Sir Keir Starmer is a decent, honourable and principled politician who finds himself pitted against one of the most unscrupulous and unprincipled prime ministers in modern British history, while inheriting a troubled opposition party that has lost three successive general elections over the last decade under three different leaders.
The normal rules of liberal democratic politics might dictate that a British prime minister mired in ever-deepening sleaze and innuendo would by now either have resigned, been ejected by his own party, censured (even impeached) by parliament or ousted by the electorate. Yet unless Dominic Cummings can produce damning evidence to a select committee later this month, all these norms remain suspended and Johnson seems unassailable as the successful rollout of vaccination programme continues and a current fixed-term parliament gives the Tories security of tenure.
Even if politics as usual resumes and the economic consequences of both Brexit and Covid are fully revealed, alongside the fallout from any potential Scottish exit from the union, Labour will still need to shift its narrative and describe in detail a vision for change that rises above the obvious personal defects of the current incumbent at No 10.
No need to apologise
Yes indeed, Keir Starmer must be given more time to rebuild and yes too, the Labour forecast for these important elections is not looking too good. But this is not the time or moment for him to enact a political self-flagellation; this is not a good look and is counterproductive and self-defeating.
He has experienced a very difficult and tricky year and has not been able to address the voters as he would like with all those virtual meetings. He is what he is: a decent, pragmatic man with an exemplary line in forensic questioning and getting to the nitty gritty of this shapeshifting government and its prime minister. But Labour fortunes were not rebuilt in a day or a multiplicity of elections.
No doubt lessons will be learnt but a more gung-ho analysis will be required rather than sackcloth and ashes approach. If necessary take it on the chin Sir Keir, stop apologising and get back up that mountain, as many of us are right behind you.
Judith A Daniels
Great Yarmouth, Norfolk
Nostalgic for normality
I have lived one-third of my life with the threat of Scotland seceding from the UK. No unionists would wish to see the SNP utterly eradicated and I’m sure the feeling is mutual for many independence supporters. Scotland should be big enough for diverse opinions and debate.
What I would love to see is the return to the normal, economically literate politics of over a decade ago. A Scottish parliament where consensus is the byword. Where cross-ideological coalitions have to be maintained. Where perhaps the parties are kept in a state of “well-tempered discontent” and don’t necessarily get their own way all of the time. A vision more in keeping with the founding of the Scottish parliament.
And a decade of calm normality for my generation who have borne the economic brunt of the “Great Recession”, IndyRef, Brexit, and Covid-19.
Girvan, South Ayrshire
Britain’s worst PM?
Is Boris Johnson the worst prime minister this country has ever had? There are certainly many people who think so and I am one of them.
His cabinet is almost entirely made up of career politicians rather than people who went into politics because they genuinely wanted to “be of service” to the voters who elected them.
Conservatives have always had a reputation for supporting the wealthier in our society and it is without doubt true of BJ and his motley crew of ministers who appear to display little or no empathy for the elderly, the poor, the disabled, the disadvantaged.
Johnson in particular is a man with absolutely zero integrity who surrounds himself with individuals of similar ilk. He is absolutely appalling in every respect.
Blinded to the facts
That so very much has happened since December 2019 appears to be blinding people to the fact that it is not yet 18 months ago that Labour suffered its worst electoral defeat in 85 years (Time for Hartlepool to give the Tories a try? They’ve only been in government for 11 years, after all). But also much has “not happened” since December 2019.
Labour members and the public in general are also being blinded to a significant factor which led to that oft-quoted "worst electoral defeat in 85 years”: the continuing delay of the findings of the Forde Inquiry into the accusations of a “fifth column” operating at the heart of the Labour Party’s own administration.
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
No surprise that Keir Starmer is getting his excuses in early over Labour’s expected loss of Hartlepool in the forthcoming by-election. We were told that anyone but Jeremy Corbyn would be 20 points ahead of the Tories.
Starmer claims it isn’t possible to turn Labour around one year after its “worse general election result since 1935”, so as to win the next one and yet that is exactly what he expected of Corbyn when he supported removing him from office in 2016, nine months after he won the leadership contest.
If Starmer had shown the same enthusiasm for taking the fight to the Tories as he has in purging the left from the Labour Party then it might be in a better position.
That Labour are about to lose Hartlepool to the Tories is of their own making, not Corbyn’s. Starmer and the centrists were warned in 2019 that the red wall would vote Tory if they persisted with a second Brexit referendum and now they are reaping that whirlwind.