by David Ward
At times it felt like we’d completely bypassed the election and gone straight into the leadership contest. Jenny Chapman introduced Keir Starmer as “clear, articulate, and strong” and one of the “bravest, most sincere, people I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with”.
Yet with the inescapable reality of the stopped clock on the adjacent wall telling the right time twice a day, Starmer had to bring us back into the present and tell us what Labour’s policy on Brexit would be.
For an election speech there was quite a bit of policy in there. Guarantee the rights of EU nationals, an end to free movement, a laser focus on jobs and the economy in negotiations. Although it isn’t clear how Labour would “retain the benefits” of the single market and customs union.
But the specifics were less important than the narrative. If this election is about who runs Brexit, Starmer’s message is voting labour is the only way to keep May honest.
This is surely right. Because there are reasons to be concerned about giving the PM such a free hand regardless of whether you supported Leave or Remain.
A huge majority for May simply allows her free rein to strike almost any agreement, impervious to criticism.
For example many leavers, including Labour voters, were motivated by concerns about immigration last summer. Yet already Theresa May has suggested free movement could continue after Britain leaves the EU.