Saturday 4th April 2020 marks the dawn of a new era for the Labour party, as Keir Starmer becomes the new leader.
The 57-year-old takes over the reins from Jeremy Corbyn, bringing an end to his five years in charge spanning over two General Elections.
Starmer was the clear favourite throughout the leadership contest, and his popularity was proven in the final ballot. 275,000 Labour members chose him as their new leader with 56.2% of the total vote, twice as many as the runner-up, Rebecca Long-Bailey.
It was seemingly an inevitable result but a well-deserved victory for Starmer, who has been representing Labour in Parliament since 2015. He has already had to come a long way to get to the top of the party, but this is where the real challenge begins.
Labour have been in turmoil in recent years, struggling to reinstate their government power since the 2010 election. An entire decade on the political sidelines has proved painful, with four consecutive election defeats demonstrating how far they are from their days in power under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
2015 was an embarrassment for Ed Miliband, losing 26 seats and almost 100 seats under the Conservatives’ winning tally. That election gave Prime Minister David Cameron the reinforced strength he needed, and the signal for Miliband to resign as leader.
Corbyn swiftly took over, and while he could not guide Labour to victory in the snap election two years later, he brought new hope to the left. Labour won 30 seats in 2017 and almost halved the gap, helping force a second hung parliament in seven years. A huge party success, but a minor one in the national political frame.
Labour should have built on that momentum and were determined to take their chance in last December’s election, but they were defeated by an embarrassing margin. Fifty-nine lost seats – many in supposed safe seats – marked the end of Corbyn’s reign, and proved what many had known for years: Labour needed a fresh, new revolution.
That revolution will be led by Starmer, who has resoundingly won the majority backing of the party. Even for Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy voters, Starmer is a man who the entire party can and has to rally behind in a decisive few years. He is a popular figure within the party, and one who has already proven fresh ideas.
Starmer has a number of issues to address if he wants to re-stabilise Labour and revive them to the party in power they once were. Antisemitism has left a damaging stain and is rightly so a top priority of his, though all of his upcoming work is building up to one thing: the next General Election in 2024.
Four years is a long time away, but Starmer has to succeed where Corbyn and Miliband did not, effectively rebuilding Labour’s support across the nation culminating in the next General Election. Labour need to be able to fight again and really challenge the Conservatives, when it feels like have been without adequate challenge for a decade.
Fourteen years out of power has greatly damaged the Labour image and their claim to power, and if that was to be extended to 19 years it would be near impossible to break the Conservatives’ rule. Starmer needs a clear, step-by-step action plan on how to rebuild Labour approval, gain new supporters and win votes.
So how can he do this? Relating to not just left-wing supporters, but to the entire British population is the key to success, though that is easier said than done. A radical far left ideology would continue to isolate centrist voters, though being too close to the centre of the political spectrum could anger hardcore Labour voters.
Starmer needs to find the perfect balance, one that includes the greatest possible majority of voters while staying true to Labour’s founding values. Being for the many not the few is their key motto, and that extends to every single British citizen, Labour or Conservative.
Political solidarity and national unity are what the United Kingdom has been vying for, something that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is responsible for. Yet it is a nationwide struggle that all political parties need to abide by, and Starmer needs to help bridge that unity rather than further destroying it.
Starmer has a vital four years ahead of him, bringing together the party and the country. The early days of his leadership will give good indication to what lies ahead, but we will only truly know whether he was the right choice the morning after the General Election of 2024. A distant future, but one that is already in sight for Labour.