all over by christmas

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I’ve mentioned previously that I do like the cut of Keir Starmer’s jib: neat, trimmed, precise, perfunctory, measured. It’s patently obvious this is how Sir Kier likes it to be and a very definite style has emerged since he assumed leadership of the Labour party. He undertakes all tasks, from asking detailed queries of Bumble Boris at Prime Minister’s Questions to the sacking of Rebecca Long Bailey, with the minimum of fuss. Short, sharp and to the point. All good and undoubtedly an impressive start but is it enough?

The verbal contest between these two central protagonists is clearly the way it’s going to be for the foreseeable. For such a self-proclaimed cunning-linguist, Johnson rarely utters a clear, intelligible sentence, and like a ‘dying’ stand-up comedian spends the whole time desperately seeking a cheap laugh and the audience’s populist approval. Last week’s ‘more briefs than Calvin Klein’ was the perfect example of a punch-line looking for a point. The man just can’t help himself. A dismissive, disbelieving shake-of-the-head was Keir’s implacable response but, being personally more of the former than the latter, I so wanted a ‘FFS stop singing the same ol’ thong, Boris!’ to be delivered in witty retort!

In many ways, Starmer’s more forensic, objective and minimal approach is completely understandable. The pandemic is all-consuming, everything else is pretty much off the table and the next election might as well be a hundred years away. Notwithstanding, PMQ’s accounts for only twenty minutes scrutiny, fails to register with the vast majority of Joe Public and he needs to start to cut-through with more enterprise, verve, greater self-assertion, and perhaps a more ruthless streak, sooner than later.

And there’s certainly enough ammunition to be going along with: the government’s delayed response to Covid-19, the botched PPE purchases, travel/quarantine fiasco, gimmicky economic measures (not including the well-thought-out and inventive furlough, VAT reduction and junior placement schemes), mixed-and-muddled-messaging throughout, ‘world-leading’ track & trace processes, the oft-mentioned ‘oven-ready’ Brexit deal that never existed, £17m ferry contracts to a company with no ferries and takeaway T&Cs, Huawei U-turn, delayed and damning Russian interference report, the imminent no-deal cliff-edge exit and the detailed, costed, nationwide social care plan that has been shown to be complete pie-in-the-sky lies. Truth be told, if the leader of the opposition can’t land a killer blow from that lot, then the obvious question has to be asked.

But, is there one thing that unwittingly unites them? Yes, their shared fear of the heir apparent: the slim, attractive good-guy with the engaging smile, deprecating style and great hair, Rishi Sunak. BJ’s ratings are in the weeds, Sunak’s are in the stars. He’s been shown to be effective on his feet, fluent, lucid, relatively humane (in comparison to Priti Patel, Genghis Khan would qualify as that – ed.) and giving away tens of billions can’t have hindered either. We can certainly expect more from the ambitious son of a GP and pharmacist (OK, via Oxford, Stanford, Goldman Sachs and marrying into a family of billionaires en-route) but when they do lock horns we’ll need to see a more charismatic, pragmatic and pugilistic performance from the leader of the opposition.

I, for one, can’t wait to witness two grown-ups at the dispatch box, and with any luck the PM may get his sincerest Churchillian wish in that it may well all be over by Christmas. For him.