September 26, 2021, 3:28 PM
“Keir Starmer’s fundamental problem is that he is not a politician and that he is a rascal when it comes to understanding the basic rules of politics,” writes Iain Dale.
Party conferences are often seen as a waste of time. All they do is give the media an excuse to fuel divisions within parties, whether real or imagined.
In his new book Work must always lose, former Labor MP Denis MacShane suggests they should be abolished. Considering how the first two days of his lecture unfolded, Sir Keir Starmer might agree.
This conference is the first real opportunity after the Covid lockdowns that Sir Keir has had a real opportunity to speak to both his party and the country. So why he chose this point to fight with the left of his party on the changes of internal rules, God only knows. He says Labor has to be an outward looking party, but so far most of what we’ve heard has been about the navel gaze.
Read more: Nandy refuses to defend Rayner after calling senior Tories ‘scum’
And last night, Angela Rayner, Starmer’s assistant, gave a rather inflammatory speech in which she called the Tories “Scum” among others. Personally, I cannot be excited about this. It’s a party conference. She was playing in front of an audience that hates conservatives and maybe got carried away. It happens. It’s a party conference. Yes, his remarks were distasteful and misjudged, and they started to give Starmer a headache in his interview with Andrew Marr this morning, but haven’t we heard worse?
Read more: Angela Rayner refuses to apologize for calling Tories ‘scum’ and ‘racist’
Indeed, on his heels, Tory MP James Gray suggested in a message from the Whatsapp group that Labor Party chairman Anneliese Dodds should receive a bombshell. Considering that I am typing this article in a sea-facing room at the Grand Hotel in Brighton, a room that was destroyed by the IRA bomb in 1984, you can imagine how odious I found this remark.
Starmer should have brushed off Rayner’s remark with a wry smile and done what Tony Blair used to do to his own outspoken deputy, John Prescott. “John will be John,” his tonicity used to say and that was it. Instead, Starmer dug a hole with Andrew Marr, and now that’s all everyone is talking about in Brighton this afternoon.
Keir Starmer’s fundamental problem is that he is not a politician and that he is a rascal when it comes to understanding the basic rules of politics. He has only been in the House of Commons for six years and I fear he is just not made for the blow and push of normal partisan politics. Yes, he looks like a decent and kind man, but this is a time when his party expects street fights.
Read more: Rayner “expressed real emotion” and “humanity” in Conservative “scum” rant, says McDonnell
I have been going to party conferences for 37 years. This is the first time I have been told that a party leader will not do any media interview other than one with Andrew Marr. Nothing with Sky, nothing with any regional media (which will be heavily pirated), nothing on the radio. Only. Nothing.
Since media organizations spend huge sums of money covering these conferences, they (us) can be forgiven for wondering why they (us) bother. If the party leader thinks that “letting his speech speak for itself” will do the trick, I fear he is probably badly surprised.
I am broadcasting the conference for six hours this Monday and Tuesday evening. That’s a lot of space to fill. So far the only shadow cabinet member we have been promised is Ian Murray, the shadow secretary of state for Scotland. They will not ask anyone for the cross-question on both days on the basis that they do not want a “red on red” conflict.
We’ll see how things turn out, but what the party press offices don’t understand is that if they don’t provide us with guests, we’ll have them ourselves, and they might be people. that they would prefer we had. t have on. Needs must, eh?