Lloyd Evans

Keir Starmer’s undiplomatic incident at PMQs

Keir Starmer’s undiplomatic incident at PMQs
Keir Starmer (photo: Getty)
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America loomed large at PMQs. The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, blundered immediately. None of his advisers seem to know that Americans are highly sensitive to putdowns from snooty Brits. And Sir Keir – who is not just a posh Englishman but a Knight of the Bath as well – reinforced the stereotype by smearing the 70 million citizens who voted Republican. He called the Democratic victory ‘a new era of decency and compassion in the White House.’

In return for suggesting that half of America is indecent and uncaring, Sir Keir gained absolutely nothing. Keep him away from foreign affairs.

He also struggled to score against Boris. Sir Keir catalogued a shocking record of government errors – £7,000 paid in daily fees to consultants, and millions wasted on masks from a firm that delivered not a single useable item – and yet Boris said these contracts represented ‘the private sector’ at its triumphant best. He hailed Pfizer as a ‘giant conglomerate’ of a type that Labour wants to break up.

No wonder he seemed as cheerful as a baa-lamb. The serum may end the corona-wobbles that have blighted his government all year. The lockdown and the vaccine, he said, were ‘two big boxing gloves with which to pummel this virus.’

Angela Eagle, looking a bit peaky and neglected on the backbenches, decided to play her part in the US elections. She congratulated the Democrats on their ‘emphatic’ victory – a curious misreading of the yet-to-be-confirmed result – and added that Trump’s refusal to concede was ‘embarrassing’ and ‘dangerous to American democracy.’ Having delivered this earth-shattering blow to the reputation of the United States she sat down and watched as Boris tried to rescue our transatlantic cousins from her decisive and historic verdict.

Boris, of course, gladly scooped up the opportunity to enlarge on his warm, future relationship with the winning party.

Next, Ian Blackford. The SNP member uses PMQs as a weekly press conference on behalf of his party. He started by explaining why 11 November is called Armistice Day.

‘We commemorate the day, 102 years ago when, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh month [sic], the guns fell silent.’

This was for the benefit of pupils in his constituency who’ve been hopelessly let down by their education system. And he omitted ‘the eleventh day’ to express solidarity with badly-trained teachers, especially those in Scotland, whose grasp of basic history is far from perfect.

He then offered his congratulations to Sleepy Joe and Nurse Harris. No doubt he’s angling for the all-important ‘phone call’. Alas, it could be a long wait. Even if the new Prez or his Veep were to call Blackford – which is about as likely as Scotland winning the World Cup – they wouldn’t get a word in edgeways.

Then he moved to the £20 increase in Universal Credit which expires next March. Blackford is in a permanent tizzy over Universal Credit but he seems equally furious about his fellow Scots.

‘People excluded from government support,’ he ranted. ‘Forgotten millions struggling to get by… a bitter winter for families in the run-up to Christmas.’

It’s odd for a nationalist to characterise his own country as a third-world basket-case full of hungering paupers who can’t feed their children without the largesse of the English taxpayer.

Blackford should quit his gorgeous home and see how many of his countrymen really match his image of Dickensian helplessness.

‘The Prime Minister has repeatedly refused to lift a finger to help these people,’ he moaned.

This completed his curious portrait of English bounty and Scottish subservience. He’s quite a contradiction – only happy when contemplating wretchedness.

Written byLloyd Evans

Lloyd Evans is The Spectator's sketch-writer and theatre critic

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