ADAM TOMS: Voters do not care about Starmer’s sleaze narrative, but he’s still Labour’s best hope

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Adam Toms
Adam Toms
Adam has a keen interest in local politics and writes a number of articles for Gedling Eye covering local council activities and political issues affecting the borough.

‘Cutting through’ has been a phrase overused when describing the impact of recent events.

Although, it does seem the case that the Prime Minister’s décor is not exactly dominating the nation’s discourse as the country makes great progress against the Coronavirus.

After a small decrease in Boris Johnson’s approval ratings towards the end of April amidst a deluge of Cummings revelations, they seem to be once again recovering as the focus turns to a further lifting of restrictions on 17 May.

Starmer’s woes have persisted despite the PM’s characteristically lurid alleged description of bodies “piled high”.

A country in mourning would have perhaps been more shocked were another person occupying No. 10.

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Instead, after many revelations throughout his career, the population has come to expect the unorthodox thin ice treading from Johnson.

As highlighted throughout the 2016 referendum campaign, this is indeed central to his appeal.

He is different and often entertaining – both concocting something which one may dare call charisma.

Comparisons between the PM and Donald Trump are, for the most part, far-fetched, however this aspect of their likability – to certain pool of voter – is familiar.

A lot of the electorate like him, often referring to him personally rather than his party when proclaiming their support.

So far, Sir Keir Starmer’s aura of understated lawyerly competence has not stood a chance, and it will most likely continue this way.   

The British Medical Journal reports that most scientists appear to predict that the next stage of the roadmap out of lockdown will not result in a third wave as large as those endured so far.

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What follows is subject to speculation.

If restrictions remain relatively minimal throughout the rest of this year, a socio-economic boom will most likely follow – the incumbent government usually reaping the benefit of the population’s joy despite any past blunders.

Rather than an unfocused but present mood in favour of some sort of change, as seen from some after 1945, the population is itching to get ‘back to normal’.

This would entrench the opposition’s already underwhelming prospects.

Alternatively, another large wave – as predicted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine – may damage the PM’s position to an even greater extent due to an uncontrollable rise in expectations.

Moreover, if a particularly potent scandal, whether behind the scenes or on the front pages, occurs, Johnson may experience a storm once again to Starmer’s advantage.

The Prime Minister may even be ousted by a coup from ever restless Conservative backbenchers. His appeal is certainly more pronounced in party members than on the green benches.

One could argue that this would be most rash and unwise. In spite of his faults, Boris Johnson is a proven winner. 

If he does go, the less idiosyncratic his replacement, the better the Labour leader’s prospects.

After well over a decade of Tory rule by 2024, the appeal of change may well have gained some ground.

For this to be lucrative, as shown last year in the United States, this feeling must also exist within those Tories liable to swing towards the red team.

Keir Starmer
PICTURED: Sir Keir Starmer

A ‘centrist’ alternative, potentially similar to Johnson’s Tory successor, would put them at ease when changing their allegiance. Corbyn – as proven in 2019 – was most definitely not this figure.  

Although very unlikely, this swing may even occur if the Prime Minister stays in post.

That is certainly what Starmer is hoping to lay the foundations for. He understands that his road to No. 10 would be a long hard slog rather than a Blair-like relatively meteoric rise to the top.

On Tuesday he stated that.

“I said on the day that I was elected that that was a mountain to climb. It is, we’re climbing it and I’ve got a burning desire to build a better future for our country”

“But I don’t think anybody realistically thought that it was possible to turn the Labour party round from the worst general election result since 1935 to a position to win the next general election within the period of one year; it was always going to take longer than that”.

The trouble is that Starmer may not have time to undergo that long hard slog.

If Labour were to lose the Hartlepool by election – which would not be impossible – as part of a likely overall unsuccessful night for the party’s leader, rumblings may occur and his position questioned to an even greater extent to that seen so far.

His potential replacements, however, are few and far between, and none can rival Johnson’s effective reputation for peculiarity.

All would seek to promote the same image as Starmer and would not do so any more successfully.

The Mayor of Greater Manchester – Andy Burnham – after a strong showing last year during the government’s imposition of local lockdowns, currently has the best odds.  

He is perhaps the best known of those on the list, followed by the Shadow Foreign Secretary, Lisa Nandy, and the party’s Deputy Leader, Angela Rayner.

Despite the probable restlessness to come from Labour’s rank and file, a leadership election would be dangerous.

A replacement would, most likely, not prove to be much more remarkable than the knighted lawyer.

Notwithstanding this, Andy Burnham and Angela Rayner are certainly capable of delivering ear-catching performances. 

Starmer is capable of conducting these via potentially devastating, evidence driven and didactic denunciations.

These would prove useful upon the release of an independent inquiry into the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whoever Labour choose to fight the 2024 General Election, they must present well on television and social media, now the most important vehicles of persuasion.

Persuasion, of course, is proving ever harder in such divisive years, but Starmer’s character may yet prove useful as the reality of the nation’s recovery presents itself after the high of normality’s potential return.


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