2024 is going to be a big year. Leading democracies of the world, including the United States, India and the United Kingdom will hold their general elections.
By all accounts, the Tories are headed for a stinging defeat in the UK, bringing Labour back to power for the first time since 2010.
The man of the moment is Labour leader Keir Starmer, who has had an unexpected bump up over the last year. Once seen as uninspiring, lacking charisma and frankly boring, today Starmar perhaps represents what Britain desperately needs - a steady hand and stability.
Boring may actually be best. Latest polls show Starmar leading the incumbent PM Rishi Sunak in 390 constituencies while Sunak is popular in just 4.
Meeting 'fire with fire'
It is the theme of stability and calm that Starmar has emphasised on as his country faces multiple turmoils. From Brexit to Covid to a cost of living crisis, a health care system on the verge of collapse, union strikes by teachers, transport workers and even doctors, the last few years have been more than chaotic for the UK.
At the Labour Party’s conference in October, Starmar promised a decade of renewal, warning that “our way back from this will be hard. But know this — what is broken can be repaired. What is ruined can be rebuilt”.
Keir Starmer now says that Labour will meet “fire with fire” if the Conservatives resort to dirty tactics during the general election campaign.
The 61 year old Starmar has come a long way and stands in contrast to the current Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak. Born to working class parents in 1962, Starmar’s mother was a nurse in the NHS (National Health Service) while his father was a toolmaker.
He did not study in private boarding schools and was the first in his family to attend University where he studied law. A former human rights lawyer who went on to become the country’s top prosecutor, he was Knighted in 2014 for his services.
As a lawyer, he often worked pro bono to help the poor and to get convicts off death row. He succeeded in helping hundreds of them.
In 2015, he switched gears to politics and was elected as an MP for the first time, going on to become the Shadow Immigration Secretary and Shadow Brexit Secretary.
Changing the country
When Starmar was elected Labour leader in 2020, the party was in a complete mess under the controversial Jeremy Corbyn, having lost the 2019 general election in its worst result since 1935. Corbyn had to resign and Starmar took over, a complete contrast to Corbyn.
Initially, analysts wrote Starmar off as too staid and lacking a vision. Today, most commentators are wowed by the turnaround in his reputation and image.
Under Corbyn, Labour had leant too far to the left and faced its worst defeat in decades. By bringing the party more to the centre, Starmar has allowed it to become a more acceptable alternative to the Tories.
That is clearly visible on the ground as Labour won a series of crucial by elections in 2023 and local body polls, wresting even Tory strong holds for the very first time. For example, Labour made history in the largely rural Parliament seat of Mid Bedfordshire to win the constituency for the first time ever. This seat has only had a Tory MP since its inception in 1931.
Sidelining Corbyn and his ideology within Labour was a key achievement for Starmar. Under Corbyn, Labour was seen as a party of radicals.
A row over anti Semitism ultimately did Corbyn in and he was banned from standing for elections. Starmar has done a lot to fix that image problem and reached out to the Jewish community.
Even on Israel and Hamas, he reiterated Labour’s support for an independent Palestinian state but also condemned the “senseless murder of men, women, and children” by Hamas while also saying that “Israel must always have the right to defend her people.” A position like this makes it harder to put Starmar in a box.
Pragmatism is at the heart of Starmar’s politics not ideology as it was under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. Which is why he is courting businesses to help bring the UK’s economy back on track and engaged with corporate leaders.
To those who say he doesn’t really stand for anything, Starmar told TIME magazine in an interview, “Some people think that passion is only manifested by shouting and screaming.
For me, the passion and determination to change the country for the better runs very, very deep. And I think once people understand that, then they’ve got a much better sense of who I am.”