Is this Keir Starmer's 'Gordon Brown' moment?

Is this Keir Starmer’s ‘Gordon Brown’ moment?

Politicians dread putting their feet in their mouths but so many of them do it: is this Keir Starmer’s ‘Gordon Brown’ moment?

Remember when then-prime minister Gordon Brown accidentally gave a negative opinion about a member of the public who had challenged him, while still wearing a Sky TV microphone that was switched on?

His comment about Labour supporter Gillian Duffy being a “bigoted woman” may well have lost his party the 2010 election in an atmosphere where the media were already set against Labour.

Now it seems another Labour leader has made a similar unforced error after Keir Starmer was heard to attack the UK’s Bangladeshi community.

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Here‘s The Independent:

Sir Keir said in a live streamed interview with The Sun on Monday evening: “At the moment people coming from countries like Bangladesh are not being removed because they’re not being processed.”

The comment was in response to questions about his criticism of the Conservative’s Rwanda migrant deportation scheme for people who arrive in the UK on small boats.

In the video, the Labour leader, said: “The number of people being returned to where they came from has dropped off by 44 per cent under this government.

“On the first few days of government, I’ll tell you what I do, I’ll put the staff back in the returns unit, I’ll make sure I’ve got planes going off, not to Rwanda because that’s an expensive gimmick.”

Asked where migrants would be deported to, Sir Keir replied: “They will go back to the countries where people come from. That’s what used to happen.” He then gave Bangladeshi migrants as an example.

If he had said people coming to the UK illegally from Bangladesh would be returned there, and people coming to the UK illegally from other countries of origin would be returned to those countries – if they did not have an acceptable reason for claiming asylum here, then he should have been fine.

But he didn’t.

Instead, his words were taken as an insult to the UK’s Bangladeshi community.

Sabina Akhtar, the deputy leader of the local Labour group on Tower Hamlets council, resigned from the party over the comments:

Her statement reads: “I was the first female speaker of the council from Bangladeshi origin, and I was a proud Labour Party member, but I find I cannot be proud of this party anymore when the leader of the party singles out my community and insults my Bangladeshi identity.

“I have defended the party all my life and was very proud of it. But it is clear the direction it is heading is unacceptable to me and my community.”

Starmer has tried to mitigate the damage with a statement of his own: “The reference in the debate the other day was an example of a country that is considered safe as far as asylum is concerned, and one of the countries that’s actually got a returns agreement with us, and that is actually a good thing where both we and Bangladesh can be proud of … I certainly wasn’t intending to cause any concern or offence to any Bangladeshi community here.”

Ultimately, this probably won’t do him much harm. The media are solidly behind Labour this time because nothing Starmer or his “changed” party are planning will harm the status quo in which the rich get richer and the poor get peanuts. But bigger upsets have come from smaller mistakes.

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