UK Politics: New Labour leader Starmer criticises government's mistakes

Labour leader Keir Starmer
Starmer is seen as more "prime ministerial" than his predecessors

Labour leader will work constructively with government but criticise their "mistakes" as he prepares to announce shadow cabinet, says Max Liu...

"The sense persists, though, that Labour now have a better chance of winning the next election than many people thought they would when the leadership contest began. The odds reflect this, with the Tories out to 1.654/6 to win the most seats next time and Labour in to 2.186/5"

Keir Starmer is 3.259/4 on the Exchange to be Britain's next prime minister as he begins his tenure as Labour leader by criticising the government's handling of the coronavirus.

The former-shadow Brexit secretary, who was trading at odds-on for the past few months, won the leadership contest comfortably, taking 53% of the vote from Rebecca Long-Baily (31%) and Lisa Nandy (16%). Angela Rayner, who was heavily-backed, is the party's new deputy leader.

Starmer takes over from Jeremy Corbyn in the most extraordinary circumstances, as Paul Krishnamurty explains in his early assessment of the new Labour leader's chances of reversing his party's fortunes.

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Shortly after his victory was announced on Saturday, Starmer told Boris Johnson that he would work constructively with the government to tackle the pandemic. But today Starmer said the government had made mistakes in the past few weeks and pointed to their now notorious "herd immunity" plan.

He will meet with the PM and pandemic experts later this week. He vowed to support the government, saying he wouldn't try to score political points, but would ask important questions where necessary.

Starmer seen as more "prime ministerial" than Corbyn or Miliband

Much of the public simply couldn't see Corbyn as prime minister. As a measure of one's suitability for power the notion is nonsensical - nobody looks like the prime minister until they're the prime minister - but it can still affect a politician's prospects. For what it's worth, Starmer will be encouraged to see that this weekend, according to an Opinium poll, 42% can imagine him as prime minister.

That isn't a bad place to start from when you consider that, when Ed Miliband became leader in September 2010, only 36% said they could see him in Downing Street. And that was at a moment when Labour had a narrow lead over the Conservatives in polling on Westminster voting intention.

The opposite is true today, with YouGov publishing polls this week that show 52% approve of their government - the first time in a decade that the UK government has had a positive rating - and the Tories have a 24 point lead over Labour.

The sense persists, though, that Labour now have a better chance of winning the next election than many people thought they would when the leadership contest began. The odds reflect this, with the Tories out to 1.654/6 to win the most seats next time and Labour in to 2.186/5.

There's a very long way to go and no election before 2024 is 1.42/5. At this point, it's difficult to imagine either of the main parties wanting one sooner.

Reeves, Lammy and perhaps Miliband set for "balanced" shadow cabinet

Starmer said on Sunday that his shadow cabinet, which he will begin picking today, would be "balanced", with MPs from across the party's ideological spectrum and different parts of the country.

His appointments will give us a strong early indication of how he plans to lead. In 2015, Corbyn's appointment of John McDonnell, instead of Angela Eagle, made clear that he would fill the most senior roles with his ideological friends. In 2010, Ed Miliband's appointment of Alan Johnson in the role gave us a flavour of the chaos to come.

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Eagle could return to the shadow cabinet under Starmer, as could Miliband, possibly as shadow foreign secretary or even as an outside bet for shadow chancellor. However, Rachel Reeves is regarded as the front-runner for that job while Anneliese Dodds, who only became an MP in 2017, is also believed to be in contention.

Yvette Cooper could come back into the fold. Like Reeves, though, Cooper currently holds an influential position on a parliamentary select committee where she is already an asset to Labour. The return of both women to the front line is no foregone conclusion.

David Lammy, who co-chaired Starmer's campaign for the leadership, could get the job of shadow home secretary. Jon Ashworth looks likely to remain as shadow health secretary. Long-Baily could serve in Starmer's shadow cabinet and, if so, in a sign that the leading figures in Labour are committed to restoring some much needed unity.

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