Keir Starmer is determined to grandstand the extinction of any remnants of Corbynism, whose passion still flickers in the embers of the party’s worst election defeat in its history
It’s going to be a momentous week for Keir Starmer. One way or another.
In a few days the Labour leader will have secured his position as the true hope of an alternative to the Tories for a better Britain.
Or he will have cemented his place in the public mind as that serious, nice man who’ll never make it to be PM.
The stakes could not be higher as Labour meets in Brighton for a conference that is both showcase and battlefield.
An opportunity for Keir to shine a light on the man the public has yet to connect with, on his policies and on his vision for the future.
But played out against a calculated gladiatorial clash with the unions and the left.
The unheralded emergence of plans for a major shake-up of the party power structure dismayed many in advance of a gathering that was supposed to be all about unity.
But Keir is determined to grandstand the extinction of any remnants of Corbynism, whose passion still flickers in the embers of the party’s worst election defeat in its history.
The risk is that the look is same old warring Labour. But the boys and girls in the backroom strategy office decided a stand-up fight was good box office.
Here’s one: “Not all internal conflict is electoral bad news…it can strengthen a leader. If they lose but show the will to fight, their courage can inspire the party and the electorate.”
Stand by to be inspired.
The first live mass gathering of the party since the lawyer son of a toolmaker and nurse won the top job 18 long months ago, it has been billed as a chance to prove the party is still a credible choice for voters at the next election.
Indeed, it could be a tipping point.
Like the climate change that will determine the weather on the seafront outside the conference hall, the point of no return is dangerously close for Labour.
Similarly, all the indicators are scarily obvious. Against the worst, morally Teflon-coated PM in living memory, Labour lags behind in the polls.
As Boris Johnson’s ham-fisted, ideologically twisted Government tears the sinews of civilised life apart, Keir needs to brandish a big idea that will turn the electoral tide. It is delusional to imagine the inevitable bursting of Boris’s balloon will automatically transfer into electoral success for Labour.
Policies have been rolled out, open goal screamers have hit the back of the Commons net. But few have noticed and few have been convinced.
Too many share the feeling, as one member on their way to the seaside put it, that “Keir doesn’t even seem to know where the ball is”.
Critics detect more than a whiff of Blairism revisited in attacks on the left.
Yet even the high priest of New Labour, Lord Mandelson, calls for a “more radical” message.
Something perhaps with a bit more high-velocity impact than a 35-page pamphlet on political motherhood and apple pie.
The good news is that Keir faces an electorate showing signs of wanting to listen, willing to be convinced. It’s a chance he can’t afford to flunk.
As he said in a message to delegates: “We can only create a successful, modern Britain if we seize this moment.”
No pressure, Keir.