Starmer must not ‘sit back’ if Labour is to win next election, Mandelson says

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Liz Truss will mount a “post-truth” campaign presenting the Conservatives as the party of change at the next election, Peter Mandelson has warned, as he called on Keir Starmer not to “sit back” and assume automatic victory.

While Labour has held a steady lead in the opinion polls for nine months, Starmer was urged by the former cabinet minister to “do a better job” of showing voters how the party has evolved under his leadership to cement its chances of entering government.

Lord Mandelson, who has been involved in Labour campaigns stretching back to 1987, said he expected the next election to be in 2024, and be a battle for change.

“Either we offer it, convincingly, or the British public will turn to others who say that they do,” he wrote in the foreword to a report by a group of media professionals known as Labour in Communications.

“The Tories will try to mount a post-truth campaign – one that pretends that the previous decade of austerity, division and chaos has not happened. This has been a period when successive Conservative prime ministers have offered no sense of mission or plan for Britain. This is our cue. The British people have their eyes on the future and so must we.”

Mandelson said Starmer could not “afford to sit back and let events take their course” in the hope of being swept into Downing Street purely out of resentment of the Conservatives, and called for him to be “restless for change”.

He said ideas presented by the Labour in Communications group offered “unique thinking and a number of solutions” that would help the party show voters “that we have regained the fighting spirit and appetite for change which has defined this party throughout its history”.

Suggestions made by the group, which has more than 3,500 members, included for Labour to build on Starmer’s appearance on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories and “emphasise his humanity”, engage more with “traditionally hostile media outlets”, and leverage “Instagram influencers” and local “hero voters” to attract hard-to-reach sections of the electorate.

The party should also “stay positive” but be unafraid of capitalising on “quick wins from the Tories when possible”; nor should it focus on “green jobs” bringing back manufacturing roles but instead promote the possibility of new ones in digital, finance and innovation, the report added.

After Labour’s party conference, which runs from Saturday until next Wednesday, Starmer was urged to come up with a “north star” for economic recovery and reform to help guide the party as the next election approaches. The report said Truss had captured the public’s imagination for “a pandemic-scale response to rising gas prices” and if she continued along the same path, “then by 2023 Starmer may find himself in trouble”.

“Starmer’s greatest challenge will be dealing with Truss’s attempt to distance herself from Boris and ‘rebrand’ the Conservative party,” it continued.

The Labour leader was urged to “play up the ‘sensible’ and ‘stable’ perception he has long been perceived to have to counter Truss’s gaffe-prone nature” and told that he could benefit from being perceived as “bland” and “boring”, “particularly at a time of national crisis”.

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