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Don’t despair. History shows Labour even cash-strapped governments can be radical | Andrew Rawnsley

Sir Keir’s team will inherit a poisoned chalice from the Tories, but progress needn’t depend on the state opening its wallet

Talking about the prospect of a Labour government, some people sound like they are preparing the obituary before they have witnessed the birth. Sir Keir Starmer has yet to set foot in Downing Street and the air is thick with doomsters on the right and gloomsters from the left who have already decided that a Labour government will be an awful let down. The baleful chorus wails that, even were Sir Keir to win by the stonking margin suggested by recent opinion polls, he will struggle to get much done. Before Team Starmer have got their hands on a single red box, the most miserabilist voices declare that failure is inevitable.

Depressive thoughts about what a Labour government will be able to achieve is partly of the leadership’s own making. Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, never passes up an opportunity to look on the cloudy side of the street by emphasising the direness of the inheritance that will be bequeathed by the Conservatives. Sir Keir spends less time trying to enthuse voters with the possibilities of change than he does warning them of how terribly difficult everything is going to be. Rather than promise the sunny uplands, he cautions that there is a “hard road ahead”, making a government led by him sound like an invitation to participate in a gruelling hill marathon.

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