Do you need to be ruthless or a ‘nutter’ to become British prime minister? No, says Britain’s leader of the Opposition.22 February 2021
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has hit back at critics who say he lacks the hard-man qualities needed to become Britain’s prime minister. He also attacked politicians and journalists, who he says have already been proved wrong about him.
Speaking by zoom to a group situated inside his parliamentary constituency, Sir Keir said voters don’t want ‘drama and a bit of a nutter in charge’. Instead, he drew strength from the examples of his own father and mother.
‘My dad was a toolmaker, worked in a factory all his life, and my mother was a nurse,’ Starmer said. ‘They didn’t want drama and a bit of a nutter in charge.
‘They wanted [as the country’s leader] someone who understood their lives, understood what would improve their lives and the lives of their children and was honest, had integrity and would lead from the front.
‘I don’t subscribe to the theory that if you’re not a bit of a nutter you’re not the right person to lead this country. And if I was to list the values I want to see in a leader, ruthlessness would not be the top value by a long shot.’
He pointed out that had ‘not shirked’ taking some tough decisions in his first year as Labour leader — an apparent reference to suspending his predecessor Jeremy Corbin and the way he dealt with Corbin’s main hard-left supporter, Rebecca Long-Bailey.
In a thinly-veiled attack on his critics, Starmer went on: ‘There are many people in politics and in journalism who absolutely know everything, and there is no question to which they do not know the answer, and have said with great certainty that I wouldn’t be able to win the Labour leadership. They listed the reasons why not.
‘But here we are, with me leader of the Labour party, and I hope you’ll invite me back in 2024 if we’ve won that election so I can fully refute it.’
SUMMARY OF OTHER POINTS:
+ He also explained how, erroneously, many thought the whole Labour Party would collapse altogether after its defeat in last elections
+ He talked about why it’s so difficult to make inroads in voting intentions while the country has a national Covid crisis… and
+ He discussed his party’s tactics in when to go along with government policy and when to attack… and
+ He said Labour will not call for a new EU referendum even when it wins power.
TRANSCRIPT OF A KEY QUESTION AND ANSWER:
Are you too nice to win in politics?
I’ve read these things, that: what we need is more drama. A Guardian writer wrote last week that the British public want a bit of a ‘nuttering charge’.
When I hear that I think of my mum and dad. My dad was a toolmaker, worked in a factory all his life, and my mother was a nurse. They didn’t want drama and a bit of a nutter in charge, they wanted someone who understood their lives, understood what would improve their lives and the lives of their children and was honest, had integrity and would lead from the front.
I don’t subscribe to the theory that if you’re not a bit of a nutter you’re not the right person to lead this country. And if I was to list the values I want to see in a leader, ruthlessness would not be the top value by a long, long stretch. That’s not to say that there are not difficult decisions to make, And I’ve had to make difficult decisions to make … and I haven’t shirked those decisions in my first year as Labour leader.
I would look at it differently. I would look at it through the eyes of my mum and dad, cheer myself up by [remembering my mother and father] and reminding myself that just over a year ago in the Labour Party leadership race people were saying very similar things: he’ll never be able to win the leadership because of this, that and the other.
And there are many people in politics and in journalism who absolutely know everything, and there is no question to which they do not know the answer, and have said with great certainty that I wouldn’t be able to win the Labour leadership and they listed the reasons why not. But here we are, with me leader of the Labour party, and I hope you’ll invite me back in 2024 if we’ve won that election so I can fully refute it.
NOTE: In case you’re confused by what it means politically to be a ‘nutter’, here’s what the Guardian article said — to which Sir Keir took great exception…
Britons want a bit of drama from their leaders – and Keir Starmer isn’t serving it
The lawyerly Labour leader may think the public want calm and competence, but has he met them lately?
Fri 5 Feb 2021
….All of which brings us to the question: where is the British public at with Keir Starmer? Speaking for myself, I would say that I definitely get he can give sober and detailed university lectures in archaeology. But what most of the movie needs to be, if enough people are going to watch it, is him successfully outrunning a massive boulder hurtling down the tunnel after him. Can he outrun a boulder?……
As a voting body, our longest electoral affections have been reserved for the very biggest nutters. Thatcher and Blair: obvious nutters. Fast-forward to the present day, and Johnson. Nutter. The message of the 2016 referendum was the euphoric nutting of David Cameron (non-nutter). In fact, let me go out on a limb here and posit that the reason Jeremy Corbyn – full nutter – did better than expected against useless anti-nutter Theresa May in 2017 was simply because he WAS full nutter, and the electorate was at some level strangely drawn to that.
Corbyn was always going to fall short, of course, because he was the wrong kind of nutter. He was not a kindred nutter. As for May, her campaign’s obsession with control, competence and the avoidance of risk was anathema. She parked the bus (sometimes literally, at campaign events held in empty hangars). Nobody wants to watch that. Certainly, not enough did to prevent the result sealing her eventual fate down the line.
The worry for Labour is that, in its own way, watching Starmer is just like watching May, or maybe José Mourinho without the eye-gouging. Labour’s shadow cabinet feels like a back six, or even a back eight. In fact, everyone on the pitch always seems to be tracking back. It’s worth bearing in mind that the default preferred metric by which the England football side will always be judged by the fans is: did they play with enough passion? Did they play on even as their head bandage seeped with blood? Do they understand what it “means” to pull on “the shirt”?
Given all that, it’s hard to surrender fully to Keir Starmer’s apparent conviction that what the Great British PublicTMare crying out for is calmness and competence, even if that’s what we collectively tell the pollsters. I mean, we tell the doctors we drink 14 units a week.
Arguably, then, the riskiest position of all is this conviction that a technocratic dream of adequacy rocks the UK’s electoral boat. It’s certainly pretty to think so. But hand on heart, I suspect that even when the nutter of the day has cocked it up, what the nutter-addicted people are always really crying out for is just another nutter, a different nutter, a new nutter to bathe us in nostalgia for whichever previous nutters we currently yearn for. The dopamine-mainlining era of social media has only turbocharged this. We now demand 20 nutters a news cycle – and get 40.