‘Sensible, electable’: Young Labour supporters on what they actually think of Keir Starmer

‘I just really want a Labour government’

Jeremy Corbyn was very popular amongst Young Labour members, and attracted significant numbers of young people to the party. Keir Starmer replaced Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Labour Party in 2020, but so far Starmer doesn’t seem to be having quite the same effect. A survey last year found that 56 percent of 18-24 year old Labour voters preferred Corbyn over Starmer.

With the Tory leadership race between Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak in full swing, and a new poll suggesting people prefer Keir Starmer over both Tory candidates, The Tab spoke to some Young Labour members to see what they think of the Labour leader. Some are big fans of him whilst others are more critical. They may not all be exactly passionate abut Starmer, but they all agree he is better than the alternative:

‘I’m a big fan of Keir Starmer’

Young Labour member Jimmy, who will be Socialist Societies Rep on the Young Labour National Committee from September

Jimmy Sergi, an 18-year-old Labour activist from Merseyside, says he is “a big fan” of Starmer and is confident that the Labour leader has “stood up for young people.”

According to Jimmy, Starmer is “talking about the issues that are impacting us, like the cost of living crisis and the fact that so many young people have to leave the area they’re from to pursue the career they want.”

Jimmy has also been impressed by the “moves he has taken to stamp out antisemitism” he says, which he feels have made the party “a much safer place to be.”

He said: “I also think  he has taken crucial steps to making a Labour government a real possibility, by focusing on the electorate and making it clear that Labour is a patriotic party that is on the side of ordinary people.”

Starmer is ‘doing far better than Corbyn’

Gideon, a recent King’s College London grad who studied International Development, says Starmer is doing “a fantastic job” and is doing far better in the opinion polls than Corbyn.

“Without the 1997-2010 Labour government introducing higher social security and new buildings for schools and sixth forms, I doubt I would have been able to go to university”, he says.

Gideon has grown up under the Tories, and believes “having a Labour government is key.”

He says: “With the cost of living rising and millions across the globe hurt by the government’s cut to overseas aid, people can’t afford Labour to look inwards and obsess over factional issues again as they need Labour in power.”

Gideon believes Starmer “has the right vision for the country – from world-beating climate investments to putting cash into the NHS.”

Those who ‘seek Starmer’s removal are actively working against the party’

Jake, 20

Jake Swinburne, a 20-year-old student from Hartlepool, says Starmer’s vision is “exactly the direction in which we should be headed.”

He believes the leader is bringing Labour back to a “sensible, electable, centre ground where we can actually get into power and start helping people.”

Jake says: “Forces on the hard left of the Labour Party who seek Starmer’s removal are actively working against the party and their efforts are irresponsible and reckless.”

He feels that we can’t let “ideological purity” get in the way of core issues such as children growing up in poverty.

‘He’s done a lot to turn the party around’

Joel, a 20-year-old medical student, says Starmer has “done a lot to turn the party around in such a short time.”

“He’s no-nonsense and practical” and the “complete opposite of the government right now.”

Joel has been impressed by his ability “rebuild trust” in communities near him such as Barnet.

“I know he’ll stand up for public sector pay rises and health investment on the negotiating table so doctors aren’t forced into strike action. That’s what is playing on my mind at the moment, sorting out the scariest things that young people face without alienating people.”

‘I just really want a Labour government’

Luca, 23

23-year old Luca is a member of the Labour party and says that although Starmer has their full support, that “doesn’t mean there isn’t valid criticism surrounding him.”

Having grown up under the Conservatives, Luca says: “I just really want a Labour government.”

Luca says they believe: “Starmer understands that you probably need to piss off a few younger, more radical members of the party in order to be the big tent that’s going to win back votes across the country.”

Although Luca says some of Starmer’s decisions have “annoyed” them, they have “nowhere else to go electorally” whereas they say older voters may be more open to switching over to the Conservatives. 

According to Luca, they think Starmer is “banking on the fact that people recognise a Labour government that you disagree with is better than a Conservative government that stands against everything you believe in!”

‘I haven’t seen a coherent thread of what he stands for’

Sarina, 24

Sarina Kiayani, 24, from Watford says that although she doesn’t regret campaigning and voting for him back in 2020, she has yet to see “a coherent thread of what he stands for.”

“He seems like more of a pragmatist trying to play all sides, which I think was needed after Corbyn’s hardcore ideological approach that alienated many voters and party members.”

She said: “I respect the need to be moderate to garner as much support as possible, however this can be incredibly jeopardising at times – the biggest example of which being Labour’s attitude towards rail strike action.

“Labour has always been the party of workers and has historic ties with the unions. It was a shame to see Mick Lynch acting as the figurehead that Keir should have been, with his strong personality and views outshining Keir’s inertia.”

Ultimately, Sarina says she doesn’t think he should be replaced as leader, as the Labour party needs to stay stable  “compared to the chaos of the Tories at the moment”. She feels that Starmer has “not been doing badly in holding Boris to account.”

‘His leadership has made serious progress on LGBTQ+ issues’

18-year-old Myron, originally from Tottenham but now living in the Chingford Woodford Green constituency, joined Labour back in 2020. 

He said: “I think Starmer’s leadership has made some serious progress towards Trans and LGBT+ issues. We’re seeing attitudes across the Front Bench change. But there’s still work to be done.”

Myron is currently running for LGBT+ Rep for Young Labour. He thinks Starmer “can be pushed in government much more than any other potential leader and certainly more than a Tory PM because Starmer stands for a Labour that’s not just in government but one that’s dynamic.”

Myron also says the concerns of young people often “bleed into” broader issues that Starmer is focusing on – such as climate spending and economic growth. “I think Keir’s more holistic policies do stand up for young people even if they aren’t specifically tailored to them.”

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