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The McSweeney Project Starmer's campaign director has gone to war on Blairism


May 11, 2024   14 mins

Walk into Labour’s strangely anonymous new office block home down a side street in Southwark, and you can’t help but notice who sits where. Keir Starmer’s office is to the right, along with his closest aides: chief of staff, Sue Gray, and private secretary, Jill Cuthbertson. Next to these gatekeepers sit the New Labour veterans Matthew Doyle, Peter Hyman and Deborah Mattinson, all of whom worked for the party when Tony Blair was prime minister. And beside them are the new generation: policy chief Stuart Ingham, speechwriter Alan Lockey, political director Luke Sullivan, and media man Paul Ovenden. These people will soon be running No. 10, if the polls are to be believed.

And yet the first thing to catch your eye as you walk into this chic, open-plan room that will be the nerve centre of Labour’s general election campaign, are the desks right in the middle of the room: those of Morgan McSweeney and Pat McFadden, the party’s campaign director and coordinator respectively. Labour’s election generalissimos.

Both are slight-but-steely men of distinctly Irish extraction: McSweeney born and brought up outside Cork; McFadden the Glaswegian son of parents who emigrated from Donegal. Add Sue Gray, the daughter of Belfast parents who moved to London in the Fifties, and Starmer’s top team is strikingly Irish. Softly spoken but hard at the same time, each of them is expected to play a significant role in the coming Labour government.

Of these three, though, it is McSweeney who has the aura of power. He is the architect and owner of the Starmer operation. “This is his project,” as one senior Labour figure put it. “He designed it; he did the research; he drew the conclusions; and he delivered Starmer.” As such, McSweeney remains the untouchable adviser at the heart of today’s Labour party, the well-source of Starmerism.

“The McSweeney project is not a restoration of Blairism, but a rejection of it.”

McSweeney’s influence has become a source of much speculation in Westminster — and, of course, bitterness on the Left, much of which sees him as a kind of ruthless Machiavel who has delivered the party into the hands of the Labour Right through force of cunning and deception. And, it should be said, there is some truth to this analysis. In the immediate aftermath of the 2017 general election campaign, McSweeney took over as director of “Labour Together”, an organisation whose original intention was to shore up the Labour coalition, only to turn it into a tool to defeat the Corbynite Left as a first step on the route back to power. Even in the days after the Grenfell tower disaster, when it looked as though the Conservative government might fall, McSweeney did not waver in his commitment to remove Corbyn as leader.

In the two years that followed, McSweeney canvassed party members to identify what they needed from a Corbyn replacement, revealing a party membership that was not lost to a militant army of infiltrators, as some believed, but one that could be persuaded to back a figure from outside the Corbynite Left as long as they were not advocating a return to the failures of the past. It was from this research that McSweeney alighted on Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary who had returned  to Corbyn’s shadow cabinet after his reelection as Labour leader in 2016 and remained with him until the defeat in 2020. With McSweeney’s guidance, Starmer offered Labour members a carefully constructed set of promises: to increase taxes on the rich, abolish universal credit, scrap tuition fees, defend free movement of people and initiate a green energy revolution.

Starmer has ditched many of them since becoming leader. Taxes will not rise, freedom of movement will not return, and green investment will have to wait until there is the money to pay for it. In the meantime, Jeremy Corbyn has been kicked out of the party, the Left has lost almost all its influence and the old Right has prospered. So, is New Labour on its way back? Pat McFadden’s elevation certainly suggests the Blairites are back at the heart of today’s Labour party. McFadden was Tony Blair’s Political Secretary in No. 10. and remains a committed devotee of the old master. His wife Marianna, meanwhile, is now McSweeney’s deputy, having moved over from the Tony Blair Institute, which Starmer has praised as “the very best of public policy innovation”. Is this, then, a Blairite reconquista?

No — and to see the McSweeney-Starmer project as a return to Blairism is to miss the point entirely. Over the past few months I have spoken to many leading figures in the party who have worked with and know McSweeney, Starmer and Blair well. Not only does McSweeney reject Tony Blair’s central analysis of politics and what Labour should do as a result, but for much of his time trying to retake the Labour Party, McSweeney was not just battling the Corbynite Left, who were determined to maintain control of the party, but the Blairite Right, many of whom had concluded it was already dead and were determined to create something new in its place.

The core of the McSweeney project, in other words, is not a restoration of Blairism, but a rejection of it.

***

In 2017, the year Morgan McSweeney became director of Labour Together, Tony Blair created his Institute for Global Change. The TBI, as it became known, merged the various charities, businesses and other assorted organisations that the former prime minister had built since leaving office into one giant not-for-profit. Central to this venture was a new policy unit whose stated purpose was to “renew the centre”.

Blair recruited a group of smart, young politicos to come up with the ideas he believed were necessary to save the liberal order. He headed up his team with the German-American academic and writer, Yascha Mounk, who had written a series of polemical warnings about the state of Western democracy and how to save it.

The central idea of the new unit was to promote Blair’s brand of “radical centrism”: the view that the real divide in British politics is no longer between Left and Right, but between those who are open to the modern world (the centrists) and those who are closed to its reality and only want to exploit people’s grievances about it (the populists). In this world, George Osborne and David Cameron are potential fellow centrists, while Nigel Farage and Jeremy Corbyn are populists.

Blair, I’m told, believes that the Labour Party is essentially a product of the industrial revolution and must dramatically reform itself to survive the technological upheaval now taking place. Radical centrism, then, is not just a tactic for winning, but an idea built on a belief in irresistible technological and social change in an era of globalisation that is eroding the very idea of a working class which Labour was created to represent.

Blair has long thought this. When he came to power in 1997, he called for a new progressive alliance with the Liberal Democrats. This, he believed, would usher in a new century dominated by what he called the “radicals”, much as the 20th century had been dominated by the conservatives. Ironically, this progressive alliance died because Blair was too strong to need it. Yet, the idea was brought back to life in the wake of the 2017 general election when Blairism seemed at its weakest — with Corbyn in control of Labour, the Conservative government struggling to enact Brexit, and only Emmanuel Macron lighting up an alternative path in France.

In public, Blair insisted that he was not in any way “advocating a new party, organising one, or wanting to vote for one”. However, he had concluded that the Labour Party was finished, according to someone who shared his views, and was involved in discussions about a new party. “He would tell those who thought otherwise that they were being nostalgic,” said the same associate. “He felt that too many in the party could not reconcile themselves to the reality that Labour was simply irrecoverable, passed its sell-by date.”

And there were attempts to set up new parties at this time. In 2018, one alternative centrist party emerged called United For Change, backed by the Labour donor Simon Franks, which briefly held onto the notion that it could find success by capitalising on the anti-politics sentiment of the moment. It reportedly contacted political figures as divergent as Nick Clegg and Dominic Cummings to see if they were interested (they weren’t). One of its founders was Ryan Wain, now an Executive Director at the Tony Blair Institute. At the same time, there was a breakaway faction of MPs from across the political spectrum, many of whom would go on to form Change UK, another short-lived centrist movement trying to slay the old political divide.

McSweeney found himself competing for donations with another group yet trying to raise money for a new “En Marche” style movement. Some Labour donors were even presented with a formal proposal for a new party, written in September 2018, which was leaked to Labour Together and various Labour MPs. Those now close to Starmer believe it came from figures connected to Blair (though not from Blair himself).

I was recently handed a copy of this authorless, 72-page “Political Movement, Planning Document” calling for the creation of a new party that was being shared with Labour donors in 2018. In its “executive summary”, the anonymous author declares: “Britain is stuck. The promise that the next generation will be better off than their parents is broken. Inequality is tearing the country apart. Housing is too expensive, earnings are static, and the quality of work is too poor for too many. The world is changing fast and we’re retreating from it. The old Left-Right binary divide can no longer provide a platform that meets the challenges of today or the future.”

Such failure offered an opportunity for something new, the author argued. “The old parties cannot face the future because they have run out of answers, energy and leadership. Now is the time for Britain to move on and face the future.” A new “movement” to bring forward “a new political class” was needed. This new political class would then “scale the social innovation that is already happening in our communities” while “incubating solutions not ideology”.

Such solutions are then set out in distinctly New Labour language: early years education to reduce inequality; universal child care to help people back to work; a strong NHS and affordable housing. Planning reform is also mentioned, or what the author calls “rezoning land up, out and in”. Taxes should be on land, not work; the economy remain open; and “meaningless immigration caps” removed. Britain must also reclaim its role “as a global leader” by tackling international challenges such as climate change. “We can move on to this future, but only if we have the courage to face it.” As worthy as these policies may or may not be, they seem unlikely to form the basis of a great new popular uprising.

McSweeney’s view, according to those who know him well, is even harsher, seeing the document as everything that is wrong with progressive politics today, attempting to tap into an anti-political sentiment with a clarion call for a new political class wrapped in language seemingly from another era. At the core of his disagreement, however, is the document’s attitude to class. “Every century in Britain, a new force in politics has emerged as a result of big shifts in society,” the document declares. “These shifts create the new coalitions upon which a new politics can be built.” And the big shift in the 21st century?“The growing dominance of the middle classes and university graduates”. Among these “rising social groups” as the document calls them — “graduates, middle-class professionals, and ethnic minorities” — there is an openness to the world not found among those from “the once-dominant but now fast-declining groups” listed as “older white voters, the working classes, and school leavers”.

The central argument for the proposed new political party, therefore, is that class is no longer the central divide in democratic politics. “A voter’s views on multiculturalism, diversity, immigration and the internet are now a better predictor of political allegiance than economic interests,” the document argues. A majority of “open” voters in every region of the UK believe “multiculturalism, social liberalism, feminism, environmental sustainability, immigration, globalisation and technology” are positive. As such “for the first time in a century, a new national force in British politics could thrive”. To get such a movement off the ground, a charismatic leader was needed and an army of new supporters. Oh, and money — hence the proposal. The document suggested offering free membership to all with a higher £5.99-a-month “founder” tier with the offer: “Found the new politics for the same price as a Netflix subscription.”

For much of late 2018 and 2019, as parliament ground to a halt over Brexit and Tony Blair became ever more outspoken in his call for a second referendum to break the deadlock, McSweeney was fighting to persuade donors to boycott this proposed new party: not just because it posed an existential threat to his own attempt to take control of the Labour Party — but because he thought its political analysis was useless. McSweeney and Starmer fundamentally do not accept the idea that there is an ever greater number of “open” liberal graduates who can or should replace the working classes.

When one donor asked McSweeney why he should not support the proposal as a “lifeboat” in case Labour Together failed, McSweeney responded that, if Labour Together succeeded, the first thing he would do would be to blow the lifeboat out of the water.

***

The formative moment in Morgan McSweeney’s career came long before he took over Labour Together. It was 2008, and he had been tasked by Barking and Dagenham Borough Council with promoting community relations. Under the Race Relations Act of 2000, public authorities had a duty to “promote equality of opportunity and good relations between persons of different racial groups”. In 2008, the Labour-run council concluded that this meant defeating the British National Party, which had gained a foothold in the area.

McSweeney found a place failed both by its Labour council and its Labour government. At the centre of the borough was Becontree, once the biggest council estate in the world, supported by the Ford car plant in nearby Dagenham. By the time Blair became prime minister in 1997, however, deindustrialisation and right-to-buy had undermined its social fabric. Homes had been bought by landlords, divided up and rented out, often to new immigrant families attracted to the cheapest housing in London. As the area became more transient, it became less maintained. As tenants came and went, landlords would simply dump their unwanted belongings in front gardens. When residents complained, the council produced pamphlets disproving this “disinformation”, and emphasising how much they had spent cleaning up the area. Enter the BNP, who simply blamed the foreigners.

For McSweeney the problem was not one of communication, but of reality. The area had got worse. Families who had lived here for generations were embarrassed that the houses next to them were suddenly a mess. They were also angry that absentee landlords from Hackney, Islington, Essex and beyond were able to act with impunity, while they could barely change the colour of their front door without council permission. In response, McSweeney encouraged the removal of the existing council leader and helped deliver one of the most popular policies in local government history: the “eyesore gardens policy”, proposed by the new council leader Liam Smith, whereby the local council sent in workers to remove the rubbish outside people’s homes — and then charged the landlords for the trouble. In 2006, the BNP had stood 13 candidates in the local elections and won 12 seats. In 2010, they lost them all as Labour swept the board winning every single seat in the borough.

McSweeney’s lesson from Barking was not just that voters should be listened to because that was good politics, but that voters should be listened to because they knew what they were talking about. They were right about Barking and the council had been wrong. Nationally, however, a similar story was playing out, McSweeney believed. In 2010, the Labour Party had gone into the election telling voters the recession wasn’t their fault because it was caused by a global crisis; they were acting like a giant Barking Borough Council. Voters had every right to blame the Labour government for the reality of falling living standards. Something new was needed, but Labour wasn’t offering it.

McSweeney carried this analysis into his job at Labour Together. And so, while he was battling the separatists trying to create a new movement to replace the Labour Party, he was also pushing away the advances of Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, who had set up the “Future Britain Group” to stop wavering Labour MPs from leaving the party. Though Watson’s aims seemed aligned with Labour Together, McSweeney concluded that his group looked too much like an attempt to resuscitate New Labour by uniting the old Blairite and Brownite tribes which had been bickering with each other ever since the party’s defeat in 2010. And New Labour, in McSweeney’s view, was not a solution to Corbynism, but a barrier to its defeat.

If anything, according to those who know him, McSweeney believes Blair has only become more removed from the reality of people’s lives in the years since he has left power. Instead of trying to improve the living standards of the ordinary poor in places like Barking, the radical centrism he proposes now seems to be based on an idea that progressive parties would be better off if they simply assembled a new coalition of voters who were not so poor. Forget the council house tenants who voted Leave; target the landlords who voted Remain.

As director of Labour Together, McSweeney advised Starmer that the only way to win over the party membership and the wider electorate was to reject such an analysis and move beyond New Labour. This was necessary politically, if Labour was to stand a chance of winning again. But it was also a reflection of reality. Even before the financial crisis, ordinary people were not seeing the benefits from the national economic growth in the way they should, McSweeney argued. The BNP was growing in Barking before 2008.

The Labour MP for Dagenham, Jon Cruddas, told me that Barking was the canary in the coal mine of British politics — and it took a man from Cork to find it.

***

The radicalism at the heart of the McSweeney-Starmer project is that it is, in effect, trying to prove Blair wrong — but using many of the tools Blair mastered to do so. When Starmer appeared alongside Blair on stage at the TBI’s Future of Britain conference last year — widely reported as their coming together — Starmer actually delivered a subtle rebuke of his predecessor’s political argument. “The project,” he declared, speaking of his own designs on power “is to return Labour to the service of working people, to become once again the natural vehicle for their hopes and aspirations.”

There were other projects available, he admitted. One alternative was what he called the “rabbit hole of identity politics”. But the other was more pointed. “You could even completely unmoor from the concerns of working people,” Starmer said as Blair watched on. “That sounds ridiculous to me, but some people did seriously suggest it after the Brexit referendum.” Starmer here, is of course conveniently skating over his own support for a second referendum at this time, but there is little doubt where his remarks were pointing. Starmer then went on to add that, while he agreed with Blair that the technological revolution would be game-changing, there was “one place where I do take issue with Tony: the idea that this is somehow beyond Left and Right. No, for me, this is a progressive moment.”

For Starmer,the lessons of recent history are not really Blairite at all. The Left won elections, he said, when it persuaded voters that it would “deliver, no matter how volatile the external world, security for your family, your community and our country.” This, in fact, is exactly what Labour had failed to do in 2008.

Perhaps this is why Blair has never been entirely sold. Peter Mandelson, who remained close and talked to him during this period, believes that Blair was at first not convinced Starmer or indeed McSweeney, the architect of the project, could succeed. For much of Starmer’s first year, Blair thought Starmer could not possibly turn things round. Mandelson, in contrast, saw in McSweeney a version of himself. Those who know McSweeney well say he has a healthy respect for Blair, and sees him as a gifted politician who was at his best in his early years when he had a clear sense of ordinary people’s concerns. Yet, McSweeney also believes Blair has since lost touch.

In September last year, McSweeney and Starmer flew to Montreal to attend the “Global Progress Action Summit” where the world’s leading centre-left politicians met to discuss “bold new ideas and directions in progressive governance”. The summit attracted some of the biggest names in centrist politics: Justin Trudeau, Jacinda Ahern, Mark Carney, David Miliband, Tony Blair.

McSweeney hated it. According to those who spoke to him afterwards, McSweeney felt too many of the arguments on show were disconnected from reality. The world had moved on, but so much of the content appeared to be rehashed versions of Clintonism. During his session, Blair was joined onstage by the Canadian Liberal MP Anna Gainey, who claimed, almost as an aside, that populism was the product of “anxiety” — the opposite of McSweeney’s view.

Blair, in turn, restated his case that the coming technological revolution was the central issue in the world today. “The mission for progressive politics now… is to understand this revolution, master it and harness it,” he said. In essence, then, the mission is technocratic.

The analysis is Blairism applied to the modern world. Today, Blair sees the world from on high: great oceanic swells, tectonic movements, epochal changes and the like. Flying from capital to capital, talking to leaders and plutocratic billionaires, he sees trends way beyond national borders: countries rising and falling, populations changing, policies developing and technology upending everything. “He really does operate in a stratosphere no other British prime minister has ever operated in before,” remarked one of his friends.

It is not hard to see how Blair might have grown frustrated at the parochialism of day-to-day British politics, unconvinced by the importance of “eyesore” policies. And perhaps he has a point. The challenge for Starmer and McSweeney, should they enter Downing Street later this year, will be to tell a convincing story about what they are trying to do that doesn’t begin to feel small the moment they enter No. 10. They will need a project for governing, as well as for winning, taking into account the great global forces of the sort that fixates Blair today. If Starmer is to be a council leader at large, he needs to do so in imperial robes. How he does so will depend in large part on the role he finds for the keeper of “the project’s” flame: Morgan McSweeney.


Tom McTague is UnHerd’s Political Editor. He is the author of Betting The House: The Inside Story of the 2017 Election.

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Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
22 days ago

The metropolitan left has long loathed the Conservative party, under any one of their recent leaders, and are desperate to have a Labour PM they can love like they did Tony Blair, but Starmer really isn’t ever going to be that guy – however much they might click their sparkly red pumps together and repeat “There’s no place like Sedgefield”.
Despite this well-argued view about McSweeney not wanting to emulate the new Labour model, Starmer does seem to be following one aspect of the Blair playbook – trying to appear to be all things to all men, and saying whatever he thinks the audience to whom he is currently speaking want to hear most – but even then he struggles to enthuse a crowd. He’s a North London fauxialist who seems to have wafer thin policy positions backed up by no principles whatsoever.
Will McSweeney conjure up a narrative that explains what Starmer and “Starmerism” – if that really is a thing – have thus far failed to answer? Namely ‘What is the current Labour party for? Whose interests do they seek to serve and promote?’ Because it’s certainly not workers – except maybe some of those in the public sector.
Most of the traditional working class, whose interests the party was founded to represent, have long been an embarrassment to the Labour leadership. Emily Thornberry’s Van & St George’s Flag tweet, and Gordon Brown’s encounter with Gillian Duffy, were just moments that publicly laid bare a view that has been prevalent within Labour HQ for years. Have things really changed under Starmer? I’ve seen no evidence to suggest it has.
Downhill SirKeir spent 4 years agitating to overturn Brexit, despite describing himself as a democrat and patriot, then imagined he needed only to drape himself cynically in the flag because a focus group told him (much to his surprise) that most people don’t actually despise Britain, or wish to see the monarchy abolished. None of that is going to appeal to those long-time labour supporters in the Red Wall who left the party for Boris.
They will probably vote for him – but only because the Tories have proved themselves so utterly worthless.
Starmer – the unfortunate love-child of Max Headroom and Gordon Brittas – is an uninspiring, charisma-free technocrat, with no instinct for leadership. The only people who actually enthuse about Starmer as a Leader probably felt the same way about Ed Miliband.
He is still nailed on to be our next PM, heaven help us, but it will be because the Conservatives lost, rather than Starmer winning.

George Venning
George Venning
22 days ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

“Starmer does seem to be following one aspect of the Blair playbook – trying to appear to be all things to all men, and saying whatever he thinks the audience to whom he is currently speaking want to hear most – but even then he struggles to enthuse a crowd”
It’s weirder than that Paddy. The one group to whom he does not wish to appeal at all is his own membership – nearly a third of whom he has either forced out of the party or caused to resign.

Martin M
Martin M
21 days ago
Reply to  George Venning

The turn of phrase “You cant make an omelette without breaking eggs” comes to mind.

Eleanor Barlow
Eleanor Barlow
21 days ago
Reply to  George Venning

The membership that Starmer drove out were no loss to Labour, in fact they would have caused Labour to lose yet another election by spouting their threadbare socialist beliefs to all and sundry, and so failing to observe message discipline. The left only know how to be rebels. They have no interest in the messy and sometimes tedious business of government. They share that characteristic with the current Tory government. And they were riddled with antisemitism.
Good riddance to bad rubbish.

George Venning
George Venning
20 days ago
Reply to  Eleanor Barlow

If that’s what you think, sure.
But “trying to be all thing to all men” and “trying to appeal to everyone but those who pay their money and contribute their time to support you” are not the same thing.

Eleanor Barlow
Eleanor Barlow
20 days ago
Reply to  George Venning

I pay subs to the Labour party. There are many like me who don’t want ultra left wing entryists making trouble with their unrealistic policy aspirations. Let the left set up a party of their own and mount challenges in local authority elections as Greens and Reform UK have done. But they’re worse than even the ultra right wing at squabbling amongst themselves over some arcane bit of doctrine. And they’re too lazy to do the hard yards of building support in their localities.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
22 days ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

the unfortunate love-child of Max Headroom and Gordon Brittas

Have an uptick for that, wonderful

Mike MacCormack
Mike MacCormack
18 days ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Half-forgotten TV programmes from forty years ago? Not sure the reference will have impact on anyone bar pensioners!

Stephen Feldman
Stephen Feldman
17 days ago

Insider soap opera? Boris at least was fun!

Martin M
Martin M
21 days ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Brilliant! I defy anyone to downvote it!

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
22 days ago

Are we reading about Starmer as a puppet of McSweeney in this article? One might conclude that Tom McTague (whose analyses i’ve increasingly come to admire) has set out to explain the power behind the blank facade of Starmer.
It’s easy to see why McSweeney might choose Starmer to fulfil the role of frontman: he’s a known quantity to the public and he’ll do as he’s told, seemingly since he has no real ideas of his own and will happily ditch something he was fully committed to if it helps at the ballot box.
There’s been no surge in the popularity of Labour though, just a falling away (for obvious and well-discussed reasons) from the Tories. Not much swing voting, as the local and mayoral elections have just shown. No-one really knows what they stand for, but it appears McSweeney believes in technocracy and the replacement of the grassroots working class movement with an elitist “we know best” attitude.
I’m unsure what the author really thinks about all this, but my suspicion is he’s laying out before us something he thinks we should know.

David McKee
David McKee
22 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

It’s tempting to see McSweeney as the Labour equivalent of Dominic Cummings. Will he make Cummings’ mistake of seeking the limelight? Time will tell!

Sam Hill
Sam Hill
22 days ago
Reply to  David McKee

In fairness here though Dominic Cummings is the one person I can think of who seems to have done successfully what McSweeney aspires to do – not simply recognising that the voters and the world have changed, but working out what to do about it and how to build that into a concrete platform.
I do think that the article glosses over some points – for example Keir Starmer knelt for BLM. It is very hard after that for me see him as someone willing to sideline identity thinking in the name of trusting that the voters know what they want. I also suspect that an early Starmer term will be dominated by foreign policy fallout, notably when the Ukrainian lines start to crumble. That might not be his fault, but given that KS has backed to the hilt action in Ukraine he can’t treat it as a legacy issue.
That said, if Starmer really can put in place an agenda not about creating a new political class, but getting the political class we have to actually effectively represent people’s interests, as distinct from their ‘vibes,’ then that would be a very good thing. Domestically it may be that KS’ best bet would be to really hone down on a low number of priorities, maybe even as low as three areas and leave the rest to their own devices.
It is also worth saying here that this article is an outstanding piece of real journalism.

Eleanor Barlow
Eleanor Barlow
21 days ago
Reply to  Sam Hill

Cummings was a failure in the end. He was useless at winning the backing he needed to force through the changes that he felt were needed – and managed to alienate even those few people who were his friends.
I’m not at all surprised that he tried and failed to establish a business in Russia in the period immediately after the fall of communism. There’s no way that any business could survive with someone like him at the helm.
His arrogance was breath-taking and totally misplaced. He is very far from being the genius he thought he was.

Stephen Feldman
Stephen Feldman
17 days ago
Reply to  David McKee

Personalities don’t make long term historical changes. Long term shifts in social expectations do? Who do these media manipulators even represent? What actual driver of change? The Hollow Men

richard jones
richard jones
22 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

I think what you say is the opposite of what McSweney believes, given that his defining moment was understanding the problems of local residents whose Labour Council had no interest in addressing.
The picture of Tony Blair acting god-like, wafting around the world, concerning himself only with global trends that he is uniquely gifted to comprehend, is fascinating. Hopefully, an Icarus moment is not far off.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
22 days ago
Reply to  richard jones

You’re missing the most important point, which is that this article exposes Starmer, the PM-in-waiting, as pretty much an empty vessel. Blair was both the frontman and an ideas man, whatever one might think of those ideas.

Peter B
Peter B
22 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

If only I could share your confidence that Starmer is only an empty vessel ! My instinct is that he does have some strong views, but is simply suppressing them at the moment in order not to lose any support.
I find this sort of thing – the attempt to please everyone and pretend that there won’t be tough decisions with winners and losers – deeply depressing.
I’m not sure we’ve had a really honest leader since Thatcher. Honest in the sense that she put forward what she really believed and then did it.

Eleanor Barlow
Eleanor Barlow
21 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

But Starmer hasn’t tried to pretend there won’t be tough decisions to make. That’s why he’s so cautious about what he commits to policy wise. And that’s why he’s alienated all the lefties. He knows that Britain is flat stony broke with a shedload of issues that need sorting, and he’s been careful to manage expectations.

Peter B
Peter B
17 days ago
Reply to  Eleanor Barlow

We are not “flat stony broke” and most of the issues are self-inflicted through the current wave of luxury beliefs and poor prioritisation.
It’s around 20% real problems and 80% unforced errors.
Unfortunately, Starmer and co are only going to increase the 80%.
He seems cautious because a) he isn’t a leader, b) he’s not totally in command (he couldn’t even fire Angela Rayner for incompetence) and c) he lacks the clarity and courage to say what (if anything) he really believes.

Dr Anne Kelley
Dr Anne Kelley
22 days ago
Reply to  richard jones

Interestingly the writer stated that McSweeney hated the progressive global approach, but he didn’t coment on Starmer’s views on it.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
22 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

Yes, I always make sure to read anything McTague writes. I first read his writing in The Atlantic and enjoyed it. I always come away from reading his contributions to UnHerd feeling enlightened and like I’ve read something well-informed about what’s going on behind the political scenes.

R Wright
R Wright
22 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

Mr McTague has been briefed by Labour staffers who know exactly what publication he writes for. I am inclined to believe we are just being told what we want to hear

Stephen Feldman
Stephen Feldman
17 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

Puppet? Real question is what special interest are these pseudo Irish report to? Banks? Energy? EU? All of above?

David McKee
David McKee
22 days ago

What a fascinating peek into the internal politics of the Labour Party! We are indebted to Mr. McTague.

I wonder if McSweeney has made a colossal blunder, in planning only to Starmer’s victory, rather than to the runup to a second term? McSweeney’s plan is going like a dream, but come the day after the election, Starmer’s on his own. He will have restive backbenchers and not much of a manifesto to buttress his authority. Life will be interesting for Starmer and his team.

Norfolk Sceptic
Norfolk Sceptic
22 days ago
Reply to  David McKee

Will it be ‘interesting’ for the rest of us, or will we not notice the difference? Confusion from the non-conservatives and confusion from the non-liberal left ‘elite’, each aligning with the dysfunctional political infrastructure that we are supposed to have left, and so unable to be an effective opposition.

Time to grow your own potatoes: at least, in the end, you will have some potatoes. (Is that from a Dennis Healy quote?)

David McKee
David McKee
22 days ago

Unable to be an effective opposition… Oppositions are rarely effective, in the sense of altering the course of a government. What it should do is articulate a message that says, (a) the government is on the wrong course, and explain why the government is wrong, and (b) present a well thought out and attractive course that requires the election of the opposition to be enacted.
Overall though, the iron law of elections holds true: oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them.

Scott Murray
Scott Murray
22 days ago

Jacinda Ardern

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
22 days ago

So…another one who will tell us what we should want, and enforce it, rather than asking what we want and deliver it.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
22 days ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

The main thrust of the article actually said the exact opposite. When he was with Barking Council he listened to the concerns of residents and acted accordingly, something that has been sorely lacking in British politics for a long time. Hopefully he carries on in this spirit once they’re in power

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
22 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

So…a referendum on Net Zero will be a policy?
Yes, of course it will…lol

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
22 days ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

Not sure what that has to do with anything, do you think every potential government policy should be put to a referendum?
I’m no fan of Net Zero but if wins an election with it as part of his manifesto I’ll have to poke up with it.
However this article implies that if it starts becoming unpopular amongst the majority then his advisors will steer him away from it

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
22 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

It already IS unpopular among the majority…ie those who pay energy bills…

I look forward to the change of policy…lol

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
21 days ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

Is it though? Do you have the polls to show that?

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
21 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

So…let’s have a binding poll on it…usually called…a Referendum…

Michael Meddings
Michael Meddings
20 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Hopefully, he ignores the “concerns” of The Muslim Vote and their blatant blackmail attempt.

Martin M
Martin M
22 days ago

If McSweeney caused the downfall of Corbyn, then he is ok by me.

Dylan Blackhurst
Dylan Blackhurst
22 days ago

I’ll be honest I’m a little more hopeful for a Labour government after reading this.
A rejection of Blair and his global techno new order is good thing.
I just hope that someone in the brain trust of Labour really does listen to the people. And not necessarily the loudest radical voices.
For this next government to be any kind of success it should spend a lot less of its time focusing on things it has very little influence over (Ukraine, Gaza etc) and a lot more time over domestic issues (housing, border etc).
To be honest a Labour government that went and fixed the damn roads would be a win right now.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
22 days ago

I must admit I felt the same. I always thought of Starmer as simply a Blair clone, but if he has people behind him (guiding him by the sounds of it) who actually listen to the electorate perhaps the forthcoming Labour victory won’t be quite as bad as I was expecting

William Shaw
William Shaw
22 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

It’s far from reassuring.
According to this article Starmer is plotting with foreigners to gain control of the UK.
How is that even legal?

Liam F
Liam F
22 days ago
Reply to  William Shaw

I must have missed that in the article : which foreigners?

William Shaw
William Shaw
22 days ago
Reply to  Liam F

“Both are slight-but-steely men of distinctly Irish extraction”

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
21 days ago
Reply to  William Shaw

A couple of Paddies who have lived in London for decades. It’s not exactly Martin McGuinness is it

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
19 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Lol, good one, at least its not Biden, he is proper Irish!

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
19 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

This letter is pure propaganda, Starmer IS a puppet of Blair. All of the mainstream labour MP’s like Blair because he won them elections. Blair will be representing his corporate clients and manipulating Starmer. Read ‘Naked Capitalism’ there is an article about it. Blair loves attention and power and will support his corporate clients at the expense of the British people, he is just doing it discreetly. Have we all forgotten WMD’s in Iraq? Blair is totally self serving, I doubt he has even met a working class person in the last 5 years (other than his gardeners and cleaners etc) We Brits including Blair do as we are told by the US government, Blair just gets paid for it. We are all being duped.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
22 days ago

The problem with listening to people is that it is regarded as populism and to someone who regards themselves as progressive that is anathema. A progressive is someone who wants to impose their vision whatever the lumpen proletariat think. It is technocratic but detached from reality and what motivates most people.

Let us hope that McSweeny is in fact a realistic populist and only gives a passing nod to the dominant strain of Progressivism in the political world and that he can steer the Starmer ship in the direction of practical populism.

Pedro the Exile
Pedro the Exile
22 days ago

Meanwhile back in the real world
Labour is plotting to introduce new net zero laws that will force big companies and banks to limit their carbon footprint to comply with UN climate goals.
Ed Miliband, the shadow Climate and Net Zero Secretary, has confirmed plans for a new crackdown that would force bosses to ensure their companies are aligned with the goal of keeping global temperature rises below 1.5C this century.
The new laws planned in the event of a Labour victory would legally oblige directors to publish their company’s carbon footprint every year. They would also have to show that their business’s policies were compliant with the UN Paris climate treaty signed in 2015, under which the world agreed to try to limit temperature rises.
The treaty was agreed between governments but Mr Miliband wants the obligations it enshrines to also apply to FTSE 100 businesses including energy producers like Shell and BP, significant energy consumers such as Easyjet and major supermarket chains Tesco and Sainsbury.
Perhaps more importantly, he also wants it to apply to the banks and financial institutions that lend to all businesses. It could potentially mean companies could only get loans if they were “climate compliant.”

Dr Anne Kelley
Dr Anne Kelley
22 days ago

It will be all of us next, after all Starmer has said he is red and green.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
22 days ago

If implied it will be the final nail in the coffin of British business and a spiral to poverty. We can see what Green policies are doing to Germany right now.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
22 days ago

Indeed that is why I fear the hope expressed in the post above yours is doomed to be disappointed. The political class by and large is in thrall to a whole host of anti-growth and anti-freedom ideologies of which Miliband’s mad plan is only one. Most are authoritarian socialists not McSweeny pragmatists intent on delivering what the population really wants : namely a better life. We will simply export our carbon footprint and the prosperity which goes with it while continuing to import more carbon generating immigrants.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
22 days ago

Exactly. I do not understand all the cautious optimism expressed here. All we discover is – they are suspicious of the 30 year old New Labour globalist agenda. And they want to ‘listen to people’ and so drop the association with the dim cranky anti Brit nutjob Corbyn. Bllimey – Bismarkian!! Meanwhile they deny the much loved people any vision or policies, trusting in anti Tory rage to do the job. They just cosplay in union Jack flags and talk balls. But even this Project Conceal cannot mask their demented class envy (private school demolition/,chase out foreign Rich), their instinctive aversion toward endangered free enterprise and their ideological capture by both deranged climate and equality cults. More Quangos. More Race hate laws. More Big State think. Not a single original viable policy on show. And that promotes a glow of approval???

Leslie Smith
Leslie Smith
22 days ago

I’m sure the PRC, India, and the rest of the nations disregarding the Paris Accords thank the UK for putting itself at a disadvantage economically – what fools his pack of elites really are – they’ll live okay while the average UK citizen will suffer for their arrogance.

Dominic Lyne
Dominic Lyne
21 days ago

This is ESG world. Loans are tied to this a fair bit already….

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
19 days ago

He is doing the bidding of his EU friends, and look how that is working out on the continent, Starmer obviously didn’t get the memo!
We are all doomed, all this AI bandwagon is about surveillance btw, Europe and the West is going pear shaped and our rights are being eroded, there will be social disorder and power is being centralised and AI will power the CCTV, we are becoming more like China by the day. I imagine a new excuse for a lockdown will be on us soon, perhaps when the EU’s power is threatened (sorry their ‘democracy’) in the forthcoming elections. The ‘left’ and the Liberals are the new right wing.

Peter B
Peter B
22 days ago

Indeed. The bloke at least appears to have some common sense.
But does Starmer believe any of this ? Indeed what exactly does he believe ? His pledges have already changed at least once. After Gordon Brown’s decade of stealth taxes, perhaps a few years of stealth government under Starmer lies in store for us.
But then, the Tories have been making it up as they go for several years now, so would we notice ?
But back to policeis: putting forward a set of policies which include:
More affordable housingNo limits on immigrationA stronger NHSReverse welfare reforms (like universal credit)
without recognising that these are fundamentally incompatible (you cannot have a non-contributory welfare state and unlimited immigration without inevitable collapse) and that you cannot have them all isn’t a good sign.

Leslie Smith
Leslie Smith
22 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

Yes, as US Nobel Laureate, Dr. Milton Friedman, Ph.D, observed, “You can’t have a welfare state and open borders” because the influx will overwhelm social services. We are experiencing this in the USA with Biden’s open borders policy that have allowed in over 10 million illegal aliens, including over 100,000 men of military age from the PRC – talk about an agenda to destroy the USA – don’t fall for this insanity in the UK.

Peter B
Peter B
17 days ago
Reply to  Leslie Smith

A couple more Labour governments and we’ll all be reading Milton Friedman again. Currently consigned to the dustbin as apparently his views “didn’t work”. Yet when I read them, I’ve rarely found anything quite so clear and coherent. His famous “spending quadrant” (“when you spend other people’s money on stuff for other people you care neither about price nor quality; when you spend your own money on yorself you care about both”) should be in the national curriculum.
Interesting question: can you have no welfare state and no open borders ? Probably not. Though I certainly think we should have a smaller, more focused welfare state and tighter borders.

Dr Anne Kelley
Dr Anne Kelley
22 days ago

I’m not sure he rejects the global order of Blair – after all, he did state he preferred Davos to Westminster. McSweeney may wish to listen to voters but does Sir Keir?

Samuel Gee
Samuel Gee
22 days ago

I had some trouble with this as well. McSweeney sounds like my kind of guy. If Labour lived up to his vision I would have no problem voting for it. But I can’t get past the fact that Starmer doesn’t correspond to this. And then there is all the identity politics as well And then just really bad judgement on Brexit, Vaccines, Lockdowns, Men with Cervixes and much else.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
22 days ago

No. This is a fundamental miss reading of Blairism. There are two components to address. First – the physical restructuring of the British State and how it is governed. Its architecture or body. And then there are the ideas, the mind. The Blairite revolution – at the behest of the new EU Empire – saw the radical seemingly irreversible dismantling of the powers of our nation state and its Executive. Blairism created the ruling Progressive State with devolution, Supreme Courts, permanent Blob and Technocracy and an empowered Judiciary pumped up by Human Rights lawfare. We became an EU Statelet, allowing its regulstory risk averse regulatory overkill to kill enterprise, savings, infrastructure This Blairite State lives on, having been emvraced by the Wet Fake Tory Progressives. Starmer will happily nuzzle at the breast of this 30 year old beast and adore the machinery of New Labour’s State. As for his daring rejection of Blairite ideas – hardly! Sure, our take on globalism and techno optimism has changed after 20 years. Big deal. But Starmer has openly embraced way more radical ideologies and ideas – bending knee to firat the EU then BLM then 99% genders; wanting a new identitarian race hate law; eager to smash up the best private school system in world and chase out Sunaky type Nom Doms to appease the Old Lefts class eny itch. And he still channels pure crazy Greta garbage on climate and energy, guaranteeing us blackouts and monster energy bills. In sum, he will happily rule the State Tony Made…and so accelerate its ongoing collapse. And the few ‘ideas’ he still expresses are nasty, destructive and far less in touch with peoples real needs than those of Blair and Brown who at least had conviction. Not a glimmer of hope here. .

Sarah Atkin
Sarah Atkin
21 days ago

So am I more hopeful. Typical of Labour, there are still too few women with influence + the nepotism etc (Pat McFadden’s wife from TBI moves to work for the Starmer team. All so cliquey.) BUT McSweeney is absolutely thinking how I think. The Barking story in particular. Also, class is still a ‘thing’ in this country. His loathing of that ghastly event in Montreal with Trudeau & Co made me punch the air. Maybe the real Starmer is going to surprise us?

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
22 days ago

A very interesting and even quite hopeful article. Perhaps there are those in the Labour Party who do want to listen to red wall voters (with whom I am now much more aligned than this alleged new ‘open’ middle class).

This was a bit frightening though.

“The summit attracted some of the biggest names in centrist politics: Justin Trudeau, Jacinda Ahern, Mark Carney, David Miliband, Tony Blair.”

If that bunch are centrist, the Overton window has fallen out of the wall.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
22 days ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Centrist is probably the wrong word, but it has come to be associated with third way Blairism which is what this group all have in common. I lived under Blair and Ardern and she was a carbon copy of him in the way she governed

Martin M
Martin M
22 days ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

They are “Centrist” compared to Jeremy Corbyn and Ed Miliband, although the term “Centre Left” would probably be better (apart from in relation to Blair, who was indeed “Centrist”).

A D Kent
A D Kent
22 days ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

You’re right – these adherents to the Thatcherite policies of free movement of capital, goods and services, of market fundamentalism and ‘sensible’ policies of Central Bank Independence and Digital Currencies are definitely centre-right.

Norfolk Sceptic
Norfolk Sceptic
22 days ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Unless you are Centre-Right, of course.

Wanting smaller state spending, workers to keep more of their money, fewer Climate Change officers in the NHS and local authorities, acknowledging the important part played by the self-employed, doesn’t mean that Central Bank independence from reality is considered virtuous. Anyway, independent from what: it seems like it’s accountability.

A D Kent
A D Kent
22 days ago

Independent from democratic control is the problem It’s one that is exacerbated by their general independence from the effects of their policies and adherence to the BS of mainstream macro economic theory.

I want workers to keep more of their money too – I’d like to see the percentage of GDP accounted for by wages return to the pre-Monetarism/Thatcher levels (around 60% rather than the current <50%) and the link between productivity and wage increases return (guess when that broke down). Only interventional government policies can achieve this, taxes are a side issue.

Michael James
Michael James
22 days ago

Indeed, it’s absurd that Bailey is still governor of the Bank of England after failing to keep inflation at 2%.

Peter B
Peter B
22 days ago
Reply to  Michael James

Indeed. This cannot be said enough.
They basically had one job to do. And they failed. And failed. And failed again. And no one ever got fired.
OK, perhaps they had some other jobs too. Like some banking regulation to do at various times. They failed again there.

Pip G
Pip G
22 days ago
Reply to  Michael James

Some knowledgeable commentators suggest that the failure of the Fed & BoE is their obsession with 2%pa, and frequent changes to Interest Rates. It may be better if they set an Interest Rate and left it alone for a while.

Dr Anne Kelley
Dr Anne Kelley
22 days ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

There is very little in the article about Starmer’s proposed policies – either there aren’t any or they are too alarming to be made public. McSweeney may wish to listen to the voters, but there’s no guarantee Starmer will listen to him.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
22 days ago

I’ve read this with the utmost interest and think that this McSweeney fellow sounds very bright and promising indeed.
I’d like to add the following thoughts:
Labour should be very careful about the application of the words “populism” and “progressive”. If you want to create a new political movement, then you need to form a new demographic from the ashes and battle lines of the old ones and those words are like hand grenades from the wars that have gone before. Lob them into any conversation or policy and watch everyone scurry back into their old trenches, leaving you back at square one trying to coax them back out tohear what you have to say. David Lammy clearly hasn’t got the memo on that yet.
Also: keep a distance from Blair. As in the kind of distance you keep from nuclear waste. That technocratic “I know what’s best for you, little sheep” attitude he got sucked into is the reason that McSweeney’s Becontree policies which recognised that the voters do actually know what’s best for them sounds almost revolutionary. It is a shocking indictment of 21st century politics that you read things like that and think “WOW, AMAZING!” It should be bread’n’butter normal.

Pip G
Pip G
22 days ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Yes. I cringe whenever I see the meaningless term ‘progressive’. Progress towards what?

Leslie Smith
Leslie Smith
22 days ago
Reply to  Pip G

Dystopia.

Dominic Lyne
Dominic Lyne
21 days ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Populism seemed to be fine when it was Blair that was being populist!! He was the worst PM for me….we had me the worst of both worlds with him.

A D Kent
A D Kent
22 days ago

 “If Starmer is to be a council leader at large, he needs to do so in imperial robes. How he does so will depend in large part on the role he finds for the keeper of “the project’s” flame: Morgan McSweeney.”

This little extract at the end of the piece, probably inadvertently, identifies why Blair failed, why Starmer will fail, while McSweeney will fail and why our future is bleak. If there’s one message Starmer, I’m sure with the full support of McSweeney, has been relentless on it’s his ‘sensible’ approach to the public finances – which for our endlessly dense Establishment, means pointlessly fixating on the ‘deficit’ and tying ourselves down with arbitrary ‘fiscal rules’.

In accepting this bogus narrative Starmer does indeed render himself a Council Leader – unable to harness the economic potential of this country, leaving it in hoc to forces beyond our control – just as a local council does here. For all the flag-shagging and posturing, these people are cowards, they really don’t understand the potential of this country to do things differently and to lead the way. They’re pathetic, that’s all.  

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
22 days ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Do differently how? I’m genuinely interested. Clearly what we’re doing now isn’t working.

Eleanor Barlow
Eleanor Barlow
20 days ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Then what do you feel should replace Starmer’s ‘sensible’ approach to the public finances? Hyperinflation as per Weimar Germany?
Turmoil in the financial markets as per Liz Truss?
If there aren’t any fiscal rules, how is the money to be raised to fund infrastructure renewal and improve public services?
Or is there a magic money tree somewhere?

Douglas H
Douglas H
22 days ago

Good article, thanks. But it takes too long to get to fifth gear, and I gave up first time. An assertive copy editor would rework this to start with something concrete – the Barking story.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
22 days ago
Reply to  Douglas H

Stick to Twitter then. I’m capable of reading something a bit more in depth

j watson
j watson
22 days ago

That’s a good informative Article. Too often critics of Starmer’s project have defaulted to over-simplistic and ignorant taunts of Blairism. This fails to appreciate he and his close team are their own Men and Women much more likely to still be in touch with what people feel and think. Blair is yesterday’s Man and Starmer knows it.
Labour will still, if they win, inherit the mother of all Hospital passes, but one senses Starmer is going to be ‘grower’ on folks. We could all do with a little less style and bit more substance couldn’t we.
Heard him speak a few weeks back too about apprenticeships. The clear message was we’ve allowed snobbery to devalue vocational training and he, with his parental background, v much against that. That’s a good sign and another indication this is not a politician without a grasp that liberal Uni graduates alone do not a country make.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
22 days ago
Reply to  j watson

I don’t mind admitting that I still believe Starmer to be lacking in any moral conviction, and that he changes direction more often than a wind sock. I feel he’s no better than Johnson in that regard, just much less brazen about it.
However if those behind him do actually listen to the electorate and create policies based on that then I’ll admit that would make a welcome change to anything that’s happened in Britain for a long long time. Hopefully that turns out to be the case, rather than a pivot towards Blair’s know it all attitude once they get into power

David Morley
David Morley
17 days ago
Reply to  j watson

Agree with you, some reason for optimism, though:

we’ve allowed snobbery to devalue vocational training 

Has been recognised for years, and we’ve been trying to fix it for years with structural change but without success. I suspect for cultural reasons. We are still a nation full of snobbery and obsessed with status, and that still has deep roots in class prejudice. Will there be a cultural aspect to Starmerism. I’d be up for any amount of denigration of the rich and stupid 🙂

Aidan Anabetting
Aidan Anabetting
22 days ago

OMG, a ray of light after years of gloom – but Labour beware, as the Cons are finding out, there is no greater fury than that which follows a broken promise.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
22 days ago

What promise? To Make Britain Great again? Its all hot air!!

Martin M
Martin M
21 days ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

At least the Cons kept their “Get Brexit done” promise.

David Morley
David Morley
17 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

But alas, none of the promised benefits!

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
22 days ago

No. Taxes WILL rise. Eco degrowth insanity WILL be unleashed, regardless of whether the Brit Leyand Energy Blob Corp splurges 28bn. New race hate/equality laws and two-tier policing WILL further poison communal relations. The 750,000 p.a Open Border Immigration drug WILL not be stopped, keeping the panicking over taxed middle classes clinging to the titanic life raft of deliberately inflated property prices. The broken Big State and its invasive EU legacy Regulatory law machine will further pound and suffocate the already creaking enterprise culture. All they offer is the We Are Not Them/the Tories. But of course it wasnt just the Fake Tories who have shattered us with Net Zero and Lockdown insanity. Behind the weedy Exec sits the vast permanent detached London Administrative/Progressive Order. And they will stay, assuring of us accelerating decline and fall whatever the Starmerites decide to do.

George Venning
George Venning
22 days ago

Delivery, democracy, moving beyond the Blairite legacy etc..
Lovely jubbly, I’ll take two if I may.
But hang on, the foundation of that approach in Barking was a highly specific (and ambitiously interventionist) policy that represented a real challenge to an entrenched interest.
Where is the national equivalent of that policy? Nowhere to be seen.
Moreover, Starmer’s leadership bid was predicated on a suite of policies that did fit that description “to increase taxes on the rich, abolish universal credit, scrap tuition fees, defend free movement of people and initiate a green energy revolution”. You might not agree with them but there they were.
However, as the article acknowledges “Starmer has ditched many of them since becoming leader. Taxes will not rise, freedom of movement will not return, and green investment will have to wait until there is the money to pay for it.” An eyesore gardens policy it is not. Moreover, there is the fact that those policies were also the backbone of Corbyn’s actual pre-existing leadership that McSweeney was so instrumental in destroying.
I long to be proved wrong by the next Labour Government but there is no attempt in this article to address the yawning gap between the principles that McTague projects onto McSweeney and the conduct of McSweeney himself since leaving Barking.
That record goes, undermine a principled leader you don’t like, promote a new one who claims to share the old one’s principles. Abandon stated principles. Pointedly refuse to set out any new policies at all. Wrap leader in flag.
It isn’t warmed over Blairism, and it isn’t even the formula that worked in Barking, it is simply a pig in a poke.

Martin M
Martin M
21 days ago
Reply to  George Venning

It is easy to spot a socialist. Anyone who has “Tax the Rich” as a policy platform falls within that category.

AC Harper
AC Harper
22 days ago

“Starmerism”
The word is attractive and hideous at the same time.

Dr Anne Kelley
Dr Anne Kelley
22 days ago

I’m not sure how to reconcile ‘the concerns of working people’ with Starmer’s habit of embracing every trendy idea which the liberal elites espouse, such as transgenderism and ‘hate speech’.

R Wright
R Wright
22 days ago
Reply to  Dr Anne Kelley

Sweeney probably has little actual influence over Starmer at all. He’s either lying (or his cronies) to Mr McTague about his restraining power over Starmer or he has been incompetent, at least historically.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
22 days ago

McSweeney is delivering B Liar Mark 2

Howard Clegg
Howard Clegg
22 days ago

My main worry is the the particular version of the labour party is too wedded to identity politics. Appropriate pronouns may make us all feel “seen,” but won’t keep us warm, clothed and fed.

R Wright
R Wright
22 days ago
Reply to  Howard Clegg

They’re trying to publicly u-turn on the Titanic of trans rights but it is only after hitting the iceberg of chemically castrating children with taxpayers’ money.

R Wright
R Wright
22 days ago

Good article, but I am not convinced it is much more than a puff piece; the result of Labour staffers pouring honey in Mr McTague’s ear to mentally grease the wheels ahead of the new regime.

Starmer’s historic actions speak louder than his words, and I expect a raft of divisive, race-baiting progressive policies to be implemented within weeks of the election by a 200 majority strong Commons and compliant (if not chomping at the bit) Civil Service.

Let’s see if his campaign director restrains him and this article turns out to be true. Ultimately it is Sue Gray that will be running the country in any event, and her concerning links to the NI security establishment don’t give me much hope.

Pip G
Pip G
22 days ago

We are moving past the era of the ‘social liberal’ and ‘progressive’. A government which pays heed to the wishes of voters will do more good for the ordinary person.
To date Mr Starmer has made few policy announcements, and then changed some; but Labour policy makers have come up with some good ideas. The test will be the first 2 years of government: will Labour be bound by the latest economic statistics or put forward substantive reform, even though it will take more like 10 years to implement?

Eleanor Barlow
Eleanor Barlow
20 days ago
Reply to  Pip G

What Labour will need to do is prioritise their policy goals, and specify what can realistically be achieved in 5 years – which is all that is guaranteed to them if they win the next GE. It’s a tough call as there is so much that needs to be done, but it’s the only way to give the electorate some idea of the scale of the problems – and to lessen the chance of failing to deliver.

David Morley
David Morley
17 days ago
Reply to  Eleanor Barlow

I worry that any policies capable of fixing anything will take longer than that, and may hit peak unpopularity half way through.

Any action to bring down house prices, for example, is likely to have existing home owners screaming blue murder if it succeeds.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
22 days ago

No, it isn’t like that at all. As soon as labour gets in the true agenda will come out and the majority will pay the price.
It’s always been about class, right from the Norman conquest; expressed as the powerful and elites are right and everyone else has to submit.
Submission is requested kindly from special groups or populist followers; but extremely harshly from ill favoured groups and populists who don’t follow the leadership of the resource holders.
It was ever thus sadly.
I want to vote for someone who lets everyone buy into the system at a level they can afford and then gets out of their lives.
My biggest wish though is for someone to actually destroy the WWW!

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
22 days ago

A very informative and well written article, thanks.

One thing that always bother me though is that the left ALWAYS talk about direct democracy, giving people power to decide etc etc. These lot do it and the last lot did it, I remember John McDonnell talking about giving people agency and the power to make decisions. What I don’t get at all is how they hate free markets, even though that is what (in theory at least) gives citizens the power to choose stuff – the way McDonnell was going on described a free market economy…i guess It’s how Clare Fox and Tom Slater manage to somehow call themselves revolutionary communists whilst being free market libertarians. McDonnell and Corbyn would never provide people any sort of freedom but the freedom they harp on about is produced by the thing they say they hate.

The article gives me hope that we won’t see Blairite technocracy again but it certainly won’t give people the agency Starmer and his team claim it will – they want to control things too much

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
21 days ago

A generation of Labour people who hunger only for the euro. They are Blairite on immigration too and have abandoned political economics such is their thirst for rule by Brussels and Frankfurt.

Mark Sturdy
Mark Sturdy
21 days ago

but what IS the McSweeney proposal of how the Left should approach the future?

Jeff Dudgeon
Jeff Dudgeon
18 days ago

Ever tried to get a council to enforce its bye-laws on rubbish in frontages or litter in alleys?
I doubt very much the problems residents faced in Barking were resolved unless the council took the law into its own hands.
Can someone who lives there provide an update on the McSweeney solution?

David Morley
David Morley
17 days ago

“multiculturalism, social liberalism, feminism, environmental sustainability, immigration, globalisation and technology”

In short, Blair is stuck in a bygone era of student politics with an extra technology twist. And his ideas are formed in communication with others of that ilk. Student politics plus the technology which makes them rich. Yesterdays man still hawking old ideas as shiny and new.

Stephen Feldman
Stephen Feldman
17 days ago

politics for top down Politburo? Labour?.More like the corporate structure of Microsoft.