Keir Starmer has wasted no time in getting Labour’s house back in order after he received a strong mandate to rebuild the party following a disastrous electoral defeat in December.
Few elections exposed Labour’s shortcomings more than the last and it has been clear from the off that Starmer’s prerogative is to regroup and rebuild.
It took him less than an hour to apologise to the Jewish community and confront the on-going crisis head on, putting to bed much of the criticism that plagued Labour late last year.
By the next morning he had reached out to voters in Scotland – a region that has deserted Labour over the last decade – and appealed for all factions within the party to come together in a bid to present a united front in the face of the many challenges that lie ahead.
None of this should come as a surprise given how Starmer set out his stall early on in the leadership contest.
He moved to “reset the relationship between UK Labour and Scottish Labour” from the off, calling for solidarity across borders.
He also pledged to “never lose sight of the votes ‘lent’ to the Tories in 2019”, namely those in the north.
But his biggest point of differentiation was that he never lost sight of the radical socialism that brought people to the party in their droves under the stewardship of Jeremy Corbyn.
Although certain commentators have alleged that Starmer’s mandate means he can close the curtain on Corbynism, he has never shown any willingness to do so, nor should he need to.
It was a masterstroke when he brought in Corbyn’s former aide Kat Fletcher to assist with his campaign because it demonstrated that his ambition was to unite the party, not divide it.
A united Labour
While Labour undoubtedly shed voters to Johnson’s pledge to “Get Brexit Done” in the last election, there is also a movement that emphatically shunned that message – Both of which need to cohabit if Sir Keir is to succeed next time around.
Momentum, Labour’s grassroots movement, has undoubtedly been dented by the former shadow Brexit secretary’s appointment, but they should take heart in the appointment of Rebecca Long-Bailey’s appointment in the shadow cabinet and Cat Smith’s appointment as Shadow Minister for Young People and Voter Engagement.
Voters from the old Red Wall should also feel buoyed that Starmer’s leadership campaign was chaired by Jenny Chapman, the former MP for Darlington, who is doing a lot of good work in reminding people that it is “patronising” to think that northern voters need a leader with a northern accent.
Shadow cabinet ministers Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy are, of course, also both from the North West, and Starmer gained 17 out of 29 Constituency Labour Party nominations in the North East, which is a telling tale.
As one MP said shortly after Starmer was voted in, it seems that Labour is on course to becoming a genuine opposition party in a way they perhaps have not been in recent years.
“For the first time in ten years we’ve got a leader who looks like a prime minister,” they said. “In fact, we’ve got a leader who looks more like a prime minister than the prime minister does.”
Starmer still has some years to wait before he gets a shot at proving them right, but it is heartening to see that he is getting Labour’s house back in order first and foremost.