Today Keir Starmer took to the podium (yet again) to prove to the electorate why he should become the UK’s next Prime Minister.
Having sat through the entirety of the thing, though (for which you will need a strong cup of a coffee), the reality was more of a rushed response to the negative press coverage about him earlier this month.
Many will remember that around that time there was a lot of criticism about Starmer – and whether he’s the right man for the Labour leadership. Along with poor poll ratings, party strategists clearly thought “oh dear, we better do something.”
Unfortunately, I do not think that Starmer’s performance this morning will have done much to change his critics’ minds, and may have even made his reputation problem worse (not least because he was actually late to his own speech).
Although Starmer began on a fairly positive note, celebrating “brilliant vaccine centres” and “the dedication of our frontline workers”, he soon defaulted to his usual insults against the Government; that it’s incompetent, “out of its depth”; of “failed Conservative ideology”, delivered with the intensity of someone reading out their tax return.
At one point he warned: “[a]ll we can expect from this government is more of the same: a roadmap to yesterday”. Given that “yesterday” now means a trip to the pub, I don’t think this expression has quite the same effect.
Some of his speech sounded more like boyband lyrics than a political strategy. “[Conservatives] want to ‘build back’. But I don’t want to go back”, he spoke into the camera. There were other instances of words put together because they might sound good, as well lots of mentions of World War II.
Elsewhere Starmer complained that the Tories had “spray[ed] billions on contracts that don’t deliver for our NHS”, never mind that he had celebrated the vaccine earlier (which the Government has spent £300 million on so far) in his speech.
Although we were all supposed to be blown away by Starmer’s vision, there were only two policies: a new British Recovery Bond and start-up loans for 100,000 new businesses.
CCHQ has already pointed out that these were first put forward by the Centre for Policy Studies and the Government’s 2012 Start Up Loan programme, respectively.
Starmer said this speech would deliver his big vision for the future of the country, a ‘policy blitz’ and relaunch his failing leadership. But there’s only 2 new policies – one taken from the Conservatives and the other from the CPS, the think tank co-founded by Margaret Thatcher https://t.co/OcfQaFQk0O
— Amanda Milling (@amandamilling) February 18, 2021
As you might have guessed from this article, I didn’t think the speech was good, or a sensible move from Labour. Far from allaying concerns about its leader – that he lacks ideas, direction and conviction – it will merely confirm they have some truth.
Starmer has had lots of opportunities throughout this crisis to show vision for managing the virus and to provide an opposition in what has been a terrible year. But his only plan seems to be “fetch my podium” whenever times get tough or he wants to show leadership – the last big example of this being his call for a “circuit breaker”.
Surely Labour would do better to take its time to set out an imaginative set of policies, even if it has to put up with criticism in the meantime.
In conclusion to today’s speech, sometimes doing nothing is better than something.