Inside Westminster

Batley and Spen has offered Keir Starmer a reprieve – now he has to make clear what Labour stands for

Starmer will have to be busy this summer, writes Andrew Grice. He can now move onto the front foot, but there is a need to settle his party’s jitters

Friday 02 July 2021 12:30
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<p>Only one in four people think Labour under Keir Starmer would do a better job in government than the Tories. That is one figure Starmer urgently needs to increase</p>

Only one in four people think Labour under Keir Starmer would do a better job in government than the Tories. That is one figure Starmer urgently needs to increase

Keir Starmer has won a reprieve due to Labour’s unexpected victory in the Batley and Spen by-election. Kim Leadbeater’s personal triumph in the seat formerly held by her murdered sister Jo Cox will take the wind out of the sails of Starmer’s critics, and those so-called “colleagues” who are eyeing up his job.

They include Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, who is still sore about Starmer’s botched attempt to demote her in his disastrous May reshuffle. Rayner’s allies have been critical of Starmer and his operation. Although Labour was braced what one Starmer loyalist predicted would be “a very bumpy weekend”, talk of a formal leadership challenge will now fizzle out, so his internal critics should rally behind him.

Starmer has a window this summer to settle Labour’s jitters about his leadership and cannot afford to waste what could yet prove his last chance to do so. He plans a “listening exercise” and town hall meetings around the country now that social distancing rules are finally being eased. But talk will not be enough.

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