Labour cannot return to past policies, says Gordon Brown after poll drubbing

Ex-leader and Diane Abbott urge Keir Starmer to review party policies to tackle ‘seismic changes’ in society

Labour cannot seek answers in the past to solve its electoral troubles, Gordon Brown has said, as Keir Starmer’s new campaigns coordinator said the party faced “a difficult job” adjusting to political divides based on cultural values.

With Starmer’s authority seen as undermined after a protracted, if eventually limited, shadow cabinet reshuffle after a string of bad election results last week, the Labour leader faces pressure to change course.

Diane Abbott, who was shadow home secretary under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, said Starmer had sought to make Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, “carry the can” for results including losing the Hartlepool byelection and shedding council seats across England.

After a prolonged standoff on Sunday, Rayner was moved from her role as party chair and national campaigns coordinator, but ended up with an expanded brief, shadowing Michael Gove as well as being handed a newly created post as shadow secretary for the future of work.

“It does seem as if, certainly the people around him (Starmer), don’t understand how the party works,” Abbott told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“They didn’t seem to realise that because she’s an elected deputy leader, you can fiddle around with her title, but you can’t sack her, so she remains a senior person in the shadow cabinet.”

Abbott has called for Starmer to return to the policies promised under Corbyn at the 2019 general election.

But also speaking to the Today programme, Brown said Labour could not just return the policies of the past if it wanted to deal with the “seismic changes” facing society, including widening social inequalities and nationalism.

“Keir Starmer and his leadership have got to deal with all these changes,” the former prime minister said. “So, the Labour party has got to change, we can never have the same policies at 1997 – they can’t be the same policies at 2019.

“He has got to be given the space and the power and the leaders working with him to change the Labour party, so that it can deal with these fundamental challenges that have been aggravated by Covid.”

Shabana Mahmood, the Birmingham Ladywood MP who was appointed campaigns coordinator in place of Rayner, said Labour would undertake a policy review to create “a programme that is capable of speaking to people across the country”.

This would, she conceded, have to tackle the issue of how to attract former voters in areas such as the north of England and Midlands without putting off existing supporters in cities.

She said: “It’s a difficult job. A lot of people are voting based on cultural disposition and cultural outlook, rather than just the economics of the programme.”

Mahmood added: “The test of our policies in the end is are we going to be granted a chance to form a government to enact those policies. That is the test for the policies that we adopt.”


Peter Walker Political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Keir Starmer to reshuffle Labour frontbench after election losses
Angela Rayner expected to get significant new role after backlash following her removal as party chair

Heather Stewart

09, May, 2021 @10:10 AM

Article image
Gordon Brown backs Keir Starmer for Labour leader
Former PM says candidate has the expertise and eloquence to lead party back into power

Rowena Mason Deputy political editor

05, Mar, 2020 @12:22 PM

Article image
Starmer faces backlash over sacking of Angela Rayner after election losses
Senior figures such as Andy Burnham are backing the deputy leader who is believed to be furious over treatment

Heather Stewart Political editor

09, May, 2021 @6:59 PM

Article image
Labour leadership: Keir Starmer on course to win in first round – poll
Frontrunner on 53% ahead of Rebecca Long-Bailey on 31% and Lisa Nandy on 16%

Rowena Mason Deputy political editor

26, Feb, 2020 @7:15 PM

Article image
Labour won’t see power again until it remembers the essentials of winning | Andrew Rawnsley
On the all too rare occasions when it has achieved office in the past, Labour has done so with a broad appeal attracting diverse groups of voters

Andrew Rawnsley

16, May, 2021 @7:30 AM

Article image
Angela Rayner vows to reconnect Labour with working class voters
Exclusive: deputy leader says party must do more to speak to people in low-wage jobs she grew up with

Jessica Elgot

10, May, 2021 @6:30 PM

Article image
John McDonnell backs Richard Burgon for Labour deputy leader
Move to nominate shadow justice secretary dubbed ‘slap in face’ for Rebecca Long-Bailey, who backs Angela Rayner

Kate Proctor Political correspondent

08, Jan, 2020 @7:57 PM

Article image
Keir Starmer appoints northern MP to build bridges with backbenchers
Sharon Hodgson becomes Labour leader’s new parliamentary aide as he seeks to improve relations with MPs after troubled reshuffle

Heather Stewart Political editor

14, May, 2021 @7:24 PM

Article image
UK Covid: work from home guidance to be lifted on 21 June, Johnson indicates – as it happened
No 10 did not say whether Whitty and Vallance backed the move; No 10 won’t commit to Covid inquiry ending before next general election

Andrew Sparrow

12, May, 2021 @4:48 PM

Article image
The long-running tensions with Keir Starmer behind Angela Rayner’s move
Analysis: from different backgrounds and wings of the party, relations between the Labour leader and his deputy had long been strained

Josh Halliday and Heather Stewart

09, May, 2021 @4:19 PM