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. 

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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.

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics. He also co-hosts the New Statesman podcast.

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