Democracy, Winston Churchill famously said, was the worst form of government; except, that is, for all the others.

Indeed, our way of doing politics has a strange kind of beauty to it, which, over time, has seemed to work, although the devolved settlement is now challenging it in new ways, most notably in Scotland.

Fresh-faced UK governments, promising change, start off brimming with ideas, enthusiasm and energy. Good judgment and circumstance can mean that they survive for many years but, usually, the longer the same party stays in power, the harder things get.

Events happen and problems multiply, which, like chained balls, progressively weigh the incumbents down. Familiarity begins to breed contempt with disgruntled voters while political enemies increase, particularly on the governing party’s benches and especially among those colleagues sacked or overlooked. Divisions deepen and voters realise the once all-conquering heroes have become tired, out-dated failures and so turf them out.

The other side of the equation involves an Opposition, heavily defeated and lost for direction.

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It can be in the political wilderness for years, changing leaders as it struggles to find a core message that resonates with voters.

Riven by factions, the would-be government can’t seem to understand what the public wants and lurches from defeat to defeat. Then, after yet another humiliating loss, it peers nervously over the abyss and, seeing what oblivion looks like, sharply steps back and begins the slow and painful process of reinvention.

It admits its failures, begins to listen again to the public. Hungry for ideas, it talks to focus groups, calls in all manner of experts, think-tanks and voluntary organisations. Gradually, the Dr Who-like transmogrification occurs.

A new party with a fresh outlook emerges. Brimming with ideas, enthusiasm and energy, it puts itself forward and the public like what they see. The cycle of democracy repeats itself over again.

It is often in defeat that the seeds of victory are sown and, indeed, vice versa.

In February 2003, less than two years after Tony Blair’s second landslide victory, an embattled Iain Duncan Smith appealed to his divided party to “unite or die”. He urged the Tories to change or face annihilation. They did change; they changed him.

His successor, Michael Howard, failed to make a breakthrough in the 2005 election but saw Mr Blair’s majority fall sharply, by 100 to 66, and the Tories, three-time losers, reached out for change and found the fresh-faced, relatively unknown liberal Conservative David Cameron.

Meanwhile in Downing Street, an impatient Gordon Brown finally prised out Mr Blair, got the job he felt he should have had in 1997 but lost the election in 2010.

As Mr Cameron and countless party leaders have found reinvention is a tortuous but essential process of democratic politics; it is now what Sir Keir and his colleagues have to undertake if they are to stand any chance of taking power at Westminster in 2023/4 and prevent a fifth Conservative government.

Following last week’s Super Thursday elections, when Labour made some gains, most notably in the English mayoral contests, but more prominently lost the Hartlepool by-election and hundreds of council seats to the Tories, the party leader compounded the overall poor performance by first “scapegoating” Angela Rayner and then over-compensating for his failure to sack his deputy by showering her with an abundance of new positions from shadow first secretary of state, and shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to shadow secretary of state for the future of work. It looked like what it was: Sir Keir acting out of weakness.

The episode enabled the normally beleaguered Boris Johnson to make hay at the Labour knight’s expense.

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Noting how the most dangerous beast in the pack was the lioness not the lion, he told Sir Keir: “The more titles he feeds her, the hungrier I fear she is likely to become.”

Following what she euphemistically labelled “robust conversations” with the party leader, Ms Rayner, a Manchester MP tasked with rekindling Labour’s relationship with northern England, admitted voters said “they didn’t know what Keir Starmer stood for, so that’s what our challenge is”. Quite an admission. Quite an indictment.

Helpfully, on cue, the Corbynite old guard appeared and trashed the party leader for abandoning their approach, which 17 months ago led to Labour’s worst defeat since 1935.

John McDonnell, the former shadow chancellor, said Labour faced a struggle for its “soul and future”, and, clearly fearing a move towards the centre, urged supporters to join a campaign to ensure it remained a “socialist party”, that would win the next election on a socialist manifesto.

Time is not on Labour’s side, however. It does not have the luxury of spending months indulging in division and recrimination. It cannot afford to engage in old Left-Right battles of the past that crippled the party during the 1980s.

Mr Blair, who unlike Jeremy Corbyn led Labour to not one but three consecutive General Election victories, said what Labour now needed was “total deconstruction and reconstruction; nothing less will do”.

Interestingly, he noted: “At present, Labour expresses perfectly the progressive dilemma: Corbyn was radical but not sensible; Keir seems sensible but not radical. He lacks a compelling economic message.”

Boris’s “jabs and jobs” mantra is clearly breaking through with voters south of the Border, most notably in those areas where traditional loyalties to Labour, as in Scotland, have become frayed or broken.

Labour needs to find a compelling mission statement based on optimism, community and jobs; the only problem is, this is the tune the Tories are singing. Labour’s has to sound sweeter.

As Britain emerges from the blight of the pandemic and seeks to chart its post-Brexit future, it will need a strong opposition at Westminster, a forceful alternative to hold the incumbent government in Whitehall to account.

It’s time for Labour to step up and reinvent itself for the health of our democracy.

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