I am not a Labour supporter nor ever could be. But I do feel sorry for Keir Starmer. He is bright, decent and as honest as any senior politician seeking the highest office in the land is allowed to be. He has made Labour electable by appointing a sensible and competent shadow cabinet. He has slain the dragon of antisemitism and is doing his best to ventilate his party of Corbynism. But he has got himself into a right old mess over that beer and curry night in Durham.
The trouble with climbing to the the moral high ground is that you can fall much further than those who are crawling around in the gutter if things go wrong. The real mistake he has made is to underestimate how quickly the newly improved Number Ten press operation and the Tory press are capable of multiple reverse ferreting if it can work to their advantage. From the right wing press to Moggy proclaiming that there are far more important issues to be concerned with rather than this partygate ‘fluff’, to slippery hypocrite Starmer who should be banged to rights in a blink of an eye was depressingly predictable. As was the cherry on the cake, Tory MPs and ministers to putting pressure on the Durham police to reopen the inquiry and then condemn Starmer for putting pressure on the police by threatening to resign if he received a FPN. It has been an effective operation in cynicism forcing the Labour leader to perform a very dangerous high wire act. The trouble for him is it gives Johnson, that master of the high wire act, another opportunity to walk along the wobbly rope in clown shoes, an umbrella and a squirting carnation. But he might fall off too. I just don’t buy the line that Starmer shouldn’t have demanded the resignation of Johnson because of the FPN. It was an open goal where the ball had to be kicked. He would have been creamed if he hadn’t. Don’t forget that there is the probability of at least another FPN for Johnson and the certainty of the horrors of the Sue Gray report. All is not lost yet for Starmer. He must keep his nerve. And learn to be as ruthless as the Tories.
I read the Queen’s Speech with interest. As I pawed through the text and read the hype from CCHQ, I noticed the slightest of sizzles, but no steak. Where is this fantastic boost for the economy? How is it going to be achieved? Where is the Brexit dividend? And what they hell are we going to do about the crisis in Northern Ireland? But doesn’t matter too much as many of the papers will be obsessing about whether this is the beginning of Prince Charles’s Regency or the run up to an abdication.
Yet the future of Northern Ireland matters enormously. The DUP have sensibly accepted the democratic process whereby Sinn Fein has gained more seats and will field the first minister. But the DUP are refusing to take part in power sharing until the concept of a border in the middle of the Irish sea is abandoned. A border which Johnson promised would not exist. And now we have the spectacle of the hapless Truss flouncing around instagram threatening to unilaterally abandon a treaty which was negotiated by this government. Northern Ireland politics is a mystery to most mainland politicians and is a minefield. One ill chosen word or gesture can lead to a walk out or worse. Why these delicate negotiations cannot be left to Northern Ireland Office ministers who understand the pitfalls and nuances is beyond my understanding. And the optics of the British government lecturing the Russians on the importance of a rule based world order whilst tearing up an international treaty is appalling. It won’t get through the House of Lords.
Somehow the DUP have to reflect why they lost to Sinn Fein. That the people of Northern Ireland want peace, stability, and a working economy. They have six months to do this or else there will be another election which would benefit Sinn Fein even more and make the prospect a border poll a step nearer. The reality of violence erupting in the province and on the mainland is creeping dangerously closer. This is not a time for gesture politics but for compromise. Worse, the EU is warning of a trade war if the protocol is shredded. What a self inflicted disaster.