10 July 2024

Prime Minister Starmer: welcome to the world


Despite its overwhelming character this is a strange and subdued victory. It is not Keir Starmer’s oratory and charisma that has got his party so many seats. An aura of competence and integrity may help, but he is Prime Minister because of the cumulative failures of his five predecessors. And now there is a widespread view that the chronic problems of the British state (see Sam’s book) will drag him down and that a combination of chronic problems and limited resources will mean that the changes he has promised will be slow in coming. Whatever the burdens of office that now weigh down on him, high expectations is not one of them.

Yet these low expectations come with a staggeringly dominant position in Parliament. For now he can forget about the Conservative Party as it faces its existential crisis. Its rump in parliament, many perhaps suffering from a form survivor’s guilt, are already debating whether to stick with a rightward drift or to find a way back to the centre. The resurgent Liberal Democrats will be pressing Starmer on climate change and Europe, but so will others within his own party. There are bound to be occasional rebellions, but it is unlikely that even the most substantial, invariably coming from the left, can defeat the government. Restlessness will grow over the course of the next five years. Politics will remain volatile. Many Labour MPs will soon appreciate that they are unlikely to be returned after the next election, and that there are only so many government and select committee jobs to go round.

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