Saturday 17 July 2021

Keir Starmer's Pathetic Witch Hunt

We're told that opposition in the age of Covid is hard. Boris Johnson is enjoying a vaccine bounce, and people have tuned out from politicians who aren't in the government. This, according to Keir Starmer's defenders, is why Labour are trailing in the polls and done have badly in the last three by-elections. With the government determined to throw caution to the wind by dropping virtually all legal precautions from Monday, the public jittery about it, and Johnson forced to wind down his Freedom Day rubbish, Labour has a golden opportunity. Indeed, as hospitals fill up and infections mount the Labour leader has a rare second chance, a moment he could spend wiping the slate clean by articulating the anger and fear about the Tories' psychopathic course.

Instead, Keir Starmer is mounting a purge.

According to The Mirror, Starmer is to expel four groups of activists from the party next week. These are the Chris Williamson vehicle Resist (which, tbh, I thought was entirely outside of Labour anyway), Labour Against the Witchhunt, Labour in Exile, and Socialist Appeal. The paper is being very generous to say their total membership amounts to a thousand activists, which at first glance makes the mooted proscriptions somewhat puzzling. Given the faction wars the right provoked from the moment of Jeremy Corbyn's election, none of these organisations - with the exception of Chris himself - were key players. If anything, the first three are more or less groups that have come together in the conflict's aftermath, and groups individual activists and the odd small left outfit. Socialist Appeal is different, being a Trotskyist organisation and one of the descendents of the Militant tradition. Except they've hardly had a prominent role in Corbynism, and have been practically invisible to the wider labour movement since their formation in 1991/92. What is the thinking?

Control, of course. The only power the Labour right are serious about winning is in the party they deem theirs as of right. The four targeted organisations don't have mass followings and are inconsequential, which is entirely the point. Giving them the heave-ho sends a message to the much larger Momentum which, readers will know, is backed by a couple of unions and has deeper roots in the wider membership. It reads you're next. That is if it starts organising as seriously as Labour First does. Not that any of the left are going to be put off by this pathetic display of "strength". The mass base of Starmerism has been eroded in the party following the leader's lame stunts and dismal performance, and he and his close supporters know there isn't an appetite among his passive support in the ranks and, crucially, the union bureaucracies and sections of the party apparat for a return to open warfare. This is Mr Unity, and his position becomes even more precarious should the facedown with Momentum come - all the more reason then to ensure the Starmerist position isn't strengthened.

The second? It's how Tony Blair won things, innit. The mythology says New Labour only won in 1997 because of Blair's public confrontation with the Labour and union left over the old Clause IV. The likes of Peter Mandelson have likewise urged this course to make Labour electable - just ignore the polls that show Starmer is the main drag on the party's performance, and pay no mind to how Labour were doing before John Smith's untimely death. The thinking goes if the party is pacified then, and only then is it fit for office. It was rubbish in the 90s, and in the age where radical structural transformation is needed to mitigate climate change, tackle the health challenges, deal with Britain's continuing economic decllne, and manage the multiple crises of housing, adult care, the decay of social security and the public sector, it's the most foolish, electorally toxic, self-indulgent course of action available to the Labour leader. But the likes of the Mandelsons, the Blairs, the centrist newspaper columnists, and those elements of the Labour right more motivated by fighting the left than the Tories have to be mollified. Especially if the appearance of action, of making the party safe for capital again, attracts back "high net worth" donors. Chucking out Trots and undesirables is designed to show Starmer is following their playbook, and is happy to fire up a witchhunt down the line if necessary. But given how the targets are small fry, with what he perceives a minimum of political blowback.

We know what the game is, and obviously it has nothing to do with winning elections and taking the fight to the Tories. Proscribing these four organisations is driven by internal politicking, of consolidating Starmer's petty and brittle authoritarianism, of trying to cow the left and currying favour with (would-be) establishment backers concerned by his record of failure. Anyone with a leftwing, socialist bone in their body should stand against this petty purge. And remind ourselves again that we're not dealing with just another Tory-lite Labour leader but an existential threat. Starmer is more likely to lead the party into complete collapse than Number 10 and government.

Image Credit


Anonymous said...

"Giving them the heave-ho sends a message to the much larger Momentum which, readers will know, is backed by a couple of unions and has deeper roots in the wider membership. It reads you're next."

Wrong recipient. The message is directed at the general public, and it says "We're kicking out a bunch of scuzzy trots and all-round bad eggs. Vote Labour, please." Which is why it mysteriously leaked to a left-wing tabloid, rather than... a right-wing one, which will remain nameless.

If a purge of Momentum from Labour is even attempted, I will fall back on the floor and roll about with laughter, as soon as I have stood up again from falling over with amazement in the first place. This is melodrama on stilts. Nothing even faintly resembling a Momentum purge is going to happen.

As for the festering grievance that is Blair's amendment of Clause IV, Corbyn was leader for three years, and he didn't lift a finger to undo it. Why do you suppose that is? Look it up, you'll be surprised. Corbyn's thoughts on the matter might even shed some light on the Labour Party under Starmer.

John Griffin said...

The Blair Project continues, with the war criminal lurking in the background while the appallingly ineffectual LOTO continues with gestures like this for the public, and massive demolition of the democratic structure of Labour behind the arras. A member in 1970, and an active opponent of Militant, I cannot believe how far right Labour has gone, and how a MOR member like me is now a far left threat. I have refused to countenance it until recently, but the Party as originally constituted, is dead.

Lost Tango said...

My understanding re Clause 4 is that Corbyn felt there were other, far more urgent, priorities.

Which begs the far more relevant question of why Blair put so much effort into replacing the old Clause 4 in the first place.

Johnny2Bad said...

As Joey Ramone once famously sang, ".....third rule is: don't talk to Commies"

Dipper said...

The fog is lifting and Keir Starmer now has a clear path to No. 10. It is not a certainty or even a 50-50 bet, but the route is there.

Kick out the hard left. They are electoral dead weight.

Pursue Johnson on 'One rule for you, one rule for the rest of us'

Blissex said...

«A member in 1970, and an active opponent of Militant, I cannot believe how far right Labour has gone, and how a MOR member like me is now a far left threat. I have refused to countenance it until recently, but the Party as originally constituted, is dead.»

Roy Hattersley, the Witchfinder-General against the Militant Tendency, wrote already in "The Guardian" in 2001, and little has changed in 20 years except for Corbyn:
It's no longer my party
It has been a difficult four years for the Labour Party's unrepentant social democrats. One by one, the policies which define our philosophy have been rejected by the Prime Minister. [...] In fact, success has emboldened the Prime Minister to move further to the Right. [...] Now that the Labour Party - at least according to its leader - bases its whole programme on an alien ideology, I, and thousands of like-minded party members, have to decide if our loyalty is to a name or to an idea. [...] The Labour Party was created to change society in such a way that there is no poverty and deprivation from which to escape.

David Parry said...


The 'hard left' meaning anyone vaguely to the left of Gordon Brown?

dermot said...

Shut up David you fool! They'll purge you!

Anonymous said...


Because it was symbolically powerful?

Whilst not involving that much actual upheaval.

Starmer making a show of expelling a few outright anti-Semites and pro Chris Williamson cranks is arguably not a million miles dissimilar.

Anonymous said...

Is this going to make anyone not already inside the Labour Party support Labour? Because if not, then it can only weaken Labour; after all, the Conservatives can easily say "Well, Starmer purged some dangerous left-wingers, but HOW MANY MORE ARE LURKING UNPURGED????", and all Starmer could respond with would be "Er, we're looking into that and will report on our findings".

Blissex said...

«'hard left' meaning anyone vaguely to the left of Gordon Brown?»

The "hard left" *includes* Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband:
"The problem with Gordon," a senior minister said to me recently, "is that he doesn't understand why anyone would ever want to build a conservatory." [...] Although Mr Brown talks a lot about aspiration, he means it in the sense that people at the bottom of the pile should be able to get to the middle, rather than that those in the middle should aspire to get a little bit further towards the top. [...] He is focusing on what he recently called the “squeezed middle” because he knows that the aspirational voters who supported Tony Blair have turned away from him. But the phrase he has chosen is telling: Gordon is interested in the middle classes only if he thinks they are “squeezed” — and therefore joining the ranks of the poor who have concerned him most for all his life.
Miliband has a deterministic, quasi-Marxist analysis of our present ills. [...] And he might have to accept before long – or the electorate will force him to – that Europe’s social-democratic moment, if it ever existed, is fading into the past.

The hard left of New Labour is all those "dinosaurs" who don't conform to "we are all thatcherites now" ("There Is No Alternative"). In this respect, since it includes “quasi-Marxist” Ed Miliband himself, the current Starmer shadow cabinet is a "unity" one.

Blissex said...

«A member in 1970, and an active opponent of Militant, I cannot believe how far right Labour has gone [...] the Party as originally constituted, is dead.»

Not quite, but I found (in the Twitter of someone who mentions this blog) recently this logo for New New Labour that is sarcastically funny (and all too realistic unfortunately):

Unknown said...

Given that there are calls to expell JVL from the party, presumably for being the "wrong kind of Jews"...(socialists)...I suspect that the anti-Semites are on the right of the party...which isn't surprising, given their past willingness to weaponise anti-Semitism in the past... Eve against Jews.

David Walsh said...

Frankly, it seems that someone the LOTO warren has discovered the 1911 proto-surrealist party founded by Jaroslav Hasek (the writer of "the Good Soldier Švejk", "The Czech Party for Moderate Progress Within the Bounds of the Law" and has taken it seriously.

Anonymous said...

The more I think about it, the more I think this is the start of a major purge of the left.

1. Threaten to expel three tiny, insignificant groups and one bigger but still uninfluential entrist group, one that is a shadow of its former self.
2. See how the rest of the Labour left responds. a) Do they protest and thereby court expulsion themselves? b) Or do they avert their gaze and hope that the heat won't be applied to them?

Either 'a' or 'b' will suit the party bureaucracy; 'a' will bring forth a purge quicker than 'b', but it's only a matter of the time-scale. Differences amongst and within the (so far) non-threatened groups over which course to take will be played on by the bureaucracy. Good old Stalinist 'salami tactics'!

So... Who's next? Other small left groups, such as Socialist Resistance, are an obvious target. Unlike the Millies of the 1980s, who had a hefty membership and quite a bit of influence in places, most left groups today are pretty small and uninfluential. So why target them? Momentum and the Labour Representation Committee are the big ones, and, I believe, the main target. The small fry are just the warm-up, a test-run: whack them first, then go for the big ones.

The expulsion of Momentum or the LRC will cause much dismay within the party's left and will encourage many left-wing members, including those not affiliated to any faction, to drop out of activity or of the party altogether. That too, I believe, is the intention. Combine this with other recent moves, such as the restrictions upon what a party branch may discuss, and the scene is set for a major reset of the party as a right-wing social-democratic outfit.

Dr Paul

Tim said...

4th Rule: The Ramones is overhyped neo Liberal pop music for washed up punks.

BCFG said...

To be honest the left are so minutely small that no purge can be considered major.

What a purge does show is that there is really so little difference between any of the major political parties that the activists of these parties have to amplify and over exaggerate very small differences to make it appear like they are fighting for anything with any significance whatsoever, hence all the wokism from the liberals and the belief that Ed Milliband and Gordon brown are radical from the Tories.

A purge of the left in its current state would be no great blow to history, it will be a mere footnote as the planet burns in its own juices and a ruling elite laugh at it all from their Moon base.

Anyone still a member of the Labour party is nothing but a Tory, war mongering supremacist, no matter how many likes they give the England team when they take the knee, maybe the next step in that campaign will have the England players publicly call for the end of exchange!

Blissex said...

«"The Czech Party for Moderate Progress Within the Bounds of the Law" and has taken it seriously.»

In different conditions that worked pretty well in the UK:

H MacMillan's "diary" (13 September 1964);
I have read the Labour manifesto. It is rather cleverly directed to a) the young b) the moderate vote. There is very little ‘Socialism’ in it. If Baldwin were alive he would be gratified to see how both parties have moved to the Centre. But I suspect Wilson. He covers up a lot of dangerous proposals with smooth ambiguities. Our manifesto comes out this week.

Despite his "centrist" (for those times, in our times he would be considered a "far left extremist") leanings he was still given the "Corbyn treatment":>
As Peter Wright confirmed in his book Spycatcher, Wilson was the victim of a protracted, illegal campaign of destabilisation by a rogue element in the security services. Prompted by CIA fears that Wilson was a Soviet agent - put in place after the KGB had, the spooks believed, poisoned Hugh Gaitskell, the previous Labour leader - these MI5 men burgled the homes of the prime minister's aides, bugged their phones and spread black, anti-Wilson propaganda throughout the media. They tried to pin all kinds of nonsense on him: that his devoted political secretary, Marcia Williams, posed a threat to national security; that he was a closet IRA sympathiser.

Blissex said...

«Especially if the appearance of action, of making the party safe for capital again, attracts back "high net worth" donors.»

The plan is moving along well:
Labour general secretary David Evans told staff in a meeting this morning that the poor financial situation of the party means its reserves are now down to just one month’s payroll. LabourList sources said Evans explained that the finances of the Labour Party have suffered due to lost members and using funds to deal with antisemitism cases. [...] Party insiders have been hoping that the new leadership would be able to attract high-net-worth individuals as new private donors.

The large settlement paid out by Keir Starmer was clear and decisive leadership not just to reward people on the "right" side of history, but also to ensure that New Labour would have to rely on external funding from "high-net-worth" individuals, just like any private bank or luxury brand.

Voluntary severance is being offered to staff, and it is understood that the aim is to make at least 90 redundant. LabourList has been told the offer is three weeks of pay for every year served.n

That “three weeks of pay for every year served” will then become the upper bound for voluntary redundancy settlements (except those of CEOs etc.): if the Labour Party itself made dozens redundant with 3 weeks/year, why should we offer more? And for non-voluntary redundancy it will become a fully mythical dream.

Also there is an interesting "detail": the reward for the people on the "right" side of history was a once-only event, why make redundant people based on a once-only event? My guess is that there are two possible reasons:

* New Labour plans to pay out rewards to people on the "right" side of history every year.
* The plan is to use the excuse of the once-only reward payout to get rid of "unaligned" staff; next year, as there will likely be no further reward payouts, to hire a new batch of people with better "fit".

Blissex said...

«making the party safe for capital again»

As to this even the Labour wing of New Labour has been pretty safe for capital in general, clause 4 was not taken seriously, and Jeremy Corbyn did not propose to add it back, and his "communist" proposals were to "re-nationalise" the NHS, offer free broadband, and to nationalise the loss-making railway, the last of which is what the Conservative party itself has done. Even more so Jeremy Corbyn's programme was mostly a traditional one of boosting private capital with public support for investment and job creation, that is creating an expansionary policy that would have resulted in better profits for private capital.

The issue with Jeremy Corbyn is that while his program was pro-capital, and even pro-capitalist, it was pro-business, and did not privilege the interests of directly rentierist capital and rentiers in the finance and property sectors. His policies might have resulted in a shift of power from rentierist capitalists to productive capitalist and their workers, something deeply incompatible with thatcherism, and that was enough for him to be monstered by all the media in the service of rentier interests.
The Thatcher revolution is coming under threat November 15 2019»

Richard said...

Brilliant. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

At the end of the article Phil says that 'Anyone with a leftwing, socialist bone in their body should stand against this petty purge'.

Fair enough, but what would this 'standing against' consist of, because there is nothing I can think of that would bring the purging to a halt, and given that Starmer and the Blairites are in reality Tories, then they really couldn't care less if Labour ends up being destroyed as a mainstream party.

And given the state of party finances, one would have thought that a few wealthy donors would have stepped in to replenish them, and the fact that they haven't leads one to believe that the PTB want to finish it off and 'transform' it into a minor party.

Blissex said...

«Starmer and the Blairites are in reality Tories»

That the Mandelson Tendency are tories is a bit of myth: my impression, following Tony Benn, is that they are classic Gladstonian Liberals, with some elements of both social liberalism and trying to appeal to tory voters as an electoral tactic to win back ex-Labour voters who got generous pensions and valuable property thanks to the labour unions and the Labour Party:
emphasised free trade, little government intervention in the economy and equality of opportunity through institutional reform.
in the urgent need to remove rigidities and incorporate flexibility in capital, product and labour markets, we are all Thatcherites now

«then they really couldn't care less if Labour ends up being destroyed as a mainstream party.»

I think they do care, because my impression is that the goal has always been to turn New Labour into a permanent partner of the LibDems, with the LibDems vetoing any "trot" (socialdemocratic) policies. The goal is to shrink down New Labour so if the Labour wing "entrysts" take it over again as with Momentum and Corbyn, it cannot govern by itself but needs the LibDem votes.

After all the PLP is a permanent alliance of the Labour Party and the Cooperative Party, with the Cooperative Party being the less progressive. My guess is that the intended coalition is roughly one involving four different flavours of voters:

(Labour, Cooperative), (SDP, Liberals)

After all within the LibDems there has also been a significant redistribution of influence from the SDP (social liberal) to the Liberal (gladstonian liberal) wing (see Conservative-LibDem Coalition and Orange Book).

Anonymous said...

Well, it's two and a half years later and Starmer has indeed ruined the Labour Party.

Regarding this...

"The mythology says New Labour only won in 1997 because of Blair's public confrontation with the Labour and union left over the old Clause IV".

... Personally, I think one of the most significant factors in Blair's win was getting the Murdoch press onboard. Maybe taking on the unions was a precondition for that.