Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Keir Starmer’s brains trust

Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images

Who are Keir Starmer’s big thinkers? Every political leader has them: folk who provoke them and offer a type of politics and policy that they can pick and choose from. Ed Miliband had ‘salons’ with key thinkers who he respected, David Cameron had Steve Hilton, and Tony Blair had a whole suite of colleagues working on his project in opposition. Starmer hasn’t been in politics for very long, which is one of the reasons he felt the need to write such a long essay setting out what he thinks: he doesn’t have the back catalogue of speeches and pamphlets that many other senior politicians do.

He’s not really a ‘salon’ type as Miliband was, but I understand that the former Labour leader is one of Starmer’s ‘key thinkers’, with allies saying that he continues to brim with ideas and reflections from his time at the helm. He has also published a book recently about big ideas, just to underline what he sees as being his appeal to Starmer. The two men are also good friends: Miliband was one of the people who got Starmer into the Labour movement in the first place.

He also takes a lot from the worldview of Deborah Mattinson, his director of strategy, who has herself written a book on Labour’s heartlands, Beyond the Red Wall, and Claire Ainsley, his director of policy, who is also an author of a book on winning back the working class. Mattinson’s book covered the frustration of former Labour voters that the party seemed so southern-focused and full of students. They have faith in Boris Johnson but not Labour’s leaders, who they suspect want to keep working class people down and therefore dependent on them. Similarly Ainsley argues that the working class has changed from manual jobs to ones in hospitality, retail and care.

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