Either Keir Starmer is getting worse or Alzheimer is getting his grip on me. Not only was he impossible to understand, it was impossible to follow what he was saying. It was the single worst performance by any LOTO since Denis the Dancing Dachshund fell down dead during the Corn Law debates of the 1840s. Or is my memory playing its trick?
The facts are these.
Tories had returned from their Easter break refreshed, resurrected, and – I’m sure they won’t mind my saying – repulsive. They won the roaring contest convincingly; but Labour barely tries anymore. Their chief whip sat at the end of their front bench with a face carved out of the living rock of Mt Rushmore. They feel their poll lead leeching away, but they can’t announce any policy, or support any position so there’s nothing to do except rely on the glamour of their leader to take them into government.
The sense of dread this is producing is too awful to face, so they double down on their strategy and do twice as much of it. But as the strategy is to do nothing the maths is not in their favour.
The Tories have broken Britain, is Keir’s theme. Broken the NHS, broken the criminal justice system, broken the asylum system. He decorated the theme with accounts of public service failures – waiting two days for an ambulance, 99% of rapists getting off, a people trafficker throwing boiling water over a prison guard and being released – and so forth. They never work as he wants them to, these examples of public servants acting in their private interests – but far worse for him, he somehow, lost his way, sat down, got up, stood there in a tumult of laughing Tories looking dazed and alone. Maybe he had been stung by the PM’s painless, Beano-era jab, calling him “Sir Softie” but he restarted his tale of woe and got sidetracked into defending his own record when he was, two lives ago, the Director of Public Prosecutions.
At last there were words that registered. He said, “In 2013”. As political historians tell us, this takes us back to the era of Denis the Dachsund. Down Memory Lane we went with him, every twist and turn in the neverending story, with details from his resumé, his conviction rates, his career highlights, climaxing with the assertion that he had been commended for his performance by the chair of the Home Affairs select committee (er, one Keith Vaz, at the time). Keir and Keith Vaz! Tories bellowed happily.
Rishi must be the best prepared PM of modern times. At the mention of that date, ten years ago, he reached into his briefs and pulled out the most marvellous piece of parliamentary arcana. In that very year, he said, Keir Starmer had appeared on the face of his very own Bill, a piece of legislation regarding, it seems, his personal pension. The cry this produced from the government benches was louder than anything since the glory days of Blair and Brown – under whose inspirational leadership Britain was breaking but not yet entirely broken.