So there it is, Sir Keir Starmer, knight of the realm, had his first PMQ, the reaction to which was as uniform as it was unsurprising. Praised by everybody from Andrew Neil to George Osbourne, Sir Starmer was a verified hit with Tories and luvvies everywhere.
There were even tears.
They thought he was “fair”, “strong” and “measured” as he took on Dominic “Private Pike” Raab, but mostly they thought he was “forensic”.
You’d almost think everyone had been briefed beforehand.
It’s an unusual word to go with, forensic. It’s a suggestion that he was analytical, yet he said nothing new. It was a suggestion he was about facts, yet he failed to nail the government on their hidden death tolls or criminal actions. However, what “forensic” actually is is an attempt to cover the fact that Sir Starmer showed absolutely no passion or empathy for the victims of the Tory coronavirus, instead, he came across as detached and soulless.
Sorry, he wasn’t detached, he was just being forensic.
Starmer’s manner was not that of a man opposing 41,000 deaths at the hands of a rogue and incompetent government, it was that of a mildly irate middle-class shopper. Perhaps Sir Starmer needs reminding that he’s dealing with the needless deaths of tens of thousands of British citizens, not somebody who has jumped the queue for hummus at Waitrose.
At least Joe Biden can claim he’s senile.
In fact, such was his lack of empathy, who can’t picture him dancing around his living room to Huey Lewis and the News while he carves up another Corbyn supporter with an axe?
We of course joke. Patrick Bateman has far too much personality to be Keir Starmer.
Yet as a critique of the shallow vapidity of toxic capitalism, the comparison works. For what is Keir Starmer if not the epitome of neoliberalism? All sharp suit, expensive haircut and hollow soundbites, the new Labour leader’s caring exterior manages to convince less the longer he speaks. Beholden to consumerism and capital at the cost of human suffering, City Slick is the wrong man, at the wrong time and in the wrong place. A yuppie for the iPhone generation.
Where was the righteous anger of a Dennis Skinner, the comfort of a Jeremy Corbyn or the true analytical depth of a Tony Benn? They were nowhere to be found.
Yet, still, Starmer is backed by a legion of 1990s luvvies whose careers have been one endless stream of diminishing cultural returns since their Blairite primes. These hasbeens all continue to desperately seek the virtue high of the days when they could fawn over Blair at dinner parties, letting their friends know just how much they really care about poverty and the poor while quaffing endless glasses of champagne. Cool Britannia is having its mid-life crisis.
No doubt over the next few days the usual suspects such as Noel Gallagher, David Baddiel, Tony Robinson and JK Rowling will let the masses know that they approve, JK undoubtedly comparing Starmer to Dumbledore while hawking some fresh Harry Potter wizarding bog rolls.
It feels good to believe you’re making a difference, yet introspection would show this prawn sandwich brigade that their beliefs are formulated not on their concern for their fellow citizens but ensuring that their own lives and pockets remain untouched while they pontificate.
It doesn’t really matter how many commit suicide because they can’t afford to pay their bills, nor does it matter how many die in Syria, it certainly doesn’t matter how many die in Palestine. All that matters is that the wheel keeps on turning, the City keeps on functioning and Karen can get her kale from Ocado.
So, of course, the likes of George Osbourne are praising Starmer. He is absolutely no threat to the orthodoxy. Neoliberalism once again comes in shades of blue and red and all is right with their world.
But what level of detachment from reality does it take to believe that crying tears at the presence of Keir Starmer, knighted millionaire, is going to appeal to families on zero-hours contracts in Burnley? What level of detachment does it take not to understand that there is nothing but resentment against media and celebrity liberal hypocrisy amongst the working class? The Tories understand this all too well and have exploited it to the fullness of effect, as do the far-right. Those struggling to feed their children through food banks have absolutely zero interest in liberalism, nor what the offspring of Gordon Gecko and a Brycreem boy has to say. What they’re interested in is surviving till next week.
Boris Johnson has successfully convinced swathes of the working class that he holds the answer to their problems, Sir Starmer shows absolutely nothing to suggest for a moment that he will care about these problems or will ever hold the answers to them. Being “forensic” will matter nought when Boris Johnson utilises his charisma to pull the heartstrings, he will make Starmer look out of touch, dull, passionless and caring only for middle-class suburbia.
Starmer will be unable to answer because it will be true.