Wednesday 26 February 2020

Keir Starmer's Unity Mongering

He's bringing sexy back. Well, maybe not but Keir Starmer wants to see the return of Alastair Campbell to the Labour Party. This brings back memories from early in the campaign in which Keir said he would not rest until everyone who left the party over anti-semitism were back in the fold. We know that's coded repartee for the right wing departee, such as Change UK and other miserable toerags, as per the Tory-supporting John Mann and Ian Austin. The question is with a commanding lead, as suggested by the latest YouGov why Keir wants to reach out to these dreadful relics, especially when the core of his support stood by Jeremy Corbyn and feel anything but a frisson of warmth when their names are uttered.

It's all about burnishing them unity creds. Having scooped up Labour First, Paul Mason, Sadiq Khan, Momentum's Laura Parker, and, whisper it, His Blairness, demonstrating this desire more isn't going to hurt his chances. Campbell stomped off like a stroppy three-year-old back in the summer, but reaching out shows Keir to be the better man, of someone putting aside past grievances and showing the party is once again welcoming to his sort. It's a conciliatory move that builds on similar from John McDonnell, who was keen to head off another bout of infighting just as the parliamentary shilly-shallying over Brexit and the general election ratcheted up. Of course, Keir is more credible when it comes to this because of his remainy remainism, and a practical demonstration of his centrism for wanting to bang up benefits cheats on 10-year stretches.

This seems to me to have two consequences, whether anticipated or fortuitous happenstances. The first is neutralising trouble from the Labour right. Known now for the scabs they always were, this self-same section of the right were the ones who provided the press briefings and stirred the pot during the Ed Miliband years and, before him, likewise undermined Gordon Brown. As most of these hitched their tiny wagon to the Jess Phillips farce and, defeated, meekly boarded the Lisa Nandy express, inviting back their lost kin draws a line under the previous regime and the clock starts ticking anew. Perhaps one or two of them will get jobs too, and I'm sure they'll repay their gratitude with a steady stream of leaks from the shadow cabinet to their favourite journalists. There are still others for whom Keir will never feature on their Christmas card list because he served in Corbyn's leadership team, and will prove as petulant tomorrow as they were yesterday. You can try mollifying them, but its going to be a complete waste of time - as Keir will find out when the EHRC report drops, they will use it (and anything) for scorched earth factional advantage. They are not going to stop until the left are put back in the box, and anything looking remotely Corbynist is purged from the policy platform.

While we're paddling in centrist waters, the second moment in play here is affecting an ambition old Tonty long nurtured: the unification of the Labour and Liberal traditions (in Blairspeak, two moments of the "radical tradition"). The new membership surge Labour has experienced contains not a few who, over the last few years, decamped from the party and shacked up in the Liberal Democrats before returning to the fold to get their man the top job. And if the members flow, perhaps so will those voters lost to the yellow party in December. It's also going to make the LibDems much more constructive in their approach to Labour - RIP Jo Swinson nonsense. This is handy because the way the Tories are looking to tilt their electoral system even more in their favour, like it or not Labour is going to have to come to some sort of arrangement with the LibDems and Greens ahead of the next election - assuming the Tories' position isn't totally destroyed by an as yet unanticipated cataclysm. Keir's unity pitch then is not just aimed at those in Labour sick of infighting, but those outside wanting to see some sort of unified opposition to Boris Johnson. And it could work.

Nevertheless, Keir is helped by neither of his opponents wishing to contest his unity pitch. Lisa Nandy is more interested in being this contest's "truth-teller". Ironic considering her habitual mischaracterisation of the positions of others. And Rebecca Long-Bailey's campaign, which has much to recommend it, has gone hard on policy and, consequently and despite her best efforts, allowed her challenge to be seen coming from one wing of the party as opposed to Keir's floaty ascendance above the fray. Indeed, if one was even more cynical, Keir's courting of Campbell and friends is about consolidating control and diluting the left by contriving a situation where the resignation letters pile up making his particular unity more unifying via (self) exclusion. A recipe for winning an election, perhaps, but not one that bodes well for the social and political change we need to see.


Anonymous said...

So let's get this straight. He wants to let back in people who've basically expelled themselves from the Party by announcing that they've done something that's specifically and clearly forbidden ie voted LibDem. And he wants to immediately expel anyone who've only been ACCUSED of doing something ie antisemitism. Because that's what's taken up the time with these cases, ie the investigation as to whether it actually happened. Does he not want to bother with an investigation?
And I see it was definitely him who refused bail for Julian Assange.
And he wanted benefit cheats banged up for longer than most armed robbers get.
And people who supported Corbyn are now voting for him because they think he'll be acceptable to Rupert Murdoch!

The only question in my mind is whether the remaining handful of progressive socialist MPs are going to hang on in the Party or whether it's now long overdue for a new Socialist party to be formed.

Because I reckon Starmer's first move will be to make sure that nothing like Corbyn's 2015 leadership vote can ever happen again.

Zhou Fang said...

If the shoe was on the other foot and it was an incoming tory opposition leader who is offering an olive branch to moderate tories, maybe trying to win back tory-labour defectees, would you have a similar conclusion - concluding that such a move was bad for the right wing?

I don't think a labour party that cannot integrate its own right wing has any hope of winning in a country where the average voter is to the right of the labour right. You need lib dem and tory voters to win. You can't just keep focusing on subsets of your existing vote.

Boffy said...

"The only question in my mind is whether the remaining handful of progressive socialist MPs are going to hang on in the Party or whether it's now long overdue for a new Socialist party to be formed."

And that has worked out so stupendously well on every previous occasion that sectarians have tried it. Its a recurring fetish, and pipe dream of people outside the LP, who have become more and more remote from the working-class.

Anonymous said...

No return back to the past please who ever wins- lets move forward to win. New voices and new talent please- do not be stupid lets move forward and win.

Anonymous said...

Actually Boffy I'm still inside the Labour Party, and I would point out to you that about 100 years ago it was equally clear that politics would forever be dominated by the Tories and the Liberals, the Labour Party being then an insignificant sect.

As for "more remote from the working class," I've been working class myself and am now middle class but about half my friends are working class. Insofar as these words mean anything, which anyway they don't. So I don't fall for the fetishising of the mythical "working class" by middle class journalists academics and politicians (who are the only people who really talk about class nowadays).

Working class means doing a working class job. It doesn't mean having working class parents as some politicians seem to think. If you work in an office, have a secretary, travel first class and are paid £80,000 pa then you are middle class.

Anonymous said...

I agree we need to not turn back to the past but to make a new future which will need to be pragmatic. Those MPs that wont work together to win need to be asked to leave- it's called party discipline . We cannot afford anymore egos slagging the party its just very damaging, and yes stupid if the party puts up with it.

Anonymous said...

Confidence to move forward in a positive way and collective party responsibility.

Anonymous said...

Privileged MPs can seem very remote when they are whining about their lot in life as an MPs. Of course abuse is not right in any job and alas many have experienced it in many walks of life- middle class or working class. A good job is a great thing to have however and MPs are of course very fortunate.

Anonymous said...

Looks at this point that Keir will win. If so lets hope he sorts the internal discipline out. Cos you don't was your dirty laundry in public and then expect to win. Alastair Campbell knows this of course but then so does everybody else.

Anonymous said...

We need to do better- the Labour Party is all the working class has got and we let them down. We are naïve- so 'Brexit means Brexit' That's what we were told on the doors steps in Stoke on Trent. Can we learn and win next time? YES. Lets do so. Stop the cuts to education and social care and the real cuts to the NHS which has been going on for years under the conservatives. Wake up Labour Party- know politics, use your intelligence. You can win. Also stop fighting amongst yourselves it does you and the people you purport to represent NO good.

Anonymous said...

This may be a weird one but both me and my other half are Labour members and appear to be voting the exact opposite way on leadership and deputies for more or less the same reason.

I am going for Starmer (most electable amongst swing voters) and Burgon (basically to be a critical friend to Starmer and ensure the party remains left).

She is going for RLB (most left wing candidate) and Murray (basically to be a critical friend to RLB and ensure the party connects with voters).

I have no idea if we are both mad, but both our decisions are effectively interchangable for similar reasons. We've had no arguments about it by the way!