Just how far low will Starmer stoop just to become Prime Minister in 2024?

Keir Starmer is a rather simplistic man, or at least pretends to be. He predictably used the Coronation as an opportunistic grab to re-launch his flag and country credentials.

But the nation is in crisis. Whilst Rishi Sunak has come up with a list of five things which he thinks he can deliver on – such as fewer boats and less people on a NHS waiting list, Starmer has come up with five ‘missions’. There is no clear mapping of Starmer’s missions to an improved quality of life or standard of living, such as fewer potholes on the roads. There are many things which some voters did not ‘vote for’ – such as a £250 million coronation ceremony, or a £10 million pop coronation concert, let alone the infamous HS2. But Starmer’s lack of ambition for the country is in stark contrat to his substantial ambition for himself personally.

I don’t wish particularly to rehearse how Starmer has reneged on his plefges which formed the basis of him becoming the democratically elected leader of the Labour Party. I don’t even want tp talk about how he has chucked out of the Labour Party the MP for North Islington, Jeremy Corbyn, who was dogged with problems clearly set out elsewhere such as in the Forde Report. We know from that recent infamous Guardian problem that strong antisemitic tropes are not just confined to one area of the Labour Party, whilst we also know that Jewish members of Labour who have supported Palestine have been suspended by the Labour Party. The ‘antisemtiism’ problem in Labour is far from solved, and nor is any problem with islamophobia. Starmer nonetheless keeps on presenting it as having been ‘cured’, like a cancer which has excised like a successful surgeon. Starmer says that Labour has ‘come back from its worst defeat since 1935’, and yet the vote share of Labour looks likely to have decreased. He leads a divided party, entirely of his making, and presented a range of policy positions on privatisation/nationalisation and EU membership encouraging longstanding members to find a better home in the Liberal Democrats or Green Party.

Some members who find the lure of single market membership at least more understandable than the meaningless mantra of Starmer of ‘making Brexit work’ will find the LibDems undeniably attractive. Some Tories will feel the same. LibDems therefore could become a natural home for ‘remainers’, spurned by the Labour Party and the Conservatives. The well known issue for the more left wing in Labour with the LibDems are the raw memories of the Cameron/Clegg coalition which included, amongst other issues, increased scope for financial competition in an increasingly marketized NHS, legal aid cuts, continuation and worsening of the disability welfare cuts started under New Labour. And then one does not have to have a very long memory to remember the lack of support for Labour, especially over the deeply traumatic Brexit negotiation period, from Jo Swinson, the hapless and politically offensive leader of the Liberal Democrats at the time.

There is clearly a market failure in the privatised utility industries. The water industry seems to have suffered from a lack of basic investment, leading to burst pipes and waste, against the back of unconscionable profit for directors and shareholders, including foreign institutional investors. Privatising a state run monopoly to all intents and purposes has produced a ‘cash cow’ which has been diaastrous for the customer. Rail fares are through the roof, energy companies have also acted recklessly. Whichever way you look at it, these markets are a mess, and a sad indictment of at least thirteen years of Tory government. It is a well known failed economic model. That Labour seems not to want to fix any of it is not progressive – and it is not radical. And it is definitely a missed opportunity.  Starmer and Streeting, despite having been given years to think about it, have offered nothing yet to solve the NHS workfore crisis, reform social care, or produce a sensible solution to the crisis in general practice. They have sat on the sidelines during the deeply traumatic strikes by nurses and junior doctors, and literally lives have been lost as a result.

The path to power for Keir Starmer factors in an implosion of the vote for the SNP following internal problems to do with finances, the resignation of Nicola Sturgeon and so on. Unofficial hopes might also include a racist backlash against Hamza Yousaf, and a genuine lack of interest in independence for Scotland. I think that these hopes are unduly optimistic as far as the perspective of English voters. There is a vague hope of people wishing to install Starmer that Scottish voters will be stupid enough just to think ‘anyone but the Tories’, but this is to deny the deep anger against the Supreme court judgement on Scottish independence, the power grab on the gender recognition bill, the lack of consultation over a Brexit which has clearly detrimental against the Scottish economy, and so on. The decline in Scottish Labour was exacerbated by the disastrous politics of Kezia Dugdale, and looks likely not to recover in the near future. All of this convincingly points to Labour looking unable to achieve a majority, but likely to be the largest party in a hung parliament.

Keir Starmer can therefore become Prime Minister under these circumstances in 2024, despite an intense poverty of ambition or political skill. The more interesting projection is what happens after 2014 to around 2019. In that period, he will have to deliver a position on Brexit, and on the ‘small boats’ having got rid of, presumably, the Rwanda option. The good aspect of a potential 2024 victory for Starmer’s Labour might be an avoidance of the withdrawal from the European Convention of Human Rights. But it is hard to understand what exactly he will do on the European Union, the economy or the NHS to make it possible for him to win the next general election in 2024. What happens in the interim is anyone’s guess – such as the comeback of Boris Johnson, perish the thought, or the re-emergence of the culture wars and identity politics. The obvious fracture in the Labour Party, between the left (or those who supported Jeremy Corbyn’s policies)  and the ‘centrists’ shows no sign of healing, and divided parties generally don’t win elections even after a period of prolonged silencing.

Keir Starmer worked for Jeremy Corbyn in his shadow cabinet, and supported Boris Johnson’s clearly awful Brexit deal. Keir Starmer is a simplistic man, but I do not deny his abilities in other quarters. He is capable of creating nasty division in what should be a ‘broad tent’, and seems incapable of taking important and decisive action on Europe, the economy, or the NHS and social care.  It is pretty inevitable that the writing is on the wall for the Tories, but all of the success of Starmer hinges on the implosion of the Tories and their inability to ‘make Brexit work’. Starmer has been the recipient of much goodwill from the media, and has avoided drawing any personal criticism of his mishandling of Brexit. But if Starmer becomes Prime Minister in 2024 on the back of ‘Anyone but the Tories’ he is going to need a sensible programme of government to deliver and to maintain the trust of voters. And then ‘Mr Softie’ or ‘Mr Hindsight’, who has agreed with much of the current Tory programme for government, may have bitten off more than he can chew.