UK Politics: Starmer's popularity rises amid new leader bounce

Labour leader Keir Starmer
Labour will still struggle to win in 2024 under Starmer
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Polls show the Labour leader has made a strong start as the Tories' problems escalate but winning the next election will still be extremely difficult, says Max Liu in his UK politics update...

"Starmer has proceeded with caution, wary of being demonised by Britain’s right-wing press the way that both Corbyn and Miliband were."

Keir Starmer is [3.1] to be the UK's next prime minister after polls this week indicated that the Labour leader's popularity is rising and is now equal to that of Boris Johnson.

The prime minister is facing unprecedented difficulties as his government comes under fire for its handling of the pandemic. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said on Wednesday that Britain would suffer the worst economic damage from the pandemic of any country in the developed world. On the same day, the government scrapped its plans to have all primary school children back in classrooms this academic year, prompting outrage from parents.

The next UK election is [1.59] to be in 2024 and, with an 80-seat majority, the Tories won't bring that forward if they're in trouble. They will try to use the next four years to repair their reputation and argue that no other government would have handled the pandemic any better.

Boris Johnson- coronavirus.jpg

When it comes to upheaval on a grand scale, the party in power is usually punished by voters at the next election. Starmer knows this and he knows that, when your enemies are making mistakes, it sometimes pays to keep quiet.

Another thing going for Starmer is that, for many people, he contrasts favourably with his predecessor, as Labour adopts a more united front than it ever managed under Corbyn and arguably under Ed Miliband.

The new leader is also winning approval from across the political spectrum, with the likes of former-Tory chancellor George Osborne praising Starmer for restoring maturity to Labour and providing the government with constructive opposition.

Praise from the likes of Osborne should be taken lightly and, to those on Labour's left, it's proof that Starmer poses no threat to Britain's status quo. So far, Starmer has proceeded with caution, wary of being demonised by Britain's right-wing press the way that both Corbyn and Miliband were. They didn't get the new leader bounce Starmer is enjoying and were instead subjected too rude awakenings from the Tories' press allies.

Safety first pays off for Starmer

Starmer's tactics appear to be working with polls this week showing his popularity rising and putting him level with Johnson in terms of approval ratings - remarkable when, just six months ago, Johnson lead the Tories to their most emphatic election victory for over three decades.

More than half of Brits want Brexit transition extended

The government's problems could also be compounded by Brexit. More than half of the people in Britain support an extension to the transition period, according to a survey by the Health Foundation.

The transition is supposed to end on 31 December but the survey showed 54% want the UK government to request an extension from the European Union, while it tries to deal with the fallout from the pandemic. Forty per cent oppose an extension.

Michael Gove told the European Union on Friday that Britain would not seek an extension. The Tories won their majority in December by promising to "get Brexit done" without any delays. But the risk of economic difficulties being exacerbated by Brexit means that even Brexit supporters are concerned - nine out of 10 Leave voters, who took part in the survey, said they thought the UK and EU should collaborate closely in response to the pandemic.

All of this should help Labour over the next few years. Winning the next election, however, will still be extremely difficult. To win a majority, Labour needs to gain 123 seats, with an electoral swing of 10.3%, and the Tories are [1.82] to win most seats.

To deprive the Tories of a majority, however, Labour need to gain only 43 seats, with a swing of under 4%. That's more manageable and makes [2.52] on no overall majority at the next election an appealing price.

UK - Next Prime Minister: UK - Next Prime Minister (Prime Minister after Boris Johnson)

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