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British politics

Why aren’t Labour doing better?

Starmer: no “clear vision”. Ian Forsyth/Getty

Labour should be streets ahead in the polls, says Owen Jones in The Guardian. Boris Johnson has “spectacularly self-immolated, tainting his colleagues and party”; the cost-of-living crisis is hammering people’s wallets; the Tory leadership contest promises to have “all the dignity of a pack of cornered rats”. Yet voters still aren’t convinced by the alternative. Polls show that just 33% think Labour is “fit to govern”, down five points from when Jeremy Corbyn was leader in 2017. Only 50% say the party is concerned about people in need, down 16 points, and 45% that it understands the problems facing Britain, down nine points. How on earth is the opposition doing so badly?

Two words: Keir Starmer. The Labour leader’s entire strategy has been “about character rather than policy” – about not being Boris Johnson, basically. Given the PM’s flaws, there was some logic to that. But with Johnson on the way out, Starmer’s failure to set out his own stall will become all the more glaring. He has a few good policies, albeit “borrowed from the Corbyn era”, such as scrapping charitable status for private schools and setting up a national care service. What’s lacking is a “clear vision” stitching any of his ideas together. This isn’t just Corbynite grousing: even Tony Blair has spoken of voters being unsure “about where Labour stands”. Unless Starmer can work out how he would govern the country, and quickly, he risks blowing his party’s biggest chance of getting back into power for years.