That best-selling 1970s toy Action Man proved the power of evolution. First, the painted hair on the initial models was superseded by ‘realistic’ flock hair and then came an ‘eagle eyes enhancement’ that allowed the eyeballs to be moved back and forth via a lever at the back of the head.
One is put in mind of this by the current photograph of Keir Starmer in combat fatigues standing in front of some especially fierce-looking British soldiers. Fixing the camera with a steely gaze and benefiting from his square jaw and Martin Sheen-style Hollywood hair, the Labour leader comes across as a later series commanding officer Action Man. I dare say his shadowy team of advisers has by now even equipped him with fully gripping hands. It is all a far cry from the ‘Sir Kneel-a-lot’ prototype who took the knee for Black Lives Matter back in 2020.
The visual progression is symbolic of the drastic political progress that Starmer and Labour have made since then. Not only is Labour sustaining an average poll lead of 17 points, but Starmer is now clearly in the lead over Sunak when it comes to which man the public thinks would make the best prime minister. For the Leader of the Opposition to hold such a lead over an incumbent PM is no mean feat.
As the election year of 2024 looms, we should acknowledge that Starmer is now prime minister-in-waiting. Yes, he’s a limited performer who has benefited greatly from a Tory nervous breakdown, but he has also passed a basic 'will he do?' test in the eyes of sufficient voters to put him firmly on course for Downing Street.