There is an advert for air freshener on the television at the moment based around the concept of “nose blindness”.
The idea is that people become so familiar with the pongs emitted within their households — whether in the form of pet smells or personal ones — that they stop being able to detect them.
Starmer and Labour are every bit as whiffy as Johnson and the Tories
Hence, even if you think your house smells good, it probably doesn’t. You’d better buy-in some fumigation materials, especially if you are aiming to welcome in visitors from outside anytime soon.
One can only conclude that Keir Starmer and his Labour entourage are suffering from an acute case of nose blindness following his proclamation this week that: “I believe in honour, integrity and the principle that those who make the laws follow them.”
“We should not be dragged down by this cynical belief that all politicians are the same,” Starmer added. His utterances were accompanied by briefings from his spin doctors that the contrast between a Labour leader possessing mountainous integrity on the one hand and rackety, untrustworthy Boris Johnson on the other would be a key weapon leading into the next election.
They are surely heading for a fall because for many voters, especially segments of the electorate that Starmer needs to win back or bind in, he and Labour are every bit as whiffy as Johnson and the Tories.
Exhibit one is Starmer’s conduct during the Brexit years. On the eve of the 2017 election, when he was shadow Brexit secretary, he did a piece to camera in which he directly promised voters that Labour would honour and implement the referendum result.
“We’ve got to do this from a position of principle,” said Starmer, adding: “Did we agree that we’d put this decision out to the public for a vote? Yes. Did we agree that we’d accept the result? Yes. Have we got to accept the result? Yes. So the first position is, a matter of principle, having done this, having got a result, we’ve got to accept it.”
Yet within months he was conspiring with others in the British establishment to block Britain’s departure from the European Union and then unveiled a new Labour policy of demanding a second referendum in which Labour would campaign for remain.
Did nobody within his inner-circle recall this clear cut dumping of “principle” by the Labour leader on the biggest political issue this century? The answer, apparently, is that no, they didn’t because of political nose-blindness. Clearly nobody in Starmer’s entourage supported Brexit. Thus his attempt to block it in contravention of previous cast-iron assurances did not register as discreditable or lacking in integrity.
Unfortunately for Labour, there are more than 17 million Leave voters out there — including several million erstwhile Labour voters who abandoned the party when it moved to a second referendum policy — for whom it registered very profoundly indeed.
Or take the small matter of Starmer attempting to make Jeremy Corbyn (a man he now considers beyond the pale of membership of his parliamentary party) prime minister less than three years ago, despite all the evidence that he was not fit to hold such a post. It is very hard to detect much principle behind that, other than the principle of self-advancement and climbing the greasy pole.
Then there is the challenge for Starmer of keeping faith with the idealistic young left-wingers in Labour’s ranks who voted for him as leader on the basis that he would stay true to the Corbynista political agenda.
Now we see Starmer avidly associating with Tony Blair
Among Starmer’s ten pledges to continue with elements of his predecessor’s radical programme was one about bringing in common ownership for industries such as energy. Yet at the 2021 Labour conference, he announced that he wouldn’t nationalise the big six energy companies after all. Starmer awarded himself the right to break his leadership election pledges, telling the BBC: “The most important pledge I made was that I would turn Labour into a party that would be fit for government, capable of winning a general election.”
Ever feel that you’ve been had? Much of the Left certainly does, now we see Starmer avidly associating himself with Tony Blair and all his centrist ways. To this audience, too, the idea of Starmer as Mr Integrity is more than a stretch.
There is certainly a soft-Left, metropolitan constituency which is lapping up this idea of Starmer standing for decency and honour, while Johnson’s Tories are cast as knuckle-scraping low-lifes lacking in ethics.
But beyond this Starmerite tribe, the message is simply not going to fly. Millions of voters — too many millions — will think it better to have as PM someone who understands his own flaws than someone addicted to the idea of himself as virtuous while in fact being no better than all the other scurvy politicians.
Margaret Thatcher once remarked that being honourable was rather like being a lady: “If you need to say that you are, then you aren’t.”
Enjoying The Critic online? It's even better in print
Try five issues of Britain’s newest magazine for £10Subscribe