Starmer Thrives at PMQs But Does it Matter?

This article first appeared at on 23rd April 2020

The Prime Ministers Questions debut of any new Labour or Conservative leader is always a set-piece moment in British politics. Jeremy Corbyn asking David Cameron questions sent in from the public, or Cameron telling Tony Blair “He was the future once” are part of Westminster folklore.

Starmer debut earns rave reviews

Keir Starmer’s first performance was set against a completely different backdrop. A largely empty, socially distanced House of Commons, listening respectfully to the debate. No jeering. No braying. Nevertheless so far as the commentariat were concerned, the new Labour leader made a big impact.

No doubt, the media environment has changed and not just because the country is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. None of these commentators ever hid their disdain for Jeremy Corbyn and Wednesday afternoons on Twitter after 2015 became a haven for sneering and mockery. Serious, less partisan, political analysis may be back.

Labour’s next election odds are crashing

Will this change public opinion? Should punters be taking much notice? The markets are certainly moving in Labour’s direction under Starmer.

Her Majesty’s Opposition have now hit their shortest odds to win Most Seats at the Next General Election of this parliament at [2.26]. In a more startling move, they’re into [2.92] to win an Overall Majority.

Before getting into the specifics of Starmer, PMQs and parliament in general, it is important to remember the scale of the task. Whenever that election takes place (I see no reason to doubt it will be 2024, a [1.56] chance) – Labour will start 163 seats behind the Conservatives.

That sort of turnaround is tough but achievable. Cameron overturned a 157 deficit in 2010, beating Gordon Brown’s Labour by 48. Tony Blair turned a 65 deficit into a 253 lead in 1997. Politics changes fast.

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