Who is Keir Starmer, and what does ‘Starmerism’ stand for? Well into his second year as Labour leader and most Britons remain unsure. It’s not as if Starmer hasn’t spent a lot of time and effort – and so many words – in trying to define himself: he was even interviewed by Piers Morgan for an hour on ITV to highlight his human side.
But something has gone wrong. Is it the message or the messenger? Or is the difficult Covid-dominated times in which he became leader that is to blame? Whatever the reason for Starmer’s curiously forgettable leadership, it is now imperative that Starmer starts to make a clear and positive impression on voters: he needs to be more than ‘Not Jeremy Corbyn’.
If he is to do this, Starmer has to transcend a factionalised party and a divided country, something which he has so far failed to do with sufficient vigour: too often, instead of imposing himself on events, events have appeared to impose themselves on him.
Starmer was elected Labour leader promising to unite a factionalised party. On that basis he won the support of all of Corbyn’s most implacable opponents as well as a significant number of those who still regarded the outgoing Labour leader positively.
Since then, Corbynite irredentists have forced his hand to take action against them. Often this has been over their refusal to take seriously the need to adhere to the stipulations of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission’s investigation into anti-Semitism. But while there are Labour members who believe Starmer is a ‘Tory Lite’, and Corbyn’s own future as Labour MP hangs in the balance, the party is the least of his problems. An opinion poll lead such as the one Starmer enjoyed during 2020 would silence most critics.
When he was campaigning to become leader, Starmer promised to make Labour more electable: it was this that drew former Corbyn supporters into the Starmer camp.