Down in the Dispatch Box With Johnson and Starmer

Posted on May 7, 2020

It was interesting seeing Keir Starmer in the dispatch box yesterday. It was like watching two ends of the spectrum as he and Johnson traded blows rather than insults. Insults may be seen negative in tough times, but I am sure they will come.

In Starmer, you have a man who studies detail. He is taking his job seriously and using all his experience in the law profession to guide him. On the other side of the floor sat Johnson, all impulse and populist soundbites, relying on quick wit to nullify criticism.

A Football Analogy

To use a footballing analogy, it was like watching the 1990’s Newcastle team led by Kevin Keegan getting dissected by Alex Ferguson. The bluster and flamboyance thrown at meticulous attention to detail.

Starmer ignored the bluster and got on with the matter in hand, forensically grilling Johnson. Like Keegan, and Newcastle in their day, Johnson looked for raucous support behind him. Like the football stadiums of the future, the chamber was empty.

An empty chamber suits Starmer far more than Johnson. Starmer is focussed on the subject matter, whilst Johnson is constantly looking for laughs and adoration. Watching Johnson without his cheerleading sycophants, is like watching ‘Have I Got News for You’ during lockdown. Without the laughs and jeering of the opposition, nothing really works for Johnson.

Starmer’s Internal critics

Just over a week ago, I was following some Corbyn loyalists on Twitter. One of them said “WHAT IS STARMER DOING, THE FUCKING TORY SYMPATHISER!” This was in relation to Starmer offering his support to the government and giving the PM his best wishes with regards to recovering from coronavirus and his partner having a child.

That really pissed me off. What was Starmer supposed to say? “It is with great sadness that the Prime Minister is back in chamber after recovering from Coronavirus if indeed, he had it at all. I wish he were dead, and his latest child is as mentally disabled as he is”.

If Starmer had kicked Johnson while he was down during a period of nationalistic fervour, he would be finished before he started. It would have played right into the hands of Cummings and his team. They will look for any reason to agitate populist impulses in a period of uncertainty and fear.

Populist Distraction

During what is becoming increasingly like a clusterfuck, the conservatives will seek anything to deflect the attention. A good example is Sage member, Neil Ferguson, who, after making a brainless error of judgement, is being hung out to dry. The Telegraph (Johnson’s former employer) knew about his indiscretion a month ago. They waited until the day our death rate overtook Italy’s, to report it.

To ramp up the populist distraction, The Sun newspaper could not get enough of the fact that his mistress is apparently a social campaigner who lives in a £1.9 million house in London. Jacob Rees Mogg’s company cashing in on economic chaos is okay, he is only the Tory Chairman. However, a social campaigner owning a house worth £1.9 million, that is a disgrace that is. Why isn’t she living in a ditch if she is a social campaigner?

For Starmer, his battle against populism has only just begun, but he is making a decent fist of it. He has negotiated the dangerous hurdles that feature a baby and coronavirus. He still must emerge from the VE day bunting without being labelled a traitor, but I am confident he can play the long game.

Johnson has a tough time ahead of him but as King of the populist pub bullshitters, he is not going to disappear easily. This could all get far worse before populism gets swamped by its own inadequacies and failure to deliver on its fantasies.

Have a good weekend.

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