LONDON (Bywire News) - ‘Centrism is back and we’re running the show!’. That’s the latest claim by UK Labour Party leader Keir Starmer as he dons yet another bland office suit and perfects his monotone delivery that would make most people gauge their own eardrums out just to make it stop. But is centrism really back? And does the public really want it? All the evidence says ‘no’ – yet in the process, Starmer has probably just killed the Labour Party.
On Sunday, June 26 Starmer penned a comment piece for the Observer. It was essentially a piece of poorly-written comms, styled as an open letter to the public about Labour now being a government in waiting. It was filled with bland linguistics and vacuous turns of phrases as well as some clear right-wing shifting of the party line. For example, Starmer wrote:
“Successive Tory governments have conditioned our country towards mediocrity. There’s nothing inevitable about young people feeling they will never own their own home no matter how hard they work. The doctor’s appointment you need doesn’t have to seem impossible to get. Timely mental health treatment shouldn’t be the preserve only of those able to pay. A country where working families are overwhelmed by the cost of childcare isn’t one that is working properly. Wherever we find these barriers to our country’s success, we will remove them”.
How? When? Using what mechanisms? What does this even mean? These insipid soundbites are typical, vague centrist fayre and in reality, mean very little; easy pot-shots that tug on people’s concerns and heartstrings. So, if we were scoring Starmer on his statement that Labour has “claimed the centre ground”, then it would be a 10/10. In reality, though, it’s little more than half-baked comms from someone with a third in a PR degree.
But on top of all this putrid centricity, the Labour leader also made statements which were, at best, bullshit.
Starmer’s claim of Labour being “closer to power than it has been in more than a decade” is utterly false. The latest analysis from Britain Elects shows the party would need at least a 12-point lead in the polls to win a majority – something Starmer has so far not achieved. Even recently, with Boris Johnson’s government in chaos, Labour was just over six percentage points ahead, falling short of a majority if replicated at an election. Moreover, Labour saw similar leads under Corbyn – and that election win never materialised.
But it was perhaps Starmer’s claims about how he has transformed the party which will stick in the throat of most left-wing members and supporters.
He said that Labour has “shed unworkable or unaffordable policies” but with no clear reference to what these are. Clearly, it’s those promises he made during the Labour leadership election. Remember those? The talk of nationalisation of industries and services? We can now categorically see that Starmer’s pledges were nothing short of manipulation of party members. This is despite the fact that with things like rail renationalisation, the public consistently supports it.
Let’s not get onto the issue of the RMT strike: where Starmer banned his frontbench MPs from attending rallies – once again, flying in the face of public opinion with some polls showing support for the industrial action.
Maybe this is all too cynical about Starmer, though. After all, are opinion polls really to be trusted? So, if we work on the basis of the quantitative evidence about his time as leader, do his claims about Labour’s electability still stack up? Absolutely not.
The Wakefield by-election is a case in point – with Starmer and the party saying it showed that Labour is back, more popular and ready to win the general election. This is literally not true. Just 19% of the electorate voted for the party in the by-election; Labour only managed to pick up less than half of the swing away from the Tories and the turnout was under 40%. So, if it shows anything it’s that the public is sick to the back teeth of the Tories and Labour – so much so they feel no reason to vote. This is, of course, on top of the lukewarm local elections results and the loss of Hartlepool.
Overall, though, what Starmer’s Observer column showed was that his and his acolytes’ destruction of the Corbyn project is complete. Centrism has returned with a vengeance – but he’s not even very good at it. The one thing you could say about Tony Blair and his team was that they at least presented an image of charisma, competence and change. Starmer’s version of this is tired, timid and tedious; like a washed-up version of Ed Miliband but less likeable.
Labour is dead
Perhaps the most unintentionally hilarious part is, though, Starmer’s claim of Labour ‘claiming the centre ground’. Aside from the fact it’s the Lib Dems doing this, in reality, all the evidence points to the fact that the public doesn’t want the centre ground: low election turnouts, support for nationalisation and striking workers and every member of Change UK (remember them?) losing their seats in the 2019 general election point to this.
If Starmer and his team seriously believe the public wants centrism and that it’s the answer to the country’s woes anyway, then they’re either a) seriously deluded, or b) intentionally selling us a pup to further their own careers. It may well be a bit of both. Or it could simply be that they’re all utterly useless. Either way, they’ve not only killed the Corbyn project but probably also the Labour Party too – all in the name of ‘centrism’.
(Writing by Steve Topple, editing by Klaudia Fior)