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Is Starmer missing a trick?

Starmer at the Labour Party conference yesterday. Ian Forsyth/Getty

“Huge opportunities rarely come dressed as huge opportunities,” says Matthew Parris in The Times. More often, they look like risks, and the danger is that when the moment arrives, risk is all we see. For Labour’s Keir Starmer, the new chancellor’s “fiscal event” was such a moment. If he is brave enough, Starmer has the chance to rid the British imagination of its most persistent fears about his party – namely that they are “prodigal debtors, high taxers and trade union poodles”. Never have the gods of politics offered Labour such a chance to “shame the Tories as fiscal bed-wetters”.

Kwasi Kwarteng’s “breezy statement” slashing taxes for corporations and the very richest presents the opposition with an opportunity: to outflank the Tories on the side of good housekeeping. “Labour, prudence. Tories, spendthrifts. That way round.” Instead, they’ve mainly stuck to the usual “anti-Tory knockabout”. They’re missing a trick. Most voters understand that “this is not the hour to cut taxes”. Everyone knows that the pandemic left a mountain of debt, and – from personal experience – that “inflation looms”. To hear Starmer “chiding a Tory government for living beyond its means” could relaunch the Labour Party in the public imagination. The Tories are offering us only fantasy. “Millions ache to hear about reality.” I still hope, “perhaps vainly”, that Labour might supply it.