The Uncuts 2020 (part II)

Politician of the year: Keir Starmer

Politics is a trade conducted exclusively in the moment so it’s worth restating the position at the point Keir Starmer became leader. Just over a year ago, Labour crashed to its worst defeat since 1935, collapsing to 203 MPs and trailing the Tories by just over 11% in the popular vote. Few alive had seen the party laid so low.

Nine months on from the leadership election, Labour is currently level pegging with the Tories, Starmer himself is consistently ahead of Boris Johnson and the Conservatives have yet to work out a consistent line of attack on him. The process of returning Labour to electoral contention will be a work of years, but the early progress under Labour’s new leader is evident.

Keir Starmer’s resolution in winning back the Jewish community’s trust and tackling anti-Semitism with Labour has combined moral and political imperatives, establishing the clearest possible dividing line with the previous leadership (albeit, helped unintentionally by the hard left’s inexplicable decision that this is the hill to die on).

British politics in 2020 has spawned many losers. Boris Johnson has squandered the public’s trust following his victory and is vulnerable, Ed Davey isn’t yet a blip in the opinion polls and even Nicola Sturgeon faces unprecedented challenges with the burgeoning civil war within the SNP between her’s and Alex Salmond’s factions. Against this backdrop of political struggles and reverses, Keir Starmer is the one British party leader who has made significant progress over the year.

Nothwithstanding the recent intra-party challenges over Brexit, he enters 2021 with a level of momentum and an expectation of further progress.

Shortest-lived Frontbencher Award: Rebecca Long-Bailey

Perhaps against the better judgement of some of his more seasoned colleagues, in April Keir Starmer opted to appoint a few of the younger Corbynites to frontbench roles, in a “unifying” play to move on from the Corbyn years. Despite his best efforts, it didn’t last.

By June Rebecca Long-Bailey, the Momentum-anointed candidate to replace Corbyn as leader, had gushingly tweeted a Guardian article by resident hard-leftie-luvvie Maxine Peake, where she regurgitated an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. While Peake herself later distanced herself from her own words as a mistake, Long-Bailey somewhat loftily refused to withdraw the tweet and apologise herself. This went down in the LOTO’s office like a lead balloon.

Unusually for a Shadow Cabinet level role, she was not even forced to resign but summarily dismissed by an angry Starmer that same day: a move which would reportedly not have been contemplated were it not for the impression given by Unite-backed Long-Bailey that the rules did not apply to her.

Ah, if only Unite’s backing could afford that Ready Brek glow of protection it did in the Corbyn years.

While the seriousness of this career-limiting move was not quite enough to pip her former boss at the post for the Political Self-Harm award, the exceptional brevity of her eight-four-day term as Shadow Education Secretary meant the judges saw her as a clear winner in this category, going above and beyond the call of duty to vacate her post in record time.

Meanwhile, in the runner-up position, Lloyd Russell-Moyle – already notorious for having to apologise for comments suggesting that Jewish claims to Israel were “dangerous”; to author J K Rowling for shocking comments about her opening up over domestic abuse; and a decidedly cringeworthy acceptance speech on re-election last December – was forced to resign as Shadow Minster for Natural Environment and Air Quality after a mere ninety-eight days, citing a “campaign by the right-wing media”. But of course.

Although not a winner this time, clearly a creditable achievement by the boy Russell-Moyle, and we look forward to his return to claim a first place in next year’s Uncut awards.

False trade-off of the year: Health and Economy

The health and economic costs of Covid-19 have been massive for the UK. It has caused 71,109 deaths. There are parliamentary constituencies with fewer people. At the same time, national output for 2020 is expected to be 11 percentage points below that of 2019, the biggest recession in 300 years.

In spring, fearful of the economic consequences, we were slow to lockdown – deepening the health cost of Covid-19 and extending the lockdown, with harmful economic results. In summer, we were eating out to help out, contributing to Covid-19 clusters. In autumn, government was urging those working productively at home to return to their offices, accelerating the spread of Covid-19 and the necessity of a second national lockdown.

At no stage have we been able to fuse economic opening-up with control of Covid-19 – splurging £22bn on a test and trace system that has failed to unlock this combination. Getting this to work should have been a higher priority for the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, than rushing to reopen the economy before our public health systems are robust enough to cope with the increased social contacts involved with this.

Sunak has seemed to fail to understand that there is no trade-off between the health and economic consequences of Covid-19. International comparisons suggest that quite the opposite is the case. Only when we are moving beyond the health impacts of Covid-19 will the economic recovery really start.

If test and trace was the great failed investment of 2020, accelerating vaccine rollout is the massive economic opportunity of 2021. The government should now have concrete plans to match the Israeli speed of rollout, which is on track to have the whole country vaccinated by the end of March.

Tags: , , , , ,

7 Responses to “The Uncuts 2020 (part II)”

  1. John p Reid says:

    StRmer I’d go in so we’ll that even with the idea he could win 8% of the vote off the libdems and once brexit was find he could get 4% off the vote back From. The Tories

    He’s a staggering 0.1% ahead in the polls of The Tories and the vote he gif beck from Thr libdems if in seats like Tottenham not The red wall

  2. Anne says:

    Kier Starmer is doing well – attention to detail, good communication skills – certainly leadership skills in abundance.
    lets hope 2021 is a good year.
    My hope for Uncut is that it is better at restricting comments from the Tory Trolls – most have nothing to do with the article with made up stories of absolutely no interest to anyone.

  3. A.J. says:

    We can see that the choice of Sir Keir Starmer must be as the result of long, cool, careful deliberation, rather than just picking his name out of a hat – a hat that would, at least on the Labour side – be not exactly brimming. One smiles at Johnson and the mediocrities that surround him on the New Labour (sorry, ‘Conservative’) side of the House Of Commons, then we steel ourselves to take a look at Her Majesty’s Opposition, where only Bridget Phillipson stands out.
    Starmer is rather like my mother’s sponge-cake: light and airy but the cherries have a habit of sinking to the bottom. Labour used to produce figures that reminded the working class voter of bitter beer and tobacco smoke. Now it’s all coconut water and tampons.

  4. A.J. says:

    Perhaps I’m missing something, but I don’t understand this preoccupation with the General Election of 1935. The Labour Party – full of big beasts – was up against problems almost always of an external nature, not those manufactured by malcontents. National Labour was doubtless attractive to many, yet Attlee and his people held their nerve – long enough that they were able to ‘Speak For England’ when the time came. Can they be trusted to do so now?
    Take a look at ‘The Spectator’ and its view of what has quickly become identified as ‘Corbynism’. The roots of that were probably visible in the 1930s/40s/certainly 50s PLP and certainly in the CLPs. Attlee, Bevin, Deakin, Morrison et al. tried their damndest to keep them in check – and there were some well-merited expulsions. Now? Nothing.
    No, 2019 was probably yet another downward spiral. Starmer is no Attlee, and there is no Cripps or Bevin waiting in the wings. Even Attlee was running out of steam before – certainly by – the election of 1950. We then have to wait for Wilson – and look how that ended up: with an exhausted Callaghan and a predatory (if you like) Mrs.Thatcher.

  5. Dave Roberts says:

    I have read this several times and it is still la la and cloud cuckoo land stuff. Labour should be miles ahead in the polls and they’re not. End of story.

  6. Tafia says:

    Starmer politician of the year?

    You set a low bar and consistantly fail to achieve it.

    @Anne – Starmer is now back behind BoJo in polls about who is best for PM etc and has dropped quite sharply. Publics main criticisms are his constant whining, not suggesting thought-out alternatives, continually abstaining etc etc. So remember, no matter what you think of BoJo, the public think Starmer is worse. You of course, being abreast of public opinion, are fully aware

  7. A.J. says:

    A new poll has set pulses racing in a couple of the Sundays by suggesting the collapse of the ‘Blue Wall’ come the next election, followed by their getting a fresh coat of red paint. Trouble is, Labour would still not have a working majority and would have to rely on the SNP for simply breathing. Shades of the Miliband era. Boris Johnson, having ‘got Brexit done’, would lose his seat. ‘The Observer’ continues the current left-wing agonising over what it might be the working classes truly expect of their politicians, whilst the likes of Michael Heseltine (who is coming to look increasingly like my Marxist grandmother, the terrifying Winnie) is proposing to lead the charge on rejoining the EU (possibly just before Easter).

Leave a Reply