Labour's sheer distaste for acts of collective national ambition, like Brexit, means that their former strongholds are rapidly leaving them and their defeatism behind, argues Robert Bates

Keir Starmer's sole brief as Labour leader is to beat the Tories. The nature of his leadership campaign, virtually policy free and stressing the need for a steady hand at the helm, means that he does not have the luxury to advance an ideological agenda in the same way that Corbyn attempted. His victory represents the begrudging recognition by the party's membership that it's time for realpolitik and pragmatism. Mao's little red book has, for now, been popped away back on the Labour Party's bookshelf.

However, the endeavour of scrubbing the stench of stale socialists off the opposition frontbenches does not in itself mean that the new centrist replacement will fare any better come 2024. In fact, in all likelihood we are about to witness one of the most uninspiring oppositions of the last 50 years – unable to satisfy the innate wants of the country at large, and offering little in way of ambition for those key 'red wall' seats.

Voters in such seats are being given the attention of a governing party for the first time in many years. New groups such as 'Blue Collar Conservatives' show that the people in Ashfield and Blyth now have a party actively listening to, rather than hectoring, them. Far more than that, however, is that they're being offered a starring role in the grand national project this administration is promising to undertake.

'Levelling up', 'Global Britain', 'unleashing Britain's potential' are all far more than just cheap soundbites. They're a strong signal of intent to rekindle Britain – to start stoking the fires again. This is a powerful message for a public that have been told for too long they're not good enough. It's a doctrine which rejects the establishment's erroneous diagnosis of the UK as in irreversible decline, and as such connects with the pneuma of the people. It tells people they've a role to play in the British reawakening. Their innovation matters; their community's industry matters; they, themselves, are worth investing in; and that their political judgment is trusted to take us forward into the 'roaring twenties'.

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The Tories, with the Vote Leave gang in charge, are approaching the art of government with the same vigour that a classic car enthusiast renovates a 1930s Morris Minor. They've thrown away the tarpaulin that previous owners were shielding it under, done up the upholstery, cracked open the bonnet and begun rewiring the engine. The problem that Starmer and his new ensemble have is that they're long-standing fans of the tarpaulin approach. Rather than get the engine of the car roaring, the height of their aspiration is to stave off the onset of rust.

The reintroduction of Ed Miliband should say it all. If he wasn't able to get his own side geed up even during the height of Tory austerity then we can't now expect the poor chap to come up with anything popular, or useful, at BEIS. It's just not in his nature. Likewise, Thornberry's agenda as Shadow Trade Secretary is wholly predictable. Her enamoration with all things Europe makes her ill-disposed to even conceive of a 'Global Britain', and we'll likely find her at the dispatch box pushing for customs union membership as soon as Parliament reconvenes.

Jumping across to the Shadow Treasury team, we can see that Keir's been at pains to throw as many ardent Europeans in there as will fit. Dodds, Phillipson, and Lewis will at least be well acquainted with each other from their days together at People's Vote marches, but whether they have the ability to develop a distinct economic policy that can compete with Rishi's is another matter. Afterall, we've seen in recent weeks that he isn't afraid to splash the cash, and it'll require real political deftness to criticise a Chancellor who's currently as popular as he is.

Too many of the faces that will sit around the Shadow Cabinet table are the same ones that have been promulgating negativity since time immemorial. This spectre will not be easily shaken, and short of a mass Damascene conversion the party seems destined to be playing catch up for years ahead.

For that is the crux of Labour's problem – how can they build momentum for an agenda that will be unavoidably less exciting than the Conservatives'? The Opposition's sheer distaste for acts of collective national ambition, like Brexit, means that their former strongholds are rapidly leaving them and their defeatism behind.

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