Robert Peston Robert Peston

Can Starmer convince voters to back his vision of Labour?

Credit: Getty Images

Here in Liverpool, at the start of Labour conference, politics feels more familiar than it has for many years, and also quite confusing and not wholly predictable. And the cause, mostly, is Friday’s budget, which very deliberately delivered the bulk of additional income from tax cuts to those on highest earnings.

This feels in many ways like a return to the kind of class based politics – what used to be called class war – we haven’t seen since the Thatcher years of the 1980s. After all, ever since the election of Blair’s New Labour in 1997 we are all supposed to be middle class.

So you might think, 18 years after Labour last won an election, that it would suit Keir Starmer and the Labour party down to the ground to paint the Tories as simply on the side of the rich and privileged. But it is a bit more complicated for them than you might think.

If the Tories and Liz Truss are encouraging industrial strife with their tax policies, their promise of a bonfire of EU employment protections and their intention to make it harder for trade unions to strike, a Labour party that is seen as a fixture on the picket lines won’t appeal to large numbers of floating voters in the centre ground.

This conference will be a turning point for Labour if Starmer and his colleagues can do more than say what’s wrong with Truss

And to be clear, there are a large number of trade unionists and Labour members here who are furious at what they see as a brutal attack by the government on their ability to protect the living standards of millions of workers. So Starmer has to pull off two tricks this week.

First he has to paint the Tories as the ideological extremists, who are taking tremendous risks with the stability of the economy, with our national prosperity, through the sheer scale of tax cuts that will see the UK’s national debt rising inexorably for years.

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Robert Peston
Written by
Robert Peston
Robert Peston is Political Editor of ITV News and host of the weekly political discussion show Peston. His articles originally appeared on his ITV News blog.

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