Keir Starmer's last chance - by Paul Embery for Unherd
As the party conference season gets underway, we assess the prospects for the two main parties on the eve of a new parliamentary session. Paul Embery, fireman, journalist and blue Labour activist looks at the party's existential crisis and the stark choices now facing its incumbent leader.
He pulls no punches, urging Keir Starmer to face down his critics this week with an agenda to address headlong the concerns of millions across the country whom the party seems to have ignored, forgotten or abandoned.
"Starmer must implore the party to face up to the fact that, in no longer being an object of affection for the very people it was created to represent, Labour is betraying its heritage. He must tell the rank-and-file that Labour cannot be a party only for social activists, student radicals and middle-class urban liberals, but must also understand the lives of — and speak for — those living in small-town Britain.
He should remind the party that a small ‘c’ conservative thread still runs through many working-class communities and, once upon a time, voters in these places felt no compunction about voting Labour. They stopped because they sensed, rightly, that the party started to see them as embarrassing elderly relatives; it wanted their votes at election time, but it had no desire to be seen in public with them.
The party must stop obsessing over issues that have little traction in the real world — the current internal squabble over gender identity being one example — and concentrate on the doorstep issues that determine the outcome of elections.
Starmer should be bold and tell the party that, for too long, it has indulged — sometimes actively supported — those who seek to stifle freedom of thought and expression, and that ‘cancel culture’ and a suffocating woke orthodoxy are not merely contrived props in a Tory ‘culture war’, but are alarming realities.
His concluding words are unmistakable:
"There can be no pulling punches at this conference. Labour isn’t about to go out of business, but neither does it stand an earthly chance of forming the next government — indeed, any future government — without a major recalibration of its priorities."
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