Keir Starmer stood alongside Jeremy Corbyn for years (Picture: Getty Images)
Sunak is so obsessed with the former Labour leader
When Keir Starmer had Sunak on the ropes again, this time due to his refusal to quickly sack Nadhim Zahawi and deal with bullying allegations against Dominic Raab, the PM resorted to his weak trump card, reminding the world that Starmer worked with Corbyn.
Sunak is so obsessed with the former Labour leader that, as Corbyn himself put it, he lives rent free in the Prime Minister’s head.
But ironically, the relentless mentions of Corbyn in Parliament highlight weakness in both major political parties.
They reveal not only how few ideas the Tories have to try and close the polling gap ahead of the next election, but also show how much potential damage there still is for Labour in refusing to definitively tackle the Corbyn issue.
With Starmer 21 points ahead of Sunak on popularity, and Labour holding a similar lead on voting intentions, it’s clear that the PM thinks he can’t possibly attack their current policies.
So when his back is against the wall in Parliament, Sunak is forced to bring up the ghost of ‘The Member for Islington North’ in a bid to haunt Keir Starmer.
The problem for Starmer, and those of us who want rid of the Tories, is that Sunak has a point.
I’m as sick as anyone of hearing constant chatter about the former Labour leader, but I can’t deny that Starmer did work with Corbyn and campaigned to make the man who now sits as an independent MP Prime Minister.
I believe the Corbyn-related problems for Starmer are two-fold.
Jeremy Corbyn now sits as an Independent MP (Picture: PA Wire)
Firstly, the popularity that Corbyn still has among parts of the Labour Party, and the wider movement.
Jeremy may not be flavour of the month with many Labour MPs, but no-one could deny he had a talent for galvanising supporters with passionate speeches and transformative policies.
And that was borne out when his leadership resulted in a surge in Labour Party membership.
Starmer, meanwhile, has presided over a loss of almost 100,000 members, despite his polling success.
It’s a consistent criticism I’ve levelled at Starmer – he lacks the personality and passion to get the average voter excited for the future.
Secondly, Starmer’s frankly massive u-turn on the predecessor he has removed the whip from allows his detractors on both the left and the right to question his integrity.
Not only did Starmer stand side-by-side with Corbyn, he also pledged to keep a lot of the 2019 manifesto’s policies in the 2020 leadership election, before quietly ditching many of them.
That presents a problem for Sir Keir, no matter what you thought of the man who led the Labour Party before him.
Personally, I was a fan of Corbyn, and I think he should either be let back into the parliamentary party, or fully booted out of Labour altogether, but it needs to be solved one way or another.
Until the ghost of Corbyn is exorcised, Sunak will continue to raise his name in an attempt to sow distrust towards Starmer.
That’s not a policy without risk for the Prime Minister though, as it continues to expose that Sunak has run out of options with his back against the wall.
It may also risk inadvertently showing Starmer in a good light, highlighting that the Labour chief is true to his word of ‘putting country before party.’
Starmer looks like he has a stronger grip on his party than Sunak, with the latter’s dithering over sacking the likes Nadhim Zahawi and Gavin Williamson contrasting with Starmer’s decisive action against, for example, Rebecca Long-Bailey, a Corbynista MP sacked from the Shadow Cabinet over accusations she shared an article containing an anti-Semitic comment.