IT IS said that the hardest job in British politics is to be Leader of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition. This is strange, because both Michael Howard and David Cameron made it look easy. Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn are the ones who perhaps cast the job in its true light, but this is probably because neither was suited to leadership.
It is usual to rate the performance of an incumbent after his or her first 100 days; indeed a BBC news programme did just that with President Donald Trump. In that context, this is a half-term report on the first 50 days in position of the Right Honourable Sir Keir Starmer KCB QC.
It is not encouraging. His misguided attempt to unify all factions of his party would work only if there were sensible MPs on all sides. Unfortunately for Labour the bulk of their MPs are made up of elitist snobs, Brexit deniers, anti-Semites and rabble-rousers. Seemingly Starmer is tolerating the antics of some of his shadow cabinet in an attempt to placate the far Left, showing him to be weak and uninspiring.
Last month, shadow environmental secretary Lloyd Russell-Moyle posted a link to an unredacted version of a leaked report on Labour’s handling of anti-Semitism cases. After Corbynites spread this information widely on social media, neo-Nazi websites were sharing personal details of some members of the Jewish Labour Movement. Russell-Moyle’s attempt to discredit critics of Corbyn literally endangered the lives of Labour whistleblowers. So why is he still part of Sir Keir’s cabinet? Given his previous misdemeanours he should never have been appointed at all.
Sir Keir’s poor judgment looks even worse when considering that he appointed Naz Shah as shadow minister for community cohesion when this dismal politician embodies the opposite with her divisive dogma.
He made catastrophic decisions when Director of Public Prosecutions, ruining the lives of several innocent men. He doesn’t have a reputation for sound decisions and judgment and is somewhat cowardly. Last month, Diane Abbott, race baiter extraordinaire, played her ‘white people like to divide and rule card’ again during a Zoom call. Racism is racism no matter the colour of the skin of the victim or the perpetrator. Abbott’s participation in this call with assorted perpetrators of anti-Semitism earned her only a mild rebuke from Starmer, making hollow his promise of a zero tolerance approach to Jew hatred in his party.
The Liberal Democrats made an attempt to make headlines by having some of their MPs fast on the first day of Ramadan, April 23, to show ‘solidarity’ with British Muslims. Not to be outdone, Sir Keir publicised his own fasting, but only on May 13.
The reason for this virtue-signalling stunt seems to be that a few days previously Sir Keir had alienated a bloc of British Muslims over his description of the Indo-Pakistan Kashmir dispute as ‘bilateral’. Why Labour, after its damaging and unnecessary involvement in the Arab-Israeli dispute, should wish to embroil itself in a similar contentious issue is a mystery unless it is crassly seeking the side that provides the most British votes.
Perhaps it is unfair to examine Sir Keir’s performance at a time of crisis. However it is a reasonable stress-test of the quality of his leadership. It is not to his credit that he is politicising the government’s response to the pandemic under the guise of holding the government to account. A disproportionate number of fatalities come from the ethnic minorities that Labour claims to ‘own’. The government has launched an inquiry as to why this is so. Showing that he too can pander to Islamism like most of the Left, Sir Keir vehemently objected to the appointment of Trevor Phillips to lead this review into the impact of Covid-19 on ethnic minority communities. Phillips is the antithesis of the racists in Labour, a man who has done more for race relations than most. Yet Sir Keir parroted the protests led by the Muslim Council of Britain, who accuse Phillips of ‘Islamophobia’ and are the same group pushing for a blasphemy law.
In classic Leninist fashion, Sir Keir then launched his own parallel inquiry, headed by Labour peer Baroness Lawrence. While Baroness Lawrence might seem beyond criticism due to the murder of her son by a group of racist gangster wannabes in the 1990s that changed the course of British justice, she does not seem a wise choice to head Sir Keir’s superfluous investigation, having stated about the Grenfell disaster: ‘Had that been a block full of white people, they’d have done everything to get them out as fast as possible and make sure that they did what they needed to do.’
Sir Keir has also failed to rein in Labour supporters and media outriders who are distorting the truth about the government’s response, and try to revive the junk term ‘social murder’. He also seems quite happy for Labour activists posing as members of the public to give vox pop interviews on the BBC. There seems to be a covert Labour campaign going on here with or without Sir Keir’s knowledge. If he is knowingly running this, he should be ashamed.
Much has been made of Sir Keir’s alleged ‘forensic’ skills at Prime Minister’s Questions. These seem to amount to little more than having a stiff demeanour while nitpicking and hair-splitting, as Boris Johnson pointed out in response to a letter from Sir Keir. Starmer came unstuck on May 20 when he failed to listen to Boris Johnson’s response to one of his questions and ploughed on with another ‘forensic’ jab which had already been answered. He has discovered that cross-examination in a courtroom is not the same as a question-and-answer session on a debating chamber, and that different skills are needed, such as listening to what is being said.
Labour moderates see Sir Keir as their great hope to transform Labour and win the next election. But he is no ‘moderate’. After all Sir Keir barely raised a squeak against the anti-Semitism perpetrated by Labour over the past four years and he happily campaigned to put Corbyn, an anti-Semite, into power last year. This is not the behaviour of a moderate or an adept politician.
Sir Keir’s problem may be that he is probably the most inexperienced politician to become Leader of the Opposition for perhaps the last 100 years or longer. He has been in Parliament for only five years and prior to this seems to have had limited exposure to parliamentary politics as he was working in the legal profession. While both David Cameron and Ed Miliband had been in Parliament for only five years before they got the same job, they had been immersed in politics for many years beforehand in a way that Sir Keir has not.
Time will tell whether this former barrister will quickly master his brief. He seems to be struggling at present, and Miliband can tell him over a bacon sandwich that once a person gets known for being stiff, clumsy and awkward, this label is difficult to shake off. Demanding children return to school and then executing a U-turn when militant teachers objected rather shows Sir Keir to be a puppet of unions instead of being his own man.
Sir Keir is Corbyn-Lite. Labour is still riddled with infighting, led by yet another ineffectual leader. His first 50 days as leader does not bode well. Democracy is teetering on a cliff edge in this country, and the lack of a credible opposition with a competent leader in Parliament means we could slide off into the abyss.