Keir Starmer ‘doomed to defeat’ – Owen Jones issues damning assessment of Labour crisis

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Insiders privately admit the Conservatives are likely to win next month’s by-election in the previously safe Labour seat of Hartlepool and some disaffected members believe Sir Keir is to blame for the party’s slump in the opinion polls. Mr Jones said defeat in Hartlepool remained unlikely but acknowledged a growing sense of disillusionment with Sir Keir within the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Labour MPs increasingly fear the party has no vision or direction

Owen Jones

He said: “Labour MPs increasingly fear the party has no vision or direction – and that unless this changes, Keir Starmer is doomed to defeat.”

Writing in the Guardian, he added: “He now lags behind the Prime Minister on every measure, is no longer more popular than the party he leads, and his support among those who voted Labour in 2019 has sharply deteriorated.

“In some polls, Labour has returned to its 2019 vote share, and far below what it chalked up in 2017.

“This collapse has not been accompanied by the all-out media assault or highly public civil war that defined the Corbyn era.

“However, across their different factions, Labour MPs believe that the leadership is bereft of vision and direction and have increasingly concluded that Starmer will never be prime minister.”

Mr Jones said a lack of decisiveness and frequent Labour abstentions had not gone unnoticed among voters and claimed shadow ministers complained they were kept in the dark about the party’s position on fundamental questions.

He suggested Labour’s recent indecisiveness over vaccine passports has led party spokespeople to improvise during broadcast slots with disastrous results.

The Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis has been perceived as positive by those who took part in an Opinium opinion poll for the Observer which saw the Tories surge into a nine-point lead over Labour – the widest margin since May last year.

In the poll, the Conservative Party took a 45 percent share of the vote with Labour recording 36 percent.

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Mr Jones said: “Many simply fear Starmer has no coherent political vision and his policy chief, Claire Ainsley, relies exclusively on focus groups of 2019 first-time Conservative voters rather than developing a policy offer of her own.”

Mr Jones also accused Sir Keir of lacking the “killer instinct” which Tony Blair and his communications chief Alastair Campbell used to such devastating effect against the Tories in the 1990s.

And he claimed Labour’s remaining Blairites, including New Labour architect Peter Mandelson, were conducting an “aggressive and highly coordinated briefing war”.

He said: “Already, MPs are preparing for life after Starmer. The right is cohering around Yvette Cooper, who alongside Chuka Umunna assembled a leadership campaign in expectation of a rout in 2017.

“Others raise the question of a leadership election unprompted, but note Labour historically never topples its incumbents.

“If Hartlepool falls, the left will be scapegoated, despite Corbyn’s leadership holding it twice.

“Hartlepool (a seat once represented by Mandelson) was a solidly leave seat in which in 2017 Labour won its highest vote share and majority since 2001.”

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He continued: “While Mandelson claims Labour’s 2017 surge was fuelled by Remainers angry about Brexit – contradicted by polling evidence at the time – constituency polling suggests overwhelming support for Corbyn-era policies.

“The current machinations of the right reveal a refusal to accept any positive lessons from the previous administration.

“If Starmer wishes to avoid being trapped in every politician’s cycle of doom – falling polling mixed with constant relaunches – salvaging popular transformative policies to construct a coherent vision remains his best shot.

“Otherwise, political death by attrition beckons.”

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