Friday, 3 January 2020

Sir William Morris, Sir Keir Starmer

Of course, Morris never actually became Sir William Morris because he posed such a severe political challenge to the Establishment that they didn’t award him any major honours, although there was some informal approach about becoming Poet Laureate after Tennyson’s death in October 1892.  In just the same way, there will never be a Sir Jeremy Corbyn or Sir Terry Eagleton.  On the other hand, that politically unimportant figure Edward Burne-Jones became Sir Edward Burne-Jones in the New Year’s honours of 1894, to the disgust of both Morris and his own wife Georgiana.

Labour MP Keir Starmer, who has been much in the news over the past few days, is actually Sir Keir Starmer, for he was knighted in 2014 for his services to law and criminal justice; and now that he has declared himself a candidate for the leadership of the Labour Party, we should reflect on this fact.  If, like Morris or Corbyn, you don’t get a knighthood because you pose a serious political challenge to capitalism, then, in reverse, you get one precisely because you do not pose much or any threat to it, like Burne-Jones.

And Sir Keir, as Labour leader, would be a centrist ‘safe pair of hands’, a major break back towards the right after the Corbyn project (whatever lip-service he currently pays to it).  As a London MP, he would do nothing towards helping Labour retake votes and territory in the North – indeed, as someone identified with the idea of a second referendum which was seen as being Remain in disguise, he would be counter-productive in that respect.   Powerful media forces are supporting his candidacy, particularly the left-liberal Guardian newspaper, which is desperate to stop a ‘continuity Corbyn’ figure, and has made much use of a one-sided YouGov poll to promote Sir Keir (one-sided because its figures do not include union affiliates and registered Labour supporters, who are likely to be broadly Corbynist).  A party of the Left will have a place for Starmer’s undoubted talents, but certainly not as leader.

1 comment:

Tony Pinkney said...

It's worth noting that there was actually a Sir William Morris, the Oxford car manufacturer who later became Lord Nuffield and founded Nuffield College in the city. I have a mention of him on p.163 of my 'William Morris in Oxford: The Campaigning Years, 1879-1895' (Illuminati books, 2007).