Can’t Blame That On Jeremy Corbyn
The votes are in, or they are at least coming in as I write this article on Friday the 7th of May 2021. The local election outcome looks to be…tragic for Labour. Not as bad as Labour’s 2019 general election results — their worst loss since 1935. But still woeful, and as Labour MP Diane Abbot (ally of ex-party leader Jeremy Corbyn) stated, “Not possible to blame Jeremy Corbyn for this result.” Corbyn’s first by-election result saw Labour up 7 points, Starmer’s has seen Labour down 9 points. Most damningly, Hartlepool, a seat that has been under Labour’s control since it was created in the 70s, was won by the Tory candidate Jill Mortimer, having received 15,529 votes compared to the Labour candidate Dr Paul Williams 8,589 (a 16% swing from Labour to Conservative). We saw the ‘Red Wall’ come crashing down in 2019, and there goes another brick — Hartlepool supported Corbyn even during the catastrophe of 2019. So who is to blame? Why has this historically Labour-led Constituency turned blue? Well, with mumblings of a resignation within the Party, the simple answer is Keir Starmer. He seems to agree, as he claims he takes ‘full responsibility’ for this loss.
Following the 2019 General Election and Corbyn’s resignation, Starmer’s aim as party leader was to a) unite the party by “balancing” the Shadow Cabinet between different wings and b) make Labour a “credible opposition” to the massive Tory majority in Parliament. Starmer has failed on both counts, leaving Labour voters politically homeless. Starmer tried to unite the party by sacking near enough every member of Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet and replacing it with predominantly right-leaning Labour MPs. Starmer allowed a right-winger, Steve Reed, who called a Jewish businessman “the puppet master” to keep his job, but suspended Corbyn from the party because of his “failure to deal with anti-Semitism”.
The Human Rights Commission into anti-Semitism in the Labour Party was released in October of 2020 and found “there has been improvements in the rate of determining cases”. Praising the general secretary Jennie Formby for the increase of hearings under her leadership (Starmer pushed her out of office), the report stated that Labour increased hearings of anti-Semitism cases by 242% between 2018–2019, concluding “The Labour Party is not institutionally anti-Semitic.” The report does call out the leader’s office for a failure to sort cases, but, as was shown in the Labour leaks, this was due to anti-Corbyn Labour staffers purposefully sabotaging attempts to do so in order to discredit the leadership and oust Corbyn. Following the report, Corbyn stated that, whilst anti-Semitism within the Labour Party was very real, his actions “acted to speed up, not hinder the process.” Corbyn also claimed that Labour’s anti-Semitism had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons,” something corroborated by the Home Office Report which stated, “despite unprecedented media coverage […] there is not evidence to suggest Labour is anymore anti-Semitic than any other political party.” So, though the Labour Leaks, the Home Office Report, the Human Rights Commission (and the results of the Forde Inquiry which have been mysteriously and indefinitely delayed) had all evidenced Corbyn was not to blame for anti-Semitism in the Party, Starmer kicked him out (failing to justify his suspension or providing any rules Corbyn was supposed to have broken, also gagging local Labour Party groups speaking on the matter), rather than dealing with the true anti-Semites in his Party.
The ‘Thousands Club’, also known as the ‘Rose Network’ is a part of Labour membership system which gives the wealthiest members extra privileges and influence within the party, in exchange for £1000+ donations a year. This has existed since the New Labour years, but Starmer has decided to make it even more classist by making a more exclusive ‘Chair’s Circle’ level of membership, which costs “an annual donation of at least £5000.” In exchange for that massive donation, you get unparalleled time and influence with the Labour leader, meeting with him at least 5 times a year through formal dinners, conferences, and meet ups. Basically, Starmer is prostituting himself — its the Labour version of OnlyFans. In exchange for a huge sum of money, which 90% of people can’t afford, the extremely rich are given exclusive access and influence over senior politicians. The party justified the plans by claiming the Tories received 400% more campaign money than they did in 2019’s General Election. But if they’re that concerned about funding, maybe they should stick by the Unions and the everyday individuals, the working people, including those in Hartlepool, who have funded them for the past 121 years of existence, rather than, as Jill Mortimer argued in her victory speech, taking them for granted.
What about his second aim, opposing the Conservatives? Another failure it seems. During the Troubles, the IRA committed atrocities and killed over 1,000 people. Not even former IRA leaders deny this, but so did the British Government. Thatcher illegally funded pro-British paramilitary death squads and, as the Saville Inquiry confirmed, British paratroopers “lost control” and unlawfully killed 13 unarmed UK citizens on Bloody Sunday 1972. At the time, British soldiers who murdered civilians were let off because the whole system was corrupt. Their trials, if they even got that far, were a sham.
Now, years after the end of the Troubles, former British soldiers and war criminals are being tried for their wrongdoing. A large chunk of the right-wing, however, believe that being summoned to court twice and being punished for something you did decades ago is worse than shooting British civilians during civil rights protests. The government has brought in a bill to “stop the witch hunts against our brave veterans.” But its not a ‘witch hunt’ because those involved are not being falsely accused — many have admitted they did the things they are accused of. The bill would not only prevent soldiers from the Troubles being charged, but modern soldiers too, as well as protecting the government from prosecution for crimes against humanity. One Labour MP stated that this bill “legalises torture”, but it legalises a lot more than that — it legalises any war crime the British government would wish to commit.
So what did Keir Starmer, a former human rights lawyer, do in the face of this bill? He abstained. Not only did he abstain, he fired the frontbench who voted against it — including Nadia Whittome, whom Starmer had previously wrote to, stating “no one should be sacked for speaking out” after she was fired for whistle blowing about PPE. Starmer and the word ‘abstain’ are synonymous: he forced Labour to abstain on the vote on the flawed tiers system, he abstained on the 2016 welfare bill which took £12 billion away from the destitute and the desperate leading to a huge rise in food bank use, and the list goes on and on. When he’s not busy abstaining, Keir is backing the Tories wholeheartedly. On the Brexit deal, the one time it made sense to abstain, he forced Labour to vote in favour (now banning Labour MPs from criticising Brexit). Despite having information which suggested it was dangerous and could lead to thousands of deaths, Starmer supported Johnson’s reopening of schools, stating “they must be back […] no ifs, no buts.” Despite Matt Hancock breaking the law according to the supreme court, Starmer refused to call for his resignation. Is Starmer even aware what the word ‘opposition’ means?
In 1986, Starmer defended the print workers at Wapping — he was there on the night that the police-horse famously charged the peaceful picket. Starmer provided free legal advice to the poll tax protesters, he even took Thatcher’s government to court over their policy of denying benefits to the families of strikers and also over broken promises and mistreatment of miners alongside the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). Starmer worked alongside Green Peace to attempt to stop Shell from sinking an old oil rig into the North Sea, as well as suing New Labour for refusing to provide benefits to asylum seekers. As Director of Public Prosecutions, he prosecuted MPs for cheating their expenses, and took on the Murdock Press over the phone hacking scandal. How can a man of Starmer’s undeniable calibre and reputation be such a disappointment and failure?
Well the explanation is simple. Dressed in a suit, well-spoken, and with the prefix of ‘Sir’, Starmer presents himself as a member of the middle class. But the suit doesn’t match the shoes: his background was anything but middle class. His father worked in a factory as a toolmaker and his mother was a nurse -Starmer was the first in his family to go to university. One imagines he was conscious of the difference that his working class background created for him, perhaps self-conscious, and so made efforts to hide it, to homogenise himself with the upper class, to create the stereotypical image of the lawyer, of the politician. He did so so successfully that he doesn’t stand out, and he doesn’t stand up — all his individuality, all his vim and his vigour, his convictions and background, have been pressed out of him by the iron of politics. What does he stand for? I don’t know, you don’t know, the voters on Thursday didn’t know, and I don’t think Keir knows either — that’s why Labour suffered such massive losses, because of Starmer’s hypocrisy and his contradictions as a leader, that have left people feeling politically homeless and repulsed from Labour.
His imitation game has had a second consequence. His homogeny with the middle and upper classes have led to him to become heterogeneous with the people Labour was created to serve, the working-class, the 99%, the rest of us. Yes, Keir Starmer does come from a working-class background, but he no longer represents them, instead, having been pushed through the various social networks of the middle class, his view of the working class is now skewed — he doesn’t know what our lives are really like, or what we really need, or what we really want. He doesn’t represent anything, and so he certainly doesn’t represent us. All Labour stands for now is electability, and it can’t even get that right.