Keir Starmer has now alienated the best and the most idealistic people in the Labour Party
By Phil Hall
My daughter has a heart of gold and though she is young she has already worked as the manager of a women’s refuge and in a legal advice centre. She’s about to train as a housing lawyer. I am very proud of her and her brother and sister and I want the best for them. She was inspired by Jeremy Corbyn’s vision of a social democratic Britain, a more socialist Britain, but when Corbyn lost in 2019, despite manning the phones for the Labour Party and going on the stump, she was willing to accept Keir Starmer as a compromise. She convinced me, too:
‘Have you seen McLibel, Starmer gave his time as a young lawyer for free. He saw the case through to the end. He had grey hairs by the time the two litigants lost their case against McDonalds. You know, he had a paralegal working with him who was poor and bought him a suit and books. Starmer is OK. He’s a brilliant lawyer.’
‘I am deeply shocked. I can no longer defend Keir Starmer.’
Yesterday, after Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension from the Labour Party she contacted me and said: ‘I am deeply shocked. I can no longer defend Keir Starmer.’ Keir Starmer has alienated the best and the most idealistic people in the Labour Party, the ones who, had he really being trying to unify the Labour Party and reach a unity compromise, would have supported him.
In January 2020, Labour had 580,000 registered members, the largest membership of any party in Europe. After the near win in 2017 the membership dipped a bit, down to 475,000, but then it rose again. The Labour membership seemed to have accepted Starmer, perhaps for a trial period only. That trial period is over and he should not be hired.
After Jeremy Corbyn’s election the excitement in the Labour Party grew. Hope grew. This enthusiasm was powered by the energy and idealism of a disenfranchised generation of millennials
Let’s look closer at that. Under Blair the membership of the Labour Party was around 200,000. It was a membership that the technocratic, autocratic, right of centre leadership of New Labour did its best to circumvent using the rules of the Party machinery. These rules favoured the votes of MPs and cabinet policy was rubber stamped by an NEC that was neutered, balanced in the favour of the Blairites.
After Jeremy Corbyn’s election the excitement in the Labour Party grew. Hope grew. The membership rose to over 500,000. This enthusiasm was powered by the energy and idealism of a disenfranchised generation of millennials – and enriched and tempered by embittered old lefties like me working mainly in education and public service, who saw a glimmer of light in the darkness.
The Labour membership seemed to have accepted Starmer, perhaps for a trial period only. That trial period is over and he should not be hired.
Jeremy Corbyn, an upstanding human being, an important representative of the British Labour left and a lifelong socialist, got enough votes from MPs to stand for the leadership – despite the party mechanisms designed to disempower the membership. The MPs who voted for him wanted a balanced choice for leader, including someone to represent the ‘dinosaurs’ on the left. To their surprise and regret, Corbyn won. He won and he won and he won, despite three attempts to oust him.
We hold the centre-right of the Labour party responsible for joining in with the USA’s oil wars and for safeguarding Thatcher’s legacy.
At every turn Jeremy Corbyn won about two thirds of the membership vote. In a time of deepening climate change, a housing crisis, zero hour contracts, disillusion over New Labour’s support for oil wars, tuition fees at all time high it was obvious that a Corbyn premiership would go some way to redressing the imbalance in British society and that it would allow us to get along peacefully with each other for a little while longer.
And Corbyn won. He won and he won and he won, despite three attempts to oust him.
Historians once praised the British establishment for knowing when to retreat, when to concede. After killing the demonstrators at Peterloo in Manchester it quietly retreated improving conditions and suffrage. After locking up the suffragettes and force feeding them and torturing them it waited a little and then gave women the vote. After huge mobilisations in India it finally understood that it was time to leave. The last British soldier didn’t leave India like the US left Vietnam: with an embassy operative dangling from a helicopter punching a Vietnamese collaborator who tried to get on board. No, the British left India with ceremony.
Historians once praised the British establishment for knowing when to retreat.
But this admiration doesn’t wash for the current buffoons running the British establishment. The current British establishment has shown itself to be less than silver service, less than aware of the pressing need for a rebalancing and for social justice. The establishment’s butler, its Jeeves, is now Keir Starmer.
Starmer is doing his best to please Boris Wooster and his pals, to diffuse the situation and return us to the ‘normality’ of neoliberalism. The British establishment has used the pretext of antisemitism (a deeply hurtful irony) to actually expel the man who caused membership to rise by hundreds of thousands of people making Britain’s Labour Party the largest party in Europe. The centrists and right wingers in the Labour Party like Jess Phillips have ‘stabbed Jeremy from the front’ just as they said they would and in doing so, they have stabbed us all right in the heart.
Starmer is doing his best to please Boris Wooster and his pals, to diffuse the situation and return us to the ‘normality’ of neo-liberalism.
Does the centre right in the Labour Party – who we hold historically responsible for joining in with the USA’s oil wars and for safeguarding Thatcher’s legacy – imagine that all the people who joined Labour to vote for a proper social democracy under Jeremy Corbyn will accept the decision to suspend him?
Does the centre-right imagine that we will say or do nothing and be happy going back to Blairism?
Does the centre-right think the unions that supported Corbyn will accept this action?
Does the centre-right think they can pour oil on the waters and everyone will carry on as normal?
Strangely, Keir Starmer’s Labour decided to suspend Corbyn precisely on the eve of the elections to the NEC. The voting closes on the 12th of November. This is how I voted.