The battle for the next Labour manifesto is already under way. ‘I will stay up to 2 a.m. if I need to,’ warned one member of the shadow cabinet ahead of last week’s national policy forum meeting in Nottingham. The trade unions and grassroot members were pushing for radicalism, Keir Starmer for moderation.
Starmer misses no opportunity to make the point that realism, not revolution, is the path to power. He was quick to blame the party’s narrow defeat in the Uxbridge by-election on Sadiq Khan’s support for the extension of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone. ‘In an election, policy matters,’ he said. ‘And we’re doing something very wrong if policies put forward by the Labour party end up on each and every Tory leaflet.’
Every time there is an internal Labour fight, Starmer gets his way. What he may lack in charisma, he has made up for in his skill as a machine politician: he has the party’s system where he wants it. He has no factions to whom he believes he has to kowtow. So there will be no lifting of the two-child benefit limit, no free school meals for all primary school children, no radical extension of workers’ rights. Furious, the Unite union withheld its support for Labour’s draft manifesto. Momentum, the one-time Corbynite torchbearers, went further, declaring that ‘Britain deserves better’.
The squeals of the Labour left are seen as useful by Starmer’s team, taken as ‘proof’ that the party is ready to ‘change the country in government, built on the rock of economic responsibility’. Yet the reason Starmer can be confident in making such statements is because of the financial stability Labour now enjoys.
Two years ago, Starmer’s party had only one month’s wages left in its reserves.