Labour won’t recover until Starmer resigns.

The biggest lie told during the 2020 Labour leadership election actually had nothing to do with 10 Pledges. The biggest lie, peddled by the press, the party, and pretty much anyone in British politics you asked, was that Sir Keir Starmer was the most “electable” Labour leader, and when it came to looking outward to the country, he had the best chance of getting somewhere. This was swallowed by all quarters, even some sections of the left more instinctively aligned with Rebecca Long-Bailey. And when Starmer won, Labour members showed their cards: they were happy to compromise here or there, because it meant their leader had the best chance of getting into No 10. This was a farce, and it’s coming to pass that Keir Starmer was the LEAST electable of the bunch, for a set of reasons anyone could have deduced way back when during that fateful leadership contest.

Labour’s electoral dilemma is bridging a divide between rural, homeowning, traditional, Brexit-backing older voters, with cosmopolitan, liberal, economically precarious, Remain-backing younger voters. Both these groups want radical economic policies for the many, but have radically different value sets and hold those values very close to their hearts when they decide who to cast their vote for; they won’t hesitate to leave Labour if it leaves them. Hence the dilemma, Labour needs to unite these two constituencies around radical policies, while successfully bridging that cultural divide exacerbated by the years of Brexit infighting and capitulating in the party.

Keir Starmer was only viewed as the electable choice for prejudiced and stereotypical reasons. It went like this: “northern women won’t win, southern man in suit who has nice hair will win”. Politics in this country is vacuous, and image regrettably matters, but it isn’t THAT vacuous; this isn’t 1997, a suit and a quiff won’t cut it, people are hurting and they want real answers that speak to them, their value system, and their material needs; they don’t care if Johnson looks like a scarecrow, and they don’t want a slick lawyer and patron of the British establishment, instinctively, they just don’t want that.

I’m not saying Lisa Nandy or Rebecca Long-Bailey would be 20 points ahead in the polls (I’m not deluded or ridiculous), but whatever the polling, if Becky had won, Labour would be in a fundamentally stronger place right now, with a strong policy and intellectual base to draw from, hundreds of thousands ready to mobilise enthusiastically to tip the balance in places like Hartlepool (where a Saudi backing ghoul wouldn’t have been selected) and the leader would at least have a CHANCE of bridging that voter divide, and bringing disillusioned Labour folks back into the fold, while keeping the young energised, turned out, on side.

Keir Starmer won’t connect with the younger, urban voters. He has abandoned the liberal values he professed to be for, he’s an ally of the security state which young people have been mobilising against, and he’s belittled and insulted young people and their political choices at every turn, first and foremost by humiliating Jeremy Corbyn (after which his approval with the young tanked), and by abandoning any recognition of their material needs, putting out shite like “we’ll build more housing for older people and veterans” and promising to bolster CCTV provision to tackle “anti-social behaviour” which often means charging teenagers for standing together somewhere. In short, young people will instinctively know he isn’t FOR them, and won’t bother.

Nor will Keir Starmer connect with the older, more traditional voters he’s spent his entire leadership courting at the expense of everyone else. Thanks to his disastrous and undemocratic handling of the brief, he is remembered as Mr Remain by these people (they aren’t thick!) and will forever be associated with that bunch in the gut of a second referendum and obstruction of the Brexit process. Besides that, he’s an establishment lawyer of the liberal elite with no charisma and a prior infatuation with all things EU, how is that going to fly? The Labour establishment must have thought so little of these people they assumed they just wanted tough words on crime and a man in a suit; Starmer will never out-Tory Tories, and these people know that approach is inauthentic, therefore there’s no chance.
Because of all these factors, contrary (even today) to the estimations of our glorious pundits, Keir Starmer is the worst possible man for the job at the worst possible time, and his party is going to suffer as a result.

Let’s not forget, the polling slid once Starmer actually had to do and say things (he was off to a stellar start when he’d barely said a word beyond “I would sack Cummings”), because not only is he a shite politician with terrible advisors, but his style, ethos and strategy, is just not gonna cut it in 2020s British politics. Both sets of voters want radical domestic policies, and Keir Starmer isn’t providing them; the one uniting ingredient is gone, and while you may say 2019 proves that radical policy alone isn’t enough (there were other factors at play, but it’s a compelling argument), I say comparing 2015 and 2017 shows that radical policy may not be the only ingredient, but it’s the key ingredient for the strategy to work, and doing away with it puts Labour in the doldrums permanently.

It’s far too early to see if Starmer will lead Labour into the next election, if the May results are dire it’ll become a little clearer that he won’t, but the rightwing PLP will only turn on him if they know they’re the ones who’ll win the contest, and if they have leader ready; they won’t do it on terms that might hand power back to the left, so we’d be fighting a loosing battle, on our opponents turf, with the rules written by our opponents. In other words, it’s likely to be Starmer leading the opposition into the next election, or someone to the right of him.

The left needs to focus on building on alternative, and keeping our policy ideas hegemonic in the party, so that when Keir Starmer reaches for policy, he sees our ideas.

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Toby Lipatti-Mesme

Toby Lipatti-Mesme

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Insightful and innovative UK journalism and commentary, from Toby Lipatti-Mesme.