OPINION: 'Boring' Keir Starmer needs to offer tougher opposition

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer on the Wakefield by-election campaign trail

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer on the Wakefield by-election campaign trail - Credit: PA

Labour leader Keir Starmer gave his shadow cabinet a good dressing down last week, after several members briefed the press that he was “boring”.

According to reports, a series of his frontbenchers then backed him up at the meeting, which one attendee said was “ironically very boring”.

This came after a poll suggested that voters would still prefer Boris Johnson to be PM – despite everything – over his Labour opponent.

Labour spokespeople were quick to fire back that Starmer was still just getting started, and had a lot on his plate as he tried to repair the damage done by his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn.

The “damage”, it would seem, was the members themselves. Hundreds have been purged for being off-message, while central office tells local party branches which parliamentary candidates they are allowed to vote for.

Many long-standing activists have quit Labour in disgust.

It would be easy to fixate on style over substance here – because I think the problem is that Starmer has little of either.

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He ran for leader on a platform of continuing Corbyn-era policies. For example, one of the “ten pledges” still live on his campaign website says he would “support common ownership of rail, mail, energy and water”.

He now says he won’t. In fact, he has rejected much of what he promised during his leadership campaign. He needed to win the backing of Corbyn supporters to win the leadership. As soon as he won, all that was out the window.

Like the PM, Starmer has trouble with honesty – but his untruths are just a lot more, well, boring.

Successful politicians have a vision. Thatcher and Blair both won arguments with voters about how their radical visions would change the country for the better.

What’s Starmer’s vision? I’m not sure even he knows.

Assange needs our support

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has just had his extradition to the US allowed by home secretary Priti Patel.

To do so, she used a law brought in by ex-PM Tony Blair, which allows UK citizens to be sent to the US for trial even if there’s no evidence against them.

This is just the latest chapter in the Assange affair, which often gets tied up with the eccentric publisher’s lifestyle, political associations and other questionable qualities.

But this isn’t about Assange as a person. This is about the US government wanting to punish an investigative journalist for exposing potential war crimes.

And it sets a dangerous precedent. What’s to stop the US demanding other journalists are extradited for exposing the truth?

WikiLeaks is a website where people can leak classified information for the world to see.

It exposed major scandals involving US forces during their wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I’ll never forget the disgust when I watched one such leak, footage taken in 2007 from a US helicopter as its guns tracked, targeted and killed 12 unarmed Iraqi civilians, including three Reuters journalists. They also seriously injured three children.

WikiLeaks also hosts leaked official records revealing that 66,000 Iraqi civilians were killed by US forces. We only know any of this thanks to Assange and co.

It’s no wonder Assange is charged in the US with breaching the Espionage Act 17 times. He is an investigative journalist who exposed the British and American publics to the realities of wars being conducted in our names.

If someone did that in Russia over Ukraine, the same western leaders baying to lock Assange away would be the first to laud them as a hero.

Time to turn up the heat in climate fight

I have trouble with the heat. Neither my English nor Irish blood has a high boiling point, which can often cause problems on trips to see my wife’s family in Turkey.

The last time I paid a visit, I arrived wearing a T-shirt and shorts, only to find them in thick coats.

I need to remember the Turkish for “please mop me up off the floor” when the mercury passes 40C there in the summer months.

To be honest, I have problems anywhere south of Bournemouth.

Even the 32C we got on Friday here in Norwich was too much for me.

But it’s all about perspective. In a few decades we’ll be looking back on it as one of those mild June days we used to have in olden times.

Until 2017, the UK had only hit 34C in June three times since records began. This is the second time it’s matched that record since then.

Spain and Germany are currently facing devastating wildfires as temperatures hit 40C. And parts of India have been 50C during a months-long heatwave. People are dying and crops are failing.

Has this been a wake-up call to our government regarding its climate commitments?

What do you think?

Last month, the government told energy companies that they could cut their windfall tax bills if they invest in fossil fuel extraction. The more they pump, the lower the payments.

And Shell has just got the go-ahead to extract oil from the Jackdaw site in the North Sea.

I might bang on about the climate crisis quite a lot, but it seems like it’s a drum we have to keep on beating.