A year of Keir: has the Covid pandemic sidelined Labour’s leader?

When, a year ago today, Sir Keir Starmer took over the Labour party leadership, it went almost unnoticed in a country suddenly locked down and terrified about the prospect of an out-of-control pandemic. He had campaigned with a message of unity in a bitterly divided party still coming to terms with its worst election defeat in a generation.

The Guardian’s political editor, Heather Stewart, tells Anushka Asthana that it has been an up-and-down year for the new leader. He found his poll ratings soaring as the government’s failure to control the outbreak or protect its health workers with enough PPE became apparent. His strategy of offering broad support with targeted criticisms won him praise, as did his performances in the Commons where several times he got the better of Boris Johnson at PMQs.

But those poll ratings did not last. A world-leading vaccine rollout this year has seen confidence in the government rocket – and, as Starmer battled for airtime, many on the Labour benches have begun wondering if he really is the man to lead them out of more than a decade in the political wilderness.

Photograph: Reuters

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