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The Labour Party has been in been turmoil for several months after Jeremy Corbyn led the party to its worst general election result in history last December. The crushing defeat handed Boris Johnson an 80-seat majority in the House of Commons that enabled him to get his Brexit deal voted through parliament. The election defeat also saw Labour lose several constituency heartlands throughout the country – particularly in the north of England – that it had held and heavily relied on for several decades.
Sir Keir Starmer immediately vowed to reunite a party torn apart by vicious infighting, allegations of anti-Semitism and a baffling Brexit position that saw millions of voters turn their back on the opposition.
Dr Steve McCabe, Associate Professor with the Institute for Design and Economic Acceleration and Senior Fellow at the Centre for Brexit Studies at Birmingham City University, warned Sir Keir initially faces a “gargantuan task”.
He told Express.co.uk: “After the 1983 election, everyone said Labour was unelectable. Though it took another 14 years and three leaders – Neil Kinnock, John Smith and Tony Blair – it did manage to rediscover the winning habit.
“Starmer will be under no illusion; he has a gargantuan task. He starts from a state in which the party is at a low base in terms of seats but strength in terms of members.
But the coronavirus crisis, which has killed more than 34,000 people in the UK, has exposed several flaws in the Government’s strategy and seen Mr Johnson and his top team come under increasing pressure.
They have been criticised for not reacting quickly enough to the outbreak of the killer virus, not enforcing lockdown measures soon enough and the baffling messages around them, and not providing enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline NHS staff.
Sir Keir has also attacked Mr Johnson during furious exchanges in the House of Commons, most recently attempting to pick holes in apparent discrepancies over the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on care homes.
He only took over the Labour hot seat six weeks but already appears to be having a positive influence on Britons after overtaking the Prime Minister in a YouGov approval poll earlier this month on who is currently the better leader.
Dr McCabe leader warned Sir Keir will be ready to pounce on the mistakes from the Government during the coronavirus crisis, and expects the Labour leader to “hold Johnson to account using his forensic brain and legal skills that make life uncomfortable”.
He told this website: “The crisis concerning COVID-19 has exposed problems such as under-funding of the NHS and the fact that questionable employment practices such as ‘zero hours contracts’ leave those under such conditions in a desperately plight when economic circumstances later as alarmingly as has occurred in the last couple of months.
“Many of those who voted to Tory in exasperation at their situation and in the hope that Brexit would improve their prospects may discover that, given the magnitude of the current crisis, the ability of Johnson et al to really change may be extremely limited.
“Such voters may be prepared to switch back to Labour and create the sort of turnaround in Labour’s fortunes that seemed inconceivable in the immediate aftermath of December’s election.
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“Starmer is articulate and very savvy. He knows the landscape in which he has to work.
“Corbyn was possibly the worst leader that Labour could have chosen, but Starmer is unquestionably the best leader the party had available at present.
Dr McCabe warned: “Four years is a long time in politics and much can change but, assuming that things return to some sort of normality we can expect Starmer to hold Johnson to account using his forensic brain and legal skills that make life uncomfortable.
“2024 is a long way off and, with such a whopping majority, the Tories may believe they don’t have too much to worry about in the short-term.
“The Tories should be aware that the mood of the public is likely to darken in coming weeks and months if the lockdown is not relaxed and economic prospects continue to plummet.
“That there are allegations that the government under Johnson did not heed warnings of COVID-19 sufficiently seriously, and that the NHS was under-prepared, especially as to the availability of PPE, are open wounds into which any opposition leader, sensing the right moment, will rub salt.”
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