Keir Starmer and His Factional Allegiances Within the Labour Party

As leader of the Labour Party since 2020, Keir Starmer has sought to unite the party’s disparate factions after years of infighting under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. But while Starmer has brought more cohesion to Labour, he is still closely aligned with certain internal groupings.

Ideologically, Starmer is positioned on the center-left of the party. He advocates for a social democratic platform supporting public services, workers’ rights, and social justice, but without the overt socialist rhetoric of the Corbyn era. This has led him to be associated with the “Soft Left” faction of more moderate social democrats.

During the Blair and Brown years, the Soft Left acted as junior coalition partners to the centrist “New Labour” faction that dominated the party. They accepted the market economy but pushed for higher taxes and spending. Under Ed Miliband’s leadership, the Soft Left briefly gained more influence, which Starmer was part of as Shadow Immigration Minister.

Starmer is also closely affiliated with the trade union movement and the “Blue Labour” tendency. As a former human rights lawyer, he emphasizes the defense of workers’ rights and trade union causes. Blue Labour adherents additionally argue that Labour must appeal to socially conservative working-class voters on issues like immigration and national identity.

On economic policy, Starmer has embraced much of the Corbyn-era shift leftwards in supporting increased public ownership in areas like rail, mail, energy, and water. But he pointedly avoids terms like “socialism” or “radical”, instead using “progressive” as his tagline. His approach has been described as ” Corbynism with a human face.”

Starmer still faces challenges uniting Labour’s left and right flanks. The Socialist Campaign Group of around 30 hard left MPs remain highly suspicious of Starmer’s intentions, seeing him as a Blairite-style centrist intent on purging the left. But he has built bridges through appointments of leftists like Angela Rayner as Deputy Leader.

On the right, many “Blairite” MPs worry that Starmer’s embrace of left-wing policies means insufficient commitment to winning back centrist voters. But Starmer has reassured centrists through his focus on patriotism, law and order, and ditching unpopular Corbyn-era stances. His chief advisers come from Labour’s pro-business wing.

Within the trade union movement, Starmer maintains strong support from major unions like Unite and the GMB. But his unwillingness to back illegal strikes has led to tensions with other unions like the RMT. Cracks have also emerged over his refusal to support raising taxes on the wealthy.

Regionally, Starmer remains strongest with the party’s London base and in university towns, while rebuilding support in Labour’s traditional northern English and midlands heartlands. His stance on Brexit has hurt Labour support in pro-Leave areas. But his visibility campaigning across the country has improved perceptions.

On foreign policy, Starmer straddles the divide between Labour’s pacifist left faction and its centrist interventionists. He supported the Iraq War and airstrikes on Syria but admits the Iraq invasion was wrong. He now emphasizes “ethical” foreign policies guided by human rights and multilateralism.

In summary, Keir Starmer sits ideologically in Labour’s soft left tradition but balances the various factions pragmatically to maintain party unity. His skill will be judged on keeping his heterogeneous electoral coalition together while staying flexible enough to win back voters from the Conservatives next election.