Brendan O’Neill Brendan O’Neill

The trouble with Keir Mather

Keir Starmer and Keir Mather (Credit: Getty images)

Every time I cross paths – or swords – with a cranky student activist, I have the same thought: ‘Oh God, these people are going to be running the country one day.’ I have tormenting visions of these blue-haired censors, these giddy blacklisters of the un-PC, in parliament, drawing up laws, wagging a collective finger at the wrong-thinking throng.

Those privileged fuming youths who once blocked my path to the Oxford Union; that offence-seeking mob that tried to prevent me from giving an after-dinner speech at Queen’s College, Oxford – they’re going to be in charge soon, I always fret, and then we’re screwed. We’ll all be under the thumb of that eccentric intolerance that has stalked so many campuses of late.

Well, bad news – it’s happening. Labour’s newest MP, Keir Mather, had a previous life as precisely one of those illiberal youths. While at Oxford – where else? – he wrung his manicured hands over the Union’s penchant for hosting ‘controversial’ speakers and appeared to think that students’ feelings should be put ahead of difficult debates. And this wasn’t long ago. He’s only 25.

Keir the Younger, who looks and sounds like an identikit Starmer, won the Selby and Ainsty by-election last night. He overturned the Tories’ 20,000 majority. He’s the first MP to have been born after Tony Blair became PM (he was born in 1998). He’s being called ‘the Baby of the House’. But don’t be fooled into thinking he’s a sweet, fresh politician: this is a bloke with some pretty questionable views.

Keir the Younger looks and sounds like an identikit Starmer

He once branded Germaine Greer ‘an abhorrent transphobe’. It was 2018 and the Oxford Union had invited her to speak. Crusading Keir, who’s gay, was not happy.

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