T his time last year, Keir Starmer was preparing to deliver his first conference speech as Labor leader in an almost empty room. Separated from the public due to distancing measures social and greeted with silence rather than applause, the image became a phor for Starmer's early rulers: some ed words were carefully spoken, but ultimately no one listened.
This month Starmer will have a second chance, but this time the stakes are higher. The pandemic gave Boris Johnson the chance to be teleported to public lounges on a regular basis, while Starmer was barred from doing much in-person campaigning, making the conference a rare opportunity for him to get his voice. message through . What that message is will be a whole different matter.
Almost 18 months After his election as leader, Starmer's main criticism is that voters don't know what he stands for. Starmeris cripplingly cautious - a meticulous thinker who lacks the ideas or the courage to put them forward. He is clearly aware of this, as evidenced by his plan to publish a 14,000 word " mission statement " to group members.
For a while, Starmer focused on creating lines to attack Tories ( Take charge ! ”is a favorite) and underlining Johnson 's incompetence. There is plenty to attack the Tories - there always is - but a "skill war " won't help Starmer. The strategy ignores both Johnson's weakness and Starmer's task. Most voters know Johnson is a chaotic dodge and they elected him anyway.It's not enough for the public to stop believing that the Conservatives can govern - they must believe that Labor could do better.
Research consistently shows that simply list the problems feeds a feeling of fatalism in the electorate. Labor must carefully balance highlighting Britain's ills and offering them solutions. To put it another way: it 's one thing to convince the public that the Conservatives are ransacking the country, it ' s another for them to believe that this can one day change.
Starmer is said to develop big themes ahead of the conference, but it should be noted that the issues dragged on so far - such as crime and anti-social behavior - are taken directly from the Conservatives' handbook. It's goodto tackle issues favored by your opponents, but there is something to be said to change the conversation completely. This week, the commitments made at the TUC conference to raise the minimum wage to £ 10 and provide sickness benefit to all are positive steps in this direction.
Work should raise issues that the conservatives ignore: from the housing crisis to working conditions to insufficient social security. Just weeks after the Labor Conference ends, millions of people will be reached by the £ 20 reduced to universal credit . Starmer 's speech is an opportune time not only to shoot the government on thecoals, but to advocate for a welfare system that supports rather than punishes families.
Last week 's failure to offer an alternative to the poor quality social protection plans of Johnson is not to be repeated. There may be economic arguments for not making exact tax commitments ahead of a general election, but politically it is disastrous.
Not offering an alternative gives the impression that you have nothing to offer and creates a void for your opponents to fill. The Labor Party should instead have drawn up preliminary draft financing plans to distinguish it. start by asking that those with "the broadest shoulders" should take more responsibility, but the conference is the occasion to define for whom and against whom itis: "The Conservatives want to tax workers, we are going to tax fortune.
But it's not enough for Labor to say how it would finance welfare - it should define what kind of system it would be. How will it improve the services? How will this help the elderly and disabled who are deprived of care at all? The NHS party should of course also be the welfare party. Free social care when needed, paid for by progressive taxation; the plan would target the traditional demographics of conservatives of older voters and homeowners who largely failed Johnson's plans.
Reaching older voters didn't no need to come to the expense of youth g. A protecsocial reform and lower energy bills for older voters could be accompanied by well-paying jobs for young people and better housing, as part of a drive towards a green future with higher paying jobs in low carbon care and new and improved housing. stock with little wasted energy.
Not all Starmer's difficulties are on his own initiative. Many of the problems plaguing Labor have been brewing for decades, and Jeremy Corbyn's crushing defeat in 2019 was reason enough to make the most radical cautious. But sooner or later the cautious QC is going to have to do something.
The conference podium is an opportunity for Starmer to donate to the conference. electorate his vision of a post-Covid Great Britain - a country which finally grants more rights to workers, finances serviceses public and provides a reformed safety net when we are sick or old.
Eleven years of Conservative rule in addition to the coronavirus crisis revealed gaping inequalities long-standing history of Britain, while millions more are forced into precarious jobs, debt and hardship. It is, by definition, a seismic challenge. This is also why the Labor Party was created. Starmer would do well to remember that.
- Frances Ryan is a columnist for The Guardian