Sir Keir Starmer had an unwelcome surprise today on a campaign stroll through the cobbled streets of Bath.
The Labour leader and his team were due to visit The Raven, a Georgian free house in the centre of the town, when they were confronted by the pub’s landlord holding a printed graph of Covid death statistics, demanding to know why Starmer had failed in his duty as Opposition leader to oppose the government’s lockdown policy.
“I am truthfully incandescent about the job you’ve done”, said Rod Humphris, who runs The Raven pub, established in 2004. “Thousands of people have died because you have failed to do your job and ask the real questions”, he went on, claiming that the government’s lockdown policy – uncontested by Labour – had “f***ed our economy”.
Humphris’ comments, delivered outside the premises to a gaggle of press and a visibly on-edge campaign team, were opposed calmly but firmly by the Labour leader. “My wife works for a central London hospital. It has been completely overwhelmed with cases. They’ve been on the frontline keeping people alive”, he retorted. “So I really don’t need lectures from you about this pandemic, thank you.”
Starmer then entered the pub, followed by his security guard. Humphris followed and shouted, while pressed into the staircase by Starmer’s security, “That man is not allowed in my pub” and “Get out of my pub”. Starmer left.
Videos of the exchange, which have gone viral, are a reminder that national politicians should pick their “public” carefully before venturing out into the real world.
An otherwise civil exchange with Gillian Duffy, a council worker and Labour voter, in Rochdale in 2010 turned into a PR disaster for then-PM Gordon Brown, after he was recorded calling Ms Duffy a “bigoted woman” in the car moments after.
Starmer has avoided that scale of gaffe, and no one is expecting him to turn up at Humphris’ door to apologise.
It is odd, however, to enter a pub after its landlord had made it quite clear you were not welcome. Starmer – and his campaign team – should have seen this one coming, and scrapped the visit before things escalated.
And in a comment to LBC, Starmer doubled down on his pro-lockdown leadership, saying that “most of the country” will be on his side in supporting the government.The incident is yet more evidence that Starmer – right now – just can’t win as the government enjoys a vaccine bounce. He has backed the government on pandemic measures, which puts him in line with public opinion. Yet he gets no credit for it. And he gets shouted at by a furious landlord.
The Labour leader’s team will hope that the hysterical performance by the landlord came across as plain rude.
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