New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. Politics
  2. Labour
5 July 2022

Will Starmer’s “make Brexit work” strategy win over voters?

The announcement is part of the Labour leader's desire to be both electable and radical.

By Freddie Hayward

Labour has done it. It now has its own three-word slogan. “Make Brexit work” was the defining phrase of Keir Starmer’s speech on Brexit last night (4 July). Labour’s exact arguments remain, to say the least, vague. But the broad outline of its position on Brexit has emerged.

What did Starmer say? He confirmed that Labour would not rejoin the single market or customs union. Instead, the party would try to reduce regulation on trade through a veterinary agreement and accepting EU food standards; pursue intelligence and security cooperation; and establish professional qualifications alignment.

A new veterinary agreement with the EU is not the type of policy that will spur voters into polling stations. But “make Brexit work” does convey both an acceptance of the referendum result and a commitment to ameliorate its negative economic impact. It’s worth recognising that, at its core, Labour’s policy respects the government’s “hard” Brexit. That will allow Labour to focus on the issues it thinks will define the next general election, such as the cost of living.

As we recently discussed on the podcast, many Labour members voted for Starmer because they saw him as an “electable radical”. Until now, policy has been overshadowed by attempts to rebuild Labour’s patriotic credentials (see flags at press conferences and odes to the Queen) and to clamp down on anti-Semitism. He’s trying to balance, as he put it, “claiming the centre ground of British politics” with capturing the dynamism to inspire the electorate.

The risk with that strategy is that for every carefully chosen word, for every hesitation, people see inauthenticity. It weakens the impact of the message. Only three years ago, Starmer attended a People’s Vote rally that campaigned for a second referendum. Now he’s calling for Labour to Make Brexit Work.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

[ See also: Who would win if an election was held tomorrow? ]

Amid all this, a source of irritation for Labour HQ has been the recent off-track announcements of the party’s ascendant mayors. Sadiq Khan has taken time out to wander through America’s fields of wheat – sorry, weed – and Andy Burnham is proportional representation’s biggest new fan. Meanwhile, the party’s leader in Scotland, Anas Sarwar, travelled to Westminster yesterday to call for the House of Lords to be abolished in favour of a senate of the nations and regions.

Their interventions highlight the difficulties of being both electable and radical. Yes, constitutional reform may be necessary. But does Labour want to be constantly discussing House of Lords revisions as the cost-of-living crisis deepens over the winter? In any case, the announcement on Brexit shows Labour is building its case for the next general election, brick by brick.

This piece first appeared in the Morning Call newsletter; subscribe here.

[ See also: “Keir Starmer is too interested in not being Jeremy Corbyn” ]

Content from our partners
An innovative approach to regional equity
ADHD in the criminal justice system: a case for change – with Takeda
The power of place in tackling climate change

Topics in this article :