Paul Burke

Keir Starmer is an excellent Labour leader, which is why he’ll never be PM

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We’ve all been very impressed, haven’t we, by Sir Keir Starmer’s performances at Prime Minister’s Questions? His calm, precise and forensic dismantling of Boris Johnson has drawn praise from all quarters. Quite right too. An effective Leader of the Opposition is vital to any democracy and at last, we seem to have one. An eminent QC with the courage to ask the tough questions and put our blustering PM on the rack.

There are, inevitably, some petty quibblers who aren’t quite so Starmerstruck. They feel that the hindsight-fuelled bullying of a man still recovering from a near-death experience, and the castigating of a government forced to face horrendous economic and societal problems, weren’t particularly courageous. They’d have liked Sir Keir to have shown a bit more courage last year to conquer and crush the anti-Semitism within his own party. They were disappointed at the way he meekly kept his head down, his nose clean and his job safe.

Still, let’s forgive and forget. Better late than never. He’s now holding the government to account quite brilliantly, setting the political agenda and building his case with a prosecutor’s skill and acuity.

That can only be good for the country but the question is, will it be good for Keir Starmer? I’m not so sure because he already finds himself in quite an awkward position. He has to keep holding the Government to account. If he doesn’t, then he’s failing in his duty as Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition. However, if he does, then all he’s doing is helping the government.

Look how he helped them this week. The Government was refusing to budge from visa surcharges levied on NHS and care workers arriving from overseas. At PMQs, Sir Keir railed against it and, just hours later, Boris saw the error of his ways and announced that the charge would be dropped.

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