Ramsey McDonald lost so badly in 1935 – a loss less bad than Jezza’s for the record – it took Labour 10 long years, three monarchs, three Tory PMs and a world war which utterly changed everyone’s world view to make the British electorate allow Labour back into power. When Jim Callaghan was thumped by Thatcher in 1979, it took 18 years, Kinnock and then Blair, as well as the Tory Party set to full on self-destruct mode for Labour to win power again.

And the very immediate challenge for Starmer right now, in the critical first 100 days when he needs to make maximum impact to set public perceptions of him right from the start, is to get some positive media attention but not be seen to be politically carping about how the Government is doing in the crisis; and this is made much more complicated by the Government’s (so far) soaring popularity in the opinion polls, now the highest ever recorded in polling history.

As things stand, Starmer has little realistic chance of getting Labour back to power in his one term. He will be the Kinnock character, sorting the crazies, building the platform, making the party respectable again, for the next leader after him to actually have a realistic shot at the title.