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Who is Keir Starmer? Labour’s New Prime Minister and the Challenges Ahead

In a stunning electoral shift, Labour has ended its fourteen-year drought with Keir Starmer poised to take over 10 Downing Street. Starmer's leadership, marked by pragmatic policy changes and internal party reforms, will be tested as he navigates economic challenges.

Photo by Jordhan Madec / Unsplash

Imagine messing up so bad that voters offer a huge victory to an opposition that is far from best. For the Tories, this year’s election has certainly been one of the worst, bringing Labour’s fourteen-year dry run to a halt. Many prominent names among the Conservatives, including Cabinet ministers, lost the electoral race. And as Keir Starmer readies himself for 10 Downing Street, Rishi Sunak had only one phrase for the public: “I am sorry.” There’s not much that an apology can do to calm the obvious voter discontentment reflected in the results.

One must only hope that this is the end of an electoral relay, often falling short of full terms, and consistently choosing politicians who would rather shy away from blame and not take control of the financial risk that the country is treading by.

But, neither Britain’s current robustness – or lack of it – nor Sunak’s incompetence in leadership is subject of our article. UK has a new prime minister in Keir Starmer, someone who has claimed his efforts reformed the Labour Party. Starmer has often been accused of being nothing more than a neoliberal. After all, the party elected him as leader to trump the trend of Corbynism which was becoming too left-hued than fit for the liking of ‘conservative’ folks within Labour.

The acceptance that Jeremy Corbyn had gained among many youths, albeit falling short of victory in general elections (largely because the economic promises weren’t iron-handed enough), was existential for these politicians. One can clearly say that the sidelining of Corbyn was a product not of popular mandate, but of an internal battle of whims that the Labour was so full of during his term as party leader.

For the Labour right, Starmer was saviour – a way to get back their stronghold. But with Jeremy Corbyn winning as an independent candidate after Labour parted ways with him, it is unclear if the party actually succeeded in forcing the left voices to wither away.

And so, we ask, who is Keir Starmer?

Named after Labour’s first parliamentary leader, Starmer was a London barrister who quickly slipped into the party, and reached the House of Commons for the first time in 2015 an MP. Five years later, he would be elevated as the leader of Labour itself after Corbyn’s exit in the light of lost polls. It was quite ironic that Starmer ousted Corbyn when he was, earlier, a part of the latter’s A team.

Starmer was elected the party leader because of his ten pledges which included economic, social, and climate justice, peace and human rights, common ownership, migrant and workers' rights, and devolution of power and wealth among others. Starmer has since walked back on many of these promises.

For instance, the discussion to spend £28 billion on green industries every year was shelved despite strong commitment to it. The attempts were at first to reduce expenditure while retaining the overall plan. But later, the party realized its apparent impracticality and decided against proceeding. There were also the public disagreements expressed by people within the party and these were turning into huge blots for its image.

The devolution of wealth also seems unlikely to materialise when policymakers on Starmer’s side have dismissed the possibility of introducing a wealth tax. This decision might as well be driven by the massive tax burden that the country faces. But it is also not a surprise coming from Starmer who has always stayed close to the business circle.

More recently, Starmer has also often displayed a pro-Israel stance, not strongly demanding a permanent ceasefire in Gaza as some other MPs of his party have. This is, in fact, in line with his attitude to cleanse Labour of the left. It does not make him or the new government any different from Sunak’s.

Despite what can be termed a massive majority for Labour, it does not look like a smooth ride for Starmer who has, otherwise, seen quick elevations throughout his political career. He went from lawyer to PM in little more than a decade. But to keep his foot grounded with this new responsibility might prove to be more difficult than other roles he’s donned before.

For one, there’s very little that has changed in vote share for his party. The anti-incumbency was strong enough that Labour did not have to give voters a fabulous manifesto. So, the support that has backed the party now isn’t much for its ideals or promises.

The Reform’s emergence as a significant party with its thirteen seats is also an issue that Starmer might have to eye with more focus. If the Conservatives are not up for the game, Reform can very well occupy that position, thus becoming a strong opposition to Labour. This means that questions will come stronger both from the opposition and the public. There are alternatives, so there will be noise.

Starmer’s neither-here-nor-there centrality can also be quite distasteful, unless an economic upheaval can truly outweigh the lack of charisma. We’ve seen how centrality works adversely after France’s absolute disappointment with Emmanuel Macron’s political stances.

Unless Keir Starmer and the Labour Party are fond of a rickety roller-coaster, they might want to ditch that neutrality play.

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