Being powerful is like being a lady, someone once said; if you have to tell people you are, you aren’t. Well, I am of the belief that this maxim extends to all self-characterisations. For example, is there anyone less funny than the man who declares himself funny? You know, the one at the party who repeats a joke ad nauseum because, clearly, we mustn’t have heard it right the first time. We force the chuckle out; and die a little inside. And what about the man who tells you he isn’t boring?
Keir Starmer says he isn’t boring
The image I have of Keir Starmer (He’s a sir, you know? How interesting!) telling his shadow cabinet to stop calling him boring is almost exactly similar to that scene from Goodfellas in which Joe Pesci asks, “What kind of funny am I?” But rather than a thick, methane-like atmosphere of fear descending on the group, no doubt an air of somnolence cooled those at the roundtable as Mr Starmer asked them what kind of boring he is (am I paint-drying boring or work-drinks boring?) and they asked themselves, “What’s this boring man going on about now?”
He supposedly told his cabinet that he isn’t boring – what’s boring is being in opposition. I can’t help but picture him guffawing awkwardly at this beautifully ironic wit and elbow-nudging the chap next to him for support.
I mean, honestly, what a thoroughly boring thing to say. There must be a version of the Dunning-Kruger effect for the tragically boring, surely? Because it isn’t just that he is subjectively dull – he is the embodiment of the colour beige; he is the designated driver and the ‘let’s just pay for what we ordered’ guy rolled into one. As far as physical universal constants go, Mr Starmer being boring is there with Planck and the speed of light. What were his cabinet member supposed to say?
Well, apparently, he is very fun off camera. Isn’t that brilliant? Oh, yes, he’s really fun but when nobody is looking. Should we invoke Schrodinger? Or Russell’s teapot? But to be clear, this isn’t a criticism. Not yet anyway.
There’s nothing wrong with a boring politician. In fact I quite like them. Napoleon, by all accounts, was hardly a thrilling conversationalist but at least he had Austerlitz, and at least he understood his people and had a clear ideal. Lenin seems to have been the biggest bore going but he knew what he stood for and could whip up a good workers’ revolt.
The key thing here is substance. Mr Starmer is incapable of making a decision without an opinion poll informing him of his opinion first. And when none is forthcoming… well that fencepost must be halfway up his colon by now. Take the train strikes. What position does the Labour leader take on this? As far as I can see he supports them but won’t back them.
And he seems obsessed with taking politics back to the neoliberal centre-ground that arguably led to the stagnating wages, poorer quality of life and dearth of opportunities for a whole generation. To the very cause of the current malaise.
No, it isn’t because he is boring that Mr Starmer fails to win over traditional Labour voters. And don’t patronise them by suggesting it is.