It’s as if Keir Starmer has been “struck by a bolt of lightning”, says Dan Hodges in The Mail on Sunday. Two weeks ago, the Labour leader was asked about his view on gender reassignment services and replied: “I feel very strongly that children shouldn’t be making these very important decisions without the consent of their parents.” In an interview on immigration, he said Britain was “recruiting too many people from overseas” into the NHS. And last Tuesday, he told the climate activists blocking the M25 to “get up” and “go home”. It’s clear what he’s thinking: the flailing Tory government is “there for the taking”, so he needs to “start speaking for the British people”.
This “New Keir Starmer” faces opposition. The influential Ed Miliband has spoken of Britain’s “historical responsibility” to recompense countries such as the Maldives and Pakistan for climate change; Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper is “queasy” about a tough line on migration. Then there’s the “Old Keir Starmer”. Despite his allies’ efforts to portray him as a tough, crime-fighting prosecutor, the Labour leader is and always will be “a liberal, leftie, Camden barrister”. But that may not matter. “Tony Blair once proudly sported a CND badge but ended up carpet-bombing Iraq. Boris Johnson wore a pink cowboy hat for a Gay Pride parade and became the darling of the Red Wall. The successful politicians are the ones who learn to adapt to the times and seize the moment.” Starmer has just such an opportunity.