Keir Starmer must lean right to win? History suggests otherwise | Michael Jacobs and Andrew Hindmoor

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A cautious approach works for Labour only when the economy is booming – not in times of crisis

Keir Starmer approaches his first electoral test since becoming Labour leader – the local and devolved elections on Thursday – with no shortage of advice on how to restore the party’s fortunes. One view is that Starmer must dissociate himself from Jeremy Corbyn’s policy platform and take the party rightwards, back to the moderate centre ground.

This argument fits with the standard academic account of Labour’s history since the second world war. Labour’s membership always wants to push the party to the left, but elections are won on the centre ground. So the party faces a constant dilemma, doomed to choose between ideology and electability.

Related: An electoral stamp of approval for the Tories risks dishonesty becoming the new normal | Polly Toynbee

Michael Jacobs is professor of political economy and Andrew Hindmoor professor of politics at the University of Sheffield

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