Winning the leadership could be the easy part for Keir Starmer

Anyone  running for leadership  knows the only audience that matters is the party membership.

Some candidates unapologetically pander to this electorate, others are prepared to challenge them gently. 

Few have won by confronting them.

The risk is the campaign binds you to commitments rashly made in the desperate scramble for votes.

A shameless David Cameron eased his way to victory over David Davis by  promising to take Tory MEPs out of the centre-right EPP group in the European Parliament.

He discovered the hard way that appeasing Conservative eurosceptics was a futile task.

Boris Johnson made numerous promises when running against Jeremy Hunt which he may or may not have any intention of keeping.

Opposition parties, well, at least functioning ones, audit their opponents’ leadership races to stockpile ammunition to be deployed against whoever wins.

The art is balancing the need to be seen as the  face of the future without completely disowning the past.

Keir Starmer has secured his position as frontrunner in the Labour leadership contest by  refusing to disassociate himself from Jeremy Corbyn’s policies  while subtly disassociating himself from their architect.

Starmer’s camp are now discussing how,  if as expected, he does win, he moves from speaking to the Labour faithful to speaking to the country.

There is an ongoing debate over whether he tries to shift the party gradually away from the Corbyn years or goes for an immediate rupture.

The advantage of a clean break is it allows Starmer to define himself before he is defined by the Conservatives.

He can show that his leadership marks a new chapter that draws a line under the previous regime.

Tony Blair used to relish being attacked by people on the Labour left such as Eric Heffer and Tony Benn as it allowed him to demonstrate to voters he was not associated with what was then described as ‘old Labour’.

Starmer  may be reluctant to go down this route given his campaign pitch is he is the candidate best placed to unite the party.

He will also be wary of being dragged into a prolonged war of attrition with Corbyn’s supporters who still remain a considerable force.

A more palatable path will be to use the weight of the leadership to win back control of the NEC, promote allies in the shadow Cabinet and limit the media exposure of leading Corbynites.

The preference at the moment is understood to be for evolution rather than revolution.

But will voters recognise that Labour has changed?

Today's agenda:

11am – France’s Europe minster speech at Chatham House in London.

The House of Commons is not sitting.

What I am reading:

Tom McTague on the enduring influence of America on British politics

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