An Ode to Sir Keir Starmer
In case you are unaware, I am not the biggest fan of Keir Starmer. He has the leadership skills of damp rag and charisma that brightens up a room when he leaves it. Despite a career as a barrister, just about the only thing he’s ever convinced someone of is why they shouldn’t go home with him after a party.
After his ascension to the Labour premiership some two years ago, Keir Starmer has built himself as a formidable champion of the people. Indeed it’s not an exaggeration to say he’ll do just about anything for the working classes. Anything – except mix with them. Choosing instead the residence of a multi-million pound Camden townhouse. The only pits poor Starmer has seen are his wife’s underarms.
Beyond sharing the same first name, there is scarcely anything in common between Starmer and the Labour Party founder Keir Hardie. Unlike OG Keir, Starmer goes all fidgety when asked if he considers himself a socialist. Perhaps Starmer’s anxiety around the dreaded ‘s’ word is worthwhile. For it’s impossible to be a socialist without being first social.
Over recent months it appears that Starmer has moulded a new personality. Seemingly discontent with his most exciting trait being, as Nicholas Fairbairn said of his predecessor, ‘the honourable Member for two tube stations’, the famously bland Holborn and St Pancras MP has chirped up. In the wake of Partygate, Kier has delivered some surprisingly witty remarks, the crème de la crème being ‘the party is over’ and ‘at least No 10 staff know how to pack a suitcase’.
But you can’t help but find it all a bit forced. When the pre-planned jokes run dry, he is overcome by the terrified look of a child who's cocked up their lines in the school play. As was the scene at the Labour Party Conference several months back, where he stared bewildered at hecklers while trying to recall some memorised put-downs from the night before.
Such is the difference between Starmer and the man he longs to emulate. Tony Blair had a seemingly infinite arsenal of quips stored away, in one instance hurling at then Prime Minister John Major “There is one very big difference – I lead my party, he follows his.”
Yet Starmer’s inability to trek the Blairite path goes much deeper than personality. Tony Blair was a highly effective campaigner, not just in general elections, but in ushering in the New Labour movement. To regain middle England, he waged war on the radical factions within Labour, threatening to split the party in the process. Decisively telling the electorate how far they moved away from socialism, Blair revoked the ‘longest suicide note in history’, taking Clause IV out the party constitution, and the commitment to state-ownership that came with it. A similar assurance has been tentatively attempted by Keir Starmer through suspending Chavez-adoring Jeremy Corbyn, yet he has fallen short of any tactile pledges.
A more active decision of Starmer’s has been his attempt to revive old Labour patriotism. Heeding the advice of Blair to wage ‘war on woke’, Starmer has shunned lachrymose talk of Britain and Britishness, and endeavoured to make Labour patriotic once more. Of course, in typical Starmer fashion, this doesn't involve much decisive action, besides serenading the Union Jack with talk of ‘we are a deeply patriotic party’. We’ll see how long this spontaneous unionism lasts when Starmer is 50 seats away from No.10.
A policy area apt for the Labour Party Leader is maternity care. Of Blair’s rich social reforms, the rollout of free nursery places was duly embraced by middle England. The £800m/year policy enabled young mothers back into the workplace, with around 90pc of families benefiting. Through such sentiments, Starmer could resonate with the jam-making folk, commonly found watching Countryfile and the One Show, and could be a real step towards reconciling those who Corbyn lost. As with any opposition party eager to win an election, it would also show a clear alternative to what we currently have. Starmer to support young mothers, whereas Boris leaves them with an NDA and a fake phone number.
Coming up to two years of leading a major political party, Keir Starmer has much to dwell on. In the lockdown battle, he changed sides more times than the Italians in WW2. In taking it to the people, he was thrown out of a pub by an irate landlord. In fulfilling his pledge to ‘unite the party’, he has caused factionalism to be rife. If there is anything to gain from Starmer’s leadership, it is that I now understand why ancient Egyptians worshipped Dung Beetles.