by Richard Johnson
Friday, 20
January 2023
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07:30

Keir Starmer tries to shake off Corbynite baggage at Davos

The Labour leader's panel did not go as planned
by Richard Johnson
Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves get a feel for Davos. Credit: Getty.

One year before the last general election, Labour’s Left-wing Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell flew to Davos to deliver a warning to “the global elite” of “a social avalanche which will sweep them and their broken system away”. He pledged democratic control of the economy and a Robin Hood tax. “The Davos few have failed the many, and change is going to come,” McDonnell vowed.

The change didn’t come, and Labour is now under new management. With another general election looming next year, the current Shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves, has travelled to this year’s World Economic Forum with Labour leader Keir Starmer, but with a different message. “Britain is very much open for business,” Reeves declared.


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Starmer and Reeves have spent their time in Davos reassuring, not threatening, the global elite. Starmer’s aspiration is not only to be taken seriously on the international stage but also to be seen as a prime minister in waiting. With Labour’s sky-high polling ratings, in evidence since the departure of Boris Johnson in September, this is now regarded as a likely prospect.

Starmer must be enjoying the attention. He told interviewer Emily Maitlis that he preferred Davos to Westminster, saying he found the latter too constrained and too tribal. Although just one other G7 leader is at the conference this year (Olaf Scholz of neighbouring Germany), Starmer has criticised Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for failing to show up, arguing that this absence was emblematic of a vacuum of British leadership on the world stage. 

Speaking on a panel on the energy crisis, Starmer offered few headline-grabbing pronouncements. He committed to a transition to renewables, but admitted that oil and gas would need to be part of the transition. He called for more onshore wind farms. He proposed a Clean Power Alliance to offset the influence of OPEC.

The main prize, as Starmer put it, was energy independence, underscored by Russia’s weaponisation of energy resources last year. The Labour leader said that he believed energy independence required an “active state”. Moderator Hadley Gamble picked up on this, asking if he meant nationalisation. “No, completely the opposite,” Starmer quickly responded. 

This was perhaps not the line of questioning Starmer had wanted. “What made you change your mind?” Gamble asked plaintively, noting that the politician had previously supported energy nationalisation. Too expensive, Starmer explained. The money needed to buy up shares in energy companies would be better spent preserving those companies and then subsidising households directly. But, he added, his party would support a GB Energy vehicle and public partnerships with the private sector.

Some might argue that Labour’s polling lead gives Starmer space to develop a bold policy offer to match the scale of the serious challenges facing Britain today. But the Leader of the Opposition and his advisers evidently take the view that caution is required. The Starmer gamble is that the country is not so hungry for radical change in policy as it is for a change in management. The avalanche that John McDonnell threatened would sweep aside the Davos elite has evidently melted away.

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Dog Eared
Dog Eared
9 days ago

A someone else pointed out recently, a Groucho Marx quote comes to mind: Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others

Richard Atkinson
Richard Atkinson
9 days ago
Reply to  Dog Eared

Love it!

Jacqueline Burns
Jacqueline Burns
8 days ago
Reply to  Dog Eared

And there are none he won’t change to try & win the election!

Mike Michaels
Mike Michaels
9 days ago

Great. The choice at the next election is between Uniparty WEF stooge 1 or Uniparty WEF stooge 2.

Last edited 9 days ago by Mike Michaels
Richard Atkinson
Richard Atkinson
9 days ago
Reply to  Mike Michaels

Yes. They’ve not moved away from homogenised politics as much as just made the way they homogenise it even more dangerous.

Gerald Arcuri
Gerald Arcuri
8 days ago
Reply to  Mike Michaels

Well, it could be worse. You could be Canada, with its pathetic choices for PM. Or the U.S. where the choice is between the Devil or the Deep Blue Sea. Cheers!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
8 days ago
Reply to  Mike Michaels

“we’re doomed “ as Private Frazer would say.

Glyn R
Glyn R
5 days ago
Reply to  Mike Michaels

A choice between two cheeks of the same ***e?

Peter B
Peter B
8 days ago

“This was perhaps not the line of questioning Starmer had wanted. “What made you change your mind?” Gamble asked plaintively, noting that the politician had previously supported energy nationalisation. Too expensive, Starmer explained. The money needed to buy up shares in energy companies would be better spent preserving those companies and then subsidising households directly. But, he added, his party would support a GB Energy vehicle and public partnerships with the private sector.”
What on earth does that actually mean ? It’s just Blairite “Third Way” nonsense again – trying to be all things to all men. “Too expensive” is the worst possible answer. It simply says “I still want to do it, but don’t have the guts to. But I don’t really believe anything.” Perfect for Davos though.
And he now plans to spend public money “preserving those companies” that he’s spent the past 5 years slamming !
So which are “those companies” ? EDF ? Shell ? BP ? And why do they need public support ?
Reality check: little said about doing anything about baseload (generation which is always available – not depending on the vagaries of the weather) domestic energy *supply* – e.g. extracting remaining North Sea oil and gas, fracking, coking coal mining in Cumbria, nuclear generation. Remember – Labour is now the party that opposes coal mining …

Dustin Needle
Dustin Needle
8 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

“Opposes coal mining…”, embraces global elitism, wants to return to the EU fold and can’t define the difference between a man or a woman.
They’ve been on quite a journey in my lifetime. Maybe Ken Loach will do a film about it.
As for the “panel”, it sounds like it was conducting a job interview for Head of England & Wales, EU Sub-Office.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
7 days ago

Frankly I would prefer Corbyn to this WEF puppetry. Apply the Tony Benn test: ‘how do we get rid of you’?

Peter B
Peter B
6 days ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

Indeed, I have to confess that for a few moments I felt that too. At least you knew where you were with Corbyn – a basic honesty about beliefs and plans – none of the appalling doublespeak and triangulation.

Paul Curtin
Paul Curtin
6 days ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

WEF puppetry! It should go into the general lexicon of English. Spot on

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 days ago

he found the latter too constrained and too tribal

Agreed on the second…the first though is telling. I am no WEF conspiracy theorist but if he finds democracy and politics “too constrained” then that’s a big red flag right there.