TOM HARRIS: Starmer now risks being forced to drink the same lethal medicine he prescribed for Boris

TOM HARRIS: Starmer now risks being forced to drink the same lethal medicine he prescribed for Boris

Keir Starmer took not one blow to his chances of becoming prime minister, but two. While his lieutenants yesterday tried to turn a decidedly unexceptional streak of local election results into a success story, Durham police finally announced that they would, after all, reopen their investigation into allegations that the Labor leader violated the law. Covid rules last April.

And it is a development that could mean its downfall.

All in all, this week’s election results, despite some notable gains in London, were mediocre for Labor, with an expected five percentage point lead in the popular vote over Boris Johnson’s Conservatives.

The Durham Police announcement is sure to devastate any gains. Starmer is the man, he remembers, who – not long ago – called for Boris Johnson’s resignation even before he was fined for breaking Covid laws.

Yet now Sir Keir, leader of His Majesty’s opposition – as well as a QC and former prosecutor – must be investigated by the police in person, questioned about an incident he was far from available to.

Keir Starmer took not one blow to his chances of becoming prime minister, but two

The irony is shocking. It was Starmer who called for more, tougher and longer Covid restrictions on every occasion during the pandemic. It was Starmer who presented himself as the holy alternative to Johnson. Yet it was also Starmer who, even though he threw wild accusations through the House of Commons, appears to have known that he enjoyed his late-night party with co-workers.

At first, Labor denied that Starmer’s deputy Angela Rayner was also present, only admitting the point when this newspaper unearthed photographic evidence.

Then there were reports that the takeaway curry on the evening in question could have fed up to 30 people, instead of the half-dozen or so that Labor had initially suggested were there.

Furthermore, a week before the local elections, Starmer himself strangely and repeatedly refused to confirm whether the police had contacted him to discuss the allegations. Why blur if they hadn’t been in contact? Why bother covering up if they did?

All in all, this week's election results, despite some notable gains in London, were mediocre for Labor, with an expected five percentage point lead in Boris Johnson's popular vote on Conservatives.

All in all, this week’s election results, despite some notable gains in London, were mediocre for Labor, with an expected five percentage point lead in Boris Johnson’s popular vote on Conservatives.

His characteristic refusal to offer a direct answer – and yesterday’s revelation that he will now be investigated by the police – will add to voter suspicions that Starmer is not the outspoken politician he claims to be.

As a result, it may soon find itself under siege from both the left and the Labor moderate.

He is already accused by the far left of reneging on the Corbynite election promises he made when he was in office as leader. Now they will be out for his blood. And the shadow of his predecessor has long since left a question mark on his head for many centrists. Those who did not trust Jeremy Corbyn find it difficult to trust a man who has done his best to appoint Corbyn as prime minister not once but twice.

If police now find Starmer guilty of breaking blockade rules, his leadership could come to a premature and undignified end if he were forced to drink the lethal medicine he so eagerly prescribed the Prime Minister.

Durham police have finally announced that they would, after all, reopen the investigation into allegations that the Labor leader broke Covid rules last April.

Durham police have finally announced that they would, after all, reopen the investigation into allegations that the Labor leader broke Covid rules last April.

News of yesterday’s investigation – announced only after the polls closed – came when it emerged that while Labor council candidates have done superficially well in some areas, they have failed to deliver a decisive blow against the Conservatives. Even after Partygate, the Owen Paterson debacle and the Tory-imposed tax hike, Labor’s “triumph” is anemic at best.

I have friends who, unlike me, remained with the party during Corbyn’s leadership and continued to support Starmer’s election as leader.

Now, when the subject is raised, they frown or roll their eyes in despair, effectively admitting that, whatever his qualities, Sir Keir is not likely to be the next Sir Tony Blair. He may, however, be the next Neil Kinnock, a leader who never made it to number 10.

In the 1980s, I joined the Labor Party because I was inspired by Kinnock. I couldn’t understand why voters across the country, poll after poll, had a lower opinion of his potential as prime minister than Margaret Thatcher.

With the benefit of age, wisdom, and hindsight, I now see that his many U-turns – necessary as they were, transforming him from left-wing left-wing ember and party conference darling to moderate statesman – cost him dearly. . The fundamental work he has done in modernizing the job, dragging him kicking and screaming towards eligibility, has come at the expense of his personal reputation.

Boris Johnson and staff pictured with wine in Downing Street Garden in May 2020

Boris Johnson and staff pictured with wine in Downing Street Garden in May 2020

Today, I detect similar doubts among voters about Starmer as with Kinnock 30 years ago.

There was already that trust issue. After resigning from the first bench in protest against Corbyn’s leadership in 2016 and voting against him in a vote of confidence, Starmer re-entered his shadow cabinet and campaigned to name him prime minister. Knowing his tolerance of anti-Semitism, which made life impossible for Jewish parliamentarians and supporters; knowing that they supported the dismantling of NATO; yet Starmer still asked the country to put his trust in Corbyn as prime minister.

So he called for Johnson’s resignation for the Downing Street party, without being honest.

Voters expected better from Starmer. Today they will be disappointed that they did not hear about these latest Beergate revelations before casting their vote.

√∑ Tom Harris was a Labor MP for Glasgow South from 2001 to 2015

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