Prof Alan Finlayson has a different memory of recent Labour history to mine when he writes that the party urgently needs to define Starmerism (The era-defining question facing Labour: is there such a thing as Starmerism?, 9 September). What Keir Starmer has so far successfully done is demonstrate a level of competence, trustworthiness and honesty that is in stark contrast with Boris Johnson’s meandering outbursts.
I don’t agree that Labour leaders do best in elections when they demonstrate a strong vision for the country – in fact, recent elections suggest the opposite. Neil Kinnock and Jeremy Corbyn were clear about their radical policies, Harold Wilson and Tony Blair much less so. Blair’s 1997 landslide was achieved mainly because he presented an image of someone the public could trust to steady the ship after the chaos of John Major’s declining government.
While I’d love to believe that Starmer supports most of the policies put forward by Corbyn and his team, that isn’t the position of most people I know. If I were Labour leader, I’d be inclined to say as little as possible about policies in the run-up to the next election; then in my first week in office I’d announce a wide range of plans relating to taxation, proportional representation, the benefits system and universal credit, a rental cap, and renationalisation of water and the railways. If Labour didn’t have an outright majority, I’d challenge the smaller parties to oppose any of those measures.
If this sound devious, well, I’m sick of Labour being honest and defeated. Till our chance comes again, Starmer needs to continue to concentrate on demonstrating the incompetence, corruption and dishonesty that is utterly rife in our current government.
Rochdale, Greater Manchester
• In his search for Starmerism, Alan Finlayson could have looked at the 10 pledges Starmer made in his bid for leadership of the party. He might have found there “a better future than the overheating dystopia that we feel in our bones is already here”. Pledge 5 calls for “Common ownership: Public services should be in public hands, not making profits for shareholders. Support common ownership of rail, mail, energy and water; end outsourcing in our NHS, local government and justice system.”
That looks to me like a clear rejection of neoliberalism, the overheating dystopia that we have suffered under for over 40 years. That has to be Labour’s future, does it not?
• Has Alan Finlayson already forgotten the repeated failures and lack of vision of Corbynism? I recall them only too well. Far from being “risk averse”, Starmer eschews the cheap and empty drama of Johnsonian bluff and blunder.
• Do we really need a Starmerism? Before Thatcher, two Labour prime ministers succeeded in introducing the NHS, social security, equal pay legislation, the abolition of capital punishment and the decriminalisation of homosexuality, and avoided becoming entangled in an illegal US war. Between them, they achieved all this without the need to define Attleeism or Wilsonism.
If Thatcherism and Blairism are arguments for creating Starmerism, I suggest the Labour leader looks elsewhere for inspiration in defining the Labour party’s future direction and purpose.
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