Keir Starmer’s original sin has come back to haunt him

Keir Starmer succeeded Jeremy Corbyn as Labour party leader
Keir Starmer succeeded Jeremy Corbyn as Labour party leader

There is a famous internet meme in which David Beckham twice tells a dissembler to “be honest” before finally saying “thank you” after procuring a damning admission. It came readily to mind during Keir Starmer’s performance on LBC this morning, when he was asked if he would have served in Jeremy Corbyn’s Cabinet had Labour won the 2019 election.

Starmer said the dilemma hadn’t crossed his mind “because I didn’t think we would win”. Then he branded the question “hypothetical”. Finally he admitted: “If we had got it over the line there were important things that I thought needed to be done from the frontbench.”

Thank you. So that’s a “yes” then. This restyled Mr Moderate would have propped up the same former candidate for prime minister that he today damns as having been unfit to run Britain.

Not only did he describe Corbyn as having the makings of “a great prime minister” during the 2019 campaign, but he also called his one-time boss a “friend” on multiple occasions, including during the 2020 leadership contest in which he was keen to come across as a Left-wing candidate. Starmer appears to have devised the “I knew we would lose” idea much later as a way of rationalising his own conduct to himself.

One even feels a certain amount of sympathy for Corbyn’s hurt feelings when he observed of Starmer’s repositioning: “Well he never said that to me at any time. So I just think rewriting history is no help. It shows double standards, shall we say.”

There can be no doubt that Starmer’s current line on Corbyn is the correct judgment. After all, who can forget Corbyn’s response after Russian special agent staged a chemical attack in Salisbury that ultimately killed a British citizen?

In March 2018, he pressed then Prime Minister Theresa May to explain: “How has she responded to the Russian government’s request for a sample used in the Salisbury attack, to run its own tests?” The ludicrous implication was that he thought the Kremlin could be relied upon to truthfully say whether the nerve agent deployed had originated in Russia or not.

On that occasion several Labour MPs, including Yvette Cooper and Hilary Benn, intervened to support Mrs May against their own party leader. They spoke from the backbenches because they refused to serve under Corbyn.

Starmer was by then one of Corbyn’s most important lieutenants, charged as Shadow Brexit Secretary with steering Labour’s approach to leaving the European Union. The plan he came up with, lest anyone forget, was to try and scrap Brexit via a second referendum, even though he had earlier promised that Labour would support the implementation of Brexit “as a matter of principle”.

When it comes to the issue of people who are unfit to be prime minister of the United Kingdom, the only sensible conclusion about Starmer’s opinion of Corbyn should be: it takes one to know one