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Keir Starmer: COVID-19 shone 'harsh light on the failures of leadership'

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·2-min read
Keir Starmer, leader of UK's opposition Labour party. Photo: Jessica Taylor/Reuters/ UK Parliament
Keir Starmer, leader of UK's opposition Labour party. Photo: Jessica Taylor/Reuters/ UK Parliament

UK Labour party leader Keir Starmer has hammered home the importance of good leadership, highlighting the test COVID-19 has brought for the world’s premiers.

In an article for the Economist’s forward-looking publication, The World in 2021, he wrote: “As we reflect on 2020 it is undeniable that some countries have handled the virus better than others and that there are lessons all governments must learn.”

Highlighting the US president Donald Trump and UK prime minister Boris Johnson as examples of where leadership has faltered, he put failures down to “dodging blame, dividing communities or undermining public-health advice.”

Damaging mixed messaging on ways to tackle the pandemic has led to health officials warning on caseloads and potential death rates across developed nations, as hospitals have become overwhelmed and economies were shuttered.

One example the leader of the opposition highlighted was Johnson’s failure to sack his former chief adviser Dominic Cummings for breaking lockdown rules at the height of restrictions in the UK. This, Starmer says, saw public confidence in the UK government plummet.

Cummings has since left, following a spat involving his ally Lee Cain’s planned departure from his role as director of communications in Downing Street.

READ MORE: Bank of England governor: 'Lasting changes' likely even with COVID vaccine

Starmer held up New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern as a positive example of leadership. He said she has led “with honesty, clarity and compassion while communicating in new and innovative ways.”

He continued: “In doing so, she has built a sense of unity and common purpose — her ‘team of 5m’ —which will define those countries that adapt best to the post-pandemic world.”

Concluding with a note on how better collaboration between G20 countries could have saved more lives, he says in 2021, countries must get around the table and strike while the iron is hot with coordinated action on crises.

Watch: What does a Joe Biden presidency in the US mean for the global economy?