Keir Starmer is right to point to the fact that the Democrats’ path to victory was paved by a broad coalition, arguing that there are lessons to be learned from Joe Biden’s campaign, which focused on “family, community and security” (Biden will put the US back on the world stage, and Britain must stand with him, 8 November). Starmer made similar points in his first conference speech in September, as he urged voters who have deserted Labour to “take another look”.
So far, he has made progress in the polls, sidestepped Tory traps to engage in fruitless culture wars and seems genuine in his attempts to bridge the divide between London, the big cities and the so-called red wall constituencies. Yet, as Thomas Frank argues, the causes of Trumpism – and, by extension, Brexit and Boris Johnson’s Tory landslide – can be traced back to the Democrats’ and New Labour’s pro-market policies and their inability to address inequality (Ding-dong, the jerk is gone. But read this before you sing the Hallelujah Chorus, 7 November). Donald Trump actually increased his vote on 3 November, and former Labour voters’ newfound allegiance to Johnson may be more difficult to turn around if the cultural divide between socially conservative and socially liberal voters endures. Like the Democrats, Labour needs a frank conversation with itself and nearly half of the electorate who feel so alienated from what the left stands for. Only a well thought through political strategy can address this challenge.
• Many of the observations made by Thomas Frank about the need for Joe Biden and the Democrats to “acknowledge how their own decisions over the years helped make Trumpism possible” are clearly applicable to Labour. Centrist policies that ignored “the grievances of blue-collar workers” cost Labour the 2010 election just as they lost the 2016 election for Hillary Clinton.
Both Biden and Keir Starmer were forced to include more leftwing ideas into their respective manifestos in their attempts to be seen to be unifying forces in their parties, and it is vital that they do their utmost to rubbish Republican and Conservative preposterous claims to be workers’ parties. If there is to be a new era of politics, it is essential that Starmer, like Biden, confronts his party’s recent history and learns from it.
• Democrats are being told to “reach out” to Donald Trump voters, while Keir Starmer wants Labour voters to reach out to people who did not vote Labour. In both cases, we see the familiar expectation that progressives should always compromise with people who show no willingness to compromise. The Overton window will keep shifting to the right, unless we decide to stand by our own principles.
Republicans, Tories and indeed Brexiters all knew what they were voting for and, judging by the numbers who still support Trump or Johnson’s Brexiter government, are largely happy with their choices.
So instead of reaching out to the unreachable, Starmer should reach out to the majority who did not vote Tory, including disillusioned non-voters, and seek to build a progressive alliance against Tory authoritarianism and free-market fundamentalism. He could start by endorsing electoral reform, ending Labour’s craven habit of abstaining on populist issues, and welcoming ideas coming from the SNP or Plaid Cymru. This would create some common ground for a more ambitious multi-party programme of reform that might actually offer people who share many of his values something to vote for.