Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. UK Politics
12 February 2020updated 09 Sep 2021 4:19pm

Keir Starmer’s policy pledges show he knows the Labour leadership election isn’t over yet

The first TV debate could yet reshape the contest. 

By Stephen Bush

Keir Starmer has unveiled ten pledges to Labour members ahead of the first televised hustings (tonight on Newsnight at 10:30pm). 

The major source of excitement is that, since every indicator suggests Starmer is far ahead, his focus is now not on winning the Labour leadership election but on attaching specific policy commitments to his mandate – designed to represent the “true face” of Starmer. 

Perhaps they do – I’m not going to pretend that I have a window into his soul. But don’t forget that not a single vote has been cast in the contest proper and that the vast majority of Labour Party members will see their candidates not at a live hustings but on television – and it was the first TV hustings in 2015 at which Jeremy Corbyn introduced himself to Labour members. This leadership contest isn’t over just yet. 

Starmer’s policy pledges show a keen awareness of this fact. They aren’t, for the most part, pledges that Starmer needs to get written down to stamp his authority on the Parliamentary Labour Party or the wider movement. Quite the reverse, they are pledges that have support in the wider party and will do regardless of who wins. They may well represent Starmer’s unvarnished politics: but they’re also issues that are about winning the Labour leadership election, rather than, for the most part, what comes after.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Content from our partners
How do we secure the hybrid office?
How materials innovation can help achieve net zero and level-up the UK
Fantastic mental well-being strategies and where to find them