The House really isn’t used to this sense of impending Armageddon. It’s all too large for the language available to the Commons. The relief was palpable when a Tory asked to be reassured that Warrington would benefit from the East-West rail upgrade by getting its own high-speed sub-station linking Northern Powerhouse Rail to the West Coast mainline. The agony of rail commuters is something we can relate to. We understand the horrors of the unimproved Penistone line. We can take comfort from the PM’s reassurance that “a corridor development study” is underway.
“Saying No to hate” is what we say about wilful misgendering. Hate crimes are wearing Mexican sombreros or blackface or SS fancy dress. Being hunted by gunmen, as seen on social media, who has the imagination to encompass that?
Having said that, Keir Starmer really rather rose (or perhaps more accurately, descended) to the occasion. For the first time in your sketch writer’s experience, it was possible to feel he fully believed what he was saying. It may be that Lady Starmer has inspired in him moral clarity. Wives do have that ability, it’s true. There was no equivocation on the wickedness of Hamas, no two-sides on the “mutilations” and “slaughter”. He came flat out with things that a third to a half of his party flinched back from.
When he told the PM to call on Hamas to release the hostages immediately he got a good, bass chorus of Hear, hears from the Tories. His own party sat as still and as chilly as stalactites.
He had gone out into Labour’s Nomansland, and that had valour. As a consequence, he was able to get away with some rhetorical extravagance. “The lights are going out and the innocent civilians of Gaza are terrified they will die in the darkness, out of sight.”
He also declared, “Hamas are not the Palestinian people and the Palestinian people are not Hamas.”
That may or may not be true. There was That inconvenient democratic fact of Hamas winning the last election. But then that was nearly 20 years ago, so how do we know the level of support for their homicidal, and genuinely genocidal government?
Nonetheless – Keir scored this afternoon. He projected himself in a leader-ly way few of us have seen. It became possible, even for sceptics, to see him on the Government benches. Dear God, it’s shocking to see those words in red and white.
One big question remains. What’s Lady Starmer like on Net Zero? Can she bring him to sense on that? She may be civilisation’s last hope.