He already said it divine Giulio Andreotti, in the political formula as universal Italian: “Power weakens those who do not have it.” Sir Keir Starmer, lawyer, prosecutor and MP, took control of the British Labor Party a year and a half ago. He replaced veteran leftist Jeremy Corbyn, who sparked morale among disillusioned youth, skyrocketed membership, voters giddy with his double game of Brexit, and ultimately suffered a historic defeat in December 2019 to his most humiliating opponent. : Boris Johnson.
The same rival has managed to survive the devastating pandemic it has managed erratically from the start. And he has used the ravages of the virus to camouflage someone else’s self-caused: the one from Brexit. Starmer’s strike made his debut in front of the prime minister, during Wednesday’s control session in the House of Commons, shocked Johnson and lifted gloomy spirits in Labor ranks. Leader of the opposition – perfect haircut, razor sharp; simple and tailored suit – with the scalpel of an inquisitive former prosecutor, he corners a head of government more concerned with slogans than with the technical or strategic details of his health policy.
The mirage was short-lived. The success of the vaccination campaign brought Johnson back to life. Labor’s defeat in the municipal elections last May, and above all, the loss of the Hartlepool northeast district seat, always in the left hand, has once again sown doubts about Starmer’s figure.
The Labor Party holds its annual conference next week in the seaside city of Brighton. This will be an opportunity for the formation’s new leader to clarify whether he wants to be a reformist like Tony Blair, a radical like Jeremy Corbyn or classic in his approach as Clement Attlee, the prime minister who founded the British welfare state. after World War II.
To warm up the engine, Starmer has published an 11,500-word manifesto, called The road ahead (Forward route) which aims to synthesize his political vision. Almost as important as content is where you choose to post it. On the Fabian Society website, a British socialist movement founded in the late 19th century where the roots of the Labor Party are located. Inspired by the name of the Roman general Quinto Fabio Máximo – who defeated Hannibal Carthage’s forces with patience and abuse – the Fabians sought, in the face of the proletarian revolution of Marxism, the slow and steady arrival of socialism through gradual reforms. Starmer has yet to see if in his current acceleration policy, the party – and above all, the still-strong remnant of Corbynism – will have the patience to let him implement its opposition strategy.
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The manifesto, full of ambiguity and goodwill, is more like a catechism than a government program. And, at the end of its 35 pages, it all boils down to ten Commandments:
- Always put the working family first
- Give fair rewards to those who work hard and obey the rules
- That people and companies contribute to society, in addition to receiving
- That vital opportunity does not depend on the circumstances of birth
- Family and society, everything that unites them, must be placed above individualism
- The economy must work for the benefit of citizens and society
- The government must be the private economic partner, and not hinder it
- The government should use taxpayer money as if it were its own. The current level of waste is intolerable
- The government must restore honesty, decency, and transparency in people’s lives
- We are very patriotic, but we reject the division caused by nationalism
Starmer has a problem with his goodwill decals. Everything Boris Johnson could sign without blushing. The Conservative Party has removed from its speeches any reference to austerity in the past decade. Downing Street was in debt like there was no tomorrow. He has raised taxes at a surcharge on social contributions to inject additional funds into the National Health Service, and reformed the Dependency and Care system for the Elderly. In other words, it has given peace of mind to the small owner community (property) that is currently British society.
Starmer is playing on fragile ground, where he doesn’t want to step on the calluses of the business world, he avoids at all costs resurrecting the specter of Brexit – he limits himself to criticizing his “sloppy management” -, he praises family, environment, community, patriotism. And he accused Scottish nationalism, as guilty, according to him, as conservatives, of the country’s climate of division. In other words, he’s playing on Johnson’s ground. With a difference of voters who, today, are more willing to support and laugh thanks than gamberro Boris than make a leap of faith with pure Starmer. Legend has it that Helen Fielding relied on him – he was a well-known advocate at the time – to create the character Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones’s diary. As the topic will say, the husband every mother aspires to for her daughter. Many Labor voters, for now, are still voting for Boris Johnson the Naughty, even though he doesn’t look like Hugh Grant.
Against the primaries
Team Starmer has announced its intention to use the party’s annual congress, to be held next week in Brighton, to revamp the formation’s internal rules. He wants to end the system of electing leaders Ed Milliband set up in 2014 – one militant, one vote – to return to the former, which gave a third of the vote to militants, another third to unions and another to parliamentary groups. Jeremy Corbyn swept his election with the support of militant youth organizations such as Momentum. Membership soared, much to the chagrin of Labor MPs. Most of them are from the Tony Blair era, and they are appalled by the veteran left-wing radicalism. Starmer raised his turn as a way to strengthen alliances with unions, essential to carrying out his economic plans. But stepping down, no matter how representative the electoral system is, has an undemocratic smell that doesn’t even convince allies of party leaders. Sharon Graham, the new leader of union Unite – the UK’s largest – has announced that she will not be attending the Brighton conference. He has made excuses for the need to focus on all the labor disputes that unions have opened up to date, but he has also made clear his displeasure at the proposed reform of the Labor Party leadership electoral system. Whether or not the move continues, early in congress, will be a touchstone to determine whether Starmer emerges stronger or weaker from the Brighton conclave.
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