Keir Starmer’s speech: Nazi catchphrases won’t endear him to hecklers

Offensive gesture: when This Writer discussed Starmer’s speech with a non-political friend, the other person said this pose, struck by the Labour leader while mocking a heckler, deeply angered him.

This Writer was away at a (genuine) funeral so I missed the (metaphorical) funeral for Keir Starmer’s political career that some may call his first Labour conference speech as party leader.

I’ve been catching up on it later and my goodness, it was a stinker!

For once, the mainstream media’s vain attempts to whitewash this disaster weren’t the most astonishing part of the fiasco. And there’s a wide choice of other shockers from which to choose.

Top of my list is his referencing of a Nazi slogan – “beauty of work”. He tried to claim he was referring to words by W.H. Auden, but I’ve had a (quick, admittedly) look and can’t find that phrase connected with the great poet anywhere.

Our good friend, the Skwawkbox blog, has found a connection with Nazism, though: “‘Schönheit der Arbeit’ was the slogan of a propaganda department of the Nazi regime from 1934 to 1945… SdA aimed to keep the population in what its rulers considered their place.”

I am curious to see how his allies on the Board of Deputies of British Jews justify their support for a man who directly quotes Nazi propaganda.

Alternatively, we could discuss the part where Starmer said he spent the summer of 2010 helping to put terrorists behind bars while Boris Johnson was writing Telegraph articles defending his right not to wear a cycle helmet.

Maybe, as Director of Public Prosecutions, Starmer did indeed help to keep terrorists behind bars in a supervisory way – the same supervisory way in which he had failed to put Jimmy Savile behind bars the previous year; he had not been directly involved.

After Savile died in 2013 and his offences against children became public knowledge, Starmer commissioned an investigation that criticised prosecutors and the police over their handling of allegations against the late broadcaster. Too little, too late.

The only incident in 2010 in which I can find direct involvement in anti-terrorist activity by Starmer is his ruling on the case of Binyam Mohamed, a terror suspect who had been arrested in Pakistan in 2002 and tortured under the supervision of four FBI officers. According to Novara Media,

Mohamed was kept in a 2m by 2.5m cell, beaten frequently with a leather strap and hung from the ceiling for an entire week. During this period, he was visited by MI5 agents who observed his punishment first-hand, and warned that if he did not answer their questions he would be sent to a country whose laws would permit the use of more extreme interrogation tactics. This is precisely what happened three months later. The CIA transferred him to a secret prison in Morocco, where his captors repeatedly slashed his penis and chest with razor blades, burnt him with hot liquid and forced him to stay awake for 48-hour periods while playing loud repetitive music. MI5 continued to oversee the operation from afar, providing Mohamed’s interrogators with specific questions about his contacts in the UK and discussing the timescale of his detention with them. After he was released without charge, Mohamed produced evidence of British involvement in his torture, and it fell to Starmer to decide whether the lead MI5 officer would be prosecuted. Starmer declared he would not. He later made the same ruling in relation to an MI6 officer accused of sanctioning the torture of detainees in Bagram Air Base.

Perhaps Starmer meant something else in his speech.

No wonder he was heckled to hell and back – despite having employed police to intimidate conference delegates…

… and, indeed, allegedly bussing in ‘day visitors’ to bolster his support in the hall:

(And that hall was still riddled with empty seats, prompting comparisons with Jeremy Corbyn’s speeches – when queues to see him speak stretched around the conference venues and his words had to be broadcast to overflow rooms to meet demand – as Skwawkbox (again) reminds us.)

When Starmer said people turned to the Tories in 2019 “because they didn’t believe that our promises were credible,” someone shouted out: “It was your Brexit policy!” leaving the Labour leader rattled.

After another heckle he tried to save face by saying, “At this time on a Wednesday it’s normally the Tories who are heckling me. It doesn’t bother me then; it won’t bother me now.” But it should; these heckles were from people who would have been shouting in support of him if he had performed well in any way during the conference.

During a section of his speech on the value of work, former Big Brother contestant Carole Vincent shouted at length, starting, “They want to be paid properly!” The remainder of her oration was lost as Starmer responded “Shouting slogans or changing lives, conference!”

The trouble was, she wasn’t shouting slogans, as she explained later: “He had ignored…people who had been standing up and asking for him to guarantee the 15 per cent rise for the NHS; a £15 [per hour] minimum wage.” Fair points.

Sadly, the best video clip I could find to demonstrate these interruptions is from The Sun, so I present it with apologies for the lapse of standards. If anyone can find a more wholesome source, please get in touch so I can replace this:

The peroration – the conclusion of the speech and the part intended to inspire enthusiasm in the audience – seemed to be a demand for us all to knuckle under and obey our masters:

“This is a big moment that demands leadership. Leadership founded on the principles that have informed my life and with which I honour where I have come from.

“Work. Care. Equality. Security. I think of these values as British values. I think of them as the values that take you right to the heart of the British public. That is where this party must always be.

“And I think of these values as my heirloom. The word loom, from which that idea comes, is another word for tool.”

Funny that he should mention the word “tool” again in his speech. Previously, he had said, “”My dad was a tool maker in a factory. In a sense so was Boris Johnson’s dad.”

Well, it turns out that Starmer’s dad was a tool maker in exactly the same sense, because that’s exactly how Starmer himself came across here.

If these principles have informed Starmer’s life, why was he unable to demonstrate them to delegates at the Labour conference?

Security? He wouldn’t offer low-paid workers the security of a £15-per-hour minimum wage. His shadow minister for Employment Rights quit because of it.

Equality? He pushed through rule changes that enormously increased the power of Labour MPs while reducing that of the wider membership.

Care? He showed he couldn’t care less about the grassroots members who campaign for Labour when he ignored – completely – a campaigner for a Green New Deal.

Work? His leadership doesn’t.

And that Nazi reference is deeply worrying.

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2 thoughts on “Keir Starmer’s speech: Nazi catchphrases won’t endear him to hecklers

  1. Growing Flame

    I worry that Starmer and his backers believe that, in reality, they don’t need a mass Party of active members at all. We are dispensable.
    All they need is for the Tories to look just too sleazy for enough of the voters (a bit of a struggle to look TOO sleazy for a lot of them.)
    Then the Tory Press, feeling anxious, sell Starmer as their “Second 11” team to rescue the establishment, and he is in!
    The efforts of the members count for little as the voters get their ideas from the newspapers and TV.
    So they can afford to lose, literally, hundreds of thousands of members because what counts is the headline in the Sun or the Daily Mail, not the leaflet that fluttered through the door last week.

    I would like to think that things have changed since that strategy worked for Blair. But I’m really not sure.

  2. Jeffrey Davies

    Stammer the spammer hay whot a Brian rix
    Yet on it goes is he taking the party to doom you bet whot a plant break the Labour party he’s doing a good job of it

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