Political column - November 26

The Birmingham business leaders must have been bewildered.

It was like inviting Alexei Sayle and getting Michael McIntyre. But here he was, the Labour leader, Transformation Man, giving them a little lecture on immigration.

It was a speech which could have been given by many a Tory figure over the past decade or so, or even Nigel Farage.

"Our common goal must be to help the British economy off its immigration dependency to start investing more in training workers who are already here," he preached.

And so the process is complete. Under Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour Party is just one slice of birthday cake away from being the Conservative Party.

All his MPs were voted in on a manifesto which offered something much more radical back in 2019 and, actually, almost the total opposite. Before his Brexit personality transplant Sir Keir was an advocate of freedom of movement bringing in EU workers to do the jobs that British workers won't do because the low pay and conditions are not to their taste.

How should the Labour MPs of the 2019 Corbyn cohort react? Simples. The prospect of power brings with it the imperative to be pragmatic or, to put it another way, to chase votes. So they will pretend to go along with Sir Keir's new direction.

Come to think of it, during the pandemic Sir Keir was much more right wing and illiberal than Boris, who was a reluctant lockdowner. In those days brownie points were to be had in direct relation to just how authoritarian you presented yourself as being.

Lockdowns forever! School closures now!

Talking about ways of gaining brownie points, during Prime Minister's Questions Sir Keir took the opportunity to put the boot in on Fifa, as is very trendy at the moment.

"Shame on Fifa," he said.

You will be aware of the controversies about rainbow armbands and rainbow hats being banned, and suchlike, denying freedom of expression, and freedom of protest, to footballers and people in the crowd at the World Cup being held in Qatar, a giant oil corporation of a country.

There again, the participating footballing nations have chosen to take part, rather than stage a boycott and make a stand against Qatar's human rights record and the process by which Qatar was chosen to hold the World Cup in the first place.

It is still not too late to make such a protest showing the strength of their feeling – by pulling out of the tournament.

I'm not holding my breath.

................

On Thursday I popped round to my father-in-law's but he wasn't in, so to kill time until his return I went to a local cafe for a cuppa.

The cafe overlooked a big yellow wheel hub by the side of the road, a piece of public art in tribute to GKN, which made wheel hubs in abundance at its massive Hadley plant (and a lot of other things besides, obviously).

I sat in my seat with my coffee and settled down to witness the horror show.

That's because I recalled that when this wheel hub tribute was suggested or installed there was concern among the local parish council that it would prove a distraction to motorists on the main road, and would thus be a traffic hazard.

But rather than observing a spectacle of drivers weaving and swerving all over the road, nothing untoward happened.

In my days covering planning committee meetings, "potential distraction to motorists" was a favourite reason to justify refusing this or that plan by a road.

Ironically, you'll be aware that in some places these days there are massive roadside LED screens, which can be blindingly bright in dull weather, which carry council-sponsored messages. Not only are they distracting but they are intended to be distracting to motorists, as otherwise they wouldn't have been put up in the first place.

Out of curiosity about such matters I once contacted the police to try to find out how many accidents were directly attributable to motorists being distracted by the Angel of the North, which is in a prime location next to the A1, one of the busiest roads in Britain.

Disappointingly there were no specific figures for accidents directly caused by the Angel of the North. But I got the impression that the sculpture made no real difference either way.

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