Starmer on course to win for Labour?

Frank McKenna looks ahead to the Labour Party conference that takes place in Liverpool next week – and suggests that Keir Starmer has a long way to go if he is to become PM, despite the seismic challenges the country and the government is facing.

Frank McKenna

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The Labour Party heads to Liverpool for its annual conference next week. Ahead in the polls, its opponents in a state of flux following a bruising and brutal leadership contest; a cost-of-living crisis, an energy crisis; inflation hikes; and interest rate increases. The backdrop for Keir Starmer and his team couldn’t be better.

Certainly, the leader of the opposition is in a stronger position than any Labour leader since Tony Blair back in 1997 – and yet it still feels more like Neil Kinnock and 1992 to many political commentators.

The removal of Boris Johnson is being mourned by the Tory faithful. But with the electorate his bolt was shot. Even given his undoubted campaigning skills, the UK public had tired of his shenanigans, and cottoned onto the fact that he just wasn’t very good at running the country. 

As it stands, Liz Truss has not had the bounce that many had expected. She is not charismatic. She does not inspire in the way Johnson did. She will not be that well known to many who do not follow politics (or to Australian news crews if the Queen’s funeral coverage is anything to go by).

However, she does have a plan. Tax cuts and going for growth.

Critics will argue that her policies will see a rise in interest rates, or a run on the pound, and a hit on the poorest within our community.

But, if the tide doesn’t turn, Truss will argue that it is medicine that the UK will have to swallow on the back of the Pandemic and the Ukraine war (not to mention Brexit, which she won’t). In a nutshell she will be saying “no pain, no gain.” She will tell the electorate in 2024 that there are no easy ways out of the mire we are in – and as tough as her plans are, there is no alternative.

A relatively unknown, charisma-free, female Prime Minister, with an unpopular agenda. Who does that remind you of?

That is why Labour cannot be complacent – and why it must announce its plan next week – on the economy, on crime, on the NHS, education, and net zero.

Starmer and his team may be tempted to stand back in the expectation that the Conservative government will continue to unravel and that, following four General Election defeats ‘one more heave’ will do. I’m not convinced. 

The LOTO has delivered, in the main, the internal reform of his party that was essential if Labour was to have a hope in hell after the disastrous Corbyn years. But being a credible opposition is different to being viewed as a credible alternative government.

The conference is Keir Starmer and Labour’s showcase to demonstrate they have a plan – and that there is a genuine alternative to Liz Truss and the Tories. Let’s see if they can deliver.

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