Keir Starmer: too boring for power?

Party insiders worry their leader's lack of charisma may be holding Labour back

Keir Starmer
Keir Starmer has been described as ‘uninspiring’ and ‘bland’
(Image credit: Steve Parsons - Pool/Getty Images)

In theory, Keir Starmer and his colleagues should be “feeling chirpy”, said Jim Pickard in the Financial Times (FT). The Government’s “woes” are legion, and Labour is well ahead at the polls.

But many in the party “fret” that, in the circumstances, they should be much further ahead, and admit that their leader’s “lack of vision and charisma” may be the problem. When one polling firm, JL Partners, recently quizzed members of the public on the adjectives they’d use to describe Starmer, the most common answer was “boring”, although “dull”, “uninspiring” and “bland” also featured.

Personally I don’t think Starmer should worry too much about the boredom issue, said Michael Deacon in The Daily Telegraph. “After the relentless political chaos of recent years, the electorate might actually welcome a good, solid spell of tedium.”

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More worrying is that an awful lot of voters also described him as “weak”. And there’s some justice in that. For instance, whenever he has been asked to solve that “brain-teasing conundrum, What is a woman?” Starmer has struggled.

Last week, he told his shadow cabinet to “stop calling me boring”, said Dan Hodges in The Mail on Sunday. Then, in an attempt to be interesting, at Prime Minister’s Questions, he “made a couple of off-colour quips about Love Island, threw in some comic Star Wars references, and branded [the PM] Jabba the Hutt”. It was “excruciating”. He’d be better off telling people what he actually believes. For instance, whose side is he on over the rail strikes?

Indeed, said Andrew Rawnsley in The Observer. Bores have often done well in politics, from the Labour Party’s own Clement Attlee – dismissed by Churchill as a “sheep in sheep’s clothing” – to the current chancellor of Germany, Olaf Scholz, “a grey lawyer” whose speech is so robotic that he is dubbed “the Scholzomat”.

Boring politicians do, however, need exciting ideas to succeed, and Labour has only had one of those recently: the windfall tax on energy companies, which was promptly nabbed by the Tories. You can’t win with a dull leader and dull policies: the party must now find many more “emblematic ideas that make the political weather”.

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