Keir Starmer talks dead donkeys and soft coups at lobby lunch

Written by David Singleton on 1 March 2017 in Diary

The shadow Brexit secretary hinted at his humorous side as he dined with Westminster journalists.

Keir Starmer called on his party to "make the government look like yesterday's guys" as he addressed journalists at a press gallery lunch.

He also mocked John McDonnell's claim that a "soft coup" is underway. And he told a strange story about his parents rescuing a dead donkey.

Starmer was given a glowing introduction by Press Gallery chairman Matt Chorley, who stated: "After arriving in parliament in 2015, he quickly made an impression. Some people might wait years to be called ‘a second rate lawyer who does not even understand the parliamentary process’ by that titan of both law and politics Iain Duncan Smith."

With the shadow Brexit secretary at 6-1 to take over from Jeremy Corbyn, there were also repeated references to Starmer being the next Labour leader. "If there is a party left to lead.".

Starmer did not talk about his own prospects but expressed some fears about the direction of Corbyn’s leadership, declaring that "if things don't improve there is no prospect of us winning a general election".

He also took a thinly-veiled swipe at his shadow cabinet colleagues who had come up with various reasons why Labour lost the Copeland by-election "I thought the loss in Copeland was really serious. I don't think some of the reasons put forward are compelling," he said.

On the challenge for the Labour party in the coming years, he advised: "We have got to be forward-looking, we have got to know what we are talking about. We must understand the challenges of the future, not the past, and make the government look like yesterday's guys."

Starmer also mocked John McDonnell's claim that a "soft coup" is underway to unseat Corbyn.

McDonnell sparked anger after writing an angry article for the left-wing Labour Briefing website claiming rebel Labour MPs were working behind-the-scenes with the media to undermine Corbyn. At the Westminster lunch, Starmer said: "I'm still trying to work out what a soft coup actually is, whether you gently roll someone over or whether you use some other mechanism."

Starmer failed to present a solid news story to the lobby journalists, but he did raise a few laughs.

The London-born MP revealed that he had previously received abusive messages suggesting that he should "fuck off back to Germany". And he recently received an email telling him to "fuck off back to Albania". He wasn’t sure whether the same person had sent both messages.

He also told a rambling tale about his parents rescuing frail animals but then encountering difficulties when the time came to dispose of them.

"The worst thing about having a donkey is what to do when they die," he said, leaving hacks scratching their heads and trying to establish whether this was a metaphor about the state of the Labour party.

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