Keir Starmer has a big idea – but he doesn’t seem to want to talk about it


The UK economy is producing too many bad jobs, growing at a slow pace and contributing to the destruction of our climate. The levers a Labor government would pull to correct this would be to regulate the labor market much more tightly, increase union power and use the UK’s borrowing capacity to invest in new green infrastructure and research projects.

This is the great economic analysis at the heart of virtually every major announcement and speech from Keir Starmer and his best team, including in his speech today (January 4).

Still, the existence of this analysis would, I think, come as a surprise to most people, including those who follow politics. Even most of the journalists who must have covered the over 200 political announcements made by Starmer’s Labor would, I think, have difficulty identifying them.

Why is it so unclear? Well, as I wrote before, one problem is that the Labor Party under Starmer has made a dizzying number of policy proposals (i.e. commitments to do a specific thing on a specific issue) but no has not really defined political principles (commitments to do a specific thing for a specific reason). “The two-child policy limit on family allowances should be removed” is a policy proposal, announced by Starmer’s Labor in 2020. “The two-child limit should be removed as child custody is a shared social responsibility that we all, without children or have an interest in ”is a political principle. “The limit of two children should be removed because everyone should have a minimum standard of living” is another. “The limit of two children should be removed because people should be able to have as many children as they want” is another.

Now, of course, you could look at those principles and say, “Well, I hold them all,” but the reality is that the more we discussed your principles and positions, the clearer it would be if you were. really a person of the type “shared social responsibility”, “a minimum standard of living” or a person “as many children as they please”. Political positions are what ultimately define a political movement: so too is a clear idea of ​​its opponents.

Why doesn’t Labor do this more? Today’s speech is an improvement over previous ones in that Starmer’s “security, prosperity and respect” represents the leaders’ first attempt to anchor their labor market reforms in some kind of context. broader policy.

But I suspect part of the problem is that Labor’s policies in this area – and its broader diagnosis of the country’s ills – are quite radical, and under Starmer Labor has sought to reassure voters rather than talk about its radicalism. . You can see the allure: if you want to draw a favorable contrast between the Labor leader and Boris Johnson, “Starmer makes sense and wouldn’t do anything so crazy, Johnson is chaotic and disorganized,” is the easiest to land because people most of the time already think so.

However, if you have a large and sweeping set of labor market reforms and plan to spend £ 28bn a year on the climate crisis, it is difficult to provide you and your party with a definition unless you recognize that you have a big, radical proposition.

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It may be that working under Starmer does not need to do it: David Cameron has returned the conservatives to power by very consciously minimizing the radicalism of his proposals, and by presenting himself as a candidate with a strong continuity with the era of Tony Blair. If Boris Johnson is still the Tory leader when it comes time for the next election, Starmer might also find that his best position, politically speaking, is to play a reassured role and leave the global analysis behind. But if Johnson’s age gives way to the era of Rishi Sunak or Jeremy Hunt, a different approach may be called for.

[See also: Labour may have more to fear from Liz Truss than Rishi Sunak]

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