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Things can only get better… for Starmer

17 May 2024
| by Field Team

Following Thursday's launch of Labour's 'First steps for change', is Keir Starmer walking in the footsteps of Tony Blair?

Field’s research team regularly runs focus groups with undecided voters, exploring views on the Prime Minister and his opposite. When it comes to Keir Starmer, there are a handful of phrases that come up time and time again. What does he stand for? What does he actually believe in? Does he even have any policies of his own?

Thursday’s launch of Labour’s ‘First steps for change’ was Starmer’s rebuttal to these criticisms. Social media graphics and leaflets feature a presidential photo of Starmer front and centre, proclaiming his – not his Party’s – steps for change. Four years of speculation from the public and the media on what he stood for, answered in six points. Labour might have previously been shy about putting Starmer in the limelight but those days are seemingly now gone, with identity politics making a return to Westminster.

The policies, framed as first steps for a Labour Government toward larger goals, expanded on the Party’s pre-existing missions, each looking to address immediate public concerns. If you’re still following that’s six steps building on five missions. The launch event itself saw Starmer delivering a speech in-the-round, without a podium. A slick and smoothly run campaign event reminiscent of the early Cameron years. With each policy being introduced by a member of the general public either working in that sector, or affected by the current issue, Labour clearly tried to hammer home the point that this wasn’t just another political speech, but something ‘for the country’.

Those who can remember the years of Tony Blair as Leader of the Opposition will have felt some déjà-vu watching this. Labour’s virtual ‘First Steps Card’ for your e-wallets, eerily similar to Blair’s physical pledge cards which fit neatly into your wallet. So are we seeing Blair 2.0? Well, Starmer and the Party say no. These steps (not pledges as the Party are keen to remind voters) are much broader and less numbers focussed than Blair’s were. Starmer will say this is because the state of the economy is a long way away from 1997, but cynics might argue this is because it will give him more room to U-turn. Being too specific and failing to meet self-imposed metrics could have disastrous consequences for Starmer and his Party’s credibility – as the Prime Minister has discovered with his promises to ‘stop the boats’.

Lobby journalists and politicos may have been disappointed following speculation of a ‘special guest appearance’ which many in political circles interpreted as meaning another high-profile defection; as it turned out the ‘special guest’ was Starmer himself. But appealing to SW1 locals was never the aim of this launch. Winning over core voters and setting out Starmer’s stall ahead of the election was really what the Party was looking for. With not just Starmer, but also the Prime Minister and the Chancellor having delivered major speeches this week, it feels like the long campaign for the General Election may have officially begun. Only time will tell though if Starmer’s retail offer will stick in voters’ minds and e-wallets when it comes to polling day.

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