In order to form a judgement on who is best to lead the party, Labour members must first acknowledge the importance of their decision. The Labour Party is just another bad election away from oblivion. Despite the present crisis there is undoubtedly a way out and there are steps that can be taken immediately to improve the party’s fortunes. These involve building back trust with the Jewish community by rooting out antisemitism and ending the factional infighting within the party. On these and many other issues I think that Keir Starmer is our best option.
The start of his campaign has been incredibly slick and, crucially, he has garnered support from all corners of the party. He has—at the time of writing—the largest number of MPs supporting him (with more than double the number of the candidate in second), the support of the country’s biggest trade union Unison and, according to YouGov, is polling highest among members. He is someone who is liked and respected by the Left, the soft Left and the Right of the party, and when someone appeals to all these wings, they must be doing something correct.
The main question mark surrounding his campaign is can this seemingly rather moderate personality with an establishment background really bring about the radical change in the country that Labour members desire? Whilst Starmer admittedly doesn’t have the sheer charisma of a Tony Blair or a Harold Wilson, neither did Clement Attlee, and ultimately it is he who had the greatest success in establishing long-lasting and popular socialist institutions.
Despite the comparison to Attlee, it is the other candidates in this election that are too focused with the past. Some are focused solely on winning back Leave voters in the Midlands and North who deserted the party at the recent election.
However, doing this would only return Labour to the narrower losses of 2015 and 2017. Others are too obsessed with the Third Way and triangulation which would no longer produce a winning coalition of voters, nor address the social and economic challenges facing post-austerity Britain.
To win, Labour needs a leader who can win back voters in the traditional heartlands whilst also picking up seats in Scotland and rural England. To do this, the leadership has to be bold and adopt some of the better policies of the past few years whilst abandoning all the negativity and baggage. What this means in practice is promoting a radical agenda on the climate crisis and inequality whilst simultaneously ending internal squabbles and nostalgic visions of the past, be they from the Left or Right of the party.
These ideas have formed the basis of the Starmer campaign so far and this is why he is the best person to lead the party. Taking heed of what your opponents are saying about your own leadership candidates isn’t a bad idea and the fact that the Tories are most fearful of a Starmer led Labour Party says a lot. Ultimately, Starmer is right to suggest that another future is possible for our country and I believe that he might just be the person who can bring it about.
Image: Chatham House vis Wikimedia Commons