Over the past week since the Guardian exposed the farce of the prime minister’s flat refurbishment the leader of the opposition, Kier Starmer, had made it his mission to maximize the embarrassment factor for Boris Johnson. There was the bizarre photo opportunity in a store with wallpaper to ram home the message. Despite the full denial by Boris and desperate pleas for the conversation to move onto quieter waters there may be a financial irregularity that needs investigating – the Electoral commission certainly thinks so. Boris has yet to give an explanation and people will still expect him to be held to account
Timing is never right in these matters and with local elections coming up Boris is struggling to reclaim the daily media story, with some polls suggesting the Tory lead has fallen. Political sleaze affects all parties and Labour will be relieved that, after all its internal troubles, the spotlight is temporarily elsewhere.
Yet Labour urgently needs to gain credibility in the media and to be giving the right message. So who is advising Kier that wallpaper is the story to run with? What the polls suggest is close to people’s hearts at the moment are firstly, covid vaccinations – a Tory success story – and pot holes – a perennial local problem. The financial games surrounding a flat redecoration are titillating with a lot of tutting but are not going to tangibly change people’s views of Boris – a maverick, probably out of his League as a prime minister, and notably not one to have a recall of detail.
There is much that the Tories are genuinely struggling with. An awful lot of cronyism and panic with procurement during the early days of the pandemic led to a lot of dud over-priced health equipment, that needs to be investigated, yet Kier seems unable to hold the government to account on COVID in general. There is a housing white paper that needs to be exposed as pointless, and a report on social care commissioned by the government that Labour should be highlighting as inept. Real issues that affect voters lives.
Paul Embery in Unherd argues that voters care more about the issues that affect their everyday lives. Sleaze, on its own, simply won’t cut it with voters, it’s news that sells papers, but may not change voting. Paul Embery suggests that significant issues that captured the public’s imagination like the Iraq affair do far more to undermine their trust. Kier needs better advice on what to capture voters hearts and minds with if he is to overturn Boris’s vaccination bonus.