Take back control? Keir Starmer panned for adopting Brexit slogan
Labour leader Keir Starmer is going to take back control of Britain – or so he tells us. In a major speech, the former lawyer said he would introduce a new bill to empower communities. He seemed to be talking about a form of devolution, or giving power to those outside Westminster.
However, his phrasing already seems to have turned people off:
The control people want is control of their lives and their communities.
So we will embrace the take back control message – but we will turn it from a slogan into a solution, from a catchphrase into change.
The Labour leader emphasised his commitment to the term on Twitter:
My Labour government will introduce a Take Back Control Bill.
We will harness the potential that grows, not out of Westminster, but out of our communities.
We will devolve power across the UK, giving people control over their own future.
A new approach to politics.
— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) January 5, 2023
As a slogan, ‘Take Back Control’ is heavily associated with the campaign to leave the EU. This seems at odds with Starmer’s image and historical support for Remain. Twitter was quick to point out that there were some serious negative connotations.
Migration scholar Tanja Bueltmann warned that it was heavily associated with toxic populism:
‘Take back control’ is one of the most toxic lines UK politics has ever seen. It was born out of the worst kind of populism which delivered the awful state the UK is now in. For EU citizens / immigrants the phrase is associated with hate against us. I’m genuinely lost for words. https://t.co/VTeC2JObNi
— Prof Tanja Bueltmann (@TanjaBueltmann) January 5, 2023
‘Take back control’, as journalist Samir Jeraj tweeted, was a slogan associated with anything but progressive change:
I'm sure they've tested this with focus groups etc, but for me "take back control" is heavily associated with the power to block progressive change https://t.co/i0bq0SN7We
— Samir Jeraj 🇰🇪 🇮🇪 (@sajeraj) January 5, 2023
While the Leave campaign had cross-party support, its association with the Tories is unmistakeable:
So Keith will "Make Brexit Work" and "Take Back Control"
Where have I heard that before? #StarmerOut pic.twitter.com/j39Jva8keY
— Steve W (@BolsheBarnacle) January 5, 2023
One person said it showed that the Tories and Labour were basically the same:
Blairite Labour wants to "take back control" and "make Brexit work" for exactly the same reasons as the Conservatives. Power for them without scrutiny or accountability….The UK needs urgent electoral reform, at the moment it's a get rich quick scheme for Tory & Labour MPs. https://t.co/mVx9R7H9gZ
— Kerry Burgess (@KerryBurgess) January 5, 2023
Journalist and satirist David Osland suggested that if we’re going to take back control, we could start with public services – something which Starmer has shown little enthusiasm for:
Take Back Control. Starting with water, energy, rail and postal services.
— David__Osland (@David__Osland) January 5, 2023
Catt Hobbs, director of campaign group We Own It, had a similar message:
Keir Starmer promises a 'Take Back Control' bill
That should mean bringing OUR public services into public ownership 👇👇👇 pic.twitter.com/GrSSQHfrFp
— Cat Hobbs (@CatHobbs) January 5, 2023
Meanwhile, broadcaster Krishnan Guru-Murthy said adopting the slogan left the question of Scottish independence unresolved:
Labour makes a grab for "take back control" – but doesn't answer how Scotland could take back control if it wanted to. (If it is a voluntary union how does Scotland leave while Westminster refuses a referendum? ) https://t.co/ThqXoEijQU
— Krishnan Guru-Murthy (@krishgm) January 5, 2023
Keir Starmer has never been a particularly inspiring figure. However, by adopting a Tory slogan he has shown himself to be a man with very little new to offer.
Perhaps the rationale is that wielding an old slogan will appeal to wavering Tories – but it remains to be seen if his strange mix of progressive ideas and Union Jack nationalism is likely to pay off at the polls.
Featured image via the Telegraph – YouTube
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