Labour 2024 | Why is Starmer so boring?

Labour are miles ahead in the polls. Not since Tony Blair in his pomp has a leader of the opposition enjoyed such huge polling leads. The Tories seem to believe that defeat is imminent with large numbers standing down at the peak of their powers. OK peak of their powers seems a bit exaggerated when we are talking about Dehenna Davidson, the invisible MP for Bishop Auckland, but you get the idea.

And yet I’m not convinced.

There are some rational reasons to be sceptical about labours chances. The historic defeat in 2019 left Labour at their lowest level in generations. The changes to Parliamentary boundaries is designed to help the Tories.   And that polling lead softens from time to time, as the graph at the top shows.    

But despite all of that there is something that doesn’t feel right.

Starmer is doing all of the right things to get elected.  On policy he is getting the barnacles off the boat, getting rid of any policy that isn’t going to be a fully costed part of the new manifesto.  

But Starmer still doesn’t sound right.  Rishi Sunak and Starmer both sent cringe-making messages of support to the England Women’s team, ahead of their final appearance.  Sunak clearly had no interest in football, and his message was predictably insincere.  But Starmer loves football, watches it every week, and still came over as insincere and shallow, even on a subject he is passionate about. 

Part of this problem is imposter syndrome.  Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak were born to wealth and privilege and the House of Commons looks a lot like the public schools were they were educated.    Corbyn came from a wealthy background, and spent more than half of his life as an MP.  The House of Commons feels like home to them, to the manner born.   Starmer came from a modest, working class, background, born with a plastic spoon in his mouth.   He rose to become a top Barrister, along the way denying that he was the inspiration for Marc Darcy in Bridget Jones.   From there he became Director of Public Prosecutions.   But clearly deep down he feels uncomfortable, like he doesn’t belong.  This is a familiar feeling to anyone who rose above their station in life, or who isn’t a super confident, privileged bloke. 

But there is something more than this.   Historically progressive politics has been based on hope for the future – the belief that things can and will get better.  Change is a good thing.

Conservative politics is based on the belief that things were better in the past, and the role of politics is to preserve what is good in the current order.  Change is a bad thing, and should be resisted.

At the last General Election those roles were reversed.   Labour fought 2019 on a backward looking manifesto, whose key promises were to reverse the policies of the last 40 years, turning the clock back to before Thatcher.   The Conservatives, Boris in particular, fought on a positive vision of the sunlit uplands of Brexit.  It was the Tories who had a vision for the future, and Labour who wanted to turn the clock back to the past. The Boris vision of the future may have been 50% fantasy and 50% bullshit, but it was an easier sell to voters than Corbyn’s promise that tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1979.

But it would be wrong just to blame the Corbynites for this. The whole of the Labour Party is infected. Some want to turn the clock back to the Blairite late 90s, others to Attlee and the late 40s. Starmer himself seems to favour the Wilsonian mid 60s with the white heat of technology and a world cup win.

Labour still haven’t shaken off this sense of gloom.  The UK is in a terrible state, and the Conservatives are making it worse daily.  Labour don’t want to make promises they can’t cost and deliver, but they need to do something to give people the idea that things can, and will change for the better.

It is this lack of a vision of a better Britain that Labour, and Starmer lacks.  His 5 missions are boring, and no-one can remember what they are.   He needs to be able to articulate what a better world is, and convince people that he can deliver it, rather than just convince them that Labour would be better than the Tories

It is not too late for Starmer to find his voice, and articulate a compelling vision of the future loud enough to drown out the cries of betrayal from the middle class left obsessed by reactionary politics. Blair only found the “Things Can Only Get Better” riff close to the 1997 GE.

But without it Starmer is going to shuffle into Number Ten, leading a minority Government, possibly to shuffle out again a few years later with nothing much to show for it.

2 thoughts on “Labour 2024 | Why is Starmer so boring?

  1. I do wonder where Starmer is getting his Comms advice from and who is writing his press releases and scripts. It wouldn’t take a genius to zing them up a bit without offending the red wall and ex conservative voters he seeks to attract.

  2. I think that the comms got a lot better when he became leader, but seems to have stalled a bit. They are trying to use different messaging for different audiences, so it might be that we aren’t their target audience?

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