Thursday 21 October 2021

Keir Starmer's Covid Failure

Some sensible remarks from Jonathan Ashworth. Masks should be mandated to reduce the spread of Covid, and sick pay uprated so the low paid can self-isolate if they come down with it. Who could disagree, apart from the Tories and the unhinged anti-mask brigade? Unfortunately for the shadow health secretary, Keir Starmer does. According to an unnamed spox (anonymity's always okay for some), Labour is "not in favour of moving to Plan B on Covid ... They are in favour of "making Plan A work". Very collegiate of dear Keir to leave a senior politician and the longest serving shadow minister with egg on his face.

What does this even mean? "Plan A" is what we have going on at the moment. I.e. next to no precautions, and a slow and steady slippage away from people taking the right measures to protect themselves. Just as Jonathan observes the decline in masking up in his train journeys from Leicester, I've seen the same thing on my commute. Those taking the necessary measures to protect others in enclosed spaces are getting fewer by the day as millions are lured into a false sense of security, despite the sky high infections. The question has to be begged, how can this "Plan A", which has the Tories putting a friendly arm around Covid's shoulders and encouraging it to go forth and multiply, "work"? Presumably Starmer doesn't want more illness and more deaths and would like to see rates of transmission come down, and with it hospitalisations and mortality, so how can a plan that requires the government to do nothing be corrected within its own terms? Does he want Boris Johnson to "get a grip" by recommending people wear masks, and ordering his MPs to make like the Labour benches in the Commons? We don't know, because Starmer elected to waste his Prime Minister's Questions by asking six questions about the Online Harms Bill. Just as Covid is raging.

Readers know I don't have time for Starmer. His mendacity and shocking depths of incompetence is serving up Labour's electoral chances on a platter. But politicians don't position themselves for no reason. Starmer's back-peddling on plan B has to have some thought behind it, so what is it? In the absence of anything but a terse line, we can surmise it's a reversion to the miserable line Starmer held on Covid from the moment he assumed office. Don't criticise the government, look constructive, appear supportive, refuse to offer an alternative. In other words, a strategy for political suicide. Johnson's dishonest criticisms of Starmer that say he's carping and playing games with the pandemic have left him off-balance, and instead of refuting them he panders to an imagined audience who believe the Prime Minister. Refusing to challenge has led to the situation we're in now: 140,000 dead by the government's own statistics, but the Tories running away with the politics.

Superficially, "making plan A work" is about buying permission for Labour to be heard, but by saying nothing what message are Tory wobblers and those contemplating not voting supposed to hear? All they see is an opposition not doing opposition, and at worst outright complicity between the two parties. And they're right to. Even before he became leader, Starmer gave a flavour of what his "scrutiny" of the Tories was going to look like. Compare this with the properly constructive opposition of his predecessor, who offered concrete proposals the government took up with alacrity - but naturally, without offering Jeremy Corbyn any credit. We're back at square one. The tentative criticisms are bundled up like a sack of spuds under the stairs, an Starmer refers to his pull-your-socks-up comfort zone. It would be comedic if the consequences weren't so horrifying.

Here, we often talk about how the Tories' coming problems with their voter coalition. Property owners - usually the natural Tory constituent - are not being created in the same numbers, and as the Tory core pass away they're not going to reproduce themselves like-for-like. What is building problems for the Tories is those of working age now, who already tend toward Labour, are getting hammered by cuts and, soon, tax rises. The Tories are doing their best to appear repulsive towards them. The problem is, as forecast here a long time ago, Starmer is doing the same job for his party. Without any pretence of sticking up for working people, the poor, those who need support, his pathetic failure to back our people as they put their health and their lives on the line is only going to put off those who might otherwise vote Labour. He's disassembling the party's own natural constituency with nothing to show for it. Not even Tory voters impressed by his desperate efforts to appear safe and Conservative-lite to them.

Boris Johnson has let the virus rip and condemned tens of thousands to a premature death. Starmer's crime is nowhere near as grave, but he's trying his damnedest to ensure Coronavirus kills the Labour Party.

Image Credit


BCFG said...

Keir Starmer wouldn’t normally take a shit without approving it with the PR department, so the PR department must be telling him that the Tories homicidal policies are playing well with the voting public.

Yet, every single poll I have seen would strongly suggest the opposite. I have not seen a poll where less than 70% of people want stronger restrictions. Every poll on the subject usually has 80%+ for stronger restrictions, and for social distancing measures to be introduced more quickly than they are.

So, either, polls always tell us nothing or the PR department have a direct line to the Weatherspoons boss, and give their advice based on what he tells them?

Blissex said...

«he's trying his damnedest to ensure Coronavirus kills the Labour Party»

Well, corona virus or not, the plan to kill the "trot" (non-thatcherite) Labour Party, by PASOKification or otherwise, is not exactly new, so that from its ashes New Labour may emerge again, like a phoenix (yellow-orange of course...).
:-) or rather :-(.

Anonymous said...

I keep getting the feeling that Starmer's 'constructive opposition' is actually him trying to audition for a Deputy PM role in a 'government of national unity' that the Tories don't need him for and which is never going to happen.

Blissex said...

«Starmer's 'constructive opposition' is actually him trying to audition for a Deputy PM role in a 'government of national unity' that the Tories don't need him for»

I don't think that the Militant Mandelsoncy is planning for that, my impression is that they have just a "plan A" and "plan B":

* "plan A": build a voter coalition based on non-thatcherite voters who "just always vote Labour" and attracting a chunk of thatcherite "soft Conservative" and "soft LibDem" voters. They have given up on attracting a chunk of "soft SNP" voters. The idea is that a voter coalition of 90% non-thatcherite voters and 10% thatcherites would have 90% thatcherite policies and 10% non-thatcherite.

* "plan B": build a party coalition between New Labour and LibDems if "plan A" fails, Some of them actually seem to prefer "plan B" to "plan A", because rhey are afraid that New Labour could still be taken over by the Labour "entrysts", and if they depended on the LibDem for a majority in the Commons, they still could never enact any non-thatcherite policies.

Note: a chunk of "whig" Conservatives would like "plan B" for the Conservatives too, that is to make depend a Conservative government on LibDem votes, to ensure that it would not be too "tory" either.

Anonymous said...

Ken Loach said this about Starmer:

mikenotts said...

Completely off topic, but it is NHS related. Its something I've been wondering about for 40+ years (it goes back at least that far).

Bluntly, why are A & E staff / NHS staff attacked so much, verbally and physically? Small, tiny nurses attacked by the scum of the earth? Anyone who has spent any time in an A&E, especially at a weekend, knows what I mean.

here's just one report:

But this has been going on for decades: I'm 68, and when my dad was dying of leukaemia in 1971, and I spent a lot of time in M'boro general (since demolished). I saw a number of examples of this i.e. its not post thatcher, its pre-thatcher. I'd say it started, say, late '60's. Why?

I'm genuinely intrigued by this.

Blissex said...

«Ken Loach said this about Starmer:»

Well, that's there is some political analysis, it is mostly an outraged whine that Starmer is doing ruthless politics instead of "kumbaya". What a surprise...

Anonymous said...

@Blissex: thanks for the reply. Tbh, however, both plans suck: the first takes Labour supporters for granted; the second is probably what the Guardian would like, but there aren't enough votes in it.

Blissex said...

«both plans suck»

They may suck for people who think that Labour should be a centre-left socialdemocratic / democratic socialist party opposing thatcherism, but they are excellent plans for those who think that "New Labour" should replace Labour and be a thatcherite right-wing "whig" party like the LibDems, but "slightly different".

«the first takes Labour supporters for granted»

I guess that's the entire idea: to capture the "Labour" name to use the block of votes attached to it to support policies of "whig" thatcherism (as opposed to the "tory" thatcherism of the Conservatives). Peter Mandelson has been working on that idea for decades.

It can work until the voters attached to the "Labour" name realize it is no longer doing Labour policies and PASOKification happens.

Dr Zoltan Jorovic said...

Interesting question. My theory would be that because the NHS is projected as paid for by tax-payers, they think that they in a sense "own" it (which is true to an extent, but not in the way they imagine). These leads some people to think they can demand a certain personal level of service, and get angry when they realise that's not how it works. These same people generally have only one way they use anger - to fuel aggression. Partly this is because they have been taught that to stand up for yourself you have to fight, literally. Partly it is because they are aware that they don't have anything else to offer. They can't persuade, cajole, coax, influence or even purchase better or more immediate responses. So their frustration at the world and their place in it, and them not being treated differently or as special, or even, sometimes, fairly, erupts into violence.

Being in A&E is stressful, more so if, as is mostly the case, you, or someone you care about is in pain. Staff can seem callous or indifferent (they aren't, but continual exposure to others pain and distress can desensitize). and too busy dealing with their "own" interests (usually other cases). They haven't time to explain all this, so the person sits and stews. Until they explode.

Man does not make his own tea let alone his own history said...

"Partly it is because they are aware that they don't have anything else to offer. They can't persuade, cajole, coax, influence or even purchase better or more immediate responses."

The reality is that most people are so powerless, even if they could persuade, cajole, coax, influence etc, it would amount to zero anyway.

Violence is an expression of being powerless. Power is violence expressed.

Blissex said...

«the NHS is projected as paid for by tax-payers, they think that they in a sense "own" it (which is true to an extent, but not in the way they imagine). These leads some people to think they can demand a certain personal level of service, and get angry when they realise that's not how it works.»

But they do get a “personal level of service”, that appropriate to a "third class"/"bronze plan" service in better off areas, and to a "steerage class"/"plywood plan" service in poor areas. But of course they don't want to pay for a better level of service, but still demand it, and the NHS staff are a much easier, immediate, weaker target for their frustration than the ringmasters in Westminster.