Boris Johnson was only able to force Theresa May out of Downing Street and become prime minister himself because Keir Starmer sabotaged Brexit talks, a biography of the Labour leader claims.
Lord (Michael) Ashcroft’s book Red Knight: The Unauthorised Biography of Keir Starmer alleges that Starmer blocked a deal with Theresa May’s government that could have resulted in a ‘soft’ Brexit.
We should be grateful to the blog Colonel Despard’s Radical Comment for teasing out the important details:
Ashcroft’s book notes that May had invited Jeremy Corbyn to take part in cross-party talks in an attempt to agree a unified approach to Brexit. Starmer led the Labour delegation. According to an extract published in the Daily Mail, “The meetings opened with some optimism. The Government team quickly discerned, however, that some of those in the Labour camp were more willing to compromise than others. While those in Corbyn’s close team ‘were sending out signals that they wanted a deal’, Starmer was insistent that an agreement had to include a second referendum.”
While on the surface conducting himself professionally, behind the scenes it appeared that Starmer himself was giving negative briefings to the media that undermined the talks. May’s former director of communications, Sir Robbie Gibb, believes that Starmer was responsible for leaks that contradicted the joint reports agreed with Seumas Milne, Gibb’s Labour counterpart.
Gibb told Ashcroft: “there were briefings to the BBC’s Today programme saying that the cross-party talks are going nowhere. I’d get a call from the BBC saying, ‘I believe the talks are on the verge of collapse.’ ‘Well, who have you spoken to?’, I’d say. ‘Can’t say. It’s official sources’. He is convinced the negative briefings came from Starmer or his team, and that the mixed messages highlighted conflicting attitudes within the Labour delegation.”
According to Labour sources quoted by Ashcroft, Starmer was the most deal-resistant of the Labour negotiators, and worked to undermine those in Corbyn’s team who were in favour of a deal.
The book further alleges that Starmer did this in order to get support from the People’s Vote campaign that would translate into votes for him in a Labour leadership election.
The failure of the talks also led to May’s resignation and a Conservative leadership election that ended with Boris Johnson’s ascension to the leadership – and the role of UK prime minister – because of Keir Starmer’s interference.
But did Starmer’s treachery go further than that? Was he in fact supporting hard-Brexit Tories all along?
It has been argued that the only reason Labour’s Brexit policy at the 2019 general election was confused, leading to the party’s historically major loss was… Keir Starmer.
He had made a major intervention at the party’s 2018 conference responding to clear anti-Brexit sentiment among delegates by unilaterally introducing the idea that there would be a Remain option in a second referendum.
According to the blog article, this led to a policy change that would
accentuate the divisions between remain supporters and MPs from leave-voting Labour constituencies in the north who warned at the time that the policy would lose the party votes in a new election – which is in fact what happened.
So it seems Keir Starmer deliberately engineered Labour’s 2019 election loss.
This evidence strongly suggests not only that Starmer had worked to undermine Labour’s policy in order to further his own career, but also that he deliberately supported Boris Johnson’s – and continues to do so, to this day.
Starmer dropped his support for remaining in the European Union like a hot potato as soon as he was elected Labour leader.
The disasters caused by Brexit, that have led to the collapse of the UK’s transport infrastructure and shortages of products that we previously took for granted, have created golden opportunities for a Remain-supporting Starmer to criticise the Tory Brexit.
But he has been silent.
Not only that, but he has also supported Johnson on other matters.
The Tory response to the Covid-19 pandemic has been a national tragedy, with hundreds of thousands of deaths* and millions of people likely to suffer the debilitating effects of Long Covid.
But Starmer has been silent. Indeed, he has only raised his voice to support government policies like the catastrophic decision to reopen schools last year, allowing the virus to access a superhighway into homes across the UK that created the winter surge at the end of 2020 and beginning of this year.
That is just one prominent example. You can probably pick out your own favourites from any number of Tory policies that Starmer has either overtly or tacitly supported, or failed to oppose in any meaningful way.
Now he has whipped Labour MPs to abstain on the scrapping of the triple-lock on pensions that, until now, protected what little value the UK state pension provided to our senior citizens.
The loss of the increase that would have been provided this year will now become structural, meaning future pensioners will be disadvantaged in perpetuity by this betrayal.
You may find it hard to accept.
But there is a clear argument that Keir Starmer and Boris Johnson are “all in it together”, as the former Tory slogan has it – and in it for themselves.
With Johnson as prime minister and Starmer blocking any possibility of strong opposition, they can line their pockets while the rest of us suffer.
*Remember, the official figures only record deaths within 28 days of a diagnosis, in order to reduce public feeling against the government’s failed policies.
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