Inside Westminster

Keir Starmer needs to do more to show voters that Labour has changed, even if his party doesn’t like it

A BBC series about New Labour offers Starmer plenty of ideas on how to win elections, writes Andrew Grice

Friday 01 October 2021 21:30
<p>Starmer listed the party’s achievements under Blair-Brown in his conference speech </p>

Starmer listed the party’s achievements under Blair-Brown in his conference speech

Boris Johnson’s uncertain response to the fuel crisis invites unflattering comparisons with Tony Blair, who was shaken by the same problem in 2000 after truckers and farmers blocked deliveries to petrol stations.

The Conservatives moved ahead of Labour in the opinion polls. “We were spooked and didn’t know how it would end,” one Blair aide recalled this week. Blair showed the leadership the current government lacks. His problem at the pumps was a one-off but Johnson’s go much deeper: supply-chain issues, shortages, price rises and a cost of living crisis made worse by government decisions. Brexit is one factor, even though pro-Leave ministers are in denial.

Love him or hate him, you can’t keep Blair out of it. In his conference speech, Keir Starmer couldn’t quite bring himself to use the B-word; if he had named Blair, there would probably have been enough boos from the audience to send the wrong message to the public. Instead, voters got the right signal: delegates cheered New Labour’s achievements when Starmer rattled them off. His message to his party was that it must learn from the best of the Blair-Brown era rather than trash it.

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