Unless the granddaddy of upsets takes place, Keir Starmer will become leader of the Labour Party on Saturday. Word has it that it intends to try and clear out the worst of the tankies on day one. Great start.
We will find out several things about the Labour Party in April. One, how many of those in the shadow cabinet who appeared slavishly devoted to the Corbyn project were actually in love with it or if they merely blew with the wind. I suspect there are many more in the latter camp than even cynics like me suspect. Two, how quickly Starmer feels he can move to make the Labour Party a serious political force once again. Move too quickly and he invites a backlash – move too slowly and the tankie blob becomes impossible to move. How quickly can Starmer distance himself from Corbyn without causing himself internal problems – and the Corbyn I’m talking about here isn’t the one of legacy but the still out and about Corbyn who is going to be causing him problems from day one from the looks of things.
All of this comes into focus when you consider what Starmer really needs to do relatively early in his leadership given the Labour Party have already wasted four months for no reason: he needs to unite the non-Tory vote. This will be brutally difficult.
While the Tory vote is largely united and geographically well-spread in a First Past the Post sense, the non-Tory vote is split in all sorts of ways and geographically clumped in an unhelpful fashion. On the latter point, the Labour vote, already hollowed out in Scotland and the countryside, has declined in towns as well. It is meanwhile built up massively in the cities. It may be nice for David Lammy to get 80% of the vote in his seat, but under FPTP it isn’t actually helpful.
The first point about it being split is actually the more serious one and is even harder to fix than the geographical vote clumping problem. Labour have a split between Remainers and Leavers, and more specifically between social liberals and social conservatives; they have a split between working and middle class voters; they have a split between pro-Union and pro-independence Scots; they have a split between hard left and social democrats; I could list ten more of these but you get the gist. How does Starmer bring all of these voters together under the Labour banner?
He has two things going for him. One, the anti-Tory vote really doesn’t like the Tories and with Corbyn gone it becomes much easier to persuade a lot of people who were unreachable to vote Labour again if only as an anti-Tory vote. Two, people are crying out for something new and interesting in politics. If Starmer puts together something that sounds sensible and that addresses society’s problems in a way that sounds plausible, this could be all he needs to do. Sometimes in politics, the answer is right in front of you.
In just over a weeks’ time, I have another book coming out. It’s called “Politics is Murder” and follows the tale of a woman named Charlotte working at a failing think tank who has got ahead in her career in a novel way – she is a serial killer. One day, the police turn up at her door and tell her she is a suspect in a murder – only thing is, it is one she had nothing to do with. The plot takes in Conservative Party conference, a plot against the Foreign Secretary and some gangsters while Charlotte tries to find out who is trying to frame her for a murder she didn’t commit.
Also: there is a subplot around the government trying to built a stupid bridge, which now seems a charming echo of a more innocent time!
It’s out on April 9th, but you can pre-order here: