Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson are taking to the airwaves and print to publicly offer their analyses of Labour’s problems and their proposed solutions. Describing the May 6th elections as a “major setback”, the former Prime Minister praises Keir Starmer for being “intelligent, capable, moderate-minded” but says “he is struggling to break through with the public” and “lacks a compelling economic message”. The party needs “total deconstruction and reconstruction” and to be “building out from the centre ground”, which Blair’s New Statesman piece suggests is where the views of “Trevor Phillips, Sara Khan or JK Rowling” are not shut down and where a modern economic message is put forward.
Also in The New Statesman, Mandelson criticises Jeremy Corbyn as you would expect but also finds faults with Starmer. He says the Labour leader has “depended too much on the belief that changing the face at the top would be sufficient” and has neither the “political project” nor the “allies” required for the “transformation” that is necessary, yet must be “Kinnock and Blair rolled into one”. “I’m afraid he’s come badly unstuck,” the New Labour spin doctor and ex-MP concludes.
Angela Rayner also gave interviews last night sharing her thoughts on the reasons for Labour’s poor showing in the elections last week. She attributes the results to people not knowing “what Keir Starmer stood for”, as well as the party “patronising” voters and getting “the tone wrong”. Asked about her sacking over the weekend and her new roles, she says: “I needed to be more frontward facing… It’s much more than just attacking the government, it’s about what we’re going to do to improve people’s lives. And that’s what I want to put forward.”
While Mandelson’s desire to put the party’s left once again in a sealed tomb and Blair’s rejection of “woke” views are divisive, where the whole Labour spectrum appears to agree is that the leadership needs vision and an economic offer relevant to people’s lives as they are now. This is what the Labour Together 2019 election review found: of three options looked at by Datapraxis, it identified that the one with most potential for appealing to Labour’s broad coalition of voters was based on building support for a “big change economic agenda” alongside a “robust story of community and national pride”, bridging cultural divisions.
The Queen’s Speech debate in the House of Commons yesterday saw Starmer criticise the government plan as one that “pits regions against each other in a fight for limited funding”. Community union highlighted on LabourList that the employment bill was missing, despite being crucial particularly as the country emerges from the pandemic. Later, Cat Smith made the argument that we should be looking at social care as social infrastructure, as important as potholes, and rebutted Boris Johnson’s claim that the government has tried to work with Labour on the care crisis.
Today, we will see Rachel Reeves go head-to-head with Rishi Sunak in the chamber for the first time. “We need a transformation of our economy, so all workers have not only the skills they need, but fair pay for a fair day’s work, and greater security and opportunities for the future,” she will say. LabourList will be following parliamentary activities and more, while I’ll be continuing to work my through the huge number of pitches and submissions we’ve received over the last week. Thanks to all contributors, and to readers for sharing your views on the election results, all of which were helpful and a selection of which have been published.Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.