Starmer turns his back on the FBPE crowd.
Starmer is putting some welcome distance between himself and the Hard Remain advocates, but this route holds some big political peril and it remains a tricky balancing act for him.
Keir Starmer says he won’t be making any major changes to the Brexit settlement upon the ascension of a Starmer government, and that the 2024 Labour campaign won’t be talking about our relationship with Europe. Ensue the hysterics from the hardcore Remain people, who believed Starmer was some sort of EU warrior, when in reality he just needed the cultivate the membership’s votes.
Starmer is right to call it quits on this, say its over, and leave it at that. Changes to our settlement with Europe will likely come later down the line, but that depends on the political environment at the time, and talk of that now would be suicidal. The duplicity is irritating though, during the Corbyn years he was the tribunal of Remain, then advocated some sort of Brexit settlement that kept freedom of movement (an appealing offering, but politically impossible to sell to middle England), and now going all out in embracing a Hard Brexit. I don’t disagree with his strategy now, but the duplicity and inconsistency is wincingly obvious.
This deal remains woeful, but a radical Labour government could likely make it work, with some tweaks and alterations here and there, especially if it took advantage of the ability to change the economic settlement in ways EU membership wouldn’t permit. This approach sends a message to Labour Leave voters, and to the Red Wall, that Labour isn’t obstructing Brexit anymore, which is necessary if Starmer wants anything close to a majority.
However, there’s huge political peril here. Labour abandons the young, and minorities, at their peril. Labour’s base of support, the people who still gave them 32% in 2019, the people who got them 40% in 2017, the backbone of their coalition, and their most loyal supporters: the young, are overwhelmingly Remain, primarily on a values basis, and if Starmer oversteers and alienates them, he’s finished, and he’s betrayed what Corbyn cultivated, which is a bright electoral future for Labour as demographics alter over the next 20 years.
The hope must be that this has calmed down by 2024, and the young don’t have Europe in the forefront of their minds, and there isn’t some sort of Rejoin force attracting them (think Greens, Lib Dems, etc). The only way Labour has a hope of keeping and cultivating its (very much conditional) relationship with these people, is to speak to them. It must offer what it offered the young in 2017, and go further, it must be radical and bold and progressive and clearly sending a message that it sees the economic settlement young people have been left with, and has their back.
If Labour can bridge this divide in 2024 easier than it did in 2019, then it has the beginnings of a reunited 2017-type coalition.