SIR Keir Starmer has been dubbed the new “quiet man” of politics after his long silence on the re-opening of schools.
The Labour leader has sat on the fence while his party is divided over whether it is safe for kids to return to classes.
He has claimed that the longer schools are shut, the more damage that will be done to children.
But he refuses to rein in is shadow education secretary who has “welcomed” news that schools won’t make a full return until after the summer.
Leftie Rebecca Long-Bailey – an ally of ex-leader Jeremy Corbyn – also backs a militant teaching union which has urged members not to engage with heads about opening schools.
Sir Keir was under mounting pressure to come off the fence after the Boris Johnson vowed to get all children back to full-time school in September.
The PM believes this can be achieved by increasing from 15 to 30 the protective “bubbles” children are placed in.
There is mounting evidence that the prolonged absence from school during the coronavirus pandemic is causing long-term harm to many children.
Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield has warned that poorer children risk falling further behind in their education.
And she says is even more damaging for 2.3 million with a vulnerable family background.
Last week 1,500 paediatricians wrote to the PM urging him to make the re-opening of schools a priority.
Sir Keir has called on the government to secure a “national consensus” on the re-opening of schools to address “valid safety concerns” raised by unions.
But he refused four times last week to say whether or not thought it was safe for children to be back in school.
Tory MP Jonathan Gullis, a former teacher who sits on the Commons education committee, said: “Keir Starmer is developing a bit of a habit of staying silent. He’s become the quiet man of politics.
“He remained silent during Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership when anti-semitism was rife. He also sat on the fence when members of his front bench made disgusting comments about the Home Secretary Priti Patel.
“It’s time we heard a bit more from the Labour leader. If he doesn’t like what the government is doing, he should lay out his position.
“Perhaps it’s because on many of the key issues – including Brexit – he is out of touch with working people, particularly those in so-called Red Wall seats his party lost at the last election.”
The “quiet man” jibe has echoes of Sir Iain Duncan Smith’s troubled two-year spell as Tory leader when he told critics: “Do not underestimate the determination of a quiet man.”
Sir Keir, who was elected Labour leader in April, has confirmed his two children have been attending school throughout the pandemic.
But his shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds has said she does not have the evidence to convince her to send her own children to school.
Tory MP Robert Halfon, who chairs the education select committee, said “This was a big test for Sir Keir to prove whether he is going to de-Corbynise the Labour party.
“About four million children have not had any contact with their teachers since March. It’s time for Sir Keir to show some leadership and tell his MPs what he really thinks.”
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