Ten years ago today, and the test Keir Starmer could’ve been facing

Sienna Rodgers
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Exactly ten years ago, the UK woke up to the news that the general election had delivered a hung parliament for the first time in decades. I distinctly remember crying on a sofa, with my best friend from school, in shock at the idea of living under a Tory government. What is even more strange to recall is that we assumed this result was up there with the weirdest and most dramatic political events we would experience. Such innocence! An unexpected Tory majority, the election of Jeremy Corbyn, Brexit, another hung parliament and much more would soon push 2010 way down the list of political bombshells. But it was a turning point for my generation, particularly due to the abandoned Lib Dem tuition fee pledge.

For a local, more positive take on the day, Margaret Hodge has written for LabourList about the ‘Battle for Barking’, which in 2010 saw Labour defeat the BNP and push candidate Nick Griffin into third place. She asks: “as we start to rebuild trust in Labour under the new leadership of Keir Starmer, what did we learn from our Battle for Barking in 2010 that remains relevant in 2020?” Hodge offers five lessons for the current party leadership to take on board as Labour attempts to overturn an 80-seat majority in just one term.

Keir Starmer would have faced his first electoral test as Labour leader today if it were not for the pandemic. The 2020 local elections have been delayed for a year, which gives the party more time to install a new leadership team, a new general secretary and better internal operations. On the ground, candidates may be restricted in activities but they have not paused their campaigns. Liam Byrne has assigned himself the title ‘shadow mayor for the West Midlands’, and it is not difficult to see why: while MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill, he is doing plenty of work on his extended mayoral campaign every day. In LabourList piece, he and campaign chair Jack Dromey have set out Labour’s bold recovery plan for the West Midlands.

As we enter the first bank holiday of May, newspapers are screaming with delight in anticipation of coronavirus restrictions being eased. The modified measures, which will be announced by Boris Johnson on Sunday evening, are expected to allow sunbathing and picnics. This does not mean Glastonbury is back on, as suggested by some non-political friends. But the government is keen to reopen workplaces and schools.

Trade unions will focus on whether workers are given adequate supplies of protective equipment (or sacked for speaking out), while the Labour Party will need to maintain scrutiny of testing levels. The target of 100,000 conducted daily has been missed yet again. To quote Starmer at PMQs: “What was so special about 30th of April that meant that testing was so high?” The PM characteristically batted away the question and set a new target for Matt Hancock to reach. Government responses here simply don’t add up.

The morning email will return on Monday, but you’ll hear from us sooner than that. In the meantime, check out our exclusive on leader’s office staffers, and keep checking the site for more Labour news and comment over the bank holiday weekend.

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