Wednesday 12 February 2020

Keir Starmer: A Qualified Defence

Comrade Keir Starmer? Some folks have been advocating for him on the basis of past Trottery, and not least the good works his campaign have heavily promoted from before his time as Director of Public Prosecutions. Peculiarly, his plans to hand out 10 year sentences to people done for fiddling social security isn't so highlighted. Realising he can't live off past glories forever, or "borrowing" material from Rebecca Long-Bailey's campaign, Keir's campaign have released 10 pledges of their own.

What do we have? Increasing income tax for the top five per cent and a clamp down on avoidance. Abolish universal credit, defend universalism and the NHS, and abolish fees and keep with the life long learning programme. The Green New Deal and tough action on air quality. The introduction of a Prevention of Military Intervention Act(?) and a review of arms sales. Common ownership (qu'est-ce que c'est?) and no to outsourcing. Defence of free movement for EU citizens, a compassionate immigration system and a call to close Yarl's Wood and similar. Repeal the Trade Union Act. Abolish the House of Lords, a properly federal system with devolved powers, and localised investment banks. A pledge on equalities. And lastly, a united party, a mass membership, and forensic opposition to the Tories.

I know some comrades have cast a critical eye over the pledges, locating this as a (cynical) attempt to shore up support among leftist members who are unsure about RLB and like the cut of Keir's jib. And yes, his proposals are less specific than her positioning and give him plenty of wriggle room later on. Nevertheless, this is much better than Lisa Nandy's offering, and at least he doesn't have to lie about his opponents. Anyway, I'm sure we'll return to these over the coming weeks and, if he wins, the next four-five years. What is interesting is, despite Keir being a centrist-friendly candidate, how a little bit of leftism has brought actual centrists out in a rash. For James Bull, this is pale pink Corbynism destined to lose. For David Aaronovitch, abolishing universal credit and tuition fees "are plain dumb" and will bring Labour difficulties on the doorstep. And for the ever-bloodthirsty John Rentoul, Keir's military pledge is "spineless". Considering a left programme twice got more votes than the centrist efforts of 2005, 2010, and 2015, you might think this elementary fact would give them pause.

This needs situating in relation to the slow rewrite of the election result by the Labour right and their chummy hacks. Instead of a ruinous intersection of Labour's pitch to remainism and the monstering of Jeremy Corbyn, an unforgivable slandering of a good man they had no small part in, the real reason for Labour's loss was its being too left. What the electorate really wanted was a distillation of purist Blairism. Yes, because that is exactly why millions of former Labour voters supported Boris Johnson's Tories with its promise of "change", and why canvassing team after canvassing team returned with tales of enthusiasm for "public sector reform", increasing the retirement age, and keeping hospital car parking charges.

This is so self-evidently stupid. With increasing polarisation along the lines of property (or lack thereof), growing private debt, blocked career aspirations, a different experience of being working class, and the small matter of global heating, a centrist prospectus that offers nothing but backward-looking nostalgia is so pathetically inadequate to the moment that even the Tories aren't touching it with a barge pole. That and the small matter Labour's new base won't vote for it, nor would it win back the former Labour leavers who find wonky, technocratic politics repellent. Say what you like about Keir Starmer, he at least seems to understand this basic fact of contemporary electoral politics.

The other aspect of this is less a reaction to Keir's pledges, but the opposition of assorted Blairist riff-raff to the idea Labour should do something different, like community organising, building the party as a movement and, as per Richard Burgon's suggestion, setting up a free paper. They just don't get it. But then again, it's not surprising. These people got their moneyed positions thanks to a previous generation's factional manoeuvring in the party. They not only lack the first clue about organising, as Change UK reminded us, they just assume everything clicks together. Having glided into their seats via the helpful efforts of others, from their point of view politics isn't about organising and struggle. It's a matter of marketing. Hence why we get idiocies like we want to win power, not spend time protesting. Or that organising communities is a waste of time.

News flash. While it might be the case Labourism has, from inception, been quite accepting of its role as the B Team of politics and has preferred to pretend there is no relationship between its roots in the organised working class and the kinds of things it should do in office, those days are long over. Or they have to be over if Labour is to ever have a sniff of power again. When the party is locked out of politics, which demographic imbalances, Tory institutional advantage, and the coming gerrymandering will do their best to cement, the only thing the party can do is organise. Only by linking up with community groups, listening to what's happening in areas we need to win, campaigning on the concerns that matter, produce our own media work-arounds of the anti-Labour monopoly, contest the political terms of our predicament and, unusually for Labour, offer political leadership on the key issues of the day instead of capitulating to Johnson and his mates in the editorial offices, this is the only way Labour will get anywhere. The prospectus offered by the likes of the ludicrous Ian Murray is, well, the utter failure the Labour right have manufactured in Scotland. Now that's what I call an inspiring vision.

Before the last election, we heard a lot about how know political party has a God-given right to exist. In their hostility to Keir's pitch, let alone RLB's campaign, what we see is the kamikaze willingness of Labour's idiot tendency and the party's false friends to test this - and us - to destruction.

Image Credit


Alan Story said...


You have written above: “They just don't get it. But then again, it's not surprising.”

To be upfront, I am not in the Labour Party and so am only an observer of this leadership race.

I do not think the Labour Party “gets” how its escalating civil war between candidates is such a turn-off to millions --- well, at least many hundreds of thousands --- of people both inside and outside Labour.

And the level of cynicism is truly breath taking. Take the candidate you endorse, Long-Bailey. She is trying to come across as the candidate promoting Labour Party “democracy.” And who is her campaign manager/ chief handler? Why, Momentum boss Jon Lansman, “Mr. Democracy” himself. And who is another big backer of RLB? Another “Mr. Democracy,” Len McCluskey, the head of the union, Unite, of which I am a member.

Many Labour members haven’t woken up to the fact that under the current thoroughly undemocratic voting system it may never again win a majority government.

One change --- of many needed --- is for Labour to endorse a proportional representation voting system:

Already, 75 per cent of Labour Party members endorse such a change. ( )

And hey, one form of PR, a Single Transferable Vote, is used by Labour to elect its own leader. Why isn’t it a good enough democratic system for all UK voters?

Boffy said...

Starmer's main positive is that he is not RLB, and not, therefore, beholden to the Stalinists that were behind Corbyn, and led the party into the election disaster. RLB is continuing there wrong-headed analysis of why Labour lost, and continuing to push the same reactionary nationalist agenda, as a result. If that determines Labour's direction in the years ahead, Labour is doomed, and the short-term manifestation will be a split by the majority of the PLP, who will seek to take the name and machinery with them.

The problem with Starmer is that a) he is more likely to be captured by the PLP, and b) he is so far accepting the GE result as meaning that discussion on EU membership is closed for the foreseeable future. But, at least he rejects the reactionary nationalist agenda, and Stalinoid methods of those behind RLB, and so provides at least the potential for the rank and file to resist a PLP takeover, and the potential to democratise the party, and reassert a progressive internationalist position, which absolutely must include campaigning for EU membership.

As the costs of Brexit unfold by the day, including its indirect consequences such as Windrush 2, its vital that Labour dissociates itself from any connection with Brexit as much as possible. With a majority in the election voting for parties that backed a second referendum or opposition to Brexit, and with the numbers that oppose Brexit growing by the year, if Labour is to have any hope of winning an election in future, it must present itself as a progressive internationalist party committed to rejoining the EU, and working with the labour movement across Europe.

Anonymous said...

"beholden to the Stalinists"

This Boffy character is a real first rate idiot if you ask me

Jonathan Clive Cooper said...

How not to win the next election: advocate rejoining the eu. I saw for myself on the doorstep how badly Labour’s worst-of-both-worlds Brexit policy went over. Every PLP member who is threatening to leave the party if Becky wins is just another reason to vote for her.

Boffy said...

" I saw for myself on the doorstep how badly Labour’s worst-of-both-worlds Brexit policy went over."

Precisely! Labour pissed off the 75% of its 2017 voters that vehemently oppose Brexit, by being seen as pro-Brexit, with its its ridiculous "have cake and eat it", "Jobs First Brexit" that it couldn't even commit to arguing support for in a referendum. It pursued that reactionary pro-Brexit stance, because the Stalinoid influences insisted that it was necessary to try to retain the 25% of 2017 Labour voters that backed Leave, rather than the 75% that backed Remain! That shows what clowns the Stalinoid elements are.

And, having seen the consequence of that in the Spring, when Labour was reduced to fourth, fifth and sith places, as its Remain voters disappeared, the Stalinoid elements behind Corbyn, who are now behind RBL, simply called for a doubling down of that same reactionary, and electorally disastrous strategy! Its the same strategy that the Stalinists applied in the 1930's, when they said, don't worry about Hitler, because after Hitler, it will be our turn! The same elements today in the CPB, and morning Star proclaim the wonderful achievement of the victory of reaction that has seen the implementation of Brexit.

If the best reason you have for voting for RLB is that it might prompt a split in the party by the PLP leaving - which will inevitably result in them taking the party name and machinery, and given the experience of the actions of trades union barons in the past, will be followed in short order, by many of those unions retaining their allegiance to it, through which they obtain their parliamentary influence, then its a pretty weak basis on which to argue for such support!

Deviation From The Mean said...

Boffy of course is a chief bagman and servile snivelling apologist of imperialism and all its destructive and murderous consequences. In other words he is a fanatic of uber economic nationalism and economic supremacy.

But Boffy is also a snivelling little Britainer too. His desperation for Britain to rejoin Europe is nothing other than a manifestation of British interests.

We should ask the political question, should Europe even let us back in and if so under what circumstances? I would say that Europe should draw up a ten point pledge that Britain has to sign up to before being allowed back in and this pledge should be a referendum of the entire population. If less than 60% of the British population fail to vote for this pledge then Britain stays out.

I say Britain but hopefully a united Ireland will already be in the EU along with an independent Scotland and then little England can go die in its own ignorance, bigotry and national delusions.

The 10 point pledge would be along the lines of:

I support the continued and deepening integration of Europe at the cultural, political and economic level.

I support the rights of EU citizens to move anywhere within Europe.

I support the Human rights act and will do all I can to ensure it is enforced

I will veto any laws that protect workers right, consumer protection and the health of the environment

Etc, etc

So unless the English sign up to a true commitment of the EU project then they can go swivel. That is what I say.

Otherwise you let them back in and they get up to their old tricks and who knows they go out again, like some national Hokey Cokey!

Blissex said...

«the opposition of assorted Blairist riff-raff to the idea Labour should do something different, like community organising, building the party as a movement»

My usual golden quote from Lance Price, "Diary", 1999-10-19:

“Philip Gould analysed our problem very clearly. We don’t know what we are. Gordon wants us to be a radical progressive, movement, but wants us to keep our heads down on Europe. Peter [Mandelson] thinks that we are a quasi-Conservative Party but that we should stick our necks out on Europe. Philip didn’t say this, but I think TB either can’t make up his mind or wants to be both at the same time.”

"TB" eventually became a committed member of the Mandelson Tendency. Conversely I still respect G Brown and his friends like A Burnham as authentic Labour people, even if some of them have had their practical actions compromised by some neoliberalism.

Blissex said...

«His desperation for Britain to rejoin Europe is nothing other than a manifestation of British interests»

"Boffy" seems to me an inter-nationalist (as opposed to a globalist), and while some of his expressions are a bit "eccentric", I reckon that his inter-nationalism is sincerely a position of principle.

«little England can go die in its own ignorance, bigotry and national delusions»

What "little England" is way less than 50% of the voters: around 50% of the voters are keen on the EU, and of the 50% who voted against EU membership the "little Englanders" are roughly half, and are around 20-30% of all voters, usually but not always upper-middle and upper class people who don't want to share any aspect of their rule over England (and its vast Empire :->) with any bloody foreign ruling class, and thus talk of "sovereignty" of the state they control.