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Home » Chris Mason: Don’t Go Big, Don’t Do Flash – Inside Labour’s Strategy

Chris Mason: Don’t Go Big, Don’t Do Flash – Inside Labour’s Strategy

Image source, Getty Images

By Chris Mason

Political editor

Labour’s conference was full of expectation about their prospects.

But the backdrop was the horror in the Middle East.

Labour was condemned as being anti-Jewish at the time Sir Keir Starmer served in former leader Jeremy Corbyn’s senior team.

Senior members of his own team – shadow cabinet ministers Rachel Reeves, Yvette Cooper and Wes Streeting – all sat on the backbenches during Mr Corbyn’s leadership.

Not so, Sir Keir – so, did they stick to their principles while he junked his, I asked the Labour leader.

“I thought it was important to challenge within the shadow cabinet. That’s what I did,” he told me.

“It’s why in my very first speech as Labour leader, I made one promise, which was to tear anti Semitism out by its roots.”

It is unquestionably true Labour now feels like a different party, particularly on this issue.

Sir Keir’s description of the “cold blooded murder” of “men, women and children” in Israel, and saying “the responsibility for that terrorism lies with Hamas” is no different from what the government would say.

“Israel does have, must have the right to defend herself. Obviously, that’s within the framework of international law,” he adds, as do government ministers.

It is not the only thing that has changed around the Labour Party.

Old timers who served as ministers under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown wander about with smiles on their faces.

“We have finally fallen out of love with losing,” one told me when we bumped into each other in a lift.

A senior figure, scarred by the disappointments of the past – and for Labour, there have been many – set out why they hope, this time, the Conservatives may have run out of road.

Last week, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attempted to present himself as the candidate for change at the general election – 13 years into a stint of Conservative government.

“Once you concede people want change, after that long, you are acknowledging you are strategically screwed,” said the Labour figure, praying their analysis is more than wishful thinking.


There is still a nervousness from some that Sir Keir “can get frostbite on camera” as one source put it to me, a sense that he is not an orator who leaves his audience on the ceiling in ecstasy.

But plenty of those with that nervousness also reckon this speech was as strong as any he has given and did what it needed to do.

They are particularly proud of their plan to build lots of new homes.

Labour’s strategy, right now, amounts to don’t go big and don’t do flash.

Why? The logic goes it’s not Sir Keir’s style, it wouldn’t be affordable anyway, and it wouldn’t be believable.

There is, politicians on all sides acknowledge privately, an anti-politics mood.

Media caption, Sir Keir Starmer is a yimby, not a nimby, on housebuilding

The fear is plenty of promises are met with cynicism. And big promises are met with big cynicism.

This was Labour’s best-ever attended conference, those in politics and beyond lured to Liverpool by a hunch power might just be shifting.

Sir Keir’s tried to junk plenty of Labour’s recent history, a history he was a part of.

But the routine of singing the party’s anthem, the Red Flag, to close their conference continues.

Sir Keir’s ongoing task – ending Labour’s routine of losing far more elections than they win.

Media caption, Watch: Sir Keir Starmer pledges to “get Britain building again”