After five years, The Labour Party has a new leader, and that is Sir Keir Starmer, from a law background, and also having previously worked in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet for a time. Will he finally bring The Labour Party back to No.10 Downing Street?
Important definitions to fully understand this article, and to gain political knowledge (!):
- cabinet: a cabinet consists of the ministers that support the Prime Minister, the leader of the country.
- minister: those who are head of government departments. For example, Gavin Williamson is the Education Minister, and head of the education department.
- shadow cabinet: a ‘cabinet’ that the leader of the opposition composes, which would be their cabinet if they came into power.
On who he succeeds: Jeremy Corbyn
With a new leader stepping up, it is time for one to sit down (on the backbench), and that is Jeremy Corbyn. For me, he was an amazing leader for who I applaud. After decades, he brought socialism back to the mainstream with the introduction of policies such as free tuition fees for all university education, state intervention and so on. Around the 2017 general election and the run up to it, he also captured many individuals to have a true interest in UK politics for the first time and campaigning, including me. I applaud him for challenging the government and holding them to account many times concerning Brexit. Unfortunately, the 2019 general election proved to be the worst result in Labour’s history, handing the Conservative party and Boris Johnson a considerable majority of seats in Parliament. This of course, meant that he had to go. You can blame many factors for this, from the media to anti semintism scandals, but for me it cannot be denied that The Labour Party had an amazing leader. Thank you, Jeremy Corbyn.
Who is Keir Starmer?
Keir Starmer, hailing from Southwark in London, is fifty seven years old and is the new leader of The Labour Party. He has served five years as a Member of Parliament (MP), which some may argue is a relatively short time for someone who is now leader of the opposition. Before stepping into the world of politics, he was a barrister, primarily working on human rights cases. Famously, he worked on what is known as the McLibel case which was brought to Court in 1997. In short, this case was where two individuals, a former postman and a gardener took on the global corporation of McDonalds, distributing leaflets around London about ‘what McDonalds does not want you to know.’ The verdict that was delivered was that McDonalds ‘exploited children within their advertising’ they were cruel to animals and produced ‘misleading’ advertising. After the couple refused to pay damages to McDonalds after all their challenges to the court were not proven, they refused and McDonalds did not chase them up. Starmer heavily defended the couple in this court case. McDonalds reputation has not been the same since.
Later on, as an MP he served in Jeremy Corbyn’s cabinet for a brief time as Secretary of State for Exiting The European Union in 2016, with the office eventually being abolished as the Brexit negotiations moved on. Interestingly, he resigned from this position within Corbyn’s shadow cabinet due to Corbyn’s leadership in the same year. This ‘coup’ had no confidence in Corbyn’s leadership of The Labour Party, with the dispute eventually put to the public vote of Labour Party members who of course voted in confidence of Corbyn as leader. After the 2019 general election however as discussed, with Labour performing the worst in their general election history, it was officially time for another leader to step in with Corbyn resigning.
The Labour Party leadership campaign started almost straight away after the 2019 GE, with various Labour Party Members of Parliament putting their names forward. Starmer was always in the lead, both in the majority of public opinion and in the polls, with the closest candidate being Rebecca Long Bailey, a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn. Eventually, the candidates in the ‘final stretch of the race’ were Starmer, Long-Bailey, Emily Thornberry and Lisa Nandy. Starmer won the leadership contest from the Labour Party member votes, with 56.2% of the votes, compared to Long-Bailey on 27.6%. Elected Deputy leader in the same Labour leadership contest was Angela Rayner winning 52.6% of the votes with Rosena Allin Khan second, although a long way behind (21.3%) of the Labour Party member vote.
What are Keir Starmer’s values?
In the Labour leadership contest, Keir Starmer said that he wanted to build ‘another future that is possible.’ But what does this actually mean?
Keeping himself quite vague about policies that he would like to implement throughout the leadership election, it is still quite unknown what policies Keir Starmer will actually try and campaign being the official leader of the campaign. However, his slogan was ‘integrity. unity. authority.’ throughout the leadership campaign.
1.) integrity- speaks for itself. Despite his momentum, Corbyn’s time as party leader was rocked by various scandals, the most famous and the most damaging being anti-semitism- which is discrimination towards Jewish people. Some MPs resigned from the party and deflected as independent MPs or even to The Liberal Democrats. Particularly in the run up to the 2019 general election campaign, Corbyn was questioned repeatedly about the subject, and it damaged The Labour Party’s reputation across the globe. Starmer has pledged for greater regulations and restrictions on anti semitism rules. What Starmer likely means by ‘intergrity’ therefore is resolve the inner party conflicts, to once against challenge as the official opposition.
2.) Unity- The Labour Party is split. In a broader sense, some say that it is split into two parts, or ‘factions.’ The ‘hard left’ (or as I like to say: the LEFT left) want more radical changes to subjects such as public spending to fully invest and intervention within the economy. There is on the other hand the ‘soft left’ which want these policies implemented but perhaps at not such a large scale. Aside from The Labour Party, there has also been great divide within the country with the divisions that Brexit caused. Although of course, this has been overshadowed by the outbreak of the awful COVID-19 pandemic.
3.) Authority- this should not really come as a surprise with Starmer serving as a barrister, having ‘taken up hundreds of employment rights and trade union cases.’ What authority may actually mean is unclear, only time will tell.
Although Keir Starmer claims to be a socialist, he is likely to be in the ‘soft left’ faction of the Labour Party that was described earlier, thus different from his predecessor, Corbyn.
Do I think that he will succeed?
I think it is very possible that Keir Starmer will succeed as the leader of the opposition and will provide a good source of competition in the next general election. I hope that he will hold the government to account, with good public speaking within Parliament and in various activities. This will be needed as the UK slowly recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the rest of the world.
Indeed, although some political journalists have argued that this is ‘not the time for politics’ but I think Politics is needed more than ever. Not the arguing, not the shouting, not the insults: we need to go above this. In such confusing, scary and ‘unprecedented’ times, there needs to an essence that the ‘politics’ of our country is being used for good, meaning that is being used to help the NHS, ordinary citizens cope in every way possible, and ultimately keep people safe and well. Whatever that takes, whether it be the political parties debating with a consensus motive within Parliament, or developing a cross party coalition to achieve the best possible protection must be acted on. As the outbreak goes into decline, this cross party coalition will still be needed to guide the UK through recovery.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post, and keep safe and well.