The Guardian • Issue #2101

OP-ED

Starmer is a socialist but …

Keir Starmer

Photo: flickr.com (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

There are more countries in the world than the UK, the USA, and Australia, and yet we can’t help noticing parallels between the UK and Australian politics. The Brits certainly keep an eye on Australia, with the UK Tories using Australian political consultancy Textor Crosby to get them over the line, and a conga-line of Australian conservatives such as George Brandis and Tony Abbott heading over to Blighty for speaking gigs.

At the moment, the most noticeable similarity is between pre-election Keir Starmer and pre-election Anthony Albanese. Like Albanese, Starmer is up against a shambolic and unpopular conservative government, one which dishes out public money to friendly plutocrats and can’t go a month without a scandal.  Like Albanese, Starmer talks about childhood poverty. Like Albanese, Starmer tacks right, scared by an unsuccessful adversary. Albanese did his ‘small target’ act ruthlessly, promising to go along with the grossly regressive Stage 3 Tax Cuts, and the dangerous and prohibitively expensive AUKUS agreement.

Starmer has called himself a “progressive and socialist,” which is very brave compared to ‘Albo.’ The description comes with a ‘but’ attached: progressive and socialist but won’t drop the two-child benefit cap that effectively penalises poor people for having more than two children (see Guardian 2100). Socialist but walked away from a promise to abolish tuition fees for universities that’s Starmer. Like Albanese, Starmer has decided that he doesn’t want to lose votes by looking ‘soft’ on asylum seekers. He’s promised to ditch Sunak’s daft plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda (itself probably borrowed from the Australian conservatives’ unsuccessful and expensive ‘Cambodia solution’), but still tries to talk tough on migrants.

Another similarity is that, as with Albanese, progressive voters are voting for him and hoping Starmer will become more progressive after the election. If our experience with Albanese is anything to go on, they’re in for a disappointment.

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