Analysis: While Starmer Jokes About Star Wars, Johnson Is Stoking Up The Culture Wars

The prime minister threw some red meat to his backbenchers by attacking the opposition on rail strikes, Rwanda and Brexit.
Keir Starmer has accused Boris Johnson of "feeding on division".
Keir Starmer has accused Boris Johnson of "feeding on division".
Jacob King via PA Wire/PA Images

Being called boring by his own shadow cabinet appears to have really got under Keir Starmer’s skin.

The Labour leader was throwing culture references around like confetti in PMQs, one minute name-checking Obi-Wan Kenobi, the next going on about Love Island.

In truth, the jokes fell rather flat, but you could hardly fault him for effort.

But while Starmer wanted to talk about Star Wars, it was the UK’s culture wars that Boris Johnson wanted to stoke.

Rail strikes, Rwanda deportation flights and Brexit were all given an airing by the prime minister, for the simple reason that he - rightly - believes they make things electorally tricky for Labour.

So next week’s planned walkout by members of the RMT are “Labour’s strikes” because the opposition can’t bring themselves to criticise a trade union.

On Rwanda, the PM said Labour were “on the side of the people traffickers who would risk people’s lives at sea” because they criticise the government’s policy of sending asylum seekers on a one-way journey to east Africa.

And on Brexit, Johnson said that given half a chance, Labour would take the UK back into the European Union. Nonsense, of course, but it plays very well in the Red Wall.

After narrowly escaping an attempt by his own MPs to turf him out office, the prime minister clearly believes that the best way to save his job is to turn politics into an Us versus Them battle.

It worked for him in 2019 and, he clearly believes, it will prove fruitful again at the next election, should he still be Conservative leader then.

Until Starmer comes up with plausible positions on the most divisive issues in British politics, Johnson is right to feel optimistic.


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