Sunday, October 17

Keir Starmer needs a vision. ‘Buying British’ is not enough | John harris

SUBWAYDuring her campaign to be the MP for Batley and Spen, Kim Leadbeater offered a online video. It was a standard fall through the kinds of things parties tend to bash about in elections: promises of “a reduction in antisocial behavior,” “more police on our streets,” and “better and safer roads,” along with with a push to “protect our green spaces.” But when he suddenly brought up “international concerns about Palestine,” something that was presumably inserted to try to stop the flow of votes toward George Galloway, one of his party’s biggest problems was revealed.

Between the gate and the occupied West Bank, there was a very familiar Labor void, left unfilled by 15 months of Keir Starmer’s leadership, and which partly explains why his party came so close to losing its second by-election in two months. In the haze of relief that followed Leadbeater’s unexpected victory, these failures seemed temporarily forgotten. But they will soon be roaring back.

Complaints about Labor lack of “narrative” now they are so familiar as to be painful cliches. Clearly, if the party has no language in its collective lungs, that’s just a symptom of deeper problems that Starmer has ignored so far. The list is long: the fact that Labor can no longer monopolize the politics of the left; the decline of the old party power bases in industry and unions; his lack of a significant presence in many of their so-called hearts, and the resulting sense that the party leadership at Westminster is a distant clique.

But in the short and medium term, the tectonic aspects of Labor weakness will have to wait. Right now, given the breathing space provided by the narrow victory in West Yorkshire, Starmer and his team could have one (possibly last) chance to be heard. So what should they say?

Over the weekend, the Labor leader announced a new policy on the public sector “buying Brits” and a public relations campaign on crime. Depending on your point of view, those things will represent a necessary action on some of Labor’s weaknesses, or a sadly familiar appeal to false patriotism and “toughness.” But neither does it suggest any kind of safe history of what Britain has recently experienced, nor a vision of where it should be headed; a cynical public will not notice or see such maneuvers as proof that the people who run the party are still very anxious.

It shouldn’t be difficult to get richer political seams. Particularly in England, where the Covid crisis has highlighted two key things: the incompetence of the panic of the people at the top, and the kinds of injustices that a decade of conservative-led governments have made enormously worse. We now know, for example, that the Covid death rate in some areas of England has been 25% higher than the national average, and that the inability to work from home for millions of people has increased their exposure to the virus, with terrible consequences. . Thanks to Marcus Rashford, the daily prevalence of hunger has permeated the collective consciousness; the fact that 6 million people Now the universal credit experience has further exposed the cruelties of the benefit system.

The New Labor Veterans Those who appear to be advising Starmer may find that such issues are not “aspirational” enough and may not fit in with the Labor leader’s legal and forensic style. But the key to its potential cut, especially in the so-called red wall venues, lies in the sharp distinction between the people at the top (and the injustices they so gleefully create or tolerate) and the public (whose conduct to it throughout the crisis it has been exemplary and generous).

People have not only followed the rules, but have contributed their grain of sand to those who have been suffering. In contrast, a very different behavior has crystallized in Matt Hancock’s infamous clinch, Dominic Cummings’ trip north, and the apparent insider information involved in government appointments and contracts.

With the right rhetorical skill, lines must be drawn, from the blatant privilege these transgressions capture, to the politics that would take us in the opposite direction: in housing; insecurity at work; the huge holes in our welfare state; and, one of the most overlooked aspects of life in 2021, the current crisis in our children’s lives, at school and beyond.

Starmer has recognized most of these things, but never developed a story around them. They should be developed using a moral vocabulary: an insistence that the legendary “British people” are better than the opportunists who lead them, and deserve to live in a country “where their child in danger is my child, his father is sick and in pain. my father, your unemployed and helpless friend is my friend, your neighbor, my neighbor. ”Before embracing disastrous foreign interventions and zeal for privatization, Tony Blair said only that: His claim that such a vision represented “the true patriotism of a nation” now sounds, in the context of Starmer’s leadership, like an insistence that talking to and for a country requires much more than merely waving a flag.

In Blair’s time, Labor was a deliberately top-down, tightly controlled operation, something the party has always liked. But the departure of 21st-century Labor from the grassroots demands something very different. One of its most mysterious shortcomings is the lack of a strong attempt to remind people that the party runs most of the big cities in England: After the May elections, eight of the ten “Underground Mayors” in England are Labor. Placing them on the front lines of the party would begin to bridge the gap between the party in Westminster and everyday life, reduce the sect appearance of the party, and displace people. ghosts of yesteryear – Peter Mandelson, some older Corbynites – old faction disputes still rumble.

In her own way, the charismatic and locally rooted Labor Party candidate in Batley and Spen proved the point: imagine someone like that with strong lines rather than banal bullet points, and you might have a glimpse of how Starmer and his party finally they could start to rise. his game.

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