Keir Starmer analysis: It will take much more than a good interview for Starmer to seriously challenge the Tories for power

The Labour leader’s turn on Life Stories showed him in a largely positive light, but Labour still has a mountain to climb

Keir Starmer analysis: It will take much more than a good interview for Starmer to seriously challenge the Tories for power (Photo: ITV)

In a list of the most hard-hitting interviews in British political history, Labour leader Keir Starmer’s cosy chat with Piers Morgan on Life Stories last night certainly wouldn’t feature.

It was definitely no Paxo-on-Howard, although we did get a grand total of 14 refusals to be drawn on the classic drugs question - twice more than the then-Tory leader refused to say whether he’d threatened to overrule the Prison Service.

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There were tears, there were laughs and there were, perhaps most surprisingly, moments where a senior UK politician seemed to demonstrate genuine warmth, humanity and maybe even a passable sense of humour.

While Morgan was clearly on his very best behaviour - on his first big TV outing since Meghan-gate - Starmer seemed as relaxed as the British public has seen him yet.

Most notably during the sections where Starmer discussed his early-life, his parents, and, in particular, the loss of his mother to Still’s Disease, he conveyed a part of his political origin story which has so far been absent from his pitch to voters, and which may prove fairly effective.

From Starmer’s perspective, the greatest success of the interview was that those watching it inevitably started to wonder whether they could quite imagine Boris Johnson in the same position coming across quite as well. Most will have concluded, ‘no’.

But it will take more than a passable interview performance for Labour under Starmer to seriously challenge the Tories for power at the next election - if he even lasts that long.

The set-piece interview aired just less than a month after voters in Hartlepool rejected Labour at the ballot box for the first time in decades, and exactly a month before voters in Batley and Spen may well do the same thing.

Perhaps the only thing which unites the two disparate halves of Labourland, one which believes the party’s woes begin and end with Jeremy Corbyn and the other which thinks the same of Starmer, is that they’re both wrong.

Short term factors like the UK’s successful vaccination programme and the as-yet seemingly on course unlocking on 21 June will be among the big problems for Starmer on 1 July, before voters even start to think about policies - of which Starmer’s Labour still feels relatively short.

And in the long-term, as Labour scans the distant horizon for an electoral path back to Downing Street, the party’s collapse north of the border and its decline in parts of Northern England are only the largest and most clearly pronounced problems, with unfavourable demographic shifts and a looming boundary review to boot. The road ahead looks bumpy, to say the least.

Surveying that same terrain, Johnson might have heard Starmer tell him to “move over, we’re coming” at the end of last night’s interview and concluded that there’s not much danger of that anytime soon.

Asked what three words would sum up a “Keir Starmer Britain” the Labour leader offered, “pride, dignity and change”.

And Starmer can certainly be proud of the dignified performance he gave on last night’s Life Stories, but will it change anything? That remains to be seen.