Starmer is lucky that Sunak is so much worse - Mary Kelly

Laughable that prime minister who wants to drag 18-year-olds into National Service couldn’t even stay for full D-Day ceremony

Mary Kelly

Mary Kelly

Mary Kelly is an Irish News columnist and former producer of current affairs output on Radio Ulster and BBC NI political programme Hearts and Minds

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his Conservative colleagues have repeatedly claimed Labour will increase taxes by £2,000 per working household
Remember Rishi Sunak standing in the pouring rain to announce the election, while Labour’s 1997 theme tune ‘Things can only get better” blared in the background? Things actually got much worse (Jonathan Brady/PA)

A week’s break in a lovely house in the Spanish Alpujarras mountains made the general election feel wonderfully remote. The trouble is that I felt the same when I got home.

It’s hard to get excited about the poll here in norn Iron, even when there’s a prospect of the DUP losing one or two seats.

Westminster elections do seem removed from what passes as our political life, where voting just brings more shouty nonsense and posters destined for 11th night bonfires.

I haven’t seen all the party broadcasts yet, but so far they’ve been uninspiring. Colum Eastwood seems to be going for the wise prophet look, bearded and looking into the horizon from a mountain top, but the effect is more Norman No-Mates than Moses.

Alliance’s effort was predictably bland, but top of the weirdness charts was the DUP offering, which has party leader Gavin Robinson going though his family album, pointing out his childhood photographs to his wife, who must surely have seen them once or twice before.

Doesn’t she already know he graduated from Queen’s and what he studied there? But no, he rattles through his full CV, while she pretends to be interested.

Across the water is Sir Keir Starmer’s ‘Ming vase’ approach, where he’s being so careful not to drop his massive lead over the hapless Tories that his only idea is wrapping himself in the Union Jack so often he might pop up wearing Ginger Spice’s frock one day.

Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer went head to head in a TV debate on Wednesday (Jonathan Hordle/ITV)
Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer went head to head in a TV debate last week (Jonathan Hordle/ITV/PA)

His television debate with Sunak was unimpressive. Sporting a look of offended incredulity, he failed to counter the Tory leader’s lie about a £2,000 tax hike until it was repeated about 10 times. “He was just being too polite,” said his political team afterwards. Or maybe too inept.

But Starmer is lucky that his opponent is so much worse. Remember Sunak standing in the pouring rain to announce the election, while Labour’s 1997 theme tune ‘Things can only get better” blared in the background? Things actually got much worse.

It’s laughable that the PM who wants to drag 18-year-olds into National Service to “serve their country” couldn’t even stay for the full ceremony at the D-Day 80th commemorations in France.

Mr Biden and Mr Macron sat side by side during Normandy commemorations (Jordan Pettitt/Pool)
Presidents Biden and Macron sat side by side during Normandy commemorations, while Rishi Sunak travelled home (Jordan Pettitt/AP)

The fact that he stayed only for the British bits, but legged it home for an ITV interview, thereby missing the international event attended by US President Joe Biden, President Macron of France and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, says all there is to know about the “little Britain” mentality of this post-Brexit government, so determined to become isolationists on the world stage. Ukraine’s President Zelensky somehow managed to find the time even when his own country is at war.

Luckily the Britain of the 1940s didn’t have the same attitude to collaborating with international allies.


Arnold Carton is a brave and liberal voice from the unionist community whose blogs and commentary on sites like Slugger O’Toole are always worth reading.

 UDA flag 
Why are unionist politicians not speaking out about paramilitary flags?

Recently he tweeted a complaint about the appearance of union and paramilitary flags on lamp posts along Belfast’s main roads. Over a picture of Tate’s Avenue, bedecked in union, Northern Ireland and UDA flags, he wrote: “I suspect many unionists like me are uncomfortable with displays like this on our main Belfast roads. A union flag on your house is fine, but not UDA flags on our lamp posts. Our unionist politicians should be speaking out against this.”

There were many responses, some saying they liked the flags and why didn’t he complain about tricolours and republican murals. “Tacky, territorial and not wanted” said another, while many talked about the chilling effect it had and how it put them off going to places like Bushmills.

One English tourist who sailed into flag-festooned Carrickfergus quickly changed his plans and headed for Carlingford instead.

At the time of writing, Arnold’s post had 1.5k views. There were no comments at all from any unionist political representative. Leadership, eh?