Terry Prone: Keir Starmer's problem is he can't tell people what he really stands for

13th May 2024
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Originally published in the Irish Examiner.

The British Labour leader is so values-free that accepting Natalie Elphicke into his party is OK on the basis that she might help his election chances.

She was a duchess or something like that. And around the time of King Charles’ coronation, at some social event, she got talking to a black woman. Amicable, the chat was. So amicable that the duchess, or whatever she was, developed the urge to know more about the other woman.

Where, she asked, was the other woman from?

Birmingham, was the reply.

No, but really, she persisted.

How do you mean, ‘really?’ the other woman asked, beginning to get ratty.

No, where are you really from, though?

The aristocrat couldn’t get her ennobled head around the possibility that a black woman could be just as much a UK citizen as herself.

It created a controversy and generated grovelling apologies.

The incident came to mind because of Natalie Elphicke abandoning the Conservative Party in the middle of last week and climbing aboard Keir Starmer’s Labour Party.

It’s a curious thing about British politics. People switch parties much more often than happens here, where we’ve maybe had three political party renegades in the last 50 years, one of them a former Labour Party leader who went to Fine Gael.

The UK, on the other hand, has long lists of members of parliament who “crossed the floor”. In Ireland, floor-crossers don’t tend to make a mark in history, although, if memory serves, they don’t ever go back to where they came from, as Winston Churchill did, in the 1920s, having left the Conservatives in 1904.

“Anyone can rat,” he cheerfully announced on his return to the Tories, “but it takes a certain amount of ingenuity to re-rat.” (You can see why Boris Johnson identifies so closely with Churchill.

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