The Labour party have spent over a decade out of power. In the eyes of many these have been ten wasted years. When they came to power in 1997 there was a feeling that this was the party’s time to really take hold of power in the UK, but unfortunately by 2010 they had been voted out.
As the party languished under Ed Miliband and deeply divided itself under Jeremy Corbyn, new leader Keir Starmer faces a tough challenge to overthrow a conservative party with an eighty seat majority. However, the future could be bright for the Labour party. Should they move on from these wasted years, capture the spirit of their origins and realise the limited shelf life of the current Prime Minister, then they may just be on to a winner.
Though his very impassioned followers would have you believe that Jeremy Corbyn is a modern day messiah, there can be no getting away from his failures as leader in the 2019 General Election. The Miliband years deserve their criticism, but Corbyn’s time has left severe internal and external damage on the party. Ultimately the party lost in 2015 because they did not offer enough of an alternative. There was an element of customer loyalty to the conservative party. The electorate did not see the point in changing their provider when pretty much the same service was being offered by their current one. Coupled with the party missing the growing Euro scepticism within their base, the Labour party faced a rousing defeat.
However, Corbyn’s Labour cannot face the same accusation of not offering an alternative. The failings of Corbyn go far and wide, but the indecisiveness on Brexit, his continued poor handling of genuine concerns over anti-semitism and a growing intolerance amongst his supporters are the key ones. The remnants of Corbyn do not seem to be going away anytime soon either. His prideful insistence on not apologising for the hurt he has caused Britain’s already dwindling Jewish community will continue to stain the party. It is quite clear there is a mountain to climb to win in 2024.
Mountains, however, are not impossible to summit. There is a balance that can be struck between the previous two iterations of the Labour Party. Offering a genuine alternative that there is an actual appetite for. The Labour Party are seen as a Britain bashing party for graduates and the middle classes. As a native to the West Midlands, I have seen the party’s support disintegrate for ten years. This is due in the most part to the party being out of touch with the ‘common’ men and women of Britain. The Labour Party was setup for these exact people. Keir Starmer needs to re-engage these people by fighting for issues they sincerely care about.
Starmer learnt a fairly quick lesson when his unchecked support for Black Lives Matter had to be rolled back when he found out about some of their views he did not agree with. He will have to do things that go against his natural instincts and learn more lessons like this on the way. He will have to, in some way, get on board with the idea of Britain leaving the EU, understand the genuine concerns around immigration and that cultural issues such as preferred pronouns are at the periphery in comparison to issues around properly funding our public services.
Though very quickly criticised for being Blair 2.0, Starmer can certainly learn one thing in particular from Blair’s incredibly successful 1997 campaign; patriotism. It cannot go unsaid that ‘Cool Britannia’ played a vital part the first time he was elected. Contrary to popular belief, there are a lot of people who still like living in this country and believe in many of its core values. You will find lots of these people in the ‘red wall’ areas Labour are desperate to win back. Starmer has rightly recognised this very early on as what worked for Blair and will likely prove effective for Starmer too.
Ultimately, Labour need to realise Boris Johnson is the type of leader who has an expiration date. Yet, the attempts at character assassination have never worked as his opponents also often get baited by his silly behaviour that only endears people to him more. Starmer should allow Boris to reveal his own character and not stoop to his level. Thankfully he has shown great promise at the dispatch box at PMQ’s coming across as a very serious politician as all Boris can do is make up vaguely comical nicknames for him.
Labour face a great challenge in the next election, but it is one they can overcome. They need to recognise their previous failures and swiftly move away from the damaging reputation fostered by Corbyn. They need to re-engage with their base, however reluctant they may be to do this. They also need to not engage with Boris’s schoolboy antics and instead become the serious face of British politics. To Labour’s delight, they have four more years to achieve this.