John Harris

Journalist & Author

Labour is stuck in the last century. Its adversaries have seized the future | John Harris

The party needs its own national story. That will require a shift in consciousness that is 40 years overdue

The chances of the Labour leadership contest flaring into any kind of life currently seem remote, especially when it comes to meaningful debate about the party’s crisis. There are occasional flashes of candour, such as Lisa Nandy’s insistence that “if we do not change course, we will die, and we will deserve to”. But the contest’s default position is embodied by its two frontrunners. Keir Starmer and Rebecca Long-Bailey have so far displayed one common trait: trying to convey a sense of purpose while saying nothing much at all.

To any outsider, the scale of the party’s predicament is surely clear. Yes, its estrangement from its old heartlands goes back decades, but Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership deepened and accelerated it. Just look at that list of places Labour no longer represents, from all three seats in Stoke-on-Trent, through an array of former mining areas, to places such as Redcar, Scunthorpe and Grimsby. In Scotland, the party is all but extinct.

Related: ‘If Labour doesn’t talk to the voters it lost, I fear for the future’

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