Posts Tagged ‘Keir Starmer’

Jack Lesgrin’s week: Time for pledges not pamphlets Keir

25/09/2021, 10:05:21 PM

by Jack Lesgrin

Time for pledges not pamphlets Keir

This week Labour leader Keir Starmer published a 14,000 word essay. My immediate thought was that this risks getting us into ‘longest suicide note in history’ territory (after the labour manifesto of 1983 was so described by a Gerald Kaufman). Maybe he should have spent a bit more time inspecting plans for internal party reform than writing this opus.

Do Sir K’s PR advisors not think through the optics of such news? Perhaps the strategy is to set expectations so low that a grateful public will be relieved when instead of having to read 14,000 words they hear a few soundbites on the news?

Or is it an authenticity strategy: it worked for Jeremy Corbyn after all. I recall much hyperbole from MPs I know, as well as normally sensible activists, coming back from Corbyn rallies satiated with the industrial strength Kool-Aid dispensed both by cults and political leaders who tell their supporters what they want to hear, no matter how magical.

But the essay story projects the kind of authenticity that reinforces negative stereotypes of scholarly intellectual debate among and for socialists.

If the rise of Mr B Johnson has taught us anything, it is that the next election will not be won or lost on the intellectual coherence of an exceedingly long Master’s thesis.

Perhaps one or two other lessons might be learnt, and rapidly, if we are to have any hope of winning the next election. The first is that people want to hear what labour will actually do about any given issue. Not why the Tories are wicked, but how Labour would do things better. It’s a simple concept that is often lost by oppositions.

Then they want to hear an optimistic vision, set out in a clearly understandable narrative that tells a credible story about why voting labour is better for them and for the whole country, underpinned with policies that validate this.

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Revealed: New poll shows 1 in 4 non-Labour voters considering backing Starmer but they want a decisive break from the Corbyn era – 60% say expel Corbyn if he doesn’t apologise over anti-Semitism

19/09/2021, 09:24:00 PM

by Atul Hatwal

New research conducted for Labour Uncut by pollster Yonder (the new name for Populus) reveals that just over 1 in 4 non-Labour voters (26%) would consider voting Labour at the next election. But Jeremy Corbyn is still a huge negative with 66% of this group worried about the continued influence of Corbynites in Labour and 60% saying his expulsion from Labour, if he doesn’t apologise over anti-Semitism, would make them more likely to vote Labour.

The polling, conducted by Yonder between the 13th and 14th September with 2,010 respondents, revealed that 1 in 7 Conservative voters (14%), over half of Lib Dems (53%) and 1 in 4 SNP (26%) are considering voting Labour. Based on Labour’s current standing in the polls, attracting even half of those thinking about backing Keir Starmer and Labour would send the party into government with a vote share in the mid-forties.

However, Labour’s potential voters want a clear break from the Corbyn era.  A series of statements articulating potential reasons for not voting Labour, drawn from previous research, were put to this group and despite a clear appetite for policies such as higher spending on public services and a higher minimum wage, Jeremy Corbyn and his legacy remain toxic.

A net +39% agreed with the statement “I didn’t want Jeremy Corbyn to be Prime Minister and worry that people like him are still too influential in Labour”

Next week, at Labour conference Jeremy Corbyn will once again be in the spotlight and much of the debate about Labour will be defined through the prism of the former leader.

He’s currently suspended from the parliamentary party for saying that the extent of anti-Semitism in the party was “dramatically over-stated” following the publication of the EHRC report into Labour and anti-Semitism, but he had already been readmitted to the party at the point the report was published and so, as a party member not a Labour MP, will be speaking at various Labour conference fringe events. He’ll have a political and media retinue trailing along after him, distracting from the main conference, in the manner that Boris Johnson used to at Conservative conference in the early to mid-2010s.

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Why is Keir Starmer playing the Orange card?

02/08/2021, 10:48:44 PM

by Kevin Meagher

You might have missed it because it didn’t really register in the British media (quelle surprise), but Keir Starmer’s trip to Belfast last month caused something of a stir.

While Starmer used the trip to meet victims of the Troubles and to voice his support for the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol – chiding Boris Johnson for not being ‘straight’ with voters in the process – he also dismissed any prospect of Irish unity and indicated that he strongly backs Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom.

In a tough interview with the BBC’s new Northern Ireland political editor, Enda McLafferty, the Labour leader was quizzed about how support for holding a border poll – the colloquial term for a referendum in Irish unification – might be measured, perhaps by the performance of pro or anti unity parties in an assembly election?

Starmer replied: ‘I don’t think that’s a particularly accurate way of measuring it.’

Really? Surely, it’s the most accurate way of accessing whether there is support for a change in Northern Ireland’s constitutional position? Each of the party’s views on the matter are well-established, so it offers a pretty good measure of the state of the debate. Notwithstanding the fact we have an assembly election next May.

McLafferty pressed Starmer for further clarification. ‘I think there have to be conditions,’ before any vote could be held, he said. ‘I think there have to be lots of discussions. Look, I don’t think [a border poll] is in sight and this is a very hypothetical discussion.’

Asked whether he would campaign with unionists in the event of a vote, Starmer replied: ‘I personally, as leader of the Labour Party, believe in the United Kingdom, strongly, and want to make the case for the United Kingdom, strongly, and will be doing that.’

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Are we really going to see the Second Coming of St Tony?

28/06/2021, 10:38:48 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Tony Blair always struck me as an unlikely convert to Catholicism. He is much too messianic. He would have made a great evangelical though, or even a cult leader. The Branch Tonyians, perhaps?

The idea of him returning to British domestic politics, descending from the skies as the clouds part to lead us once again in His Second Coming, is fantastically absurd.

Yet that is precisely what the Sunday Times reported yesterday.

‘Labour sources say Blairites have abandoned hope that Starmer can save the party and a small group is trying to convince Blair to return to the Commons.

‘The Labour peer, Andrew Adonis is at the heart of a network of Blairites who believe he is the only leader who could win a Labour majority…’

Seriously?

Its the kind of story the papers run on April 1 – a spoof with just enough in it to hoodwink readers that have overlooked the date.

Don’t get me wrong, Tony Blair had a good run, serving as prime minister for a decade, winning three thumping elections along the way, but he is now past tense. Seeking to disinter him from his political sarcophagus, like Dracula in a Hammer horror film, is proper death cultist stuff.

Granted, there is a very funny mood in Labourland this week ahead of the Batley and Spen by-election, where there is a strong prospect of the party losing the seat, and even some siren voices predicting it could crash to third place behind George Galloway.

People are jittery and there are clearly figures in the party like Adonis that do not believe Keir Starmer is on the path to winning ways, yet the suggestion that a better way forward is to bring back Blair – fourteen years after he quit as PM – is demented. A comical absurdity.

The serious point is that it is a silly distraction from the work of shaping a new political project that can succeed in radically different times to those that Blair – and Adonis – governed in.

And what of Mr. Blair, you ask?

The Sunday Times report added: ‘His spokeswoman said: “His view is that he is not considering doing this.”

So that’s not a no, then?

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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Starmer’s disastrous Pride

14/06/2021, 11:05:41 PM

by Rob Marchant

It was all going so well.

Keir Starmer, having made it intact through his first year of leadership, had managed – admittedly, not entirely by design – to remove the toxic presence of his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, from the party and win back a majority on the party’s ruling NEC. And even in the face of an unprecedented “vaccine bounce” for the current occupant of No. 10, he was nevertheless starting to be seen as Labour’s most serious leader in more than a decade, whether or not his electoral ship might come in in 2023-24.

His recent “soul-baring” interview with the ever-dreadful Piers Morgan, which could have turned out so badly, ended up showing him in a positive light, as a genuine and humble everyman, in a way neither of his two predecessors could have ever achieved.

All in all, a creditable first year: albeit with much left to do, not least on the unpleasant nitty-gritty of eliminating anti-Semitism.

Yes, it was all going so well – until last week. The week he decided to alienate a large swathe of women in his own party and many thousands outside it.

A little background: during the last two weeks, the following things happened.

One. The boss of Stonewall – which, despite being an overtly political organisation, still provides a system of diversity accreditation to hundreds of public and private bodies in the UK – compared the idea of being “gender-critical” – essentially, to insist on the immutability of biological sex – to anti-Semitism, not only a woefully wrong but an abhorrent comparison.

Almost immediately afterwards, Equalities minister Liz Truss followed the lead of the EHRC and recommended withdrawal for government departments, and a former list of 900-plus Stonewall Diversity Champions is now diminishing rapidly.

It is difficult to overestimate the significance of this move. Stonewall, during prior decades a hugely-respected organisation, which did much to bring about the liberalisation of laws on homosexuality during the last Labour government, seems now to be so broken that it is difficult seeing it survive through to the end of the decade – at least, not without a huge shake-up in its management and culture. A seeming obsession with trans campaigning above all other facets of lesbian, gay and bi politics has driven many to a new organisation, the LGB Alliance.

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What if Labour was level pegging with the Tories in the polls? Adjust for the vaccine bounce and its all a lot closer than today’s headlines

19/05/2021, 10:33:16 PM

by Atul Hatwal

It sounds absurd, how can Labour be level pegging with the Tories? The government has just smashed Labour at the May elections and regularly registers double digit leads in opinion polls. All true but we are also emerging from the long dark tunnel of the pandemic and if we look at the bounce in polling that governments have received in the past, as the country exits’ crises, there are reasonable grounds to believe Labour’s underlying position is a lot stronger than the current polls.

Rewind to the financial crash of 2008; in the year preceding the crisis the Labour government’s polling was abysmal – for the three months before the collapse of Lehman Brothers in mid-September 2008, the average Tory lead was 19.5%.

By December, as the various global bailouts and interventions appeared to be working with the prospect of normality, or at least stability, beckoning, the average deficit for the Labour government through the month was 4.6%, an improvement of almost 15% on their pre-crash performance. In terms of a parallel, the country is in a similar phase at the moment – optimism and relief that whatever the government has done is having an impact with Britain on a path out of the darkness.

As we know, Labour’s poll improvement at the end of 2008 was not sustained, in the first six months of 2009, the average Tory poll lead was 14.2%, a rise of 9.6% on the position in December.

When trying to quantify the vaccine bounce, this is the key figure. This increase in opposition polling, a rise in the Tory lead over the government of 9.6% quantifies the shift in public opinion from the optimism of seeing the back of the crisis, from focusing so heavily on what the government is doing, to returning to everyday life.

Applied to today, depending on your pollster of choice, a 9.6% boost for the opposition would see Labour either narrowly ahead or narrowly behind the government. This probably better represents the underlying state of play than a snapshot of polls in a phase when the crisis bounce is at its highest for the government.

Not convinced?

Let’s wind the clock further back, almost 40 years to the Falklands war. From a contemporary perspective, a faraway dispute with Argentina over some small rocks in the South Atlantic might not seem comparable to the financial crash or the pandemic, but in the context of the time, it was a huge, all-consuming crisis which cut to the core of Britain’s identity and Mrs.Thatcher’s leadership.

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If Keir Starmer is serious about equality, Labour must start thinking in constitutional terms once again

14/04/2021, 10:45:56 PM

by Sanjit Nagi

Since his seminal speech ‘A New Chapter for Britain’, Keir Starmer has made clear the fundamental value which drives his politics: equality. Or rather, Labour’s central aim under his leadership is to remedy the severe inequality that has stemmed from eleven years of deregulation, low pay, job insecurity, child poverty, inaccessible education, and health and racial disparities. Because of this, it is completely correct for him to say the very fabric and foundation of our polity has been severely damaged and needs repair.

Thus far Labour have been policy shy. But reading between the lines there has been some indication of how a Labour government would address inequality; all of which broadly hit the right note: better public services, racial parity, investment in skills and training, education reform, affordable homes, a care system that treats old age with dignity, and tackling the climate emergency.

But if Keir Starmer and the Labour Party want to secure Britain’s future and really entrench the value of equality across all walks of life, they have to start thinking in constitutional terms once again. By this, I mean there must be a commitment to a new settlement of socio-economic rights, guarantees, and responsibilities extended to all citizens.

Constitutional change in the form of the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA 1998) was a monumental moment in respect of liberty. Thanks to Labour, an era of individual rights began where we the people were entitled and able to enforce fundamental civil and political rights (located in the European Convention on Human Rights) domestically. Despite the Conservatives’ consistent attacks and threats to replace the HRA 1998, it has (so far) stood the test of time and delivered: key victories in areas of privacy and family life, fair trial, right to life, and freedom of religion; a duty on all public bodies to act in a way which is compatible with a person’s human rights; and increased executive accountability via judicial review. This piece of legislation is now so deep-rooted within our constitutional make-up, it is not controversial to say that taking it away from us would result in major political ramifications.

Labour should now commit itself to introducing a second Human Rights Act which guarantees the social and economic needs of citizens. The right to: health and social care, social housing, education, social security, disability protection, safety at work, parity between all genders, and the protection against poverty and social exclusion. It might also recognise and seek to protect the position of unpaid labour within the system e.g. parenting or those in the voluntary sector who are so often overlooked and underappreciated. The European Social Charter provides some indication of what this second Human Rights Act might look like.

The pandemic has shown what socio-economic guarantees we all need to survive. A commitment to codifying these key human interests could shift the constitutional terrain once again, providing for: new fundamental entitlements for citizens, a new duty on the state to meet basic standards, and greater accountability – via judicial review –  of things which are of relevance to us all.

Labour have already committed to a new Race Equality Act to tackle the structural racism present in modern day. Whilst this is most welcome and much needed, it would be even more effective if coupled with an enforceable regime of socio-economic rights. As there can be no real discussion about structural racism without understanding accessibility and discrimination within health, work, education and beyond. This is even more pressing in light of the Conservative government’s Commission of Race and Ethnic Disparities downplaying and dismissing the extent of structural racism.

A new piece of constitutionally-significant legislation as described would seriously begin Labour’s task of building a fairer, more equal society. It would also clearly set Labour apart from the Conservatives in terms of narrative and principles: Labour believes in enshrining rights and protecting your interests.

The move towards a second Human Rights Act might be resisted with weak arguments such as its unviability or it skewing policy and resource allocation towards the courts. But like the HRA 1998 ensures greater government accountability whilst resisting judicial overreach, the design of a second Human Rights Act could do the same. A better argument against social and economic rights are their democratic legitimacy. Where new interests are created and affect everybody, everybody should have the greatest equal influence over them. This might be solved via multiple citizen assemblies; bringing together a representative cross-section of society – lay persons and experts – to decide on the shape of the socio-economic guarantees.

Moreover, Labour should supplement this second Human Rights Act by reviving Gordon Brown’s government proposal for an ethical framework of ‘Rights and Responsibilities’. The aim of this bill is to give practical expression to shared community values, foster civic responsibility and tolerance of others. For example, the Green Paper released identified a number of duties that we might all owe one another: respectful treatment of public sector workers i.e. NHS staff et al; civic participation in the form of voting and jury service; respecting our environment for future generations; obeying laws and paying taxes; and protecting the welfare of our children. These duties are not exhaustive and might be expanded on e.g. a greater emphasis on diversity and race or on our environmental obligations. There would be no physical enforcement of these obligations. A supplementary constitutional document of this kind simply seeks to codify the feeling of collective responsibility – that does exist in Britain and has been seen during the pandemic – and help to build a society that is both fairer and more cohesive.

The great social and economic advancements of all Labour governments – Attlee, Wilson, and Blair – were secured through political change and implemented through parliamentary legislation. But there has never been any form of constitutional protection of the NHS, public housing, state education and all the other socio-economic guarantees listed above. Nor has there been any real campaign or drive to do so. But we cannot fool ourselves in thinking these ordinary means are enough. We’ve seen how the Conservatives have left vital services in decay and have reduced access of large sections of society to the absolute basic minimums human beings require to live – causing gross inequality for a generation. We’ve seen how fragile our own lives are when we do not have shelter, are unable to eat or drink, are out of work, or have no support for loved ones who are either ill or elderly.

So, if Keir Starmer and Labour truly wish to rid Britain of its inequalities and insecurity, deep-rooted constitutional change – which will survive future governments – is an essential starting point.

Sanjit Nagi is a PhD Researcher and Visiting Lecturer

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A plea to Keir Starmer: put community at the heart of all of Labour’s policies

12/04/2021, 10:33:34 PM

by Joanne Harding

Roll up, roll up, there’s a new show in town.

We are going to do things differently now, we are going to call it PLACE BASED WORKING.  This just makes me want to breathe into a brown paper bag as I think, here we go again.

Another slogan, more jargon. Can’t we just keep it real and talk about what we really mean?

Communities and people.

The word community means something to all of us.

A sense of belonging, a sense of togetherness and at the heart of it lies people.

As we recover from the past, horrific year we must surely recognise the value and importance of communities and people.

I am therefore making a plea to Labour, under Keir Starmer’s leadership, to put community front and centre in all the policies we develop. Labours policies need to be genuinely relatable to the people we aspire to govern. Speaking a language that we all understand. Let me make myself really clear here, I do not mean Labour Party community organising, I mean genuinely listening to people.

As executive lead for adult social care, I see regularly first-hand just how amazing people are. From the huge outpouring of kindness as the pandemic took hold, the letters that were dropped through neighbours’ doors with an offer of shopping, collecting prescriptions, walking the dog. Those WhatsApp groups that became known as “ mutual aid networks” (subtext: people, communities stepping up and finding their own solutions) , the Marcus Rashford campaign to make sure children didn’t go hungry during school holidays, people and communities stepping up and helping each other.

Here in Trafford I was proud to be part of a team that led on the setting up of 6 community hubs. Hubs that have proved to be a lifeline to the people they have supported. We broke down barriers in the space of ten days that in ten years as a councillor had caused endless hours of frustration.

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Keir Starmer’s task is to show how the Tories’ choices left Britain so exposed to the ravages of the crisis. Just like David Cameron did to Labour in 2008

06/04/2021, 10:35:20 PM

by David Talbot

When Gordon Brown took to the despatch box for Prime Minister Questions in late 2008, his slip of the tongue – that he had “saved the world” – was, of course, mercilessly mocked by his many detractors. Brown’s handling of the financial crisis, both actual and perceived, went on to form the nucleus of the Conservatives’ electoral strategy for the election two years later – and to dominate British politics for the next decade.

History has since judged the efforts of Gordon Brown to recapitalise the world economy in a rather more favourable light. Indeed, a rather noted economist may even agree with his assessment. But it provided a perfect wedge opportunity for the then opposition Conservative party who, as history has also rather forgotten, had hitherto pledged to match Labour’s spending plans.

The Conservatives’ ruthless exploitation of the global recession, and its central accusation that Labour’s profligacy had largely caused it, was the platform on which it fought the 2010 and 2015 elections. It was a conscious and potent choice to blame Gordon Brown and the Labour Party as being solely responsible for the recession and to continually fuel fears that the country was on the brink of bankruptcy. ‘Borrowing’ became the bogey word in British politics and the deficit the fulcrum in which all political decisions were taken. In a perfect illustration of how it is the victors that write history, the budget deficit today is exactly double what David Cameron and George Osborne were apparently so apoplectic about in 2010.

What, then, are the lessons to be applied to today’s, COVID-dominated, politics? Sir Keir Starmer marked his year in post with a missive in the organ of the left, the Observer, stating that the Prime Minister’s “slowness to act at crucial moments cost many lives and jobs”. It was possibly Starmer’s most damning assessment to date of the government’s handling of the pandemic, but it was mentioned only in fleeting, and not as a central thread of an event that, as the Prime Minister himself has admitted, the country will be dealing with for a lifetime.

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Starmer’s response to Hancock tells us a lot about his long-term strategy to win

23/02/2021, 10:40:57 PM

by Tom Clements

No doubt that you are appalled at the failure of Matt Hancock to publicise the details of the Covid contracts that his department handed out. But I doubt that you were surprised. You might, however, have cocked an eyebrow at Keir Starmer’s refusal to call on the Health Secretary to resign.

But you shouldn’t be. We should take it as a clear signal that the new leadership of our Party has a strategy to win in 2024.

Predictably, there was much outrage for the extremes of our Party at Starmer’s perceived weakness. The electoral sage of the NEC, Laura Pidcock, even took to Twitter to ‘profoundly disagree’ with Keir and his lack of anger.

But this criticism misses the point.

To be clear, this is in now way a defence of Matt Hancock. Indeed, it is incredible how low a minister in this government needs to stoop before they will be expected to do the ‘honourable’ thing. Instead, it is a defence of the strategy that is in play in LOTO.

What do Ken Clarke, Jeremy Hunt, George Osborne, Theresa May and Boris Johnson have in common? All of them faced calls from either Ed Miliband or Jeremy Corbyn to resign. And none of them did.

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