Week by week Rishi Sunak takes greater pleasure in twitting Sir Keir Starmer. This week the Prime Minister observed: “He made a rare trip out of North London to visit Davos.”
For as long as anyone can remember, the Leader of the Labour Party has lived in North London. It is their natural habitat. One thinks of such illustrious figures as Hugh Gaitskell, Harold Wilson, Tony Blair, Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn.
Often the runner up in the Labour leadership contest is also from North London. For some years I ran a campaign, DM4PM, which distributed leaflets to psychiatric consulting rooms and health food shops the length and breadth of Primrose Hill, seeking in vain to persuade David Miliband to throw his hat into the ring when Blair stepped down, rather than simply allow the coronation of Gordon Brown.
But Sunak knows that to many Labour voters, North London sounds cut off from normal life.
Benjamin Disraeli, one of Sunak’s most brilliant predecessors, wrote of two nations “between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets”.
He meant the rich and the poor, and one of the infuriating things about the PM’s jibes, from Sir Keir’s point of view, is that Sunak is far richer than he is, so ought to be more vulnerable to the charge of being cut off from normal people.
But here was a new jibe from Sunak at Sir Keir’s expense: “He has mentioned two or three times before that he was a lawyer in a previous life.”
How unkind, for Sir Keir does indeed quite often refer to his proud record as Director of Public Prosecutions, yet the public takes a low view of lawyers.
When chided by Patrick Grady (SNP, Glasgow North) for planning to deport migrants to Rwanda, Sunak retorted that after the “awful tragedy” of the drowning on Sunday of at least 62 migrants off the coast of Italy, people should realise there is “nothing compassionate about tolerating illegal migration when people are dying”.
A tough line, and one which will undoubtedly be flung at Sir Keir should the Government actually manage to introduce tough measures.