Starmer can learn from centre-left successes across Europe

The writer is a political strategist and former adviser to Tony Blair and Julia Gillard

Gradually and without fanfare, progressive governments took power across Europe. But here in Britain, the centre-left remains fractured and rather reluctant about what it would do in power.

Keir Starmer has made it clear that the UK will not join the EU if Labor forms a government after the next general election. But it’s time he and his shadow cabinet turned to the EU and spoke to the growing number of governments run by fellow travellers.

When Tony Blair was at his peak in Britain, France had a Socialist Prime Minister in the person of Lionel Jospin, Germany had a Social Democratic Chancellor in the person of Gerhard Schröder, and the center- left, reinforced by Bill Clinton’s tenure in the White House. , briefly resembled a dominant political pattern.

All of this was swept away by populist parties after the 2008 financial crisis and the global recession and austerity that followed. The annihilation of Greek socialists in 2015 led to the coining of a new term, “pasokification,” to describe the electoral destruction of once powerful left and center-left parties.

Yet the victory of the German Social Democrats last year means that more than half of the EU’s population currently lives under a centrist or centre-left government. The way these parties won and held power has big lessons for Starmer if he’s willing to listen.

The new German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, should be at the top of the list. His election campaign was a masterclass. First, he turned his tough character into a strength – a man with a plan and the abilities to carry it out. A similar pitch would provide Labor with a distinctive offer to British voters, and a contrast to Boris Johnson and his record.

Then, Scholz managed to find a new language to decarbonize the German economy. It was, he says, a great reindustrialization. It sidestepped the polarizing language of the Green New Deal, which has blue-collar voters worried that middle-class politicians are coming for their wallets. And he offered ‘respect’ – one of Keir Starmer’s key words – ‘for those who work’: a nice bridge to working-class voters who abandoned Labor en masse in the 2019 general election .

And Scholz’s quick response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine by increasing defense spending shows how to put security at the heart of the centre-left’s offer.

Meanwhile, the Scandinavians also have lessons for Starmer. The Norwegian Labor Party won after two consecutive demoralizing defeats. the Danish succeeded in taking a balanced position on immigration – a balance point which the British Labor Party has yet to find.

It is not enough for Starmer’s team to say Home Secretary Priti Patel is incompetent and unable to stem the flow of boats and refugees across the Channel. Labor needs its own “firm but fair” policies. And in Sweden, the second-term social-democratic government, led by new prime minister Magdalena Andersson, is toughening its language and actions on law and order. This weakness in his government’s current record has its parallel here, with a crisis of public confidence in the police.

Tough on crime, tough on defense, tough on immigration, focused on workers. This “muscular social democracy” could be a program specifically designed to win back the “red wall” seats that Boris Johnson won decisively in Labor territory last time out.

Yet the scale of that defeat makes a Labor majority in the next election a highly unlikely prospect – it is far more likely that a minority government will have to muster its strength in the House of Commons for every vote.

Here, again, there is something to learn from a sister party in Europe – this time it is Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who leads a coalition government, dubbed a Frankenstein coalition by the party of conservative opposition, and has the smallest of majorities. But thanks to a good whipping system, they win all the votes. There’s a lot about Sanchez’s lackluster skill that Starmer could take as a model.

It has often seemed that if Johnson wanted to emulate Winston Churchill, then Starmer should emulate Clement Attlee. With so much to learn from European sister parties and with a war in Europe, perhaps he also needs to find his soul Ernie Bevinthe labor architect of NATO.

Mary I. Bruner