The self-appointed Witchfinder General of Covid parties must now apologise: Former Labour MP TOM HARRIS argues Keir Starmer must show contrition over beer during pandemic
The British public dislike being preached to and hectored. And we especially don’t like it when self-righteous politicians give every appearance of breaking rules that they have imposed on everyone else.
But now that accusation has rebounded in embarrassing fashion at [object Window] 그 자신.
Keir Starmer earlier this month. He has repeatedly insisted no rules were broken on April 30, 2021
It emerged over the weekend that during last year’s local elections campaign, the Labour leader shared a few jolly drinks over a takeaway in the constituency office of a parliamentary colleague, alongside staff.
Indoor mixing between different households was banned at the time except for in-work scenarios, while drinking indoors in pubs was also prohibited.
And last April, when the event in Durham took place, the Government was telling people to work from home where possible.
Starmer seems to have flouted these restrictions. And as the Daily Mail reveals today, he appears to have breached the Government’s own specific guidance on electoral campaigning, 너무.
Using ‘committee rooms’ at all – thought to include constituency offices such as the one the beer-swigging Starmer was pictured in – needed to be ‘rigorously considered’, according to government guidance.
If such rooms were used, the document continued, this should be only ‘in accordance with the prevailing guidance on gathering and hygiene and social distancing…any such activity should be functional and not social’.
Starmer was captured enjoying a beer with other colleagues in a constituency office in Durham last April
Campaigners were expected to wear face masks and their activities ‘should be organised on a one-by-one basis’.
이름을 거부한 사람, this does not cover quaffing drinks and laughing your unmasked head off with a large group of people – windows shut.
On the face of it, Starmer seems to have flouted the guidance on campaigning he should have followed to the letter. Exactly what ‘work’ needed to be done in that room that he couldn’t have done from home?
Yet Starmer himself has repeatedly insisted no rules were broken on April 30, 2021.
‘We were working, a takeaway turned up and we stopped to eat it,’ he told a radio station yesterday. ‘We didn’t break any rules, we did nothing wrong.’
결과적으로, he stoutly claims, he has no need to apologise. I remind you that it’s the Prime Minister, not the Labour leader, who is supposed to be the arrogant one here!
And as I was a Labour MP for 14 years – I know what the run-up to elections is like. It’s a stressful and demanding time, with punishing hours.
But what, I wonder, is so special about local elections that they require alcohol-fuelled social mixing? Boris Johnson has said he believed his own Downing Street garden party back in 2020 to be a ‘work event’.
But Starmer didn’t accept the Prime Minister’s word on this: 대신, he called him a liar and piously told him to resign, while discarding the humiliating apology that Boris offered both the Commons and the country for what had happened under his watch.
God knows the Prime Minister is far from perfect. 아직, 최근에, Starmer seems to have been enjoying his self-righteous rhetoric a little too much.
Even his official spokesman intones that her boss ‘follows the rules at all times…honesty and decency are non-negotiable for him’.
For a politician to depict himself as the reincarnation of St Francis of Assisi is a risky strategy. 왜? 때문에, sooner or later, your unimpeachable moral goodness will bump into reality.
Like all human beings, you will make a mistake – and if you’ve hoisted yourself up on to a giant pedestal, there will be plenty only too willing to shove you off it and roll you into the harbour.
Starmer’s biggest problem is not that some will now seek to accuse him of hypocrisy.
His greater risk is that voters – especially the swing voters he needs to target – are likely to conclude all politicians are the same.
That conclusion would undermine the progress he knows he has made as leader – including leap-frogging the Government in recent polls.
And that’s why he probably feels he has no choice – even as the evidence against him mounts – to continue to insist he has done nothing wrong.
지금, it may yet prove to be the case that in some tricksy legal sense (and as a former director of public prosecutions, Sir Keir is all too aware of the value of technicalities), he didn’t break Covid rules on that beer-soaked night in Durham.
But in the court of public opinion – rather than the more high-minded courts with which Starmer is most familiar – technicalities don’t matter. The ‘optics’, as spin-doctors say, are everything.
And the fact is that Starmer, who has appointed himself the Witchfinder General of the Government’s Partygate travails, now looks like he has broken the rules he sought to impose on everyone else, and to which he has mercilessly held the Prime Minister.
That is why he now needs to apologise. 아무튼, the Labour leader has been loudest throughout the pandemic in demanding ever-tougher restrictions.
Those who make or seek to make the rules that govern our lives need to stick to them – and look like they do. Anything else risks undermining democracy itself.
Millions obeyed the rules, and even went even further for almost two long years. Others were fined and shamed on social media for breaking them. Starmer needs to apologise to both these groups.
He has made a serious misjudgement, 그때. But we must also point out that the much-changing regulations, enforced differently in different parts of the UK over many months, have often been complicated, contradictory and hard to follow.
Boris Johnson earlier this month. Last week at he and other members of his Downing Street operation were at the centre of the ‘Partygate’ scandal as it unfolded
How assiduously had Starmer read that particular government document on elections, 3 월 발행 25, 2021, amid the sea of other Covid restrictions?
The endlessly shifting nature of the rules has not made sticking to them easy. And since they were ultimately set out by politicians, they were subject to human whim and foible. Starmer knows all this.
How refreshing it would be if he now came forward and admitted that he made a mistake – while pointing out the inconsistencies in those same rules.
I will not join those voices demanding his resignation. This is a lazy tactic in modern politics, though one becoming more common by the day.
I have never called publicly for anyone to resign and it would be helpful if politicians stopped doing so all the time.
But if I have one hope, it is that this sorry episode gives Starmer and the rest of his party a moment to pause. 노동, decades of membership taught me, has an irresistible urge to occupy the moral high ground on every issue.
It’s not enough for them to argue over policy: they need to assert Harold Wilson’s misguided dictum that Labour is nothing if it is not a moral crusade.
But it’s not. Labour is just another political party with its own agenda, trying to win office.
To err is human, as the ex-prosecutor Sir Keir knows. But to pretend that anyone is perfect, 잘, that’s only Labour’s view of itself.
If only Starmer would now see that inconsistency – and tell the country he is sorry.
TOM HARRIS was Labour MP for Glasgow South from 2001 ...에 2015