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The Staggers

The latest comment and analysis from our writers

Today 6:00 am

Can Starmer and Southgate both triumph this summer?

Football and politics have become more entangled than ever.

By Clive Martin

The European Championships are upon us. The travel bans have been issued, the plastic chairs have been bolted down, the hot takes about nationalist semantics are in the X drafts. Spirits among some groups of fans are high: some Munich bars reportedly ran out of beer earlier this week after Scottish supporters descended on the city. And yet, south of the border, the mood around the tournament feels a long way from what it was before the 2021 Euros, or even the 2018 World Cup. For a start, distracting your more politically engaged fan is a general election campaign that is inching its way to a predictable, inevitable conclusion. But, occupying the rest of their eyeline, another attempt at footballing ...

6:00 am

Labour is afraid to own its housing policy

The party is offering a serious break from the Tories on housing, but they seem unwilling to admit it.

By Jonn Elledge

It is telling that the most radical bit of the housing section in Labour's manifesto is pitched as quietly conservative. “Under the Conservatives, greenbelt land is regularly released for development but haphazardly and often for speculative housebuilding,” the document notes. Labour, apparently, would do the same but better, prioritising “grey belt” (essentially: bits of green belt that actually suck, of which there are many), and introducing “golden rules, to ensure development benefits communities and nature”. What those rules are or how they’d work is unclear – but it shows a commitment to reframing the debate, to make it possible to release more land for housing, while maintaining protections for genuinely nice bits of greenery (the often misleading label “green belt” has ...

2 days ago

Is Labour truly radical?

By adopting the Tories’ fiscal framework and staying silent on tax rises, the party is accepting key parts of the status quo.

By Freddie Hayward

Labour’s manifesto should not have been a surprise. Nothing new was announced. Instead, it is a 136-page collation of the policies – which have been abundant, whatever critics say – that Labour has announced over the past two years. The tone, content and message are familiar: the country is broken; Labour will fix it. This predictability reveals the key fact about this election: that the result was decided long before by Labour’s wily manoeuvres and the Conservatives’ self-immolation. For the first time, a poll last night had Reform beating the Tories. I naively thought the Conservatives would feign unity and professionalism once Rishi Sunak called an election because it would determine whether they were employed or not. But even self-preservation, that ...

2 days ago

Can Keir Starmer prove the Union works for Scotland?

Labour has made a series of overtures in its manifesto.

By Chris Deerin

With the publication of Labour’s manifesto, Scotland now has a clearer idea of what a change of government at Westminster will mean for Holyrood. Keir Starmer is promising improved relations between the two parliaments. The SNP and the Conservatives have been at loggerheads – often deliberately – for most of the past 14 years. This has played its part in driving up support for independence and further loosening the weakened bonds of British identity. Starmer knows that one metric his term in office will be judged on is the re-strengthening of those bonds. He hopes Labour will take office in Edinburgh at the next devolved election in 2026, which would make his task considerably easier, but he can’t rely on that happening. ...

3 days ago

Labour’s manifesto is quietly radical

The UK is being offered a change of ideology as well as a change of government.

By George Eaton

Some party manifestos are presented as literary or philosophical works. Labour’s 2024 general election manifesto, launched at the Co-Op HQ in Manchester, does not fall into these categories. Its front cover, emblazoned with a black-and-white photo of a sober Keir Starmer, features a single word: “Change”. As titles go, it won’t win prizes for originality.  But do not confuse this with an absence of substance. The “slim document” that some in Labour spoke of has proved to be 23,000 words long (the Starmer project’s problem has never been a lack of policy).  Those looking for surprises will be disappointed – the party has learned from Theresa May’s ill-fated social care plan (the “dementia tax”), sprung on an unsuspecting electorate in 2017. John ...

3 days ago

Keir Starmer, toolmakers and the death of the working-class hero

Why his story of individual aspiration has failed to resonate.

By Jennifer Jasmine White

Do working-class heroes still exist? Judging by how Keir Starmer carved out his personal brand on Sky News's leaders' special last night, Labour’s speechwriters certainly think so. The campaign is trundling on, and those playing “drink every time Starmer drops a class-conscious cliché” may find themselves inebriated for much of June. Once again, the Labour leader reminded us that his dad was a toolmaker, though he didn't get round to telling us his mum’s phone was cut off, and he was the first in his family to go to university. For a knight of the realm, and the man once rumoured to have inspired the ultimate Noughties middle-class dreamboat, Mark Darcy, this kind of forced relatability is an essential strategy. Faced ...

4 days ago

Keir Starmer is no hero but he is a winner

This debate was a tactical victory, not a triumph.

By Andrew Marr

In a general election, head to head is best: but only when one of the heads belongs to an experienced interviewer. After the uninformative ITV “debate” between Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak, Sky and Beth Rigby did far better in Grimsby, rather brutally exposing the strengths and weaknesses of both men. Initial polling confirmed a general impression that the Labour leader easily outperformed the prime minister. I felt the same. But neither man came away unscathed. With the Defence Secretary Grant Shapp's warnings of a Labour “supermajority” earlier in the day and the revelation that one Tory candidate, Andrea Jenkyns, is campaigning with pictures of Nigel Farage, not the PM, on her literature, it really does feel like the end of days ...

4 days ago

Sky News debate: all is lost for Rishi Sunak

Keir Starmer sails to victory, in spite of a tricky interview.

By Rachel Cunliffe

Here’s one thing we learned from tonight’s leaders' event in Grimsby: a journalistic grilling followed by questions from the public is more revealing than a head-to-head debate where candidates can hide behind insulting each other. Both Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak had a torrid time – both will currently be nursing bruises and agonising over awkward exchanges they wish had gone better. Keir Starmer had the dubious honour of going first. He turned up with one aim: don’t look weak. Clearly he had learned from last week’s debate against Rishi Sunak - in which the prime minister managed to repeat his claim that Labour would raise taxes by £2,000 per household multiple times almost without challenge. Maybe he was still smarting from ...