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London – Labor leader Keir Starmer once had to ask my own team Stop telling reporters that he’s a slacker. His shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, was famously Branded “boring, snoring” by a top TV executive.
But the leader of the opposition party – on the way to form the next UK government current polling — are now turning to a new tactic to inject some elusive spark into their campaign for Downing Street: shamelessly stealing populist slogans from around the world.
Starmer, an ardent Remain supporter, made waves new year speech which embraced the “Take Back Control” message of the pro-Brexit campaign, promising Labor would pass a Take Back Control Bill in Parliament to transfer power to the English territories.
On Sunday Reeves went further and actually channeled Donald Trump, telling the BBC in response to Tory’s latest tax and cronyism scandals A future Labor government would “drain the swamp” of Westminster.
Reeves had previously flaunted the populist slogans of former US President Ronald Reagan, who won his 1980 contest against incumbent Jimmy Carter. posing great campaign questions: “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” Reeves applied the slogan to the Conservatives’ 13 years of upheaval when responding to his latest financial plan.
Even Labour’s flagship energy policy, to create publicly owned clean energy firms to compete with private suppliers, is branded a populist leaning. “Great British Energyto appeal to patriotic voters.
The series of populist statements is no coincidence. Labor officials say the use of “holey” and sometimes regressive language is a deliberate tactic to “show confidence” ahead of the general election.
One Labor staffer said, “Using the language effectively is politically nimble.” “It’s the confidence of knowing that we can carry those things because we passed showed integrity, and we passed Listened on Brexit, and we have more credibility on the economy.
A second official confirmed that Reeves’ pledge to “drain the swamp” was made by aides before his weekend media rounds, though he attributed it to using “powerful language” rather than a conscious effort to echo Trump. described as a “throw away” decision.
The appropriation of populist slogans is a deliberate attempt to garner attention, he affirmed. The second official said, “Let’s be honest, the main thing in the opposition is to be heard.”
But such sloganeering could be more than just a “vulgar” tool to attract attention, the official further said. The pledge to “take back control” was designed to remind voters that the Tories have not always lived up to the grandiose promises of the Brexit campaign.
The second official said, “There is another subtle message in this – trying to remind them of their failures, and we are trying to deliver on some of these promises.”
Meanwhile, the “GB Energy” plan was the result of a six-month project in which Team Starmer worked closely with Shadow Energy Secretary Ed Miliband.
Senior Labor figures agree that decarbonisation could be a real vote winner – as long as it is framed through the lens of climate change. Labor instead wants the policy to capture a spirit similar to the “take back control” message that proved so effective on so-called Red Wall voters in former industrial areas of England.
A third Labor adviser said, “The idea of ’Great British Energy’ is too good a red wall.” “It’s got jobs, industry, patriotism and [energy] The bills are wrapped together.
A shadow cabinet member said the exit of Boris Johnson had given Labor the political space to push such a message, which sought to make a similar case on green jobs.
timing is everything
The second Labor official said the timing of the messaging shift had been important, with people paying more attention now given the opposition party’s huge electoral lead. Labor is 21 percentage points ahead of the ruling Conservatives POLITICO’s Poll of PollsGeneral elections are expected to be held next year.
“If we had said any of these two years ago, we would not have been heard,” the official said.
“There was never a moment when we really said ‘we’re going to do this differently’, but just when you feel the momentum coming your way … we need to make sure we capitalize on these benefits.” We are trying to get a hearing,” said another official.
Labour’s populist slogans have been picked up not only by political campaigns, but also by the mouths of voters themselves.
The attack line that the government sees “a rule for the Tories and the rest of us” has been used repeatedly by Labor over the past few years amid the Downing Street scandals, from a series of “Vox Pop” interviews The pinch was taken. with ordinary voters in the left-wing Daily Mirror newspaper.
“It’s using the language that people are used to,” said the second officer.
While Westminster has started to notice a change in strategy, the messaging has not yet taken off outside SW1.
Opinion confirmation of public opinion The British public doesn’t really see Starmer and Reeves as the most exciting politicians in Westminster. Luke Trial, director of consultancy More in Common, which regularly conducts focus groups across the country, says there is “no sign” of Labor’s populist leanings biting.
“This stuff always takes so much longer than Westminster thinks to really reach the public,” he said, adding that Labor would need to be disciplined in repeating its attack lines in order to reach ordinary voters.
But those who had been “more hostile” to Starmer were becoming “more neutral”, especially in former Labor bastions Red Wall, he said.
The approach is dividing opinion in Westminster.
John McTernan, a former Labor Party adviser turned political strategist and commentator, is a fan, insisting that Starmer is right to seize on the mantra of fiscal prudence as well as the “language of agency”.
“You have to take areas of political territory from your opponents and you have to eliminate them all the time,” he said.
“You can say when Rachel does things like that the Tory backbenchers win [‘drain the swamp’],
But one figure involved in the Vote Leave campaign is more skeptical of Starmer’s approach. The Brexit campaigner, while praising the “take back controls” policy as a “smart and lovely line to get some attention”, doubted that Starmer could run a truly populist campaign in the manner of Trump or Johnson in 2016.
“That’s not him,” he said. “And if you go to the Red Wall, the biggest problem is that he has a knighthood and he supported Remain in the referendum.”
history repeats itself
It is not the first time Labor has looked to the Atlantic for Trump-style inspiration to promote its message.
In 2017, then leader Jeremy Corbyn’s team Deliberately adopted Trump’s aggressive strategy against mainstream TV networks and newspapers, in hopes of garnering support among voters already distrustful of the media.
The left-wing leader then denied Theresa May her majority in that year’s snap election – although he was unsettled in 2019 when he went toe-to-toe with Boris Johnson.
James Schneider, a spokesman for Corbyn when he was leading the Labor Party, said it was positive for Starmer if “journalists were sufficiently excited by copying Trump’s language that it included Labor in the story”. “
But he warned that for the rhetoric to “stick” and voters to really listen to it, Labor also needed “non-techno-sounding policies that go after the political class,” rather than “in public life content”. standards”.
And Schneider is skeptical that anything radical will come out of Labor headquarters, in his view the party leadership “doesn’t think SW1 wants to overturn business as usual.”
Starmer’s personal populist pitch may need a little more work: Last week he could be found rubbing shoulders with the global elite at Davos.