Keir has cracked the media, but can’t shake the ghosts of Corbyn and Brexit

Tom Belger
© Alexandros Michailidis/
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Good morning. Keir Starmer and his team will be feeling pretty happy the morning after his media blitz yesterday. He gave a confident performance in interviews with many outlets. He got significant attention for his housing “builders not blockers” pitch, without having to announce much new policy or being overwhelmed by NIMBY controversy – though that remains a big risk come the election and come implementation if Labour win.
Labour will be less pleased at the backlash over his suggestion we need a “better” Brexit deal. The Daily Mail splash claims the “Starmer mask slips”, with some Tories claiming he wants to take Britain back into the customs union or EU. Labour’s right the row is “confected”, and it’s always wanted to improve the Brexit deal. But Starmer’s sought relentlessly to shake off a “Remainer” image, and been categorical Labour’s not rejoining the customs union. This is an unwelcome reminder that job’s not done yet, and it may well never be. Brexit’s likely to keep sliding down voters’ priorities though, for all the Tory right’s and SNP’s efforts to beat Labour with an EU stick.
Another unwelcome blast from the past for Starmer’s team came in Islington North last night, where around half of eligible ward delegates reportedly attended to near-unamimously back a motion praising Jeremy Corbyn and highlighting their “democratic right” to select their MP. Corbyn himself apparently said he loved the job, adding: “I want to carry on doing it.”
Meanwhile a stand-off in Birmingham is heating up further over Labour’s central team’s decision to order the council’s leadership to re-apply for their jobs (does that count as fire-and-rehire?) by tomorrow. It follows a damning report alleging a “dysfunctional” climate. Now Birmingham Selly Oak MP Steve McCabe has waded in, telling Times Radio the report’s a “front” and should not be a “hatchet job” on the city’s leadership – urging Starmer to “stop this nonsense right now”.
One union has apparently made clear it does not back removing Birmingham’s leaders, even if it agrees with much of the report. And ex-Corbyn policy adviser Andrew Fisher argues the biggest issue is Birmingham residents’ right to choose their leader, not “a bunch of people sat in Westminster”.
It’s worth also noting the alleged discontent among Sheffield councillors this week over similar HQ intervention by the party. And in Stroud, where Labour was once the largest party but took a hit after more reported top-down involvement in selections and council coalition-forming, the party was hammered in a by-election overnight.
In other news, Labour MP Kim Leadbeater says she’ll stand for the new Spen Valley seat after a boundary carve-up forced a choice between a safer seat and where she was “born and bred”. It’s farewell though to PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, retiring after a whopping 23 years. And congratulations to newly crowned Labour council or opposition leaders in Sheffield, Rugby, North East Lincolnshire, Dover and Lichfield.
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