We already know how Keir’s Labour party conference speech will go down. Like a cup of cold sick, unless he rips it up and speaks from the heart, says Fleet Street Fox
Hello! I am Keir Starmer.
I am not Tony Blair. I am not Jeremy Corbyn. I am not Keith from the cul-de-sac. I am not a vague idea. This is me [INSERT WHAT I AM HERE, POSSIBLE DISCO MOVE].
I know who you are. You are [INSERT VOTER HERE]. And I know what you want. You want [INSERT MARKET RESEARCH HERE].
Boris Johnson’s rubbish, isn’t he? [LIST DISASTERS]
I wouldn’t do that. I would [FILL THIS BIT IN LATER].
That’s the speech Keir Starmer is probably going to make. It will be written by a committee, it will have taken them months, and whole chunks will have been negotiated with different bits of the Labour machine. Which is why it will be as inspiring as a cup of cold sick on a drizzly day in Newport Pagnell.
Ian Vogler / Daily Mirror)
Trans rights are human rights. We must build back better than the Tories destroyed. And all the ways I am not Boris Johnson, the principle one of which is that I am incapable of projecting my personality more than about six centimetres.
Johnson has projected his personality across the globe. It’s vile, self-serving, childish, and slapdash, but basic herd behaviour makes it more interesting than someone who is thoughtful, clever, principled and careful.
We all know the latter makes a better person. But we also know that leaders first have to get your attention, then keep it. Gaining your respect is a bonus, and few manage that.
Labour was a party founded from movements against what was wrong. It is good at realising what is wrong, and coming up with some pretty innovative solutions. It listens, and dreams of what could be.
The Conservatives, by comparison, were founded on a wish to maintain what is. It is bred in the bone to say “this is working great for us, let’s not change”.
Labour picks at scabs; the Tories plaster over them. Labour criticises its own victories, its greatest leader, its factions multiply like mould on sweaty cheese. The Tories spend zero time on the leaders of its past. They do not wonder about Mrs Thatcher, or argue about whether Iain Duncan Smith is a human being or an angry squirrel.
They just say: “We were in power, great!” They ignore the times and reasons they weren’t. Labour picks the fluff from its navel, gives it a good sniff, rolls it between its fingers, wonders what it is, considers showing it to other people and asking them what they think. It’s more likely to get sectioned than elected.
Starmer should sit down with a pen and notepad and write his own speech. He has a good character and a personality that is informed, principled, and charismatic, but he has not been able to project it in a pandemic where all human interaction has boiled down to a two-dimensional computer screen. Sit with him at a table and you’d be impressed; but he has to relax more in interviews so that he can do the same when he’s projected into millions of living rooms and car shares.
Whereas two dimensions rather suit Johnson, whose personality is galactic in its ambitions and whose character has not altered since he was a bawling infant demanding bitty. While he dodges his fuel crisis, the North and his own ethics commissioner, Keir has to capitalise on a cautiously reopening Britain, talk to those queuing for hours to get to the forecourts so they can work, show how he can make our lives and work valued and valuable, and do it without sleaze or scandal.
He could promise to redecorate the Downing Street flat with help from Wilko, like the rest of us.
So the speech has to say: I am Keir Starmer. This is me. I know you, and what you want, and here’s how I’ll do it.
It should not mention Johnson, who is an attention black hole, gobbling up bandwidth. It should not mention Blair, Corbyn, or anything from the past. And for the love of Pete, stay away from cervixes.
Starmer is benighted by a party that can’t agree, and a machinery that grinds up true leadership and spits out a grudge-filled coalition. He’s tinkered with the rules, but also needs to strip out every unnecessary cog and spanner from the works. A leader has to be an autocrat.
And he has to emote, project, use facial expressions. The camera loves it, because people connect with it. Until he shows us his loves and hates, his dream to replace Johnson’s lumbering, never-ending nightmare, he’ll only ever be a caretaker, the man keeping it ticking over until a new boss comes along.
He’s been working on fighting an election in two years time. It could be called within months, by a maverick with a taste for risk and unerring knack for self-preservation. Starmer’s speech has to say he knows what he’s up against, he’s ready now, and not only tell them it’s time to fall in line – but to give them a faith in his abilities that means they want to march with him.
Unless his word is law, there’s no point speaking at all.