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Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn led the party to a crushing general election defeat in December, handing Mr Johnson and the Tories a significant 80-seat majority in the House of Commons. Under the leadership of Mr Corbyn, Labour baffled voters with its confusing and unclear position on Brexit, and was also continuously dogged by allegations of anti-Semitism. Millions of voters turned against Labour in the general election, evidently shown by the collapse of its infamous ‘Red Wall’, losing several heartlands in thew north of England the party had held and relied on for several decades.
Sir Keir replaced Mr Corbnyn as Labour leader on April 4, and immediately set about putting his own stamp on the party, completely reshuffling his Shadow Cabinet and eliminating many who had remained loyal the party’s former leader.
He also vowed to reunite the increasingly fractured party as he began his campaign for power ahead of the next general election, which is not scheduled to take place in 2024.
Mr Johnson and his Government are coming under increasing pressure, particularly around the handling of the coronavirus crisis and accusations that thousands of more lives could have been saved if a national lockdown had been imposed earlier.
The Prime Minister is also facing a barrage of criticism following a damning report from the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) which said the Government had failed to investigate whether Russia had had interfered in the 2016 Brexit referendum.
The committee warned the Government was slow to recognise the potential threat posed by Moscow and did not properly consider whether the country could interfere in the vote until after it had taken place.
Alex De Ruyter, Professor at Birmingham City University and Director of Centre for Brexit Studies, outlined the three challenges facing Sir Keir, but offered words of encouragement for the Labour leader.
Speaking prior to the publication of the Russia report, he told Express.co.uk: “Starmer needs to convince enough of its traditional, often older, working-class supporters to vote in order to win back a sufficient number of traditional seats, such as think Sedgefield in the North East).
“He needs to get much better at convincing younger voters and ethnic minorities, both of whom support the Labour Party in large numbers, to register and vote.
“Finally, his Shadow Cabinet needs sufficient credibility to convince people who were “put-off” by Corbyn, whether due to image, behaviour or policy, to vote Labour.”
Professor De Ruyter is impressed by the job Sir Keir has done as Labour leader so far, praising him for promoting talent to his shadow Cabinet and making it his priority to try repairing “tattered” relationships, such as the one with the Jewish community following the anti-Semitism allegations that dogged the party.
“Starmer is clearly a very intelligent man and in general has mastered his brief, which stands in contrast to the more lackadaisical attitude of Johnson.
“He has promoted talent to his top team and has listened to outside criticisms, making a start on repairing tattered relationships, including with many in the Jewish community).
The political expert also issued a warning to Sir Keir, but insisted the task he is faced with “isn’t impossible, but is certainly difficult”.
He added there is plenty of time to get millions of voters on side before the next scheduled general election in 2024, taking full advantage of the public’s loss of faith in the Government’s handling of the current coronavirus crisis.
Professor De Ruyter told this website: “There is clearly much more to do for Starmer and he will want to ensure that his entire team are much more disciplined around their messaging.
“There is a risk of getting distracted by symbolic issues that are of huge importance to some on the left but that most of society has little time for.
“The task facing Starmer isn’t impossible, but it is certainly difficult.
“However, I would caution that five years is a long time in politics and the wider situation can change radically over that time.
“Look at the change in the Government’s ratings for handling the COVID-19 pandemic.”
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