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Navigating Labour: Can Keir Starmer lead Labour to victory?

Public Affairs
Navigating Labour: Can Keir Starmer lead Labour to victory?
Kelly Edwards

By Kelly Edwards, Managing Partner

Kelly Edwards gives her personal views on the challenges and prospects for the Labour Party ahead of a likely General Election in 2024

With an election expected in the next 12 to 18 months, Keir Starmer’s mission is for Britain to secure the highest sustained growth in the G7 if he becomes Prime Minister. This, along with a raft of other policies, are aimed at giving Britain “hope for a better future”. But just how compelling is the vision for business and the wider public? Can Keir navigate Labour and Britain to victory and what should businesses be doing at this moment in time? 

Consistently leading opinion polls since last autumn, the challenge for Keir Starmer and Labour is to set out a compelling vision for the UK and present itself as a Government-in-waiting. Labour will use the coming months to engage on its big ideas and test messaging. My take is that this summer presents an opportunity for industry to shape Labour’s thinking, demonstrating how businesses can work in partnership with a Labour Government to develop and deliver solutions to the challenges our country and economy face.

Having run for Labour in a General Election, been an aid to MPs who served as Ministers during the Blair era, and served as a councillor, I’ve seen first-hand how the Labour Party prepares for elections. In addition I head up Instinctif Partners’ Navigating Labour Hub. I want to use this experience to help navigate us through the likely scenarios and challenges that will emerge over the coming months.

Click here to join our Navigating Labour event on 19th April

Navigating the Labour Party on the path to Government

Now is the time when Oppositions begin to transform their rhetoric into detail. In January, it was standing room only when I watched Starmer set out his five missions with a focus on his economic approach. Looking to contrast himself from his predecessor and speak to the voters he needs to win over, Starmer is putting economic competence, optimism, and making people’s lives better and fairer at the heart of his vision for the country.

But Starmer doesn’t want to just inspire hope in the average voter; he wants business to feel optimistic about the potential of a future Labour Government to deliver economic growth and transformation.

Over recent months I’ve attended a number of Labour events in the City on behalf of Instinctif Partners. Under Jeremy Corbyn, this level of Labour Party engagement with the City and businesses was unheard of. Now is the time to speak to Labour and help the party understand what Labour’s vision will mean in practice and reality.

A lot remains to be firmed up. Businesses should look to speak with Labour representatives and help them understand what their vision will mean in practice and reality. Labour’s policies that have stood out to me so far include:

  • Economy: in addition to securing the highest sustained growth in the G7, this includes growth in all areas of the country and talks of “making everyone not just a few better off”.
  • Clean Energy: Labour wants to make Britain a clean superpower, enhancing energy security, creating jobs, reducing bills and “zero-carbon electricity by 2030, accelerating to net zero”.
  • Government services: public services that “prevent” as well as treat with a focus on the NHS, education and tackling crime.
  • Housing: a system that boosts home ownership alongside an increase in affordable housing, with social housing becoming the second largest housing tenure.

A plan for business – Labour is focused on demonstrating economic credibility

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves has a lot of heavy lifting to do. She is highlighting her experience as an economist at the Bank of England to build trust and credibility with business. Both she and Starmer are positioning the Conservatives as the party of chaos and instability who have a sticking plaster approach to the economy. The efforts of Starmer, Reeves and other front benchers like Jonathan Reynolds are not going unnoticed by the business community.

Despite this, Labour remains an unknown quantity for industry, but there is also an opportunity to help shape the thinking of a potential Government-in-waiting. Businesses have told me more detail is needed. For instance, exactly what policies will be adopted to guide economic growth through Labour’s modern industrial strategy? How will Rachel Reeves balance the desire for stability with the aim of delivering “the highest sustained growth in the G7”? How will labour market limitations be addressed – a long term problem with immediate implications for productivity and growth? How will Labour help the UK find its niche in world markets and create a favourable investment climate for growth sectors?

Labour is already conscious that it needs to show how it will operate in a constrained spending environment and this will likely increase the nearer the party gets to drawing up the manifesto and focusing on the cost of policy. So, businesses should be thinking like this now, since inevitably that is where Labour will need more help and creativity. They should also flag business-friendly policies that are currently stuck in a log jam with Government which align to Labour thinking.

Change is in the air – but Keir Starmer’s Labour Party shouldn’t expect a repeat of 1997

While the mood in the party is pretty buoyant, the Labour Leadership team has moved quickly to counter complacency and to manage expectations; and is right to do so. When on the doorstep I’m sensing a real desire for change. Yes, there is increased interest in, and positivity about Keir, but it isn’t the same level of excitement I felt in the run up to the 1997 election as I was starting my career in Labour politics. It would be a risk to assume a Starmer Government will be a “New Labour” Blairite Government, and under Keir they are likely to be more left wing than some may assume at the moment.

The message I am hearing from some businesses and voters is that Starmer’s offer does not need to be as “good” as Blair’s was in 1997 because the country needs a change and some stability, but from my own experience of elections he will have to set out further details as the polls narrow and also appeal to Labour’s more traditional voters.

My view remains that the most likely outcome at this stage is a Labour win, the scale of which is dependent on the extent of the recovery in Scotland. This makes engaging on the manifesto of a future Labour Government all the more important. Over the coming months, ahead of a likely 2024 General Election, Labour is looking to firm up policies. This will include listening to business. The challenge for business is, how does it bring its insight to the table and make sure it aligns with Labour’s priorities and speaks Labour’s language?

If you want to learn more about how to navigate Labour’s path to Government join us for our upcoming event, Navigating Labour, on 19th April. To find out more about this event and our services in general, please contact Kelly Edwards at

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