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Keir Starmer: our first part-time prime minister?

Some jobs don’t come with a work-life balance.

Lauren Smith

Topics Politics UK

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Is the UK on track to have its first part-time prime minister? Labour leader Keir Starmer told Virgin Radio’s Chris Evans yesterday that he does ‘not do a work-related thing after 6pm pretty well come what may’. Instead, he tries to ‘carve out really protected time for the kids’, aged 13 and 16. He then made it clear he plans to maintain this habit if he enters No10 Downing Street.

Starmer tried to justify this clock-watching by claiming it helps him do a better job as Labour leader. ‘It takes me away from the pressure, it relaxes me’, he said. ‘I don’t believe in the theory that you’re a better decision-maker if you don’t allow yourself the space to be a dad and have fun with your kids.’

For many jobs, this would be a perfectly respectable attitude. But is Starmer aware that he’s currently pitching himself as the next prime minister of the United Kingdom, not as a marketing and sales rep at a mid-sized company?

A spokesperson for Labour has since tried to walk Starmer’s comments back, clarifying that ‘obviously he recognises things will be different if he does end up in No10’.

Rishi Sunak is, perhaps unsurprisingly, not convinced by this. ‘I haven’t finished at 6pm ever’, the PM boasted. The British public ‘deserve better than a part-time prime minister’, the Conservative Party wrote on X.

Bizarrely, there is now a backlash against the Tory backlash. Sunak and the Conservatives have been accused of ‘attacking’ Starmer’s remarks unfairly, and ‘seizing on’ words taken out of context. Some have even breathlessly suggested that the Tories’ attack lines are actually coloured by anti-Semitism (Starmer’s wife, Victoria, is Jewish, and so the family may well be observing Shabbat, goes the tenuous deflection).

Of course, Sunak’s own punishing schedule might not have done him or the UK much good in the end. He often appears to be busy for its own sake, launching initiatives that go nowhere and policies that don’t add up to any coherent agenda for government. Perhaps this desire to tick off more campaign events, to appear relentlessly active, led him to skip the D-Day anniversary last month. And we all know how that turned out.

Still, Sunak is surely right to criticise Starmer’s oddly casual approach to the most important job in the nation. Starmer’s clock-watching speaks to the dwindling importance of public service. We are sadly all too used to civil-service leaders placing their precious work-life balance over the needs of the nation. Infamously, much of the Foreign Office were on holiday or working from home as Afghanistan fell to the Taliban a few years ago – even the permanent secretary and the then foreign secretary were phoning it in from their sun loungers.

Now even our likely next PM has embraced a soft form of ‘quiet quitting’. Keir Starmer may well be about to breeze into Downing Street, but he is in for a very rude awakening if he thinks he’ll get away with shirking his duties to the nation.

Lauren Smith is a staff writer at spiked.

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics UK

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