Labour’s leader has had a dozen slogans since becoming leader, and none have created a buzz about change
It is three years since Sir Keir Starmer was elected leader of a Labour party despondent after a heavy election defeat. Sir Keir can claim to have come a long way in a short space of time. It is to his credit that Labour is riding high in the polls, with a 20-point lead over the Tories. His purge of party opponents has silenced many of his internal critics and he has ruthlessly excluded potential parliamentary candidates for sometimes “spurious reasons”. In the battle for hearts and minds, he is right to think that lucky generals are better than good ones. Labour looks set to gain 700 seats in May’s local elections, a result that would disrupt the Conservatives’ narrative of an electoral recovery under Rishi Sunak. In Scotland, if the SNP continues to flounder, then its problems could usher in a Labour government.
And yet Labour is not seen as the wave of the future. This is not for want of trying. Sir Keir has repeatedly attempted to capture the mood of the country. He has had 12 slogans since becoming leader, each one more meaningless than the last. None of Sir Keir’s phrases have so far created public excitement about the idea of change. Instead of building the party to fill a gap in politics and give Labour a distinctive electoral appeal, Sir Keir gambled that the Tories would implode. That bet has not paid off. The Conservative party is getting itself out of the mess it was in at the beginning of the year. The next election could well be fought between a candidate whom voters see as competent, smart and rich, and a rival whom voters see as competent, smart and dull. It is still eminently possible that the former could triumph over the latter.