After Starmer’s first 100 days came Labour’s tipping-point week

by Rob Marchant

At the 100-day point in mid-July, there was much favourable chatter about the new leader. Good poll ratings, clear change of position on anti-Semitism, control of the NEC. The Corbynites have been on the back foot and the party looks vaguely presentable again.

Continuity Corbynite figurehead Rebecca Long-Bailey was, much to the surprise of many, not forced to resign but humiliatingly sacked from the Shadow Cabinet for tweeting an article containing anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

It has not been all plain sailing: Starmer is a new leader, after all, and new leaders make mistakes as they learn. One was to have commissioned yet another useless “reforming the party” report, this time with involvement from Ed Miliband, who had already presided over the release of two such useless reports in his own term as leader.

Then there was the clearly unfair suspension of Emilie Oldknow, the former Assistant General Secretary. who had done little more than slag off some of her colleagues on WhatsApp (we would most of us be sacked, were spying on one’s staff a widespread practice among UK employers).

Worse still than that unfairness, was the credence it gave to the highly questionable “report” commissioned by former General Secretary Jennie Formby into the party’s handling of anti-Semitism. A report conceived and executed by that administration in unquestionably bad faith, with the intent of rebutting in advance its inevitable, forthcoming slamming by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

In other words, a last, desperate attempt to save the reputations of those involved in the Corbyn project.

Finally, Starmer himself made a truly personal, unforced error in supporting the Black Lives Matter movement – not because there is anything intrinsically wrong with the cause, but because he is party leader and associating with a single-issue group, over which he has no control, is a schoolboy mistake. As he learned, when it became known that there was more than one organisation in the UK using that name and that one of them, complete with blue-tick Twitter account, was pretty much a Corbynite front operation.

But these were modest errors among an overall, very strong performance.

And then came last week. The media seemed to have somewhat lost sight of the court cases of numerous parties suing the Labour Party for (a) defamation and (b) improper dissemination of personal data. But then the news suddenly came on the key case in point: the seven former, whistleblowing staffers who had bravely appeared on Panorama to explain what had really gone on at HQ on anti-Semitism during the Corbyn years.

They were, predictably, vindicated. The party issued an immediate and unreserved apology on behalf of the party for dragging their names through the mud. Even Momentum’s Jon Lansman apologised to the whistleblowers.

Although Starmer clearly had little alternative than to apologise, it was clearly heartfelt rather than grudging. The impact was enormous.

First, it entirely removed any remaining credibility that the “fake” Formby report might have had (although, among mainstream media, it is not clear that it ever had any). It was now clear that the wronged parties had been shown in a court of law to be exactly the opposite of whom that report said they were. And, in a too-delicious coda to this story, the Corbynite hire who previously headed up Governance and Legal, Thomas Gardiner, then proceeded to reveal how he had advised Formby that the report was “misleading” and essentially should never be released.

Second, the successful action has, of course, triggered other lawsuits; for example, former GS Iain McNicol is rightly suing to defend his good name, defamed by the fake report as someone who soft-pedalled on dealing with the anti-Semites when his attempts were, of course, constantly frustrated by the Leader’s Office.

While this is pretty terrible news for the party, already pretty broke after the excesses of the Corbyn years, these cases will mean a constant stream of reminders that the Corbynites were wrong, wrong, wrong on pretty much everything (and are potentially about to bankrupt the party). That is we can start to see how historians will see a leadership which effectively brought the party to its knees through rank incompetence, let alone its tawdry part in the renaissance of anti-Semitism in the UK.

Third, it triggered Jeremy Corbyn to show to the world why, for most of his political career, he was seen as a foolish crank and a nobody. Stripped of advisors who might have counselled against such action, he decided to protest the judgement of a UK court on Twitter. But, worse than that, in doing so he idiotically conspired to repeat the exact same defamation. He is now being sued by Panorama’s John Ware and a fighting fund has been set up to cover his legal costs in a battle he seems certain to lose. Honestly, you couldn’t make this stuff up.

But even without the completely avoidable error of being sued, it was a terrible decision in the first place. In short, Jeremy Corbyn has decided to die on the hill that the whistle-blowers were all liars, trying to smear him and lose Labour the election. The problem with that, as the Independent’s John Rentoul observes, is that it’s the wrong hill. It puts him firmly against the seven plaintiffs who have now been seen by all the world as decent people, trying to save their party from itself; and, predictably, on the same side as the very anti-Semites they were fighting.

Yes, it will take some time to retake control of some local parties which have been infested with SWPers and anti-Semites. But the figures who have led the party these last five years are now truly and independently discredited.

When the EHRC report – expected in September – finally comes out, and pans the Corbynite leadership and their party placepeople as a freakish cabal, nurturing institutional racism in a once-proud party, this will naturally be the knockout blow to Corbynism. But as of this week, it is already slumped on the ropes and gibbering quietly to itself.

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour party manager who blogs at The Centre Left

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9 Responses to “After Starmer’s first 100 days came Labour’s tipping-point week”

  1. Anne says:

    While I agree with much of the article it has somehow passed me by. Maybe it is because daily we are reminded what a truly disastrous Government we have in operation – every time Johnson opens his mouth it is another gaff. We have lost Scotland – if there was a Scottish Independence vote tomorrow they would win – no doubt, and who can blame them – although it is not economically in their long term interest. Truly, there is not one person in this Government with a shred of talent – a total but dangerous embarrassment at every level.
    For us in Labour we continue to grow in strength – many coming back into the party – mainly because of Starmer and with Corbyn becoming a distant memory.

  2. A.J. says:

    I used to drink with an old tankie who had nothing but warm words for Ernie Bevin when Foreign Secretary and how he handled Jewish immigration. He was clearly anti-semitic – or at least he was after a few pints. One normally heard avowed ‘anti-Zionism’ only from the ragged-arsed sellers of SWP or WRP rags outside benefit offices and – more so – from their middle-class controllers.
    But Starmer looks to me like a thoroughly weak contender. As for Rayner – LOL, as the kids used to say. I’m almost looking forward to midnight after the next election, when Labour lose yet again. Oh, and let’s not forget the nastiness that marked the New Labour project.
    Britain is in terrible trouble and was before Brexit or Covid.

  3. JoHn Reid says:

    Both Chris Williamson, mark wardsworth
    and Jackie walker are threatening to sue The EHRC after they found them anti Semitic they need to be prosecuted for racism
    Still at least walker is crying about the guardian sacking Steve bell!!!

    Walker reckons she was expelled for saying African holocaust no it was her critic if the Jews bring the ones who caused slavery

    Don’ t forget the grooming gang report or Paul embery suing the FBI got wrongful dismissal

  4. Alf says:

    Labour are well behind in the polls. Starmer is wrong to go back to just being Tory-lite.

  5. A.J. says:

    Any Labour leader who hopes to make an impact will need to rethink the relationship between the political parties, the electorate and the Welfare State. Sound plausible to you? I thought not. Labour blew it in the 1970s over council housing, education and the NHS, and voters picked up on this before 1979 and Margaret Thatcher. Even a ‘right winger’ like John Golding got it wrong over the sale of council homes. Starmer, in so many ways, will prove no different to any other Labour leader since, say, Callaghan, in misunderstanding the aspirations of the ordinary voter. Who now is ‘working class’? That’s probably a question for the sociologists.
    Still, we continue to have this absurd view of the NHS, as propagated by fools like Boris Johnson, Hancock et al. This government is basically New Labour, not ‘Tory’.

  6. John P Reid says:

    Alf especially as the Tories are now Keynesian
    But the Tory lite Starmer is following is when David Cameron was trying to be a libdem

  7. John P Reid says:

    As it’s a sackable offence
    For A cop to Be in the BNP
    which the human rights act
    Was amended on the right of association in 1999 as cops weren’t allowed to be in any parties before then
    when the EHRC Inquiry finds labour is institutionally anti Semitic
    Will it be a sackable offence m it offence for a cop to be in the Labour Party
    And yes I do know police who are members of the Labour Party

  8. John P Reid says:

    When the notorious smethwick elections campaign had vote labour if you want a @@@@@ as a neighbour , and peter Griffith’s was elected in 1964 ,even the Tories disproved and Ted Heath deselected him within months
    harold Wilson said he should be treated as a social leper
    Wonder if the anti semitism inquiry reveals any labour MP or lord/Peeress either hid or were complicit in it
    if they should be treated as a social leper in parliament until they’re deselected or if a lord or baroness , they scrap the lords?

  9. A.J. says:

    Not much to choose between Heath and Wilson when it came to being out of touch with the wishes and feelings of the electorate. Meddlers, the pair of them. Hugh Dalton didn’t much care for black people. Nor, allegedly, did Jim Callaghan. Someone – I forget who – in Attlee’s cabinet minuted disquiet over the Windrush arrivals. If only we knew then what we know now. Griffiths might have been unpleasant, but it was typical of Wilson to have a tin ear. Probably queered the pitch for Enoch, though.

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