Monday, 13 September 2021

A Man Without Qualities

Perhaps one day I'll write something that congratulates Keir Starmer for doing the right thing, but not today. Reflecting on his relationship with the Labour leader, Len McCluskey has penned a short piece on the deal he and a group of left Labour MPs put together with the leader's office and Angela Rayner to give the whip back to Jeremy Corbyn following his suspension. After negotiations the former leader did what was asked of him and signed a statement drafted by Starmer's team, only for Starmer to row back and start demanding apologies for Jeremy's - correct - claim that accusations of antisemitism were seized upon and used in transparently factional ways to undermine his leadership. The full detail of the sordid story was published by Novara in July.

What spooked Starmer into reneging on his deal? It was Margaret Hodge and the right wing astroturf outfit, the Jewish Labour Movement. As hardened factionalists and sensing an opportunity to give their nemesis the push, both threw their toys out of the proverbial and promised ructions if he was readmitted. As a pathetic weakling Starmer cleaved to their blackmail, fearful accusations of not taking antisemitism seriously would dog him just as they did his predecessor. In reality, both Hodge and the JLM's leading lights need the party label far more than Labour's good name needs them, but Starmer was more willing to risk the undying enmity of the left and a swathe of voters than stand up to right wing factionalism. And it's going to cost him.

Such cowardice suffuses Starmer's approach to politics. As noted plenty of times here before, Labour leaders have two choices. Either try and lead by putting forward their analysis, identify problems, and offer policies for addressing them, or just collapse like a jelly and try and tail public opinion as articulated by right wing editorials. Corbyn and, to a degree, Ed Miliband did the first. Starmer hasn't once, even during the solid gold opportunity offered by the Tory National Insurance increase. There's a path of least resistance, and another of completely keeping your head down in the hopes of squeaking in by default.

This most yellow-bellied politics conditions Starmer's attitude to the party membership. Not only are bureaucrats given carte blanche to harass young working class women at all hours of the night, the leader himself is petrified by the thought of rubbing shoulders with the people who gave him his job. Take humble old Stoke-on-Trent, for instance. His painful interview with Beth Rigby at Stoke Sixth Form College was preceded by his decision to visit the Potteries without bothering to let local Labour members know. For the third time. I understand a senior local activist got wind of the visit and asked about inviting the membership but was brusquely informed that Starmer was on a tight schedule and didn't have the time. It's almost as if he's running scared of someone asking an awkward question out of turn. If he can't handle a tame line of questioning about wealth taxes, imagine if he was asked about the Forde report, the ditching of his leadership pledges, or to account for his pitiful polling? Never has a Labour leader, not even one as under siege as Gordon Brown was, fought shy of the people he expects to campaign for him.

Anyone casting a cursory critical eye in Starmer's direction cannot fail to notice his complete lack of qualities. Authoritarian but thin-skinned, pretending to be left wing when it suited, but now pretending to be right wing in a wrong-headed approach at winning over Tory voters. Haughty, dishonest, untrustworthy, and cowardly, if he had appeared on the scene 10 years ago he would have been mistaken for a Blairite. Mistaken, because at least that caste of MPs have political backgrounds in spadding and bag carrying. Starmer is emptier than even that.

Image Credit


Unknown said...

Seemingly cruel but, on the basis of the evidence, perfectly fair!

Blissex said...

I suspect this is an example of depicting political opponents as failures, for example Boris Johnson or Keir Starmer, when instead they are pursuing their agendas quite effectively.

My guess is that a critical element of Keir Starmer's agenda is to ensure that New Labour becomes financially "independent", that is no longer dependent on the subs nasty "trot" members, but be assured of the benevolent support of high-net-worth donors. See the Leonard/Anwar case etc. etc.

Tony Blair, Margaret Hodge, Peter Mandelson, are most likely on very good terms with potential high-net-worth donors, and they are far more important to New Labour than keeping to a deal with nasty "trots" like McCluskey, never mind with Corbyn.

The expulsion of Corbyn from the PLP is simply meant to ensure that he cannot be a New Labour candidate at the next general election, that is his parliamentary career is finished. Blair, Hodge, Mandelson and their benevolent donors will not tolerate anything else, for the sake of the "independence" of New Labour. Mission accomplished.

Blissex said...

«a Blairite. Mistaken, because at least that caste of MPs have political backgrounds in spadding and bag carrying. Starmer is emptier than even that.»

His extraordinarily rapid ascent is amazing:

* A well regarded barrister until 2009.
* In 2009 appointed as DPP at the head of the CPS without having relevant experience in that organization, vaulting ahead of many other experienced candidates.
* In 2013 enters non-student politics.
* In 2014 is selected for an ultra-safe central London seat vaulting ahead of many other experienced candidates.
* In 2016 he enters the shadow cabinet in a high profile position, vaulting ahead of many other experienced candidates.
* In 2019 he becomes Leader of New Labour, vaulting ahead of many other experienced candidates.

Less exceptional people take 30-40 years to climb that high.

Tim Hampers pics said...

You’re wrong if you think Jeremy wouldn’t win as an independent in Islington. We absolutely adore him, he seems to know everyone and has done something good that has benefitted everyone. I can’t imagine what limp empty suit Starmer would run against him but they wouldn’t win.

Blissex said...

«You’re wrong if you think Jeremy wouldn’t win as an independent in Islington.»

If he were elected as an independent anywhere by running against an official "Labour" candidate he would auto-expel himself from Labour, and his *political* career would be finished and not gloriously. Such is the trap that Starmer and Hodge (and I think that they were acting in concert and playing a good-cop/bad-cop scheme with the famous agreed declaration, it is inconceivable that Starmer would not have previously checked the declaration with the donors) have setup for him.

As to the chances of being elected as independents, I have my doubts even for Corbyn: there are plenty of examples of beloved local sons whose vote share went from well over 65% to less less than 5% once they lost the party brand.

Some polls have reported that only 20% of voters usually know the name of their MP, and in 2017 only 15% of voters had heard the "strong and stable" campaign message by May, even if it was pushed so hard. Even the buffoons of the Militant Mandelsoncy have stopped saying that MPs have personal mandates that transcend the party brand after seeing what happened to Change UK.

For all the people like our blogger who argue that Starmer looks like a fearful wet rag, look at reality: Starmer is firmly in control of the party, he is supported by the big donors (even if kept on a tight leash), and the opponents of the Mandelson Tendency are usually defeated. After seeing what happened to Change UK the mandelsonians probably have decided that nobody, least of all the members, will ever "steal" the "Labour" brand (and the 20-25% of votes it brings with it) from them again.

Blissex said...

«His extraordinarily rapid ascent is amazing»

* Well over *1 intense year* "thinking about politics" before being selected for an an ultra-safe central London seat, ideal for a further political climb in national politics, despite no record in local or national politics and a long queue of people dreaming of getting such a seat after decades of party work.

* After *2 long years* as a backbencher he then entered the shadow cabinet in a high profile front-bench position, without having even been a private secretary etc., and a long queue of people waiting for preferment.

* More than *3 busy years* as a mere front bencher in a high profile position, then he became leader of the party, with all substantial (if any...) non-left potential claimants respectfully staying out of the contest (I am still astonished that some Labour members could vote for Lisa Nandy, especially as it was obvious the choice was between Starmer and Long-Bailey).

Contrast with... who... who... ah the much slower progress of Owen Smith (now being very well rewarded by private industry, good for him).

Dr Zoltan Jorovic said...

I'm beginning think you might not be entirely taken with Starmer. He gives the impression of having no opinions of his own, no view as to what should be done in any situation, and no principles. Whatever his advisers think, this is not likely to endear him to the general public. The theory they operate under would seem to be that by saying as little as possible, and by always waiting to see what "public opinion" is before he speaks up, he will avoid upsetting anyone and eventually gain power by default, as all his opponents trip up. It's the ultra-cautious, park the bus style. Take no risks, and hope the opposition make a mistake. If pursued for any length of time, the supporters become increasingly restless and start to chant for the manager's head. Fans want excitement as well as trophies, and similarly, political supporters want to be motivated and enthused as well as to win. If you do neither expect the dreaded vote of confidence before the season ends. Unless your pleasing the owners...

Blissex said...

«he will avoid upsetting anyone and eventually gain power by default, as all his opponents trip up»

As someone remarked on a blog many years ago, in the past 40 years there has been a change of governing party in the UK only after a property price crash. Coincidence? I don't think so. Th huge block of southern property owners will never risk voting against a government that delivers to them dozens of thousands of free wealth every year.

The only possible way around that would be a "turnout" "movement" strategy, for Labour to motivate a chunk of the abstainers into voting again, but that immediately provokes a furious reaction from the media and Th Establishment.

However there is a vital detail: a "win by default" strategy could be done indifferently from the left as well as the right: when the southern affluent middle classes get angry with a government that has deprived them of the massive work-free, tax-free profits they have entitled themselves too, they would vote for the Khmer Rouge to punish the government.

So Labour could just wait for their turn in office after the next property crash with a social-democrat or even socialist programme, but that is precisely the risk that the Militant Mandelsoncy want to prevent: he/they want to be sure that when it is the opposition's turn to win by default, a reliable whig with a reliable globalist neoliberal attitude leads the opposition.

T Balogh's, "The Establishment", 1959:
«"Whoever is in office, the Whigs are in power." It was Mr Harold Wilson himself, many years before he came to the Prime Minister's office»

Blissex said...

«the risk that the Militant Mandelsoncy want to prevent: he/they want to be sure that when it is the opposition's turn to win by default, a reliable whig with a reliable globalist neoliberal attitude leads the opposition.»

So I think that When the "centrists" claim that only thatcherism can win the elections, they are being disingenuous: they (or at least their leaders) don't really believe that, but believe that oppositions don't win elections, even with a thatcherite programme, but that when the government eventually loses an election, it is very important that the opposition have a thatcherite "continuity" programme, because she commanded that "There Is No Alternative".

Neil Pick said...

Comments about his "rapid rise" almost understate the case. Until Blair, an "apprenticeship" served in local government and/or the Trades Union movement was almost mandatory for a would-be Labour MP. Starmer had none, just, as has been observed, an amazing over-promotion (Bliar's appointment) as DPP/Head of CPS where, despite his alleged record as a conscientious human rights lawyer, he did the establishment's bidding. Ask Julian Assenge. Ask John Charles de Menezes. Ask Ian Tomlinson. (You can't ask the last two, they're dead). It was Starmer's job to see justice done, but instead, again, he did the establishment's bidding. Needless to say, this didn't appear in his "ten pledges" or his CV. But it begs the question of who (and which interests) proposed him for a safe London seat, and then as what is plainly risible, as a leader of a major political party with less than a year's experience as a parliamentarian. And every act he commits serves as evidence of what little political nous he has.

DFTM said...

Palestinian flags have the same affect on Zionists as Garlic as on Vampires. Well except Zionists recoil and then get the rifles out.

The sight of the flags at the conference must have been like a dose of Garlic and Parmesan Pan-Fried Shrimp!