Starmer hoists flags in test drive of patriotic speeches to voters | Jean Cracé

VSall this a try. While Parliament is still on vacation (what better way for MPs to endear themselves to the country than to give themselves an extra day off during the New Years holidays?), Tuesday was a good time for Keir Starmer to test it out. his last argument to voters. If it went well, so much the better: he would have a head start. But if parts fell flat, there would be plenty of time to correct them in more important speeches to come. Like those where more than a handful of people outside of Westminster were listening.

Yet even though the stakes could not have been much lower, the Labor leader was leaving nothing to chance. The set consisted of the complete Liz “Gloriana” farmhouse, with two large union sockets as a backdrop. If it took wrapping up in flags to prove that he and the Labor Party were patriots, so be it. Keir didn’t care if he put it down a little thick. He bathed in red, white and blue if necessary. Whatever the cost.

Starmer started out as he intended to continue by celebrating the country we live in. Remember how lucky he – and we – to be British. We have the queen. The NHS. The rule of law. The Queen. The musicians. The universities. The Queen. The BBC. Fashion. The Queen. But it was not unpatriotic to suggest that there might be an area or two where there was room for improvement.

During the pandemic, the British people and the opposition had done the right thing by giving the government the benefit of the doubt. But the government had betrayed that trust by believing that the rules did not apply to them. Not just serial liar and party planner Boris Johnson. The betrayal went far beyond that, in a Conservative party that had been in power for too long and took the country for granted. So replacing the Prime Minister with Truss or Rishi Sunak would make no difference. What was needed was a new Labor government.

So far, so good. But then it all got a bit vague. After scaling up Atlee’s accomplishments – he even dared to mention nuclear weapons, the Wilson and Blair governments – the best Starmer could offer was a new social contract. If we worked hard and played by the rules, Labor would bring us security, prosperity and respect. Which was good, as far as he went. But it didn’t seem as important as founding the NHS, NATO, the Open University, and the National Minimum Wage. He also promised to make Brexit work. Which could have been a bit reckless as no one has so far approached the slightest hint of how they intend to do it.

Starmer was more assertive about media Q&A at the end. After seizing on morals by pointing out the government’s failure to prepare schools for the new term and that it was only thanks to Labor votes that he was able to implement Plan B, Keir confronted the two Corbyns.

First Piers and the anti-vaccines, then Jeremy. He made no apologies for pretending to adhere to Corbyn’s master plan only to abandon it once he became a chief. He was in the business of winning an election rather than being in opposition. The public had a chance to vote for Jeremy’s manifesto in 2019 and gave Boris a majority of 80 seats. Enough was enough. And no, Johnson was definitely not the kind of Prime Minister who should be knighted.

The speech hadn’t been as polished as Starmer ideally could have wished, but he had been more than a decent scorer for the next election. And that was certainly enough to scare the Tories into pushing the Downing Street press conference forward one day. Boris couldn’t risk Starmer making the evening headlines. Or that Keir is seen as the only leader to work.

You could tell Johnson had nothing new to say to the bailiff because he took a long time to say it. This is one of Boris’ most revealing gifts. His bullshit and waffle counters work perfectly in sync. Pretty much the only part of his government that does.

So we had a lot of hesitation, repetitions and deviations. We have a Prime Minister whose only discernible current talent – other than as a party host – is to say complete bullshit. His main message was that Omicron was very serious but not so serious that he needed to do much about it.

Rather, he should accept that his hands are tied by the libertarian maniacs of the right-wing party who could not even agree to wear a mask on public transport. So, since the odds of them approving anything other than that were zero and imposing further restrictions for the second time with Labor votes were politically unacceptable, we were stuck where we were. Stick to plan B and keep your fingers crossed.

Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance alluded to the problems with this approach, but paused before explaining them. So it was left to the media. Johnson spoke of hospitals that are not overwhelmed, with at least eight trusts already operating in emergencies with no staff or protective gear to treat their patients. “Uh, uh, just boosted,” he said. He didn’t even realize the immunization program was at a standstill.

We were there. With an incompetent prime minister making decisions for the wrong reasons. And we just had to sit back and hope that somehow turned out for the best. Starmer must have watched and thought that maybe he had less work to do on his speech than he had imagined.


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