Labour leadership’s achievements overshadowed by its tin ear

by Rob Marchant

Labour, despite what you might think after the last few days, is back on the road to recovery. The consolidation of the leadership’s upper hand over the rump Corbynites has been sure-footed. It has won key votes on an independent complaints process to finish the job on anti-Semitism, as well as rule changes to make it very hard for any repeat performance of the Corbyn years, where a tiny tail of hard-lefties flooded the party with entryists, in order to wag the Labour party dog. Yes, it didn’t manage to get to fully reverting leadership elections to the electoral college but that was, frankly, the icing on the cake.

There is, of course, a but.

Labour’s problem so far this week is that no-one has really noticed all that good stuff, because of its abysmal management of its media spotlight since Saturday, where a catalogue of unforced errors has left it reeling.

First came Angela Rayner’s “scum” diatribe against the Tories, in a fringe meeting on Saturday night. If our Deputy Leader genuinely thinks that kind of language will have helped woo floating voters, then we should be asking very serious questions about her judgement.

Then our normally-sensible leader, the lawyerly former barrister and DPP, managed to wobble and bluster like a rookie country lawyer when questioned by Andrew Marr on Sunday morning about whether it is ok to say, as Rosie Duffield MP did, that only women have a cervix.

It is not so much that trans rights is not a tricky subject – it is. The problem is that he was clearly blindsided by Marr asking almost the exact same question which made Lib Dem leader Ed Davey flounder helplessly a few days before. How can he not have expected the question? Who on earth is briefing him and running Q&A walkthroughs for this, his most important interview round of the year?

Apart from that, Starmer seems not yet to have realised that his support for trans self ID and his assertion last week that he would protect women’s spaces are mutually incompatible: at least, in any form which is ever going to satisfy women concerned about the issue. If his idea of protecting women’s spaces is to allow anyone opting to don women’s clothes to access them, the “protection” he is offering is clearly farcical.

Timelines of women all over social media were, as a result, on fire Sunday morning. Instead of defusing the issue, Starmer has recruited many who previously were unaware of the issue to line up against him. Result: an entirely preventable disaster.

Finally, to add insult to injury, in presenting this ridiculous position for an interviewer to blow away like a house of straw – and he was lucky it was nice-guy Marr and not Rottweiler Andrew Neil – he queered the pitch for Rachel Reeves in her interview Monday morning, making her squirm in a similar manner when asked the same question.

As if that were not enough for a day’s work, yesterday the Labour leader managed to over-egg the genuine achievement of winning the vote on the EHRC recommendations to clean up on antisemitism, by claiming that the issue was over. This naturally angered those in the Jewish community already impatient with the time it has taken so far to get things moving. A simple “a lot done, a lot still to do” would have kept everyone happy but, again, Labour fluffed it.

On the one hand, poor media management can improve. This is his first “proper” conference as leader and he is still learning the ropes. The underlying achievements are sound.

On the other, you get one week each year in opposition, when the spotlight is on you. Labour has been an unedifying spectacle this week so far.

Most of this is fixable, if we have a better performance next year. But where, as is the case with trans rights, the failure is tied to an unworkable, poorly-thought-through policy stance, it’s not. You have to ‘fess up that you got it wrong, and do something.

On self ID, the leadership shows little sign that this is the case. But what they are failing to anticipate is that there is a massive, international storm brewing on this issue, which may well bring down the left in a number of Western countries. Underestimate at your peril a crowd of angry women on a mission and, particularly, momma bears who see themselves, rightly, as protecting their children from harm.

Please, Keir Starmer, you are a good guy. So, for the love of God, do not make self ID the hill on which you are prepared to die. The British public and, particularly, British women, do not have the patience for this and, believe me, sooner or later they will let you know.

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


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7 Responses to “Labour leadership’s achievements overshadowed by its tin ear”

  1. Tafia says:

    Can’t fault your opinions there Rob – especially self-ID.

    You missed BFAWU disaffiliating though. That will have a big impact in Debbie Abrhams seat (Oldham E & Saddleworth) because one of the major Oldham employers – Park Cakes – a massive industrial food procesor belonging to Northern Food Group and which provides fresh cream cakes to M&S, as well as pizzas and sandwiches to supermarkets and also ambient cakes to every supermarket chain in UK (it is a huge plant – absolutely masive. Processeses 100 HGVs a day), is mainly staffed by people from within her constituency (Glodwick) It will also affect Oldham W & Failsworth as the next biggeststaffing sources are the estates of Hathershaw, Fitton Hill, Coppice & Limeside.

  2. john P Reid says:

    https://twitter.com/DerbyChrisW/status/1443093937200246789 the argument was it was corbyn that saw the anti semites Infiltrate labour, but this piece of @@@@ Chris williamson , was first elected in 2010* (all be it he lost for 2 years 5 years later)

    He must never be allowed to apply to rejoin

  3. john P Reid says: So John I will ask the same simple question again. Which of Corbyn and Starmer has overseen the most Jewish members expelled, suspended or disciplined under their leadership? Are these the wrong sort of Jews or just bad Jews? Simple question really.

  4. John P Reid says:

    Danny i don’t know but i know Jackie walker self identified as being jewish and wasn’t and got expelled and are you saying all People with Jewish surnames who aren’t jewish like Tony greenstien or Daivd Elisha weren’t anti semitic

    oterh people may have been expelled who are jewish for other reasons?

  5. steve says:

    It’s difficult to understand why Rob gets so worked up over Labour’s response to Trans rights.

    As a supporter of the Labour Right Rob should be more than a little familiar with the Blairite relativism – where lies become the truth.

    We’ve had the “weapons of mass destruction” and the “45 minutes from attack”. Then there’s the spectacle of the Blairites privatising the NHS while claiming to be its defenders. Even in the last week we’ve seen politicians who want to form a government claiming representation can be improved by denying accountability and reducing the size of the electorate.

    The denial of biology is just another chapter in a very long and cynical saga.

    Heaven forbid that Rob’s friends should find their way into government again.

  6. Anne says:

    Agree with very little written in this article. No I don’t think Angel’s remark of calling Tories scum is appropriate. However nor do I agree with your analysis of Labour fluffing it with respect to the Labour Conference. This, I believe, to have been very positive conference with Starmer demonstrating his abilities as a leader. There was nothing amateur about his performance or his interviews.
    Maybe Rob you should look a little closer at Uncut itself and it’s performance. Why are there few articles written by women and why are there even fewer comments made by women on this site. Could it possible be related to the abuse they encounter on this site – subjected to bad language and abuse – could this be related to misogyny.
    I think the whole country has been shocked by the evidence that Wayne Couzens abused his powers as a serving police officer – by falsely arresting Sarah Everard before murdering her. Misogyny is proving to be quite widespread – generating a call for misogyny to be a hate crime.

  7. Rob Marchant says:

    @Tafia: thanks for the info on Oldham, interesting.

    @Anne: I thought the speech was excellent. But this piece went up on Tuesday and at that point the media management was the story and it was dire. Have to say I strongly disagree with you on Starmer’s interviews – the one on Sunday morning was excruciating and almost all the press said so. It was an unforced error. Btw, I agree fully with you about the resurgence of misogyny on the left, but not being able to explain what a woman is does not really help this situation.

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