On the surface, Sir Keir Starmer’s summer holiday looked like an unwise move. The country in permanent crisis, an abdication of responsibility from Downing Street and the opposition, aside from Martin Lewis, is nowhere to be seen. Its announcements feel like a Greatest Hits revival, with Gordon Brown back calling for energy nationalisation.
Yet, among the chaos, perhaps Keir Starmer has reason to enjoy a poolside martini (shaken or stirred). For Ipsos polling puts him far ahead of his near-certain competitor Liz Truss on a vast range of issues. On improving public services, reducing NHS waiting times (remind anyone of a certain pledge card?), levelling up and providing a fresh start, Starmer enjoys a double digit lead.
Indeed, of the 13 policy areas, Truss enjoyed is ahead only on reducing taxes. Given that pledge has been the bedrock of her campaign, falling behind there would spell total calamity. The picture is largely similar were Rishi Sunak in office, putting paid to his election-winning credentials. In normal times, a new Prime Minister enjoys a honeymoon period. But these are not normal times.
Opinion polling clearly favours Labour. In the ‘Red Wall’ alone (if you can define the term), Labour enjoys a 15% lead on the Conservatives, with the latter languishing on 33%. They should celebrate polling that high. With the Conservatives not enjoying a lead since December last year, the next leader must put clear blue water between themselves and Boris Johnson to stand any chance of winning.
What may give Starmer pause for thought before indulging his holiday poison of choice is who would make the better Prime Minister. There, he is level pegging with Rishi Sunak, with Liz Truss only six points behind. Given Starmer led Boris Johnson by 20%, no room for complacency is possible.
The Conservative party is adept at remoulding its ideology as well as its leaders. If Truss proves herself capable of delivering as Prime Minister, a historic fifth term of Conservative government could be on the cards. Starmer can enjoy his sun lounger for now, but soon it will be time to take off his shades and roll up his sleeves. Like the rest of us, he needs energy. Except, for Starmer, it’s not to power his home, but for the truly unique task of becoming Prime Minister.
Sign up for our FREE Reaction Weekend Email
Read the week's best-read articles on politics, business and geopolitics
Receive offers and exclusive invites
Plus uplifting cultural commentary