Why Keir Starmer took the Tories’ ‘magic money tree’ line of attack
Keir Starmer’s deepest electoral fear is failing to convince voters that Labor can be trusted with the economy. The 2019 general election was the party’s fourth consecutive defeat and the worst since 1935, when Jeremy Corbyn promised free broadband, free university tuition and the nationalization of rail, mail, water and transport. energy. Delivering sweeping change amid a cost of living crisis, while leading Labor back to more familiar political territory, is a huge challenge for Starmer and his shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves.
But in politics, how you frame your argument, and when you choose to do so, can be half the battle.
The timing of Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak’s vicious battle for the Tory leadership, in which barely an hour passes without another instance of blue-on-blue, is a gift to the opposition. The former Chancellor’s plan would see him keep the painful tax hikes he introduced in No 11, while the Foreign Secretary proposes the equivalent of £30billion a year in tax cuts .
During a speech on Labour’s plan for the economy in Liverpool today (July 25), Starmer tried to tap into Tory divisions – calling Sunak ‘the architect of the cost of living crisis’ and Truss “the latest graduate of the Magic Money Tree school of economics”.
The ‘there is no magic money tree’ taunt has often been hurled at Labor by the Tories. Flipping your opponent’s language isn’t without risk, but stating that they “wouldn’t be distracted by the siren calls from the right or the left”, Starmer made a definite bid for the center field – setting his party’s offer against Thatcherite and Corbynomic radicalism.
He has proposed five principles for the economy and brought Labor in line with other winning centre-left parties around the world, giving voters the feeling he is a safe choice for prime minister.
After meeting Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor and leader of Labour’s sister party in Germany, the Social Democrats, Starmer said the newly elected leader had shown that “leveling is based on practical plans, not outlandish promises. “. He also pointed out that Reeves’ approach would mirror the “modern supply-side economics” of US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who outright rejects tax cuts and deregulation to focus on education, l labor supply and infrastructure.
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The Labor leader also checked Gordon Brown’s name, in particular the latter’s review of the party’s devolution policy, and announced that Labor would support the creation of an industrial strategy board, with statutory powers , to plan for long-term growth.
The next election could be surprisingly similar to 2015, when David Cameron’s relentless repetition of the Tories’ “long-term economic plan” for the austerity-stricken UK saw him defeat Ed Miliband. Starmer used the words “long term” six times and “growth” 38 times in his speech.
If the Labor leader seemed poised, even boring, to some degree, that’s the point. He does not want to alarm voters as he tries to win over Conservative supporters.
A more difficult task for Starmer now may be to win over progressives, some of whom are looking to the Lib Dems and the Greens. Ahead of his speech, Reeves suggested in a broadcast interview that Labor would refuse to bring rail (along with water and power) back into public ownership, despite continued high voter support for nationalisation. While the shadow chancellor has since backtrackedthe exchange increased tensions with the party’s left wing.
Starmer may want to chart a steady course to No. 10, but before long he’ll also have to throw away his base red meat vote.
[See also: Conservative leadership race: The next Tory prime minister is already destined for failure]