Keir Starmer’s jaw clenched as each attack fluttered wide off target: HENRY DEEDES sees the Labour leader bore at PMQs
For over 18 months, I have studied Sir Keir Starmer at close quarters and have reached the opinion he is an unconscionable bore.
Forgive me if I am being something of a johnny-come-lately on this. Many of you will doubtless have reached this conclusion yonks ago. But I have taken time to consider and weigh the evidence and the verdict is irrefutable: The man is a cast-iron, chateau-bottled yawn.
Take Starmer’s performance at PMQs yesterday. What a mundane display of nasal-whining finger-wagging it was. Like spending 15 minutes being buttonholed by a ticket operator on the East Coast main line.
As stories go, it was pretty stale potatoes. Possibly not even interesting in the first place. Sir Keir didn’t see it that way. No, no, these were the goods. Nothing worse in the eyes of a proponent of petty officialdom than a rule breaker. This is a man, one suspects, who scowls at fellow plane passengers who fail to listen to the in-flight safety instructions.
Boris insisted the party had all been above board. He made a crack about Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner not being invited to her boss’s Christmas party. With Sir Keir in charge of the eggnog? Lucky escape for Ange if you ask me.
For over 18 months, I have studied Sir Keir Starmer at close quarters and have reached the opinion he is an unconscionable bore. Pictured: the Labour leader during Prime Minister’s Questions on December 1
As for Boris, for a man supposedly on his last legs (politically that is) a fortnight ago, he looked fizzy. In dire need of a haircut again, but otherwise he was in the pink. Pictured: Boris Johnson gestures towards Keir Starmer during Prime Minister’s Questions on December 1
Starmer smirked. ‘Nice try,’ he said, turning to his colleagues like a pub raconteur telling a bawdy gag. He was insistent the PM had broken the rules. He had a copy of them with him (of course he did!), which he waved around proudly. Good Lord, were they laminated?
Boris flapped a dismissive paw and pondered the relevance of something which happened ‘12 months ago’. Extra emphasis was placed on the ‘12’. Starmer was ‘dribbling on irrelevantly’ he said. Sir Keir tap-danced excitedly. ‘He’s not denied it!’ yelled the great inquisitor.
As Sir Keir persevered with this line of questioning, one wondered what was bothering him more. Was it the possible breach of rules? Or was it the idea of people having fun? His party isn’t big on all that.
Once again, the Tory benches were in full voice. Every time Starmer mentioned the word ‘rules’, loud groans echoed around the chamber. Sir Keir’s jaw soon began to clench up. His face reddened slightly. As each attack fluttered wide off target, it appeared to dawn on him that he should have chosen a better attack line. The crisis in the Channel, perhaps. Anything but this dreary nonsense.
As for Boris, for a man supposedly on his last legs (politically that is) a fortnight ago, he looked fizzy. In dire need of a haircut again, but otherwise he was in the pink. Perhaps an aide had given him a few sharp backhanders before entering the chamber. Or maybe it was the gin he was seen slurping outside No 10 the night before.
Elsewhere, there were Olympic-sized sighs when Ian Blackford asked almost exactly the same questions as Starmer. Oh dear. Fleetness of foot is hardly Blackford’s strong point. Lib Dem leader Ed Davey demanded farmers be paid more, a shameless attempt to curry favour with the countryside ahead of the North Shropshire by-election. Not really rural folk, the Lib Dems. Chances are Sir Ed’s never so much as trod in a cowpat.
Right toward the end, we heard a rant from Imran Hussain (Lab, Bradford E) who criticised the PM over the Government’s treatment of minorities. Every now and again there is an outburst like this from the Labour benches in an attempt to portray Boris as racist. It’s low and it would stand a far better chance of success if Rishi Sunak, Sajid Javid, Alok Sharma and Priti Patel weren’t all sitting beside him. Nice try Imran.