Saturday 8 May 2021

On Keir Starmer's Stupidity

Not everything went according to the Tories' plans on Thursday. Wales, Manchester and Salford, Labour gains in the South, the Cambridgeshire and West of England mayoralties, solid results in Newcastle and Preston. There was, with half of the results yet to be declared, some good stories to tell amid the gloom. Prepping senior Labour politicians for a tour of the Sunday politics show studios would have had some nice counters to awkward questions, provided they talked up the party's strengths where it was rooted and offered a decent alternative to the Tories.

No one was reckoning on what Keir Starmer would do next.

An undercover agent for the Tory party couldn't have caused more damage. With lackey after lackey talking about how the party needed to "change", Keir spent Friday taking responsibility for the results before going on to say he wants to stop Labour from quarrelling among itself. And then, without warning, he sacked Angela Rayner. In a mind-melting move, Angela's been dumped out as party chair, a role which is nominally responsible for the campaign that was actually driven directly from the leader's office. As you might expect, Twitter is awash with her crimes against Keir. Such as winging it in a couple of campaign presentations, and travelling first class on the train. And then, as events unfolded we learned that she was being found another top job to showcase her "working class talents" (the words of our anonymous briefers, not mine). If then this was a straight reshuffle, a competent leader might have secured her move to another brief. Even if she was getting the heave ho because she's no good, given her independent mandate as Deputy and the genuine support Angela has built among members and the trade unions, she cannot be treated as if she was a trainee coffee courier at the Crown Prosecution Service.

It is exceptional stupidity, and political analysis has to make allowances for it. In Keir Starmer's case, his stupidity is a consequence of his authoritarianism. He might have had values once, but all that remains is managerial rigidity, a contempt for those who disagree with him, a lack of political skills - of the big and small p kind - and an abject cowardice, a refusal to carry the can for his own mistakes. His politics, such as they are, cannot brook alternative points of view nor others that might outshine the dim bulb of his own non-personality. Why else is the shadow cabinet full of non-entities?

Well, if you're going to be stupid you might as well go all in. With the party in uproar, his clear out of the shadow cabinet is targeting Anneliese Dodds (remember when he said she was safe?), his loyal litter bearer Nick Thomas-Symonds, and ... Lisa Nandy. According to the fizzes and beeps on the rumour hotwire, she is considered "disloyal" and is therefore ripe for a demotion. Nothing substantial has emerged from the ether, but it is known Keir does not like unauthorised briefing to the hacks, particularly concerning the keeper of Keir's ear, Jenny Chapman. There might be more going on, and we know Lisa has a propensity for porkies, but it is starting to look like Keir has something against women from the North West who speak with regional accents. It gets better, of course. Compounding unforced error with cackhanded decision-making, Wes Streeting and Jess Phillips are tipped for another promotion, and on matters strategy he's hired Deborah Mattinson as the new head of strategy. A Blue Labour "thinker", asking focus groups what animals politicians remind punters of tells you all you need to know about her calibre.

Two days on from a set of elections that actually saw a modest swing to Labour, despite the losses, Keir Starmer has responded as any bad manager would. The campaign, the messaging, the policies (pah), they were all concocted by him and his close advisers. And so a group of younger, more junior women are held responsible, regardless of the fact doing so brings together Labour's hard and soft left, some of the unions, including ostensibly moderate ones, and the more wavering elements of his support. If Keir can't understand his own party and display the elementary political skills to run it, then he shouldn't be there. And thanks to his ineptitude, Angela Rayner is extremely well placed to take the leadership from him. She should consider it, because if Keir Starmer isn't going anywhere then neither is the Labour Party.

Image Credit


Blissex said...

«If Keir can't understand his own party and display the elementary political skills to run it»

What he seems to think that his own party is associated with a lot of "trots" who scare away well-off tory voters in the Home Counties, and his first priority is to dump those "trots" at every opportunity, pushing them into protest votes or abstention. He has already eliminated several.

Probably in his view it is a long term strategy to ensure that New New Labour is slimmed down to a pure thatcherite core supported by and championing the affluent tory middle classes and will always govern in coalition with the LibDems, ready for substituting for the Conservatives in 2024.
I'll repeat here the four cardinal principles for winning elections, already followed by the LibDems themselves with great effect :-):

* “There Is No Alternative” (M Thatcher)
* “We are all thatcherites now" (P Mandelson)
* “wouldn’t want a left-wing Labour party to win an election” (T Blair)
* “would only win if the party championed aspirational voters who shop at John Lewis and Waitrose” (P Mandelson)

Kathryn Janes said...

Unbelievable that Starmer has learned nothing from these election results.

When will he stop trying to appeal to a very narrow percentage of older voters in the 'red wall' and start adopting some policies with teeth?

He has completely alienated the younger voters who were so galvanised by Corbyn - the success of the green party in many areas bears witness to their defection.

Joseph said...

I had some hopes of Starmer, but it looks clear to me that he has decided that labour will lose the next GE, and he wants to clear the ground for the one after, with a bunch of leaders who all have impeccable new Labour credentials. He won't be the leader, of course - someone further to his right.

The results showed that there is an alternative for people on the Left, albeit a party that is not explicitly left at all - the Green Party. An exodus from Left supporters of Labour to the Greens can be expected. I agree with you, Angela Rayner is far more convincing, and genuinely fits the description of working-class trade unionist She should stand against him - after this she has nothing to lose.


Dipper said...

'The results showed that there is an alternative for people on the Left, albeit a party that is not explicitly left at all - the Green Party. An exodus from Left supporters of Labour to the Greens can be expected.'

And that's why Labour isn't going to win any time soon. Whereas the Tories can command a coalition that when push comes to shove will turn out for them, a coalition that recognises political realities, Labour cannot command a similar coalition. As soon as it moves to the centre, lots of Corbynistas still smarting from The Betrayal of 2017 and other assorted lefties will peel away to vote for the Greens.

After the next Tory win, all you lefties will say that the combined percentage vote of Labour + Green + Lib Dev is much greater than the Tory vote, that the Tories didn't really win, it is just our flawed electoral system. But you knew that when you decided you'd rather have full control of a losing party than share control of a winning party.

Robert said...

Hate to say it but our resident Tory is correct.

David Parry said...


'But you knew that when you decided you'd rather have full control of a losing party than share control of a winning party.'

This is more applicable to the right of the party than to its left.

Boffy said...

It was Corbyn's mistake that he thought he could share power inside the LP with the centre. He adopted the old Stalinoid idea of the Popular Front, when he should have learned the lesson of the PF that the centre will only ever use the Left for its own purposes, and stab them in the back as it aligns with the Right to prevent the Left winning.