Sir Keir Starmer was in Oldham today to visit Mantra Learning, a Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) training facility, as he continues to criticise the government for the shortage of lorry drivers in Britain.
The Labour leader, who always looks nervous during publicity stunts as though he knows it is inherently ridiculous and all about to go wrong, had a crack at driving an HGV by himself. It was, quite literally, a car crash moment.
Starmer was reversing into a tight parking spot, but was unable to see what was behind the container attached to his HGV. The phrase “more to the left” was heard. Starmer was doing alright, until he overshot the mark and knocked over a barricade causing the instructor to tell him to turn the engine off. He was not impressed with Starmer’s parking, saying: “You have failed your test”. To which Starmer replied: “Very good.”
There were faint echoes of Neil Kinnock, former Labour leader, falling over on the beach during a walk at Labour conference in Brighton in the 1980s. Kinnock’s public perception never recovered. And there were parallels with William Hague’s doomed attempts to get noticed during New Labour’s pomp after the 1997 landslide when he became leader of the opposition. Hague’s advisers sent him and assorted associates on a water “experience” at a theme park, for the benefit of the media. Baseball caps were involved. Hague, from the post-politics perspective, is very funny on the silliness of it all.
In a poignant tweet today, Dan Hodges of the Mail on Sunday captured the historical symmetry and existential sadness of Starmer’s HGV driving fail: “Why don’t Starmer’s people just send him down the log-flume at Alton Towers, and be done with it?”