There is a premature and surprisingly ignorant rush to judgment about Keir Starmer from Matthew Parris in The Times today. I’m tempted to say “Once a Tory, always a Tory” about Matthew but that would be a tad unfair. I trust his intellectual honesty, he’s nobody’s patsy. But here I think he’s wrong.
Keir Starmer has a job to do almost as necessary as that of Joe Biden. Like the President-Elect Starmer has to cleanse the Augean stables left rotting by his predecessor. That is not easy. The Corbynite fools are still very much around and they attack Starmer daily. Sir Keir is making good progress in making himself and Labour electable from a base as low as it gets. But it’s still a minefield.
“Politics is the art of the possible” is as true today as ever. In Labour’s case this means abandoning the simplistic and anachronistic ideology of Corbyn not (just) because it was unelectable but because it was profoundly wrong. The sentimental red flag flying socialists match their ignorant pomposity with their capacity for delusion. Sir Keir is returning the Party to the mixed economy favouring social democratic centre. The only place from which it has ever been elected.
Soldiers will tell you that you shore up your defences before you turn to attack. Sir Keir isn’t there yet. Nevertheless he is holding Boris Johnson and his government to account daily though this, with the bias in so much of our media, is being inadequately reported.
“Someone called Annaliiese Dodds” is a nasty little construct unworthy of Parris. She’s at least as bright as the Chancellor, if not as stinking rich and if she was better reported the thoughtful subset of the population would admire her. Work in progress for sure, but a good pick.
Starmer is also under attack from the pro Europe Labour moderates – so he has cannons to the right of him as well as to the left. He remains (to coin a phrase) obviously internationalist and pro EU. That’s a core belief and cannot change. But for now he cannot afford to give the Conservatives the open goal of sounding like a Remainer. I suspect that he will finesse this cleverly in the next year as Brexit in practice continues to deliver disaster.
Looking at the Government front bench you cannot find one member of it with Keir Starmer’s intellect and decency. But for the time being they are the masters. Sir Keir must avoid descending to their level of trite mendacity and he’s doing it pretty well. His lack of charisma and modesty is rather appealing to me – listen for example to his “Desert Island Discs” which was moving, honest and engaging.
Undermining Keir Starmer at this time, unless you are an ambitious but myopic Conservative, is not really a smart thing to do. Less please.