The U.K. Labour Party’s Worst Enemy Might Be Itself

These days, the only thing that can stop the Labour Party, it seems, is the Labour Party.

For more than a year, the leader of Britain’s main opposition party, Keir Starmer, has sat on a double-digit lead in the polls over the Conservative Party. But a pair of embarrassing suspensions of Labour parliamentary candidates for their comments about Israel, a week after a messy reversal on climate policy, have thrown Mr. Starmer on the defensive, raising questions about his management skills and taking the spotlight off the long-suffering Conservatives.

“Keir has had a really good, long run but he’s not Man City,” said John McTernan, a political strategist, referring to the Manchester soccer club that is a perennial champion of Britain’s Premier League. “The question is, can he come back next week fighting?”

Labour still holds a double-digit lead over the Conservatives in polls. It could swiftly regain its stride with victories in two parliamentary by-elections on Thursday, both of which it is expected to win. And the Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has committed his share of missteps.

But Labour’s setbacks are a reminder that with a general election still at least a few months away, Mr. Starmer cannot take anything for granted.

Analysts said the party’s decision to mothball its flagship climate initiative was potentially damaging because it plays into a Conservative narrative that Labour does not stand for anything. It pulled the policy after a lengthy internal debate that leaked into the public, because the price tag — 28 billion pounds, or $35 billion, a year — seemed untenable, given Britain’s big rise in borrowing costs since the policy was first announced in 2021.

In the case of the candidates, Labour arguably compounded its problems by acting too slowly. It stuck by one of them, Azhar Ali, for almost two days after a London tabloid, The Mail on Sunday, reported that he had claimed Israel “allowed” the Hamas attack on Oct. 7, in which 1,200 civilians and soldiers were killed.

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