Labour needs a new agenda – not a return to Corbynism

Readers respond to an article by Owen Jones about Keir Starmer’s record so far

Keir Starmer in Sheffield.
Keir Starmer in Sheffield. ‘Why not give Starmer a chance?’ Photograph: Ryan Crockett/JMP/REX/Shutterstock
Keir Starmer in Sheffield. ‘Why not give Starmer a chance?’ Photograph: Ryan Crockett/JMP/REX/Shutterstock
Letters

Last modified on Wed 14 Apr 2021 12.42 EDT

Owen Jones is right to assert that Keir Starmer needs a coherent vision (Behind the scenes, Labour MPs are losing faith in Keir Starmer, 12 April), but he cannot seriously be suggesting that Labour returns to the Corbyn era, which oversaw its worst election defeat in living memory.

It is the cruellest time to be an opposition leader – the country faces its biggest challenge since the second world war and despite its corruption, lies and deceit, we all need the current government to succeed. To be elected, Labour will need to set out a fair, egalitarian and compassionate alternative that resounds with the hopes and ambitions of ordinary people. Neither Jeremy Corbyn, nor the wider Momentum movement have a monopoly on socialism. Starmer and his frontbench, which represents a range of Labour traditions, need to start shaping their vision, but suggesting that a loss in Hartlepool will be a deciding factor is overly simplistic. Labour only won the seat because of a split in the rightwing vote.

Corbyn and his fellow travellers led Labour down a path of unelectability, ensuring a safe Conservative majority that will inflict years of hardship on those who can least afford it. Starmer’s Labour must come up with a coherent vision, but it needs to relate to what Britain needs today.
Warren Brown
Ilkley, West Yorkshire

I’ve been working for Labour since the 1960s, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt so despondent. In Keir Starmer’s early days of PMQs his skills as a defence lawyer were useful, but Boris Johnson soon learned to sidestep his questions.

After a year of leading the party, there should be some idea of what Starmer wants apart from tackling injustice and inequality, and the need for social ownership. All of those are policy ideas expected from any Labour leader. What is needed is a vision that meets the challenges of this century so that young people become inspired.

Roosevelt’s New Deal met the challenges of the 1930s, and now the US has Joe Biden’s exciting programme. In 1945, voters were excited by Labour’s manifesto promising the welfare state. Starmer needs to present a vision that meets the challenge of climate warming. We need an end to homelessness; an end to the need for food banks; a properly funded NHS; a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work and an end to zero-hours contracts.

We don’t need more Tory public school buffoonery, and no more feeble excuses from any party. It is time for action.
Martin Pask
York

Rather than being angry about the scapegoating of the Labour left, Owen Jones should be thinking about those who will be fighting for the crumbs from the rich man’s table that passes for “levelling up” under the Tories. There is a terrible arrogance on the left about the moral rightness of their cause that has lost sight of the fact that the electorate didn’t buy their vision at the last election – big time. Why not give Keir Starmer, who did well in the polls for much of last year and is an excellent contrast to our Churchill tribute act PM, a chance?

By all means let the left look for the charismatic, baggage-free figure blessed with the ability to make a bold leftwing agenda attractive, but while they do, they could greatly benefit the Labour party – and thus poor people – by stopping the constant bickering and presenting a united front.
Juliet Hills
Lincoln

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