Slippery Starmer

A potted history of his flip-flopping, u-turns and flagrant dishonesty.

Tom Slater

Tom Slater

Topics Politics UK

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If the pollsters are to be believed, Keir Starmer is about to become the UK’s next prime minister. And it’s not even close. With the General Election looming on 4 July, Starmer’s Labour Party is enjoying a staggering 20-point lead, while the Conservatives appear to be imploding.

So, who is Keir Starmer? Some people, by now, will know the biographical basics, not least because he harps on about them all the time. His dad was a toolmaker. He carved out a successful career as a barrister and then led the Crown Prosecution Service. He was elected as the Labour MP for Holborn and St Pancras in 2015.

But when it comes to any principles, ideology or even policy, Starmer is often hard to pin down. Endless column inches have been devoted to working out what he truly stands for. This is because, over his short political career, he has shown a remarkable willingness to change his position, often while pretending he hasn’t. The image that emerges is of a politician who doesn’t really believe in anything. And is happy to say almost anything, if he thinks it might progress his career.

When Starmer was campaigning to succeed Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, his posters were plastered with the word ‘integrity’. He has often talked about ‘restoring trust in politics’ and the importance of ‘honesty‘. He has often contrasted himself with former Tory PM Boris Johnson, who he says ‘had no principles’ and ‘lied through his teeth’. But today this looks like a classic case of projection. For you see, Starmer is easily among the most untrustworthy politicians of his generation.

Let’s look back to that leadership race in 2020. Starmer presented himself then as a ‘moral socialist’, as a slightly more pragmatic custodian of Jeremy Corbyn’s left-wing vision. He called Corbyn a friend. He called Corbyn’s 2017 manifesto ‘our foundational document’. He said it was important to build on this legacy and not ‘trash the last four years’. He even issued Labour members with 10 core pledges, including promises to renationalise key industries, abolish university tuition fees and raise income tax for the top five per cent of earners.

What a difference four years make. Today, having said he wouldn’t junk Corbynism, Starmer is currently purging Labour’s parliamentary party of the Corbynistas. Corbyn himself is standing in this election as an independent, after he had the whip withdrawn in October 2020 for suggesting that anti-Semitism in the party had been exaggerated for political gain. Few, outside of north London, will see Corbyn as any great loss. But if Starmer was so concerned about his predecessor’s woeful approach to anti-Semitism, that begs the question: why did he serve in his cabinet, and why did he campaign for this man to be prime minister not once, but twice?

What’s more, barely any of those 10 pledges Starmer made to Labour members have survived. In 2020, Starmer promised to nationalise ‘mail, energy and water’. Within a year of winning the leadership, he had already ruled out nationalising energy, and the others weren’t far behind. His pledge to raise income tax for the rich or abolish tuition fees eventually went the same way. Starmer often blames all this on Liz Truss ‘wrecking’ the economy, and leaving no money to spend, but his shift in position was well underway before Truss’s brief, hapless spell in No10 Downing Street.

Starmer’s contempt for party democracy, or his ability to say one thing and then do the opposite, may have surprised some Labour members. But it won’t have surprised many Brexiteers. Indeed, Starmer’s betrayal of the Corbynites pales in comparison with his betrayal of 2016 Brexit voters, and his campaign to overturn the largest democratic mandate in British history.

Shortly before the 2017 General Election, Starmer, who was then shadow Brexit secretary, said that Labour accepted the result of the 2016 referendum. He promised that Labour would support Brexit ‘as a matter of principle’ in the next parliament. But after the election was over, he instantly reneged on that promise. He set about orchestrating the obstruction of Brexit in parliament and pushed for a second referendum. Having said he accepted the will of the people, he then did everything in his power to thwart it.

Starmer’s disastrous second-referendum policy in large part cost Labour the 2019 election, when combined with Corbyn’s by-then-toxic personal brand. But there were no mea culpas from Starmer himself. Instead, he simply changed position on Brexit. Again. By November 2022, he was posing as a born-again Brexiteer, announcing that ‘Brexit is safe in my hands’, as he tried to woo Leave voters in Labour’s former heartlands.

It’s quite a journey – from promising to honour Brexit to betraying Brexit and back again. It would be laughable if Starmer hadn’t come terrifyingly close to stopping Brexit and shattering voters’ trust in democracy for a generation. Plus, there’s evidence to suggest he will try to water down Brexit once in power. Last year, he floated the idea of the UK accepting EU migrant quotas. He has also called for a ‘closer’ trading relationship with Brussels, which officials say would only be possible if the UK further submitted itself to EU rules and the European Court of Justice.

Starmer’s capacity for betraying Leave voters has been surpassed only by his capacity for betraying women in the name of gender ideology. In 2021, Starmer promised that a Labour government would ‘introduce self-declaration for trans people’, meaning men could simply declare themselves to be women and demand access to women’s spaces. In 2022, he famously refused to answer, when asked during a radio interview, if a woman can have a penis.

His answers to The Penis Question have become increasingly absurd, as he has tried to rationalise his views to a bemused public. Last year, Starmer declared that 99.9 per cent of women ‘haven’t got a penis’. Which would mean that one woman in every thousand does have a penis. Which is still an awful lot of penises.

Starmer swiftly began to change position after he saw Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon blow up her SNP-led government over the trans issue in 2023. He started talking up the importance of single-sex spaces. When the Cass Review, published earlier this year, exposed the harms being done to children in the name of gender medicine, Starmer accepted its findings.

But, true to form, this Damascene gender-critical conversion hasn’t lasted long. Bowing to the trans activists in his party, Labour is once again talking about making it easier to legally change one’s gender – a move that, everyone now knows, would endanger both women’s spaces and those struggling with their identity. He also wants to clamp down on ‘transphobic’ hate speech and ban ‘trans conversion therapy’ – a deeply misleading phrase that could encompass almost any attempt to question or talk through a patient’s ‘gender identity’.

Starmer’s contortionism on the trans issue has been all the more outrageous given the treatment of Rosie Duffield – a gender-critical Labour MP who has been bombarded with threats and abuse. In 2021, Starmer even joined in the pile-on against Duffield, when he told the BBC it was ‘not right’ for her to say that only women can have a cervix. According to Starmer, this statement of biological fact was ‘something that shouldn’t be said’. Last month, he was forced to admit on Good Morning Britain that Duffield was right about cervixes all along, but declined the opportunity to apologise to her.

Nationalisation, Brexit, gender. Those are just some of the more eye-catching examples of Starmer swinging wildly from one position to its apparent polar opposite. But there are no end of other examples.

Here’s Keir Starmer in 2019, praising the road-blocking, eco-activist group, Extinction Rebellion:

‘As the Extinction Rebellion protest showed us this week, the next generation are not going to forgive us if we don’t take action.’

And here’s Keir Starmer in 2022, telling the road-blocking, eco-activist group, Just Stop Oil, to ‘get up’ and ‘go home’:

‘Get up, go home. I’m opposed to what you’re doing. It’s not the way to deal with the climate crisis.’

Here’s Keir Starmer in 2020, saying he supports schemes in which people are not arrested for possessing cannabis:

‘I have supported schemes where cannabis possession is not arrested… and I believe in that.’

And here’s Keir Starmer in 2023, saying cannabis smoke is destroying his constituents’ lives:

‘Every night cannabis smoke creeps… into their children’s bedrooms… That’s not low-level, it’s ruining their lives.’

Here’s Keir Starmer on immigration, in 2020:

‘We have to make the case for freedom of movement.’

And here’s Keir Starmer on immigration, a few weeks ago:

‘Well, immigration is at a record high under this government – a complete failure. We need to bring it down.’

I think you get the picture.

This is not a man changing his views in light of new arguments, data or circumstances. This is a man who either believes in nothing, or is lying about what he actually believes, in order to get into power. Thinking about it, I’m not entirely sure which is worse.

Keir Starmer: Mr Honesty, Mr Integrity, Mr Moral Socialism? Please… He might just be the slipperiest, most unprincipled politician we’ve seen for many years. And in a few weeks’ time, he could be your prime minister.

Tom Slater is editor of spiked. Follow him on X: @Tom_Slater_

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Topics Politics UK


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