Politics

'Great pity' major parties are ignoring poverty in election, says Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart

Labour is missing an opportunity to win over voters with a strong moral mission on poverty, says former Tory minister Rory Stewart

Rory Stewart and Alastair Campbell

Stewart and Campbell host one of the country's most popular podcasts. Image: The Rest is Politics/X

Former Tory minister Rory Stewart and former Tony Blair spin doctor Alastair Campbell agree that poverty is not getting the prominence it deserves during the election campaign.

Now hosts of The Rest is Politics, one of the country’s most popular podcasts, the pair said the Labour Party is missing an opportunity to act decisively on poverty.

Stewart admitted he thought it was a “great pity” poverty has been largely absent from the campaign.

Their thoughts were in response to a question from Big Issue founder Lord John Bird, who asked that, given 50% of people who have cardiac illnesses suffer from food poverty, according to the British Medical Association (BMA): “Do you think Keir Starmer will make his dismantling of poverty central to his administration?”

Confessed regular Big Issue reader Campbell said he hoped Starmer would, but added: “I don’t think that poverty is as central to the debate at the moment as it should be.”

“You know, if you go back to the manifesto launch, and you and I both read the manifesto in full, you would definitely know that Labour wants to tackle poverty, but I don’t think you could say that it was central to the way that they were projecting the manifesto.”

Stewart, who has said he would serve in Keir Starmer’s government if asked, said: “I think Labour’s missing a huge opportunity to be a party that represents better values, hope, and that they could do it in a way that didn’t damage them in the election, might even help them.”

Earlier this week, Stewart also said he worried about Labour becoming an “austerity-lite government – socially liberal and fiscally conservative – when the world is going in a very different direction”.

He added that appealing to former Conservative voters, disgusted at extreme poverty and homelessness in Britain, as well as the treatment of prisoners, could be a winning strategy.

“An incoming Labour administration should be able to put that at the centre of its moral mission and project. It wouldn’t cost that much money,” he said.

Voters living in poverty are less likely to turn up to the ballot box – but studies show they are also more open to switching sides. Speaking to the Big Issue at the beginning of the campaign, experts said this represented an opportunity for politicians willing to address the issue.

Echoing this point, Campbell said: “If people feel they’re not central to the election debate that they hear and follow and bearing in mind, as we said yesterday, that lots of people are just ducking out of the debate completely, then it makes them less likely to go out and vote.”

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