After a solid 2020 Keir Starmer is now finding life hard. By the end of last year, it appeared he was dragging his party back from its disastrous 2019 election result. But YouGov now has Labour lagging the Conservatives by 13 points.
The explanation for this might be simple and temporary: the government’s successful vaccination programme. But the positive reception to the recent Budget suggests voters are happy with the Tory approach to tackling the economic mess left by the pandemic. As Britons anticipate a post-Covid future, perhaps this is a significant turning point?
Starmer’s reversal of fortunes has been accompanied by a darkening chorus of hostile commentators. It is no surprise that recovering Corbynite Owen Jones claims that Labour now ‘lacks a political soul’. But when the usually measured New Statesman argues Starmer’s party has ‘lost confidence in what it is, what it wants and for whom it speaks’ maybe we should pay attention?
If this dip has given heart to Corbynite ultras for whom Labour’s 2019 manifesto has the status of Holy Writ, if doubts set in across the party Starmer could be in trouble. One-third of Labour members who voted for him as leader were supporters of Corbyn’s platform: they were happy while Starmer was flying high, but this recent reverse might test their loyalty.
Yet, despite the chatter, Starmer has outlined a clear purpose, one consistent with traditional Labour concerns and amongst the most radical in the party’s history. But few seem aware of it.
In his first statement as leader, Starmer claimed Covid meant, ‘we cannot go back to business as usual. This virus has exposed the fragility of our society. It’s lifted a curtain’. He also made the case for ‘good government, a government that saves lives and protects our country’.