Keir Starmer can learn much from Joe Biden’s first weeks

Letters

Judith A Daniels urges the Labour leader to take a leaf out of the US president’s book, while Prof Roger Brown says the real lesson from the US is the way in which the existing political system handicaps parties of the centre-left. Plus letters from Carolyn Kirton and John Marriott

Keir Starmer
Judith A Daniels believes that Keir Starmer ‘has real capabilities of forging the party into a fighting and vigorous entity’. Photograph: Getty
Judith A Daniels believes that Keir Starmer ‘has real capabilities of forging the party into a fighting and vigorous entity’. Photograph: Getty

Last modified on Sun 14 Feb 2021 12.19 EST

I read Andy Beckett’s column (Think bigger: that’s the message for Starmer from Biden’s bold beginning, 11 February) with interest and a certain amount of agreement. Joe Biden has hit the White House floor running with his overturning of Donald Trump’s divisive issues and, indeed, confounding some of his critics. I feel, too, that Keir Starmer needs to take a leaf out of his presidential book, because it is not just enough to be “the grown up” in the chamber at prime minister’s questions. He needs to be radical and persuasive. I used to relish his forensic questioning but now find it slightly stale and predictable.

He has real capabilities of forging the party into a fighting and vigorous entity, and not one to appeal to just one demographic. Biden is proving to be quite radical and forward thinking. Starmer needs behave in a similar manner before the public simply forgets all the government’s mistakes with the pandemic and just centres on the great success of the vaccine rollout. So please, Sir Keir, harness your inner passions and go for it, without weighing up all the pros and cons first.
Judith A Daniels
Great Yarmouth, Norfolk

• Andy Beckett is right to encourage the new Labour leadership to “think bigger”. But the real lesson from the US is the way in which the existing political system handicaps parties of the centre-left.

So Labour needs to work with other progressive parties to show how the necessary supply of public goods – health, housing, education, social care, social security, infrastructure – cannot be obtained without changes to the political system: ensuring that everyone who is entitled to vote can actually do so; introducing some form of proportional representation so that no one is deprived of a vote by where they live; placing limits on private political funding; and introducing much tighter control over the veracity of political claims and statements.

This is the “bigger picture” that Labour needs to draw if there is to be any hope of another genuinely progressive government.
Prof Roger Brown
Southampton

• If we can learn anything from Joe Biden’s success, it is that a principled, centre-left man of integrity could be exactly what the population of the UK so badly needs. What we do not need is a populist masquerading as a committed politician, but who cannot unite the Labour party, let alone the country. Jeremy Corbyn was more inclined to alienate the core of the centre-left.

Beckett rightly pairs Trump with Boris Johnson but, weirdly, chooses to call them charismatic! It may well be that Keir Starmer, whose integrity, intelligence and competence are indeed what Labour needs, will readily follow Biden’s values of “family, community and security”. What, after all, is the alternative? Boris Johnson? A man who has publicly praised Donald Trump and whose values would appear to fall short of those espoused by Biden and Starmer.
Carolyn Kirton
Aberdeen

• I have to disagree with Andy Beckett when he credits the “surge” in leftwing politics in the US with Donald Trump’s defeat. While acknowledging the professional and pragmatic approach taken by the Democrats in their campaign both for the White House and Congress, it was clearly the damage wrought by Covid to the US economy, as well as the ensuing loss of life and its exposure of the inadequacies and downright incompetence of Trump and his ragbag administration, that gave Joe Biden and his party the ultimate victory.
John Marriott
Lincoln