Sir Keir left with muck on his face
ASPOOF video circulating among Labour activists makes uncomfortable viewing for Sir Keir Starmer. The fake footage, titled “Starmer’s First Year”, depicts a man with the Labour leader’s face – added by computer gimmickry – struggling to push a muck-filled wheelbarrow up a plank. He slips and ends up flat on his face with the barrow’s contents raining down over his head.
The joke film has proved popular among supporters of Sir Keir’s predecessor Jeremy Corbyn who remain bitterly resentful that the hard-Left’s grip on the party has been loosened.
Yet, more moderate Labourites are beginning to share the feeling their leader is floundering as well.
In the week when the UK death toll from Covid-19 passed the 100,000 mark, Labour’s attack on Boris Johnson’s handling of the response to the pandemic misfired.
At Prime Minister’s Questions, Sir Keir demanded major changes to the vaccine priority list drawn up by scientific experts on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
He called for all teachers to be given jabs during next month’s half-term break to rush forward the reopening of schools. Downing Street insisted the move would delay vaccinations for millions of people aged over 60 and others with underlying health conditions.
BY the afternoon, the policy proposal was unravelling, with Deputy Chief Medical Officer JonathanVan-Tam pointing out that the data suggested there was no “markedly increased rate of infection or mortality” among teachers. The following morning, Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner was left spluttering in a radio interview, asserting that teachers were “more at risk from catching Covid” without any facts to back up the claim. By the end of day, Sir Keir had been forced to concede there was no scientific evidence for the claim. Opinion polls in recent weeks have consistently given the Tories a narrow lead over Labour in spite of the twists and turns of Government policy during the pandemic. A senior Tory source said: “Labour has badly misjudged the mood.
Starmer has been banging on as if there are easy solutions when the reality is that tackling the pandemic is complex and tough.”
Sir Keir’s appearance by video link at PMQs – his third spell of isolation following a suspected Covid contact – sparked some wry comments about his minimalist interior decoration.
The Tory source added: “He keeps appearing on screen against a stark background like something out of an Ikea advert. He is proving to be about as interesting as his home furnishings.”
Sniping from his foes is unlikely to worry the Labour leader. But grumbling from his own side about his performance nearly a year into his job should be a concern.
SOME Labour frontbenchers are understood to be fretting that his focus on scrutinising the finer details of Government policy means he is neglecting setting out his values and wider aims for the country.
They want him to begin mapping out a positive vision for a future Labour government rather than just attempting to score points over the Commons dispatch box.
Opposition leaders tend to have a relatively short space of time before voters make their minds about them.
Those who take over in the midst of a national emergency can struggle to make their voices heard, as Iain Duncan Smith found in his spell as Tory leader in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks.
As his first anniversary approaches, Sir Keir must be careful that the image of a man floundering in the mire does not become stuck in the electorate’s mind.