The news has emerged that Durham Police will not be issuing any fixed penalty notices in respect to the notorious Beergate gathering. No further actions will be taken. The takeaway consumption at the Miners’ Hall amongst Sir Keir Starmer, Angela Rayner, and co did not contravene a breach of the Covid regulations in place, due to the exception clause of ‘necessary work’.
So all of the media effort in recent months put into elevating the Korma and Cobra consumption of the 30th April 2021 to the equivalent of the lockdown-busting shenanigans in Number 10 has been without consequence. Starmer (and Rayner) have not had to meet their promises to resign on being issued FPNs. Westminster will only have to contend with one leadership contest is the next couple of months.
On the one hand, this is a disappointment. After all of the sanctimonious priggishness of St Starmer over the issue of lockdown breaches, it was amusing to see him squirm in the face of his vinda -no, wait, sorry- waterloo. And after a week of Tory leadership drama, it would have been a refreshing change for the Opposition to have their own leadership meltdown.
Nevertheless, that Starmer will remain in place is not necessarily a loss for the Conservatives. As James Forsyth pointed out in The Times this morning, Starmer is a Kinnock, not a Blair. He has done a great job in curbing the hard-left’s influence within Labour, professionalising its image, and restoring its reputation after the horrors of Corbyn. No simple task – and it is to Starmer’s eternal credit that he has rescued his party from the dire straits it had reached.
But it is also the case that he has failed to establish the transformative connection with the electorate that Blair managed. His approval ratings are largely negative, and his lead over Johnson on who should be Prime Minister has been slim. Polling by J. L. Partners has suggested he would even be beaten by Sunak in a match-up of the two, even before various leadership candidates have established their full credentials.
Had Starmer gone, he might have been replaced by a Streeting, Nandy, or Reeves: a more charismatic and purposeful communicator. That he remains in place is an asset for the next Conservative leader – whomever they may be.