One thing Keir Starmer will definitely not thank you for is introducing him to a room as ‘the next Prime Minister.’ Despite all of the government’s trials and tribulations, spectacular by-election victories, and poll leads of 20% plus, there is still a fear within Labour ranks that, somehow, it could still all go tits-up!
Memories of 1992, John Major, and Sheffield rallies, still menace the psyche of Labour stalwarts. They are also acutely aware of the oft-forgotten fact that their party was smashed to smithereens in the General Election just four years ago, and to win next year they will require a record swing in their favour.
This explains the Labour leaders caution when it comes to policy. Those urging him to be brave and bold need to appreciate that his ‘Ming vase strategy’ is one that he and his close colleague and shadow chancellor Rachael Reeves, will not abandon easily.
For those of you who look at the state Rishi Sunak finds himself and assume that the only question in 2024 will be how many seats Labour wins by, I offer a football analogy that may help you understand the oppositions thinking.
During lockdown, my team Everton beat their arch-rivals Liverpool at Anfield for the first time this century. We were two-nil up, when the fourth official indicated that there were four minutes of added time remaining.
My brother-in-law, who was watching the game with me, started to celebrate. I quickly admonished him, reminding him that Everton were quite capable of letting Liverpool score three in those four minutes and he was being premature in his joy. That’s how Labour feels right now.
They may be miles ahead in opinion polls. Everything the prime minister touches might be turning to dust. But the voters are still capable of being more concerned about a new Labour government, than a bad Tory one.
In the past couple of weeks, Labour does appear to have loosened the policy shackles a little. Announcements on a new approach to immigration, forging closer trading ties with the EU, and a reinforcement of its commitment to the 2030 target on Electric Vehicles are indications of that.
Nevertheless, I expect caution will continue to be the watchword as Starmer & co prepare for government.
And, in truth, he may not be ‘the next prime minister’ anyway. The Tories are well capable of ditching Rishi before the General Election and replacing him with their sixth leader in seven years!
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