Blair may have started Labour’s slide to the right, but Starmer has completed it – Pat McArt

Is there any meaningful difference between Keir Starmer’s Labour and Rishi Sunak’s Tories on many key issues?

Pat McArt

Pat McArt

Pat McArt is a former editor of the Derry Journal and an author and commentator

Sir Keir Starmer spoke to former Labour leader Sir Tony Blair at the Future of Britain conference (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Sir Keir Starmer with former Labour leader Sir Tony Blair

In the space of about 10 days I read Tony Blair’s A Journey, the memoir of the Labour Party’s longest serving prime minister, and followed that up with a binge session ploughing through John Major’s 800-page tome The Autobiography.

Don’t rush out to buy either would be my advice. Whilst, admittedly, my qualifications as a literary critic are scant, I would be of the opinion neither offering would be Nobel Prize-winning material.

But they are fascinating in one respect, in that the incontrovertible fact emerges with 100% clarity that the old chasm between cloth-cap Labour and the Tory toffs is no more.

And it is, without question, Labour which has shifted its political ground.

So, as we head into ‘Election 24′, we can definitively state that while Blair might have started the journey to the right, Sir Keir Starmer has now arrived at the destination. What started as a slow slide has now become a full-on sprint.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer vowed to curb immigration
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer (Lucy North/PA)

In an almost Stalinist-like purge, Starmer’s got rid of his former leader, the avowedly left-wing Jeremy Corbyn. He then oversaw the de-selection of people considered loyal to Corbyn.

In his run for the leadership he made 10 progressive pledges, all of which he has now abandoned.

For a Labour leader who frequently makes promises about looking after workers, he warned his front bench not to be seen near any striking public sector workers and not to be issuing statements of support.

Diane Abbott was shadow home secretary during Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party
Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott have accused Sir Keir Starmer of engaging in a purge of left-wing candidates for Labour (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

And who can forget his support for Israel cutting off water and power to Gaza?

So far Starmer’s lead in the polls is not down to the fact the electorate are enamoured of his show-stopping charisma and can’t wait to see him in Downing Street; more that they want the current shower of incompetents out of office.

The one cloud on the horizon for Sir Keir is that while all the pundits are predicting a Labour landslide on July 4, his own seat might not be as secure as originally thought. A formidable contender in the shape of Andrew Feinstein has come out of the political mists to challenge him.

According to several reports, Feinstein, a South African who served in Nelson Mandela’s government, has already won the backing of a range of local community organisations and individuals in the North London constituency.

And he’s pulling no punches in terms of calling into question the Labour leader’s integrity, accusing him of being unprincipled and serving his billionaire donors rather than his constituents.

Feinstein is also making the war in Gaza the central plank of his campaign, claiming Sir Keir’s support for Israel “speaks to a remarkable lack of political honesty and contrition”.

The challenger is not alone in his attacks on Starmer’s character.

Owen Jones, the broadcaster and columnist, has questioned his integrity in what he regards as u-turns in both his dealings with people and with policy shifts.

In an article in The Guardian, Jones, a lifelong Labour supporter, said: “After a uniquely calamitous 14-year stretch of Tory rule, just as Labour looks set to reconquer No 10 by a landslide, I’ve just emailed the party cancelling my membership.”

Who won the battle between Owen Jones and Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain?
Columnist Owen Jones

Labour had, he said, become “a hostile environment for anyone believing in the very policies Starmer relied upon to secure the leadership”, including scrapping university tuition fees and promoting public ownership. He also attacked Sir Keir for ruling out bringing back the cap on bankers’ bonuses or introducing a wealth tax.

So, there we have it.

It seems there are now two conservative parties in the UK, the only difference is that one uses a capital ‘C’. Starmer’s key campaign theme is ‘change’, telling us he’s got something different to offer. That’s clearly very debatable.

It seems there are now two conservative parties in the UK, the only difference is that one uses a capital ‘C’

Is there any meaningful difference between Starmer’s Labour and Sunak’s Tories on the economy, on Gaza, on workers’ rights, or on funding desperately need right across the board here in the north?

Will we get the money for a crumbling health service? Or the roads infrastructure? Or Casement Park?

Don’t hold your breath.