David Goodhart

Has Keir Starmer found the sweet spot in British politics?

Left on economics and right on culture, ‘Blue Labour’ is in the ascendancy

(Getty Images)

Are the final obstacles in the way of a comfortable Labour victory at the next election being swept away? The dirty little secret of British politics is that there is now a large amount of consensus on most big policy issues between the two main parties: the differences are largely in the detail. 

The most recent citadel to fall is what one might call the cultural issues of immigration and national identity. Labour appears to be flirting, again, with Maurice Glasman’s Blue Labour, the left on economics/right on culture combination, which was also the mood music of the 2019 Tory blue-collar conservatism election.

Democracy is having its wicked way and its magical force-field is forcing Labour to pretend that it is not, deep in its bones, a party of liberal graduates, as it tries to win back those small-c conservative voters the Tories nicked from them over Brexit. 

On national identity the party has already sung God Save the King and Keir Starmer is rarely pictured far from a Union Jack. He has also fallen in behind the pretty hard version of Brexit that the political configuration of 2019 ended up producing. 

And now on immigration Starmer and Stephen Kinnock, the party’s spokesman on the subject, are starting to sound more restrictive than the current government. Starmer is today telling the CBI that immigration must not be used as a substitute for investment in training British workers or productivity enhancing machinery and technology.

The current government have been saying similar things since 2019 and it was, in part, the rationale for ending free movement, (although the picture was briefly muddied by the Truss-Kwarteng blip). 

Yet the record of British employers on training and investment more generally remains pretty dreadful and the new immigration system is so liberal that almost two-thirds of jobs in the UK economy are in effect classified as high skilled and potentially subject to a work visa.

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Written by
David Goodhart
David Goodhart works at the Policy Exchange think tank. He is also a commissioner on the Equality and Human Rights Commission but writes here in a purely personal capacity.

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