Starmer is the best candidate for the new party leader
02 January, 2020
Labour leadership contender Sir Keir Starmer
• OVER the past 60 years, only two leaders have won general elections for the Labour Party. Seven leaders (Corbyn, Miliband, Brown, Kinnock, Foot, Callaghan and Gaitskell) have failed. Few have been allowed to fail twice.
These thoughts highlight the challenge that the Labour Party faces after the worst election defeat since 1935. What qualities are required to be a successful leader?
Harold Wilson and Tony Blair were very different characters. Both had a vision, a set of values and a raft of progressive policies which appealed to the electorate.
Wilson’s “white heat of technology” offered a bold and ambitious vision for the future of Britain. Blair’s “things can only get better” reflected the state of public services after 18 years of Thatcherism.
Labour’s new leader will have four years to formulate their vision for a post-Brexit Britain. However, the leader must now espouse a set of values which appeal to the party’s members and registered supporters, an electorate of some 600,000.
The Labour Party has attracted many young members with high ideals, who felt that no political party spoke for them. Their biggest issues are the environment and an economy which delivers for the many and not the few. They expect a radical agenda to transform our society.
In due course, this agenda must be crafted to appeal to the wider electorate, to attract the 14 million votes necessary to secure a majority in parliament. It must offer hope and aspirations to the communities left behind by austerity, inequality and years of regional imbalance.
The immediate task for the leader is to provide an effective opposition to ensure that Britain, after Brexit, does not become a low-skill, low-wage, low-tax economy which abandons the EU regulatory framework on employment and environmental measures, seen by our European partners as a pirate ship off their coast.
The leader also needs to land punches to highlight the manifest weaknesses in Johnson’s competence and character. An effective opposition leader succeeds if s/he earns the respect of both supporters and opponents.
The leader must unite a divided party. Too many members seem to consider it more important to take control of the party than to govern the country. Many seem happier in opposition, than in power. A divided party will never persuade the electorate of the merits of its cause.
The leader must lead from the front and exercise sound judgment. The leader must anticipate, rather than respond to events. A good judge of character will be essential in identifying the new faces to serve on Labour’s front bench.
The leader needs to learn the lessons why its natural supporters have been deserting Labour over many years, particularly in the north of England, Scotland and Wales.
The leader must be a good listener, able to regain the trust of these lost voters. The leader must also work with the Jewish community to re-establish Labour as the anti-racist party.
The Conservatives can select a self-confessed liar and a cheat and still secure a majority from the electorate.
Any leader of the Labour Party is subject to much greater scrutiny from a Tory-dominated press. The leader must be an effective communicator who is able confront a hostile press in good humour.
While Labour Party members may prefer a collective leadership, in reality it is the roles of the leader and deputy leader which are critical.
In the Labour Party, the deputy leader acts as a counterbalance to complement the leader and to ensure that the Labour Party remains a broad church. Together, they have the ability to win or lose the next election, likely to be in May 2024.
It may be that no candidate can meet these exacting requirements. However, I believe that Keir Starmer is the candidate best qualified to succeed. I would urge all your readers to support Keir, whether as Labour Party members or registered supporters.