Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Starmer's Conference Speech Hit All the Wrong Notes

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer spoke at an empty Labour conference yesterday and his words left socialists feeling rather concerned. His rhetoric seems to be travelling in a vacuous, right-wing direction, and needless to say, Twitter was unimpressed. The Labour leader stood before the microphone without an audience and gave a performance as wooden as it was nasal, a speech which would likely have resulted in boos, rather than applause if the Labour membership had been present. 

As Rachael Swindon pointed out, "It was a speech for his establishment sponsors, not for us," and it really showed because frankly, the entire thing was dull as dishwater and offered nothing of substance.
Whatever your thoughts on Corbyn or Blair, both were unquestionably outstanding at inspiring the public, at least initially. Who the hell is Starmer inspiring? Your landlord?
It is "the honour of my lifetime to lead this great movement," Starmer insisted, but that would be a movement of activists his team have not only undermined, but actively purged from the Labour Party. The sincerity levels were in minus figures. Still, Starmer could've chosen to try and win over those activists, but as his speech continued, he did precisely the opposite to the surprise of absolutely no one. Almost every step of the way, he managed to hit the wrong note.

Concerningly, the Labour leader spoke of "a national effort to prevent a second lockdown," and while at one stage, such words would have sounded reasonable, today, when we are facing a second wave, thanks largely to decisions (like schools reopening) that Starmer supported, it's a bit late to be talking of prevention. Lockdown is looking inevitable.

My concern is not whether I can visit a pub or restaurant (I couldn't afford to anyway), it's not what might happen at Christmas time, and it's certainly not about protecting an economy which only serves rich people. No, my concern right now is about keeping people alive. That's it. And we should bloody well take any measures the science tells us to take, including lockdown if necessary. 

If Starmer doesn't like the sound of that, he only has himself and his non-opposition for the last six months to blame. This is a man who now (rightly) calls the Tories dangerous, but then insists he will support their future decisions regardless! You really couldn't make it up.

In a bold move to win over the red wall, Starmer boasted about what inspired him to become a lawyer, prompting me to instantly zone out. Just what us northerners want - a metropolitan elite who talks about "the desire to change lives for the better" but won't even hint at how he plans to achieve this. Starmer spoke about being the "first person in my family to go to university" which is great, but we are hearing talk of Labour U-turning on the policy to scrap tuition fees. One of the key reasons I couldn't go to university was the fact it was unaffordable, but Blue Labour is the party of aspiration, supposedly.

Starmer offered lots of ultimately meaningless fluff like, "I want a country where we put family first," but didn't talk about how people are working so many hours, they rarely see their kids, and despite their best efforts, are struggling to put food on the table. I thought Blue Labour wanted to be the party that represents hard workers, but perhaps they think hard work only applies to the middle-class. The rest of us are too lazy and stupid to deserve better, probably.

Surprisingly, Starmer called out the government on Britain having among the world's highest Covid death rates and deepest recessions, but he failed to acknowledge that by broadly supporting the Tories, almost every step of the way, he was actually complicit. If Starmer really is upset by the current situation, he should bloody well apologise!

"Their failure to protect care homes is a national scandal," Starmer said and quite rightly so. This is the kind of thing we needed to hear several months ago though. Perhaps his focus groups have finally given him permission to find a backbone. Next month, they might even allow him to find a policy or two.

Starmer called out the Tories for defunding public services and correctly highlighted how this left Britain vulnerable in a crisis, but he failed to acknowledge centrists backed austerity every step of the way. It was his very ideology (and the votes of many of his own MPs) that contributed to our public services being defunded. To pretend otherwise is disingenuous to say the least.

"The government won't even obey the rule of law," Starmer said, stating the bleeding obvious. Perhaps he's been paying attention to us "cranks" on the left and is finally learning how to do this opposition thing. We've developed this cool trick where we actually point out government wrongdoing. I believe the technical term is "opposing" and it's great to see Starmer finally learning from our example. 

I still shudder when I think about the Labour leader congratulating Boris Johnson for his "outstanding" work in introducing social distancing measures two weeks too late. Yes, he congratulated the Prime Minister for gross incompetence, but now he's decided that approach is not a good idea, after all. He's a sharp one, this metropolitan lawyer.

Starmer said he wants to work "hand in hand" with trade unions, which again is great to hear, but he ignored the concerns of the teacher's union when they advised against schools reopening until proper measures are in place, and he sacked former Shadow Education Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey when she supported the union's position. 
Starmer wanted schools to reopen in September, "no ifs, no buts". That hardly sounds like responsible leadership and it certainly doesn't sound like working hand in hand with unions.
"Racial inequality is one of the causes that brought me into politics," Starmer boasted, prompting every supporter of Black Lives Matter to cross their arms and frown in contempt. Remember when Starmer reduced the movement to "a moment" and said he has "no truck whatsoever" with the aims of the organisation? That's hardly the talk of someone who wants to improve race relations. It's the talk of someone who wants to convince your racist uncle, Labour can be trusted now. Starmer will keep those annoying BAME people in their box. 
Blue Labour cares enough about racism to kneel for the camera, just not enough to do anything to stop it.
Starmer spoke of his frustration that every shadow cabinet member is a shadow - shadow chancellor, shadow health minister, etc. But I would suggest Starmer is a shadow of a leader and a shadow of his predecessor. He did offer welcome words on our care workers though, acknowledging they are heroes who are underpaid and do some of the most vital work in society. He promised to guarantee them a living wage, but why not guarantee every worker a living wage? Don't we all deserve one? Or is it just those people Starmer deems heroic who deserve better than poverty?

"When you lose an election in a democracy you deserve to. You don't blame the public. ... You look at yourself and ask what were you doing," Starmer said in perhaps the most infuriating moment in the whole speech. Shame he didn't show such humility after losing the Brexit referendum. If he honoured that result, instead of dividing his party, Labour might be in government right now. And perhaps he would care to elaborate on whether Labour members deserved to have an election sabotaged by his own staff...
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email: r.d.hale@outlook.com