There is no doubt that Keir Starmer has restored his party’s reputation as a credible organisation and a competent opposition. After the shambles of the Corbyn and Miliband years, that in itself is no mean feat.
However, despite a litany of government disasters over the past two years, most recently party-gate, inflation, high energy costs, rising interest rates, and allegations surrounding the tax status of the chancellor’s wife, there would be little or no confidence in Labour ranks that if a general election was called tomorrow Labour would win it.
It would make some gains, for sure. But it would still suffer what would be its fifth consecutive defeat at the national polls and be heading towards an eighteen-year stretch in opposition.
Starmer has secured the right to be heard again by the British public. But on some issues, Labour simply cannot wean itself off the platform of gesture politics that simply turn people, particularly working-class people, off.
Labour’s leadership has tied itself up in knots in recent weeks over the complex issue of transgender rights.
An unwillingness to acknowledge that only the female of the species has a cervix, and a woman cannot have a penis has people, rightly, shaking their heads in bewilderment.
Undoubtedly, the vast majority of Brits are tolerant and have a ‘live and let live’ approach to such issues. However, they also know that lines have to be drawn and common-sense applied.
As yet, on the agenda that is unhelpfully described as ‘culture wars’ by the mainstream media, Keir Starmer and his colleagues often find themselves on the wrong side of the arguments as far as most voters are concerned.
Love him or loathe him, the prime minister does have an ability, a gut-instinct, that enables him to address such matters in a way that, in most folks’ eyes, simply smacks of common-sense. So, questioned yesterday on the trans issue he said that he sympathised with the challenges trans women face, but that “biological males” should not be able to compete in women’s sport, that females should have ‘safe spaces’, and that parents should have a say on whether children could undergo irreversible treatments to change their gender, such as breast removal. He’s right.
Unless and until Labour can rediscover its common-sense gene, the likelihood is it will struggle to win power again.