Even if he enjoys a 1997-like victory, Starmer’s Britain is a dramatically different place to Blair’s Britain

Opinion polls suggest Keir Starmer will be the UK’s next Prime Minister, with expectations of a sizable majority. Parallels are naturally being drawn between likely life after a 2024 Starmer victory and life after the last time Labour seized power from the Tories – Tony Blair’s 1997 landslide.

Yet, we argue parallels are likely to be few and far between. 2024 Britain is a fundamentally different place to 1997 Britain – as shown in Public First’s new 97v24 dashboard (below). Looking at key economic and social markers – and comparing our new 2024 polling with similar historic polls from the British Social Attitudes survey and Mori (as was) – we see political challenges and public expectations differ wildly.

The economic outlook, and recent economic history, is far weaker. The public finances are in dire straits – following both a global financial crisis and the coronavirus pandemic – meaning Starmer’s hands as PM will be much more tied than Blair’s. And, socially, the main issues of the day differ.

Furthermore, voters are less likely to see Starmer’s Labour Party as ready to form a government than Blair’s Labour Party, and fewer still identify Starmer himself as ready to be Prime Minister (although we find this is beginning to change). Voters are less positive about the country’s economic prospects today than they were in 1997, and are more likely to oppose any tax-raising measures Labour might consider to boost spending on public services or to allow for more investment in the economy. All that said, the Conservative Party’s position feels as dire now as it was in 1997, and Labour’s relatively less strong position compared to 97 could prove an irrelevance in the end.

Across the board, voters are less confident in our current generation of political leaders. When we compare senior frontbench politicians – from the Labour Party and the Conservative Party – they are less likely to be seen as real assets to their party than their 1997 equivalents. The path to victory for Starmer will therefore be paved with indifference, rather than the far greater enthusiasm that Blair enjoyed (although, again, contempt for the Conservatives is yet again a major theme).