Thursday, October 28, 2021

Britain’s Labor chief struggles for influence despite Johnson’s crisis

BRIGHTON, England (WNN) – Britain’s Conservative government is beset with problems still ranging from a coronavirus pandemic to a fuel crisis decimating gas pumps across the country. This must be a very good time for the main opposition party of the country.

But Labor Party leader Keir Starmer is struggling to make a dent in the largely apathetic public. He is expected to change that with a speech Wednesday at the party’s annual convention, arguing that Labor is “back to business” after a decade out of power.

The starrer has its troubles. Labor is deeply divided after its election disappointments. Accusations of anti-Semitism under Starmer’s hard-left predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, engulfed the party. Issues ranging from the nationalization of utilities to the rights of transgender people are creating bitter internal conflicts.

Starmer also struggled to make an impact with the wider public, while the country’s attention was consumed by the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed 135,000 in Britain – the highest toll in Europe after Russia.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives won a thumping 80-seat majority in parliament in December 2019, wooing voters in working-class cities in northern England where people felt neglected by successive governments.

Starr wants to win them back. In his speech, he plans to claim to be Britain’s next prime minister, and tackle the biggest concern of many voters about Labour – that the Social Democratic Party will increase taxes and scuttle the economy.

According to excerpts from his previously released speech, “Very often in the history of this party our dream of a good society fails with the belief that we will not run a strong economy.” “But you don’t get one without the other. And under my leadership we are committed to both.”

Televised conference speeches are one of the few occasions that politicians have to address the public directly outside of election campaigns. Britain is not scheduled to hold national elections until 2024, although many expect Johnson to take a call at least a year earlier.

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The party conventions are an annual fixture of British politics, although the pandemic halted them in 2020. This year, the country’s political clans are gathering in seaside resorts or provincial towns for meetings that are part pep rally, part campaign pitch and part political party.

The Labor conference ends on Wednesday in the English south coast city of Brighton. The governing Tories hold their four-day shindig in Manchester, northwest England, from Sunday.

Labor has not ruled Britain since 2010, a decade that brought the country three Conservative prime ministers: David Cameron, Theresa May and Johnson.

A former national chief prosecutor, Starmer was elected Labor leader in April 2020 to replace Corbyn, who led the party to two massive electoral defeats in 2017 and 2019 – Labor’s worst result since 1935.

Starr is now stuck between the two wings of a fractured party. Many Labor members feel that the party will have to lean towards the center to win, as was the case under the leadership of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who won three consecutive electoral victories. But many of Corbyn’s supporters still want Starmer to stick to his predecessor’s socialist policies of nationalization and increased spending.

A pro-Corbyn legislator, Andy McDonald, stepped down as Starmer’s employment spokesman mid-conference, saying the party’s economic proposals to raise the minimum wage were not bold enough.

Corbyn’s associate senior lawmaker John McDonnell said Wednesday’s speech could be Starmer’s last chance to defend his leadership.

“I think if Keir gets the right speech on Wednesday, he can lift everyone’s enthusiasm and move on,” he said. “If he doesn’t, and we’re not picking up on the polls, then Keir is a sane person who can really sit back and assess his future.”

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