Boris Johnson’s ailing, flailing, hopeless administration has been thrown a lifeline from an unlikely quarter: Labour Opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer.
Up until now, the painfully bland Starmer (Labour’s replacement for the barmier but more entertaining far-left loon Jeremy Corbyn) has been playing quite a canny game, best summed up with the dictum: ‘Never interrupt your enemy while he is making a mistake.’
But now Starmer has finally come off the fence, dug out all the splinters embedded in his bottom, and chosen to rebrand himself and his party as the Forces of Lockdown.
He has done this by demanding even more radical anti-Coronavirus measures than the ones already being imposed by Johnson’s unexpectedly authoritarian regime.
Where Boris has fought shy of imposing a second lockdown — calling it the ‘nuclear deterrent’ — Starmer has decided he wants to implement immediately what he calls a ‘circuit breaker’ (ie another lockdown in all but name) lasting two to three weeks.
In the short term, this might seem a canny tactic. According to pollsters YouGov, the majority of British people support the idea of another lockdown – so Starmer is arguably doing no more than reflecting the popular will.
— YouGov (@YouGov) October 14, 2020
The regional satraps of Scotland and Wales, Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford, have taken a similar populist tack, adopting lockdown measures more stringent than those of the national government in Westminster in order to grandstand about how very much more they value human life and public safety.
Drakeford, for example, has announced that Wales is now closed to English visitors from high-risk areas. How he can possibly enforce this is not immediately clear but it’s the gesture that matters: this charisma-free nobody from the Welsh Assembly has got himself another headline and shown that while in Johnson’s England it may be acceptable to let the virus rip, in Drakeford’s Wales no freedom is too valuable to be snatched away at the drop of a high-crowned Welsh hat if it only stops just one person dying of Covid.
Oddly enough, though, the biggest beneficiary of this more-authoritarian-than-thou one-upmanship won’t be Sturgeon, Drakeford or Starmer but Boris Johnson.
For some months now Johnson has attracted increasing degrees of loathing from the right of his party. Natural conservatives such as myself who voted for him in the belief that he would deliver meaningful Brexit, tackle cultural Marxism, and restore British pride have been appalled at the dog’s breakfast this priapic oaf of a lightweight buffoon has made of pretty much everything he has touched. Most disappointing of all has been his response to Covid-19.
Johnson has claimed all along to be ‘following the science’. But up till now, the only scientists he seems to have listened to are the ones on his SAGE committee pushing ever more draconian measures – not to the growing body of equally reputable scientists (such as top Oxford epidemiologist Sunetra Gupta, co-author of the Great Barrington Declaration) who think the opposite.
The various lockdowns, semi-lockdowns, two-week quarantines, travel restrictions, two-metre distances, compulsory masks, gym and pub closures, curfews and other measures he has imposed on Britain have not endeared him to those who believe that his policies are potentially scientifically ill-founded and economically and socially damaging. Boris the jolly ‘libertarian’ who once promised — ‘Voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts and increase your chances of driving a BMW M3’ — has mutated into Boris, the humourless dictator.
Besides costing Boris the support of his base, his Coronafascist tendencies have also started to jeopardise support from his more recent constituency — the Red Wall of traditional Labour seats which voted for him at the last election on the basis of his Brexit policies and which helped give him his commanding, 80-seat parliamentary majority.
One sign of this was the resignation this week of Chris Green, Conservative MP for Bolton West and Atherton, from his post as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Leader of the House of Lords. Green’s seat is in the North West, one of the regions hardest hit by coronavirus regulations. In his resignation letter, he claimed that the ‘cure is worse than the disease.’
The Bolton lockdown has clearly not worked, and I believe that the cure is worse than the disease, so I have stepped down from my role as Parliamentary Private Secretary. pic.twitter.com/HdEm4hw8Rh
— Chris Green (@CGreenUK) October 13, 2020
So far, a broader rebellion by Johnson’s backbenchers has been kept at bay by a mix of bribery, bullying and inertia. But I’m told by one insider that around 80 per cent of the parliamentary party thinks the government’s Coronavirus policies are too extreme and that whenever Health Secretary Matt Hancock stands up to speak, the loathing from his fellow Conservatives is ‘visceral.’ It cannot be long before the cracked dam bursts.
When it does, the fury of the backlash is likely to be severe. In his seminal analysis of group hysteria The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, Gustave Le Bon writes that once a demagogue has lost his ‘prestige’, what was once the fashionable idea agreed on by almost everyone, suddenly becomes anathema and those most closely associated with it run a severe risk of being trampled by the mob.
This is why, I would argue, the decision by Starmer, Sturgeon and Drakeford to take more authoritarian positions on coronavirus even than Johnson’s authoritarian government is a massive strategic error.
What they have done is enabled Johnson to distance himself from his Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance and his Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty whose nicknames — ‘Unbalanced and Witless’ — perhaps indicate their growing loss of credibility in the eyes of political commentators and, increasingly, the British public.
Labour Leader Keir Starmer Calls for Second National Lockdown ‘Circuit Break’ in England https://t.co/kZl7Vfn6oV
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) October 14, 2020
As Camilla Tominey has reported in the Telegraph, the rift is growing, with Whitty now pointedly letting it be known that he thinks Johnson has not been taking his expert advice seriously enough.
“I am not confident, and nor is anybody confident, that the tier three proposals for the highest rates, if we did the absolute base case, and nothing more, would be enough to get on top of it,” [Whitty] said during the televised briefing.
As if to hammer home the point, papers were unexpectedly released less than an hour later showing that Sage had argued for national measures such as stopping all household mixing, advice to work from home, and the closure of all pubs, restaurants and cafes.
The minutes – dated September 20 and 21 – revealed that Mr Johnson had not only ignored their advice against introducing a 10pm curfew, but overruled them on a circuit breaker too.
Suddenly, if only by default, Johnson’s regime has become the voice of moderation – at least compared with the Corona extremism of his leftist Opposition in Westminster and the regions.
This can only be to the advantage of Johnson – and strikes me as an incredibly shortsighted, unforced error by the left.
As an example of this, look at the piteous antics of Mayor of Manchester — and former Labour MP — Andy Burnham. Burnham would desperately like to exploit the righteous rage of all the Mancunians whose liberties have been curtailed, whose businesses and jobs destroyed, whose health impaired by the government’s draconian policies.
But he can’t in any conscience – or without attracting ridicule – because his main criticism of government policy up till now is that the lockdowns it has imposed weren’t early enough or strong enough.
In other words, had his Labour party been in power, it would have imposed exactly the same policies — only stronger — which have been making life such misery for his constituents.
Freedom! Young Britons Rebel Against Lockdown in Large Liverpool Street Party https://t.co/wKhRnVeQQ5
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) October 14, 2020
It’s in working-class northern areas like Burnham’s that the rebellion to government coronavirus policy looks likely to begin. In fact, it has already started in Liverpool, with the revolt of the gym owners — who have collectively decided that no matter what the government says, they are keeping their gyms open.
At least Liverpool gym owner has had his business forcibly shut down by armed police. His crowdfunder has already attracted over £30,000 (over a £10,000 target).
The Red Wall, it seems, has had enough.
Labour — under Keir Starmer — and hard-leftists like Sturgeon and Drakeford, could have exploited this revolt of the masses by criticising government policy for the terrible effect it is having on livelihoods and health (in the form of untreated cancers, suicides and so on). Instead, they have sent a signal to voters that they are offering no meaningful alternative to government policy – just a more extreme version of it.
This will come back to bite them.
Boris Johnson has succeeded through life more by luck than judgement.
Starmer’s decision to campaign for a ‘Circuit Breaker’ — aka another bloody lockdown — has just provided him with his jammiest Get Out of Jail Free yet.
So much for that forensic brain the lawyer Starmer is supposed to possess. The man is clearly even more of a blithering idiot than Johnson is.
Lockdown! London Goes into ‘High Alert’, Banning Households From Mixing Indoors https://t.co/SmfBkQIIOc
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) October 15, 2020