OPINION - Ignore the howls of outrage, Keir — you had to ditch Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto

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 (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)
(Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)

Channel Four is recording a fun new show before Nadine Dorries flogs it off. Make Me Prime Minister features Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s famous spin doctor, and Baroness Warsi, former Tory party chair, putting plucky members of the public through their paces to see if they’ve got what it takes to get to Downing Street. It’s billed as the Apprentice meets The Thick Of It. Cannot wait!

One person who may want to tune in, and who is the most obvious person in Britain right now with an actual real-life shot at becoming Prime Minister, is Sir Keir Starmer. When you look at the last few months of polls, the local election results in May plus last Thursday’s win for Labour in Wakefield, the prospect of Starmer making it to Downing Street is not all in the realms of fantasy.

Boris Johnson’s herculean levels of unpopularity with the public and his own MPs plus the ominous economic picture give Starmer a fighting chance of getting to No 10.

Of course, the big but (and I cannot lie) is that it may be with the assistance of tactical voting and the Liberal Democrats in a hung Parliament. Labour sources and MPs push back on this and say the Wakefield swing is bigger than they need at a general election and that they are fighting to win a majority and there were no deals with the Lib Dems.

I get it. I said the same thing when I worked for Ed Miliband, except that when the election kicked off behind the scenes, work was being done looking at where there were synergies with the Lib Dem manifesto. But the public hate stitch-ups, so I get the caution that both sides are showing to avoid any formal alliance. So Labour must put forward the most vote-winning policy package it can. It came as no surprise — and a bit of a relief — to me that Starmer yesterday told the New Statesman conference that he was not wedded to Labour’s 2019 manifesto.

There have been howls of outrage from some on the far Left on Twitter (who knew) at this. But why would you cling to a manifesto rejected by the public and crafted by Jeremy Corbyn, who has now been suspended from the party? And before anyone bleats “but we won the big argument”… Err, nope. Labour gifted the Tories a landslide victory, which we are all paying for now. Also, so much has happened since 2019. Covid, Ukraine, Brexit, record inflation plus a global energy crisis. It would be mad to look for Labour to look backwards.

Starmer’s sole job is not to pander to huffy Labour Party members, it is to be ruthless in fighting for every vote to kick out the Government. But I do accept that he needs to do more. People need to start seeing Starmer has a compelling argument which is not just diagnosing the many problems we face and slagging off Johnson, but telling a big, bold, bright story about how he would heal Britain. Ditching a vote-losing manifesto from years ago is a no-brainer. Now he must pitch the public hard if he wants to hear those magic words “you’re hired”.

Rest in peace Deborah James

 (Dave Benett)
(Dave Benett)

Even though we knew it was coming, the news that Dame Deborah James, above, died last night wasn’t any less painful. Just 40, the podcaster and national treasure passed away after a five-year battle with bowel cancer. She raised well over £6.5 million for cancer research through her Bowelbabe Fund and educated us about cancer by being open about her struggles on social media and on Radio Five’s You, Me and the Big C. She was often very funny and moving, but her honesty shone through.

In these gloomy times the bravery and positivity of people like James or Captain Tom remind us there is such good in the world and that we should use our own precious time well.

In her own words, “find a life worth enjoying, take risks, love deeply, have no regrets, and always, always have rebellious hope. And finally, check your poo ­— it could save your life.” RIP.

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