Keir starmer

Has Starmer scaled down his pledges?

13 min listen

Keir Starmer has unveiled his six election pledges. In a nod to Tony Blair’s 1997 election card, the Labour leader has announced key promises to the public should they win the election. How are the commitments being received, and what will the impact of his speech be?  James Heale speaks to Katy Balls and Stephen Bush, Associate Editor at the Financial Times. 

Martin Vander Weyer

Can Starmer and Reeves add some fizz to the economy?

If the 0.6 per cent first-quarter GDP uplift reported by the Office for National Statistics is sustained for the rest of this year, Rishi Sunak will be able to claim – as he waves goodbye – that he and Jeremy Hunt have succeeded against their naysayers in dragging the UK economy from pandemic depths back to the level of ‘trend growth’, around 2.5 per cent per annum, that used to be thought of as normal. That’s spookily in line (as is the path of inflation) with Ken Clarke’s achievement as Tory chancellor in 1996 ahead of the election that swept Blair and Brown to power the following May. How lucky

The day Keir Starmer cried on me about his childhood

I have had a good idea. It may even be an important idea. See what you think. The other day I interviewed Keir Starmer for my weekly podcast, Rosebud. It’s so called because of the Orson Welles film Citizen Kane. Rosebud, you will recall, was the trade name of the sledge on which Kane, as a boy, was playing the day he was taken away from his home and his mother. My podcast is about the early memories of people in the public eye. I wanted to talk to Sir Keir because he aspires to be prime minister and I didn’t know much about him. We met at St George’s

Do voters really prefer Starmer?

Rishi Sunak has been widely ridiculed for trying to spin the local election results as bad news for Keir Starmer. While acknowledging they were ‘bitterly disappointing’ for the Tories, the Prime Minister cited an analysis by Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher, the renowned psephologists, showing that a similar showing by Labour in a general election would leave the party 32 seats short of an overall majority. ‘Keir Starmer propped up in Downing Street by the SNP, Liberal Democrats and the Greens would be a disaster for Britain,’ he said. This was wishful thinking, according to John Curtice, the polling expert. He pointed out that the way people vote in local elections

Letters: the real problem with a Labour super-majority

Good trade-off Sir: I applaud your excellent editorial (‘Trading in Falsehoods’, 6 April) – a succinct and insightful essay on the role of Great Britain in the abolition of slavery and the slave trade. All are agreed that slavery in any form was and is reprehensible. As a white and proud Barbadian, initially educated there, I contend that some of my ancestors, who were probably slave owners, did not believe that they were involved in anything immoral or sinful, but were serving the economic interests of the Empire as they saw it at the time. You rightly point out that the huge cost in treasure and lives incurred by Britain

Inside Sue Gray’s Labour party

At 8.30 a.m. each morning, Keir Starmer holds a meeting with his inner circle to go over the business of the day. Once, these meetings were mainly filled with unelected aides, but now they are attended by senior shadow ministers, such as Labour’s campaign co-ordinator and Blairite old-timer Pat McFadden or the shadow cabinet office minister and Brown-ite Jonathan Ashworth. Starmer’s deputy, Angela Rayner, may drop in too. If Rachel Reeves can’t make it, one of her shadow treasury aides goes in her place. The new setup is one of the many measures Sue Gray has brought in since she was appointed Starmer’s chief of staff a year ago. Her

Think flute-playing Sir Keir will rescue opera? Look at Labour-run Wales

A tale of two opera companies from the Land of Song. After its distinctly gamey new Cosi fan tutte, Welsh National Opera has sprung dazzlingly back to form with a new production of Benajmin Britten’s final opera, Death in Venice. It’s directed by Olivia Fuchs, in collaboration with the circus artists of NoFit State, and in a word, it’s masterful. Fuchs’s Serenissima is a city of shadow, its landmarks glimpsed distantly in smudged, restless scraps of black and white film. The tourists and locals wear monochrome period dress; only Aschenbach (Mark Le Brocq) is in a noncommittal grey. The colour has drained from his world and from the peripheries of

Could Cameron take over the Tories?

My weekly appearance on the podcast How to Win an Election, which I do with Danny Finkelstein, Polly Mackenzie and Matt Chorley, had succeeded in avoiding embarrassment until last week when, in response to a listener’s question about politicians’ appearance, I was momentarily stuck for something to say about Keir Starmer. I should have remained stuck. Instead, what came out of my mouth, after laying into Rishi Sunak’s skinny suits and narrow ties, was the suggestion that Keir could do with losing a few pounds. Heaven knows why it attracted such attention. Labour’s Wes Streeting was quick off the mark (he is so effective) with his condemnation of my ‘fat-shaming’

The Trumpification of the Tory party

Anthony Scaramucci, Donald Trump’s former director of communications, has a phrase that sums up his old boss’s effect on political debate: ‘the universe bends towards him’. In the US, discussion about this year’s election is all about Trump. But he is exerting the same gravitational pull in Britain, both on the Tories as they face opposition, and Labour as it mulls the likely dilemmas of government. Trump is resentful of those who have been ‘nasty’ about him: this includes nearly everyone in the Labour party Theresa May offers a case study in how not to deal with Trump. She hoped to befriend him and acquire some kind of post-Brexit trade

Tom Baldwin: ‘There is no such thing as Starmerism’

17 min listen

In this special Saturday edition of Coffee House Shots, Katy Balls is joined by Tom Baldwin, author of a new authorised biography of Labour leader Keir Starmer. Tom tells Katy why Starmer is such a complex character, his struggle to get the leader of the opposition to open up – particularly about his relationship with his father – and why he is not a politician, in the usual sense.  Produced by Natasha Feroze and Oscar Edmondson. 

Could Britain have a farmers’ revolt?

Nine years ago, when Rishi Sunak was campaigning to be the Conservative candidate for Richmond in Yorkshire, he knew his background wouldn’t work in his favour. Here was a millionaire City slicker – fresh from a spell in Silicon Valley – standing in a rural safe seat against local rivals. William Hague, who was retiring from the seat, told him he’d need to do a crash course in country living. Sunak replied that he’d milk some cows right away. Now, the Prime Minister takes great pride in his familiarity with rural issues. He cites hill farming as a passion and boasts to friends of his ‘deep knowledge of sheep’. The

Cameron says ‘military action was only option’ in Yemen

David Cameron: western strikes on Houthi rebels are ‘a very clear message’ This week the US and UK launched military strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen, following repeated Houthi attacks on Red Sea cargo ships. Speaking to Laura Kuenssberg, David Cameron suggested the strikes sent a message that western countries were prepared to ‘follow our words and warnings with actions’. Kuenssberg questioned whether the strikes would have much impact, given the Houthi rebels’ declaration that they will step up their own attacks. Cameron pointed out that Houthi attacks have been escalating since November, and said military action was the only option.  Cameron: South Africa’s genocide case against Israel is ‘nonsense’

Does the public want reheated Blairism?

To understand the political journey of Sir Keir Starmer, look to Liz Kendall. This week the Blairite and one-time leadership contender was put in charge of Labour’s welfare reform policy. Her promotion has upset the party’s left-wingers, who already think Starmer is too right-wing on welfare. ‘She’ll be more hard-line than Jonathan Ashworth,’ says one shadow minister in reference to her predecessor. But her real influence started well before she was given a place at Starmer’s shadow cabinet table. Even those who were demoted or axed put on a brave face: ‘It shows Labour senses it is about to win’  Kendall’s role in the 2015 contest was to speak hard

The Greens are coming for the Tories

So far, Keir Starmer has been unmoved by complaints from left-wingers that his policies differ little from those of Boris Johnson’s at the last election. After all, if left-wing voters don’t like his low-key approach, where else would they go? The problem in British politics – as David Cameron found out – is that disgruntled voters do find somewhere else to go. In Cameron’s case, it was to Nigel Farage; in Starmer’s case, it may be to the Greens. Once dismissed as idealistic hippies, the Greens now serve in seven governments across Europe, including Germany, Belgium and Scotland. Even under the UK’s majoritarian system, they’re doing well with 800 council

Corbyn’s plan to cause trouble for Sir Keir

Earlier this summer, a hundred or so Londoners gathered around a solar-powered stage truck at Highbury Fields to celebrate 40 years of Jeremy Corbyn in parliament. There was music, magic tricks and merriment. Attendees were encouraged to party like it was 2017. The opening act sang: ‘Jezza and me, we agree, we’re all for peace and justice and anti-austerity. We’re voting Jeremy Corbyn, JC for MP for me.’ Left-wing voters, tired of Starmer’s move to the right, might vote Green, independent or not vote at all For those in the Labour party watching from afar, this wasn’t just a celebration – it was the soft launch of Corbyn’s campaign to

How Labour won back Britain’s millionaires

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. The squeals of the Labour left are seen as useful by Starmer’s team 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

Will Sunak and Starmer now ditch their green promises?

Where do the by-election results leave Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer? The Labour leader had been hoping for a victory parade but his party’s failure to secure Uxbridge – with the Tories clinging on by under 500 votes – has led to Labour unrest. Rather than tour the media studios with a single message that Labour are on the cusp of power following their decisive victory in Selby, both Starmer and his deputy Angela Rayner used broadcast interviews to take aim at Sadiq Khan. The pair cited Ulez – ultra low emission zones – as why they lost, and suggested it shows what happens when politicians don’t listen to voters,

Labour’s reality check

Rishi Sunak goes into the summer holidays in the same position he began the year: 20 points behind in the polls. In other ways it feels as if his premiership has gone backwards. Mortgage rates have risen above the levels they were under Liz Truss. The Tory psychodrama of the Boris Johnson era has led to two of the three by-elections taking place this week. Little progress has been made on Sunak’s ‘five priorities’ – the junior doctor strikes show no sign of abating and the Rwanda scheme is held up in the courts. ‘At this point Keir Starmer could probably announce backing for freedom of movement and still scrape

Letters: Biden is alienating Britain

Joe Shmoe Sir: Your piece ‘Not so special’ (Leading article, 8 July) was right. Joe Biden doesn’t like us and a brief 45 minutes with Rishi Sunak last week doesn’t change that. In Saudi Arabia last year, Biden compared Israel’s treatment of Palestinians with Britain’s past in Ireland. This was outrageous – what about the US historical treatment of Mexicans, Cubans and Filipinos, and Biden’s friendliness towards IRA terrorists? Britain enjoyed excellent relations with the US under Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton, all of whom had Irish ancestry, and it is self-indulgent and a dereliction for this President to make his chosen personal background an issue, as he does. Britain stood

Labour vs the unions

The Labour party is preparing for power and the unions are deciding what role they might play. Friend or foe? Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, has already incited their ire by refusing to commit to accepting independent pay-review body recommendations. Unite, the second-largest trade union, this week debated cutting ties with Labour and starting its opposition early. There is growing anxiety from the left that Starmer is abandoning party traditions in the pursuit of power The motion was, in the end, rejected. ‘The Labour party has decided we want to win,’ insisted one party figure. The union hit back. It insisted that Starmer has been ‘put on notice’ and that