Starmer emphasises small town roots in first big campaign speech

Home Politics Starmer emphasises small town roots in first big campaign speech
Starmer emphasises small town roots in first big campaign speech

There is, so far at least, a polish to Labour’s campaign, driven by a desperation to win and a desperation to avoid unforced errors.

Every step of choreography is meticulously planned – and such was the case on Monday when Sir Keir Starmer gave his first major speech of the general election campaign.

We spotted, propped up in the corner of Lancing Parish Hall in West Sussex, the cardboard box that carries around a big Union flag that Starmer often has behind him when he is front of the cameras.

No location is arrived at by accident either – and this is true of all of the campaigns.

Lancing is part of the Adur district – won by Labour from the Conservatives at the local elections, which now feel a million years ago but were actually earlier this month.

This speech and the interviews Sir Keir did afterwards were all about answering the question: who is the guy who wants to be prime minister in five and a half weeks time?

By definition, between elections, a prime minister is more important and more newsworthy than a leader of the opposition.

So commanding attention and getting known by the electorate is difficult.

Keir Starmer has had four years to do it, and his opponents say the reason he has struggled is he has kept changing his mind.

He and his team argue they have changed their minds as circumstances have changed.

And yes, circumstances – the pandemic, the war in Ukraine – have changed.

But so too has his political direction.

He has shed a lot of the ideas and policies he set out when he was exclusively courting Labour Party members to win the Labour leadership.

He now has a vastly broader electorate to woo and he has been ruthless in pursuing the policies and posture he thinks he needs in order to win.

In the last few days, the political strategy company CharlesBye, run by the former adviser to Boris Johnson, Lee Cain, has published polling suggesting Labour’s ‘change’ message much better reflects the mood of many voters than the Conservative message to ‘stick with the plan’.

But far fewer of those keen on change are enthusiastic about Labour.

It is Sir Keir Starmer’s central task of the next month and a bit to change that.

Sir Keir blames that, at least in part, on a wider anti-politics mood.

Strikingly, the Labour leader told me he sees himself as a socialist.

For those scared of that label, he said he saw it as putting “the country in the service of working people”.

His biographer, Tom Baldwin, argues though that there is a better way to understand Sir Keir than the word “socialism” or indeed any “…ism.”

Mr Baldwin reckons his small-town background is just as instructive.

And Sir Keir leans on it to describe who he is, where he is from and what drives him.

He grew up in a village called Hurst Green on the Surrey-Kent border, which I wanted to see for myself.

“A mix of Victorian red bricks and pebble-dashed semis while all around you have rolling pastures and the beautiful chalk hills of the North Downs,” Sir Keir described it as.

“It’s part of why I love our country. Not just the beauty – or the football – also the sort of quiet, uncomplaining resilience. The togetherness of the countryside. That is the best of British.”

It is a clear attempt to take on that label, thrown around his neck by his opponents and not meant as a compliment, that he is a lefty lawyer from north London – with all the metropolitan detachment that description seeks to imply.

Those who seek to govern us seek too to attempt to personify – however imperfectly – the country they seek to lead.

Their biography, background, beliefs are all under scrutiny.

In the coming days and weeks, we will spend time with all the main party leaders so you can read in depth about them too – who they are, and what they stand for.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.