Skip to main content

18th May 2022

Beer Starmer: Why his curry night should trigger a leadership election

Starmer should resign… and not just because of his problematic pint and controversial curry.
Beer Starmer: Why his curry night should trigger a leadership election
Photo: Jeremy Keith @ Flickr

‘Beergate’ began in April 2021 when Durham police closed an investigation into Labour Leader Keir Starmer without penalty. They had decided that he did not in fact break COVID regulation laws.  However, the case has been reopened in the wake of ‘Partygate’ following new evidence and significant pressure from the Conservative Party and certain media outlets.

Over a year ago, Starmer shared a curry and drank a beer with Angela Rayner and other Labour staffers after a day campaigning at the Hartlepool by-election. At the time, mixing indoors with people outside of your household was illegal and Starmer’s claim that the curry was necessary for work purposes is now being put back into question.

Many commentators are pointing to how it seems all too politically expedient for the Conservative Party, who have successfully distracted the public from the infamous fines issued to Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak. Whilst I agree this is why they put pressure on reopening the investigation, I don’t think it means Starmer’s place as leader should be protected or advocated for. I think he needs to go, regardless of what the police conclude, because I want Labour to win.

Unfortunately, the political point-scoring evidenced by ‘Beergate’ is entrenched in British politics and the media. If Starmer had done anything about this or campaigned for a media that serves the people and not the political elites, instead of playing into it, then maybe my analysis of the situation would be more generous.


Why is Starmer is in serious trouble?

 The moral dilemma of the curry night is not the main reason I think Starmer should resign, and my reasoning lies more in his electability as a result of this scandal, Conservative orchestrated or not.

Following the fines issued to Johnson and Sunak, Starmer called for them to “do the right thing” and resign. Say what you like about the man, but he has said that he will follow his own advice if fines ensue after his own controversial curry and problematic pint. Whilst a curry after a day of campaigning is not comparable to the Prime Minister hosting a party at Number 10, I think it is comparable to Sunak being fined for, apparently, attending a meeting where a birthday cake was served.

All Keir Starmer had to do, as Labour leader up against a highly controversial Conservative government implicated in several scandals, was remain the better option. He didn’t even have to be a great leader, although it would have been welcomed. He literally just had to be better than the Conservatives who held a fallow-style basement party with a DJ in the height of the pandemic.

Now, he is a hypocrite, and will be seen as a hypocrite by the electorate whose trust has already been eroded. A hypocrite like Starmer cannot win an election. Thus, he should resign. Especially considering his electability has been his only redeeming quality for many Labour supporters on the left.


Making a bad leader worse

It’s this alleged electability that made me want to give Starmer a chance when he was first elected in 2020. I was optimistic. Or, at least as optimistic as I could be after the crushing 2019 election. I thought that a centre-left candidate could at least get the Conservatives out of government like Tony Blair in 1997, but political leaning is where the similarities end.

Comparisons made between Blair and Starmer frequently point to Starmer’s lack of effective communication skills and charisma. For two years now he has been a weak opposition leader when it has been particularly important for the government to be held to account.

I spend a lot of time reading and writing about British politics, but I honestly couldn’t tell you what Starmer’s vision for the country is or what his beliefs are, apart from being passionately in favour of the EU, and that won’t win back the so-called ‘red-wall’.

I know that he disapproves of Corbyn. Whilst I don’t think it would be politically expedient to have him lead the party again, I also don’t think Starmer’s obsession with criticising Corbyn and reducing the left of the party is either. Labour is still rife with factionalism.

The party spends more time opposing the left of their party than the actual government. Take the recent local elections as an example, where Starmer celebrated their success by comparing it to the failures at the 2019 election under Corbyn rather than the Conservative Party’s losses.

In short, boring Starmer has ensured that the Labour Party’s biggest enemy is not the Conservatives but, well, themselves. He has spent most of the time sat on the fence. The one time he was effective regarding Johnson’s ‘Partygate’, he ended up crashing to the floor.


Will Starmer recover?

Despite his promise to resign if a fine is issued, I surprisingly do not want Starmer to be fined.  The fallout from that wouldn’t help an already dire Labour win the next election. I do, however, maintain that he should resign regardless.

At the 2020 leadership election it was widely understood that the next leader needed to win back the ‘red-wall’ seats lost in the North at the 2019 election. Yet, up against two Northern women, Starmer was elected by the Labour membership. Keir Starmer, the establishment pick from London.

There are a lot of hardworking Labour members in London whose dedicated supporters are not just middle-class white ‘London liberals’, as is often claimed. I don’t want to come across like I am criticising Londoners. However, yet another London MP being elected as party leader is the exact opposite of what Labour should have done.

Starmer unsurprisingly failed to win back the North at the recent local elections despite making considerable gains elsewhere. I also take issue with using these gains to defend Labour leadership. The party also made considerable gains at local elections under Corbyn, and we all know how that went.

For me, his failure to regain support in the North and failure to remain more moral than Boris Johnson in the media after ‘Beergate’ gives more than enough reason for his resignation. Furthermore, I also believe the party needs a complete reorganisation because the potential successors are looking bleak.


Who’s next?

 According to betting odds, Andy Burnham is the favourite to take over from Starmer. It says a lot about Labour when their best possible candidate can’t become leader because he isn’t an MP.  It’s a mess.

Second, we have Wes Streeting. He’s passionately anti-Corbyn and a critic of the Labour far left. Streeting is MP for Ilford North in London and once claimed he would rather lose his job than stop campaigning for ‘Remain’. Remind you of anyone?

Third is Rachel Reeves, MP for Leeds West, and the current shadow chancellor. Finally, I can mention Yorkshire in an article but sadly Reeves lets us down. Born and raised in, you guessed it, London, she does little for her constituents and once pledged that Labour will be tougher than the Tories on benefits. Just like Starmer and Streeting, Reeves is not a candidate that can win back the support of the disillusioned, going as far as to tell benefits claimants that Labour is not for them.

Next is Nandy, from Manchester and currently an MP for Wigan. Her long campaign to get Labour to also understand the concerns of voters in towns as well as cities is very promising.

In my opinion she’s Labour’s most realistic chance of winning that I’ve considered so far, but I’m reluctant to support her as she is a candidate from Labour’s right. Like Starmer, she is still too focused on reducing her own party’s left rather than uplifting talented politicians that have leadership potential and would be more appealing, at least for me.

In fifth is Angela Rayner, and considering she is implicated by the ‘Beergate’ scandal and will have to resign as deputy leader if a fine is issued, I don’t see that happening either.


What’s the verdict?

This article is a plea for Labour to clean up their mess and elect someone more inspiring next time. It’s frustrating that the next leadership election is likely to be another ‘best of the bad bunch’ choice. I think change begins at Starmer’s resignation, and his curry and beer scandal confirmed that if Labour continues on their current trajectory, then the Conservatives will win again. If Starmer isn’t replaced and the exit poll shows another Conservative majority I’ll be extremely disappointed, but not surprised.

More Coverage

Fetishising financial hardship – when will university students stop playing ‘poverty simulator’?

The financial barriers to university are clear to students from low-income backgrounds. So why should we tolerate seeing our wealthier peers ‘playing poor’?

Vive La Revolution? What can we learn from the French protests

With the French protests showing no signs of dying down what can those striving for more learn from our European neighbours?

Work smarter, not harder: The phenomenon of the four-day working week

The antiquated 4-day working week is interfering with our quality of life, at no benefit to our employers. For the sake of us all, it’s time to change.

Rent Strikers and University alike fail to learn from history

The 1968’s student protest has a history to be learnt from. However, rent strikers and the university have failed to appreciate those lessons