Following the Corbyn era, the position of Labour leader was going to be difficult to fill. Low and behold Sir Keir Starmer.
Starmer has noticeably reached out to former Labour voters who turned their backs on the party in 2019 by wrapping himself in a union jack. When making a speech, he will often emphasise that Labour should look to the future, not the past. His first year on the job has been an unprecedented one, to be fair. A global pandemic seemed unimaginable once upon a time.
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For Keir Starmer to clearly assert his political positions in the middle of a global pandemic and make an impact with voters who are not interested in playing politics mid-crisis is a unique challenge. But 12 months in, Starmer stands in a somewhat better position than his predecessors. His focus on properly funded universal public services, high-quality jobs and reducing inequalities signal that the party has not lost sight of its mission. On that front, he is actually doing quite a reasonable job.
Conservative in disguise?
However, as a young Labour Party member, it is very difficult to read Keir Starmer’s moves in Parliament. Rather than expose flaws in government thinking, Starmer has behaved like a Tory superfan – trying to work out where Boris Johnson will go next, then rushing to get there before anyone else. Whilst he does, occasionally, have a good argument against the government, he will often side with Boris Johnson rather than giving much-needed critique.
Frankly, it pains me to watch Tory backbench rebels performing the job of the Labour leader by bringing up much-needed criticism regarding policies. Starmer might think he’s rising above party political games, but he does no one a service by refusing to scrutinise government ideas or look at the bigger picture.
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Has Keir Starmer had a good year? Ask activists and the one in three Labour loyalists losing enthusiasm for him, and the answer would be a rather disgruntled “no”. According to them, Starmer has done very little to hold the government to account during the Coronavirus crisis. For the voters that want the leader of the opposition to make a mark, Starmer is proving a disappointment.
To compare the statistics with Corbyn and Miliband, however, Starmer is actually doing better than expected in terms of the favourability of a Labour leader. Comparing this point of Starmer’s leadership with theirs, he should be well under water with regards to likeability. Though this could be due to the ongoing pandemic, meaning that the usual leadership problems have been put to one side.
Still, compared to the two other Labour leaders of the past ten years, Starmer has, so far, made a better go of it: not election-winning just yet, but perhaps a move in the right direction.