Starmer just wasted the last PMQs before summer recess

Keir Starmer and Boris Johnson at PMQs
Steve Topple

In a heated yet underwhelming Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on 22 July, Keir Starmer led on the so-called ‘Russia report’. But instead of landing a decisive blow on Boris Johnson, the Labour leader missed an opportunity to nail the PM. Because Starmer failed to mention Russian Tory donors at the centre of the growing storm.

Russia report: money, money, money

As The Canary‘s Tom Coburg has previously reported, the long delayed report by the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) of Parliament on alleged Russian interference in UK politics has now been published. It covers cyber attacks, disinformation, and the role of Russian ‘ex-pats’.

But what the published parts of the ISC report failed to mention were the Russian and Putin-linked oligarchs who made donations to the Conservative Party. Coburg’s research found that four Russia-linked donors gave:

a whopping £2,578,909.38 (or £2,768.909.38 if including what appear to be additional payments by Lubov Chernukhin). Nearly all the donations went to the Conservative Party or individual Tory MPs.

You can read Coburg’s full analysis here.

You’d think, given that these donations could put the Conservative Party at the centre of the Russia report allegations, Starmer would at least have used one question to table the matter. But instead, he didn’t even bring it up.

Starmer: a limp biscuit

The Labour leader’s attacks on Johnson centred around security issues. He started by asking the PM why he “sat on” the report “for so long”. Johnson wriggled out of the question, saying:

Actually when I was foreign secretary… we’ve been taking the strongest possible action against Russian wrongdoing, orchestrating… the expulsion… of 153 Russian diplomats around the world, while the right honourable gentleman opposite sat on his hands and said nothing while the Labour Party parroted the line of the Kremlin…

Starmer denied sitting on his hands, asking Johnson to withdraw his statement. He then went on to grill the PM on why the Conservatives, having been in power for ten years, had taken their “eye off the ball” – to the extent that the party, and government, “wasn’t even on the pitch”. Johnson blustered the question away – beginning a tit-for-tat rant which Starmer continued. The Labour leader then did his usual hand-wringing, saying the Labour Party would “support” new legislation in light of the Russia report (seemingly regardless of what that legislation will be). But he also asked why the Conservatives had taken so long to legislate in the first place.

What’s all the fuss about?

This backwards and forwards continued until, ultimately, Starmer finished, having failed to land any blows on Johnson. The limp line of questioning and focusing on security concerns allowed Johnson to deflect, detract and dismiss every point. Meanwhile, Russian oligarch money has flowed into Tory coffers. Yet Starmer will have left some of the public wondering what the fuss about the Russia report actually is.

Featured image via YouTube – ITV News

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  • Show Comments
    1. Maybe Corbyn the dead sheep can give him some tips. Did Jezza ever land a single blow in 5 years at PMQs?

      Starmer has been elected by the membership of the Labour Party. This website seems to have forgotten that

    2. Starmer is a lawyer, not a politician. That is, not a campaigner, a radical, someone who knows how to touch a nerve in his supporters. He has nothing of orator Hunt, of Bevan in full flow (in spite of his stammer), of Michael Foot at his most eloquent, even of Wilson who could think on his feet and parry heckling at open meetings. Starmer needs a brief. He needs notes. He needs a formal context. He should have stayed in the courtroom. He is imitating Mandelson, Blair and co after 1992. He believes it is the votes of persuadable Tories he needs. Just like Blair, he is trying to please them. Just like Blair, by so doing he will alienate socialists. Just like Blair he will end up in some mess like the Iraq War. The logic is faulty. Corbyn won 12,878,460 votes in 2017 and 10,295,607 in 2019. Blair won 10,724,953 in 2001 and 9,552,436 in 2005. Brown won 8,609,527 in 2010 and Miliband 9,347,273 in 2015. The distribution of seats depended on the performance of the smaller parties. Corbyn’s showing in 2017 was remarkable given he faced a challenge in 2016 and the Party bureaucracy was working against him, and of course the MSM. The simple, logical point is: his policies were popular. People will rally to radicalism. Starmer has embraced the false logic that elections are won from the centre. Radicalism must be expunged. He may pull in votes of wobbly Tories, but at the cost of not being able to do anything. Worthless. Except of course for Keir’s precious ego and his place in the history books ( as a footnote). We must keep the radicalism alive by focusing it on movements. There is nothing to hope for from the current Labour leadership. But there are millions of us who want real change. Let’s get out on the streets and make a noise.

    3. Possibly, Mr Starmer did not raise donations to the Conservative Party from Russian expatriates domiciled in the UK, because he did not want to.

      Mr Gordon Brown, when Chancellor and as PM did not repeal the 1995 Act by the Major Government which, in effect, made the City of London, one of the major money laundering centres of the world. Blair and Brown accepted the Thatcher/Major economic paradigm, but believed (or presented the ‘narrative’) that they could make it a bit more redistributive and improve the lives of more people. But, essentially, they were accepting who the masters were. They paid homage to the City at Lord Mayor’s Banquets and by visiting Mr Rupert Murdoch and courting the moralistic Daily Mail (one, soon to be a Roman Catholic convert and the other ‘a son of the manse’.)

      They did not take action against off-shoring and non-doms. And, when reckless lending caused financial collapse, Brown handed out shedloads of public money to those who had caused the problem – “socialism for the rich”, indeed.

      Mr Starmer comes from that wing of the Labour Party, the one that is ‘acceptable’ to the City, and the one which can be permitted to govern when the populace might be getting restless, do a bit of redistribution until things quieten down, and then the City produces a ‘financial crisis’, such as a ‘run on the pound’ and, eventually, the Government falls, to be replaced by a Tory one who start shoving power and wealth back to the City.

      So, were Mr Starmer to question the serial liar and puppet PM about this, he would be in the bad books of the City.

      Mr Corbyn has a different set of values, but, unfortunately, was not a particularly good ‘performer’ in the Westminster ‘Palace of Varieties (As Harold Wilson or Tony Blair were) nor a particularly good master of his brief, and was shouted down by the oafs, as much on his own side as on the Tory benches. In addition he was monstered by the media in a way that few politicians have been.

    4. Surely Sirkeir’s LP is as interested in Russian money as the Bozo Brigade. May be that’s the reason? The politics of The Establishment revolves around personal profile and the income to be derived from that profile. There are no principles beyond those of Ego and Income. The Ukanian fiefdom is safe from a peasant revolt for the moment because the ease of our day to day existence rides the economic degrodation of the so-called Second and Third World’s cheap labour and non-regulated industrial base. It won’t last.

    5. If you look at the clip above there is barely anyone there. Its become so corrupt in priniciple no really cares , and what ever happens happens without any consequence. Reports delayed, justice, the essentials left out in the cold is the plan.
      I think people have just walked away from this political scene as the least desirable social place they’d ever want to be involved with. Money Laudering? So? Values, so what? Its money.
      Just a feeling on how low things are, while listening to the echos of bluff and bluster in an empty room.
      A shell game of purpose where nothing is ever revealed.

    6. Wasted? He did well as usual. Be honest you just don’t like him do you. But whatever you think of him his performance at the despatch box is a vast improvement on the previous leader which I admit is not saying that much. A cabbage would have had more impact than Captain Integrity.

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