Posts Tagged ‘Keir Starmer’

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.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

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.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

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

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

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.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

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.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

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.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Starmer placed a bet on Labour wanting to win again. It is time to double down on it

01/02/2021, 11:20:03 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Tom McTague in The Atlantic paints a scenario that should worry Keir Starmer. While Britain’s Covid-19 death toll has risen above 100,000, it may be that a successful vaccine drive leaves a more lasting memory.

After this piece was published, the UK’s vaccine spat with the EU escalated. Poor handling by Brussels leaves the impression that the EU do not like the UK’s vaccine lead, making it easier to spin the UK’s rollout as a Brexit win.

Suddenly, Kate Bingham might seem as likely as anyone else to be the next prime minister. In the meantime, the incumbent has reason to be optimistic about the next 12 months.

While Brexit’s teething problems are painful for those directly impacted, the strong consensus among economic forecasters is that output lost to Brexit in 2021 will be more than offset by gains from lockdown ending and pent up demand being unlocked.

These forecasters have an average UK GDP 2021 projection of 4.4%. Not enough to recover all growth lost in 2020 but our fastest annual rate of growth for over 30 years. Sufficient to make many people feel better about themselves and possibly their government. The resumption of activities now prevented by social distancing – visiting family, drinking with friends, hugging strangers – will also trigger a pervasive positivity in wider senses than the narrowly economic.

Labour should not be complacent about the extent to which the prime minister might make more sense in this context. But – as Dan Pfeiffer often says on Pod Save America – we should worry about everything in politics but panic about none of it.

Now is the time for Starmer to reenergise his leadership’s founding purpose. This is to show that our party has changed from that decisively rejected in 2019 and deserves a mandate to lead our country in a new direction.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The ripples from the US election and its aftermath could profoundly affect Labour’s journey from here

25/01/2021, 09:17:33 AM

by Rob Marchant

It should be uncontroversial at this point, for any (small-“d”) democrat, to say that the election of Joe Biden is immensely good news for the world in general. Following the final debacle of Trump’s disastrous presidency, the Capitol insurrection, the alternative in retrospect seems ever more unthinkable, because it is now clear that his open contempt for democracy could easily have led the US to a much, much darker place than happened on the 6th of January.

We are now at least in the happy position of going back to something resembling politics-as-usual. We can finally start to critique the new presidency as we would have done any other and, for us on the left, things mostly look very promising. But there are also some flaws, as we shall see.

But, at the risk of seeming a little parochial, what’s in it for us? What difference does it make to us, the Labour party, in its struggle to clean itself up and get back into power?

The good news is that, obviously, we will have an occupant of the White House who might be reasonably expected to prefer a Starmer-led government to a Johnson-led one (as indeed he would prefer an anyone-led government, if insider accounts of Biden’s dislike for our current PM is to be believed. One thing is clear: there will be a serviceable working relationship between the two leaders – there always is – but it will not be a chummy, personal one, like Clinton-Blair or Bush-Blair).

There are two caveats to this positive: first, Starmer needs not to do anything ill-advised. For example, this effect didn’t work so well with Ed Miliband, who was reportedly persona non grata in the Obama White House for some time, following his disastrous handling of the Syria vote in the Commons. Second, that this kind of “left-left” alignment is not usually much direct help anyway, although some occasional supportive noises from the president might help a little to build Starmer’s desired image as a PM-in-waiting.

And now to the bad news.

First, there will be things Starmer will want just as much as Johnson, which Biden may not help with, or even actively work against. On a post-Brexit trade deal, for example, all the signs are that Biden may well opt for Obama’s celebrated “back of the queue” position. Or that from this, the first president with Irish roots to win office in twenty-eight years, help in resisting what is likely to be increasing pressure towards Irish reunification seems unlikely to be forthcoming. These issues need to be handled with care.

Second, and perhaps more concerning, there are concrete things Biden has already done, and others he might do very soon, which can create a negative knock-on for Starmer. Why so?

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour was right about Brexit in 2017 and wrong in 2019

05/01/2021, 11:20:30 PM

by Kevin Meagher

There was a pretty big irony about last week’s vote on the government’s Brexit bill.

By whipping his MPs into supporting Boris Johnson’s deal, Keir Starmer was making good on a manifesto commitment: ‘Labour accepts the [Brexit] referendum result and a Labour government will put the national interest first.’

Of course, this was from the 2017 Labour manifesto, not the 2019 edition.

That version, influenced by the lobbying of the second referendum mafia, gave a quite different commitment. It promised to ‘

give the people the final say on Brexit.’ After a period of renegotiation, a new deal would be put to the vote, ‘alongside the option to remain.’

It was a lousy policy.

It would have seen Labour ministers constructing a new deal that honoured the party’s red lines around labour market standards, environmental protections, and single market access, only for the party to campaign against it in a fresh referendum, in order to remain in the EU.

Voters are not as gullible as politicians consistently believe.

Right along the Brexit-supporting Red Wall, they smelled a rat, sensing that Labour had no intention of respecting their choice to leave the EU and made plain their displeasure. The rest is, well, history.

So last week’s vote was about earning a fresh hearing with voters. The rights and wrongs of Brexit (mainly wrongs) will have to come out in the wash. There are no votes to be gained in prolonging the agony any longer.

In seeking to modernise Labour after last year’s rout, Starmer will carry on repudiating Labour’s recent past. It is the equivalent of a spring clean, expunging mistakes and decluttering the record in a bid to win a second look from the voters. More often than not, it is an exercise that culminates in a gentle dagger thrust into the last guy’s rep.

In which respect, Keir Starmer was in effect knifing himself last week.

He was the architect of Labour’s policy to back a second referendum in 2019. Jeremy Corbyn must take the overall blame for the party’s various policy, strategy, and presentational mistakes, but he was only trying to keep the peace by backing the muddled Brexit policy that Starmer and others were so keen on.

Perhaps Corbyn should have put his foot down – his policy in 2017 was both straightforward and popular.

Indeed, if the party had stuck with the 2017 commitment – avoiding the impression that they were trying to usurp the voters’ decision about the referendum – there would have been more scope to criticise the final deal. As it was, most Labour MPs ended up voting for a package they don’t believe in and one that Keir Starmer himself conceded was ‘thin.’

Now it is done, Brexit is delivered, and Labour can finally move on. But there will be many other painful concessions to make on the journey towards 2024. Labour still has a mountain to climb and is barely out of the foothills.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The Uncuts 2020 (part II)

31/12/2020, 05:45:35 PM

Politician of the year: Keir Starmer

Politics is a trade conducted exclusively in the moment so it’s worth restating the position at the point Keir Starmer became leader. Just over a year ago, Labour crashed to its worst defeat since 1935, collapsing to 203 MPs and trailing the Tories by just over 11% in the popular vote. Few alive had seen the party laid so low.

Nine months on from the leadership election, Labour is currently level pegging with the Tories, Starmer himself is consistently ahead of Boris Johnson and the Conservatives have yet to work out a consistent line of attack on him. The process of returning Labour to electoral contention will be a work of years, but the early progress under Labour’s new leader is evident.

Keir Starmer’s resolution in winning back the Jewish community’s trust and tackling anti-Semitism with Labour has combined moral and political imperatives, establishing the clearest possible dividing line with the previous leadership (albeit, helped unintentionally by the hard left’s inexplicable decision that this is the hill to die on).

British politics in 2020 has spawned many losers. Boris Johnson has squandered the public’s trust following his victory and is vulnerable, Ed Davey isn’t yet a blip in the opinion polls and even Nicola Sturgeon faces unprecedented challenges with the burgeoning civil war within the SNP between her’s and Alex Salmond’s factions. Against this backdrop of political struggles and reverses, Keir Starmer is the one British party leader who has made significant progress over the year.

Nothwithstanding the recent intra-party challenges over Brexit, he enters 2021 with a level of momentum and an expectation of further progress.

Shortest-lived Frontbencher Award: Rebecca Long-Bailey

Perhaps against the better judgement of some of his more seasoned colleagues, in April Keir Starmer opted to appoint a few of the younger Corbynites to frontbench roles, in a “unifying” play to move on from the Corbyn years. Despite his best efforts, it didn’t last.

By June Rebecca Long-Bailey, the Momentum-anointed candidate to replace Corbyn as leader, had gushingly tweeted a Guardian article by resident hard-leftie-luvvie Maxine Peake, where she regurgitated an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. While Peake herself later distanced herself from her own words as a mistake, Long-Bailey somewhat loftily refused to withdraw the tweet and apologise herself. This went down in the LOTO’s office like a lead balloon.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon