Anti-Brexit Sir Keir Starmer Labour Favourite to Succeed Corbyn

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The shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer is Labour members’ preferred candidate to replace Jeremy Corbyn as party leader.

Jeremy Corbyn announced that he would be stepping down in the spring after Britons rejected his socialist-progressive policies and handed Labour its worst election defeat since 1935.

Corbyn acolyte Rebecca Long-Bailey has been touted as the next leader of the Labour Party; however, a YouGov poll for the Party Members Project reported by The Guardian puts Starmer in pole position with a clear 11-point lead on Long-Bailey, 31 per cent to 20 per cent respectively. In a run-off between the two top candidates, Starmer would win almost two-thirds of the vote against Long-Bailey, 61 per cent to 29 per cent.

Sir Keir has not formally launched his campaign, but has however polled the best across all social classes and age groups and was more popular (by 14 points) with middle-class voters than Long-Bailey.

The results have struck a blow to the far-left of the party that was hoping for a continuity Corbyn leadership.

The poll was jointly run by Queen Mary University and the University of Sussex, with Queen Mary’s Professor Tim Bale telling The Guardian: “This is not shaping up to be a 2015-style Labour leadership contest. Unless potential candidates drop out before the start of voting, it may take a few rounds to decide the winner this time around.

“But it doesn’t look at the moment as if the winner will come from the left of the party. Right now anyway, Keir Starmer looks to be heading for a fairly emphatic victory.”

Starmer has not faired well with Brexit voters, being only ranked first by 17 per cent of Leavers while being the favourite of double (43 per cent) the number of Remainers.

This is not surprising, given that Sir Keir was a major driving force in pushing Labour into backing a second referendum — after the party had pledged to respect the 2016 vote to Leave in its 2017 election manifesto.

As early as December 2016, Starmer was saying that the party would have to fight against a so-called “hard Brexit” and that the UK must remain a member of the restrictive EU’s Single Market. He also pushed for a Labour policy of the UK to remain part of a customs union — a feature which later appeared in the 2019 manifesto — with reports that he nearly resigned when other senior members of the party planned to scrap the proposal.

The party is struggling to re-define itself after massive losses in the Labour heartland when the Conservatives broke through the Red Wall by winning votes from working-class Leavers who traditionally voted Labour. Given that the party’s two main contenders are Rebecca Long-Bailey, a far-left Corbynista, and Sir Keir Starmer, a Europhile centrist, it would appear that the party will not be winning back those Red-Turned-Blue voters in five years’ time at the next election.

Former deputy director for strategy and communication for the Labour Party Steve Howell made such an assessment, saying: “Much as I respect Keir and think he has a big role to play, electing as leader the man who drove Labour ‘quickly through the gears’ to support a second referendum would be like a parody of how out of touch we are with the voters we need to win back.”

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