THE late Lord Lawson of Blaby said one or two arresting things in his day (not least about the blessed Margaret Thatcher when he was her Chancellor of the Exchequer!).

Yet there is one quote which not only stands the test of time, but is particularly ­apposite to the current posture of the ­modern Labour Party under the fearful Sir Keir Starmer.

“To govern is to choose,” quoth Nigel. “To appear to be unable to choose is to ­appear to be unable to govern.”

If Starmer were to have this immortalised in a tapestry and hung on his office wall, it would do his supporters a very great favour.

We have evidence quite close to home of how a superabundance of caution can cause many of the natives to become more than restless.

However, the Labour leader has ­allowed his natural uber-cautious instincts to morph into an apparent inability to choose ­policies around which the faithful could ­rally, in ­favour of always putting off ­anything ­resembling jam to very many days after tomorrow.

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Angela Rayner, his deputy, endorsed much of this through firmly gritted teeth the morning after the by-elections before.

She is still there because the constitution does not allow him to defenestrate her. The last time he tried to mud-wrestle her into submission, she emerged with several more job titles than before.

Much closer to him, and more able to ­dictate the terms of post-electoral ­engagement, is shadow chancellor ­Rachel Reeves. A former Bank of England ­executive – with a side order of HBOS – she is first and ­foremost an economist in trade and ­temperament.

You suspect that many of Starmer’s recent pronouncements were distilled through the prism of what Reeves has termed ­“securonomics”. It’s really the bastard child of the Thatcher dogma that “every housewife knows that you don’t buy what you can’t afford”.

As you might imagine, this goes down like the proverbial bucket of cold sick with those Labour adherents who hoped that a Starmer administration would kill off the more egregious policies introduced by the Tories: the bedroom tax and the two-child cap on benefits to name but two.

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Instead, the Starmer, Reeves combo have chosen to declare that neither would be reversed on account of the dire state of the economy likely to be inherited. And, in fairness, the cupboard will be rather more bare than the one Gordon Brown opened in 1997.

However, even before he had had a ­proper peek at the figures, incoming ­chancellor Brown declared he would stick to the Tory spending plans for the first two years of a Labour government.

It is said that Reeves plans to reprise this, telling that august organ, the ­Financial Times, just this May that everything would be based on “the rock of fiscal ­responsibility”.

The problem with which is that many millions of the electorate have had to build their own economies on that self-same rock, only to find that no manner of personal sacrifice has prevented their family budget serially bursting.

Plus many millions of Labour voters, past and present, will not rush to vote for an administration whose fiscal policies sound pretty well interchangeable from the ones pursued by the Conservatives.

What has spooked Keir and Rachel is the fear of 1992 coming back to bite them on the backside: the thought of blowing what seemed a pretty well rock-solid lead in the polling.

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The fastest route to which fate, they’ve concluded, is to allow the ­Tories to deploy the age-old charge that Labour can’t be trusted with the ­economy. In my book, this would be a rather difficult trick to pull off post Liz Truss and post Brexit.

Ah yes, Brexit. Starmer and Reeves have a plan for that too – in short, they would have no truck with any ambition to rejoin either the single market or the customs union despite the assertion from the Office of Budget Responsibility that not only would Brexit cut long-run gross ­domestic product by more than 4%, but also was twice as detrimental to growth as the ­pandemic.

If “growth, growth, growth” is your newly minted mantra, you might think that continuing to eschew EU trade is a classic case of removing the schnozzle to irritate the face. Then again, we must remember that Sir Keir, when batting for team Jeremy Corbyn, regularly recited the latter’s Euroscepticism despite having personally voted Remain. Allegedly.

You see, Sir Keir is not exactly your man for consistency

Since getting elected ­leader, he has ditched pretty well every policy pledge made to ensure victory. And this, ahem, flexibility has continued, as the bold pledge to build a green economy via a £28 billion investment has now been relegated to a burner so far back on the cooker as to be positively out of sight.

To govern is to choose right enough. And last week’s choice to rule out ending the so-called “rape clause” – the axing of child benefit for any offspring more than two except for involuntary pregnancies – has left many of his Scottish troops, ­including their leader, more than a little green around the gills.

If a policy was “heinous” then, it is ­heinous now, and since everything has to be costed before promised, why not ­embrace what used to be Labour values and tax the very wealthy to protect the very poor?

Yet apparently that would frighten too many horses.

Besides, judging from previous ­pronouncements, Reeves is very much a paid-up member of the “deserving and undeserving” poor brigade. She once pronounced that anyone unemployed for two years (or one if under 25) would need to take a job offer or lose benefits. Can’t have any perceived slackers in this woman’s army.

Reeves (below) explained that “we don’t want to be seen as, and we’re not, the party to represent those who are out of work”.

The National: Rachel Reeves

All of a piece really, with her stating that Labour would be tougher than the Tories in cutting the benefits bill. It seems the Labour Party have reclaimed their Crusader clothing after all; the difference being that they are now on a crusade to prove themselves more tight fisted than the party they wish to replace.

It will be interesting to observe what ­lessons Labour choose to take from their failure to recapture Boris Johnson’s old fiefdom.

Will they look at the global ­devastation currently being caused by ­climate change and conclude that ­nothing is more important than taking ­difficult ­decisions around policies like low-­emission zones?

Or will they think, good grief, this green “crap” (copyright David Cameron) has cost us an important ­victory. Off with its head.

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Interesting too to watch how they plan to woo Scottish voters of a left-leaning persuasion who have long stated their ­opposition to nuclear weaponry and ­nuclear power – both pillars of new New Labour thinking.

There comes a point when the “no pain, no gain” school of politics becomes ­utterly counter-productive with voters who have only known pain for so long that they long for a wee bit gain if you’d be so kind.

And, lest we should ever forget, the ­Scottish Labour leader, and his boss, are both confirmed Unionists who are no more likely to cede control of its own ­affairs to Scotland than any other. ­Frankly, I want no part of an avowedly anti-independence operation.

One other stray thought; it’s perfectly fine to focus on gaining power as, as we keep being reminded, you can do sod all without it.

But what shall it profiteth a party if it finally gains power and loses its soul?

Or, worse still, forgets why it ­wanted it so much, and how many people have invested their hopes in it not being a pale imitation of those it vanquished.