Starmer has inadvertently arrived at his Clause Four moment

by Kevin Meagher

Fortune favours the bold and if that hoary old claim stands the test of time, Keir Starmer should emerge from ‘beergate’ strengthened.

His announcement yesterday that he will resign as Labour leader if Durham police find he breached lockdown regulations following his campaign visit to the county in April 2021 for the local elections, has convulsed British politics.

Surely, he’s not prepared to play Russian Roulette with his very career?

Well, yes, he is.

The particulars of the case are now drearily familiar.

Did the perfectly bog-standard campaign visit, which involved a beer and a curry for Starmer and campaign workers constitute a party, or were they merely grabbing a drink and a bite to eat after the working day.

Addressing the incessant questioning that has swirled around his account of events head on, his statement this afternoon confirming his intentions was simple and direct.

He had done nothing wrong and complied with the rules, he said.

His critics in the right-wing media ‘didn’t believe it themselves’ and were just trying to ‘feed cynicism’ and get the public to accept ‘all politicians are the same.’

‘I’m here to say they are not,’ he added. ‘I believe in honour, integrity and the principle that those who make the laws should follow them.’

A bit corny, but heartfelt, too.

The ever-sagacious John McTernan, Tony Blair’s former political secretary told Radio Four that parking the issue would create much-needed breathing space, allowing Starmer to get properly stuck into the Queen’s Speech, without enduring the catcalls of Tory MPs and incessant questioning of salivating reporters.

Downing Street, so keen to drag the Labour leader down to its level via its media outriders, will have gamed this scenario and probably dismissed it.

Keir Starmer is clearly a proud man and will loathe being thought of as ‘just as bad’ as Boris Johnson.

By taking charge of events in such a dramatic, zero-sum manner he’s created the opportunity to define himself in dramatic terms.

If the British people were not taking much notice before, they certainly are now (especially as his deputy, Angela Rayner, who was also present in Durham, did likewise).

Professional politicians don’t put their entire career on the line like this. And that’s Starmer’s point: He isn’t just another politician. His actions today show that all too starkly.

For the past two years, people have asked ‘Who is Keir Starmer really?’ Supporters have been urging him to define himself with a big, courageous act.

Take on the left. Expel Corbyn.

He has eschewed casual dramatics and by doing so, postponed a ‘Clause Four moment.’

Tony Blair’s decision to rewrite the party’s commitment to widescale nationalisation in 1994 defined his early leadership. He was prepared to take chances and ruffle feathers to show that Labour had changed.

It became the foundational event in his leadership, earning the party a hearing with millions of voters who saw his decisiveness in stark contrast to the dither and incompetence of John Major’s moth-eaten Conservative government.

In the spirit of not letting a good crisis go to waste, Starmer may have advertently arrived at his own Clause Four moment.

If he is not on the receiving end of a fixed penalty notice from Durham Police by the summer recess in July, then his explanation will be vindicated, and he will have earned a second look by wavering voters.

He will head into the party conference season as a renewed character.

If, however, he is found to have broken the rules and resigns, then he has set a clear expectation that Boris Johnson must do likewise.

The pressure to follow Starmer’s example will break his premiership.

Those Conservative MPs who are mortified at Johnson’s libertine reign will have a sneaking regard for Starmer’s personal leadership.

The man himself has probably enjoyed the first stress-free night in weeks of hostile coverage, where his every utterance about that otherwise uneventful visit has been pored over relentlessly.

No more.

He can get on with the job – either for a few weeks more before resigning, or by leading La

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut

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9 Responses to “Starmer has inadvertently arrived at his Clause Four moment”

  1. Tafia says:

    Meanwhile Johnson (quiite rightly) wont do anything – which part of ‘it’s not a resigning matter’ are you having a problem understanding. Starmer resigning would be an internal matter for the Labour party. Outside of them, it’s only of interest as a comedy piss-take matter.

  2. Anne says:

    Was this the right thing to do for Starmer? Well, yes it was – he is saying I am not like them – I abide by the rules. Was it a work meeting – well, yes it was – he was there for the by-election. Food is usually provided at such meetings, and plans made so that time is effectively used.
    There is no comparison to the ‘parties’ going on in number 10. Suitcases of booze going into this residence. It is said there are 12 events under investigation.

  3. Tafia says:

    People need to get things in context. This is a minor minor trivial offence. Below not clearing up after your dog, below fishing without a licence, below doing 35 in a 30 zone, below parking for too long in Aldi’s car park.

    And it is way way below dropping a cigarette end.

    Even Ed Balls – widely tipped to be about to make a come back, has had several far more severe brushes with the law – Balls was fined in June 2013 for going through a red light in December 2012. He was also fined for speeding in April 2013. He was also fined foe using his mobile phone while driving during the 2010 general election campaign. On 5 August 2014, in another incident, he was fined £900 and given five penalty points on his driving licence for failing to stop after a car accident.

  4. Like buses there have been no new posts for months and then 3 come along at once.

    Anne, the booxe had to get into the MP’s constituency office somehow. Quite possible it was in a suitcase.

  5. steve says:

    Starmer said he’d resign if fined.

    Durham police, following the Cummings eyesight test, are on record as saying they don’t issue retrospective fines.

    Therefore, no matter what the outcome, Starmer will not resign.

    Of course, he would have been fully aware of this when issuing his ‘I’ll resign if fined’ statement.

    The public have it right – Labour and Tories are a self-replicating elite who routinely lie and cheat. And the LibDems will jump into bed with whichever party offers keys to ministerial limousines.

  6. Landless Peasant says:

    When they’ve all done arguing over who had a shandy at the office party perhaps someone in either government or opposition will address the little matter of millions of people in this country being unable to afford to pay their Utility bills and/or buy food. Is it time yet to introduce a Unconditional Basic Income Mr. Starmer? Is it time to re-Nationalize the Utilities? Is it time to abolish Benefit Sanctions and increase State Benefits to more than the current “grossly inadequate” level, Rachel Reeves, or are you still in favour of a punitive, inaccessible and dysfunctional Social Security system? Foodbanks are reaching crisis point. This is an emergency. Charitable organizational run by volunteers cannot continue to take up the slack of a failed State. What are any of you fookers proposing to do about it?

  7. Landless Peasant says:

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  8. Tafia says:

    Unconditional Basic Income Mr. Starmer?

    It’s called Universal Credit.

  9. Tafia says:

    Landless Peasant, listen to this very very carefully. I’ll explain it simply as it’s far more complex but this is the basics whether you like it or not (which frankly is utterly irrelevant). There is NOTHING this or any government can do about this. Absolutley nothing. The problem is systemic all over the western world and is far worse in a lot of countries than here – we are only around average – Netherlands and Spain for example have inflation at over 10% for months now and rapidly increasing and both are considering bringing in wage and benefit freezes – and Spain has a left wing government.

    USA has a shortage of baby milk – the USA, the wealthiest country on earth.

    The wholesale price of eggs has risen 160% in a matter of weeks and the list of other stuff that is skyrocketing in price on the world markets is massve – timber, coal, silicon chips, barley, dairy products, wheat, rice, steel, copper, rubber, chicken, beef, pork, white fish, fertilisers, animal feeds. The list is endless.

    Despite the USA throwing it’s entire economic might at trying to force the price of oil down and flooding the market with it’s strategic reserves, it continues to climb and at close of market yesterday WTI was at $114 a barrel, Brent also at $114, and gas prices continue to climb as well.

    And people who think government can do something are the ones that are out of touch – the Governor of the Bank of England is telling the truth and it’s utterly irrelevant whether you like it or not.

    Only one thing brings inflation under control – restricting money supply by below inflation wage and benefit rises, higher interest rates, less availability to credit. That however reduces GDP growth significantlty. But across the west, nobody has high enough GDP growth to be able to cope with that and it will plunge the western world into recession where, in a complete paradox, the only way to force GDP up is by increasing consumer spending via the exact opposit – low interest rates, higher than inflation wage and benefit rises, easier credit. In other words, the west can either fight inflation by causing a recession, or go for economic growth by letting inflation rise further and faster. Or it can choose to do neither, see hyper-inflation and currency collapse.

    So lets see which would you choose (because this is what politicians all over the west are deliberating):-

    a. Fight inflation and cause a recession along with significant unemployment.

    b. Go for econmic growth, which will raise inflation further.

    c. Nothing. Experiance stagflation follwed by hyper-inflation and currency collapse.

    So imagine now you are a politician. You have to choose one option and if you don’t decide quickly ‘c’ just happens automatically. So which would you choose. And if you won’t choose then you are useless. So which woud you choose – a, b, c.

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