Starmer’s Labour Party — Editorial 2

Starmer’s Labour Party

Keir Starmer was first elected as an MP in 2015.  He rose to prominence when he led the opposition to various attempts to implement Brexit while the party was under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.  In 2019 he convinced the Labour Party conference to support a 2nd referendum over Brexit.  There are strong reasons to believe that Corbyn did not support this decision but felt himself too weak to oppose it.  The Tories under Johnson fought the 2019 general election with the ‘Get Brexit Done’ policy.  Labour fought it with the policy ‘Let’s Stop Brexit’.  

Many constituencies that had returned Labour MPs since time immemorial but which had also voted for Brexit abandoned Labour.  Some 55 ‘red-wall’ seats were lost and the Tories had an overall majority of some 80 seats.  Starmer’s 2nd referendum policy had cost Labour the election.

While attempting to reverse Brexit, Starmer said little on the antisemitic charges being made against Labour. In 2020 when standing as a candidate for the role of leader of the Labour Party he proposed a 10 point political program that Corbyn himself could have signed up to.  He had nothing but warm words to say about Jeremy Corbyn at that time.  The problem of antisemitism is mentioned but once in that 10 point program.

Once elected on the basis of this program, Starmer began to ignore it and move against those with left-wing inclinations.  Very often charges of antisemitism were used to get rid of people. 

The British establishment had been shocked by the results of the 2017 General Election.  Jeremy Corbyn, a socialist in his economic and social policies and also a strong opponent of Israel’s determination to conquer and colonize the Palestinian territories, came close to being elected Prime Minister of Britain.  The establishment set out to destroy Corbyn.  One of the tools used to attack him was exaggerated charges of antisemitism.  The main stream media (MSM), an important part of the establishment, enthusiastically participated in the attack on Corbyn and the Labour Party. 

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), as part of the establishment, was also brought into play and produced a report on 29thOctober 2020.  The report struggled to find examples of antisemitism in the Labour Party but found just enough to serve the Labour Party with an ‘unlawful act’ notice. The Labour Party was obliged to produce an action plan to prevent continuation or reoccurrence of those unlawful acts, which was legally enforceable by the court if not fulfilled.  Labour’s action plan was concluded on 31 January 2023.  On February 15th the EHRC announced its acceptance of Labour’s action plan.  Starmer used the occasion of this announcement to further his attack on Corbyn and the left in the Labour Party.  He made unequivocal his determination that Corbyn would not stand as a Labour Party candidate in the next general election.  He has treated Corbyn most dishonourably.  And the world knows it.

As best one can make sense of it, Starmer’s strategy is to eliminate from the public presentation of the Labour party anything that might lay it open to attack from the powers that be.  Labour will support fiscal rules to reduce the size of the national debt.  Labour will support NATO uncritically.  Labour will not criticise Israel.  To criticize NATO or to describe Israel as an apartheid state may well lead to expulsion from the party.

In a speech on 23rd February Starmer announced that a future Labour government would have 5 missions:  economic growth, NHS renewal, safety in the streets, social mobility and clean energy.  These missions are so bland that they could have emanated from the Tories.  Gone are previous promises to end privatisation in the NHS and to renationalise transport and energy companies.  Point 5 in Starmer’s 10 point leadership election program stated: “Public services should be in public hands, not making profits for shareholders. Support common ownership of rail, mail, energy and water; end outsourcing in our NHS, local government and justice system.”

There is no evidence of that sort of thinking in anything Starmer now has to say.

It’s an effective strategy given the chaos which grips the Tory party and will probably ensure that Labour win the next general election.  However it’s also a strategy that suggests that Labour will do nothing radical once in power.

In his February 15th response to the EHRC’s ‘Absolvo te’, Starmer makes the following statements about the future of Labour: 

“The Labour Party is unrecognisable from 2019 and it will never go back.  It will never again be a party captured by narrow interests.  It will never again lose sight of its purpose or its morals.  And it will never again be brought to its knees by racism or bigotry. If you don’t like that, if you don’t like the changes we have made, I say the door is open and you can leave.”

Starmer is certainly right when he says that the Labour Party is unrecognisable from 2019.  In 2019 it was clear that the Party would make radical changes to British society if elected.  No one is clear what the current Labour Party stands for, but there is little reason to believe it has a radical bone in its body.  

Starmer may well be right that it will never go back to the radical party that it was in 2019.  If Labour under Starmer pursues a Tory-like version of austerity, the British working class will be the poorer for it.  Blair won a huge victory in 1997 but in each subsequent election Labour’s vote declined because Labour, under Blair, had essentially bought in to the Thatcherite market-focussed view of the economy.  The electorate has little respect for Blair today.

If Starmer, as seems likely, has also bought into that impoverished vision of the role of the Labour Party in British society, then his tenure will be brief.

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