Sir Keir has overseen the Labour Party’s rapid revival in the polls after the disastrous 2019 general election. He has tried to learn lessons from the past and move on from Labour’s apparent resistance to Brexit, after the party was decimated in Leave-voting Red Wall seats. However, his attempted rebrand has not gone by without ridicule ‒ and Sir Keir was mocked by Sky News’ Sophy Ridge for “borrowing language” from Prime Minister Boris Johnson today.
Sir Keir is widely seen as the architect of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party throwing its weight behind a second referendum ‒ as explored in ‘Left Out’, Gabriel Pogrund and Patrick Maguire’s tell-all book.
One account recalls a conversation with an unnamed MP from the Shadow Cabinet who lamented Sir Keir’s six-point test being adopted as Labour’s starting point for a Brexit policy.
They write: “For Shadow Cabinet ministers in Leave constituencies, the tests spoke to everything that was wrong with the party’s approach to the seats in its traditional heartlands.
“‘They were crap,’ one reflected. ‘They were unsellable in my constituency.
“‘We want the same rights in the labour market as we’ve got already? What the f*** does that mean? People voted against Europe because they think work is s***.
“LOTO [Mr Corbyn’s office] didn’t have the capacity to understand what was happening in held-back areas.”
Sir Keir’s six tests were devised in early 2017 and signed off by Mr Corbyn on March 22 that year.
The point was that Labour’s Brexit policy had to stand up to the following:
READ MORE: Jeremy Corbyn’s staggering Brexit ignorance laid bare
Mr Maguire and Mr Pogrund note: “Sir Keir’s team saw the tests as a ‘tool of opposition’.
“Mr Corbyn’s believed ‒ with some justification ‒ that they had been designed to be failed, and later came to suspect that they had been devised with a view to forcing Labour into a Remain position further down the line.”
The two journalists also point out Mr Corbyn’s apparent ambivalence on the issue, noting: “The 2017 manifesto had pledged to end the free movement of people and leave both the EU’s customs union and single market.
“But beyond that, precise details on what sort of trading partnership Mr Corbyn would seek should he become Prime Minister had not been forthcoming.
“An official said: ‘There wasn’t a great opinion on the European Union.
“‘There was some in the office ‒ quite prominent people were obviously quite anti the whole thing.
“‘But Jeremy doesn’t get out of bed in the morning thinking about the customs union and single market.’”
Earlier today, Sky News’ Sophy Ridge questioned Sir Keir’s dramatic “conversion” from Remainer to Brexiteer once he became Labour leader.
She said: “I am quite interested in your conversion from someone who supported a second referendum to now wants to, I quote, ‘get on with Brexit’.”
Sir Keir responded: “The Prime Minister promised there was an oven-ready deal, and he needs to get on and deliver on that promise.
“If he fails to do so, he owns that failure. Reopening old wounds and going back on agreements is a distraction. Go on and get that deal.”
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Writing in the Sunday Telegraph last week, Sir Keir surprised many by writing: “We should be getting on with defeating this virus, not banging on about Europe.
“Get on with Brexit and defeat the virus. That should be the Government’s mantra.”
A recent YouGov poll found 45 percent of voters do not “trust” Sir Keir to handle Britain’s exit from the EU compared to 29 percent who said they do.
The poll also found that just 34 percent of people trusted the Labour leader to grapple with the UK economy, which has been crippled by the coronavirus.
‘Left Out’ was published by Vintage in 2020, it is available here.