Starmer rebuilt Labour into election-winning force but rebuilding country is far greater challenge

Keir Starmer
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)

Short of the biggest political upset in recent history Keir Starmer will be our next prime minister.

When the Labour leader walks through the black door of Downing Street he will experience for the first time the immense power of that office pulsing through his veins. He will hopefully also feel a huge weight of responsibility that has been so disgracefully lacking in the majority of his five predecessors of the last 14 years.

Starmer has rebuilt Labour into an election-winning force, but the job of rebuilding the country will be a monumentally greater challenge. Public services are on their knees despite the tax burden on workers being at its highest point in 70 years.

In a report earlier this month the Institute for Fiscal Studies made clear all the main political parties have been engaging in a “conspiracy of silence” in order to ignore the painful choices any government will be forced to make in the coming years. In short the think tank has warned that either services will have to be cut or taxes will have to rise yet further.

As a result of Brexit, the pandemic, war in Ukraine and perhaps most damaging of all an aging population, just maintaining current standards in our NHS, schools and local authorities will require everyone to contribute more. The government is now paying huge interest on debts and welfare bills have grown, spending on health is ever-increasing and there is mounting pressure to increase defence funding.

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer (L) and Leader of the Scottish Labour party Anas Sarwar
Labour Party leader Keir Starmer (L) and leader of the Scottish Labour party Anas Sarwar -Credit:AFP via Getty Images

In Scotland many of these problems are even more critical than in other parts of the UK and despite many areas of government being devolved many of the real levers of power remain in Whitehall. Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has acknowledged what Starmer has been loath to admit publicly – that he has a mountain to climb to get the UK back on track.

Overwhelmingly people in this election will not be voting for Labour with any great enthusiasm, they will vote primarily to get rid of the Tories. Far more than when Tony Blair took office in 1997, Labour will have to convince the public it is up to the job from within office rather than through the process of a feelgood election campaign driven by a ­charismatic leader.

Despite all of this there is good reason for hope – but only if Starmer can deliver the real change that has been repeatedly promised by him and Scottish leader Anas Sarwar. If he is to succeed, Starmer needs to stop pandering to the right-wing media and a minority of far-right voters who he has all too often pandered to over the last month.

The narrow politics of division and small-minded economics of greed that they represent are not the answer and will lead Britain into isolated oblivion both economically and culturally. Starmer needs to realise that in this moment the real power lies with him, he is the one with the country ­tentatively on his side, not the billionaire media barons who for years tried for years to destroy his party but are now obsequiously currying favour.

He must instead be true to his party’s roots and stick up for workers. That means investing in public services and jobs, building a new closer relationship with the European Union, standing up to tax-avoiding corporations and millionaires, and accepting that immigration is ­essential to our economic survival.

He needs to fix the broken system that means infrastructure projects in the UK cost many times more than in other countries. And he needs to accept that if tax rises must come to protect the most vulnerable then they will need to happen and should be implemented as fairly as possible.

Starmer must also build a trusting working relationship with the Scottish Government and accept that at some point a grown-up ­discussion about the constitution will have to take place if ­democracy calls for it. More than anything Labour needs to ­eradicate the sleaze, corruption and total destruction of standards in public life that Boris Johnson turbocharged during his time in Downing Street.

Labour deserves a chance in government and Sunday Mail readers have a choice on Thursday. A vote for the SNP will have no impact on the Scottish Government or who forms the next one at ­Westminster – First Minister John Swinney himself has made clear that he believes it is a “certainty” that Starmer will be prime minister.

He has instead said that a vote for his party will strengthen Scotland’s voice at Westminster. It will be for the public to decide whether they believe the current crop of nationalist MPs have been providing that strong voice or an increasingly entitled cartel of incompetence.

The alternative is to give Labour a second chance in its former ­Scottish heartlands, help eject an utterly discredited Conservative party from office, and give the country some desperately needed hope.

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