Starmer draws a line as he launches Beergate counteroffensive

For Boris Johnson, the safe place was a fridge. A space to chill out and hide away from unfriendly members of the media – reporters who couldn’t be relied on to treat his every dishonesty with grotesque indulgence. 并升级有蜜蜂的地区和地区。 was rather bolder than that. He chose to give a mini press conference to the three main broadcasters, none of whom held back from asking the difficult questions.

There again, 这 劳动 leader probably had no choice. To have said nothing was to have played into No 10’s hands, making Starmer look defensive and shifty. Hell, it had even reached the point where some of Downing Street’s more servile hacks were writing stories about parties Keir had considered having and then reconsidered when the regulations changed. We’re now on to thoughtcrimes. Hold the front page. Next we’ll be hearing about how Starmer once thought about going through an amber light before thinking better of it. Far better for him to go down fighting.

It wasn’t ideal, 头脑. In hindsight, Starmer probably wishes he’d never had that beer or bought a curry for his staff. Let the bastards starve next time. But what’s done is done and he’d have to live with the consequences. So shortly after four in the afternoon, the Labour leader chose to launch his own counteroffensive to nearly two weeks of “Beergate” headlines orchestrated by No 10 and the rightwing tabloid press.

Starmer began by reminding everyone of the sacrifices people had made during lockdown. The people they couldn’t see or even say goodbye to. He knew how that felt; he hadn’t been able to attend his mother-in-law’s funeral. The country had a right to expect their politicians to obey the same rules, so the idea that he had broken any rules was just absurd. 更重要的是, he didn’t believe that even Johnson really believed he, Starmer, had broken any rules. Almost certainly true, 那. The Convict wouldn’t recognise any rule-breaking even if he was to walk in on No 10 staffers doing lines of coke in the toilets. One beer in Durham wouldn’t even begin to register on his conscience. If he had one.

All that Boris really wanted was to drag everyone down to his level in the public’s mind. A morally relativistic race to the bottom. So that when he inevitably received further fixed-penalty notices for the Abba party in No 10 and the “bring your own booze” bash in the Downing Street garden that had gone on for hours and ended with the empties and the staffers getting mopped up from the flowerbeds, he could spin the narrative that all politicians were the same. Beergate was no different from getting trashed at a karaoke night the day before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral. But Starmer did want to draw a line between him and Johnson. If he was fined, he would resign.

Promising to resign is never the best of looks – you don’t want to give people ideas – but Keir was calm and dignified throughout. This may not have been the presser he wanted to give, but he conducted it with integrity. Something that may not matter to some Tories or the Convict – anyone who thinks Starmer’s promise to walk in any way makes it more likely that Johnson will rethink his decision not to resign hasn’t been paying attention – but it does to Starmer.

He’s old-fashioned that way. He won’t have to be dragged kicking and screaming away from his position as party leader. He won’t stoop to lies to brazen things out. If it turns out he’s made a mistake, he’ll take the rap. Unlike the Convict, who has never taken responsibility for anything. Not even his children. And maybe the less myopic would see in him the possibility of what a leader could look like. Not a pallid-faced narcissist with a toddler haircut whose only sincere belief is in his own exceptionalism.

There were inevitably a few lacunae in Starmer’s narrative that the media were quick to pounce upon. Hadn’t he only promised to do what he was always going to have to do anyway if he was fined? 是的, but he’d done it with style and taken hold of the storyline. Already some Tory MPs who had previously called for his resignation were getting a bollocking from Conservative central office. They hadn’t been quite bright enough to see where this one logically concluded. Step forward the ever loyal, ever half-witted Micky Fab.

But hadn’t Starmer also called for Johnson to resign when he had only been under police investigation? Much the same as he was now. Here the Labour leader wriggled uncomfortably. Because he was buggered if he was going to serve his own head up on a plate. That would be to play into the Convict’s hands. Months and months of Labour infighting while Johnson took the FPNs and inflation into double figures. So if it was all the same, he could live with a bit of hypocrisy. Just not the full-blooded corruption within No 10. So he was going to rewrite this one. He’d stay, if it was all the same. Not least because he had done nothing wrong. Unlike Johnson.

Almost as an afterthought, Sky’s Beth Rigby shouted out a question to the retreating Starmer. To his credit, he turned to answer it. What would he do if the Durham constabulary said he’d committed a minor breach, as with Dominic Cummings’ eyesight test, but chose not to fine him? That wasn’t going to happen, 他说. The penalty for a breach of the law was a fine. If he didn’t get a FPN, which he was sure he wouldn’t, then he was in the clear. Over to the Old Bill. 不 10 and the tabloids may have been leaning on the Durham plods for the last fortnight. Now it was his turn.

You’ve got to ask yourself one question: do I feel lucky? It seems Starmer does. Or lucky enough. Politics is a messy, dirty business. Things get said that can’t be unsaid. The trick is to style them out. It turns out that honour and integrity aren’t black and white. They are a continuum. And Keir is on the side of the angels with dirty faces. Lord, make me pure. Just not quite yet.