by UnHerd Staff
Thursday, 21
October 2021
Seen Elsewhere
17:00

Dominic Cummings’s advice to Labour: sack Starmer

The former chief advisor to Boris Johnson details how Labour can win in 2024
by UnHerd Staff
Credit: Getty

Dominic Cummings has laid out a roadmap for how Labour can avoid another Conservative landslide in 2024. According to the former chief advisor to Boris Johnson, Labour is overlooking — wilfully or otherwise — basic fundamentals that will make it a winning political party. These are simple enough: a leader that the public thinks is a ‘plausible alternative’ to the current leader and a small core team who understand the priorities of the general population. Labour currently has neither, he argues. First, because Starmer lacks the relative virtues of both charismatic Corbyn or milquetoast Miliband. Second, because Labour isn’t tough on crime or tough on Johnson’s blunders, which polling suggests would do well with swing voters.

First step, Cummings insists, is to accept Starmer as a dud or ‘dead-player’ :

Starmer is a mediocre lawyer with normal SW1 management skills, i.e hopeless… [He] comments on dumb stuff and doesn’t understand ‘let it go’…. Like the PM he has no discernible priorities and like the PM, and David Cameron, he can’t resist being a pundit on irrelevant stuff. Instead of having week-after-week focus on violent crime, he babbles about the next Bond and stumbles into broadcast interviews with no clear idea of the story he’s trying to make and therefore accidentally makes news on stuff that’s irrelevant or makes him look even worse.
- Dominic Cummings, Substack

He suggests that he should be replaced by a ‘Midlands woman’, namely Lisa Nandy. With Starmer’s stuttering on cervixes at this year’s conference, this move might repair Labour’s reputation on women’s rights, especially as Boris ‘cannot take women seriously’.

But just as importantly, the party needs to distance itself from the SW1 elitism:

The best educated people think they are rational and not susceptible to illusions and stories while the public are irrational and therefore should be corralled by the priests of the ‘cathedral’ (i.e Harvard, Oxbridge, NYT, Guardian), but the truth is that the best educated are more susceptible to illusions and stories than the general uneducated public.
- Dominic Cummings, Substack

Cummings diagnoses Starmer as too obsessed with the culture wars and not skilful enough to take political advantage of Johnson’s broken tax promises, Covid misfires and so on. Normal people have to ‘filter their priorities’, but Cummings thinks that ‘MPs, hacks and academics’ find this borderline impossible. 

A healthy opposition ought to be buzzing given Johnson’s recent blunders. The former No10 advisor details the mischief and mayhem of what a winning campaign should look like:

There are hot women and beer and pizza and music in the office on Friday and Saturday night because the place is bursting with energy. And they enjoy kicking their opponents down the street at 10pm on a Saturday night when the other side are in ‘work-life balance’ mode. Labour’s team know the PM and Carrie sit ludicrously twitching at twitter on Saturday night when the papers drop — they should be driving the two of them crazy with rage and panic every Saturday night, thus creating a wave of horrific phone calls across Tory-world and constantly ruining everyone’s weekends.
- Dominic Cummings, Substack

If the Tories are betting on Starmer staying in, Labour could play a wildcard by electing a new leader and listening to unsatisfied Tory voters. Could Cummings be the man to force their hand?

Join the discussion


  • He’s sort of starting from the wrong place. The leader and shad cab are elected by the members. The first thing the Labour Party needs to do is replace all its members. At the moment they are all vicious spiteful loony hatemongers. Hopefully the new ones would be along the lines of John Smith, Denis Healey, David Owen, Frank Field, Kate Hoey, Caroline Flint – that sort of Labourite.
    The next thing would be to change the internal election arrangements so that MPs are elected by local parties no longer dominated by neo-Marxist anti-Semites. These MPs would then elect the leader who would appoint the other shad cab positions. This would avoid the situation where the vicious nutters elect a malevolent Stalinist chav like Rayner, who thereby acquires her own mandate, and hence couldn’t be sacked by Starmer even if she were to call for all Tories to be gassed.
    You’d then have a sensible and pragmatic grassroots electing similar MPs who’d elect a similar leader who’d appoint to the shad cab the most able communicators.
    The whole exercise of how to make Labour electable is a bit like discussing the best way to roast a dragon. There’s an obvious problem right at the outset that has no obvious solution.

  • That’s what I thought. He’s setting out a path to damage limitation that is simply impossible for Labour to follow, so if they tried, they’d get thrashed worse.

  • I was rather perplexed by that. My take is that the author got his politicians mixed up and he meant Jess Phillips. For one thing, Nandy is from the North West and Phillips is actually from the Midlands. Nandy is what you would expect from a family of middle class Marxist intellectuals and has nothing to say to working people: an entire career in politics and the third sector.
    One thing that Labour could have done is elect the moderate and popular Ian Murray as Deputy Leader, which would have given them a much needed boost in Scotland; instead they handed Johnson another electoral gift, with Angela Rayner shooting her mouth off at every opportunity.

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