With the party briefing its members to expect a general election by 2023, I thought it was ample time to look at a few, and I mean few, positives in the Labour Party right now.
But let’s not get carried away too early: first, the polls don’t look great. Sir Keir Starmer doesn’t appear to be looking like the next man to take up residence in Number Ten. Nor does his party, a historical bastion of infighting, look fit to populate the other side of the Commons.
If I was in Keir’s shoes, I would put in place now the necessary steps to ensure we have a Labour government before the end of the decade. This could include ensuring that candidates are picked by the grassroots membership fairly, and not ushered in by wealthy, power-wielding unions.
It may also cross Starmer’s mind that this would allow the leadership to make sure incoming MPs are of the ilk that the electorate tend to support. Having politicians chosen by the party members can only be beneficial for the party democracy and its electoral prospects.
Another shining light is the ‘King of the North’, or as he’s more commonly known, Andy Burnham. The former MP for Leigh is a politician crafted within New Labour, and thus he is a man on the British left who has experienced electoral victory numerous times – a rare feat nowadays.
With momentous support in the North, and especially within Manchester, rumours suggest Burnham may seek out a career in Westminster once again. Burnham has masterfully presided over Manchester since 2017, and he even managed to increase his majority in 2021. Recent political bouts with Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon have garnered him a wave of public support, and even Diane Abbott went as far as to throw the support of Campaign Group behind a potential third ‘Burnham for Leader’ campaign.
A man who has experience of winning, a style of politics the electorate has voted for, and an ability to unite the party behind him is surely someone who should be being teed up as the next Labour Party leader.
Now, don’t be disheartened by the fact that Burnham, arguably the Labour politician with most public support now, isn’t even in the Commons, as there are a few MPs who look set to become valuable members of a future Labour cabinet.
Take Darren Jones, the current MP for Bristol North East, for example. Jones, who displaced Conservative Charlotte Leslie in 2017’s snap election, already chairs the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committee, and a potential cabinet role doesn’t seem a far-fetched prospect for him. Other rising stars include Slough’s Tan Singh Dhesi and Birmingham Ladywood’s Shabana Mahmood, the latter recently coordinated Kim Leadbeater’s successful campaign in the Batley and Spen by-election.
So, above all, the disheartened Labour Party members reading this should have found some solace. It’s not all bad – we have a perfectly capable future leader in the wings and a PLP which has a fair few potential cabinet ministers. Nonetheless, Keir Starmer still has work to do to put the party in a good position.
One may cast their mind back to Neil Kinnock’s infamous speech at Labour’s 1985 conference in Bournemouth during Thatcher’s hay day. Kinnock took to the stage with visible enrage, he berated Militant, which he saw as the party’s main hurdle to clear en route to electoral success and set the party on course for a general election victory.
Although the general election win came twelve years later, Starmer needs to do a Kinnock. He needs to identify clearly why the party failed, denounce the lingering, radical elements of that period and allow the party to move on with a clear consensus, clear promises, and clear policies.
Combined with their other positives, the Labour Party, Starmer permitting, may not be set for the dire future commentators are predicting.