Sunday 3 December 2023

Starmer's love of the headline may deny Labour absolute power

 The big domestic news this morning is that, in a Sunday Telegraph article, Sir Keir Starmer has praised for their "sense of mission" Clement Attlee, Tony Blair … and Margaret Thatcher*. What a disparate crew! There may be some similarities of world view between Thatcher and Blair, but the fact that Blair chose the Labour party as the vehicle for his ambition, when he clearly could have made a Conservative front bench, shows that there were differences of philosophy. Both, of course, were leagues away from Attlee. One has to conclude that Starmer wants to be more associated with people who have made headlines, rather than any particular political belief. He has already been accused of trying to woo Conservatives, but for every soft Tory vote he attracts, he is likely to lose both socialists and social democrats, the nod to Attlee notwithstanding.

The impression that he wants to be all things to all voters had already been given a boost by his foreign affairs spokesman, David Lammy, on Friday.  The i headline proclaimed: "Labour: EU will be our number one priority for foreign policy". Examination of the small print, however, reveals that there is no change from Labour's avowed policy of "making Brexit work", only a promise to hold regular (every four months) talks with EU leaders. There is a suggestion of closer military cooperation, but nothing about restoring our former favourable trading relationship or common social and environmental standards. Participation in Europe's political processes of course is right out of the window. 

Not being a Tory is insufficient. Voters, come the general election, will want to know what Sir Keir really stands for. I pity the Labour candidates who will have to reconcile the conflicting messages on the doorstep and at the hustings - if they dare to attend any.

* I have also been known to applaud Margaret Thatcher, but only for chipping away at the glass ceiling by becoming the first British female prime minister.

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