29th September 2021
Kier Starmer – seeking the road ahead
The right wing in the Labour Party have an obsession with keeping out the Left. Nothing is worse for them than the party having a left wing leader. They have staunch allies in the political establishment, print media and the BBC, who will always conspire to undermine a leader whose ideas even remotely threaten the status quo.
Such leaders that Labour have had of this ilk, Michael Foot and Jeremy Corbyn being the entire subset in the modern era, have been activists. Michael Foot was renowned as a left wing firebrand, anti-nuclear activist and internationalist. Jeremy Corbyn has spent a lifetime on the backbenches and championed a range of international causes, not least that of Palestine, worker’s rights, pensioners rights and has been a lifelong opponent of racism in any form.
Idealogues of the Right are acceptable to the British political establishment but never idealogues of the Left. Those modern Labour leaders who have made it to No.10, Harold Wilson, Jim Callaghan, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, have been safe pairs of hands, safe in their management of capitalism, while the real party of the ruling class, the Conservative Party, prepare for their next assault on working class jobs and living conditions.
There are no prizes for guessing which camp current Labour leader, Kier Starmer, falls into. His first live Labour conference this week, at a time when the Tories lurch from one crisis to another, has seen Starmer stagger from one controversy to another. The rot started even before the conference, with the publication of his 35 page tract, The Road Ahead, in which Starmer essentially makes the case for Labour as a safe pair of hands for capitalism and pleads to be seen as electable.
This is not leadership, this is merely surrender to perceived popular opinion.
The motion agreed by a small margin at conference, to change the way in which the leader is elected, is a classic example of the Labour leadership manipulating the rule book in an attempt to keep out the Left. The one member one vote position was originally introduced in 1993 for exactly the same reason. Introduced under Labour leader, John Smith, one member one vote was seen as the guarantee that the so-called union barons would never be in a position to foist a Left wing leader upon the Labour Party again.
Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader, and subsequent challenge to the establishment at the 2017 General Election, changed all of that. A radical had slipped through the net and the loophole had to be closed. Starmer has effectively done the bidding of the establishment.
It is little wonder that Jeremy Corbyn has written this week that,
“So far this week, Labour’s leaders have shown they want to prop up, not challenge…wealth and power.”
In his conference speech this afternoon (29th September) Kier Starmer made a lot of the right noises about the NHS, education policy, investment in skills and increasing spend on new research and technologies to 3% of national income. Starmer also warned that public finances “will need serious repair work” and stressed that Labour will run a strong economy. That would be a strong capitalist economy, not one moving toward socialism.
The Green New Deal which would cut “the substantial majority of emissions this decade” to tackle the “existential threat” of climate change, is perhaps the one clear commitment which parallels policy under Jeremy Corbyn, although the press continue to insist it is a cut and paste from Joe Biden.
However, there was nothing in Starmer’s speech to indicate an independent foreign policy for Britain, dependence on the US Trident missile system and NATO appears to be a given. There was nothing to hint at solidarity with those in struggle or suffering through the migrant crisis. There was no hint of repealing the right to buy policy, to stem the crisis in council housing. There was no commitment to reverse anti-union legislation and improve worker’s rights. There was no hint of a wealth tax or a commitment to tackle tax dodging and offshore money laundering.
In short, Starmer’s speech was not a call to challenge the underlying assumptions and values of a society which functions to maintain status and privilege for the few. It was a plea to be elected, a signal to the political establishment that the stewardship of capital will remain safe in Labour’s hands.
The road ahead however may have more twists, turns bumps and potholes than Starmer appreciates.