Keir Starmer continues his headlong, reckless trajectory to the centre. He was there at the despatch box just now, trashing a central tenet of Labour ancestral personality. It’s amazing they have any idea who they are anymore.
He demanded of the Prime Minister that the new Northern Ireland agreement abolish all unnecessary checks on goods. The essence of the Labour philosophy is unnecessary checks on goods – and indeed unnecessary checks on everything – so this is a Clause 4 moment we will remember for years.
“His predecessor told business there would no forms, no checks, no barriers of any kind,” he said. In past years, Keir would have called that evidence of chaotic, free-market, jungle-law, madness. Now, he is pitching it as central to the Nova Labour spreadsheet of Values and Principles To Win The Next Election.
The Labour leader rather revealed his hand in a recent interview by declaring that he would “say anything and do anything to win the next election.”
Normally, political leaders keep that kind of talk under their hat. We suspect it, but don’t like to accuse politicians of it, for fear of falling prey to accusations of pre-fascist nihilism. But there he was, demanding the Government do the right thing and not just “tell people what they want to hear” (Tory protests, scornful laughter, a loud explosion of intestinal gas).
“That sound you hear is the PM pulling the wool over their eyes,” Keir said, in the manner of a Buddhist koan.
He then said that facing up to the necessary trade-offs inherent in avoiding a hard border, it was necessary to restore Truss.
It’s easy to see why he wants that. Restoring to the Tories the most unpopular prime minister since Lord North might benefit Labour enough to win a general election (still very far from a foregone conclusion).
Rishi Sunak didn’t fall into the trap. He levelled the accusation he always does, saying Starmer would give the EU a blank cheque. “That’s not a strategy, that’s a surrender!”
Was there a moment on Rishi’s face where he realised that Starmer was a step ahead? That he was repositioning himself, and his old attack was going to misfire? No need to worry. Keir had written his own lines and was sticking to them as well. They sounded like a couple of Chatbots arguing with each other.
Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi is getting the hang of it – but only half of it, so far. He denounced the Government for presiding over the heaviest tax burden since the war. This would have been hailed as a key Labour achievement under Jeremy Corbyn. Now it is source of shame. It is the nature of revolutions that things go round and round. Tanmanjeet is only half way round the circle as he wanted the money to be given – not back to the people from whom it had been taken – but to striking nurses. Re-education is a long and painful process, but we with the audacity of hope can believe in the future.