Keir Starmer’s First 100 Days: Things Can (And Did) Only Get Better
For anyone who is aware of the Labour Party’s campaigning strategies, you will be no stranger to the words above. The infamous D:Rream lyrics were used during Tony Blair’s successful 1997 general election campaign, and continue to be referenced in relation to centre-left Labour Members of Parliament to this day. On reflection, in terms of Keir Starmer’s first 100 days as Leader of the Labour Party, I could not sum this up any better; “things (did) only get better.”
So, how can we best judge any person’s first 100 days in the job?
Forensically interrogating the government, responding to the public with honesty and beginning to remove those who support anti-Semitic views… I think these successes are a good place to start.
In early 2020, against a backdrop of continuous electoral losses, growing disunity and public dissatisfaction, Starmer’s first day on the job was never going to be easy. His predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn was a leader unwilling to adjust. Ignoring a rise in anti-Semitism within the party and shunning those who disagreed with his dubious politics enabled for the position of the Leader of the Labour Party to be publicly ridiculed. As Starmer said, “you can’t meet Labour’s tests by failing to provide answers.” In all, a leader must be willing to accept the challenges and strive for a better future through those changes being met. I did not see this with Corbyn.
Consequently, Starmer’s first day, or one hundred days for that matter, were never going to be easy. However, despite the fact he became leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown, he has consistently proven to critically assess the government’s decisions and be the voice of the many, not the few.
A lawyer and a natural public speaker, he was always going to have an omnipotent presence at Prime Minister’s Questions. Starmer meticulously constructs his questions in such a way that they require a direct response; the Prime Minister has nowhere to hide. With a genuine sense of party momentum (excuse the pun) winning over 50% of the leadership vote, Starmer has nothing to lose when at the dispatch box and continues asserting Boris Johnson needs to “get a grip” of the Covid-19 situation.
Watching as an observant, the two leaders could not be any different. Johnson appears to be puppeteered and cheered on by his Ministers as if PMQs was an arena for gladiators. In contrast, Starmer seems calm and, as the leader in control. I do not suggest that if there was a general election tomorrow Labour would win, we know the Conservatives as a party remain ahead in the polls. What I can see, as the observer, is the Leader of the Labour Party becoming a position of real strength again, when listening to the public. Without a strong leader, I am unsure where Labour would be heading during the Covid-19 pandemic. I have real hope that Starmer has reignited the power a leader of the left and centre-left can have.
Whilst Starmer asks the tough questions, he is also not afraid of answering them.
Harking back to the 2016 EU Referendum, Corbyn retained the Labour Party’s ‘remain’ stance with 7½/10 support. It is no surprise that Labour lost its credibility when campaigning for ‘remain’; their leader lacked sincerity. Starmer, was quoted saying, “Brexit is so important; it would’ve been neglect of duty to simply sit it out.” Indeed, Starmer might have questionable credentials when debating Brexit, according to those who voted to ‘leave’, but his responses are not half-hearted. They are expressively blunt and to the point; something the Labour Party has been lacking under Corbyn. Despite the fact, he has been unable to fully exercise his leadership powers with regards to Brexit yet, he does not shy away from the tough questions or give half-hearted responses, unlike his predecessor.
Most shamefully, over the past four years, the Labour Party has been embroiled in anti-Semitic scandals. In response, Starmer declared from the start of his leadership, he would remove the systematic anti-Semitism evidenced within the party. Publicly welcomed by the Jewish community and beyond, he has proven to act quickly on the matter. In June he removed Shadow Education Secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, from the Shadow Cabinet in relation to an article she had retweeted reiterating anti-Semitic sentiments.
We can see, early on, a leadership pledge has been actioned. Within the Labour Party, there was genuine concern as to why this form of racism was tolerated. Labour’s slogan ‘for the many, not the few’ was whitewashed by those persistently allowed to preach racist views. It was wrong to watch Jewish Members of Parliament become annihilated and leave. However, I am proud to see Starmer challenge those indifferent to living in a respectful civil society. Hatred of any kind should never have been allowed within the Labour Party.
To conclude, I see Keir Starmer’s first 100 days as proof of things getting better. Admittedly, like Tony Blair, he will never be everyone’s favourite political leader. However, he has already begun to pave the way for a change long needed within the Labour Party and beyond. Moreover, for the first time in a long while, there is a genuine consensus for most Labour members to support their leader. Consequently, his actions so far prove there is genuine change on the horizon, and this can only be a good thing for the future.
Words by Lisa McGrady