Sir Keir Starmer faces a bitter backlash from Labour MPs for ‘wobbling’ over Meghan’s racism claim about the Royal Family and for ‘bungling’ the party’s tax plans.
They say their leader ‘misjudged’ the public mood by appearing too sympathetic to the Duchess of Sussex’s explosive claims in his first reaction.
They claim that sent a ‘terrible message’ to patriotic voters in the so-called ‘Red Wall’ in the North and Midlands that Labour must win back from the Tories.
Sir Keir infuriated some Northern Labour MPs with his initial reaction to Meghan’s accusation of racism within the Royal Family
But Labour MPs are also furious that they were initially told not to oppose Tory income tax hikes in the Budget only to be ordered last week to vote against them.
The angry mood comes amid predictions that the party faces ‘disastrous’ results in the May local elections, with insiders even fearful of losing overall control in Wales and failing to win the key West Midlands mayoral contest.
Last night, even one member of Sir Keir’s frontbench team admitted that the leader’s operation had to improve dramatically.
But the Shadow Minister, who spoke on condition of anonymity, dismissed talk of a challenge to the leader after the May elections as ‘ridiculous’.
Sir Keir infuriated some Northern Labour MPs with his initial reaction to Meghan’s accusation of racism within the Royal Family.
Speaking in East London on Monday, the Labour leader said the issues of race and mental health were ‘really serious’ and said: ‘It’s a reminder whether you are in East London or in Meghan’s situation, too many people still experience racism in 21st Century Britain.’
They say their leader ‘misjudged’ the public mood by appearing too sympathetic to the Duchess of Sussex’s explosive claims in his first reaction
Starmer: Meghan’s accusations of racism need to be taken seriously
Asked whether the Royal Family as an institution was ‘fit for purpose’, Sir Keir replied: ‘We’ll have to see how the institution reacts to this . . .it’s bigger in a sense than just the Royal Family.’
His remarks sparked mockery from some Labour MPs as a pale imitation of Tony Blair’s famous ‘People’s Princess’ intervention after the death of Diana in 1997.
Later in the week, Sir Keir appeared to row back by declaring that the Palace had now responded to Meghan’s allegations, ‘and I do think it is a matter now for the family’.
But one former Shadow Minister told The Mail on Sunday that his party leader’s initial comments sent a ‘terrible message’ to many traditional Labour voters who respect the Queen.
He said: ‘Keir already had a problem with many voters in our heartlands areas because he was so anti-Brexit and he’s a southerner who represents a North London seat.
‘The lesson of the last election was that many of our traditional voters turned away from us because they didn’t like Corbyn because they didn’t see him as patriotic.
‘If this was Keir taking sides, he picked the wrong side for many people we need to win back,’ the former Shadow Minister added.
But there is also anger at Labour’s last-minute U-turn over Rishi Sunak’s Budget plan to freeze income tax thresholds as the first stage of clawing back pandemic costs.
Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds had initially signalled Labour would not oppose the move.
But 48 hours before the key Budget vote, Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy announced the party would vote against the plan.
Last night, one party insider said ‘there were lots of to-ings and fro-ings between Keir’s office and Anneliese Dodds and eventually Keir over-ruled her. But we should have acted sooner.’
Labour sources insisted Sir Keir had not overruled his Shadow Chancellor, saying they had ‘worked closely’ over the Tories’ plans to ‘raise taxes on families during the middle of an economic crisis’. Sir Keir’s office declined to comment.
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