Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Starmer’s Labour: Bankrupt Of Vision And Bereft Of Principle

Good evening. Let’s start with a little bit of history. 

The Labour Party was created way back in the year 1900. Everything was black and white, and Jacob Rees-Mogg was graduating from Eton. 

The idea was to have a new political party for a new century. Its formation was the result of many years of struggle by working class people, trade unionists and socialists, united by the goal of working class voices represented in British Parliament.

On the 27th February 1900, representatives of all the socialist groups in Britain (the Independent Labour Party (ILP), the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) and the Fabian Society, met with trade union leaders at the Congregational Memorial Hall in Farringdon Street. After a debate the 129 delegates decided to pass Keir Hardie's motion to establish "a distinct Labour group in Parliament, who shall have their own whips, and agree upon their policy, which must embrace a readiness to cooperate with any party which for the time being may be engaged in promoting legislation in the direct interests of labour."

The Labour Party was born.

In 1924, Ramsay MacDonald became Labour’s first Prime Minister. Despite having no majority, his government passed legislation to improve housing, education and social insurance while also addressing unemployment. 

In 1935, Clement Attlee was elected Labour leader. Our manifesto ‘Let us face the future’ laid out a bold vision, pledging to destroy the five ‘evil giants’: want, squalor, disease, ignorance and unemployment. This message of change carried Attlee and Labour to a landslide election victory, winning 393 shortly after World War 2. 

Attlee’s government wasted little time enacting visionary change, introducing social security, bringing key industries back into public ownership and introducing a major programme of house building, providing safe and secure homes. But it was the Attlee government’s introduction of the National Health Service which will rightly go down as Labour’s greatest achievement.

On 5 July 1948, Sylvia Beckingham was admitted to hospital in Manchester to be treated for a liver condition. Doubtless this was a big event in her life; but it was an even bigger event in British history. Sylvia, 13, was the first patient to be treated on the NHS. 

The Labour governments of the 1960’s and 1970’s - under Harold Wilson and then James Callaghan were marked by a period of great change - the permanent ending of the death penalty, decriminalisation of homosexuality, legislation to outlaw racial discrimination, the Equal Pay Act and the establishment of the Open University.

The Blair Government arrived in 1997, riding into Downing Street on a wave of ‘Cool Britannia’ optimism. Record investment in the NHS, schools and the police rescued our public services. The introduction of the National Minimum Wage and the New Deal meant more jobs paying an improved wage. There was the landmark Good Friday Agreement. Civil Partnerships, the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act.

But sadly, 100 years worth of achievement was torn to shreds following the decision to illegally invade Iraq, based upon false evidence. Despite winning the 2005 General Election with a massively reduced majority, the decline of the Labour Party was well and truly underway.

As time went on it became clear the great hope of the Labour Party was in fact dancing to the tune of the rabid right-wing press. Mr Blair himself was a godfather to one of Rupert Murdoch’s offspring.

Blair’s government epitomised cronyism, brown envelopes stuffed with dirty money, a capitalist dream at the cost of the abandonment of principles built upon socialism. 

Gordon Brown got his turn. The highlight of his time was calling Gillian Duffy a “bigoted woman”. 

New Labour had lost the plot. The ideology was dead. They lost the trust of the same working classes they were formed to represent. The collapse of trust was well underway in Scotland and the North of England. 

From 1997 - 2010, Blair and Brown’s Labour governments lost 5 million votes. And they can’t even pin that one on Jeremy Corbyn!

This didn’t just happen in 2019. This has been a long time in the making, and with every betrayal of real Labour values, another piece of trust in the Labour Party would erode. For example, Labour siding with the Tories during the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum was an embarrassment and a disaster for the party.

Labour Party activists on the campaign trail, under the orders of their superiors, would phone up pensioners, warning them of Armageddon if they went out and voted for Scotland to take care of herself. 

So you get the idea. What started as a noble and principled movement for socialists and trade unionists ended up as a hawkish establishment plaything. 

This current embarrassment really isn’t quite what Keir Hardie imagined, is it? 

So we haven’t seen a real Labour government for a very long time. To his credit, Ed Miliband tried to change things, but the party machinery was still New Labour to its rotten core. They struggled to accept the capitalist dream was dead. They watched food banks pop up considerably quicker than a Serco test and trace drive-thru. 

While austerity battered Britain, Labour couldn’t decide if it was against public service cuts to such a level, and by 2015, Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls, offered the electorate an austerity-lite, not-quite-as-bad-as-Cameron, smorgasbord of shite. Miliband got absolutely hammered, the press, his own party, and eventually the electorate utterly drubbed him. 

I think I’ve penned enough words about Jeremy Corbyn over the last few years. The traducement of this kind and decent man has been widely covered. Had the Parliamentary Labour Party of 2015-2019 put as much effort into fighting the Conservatives as they put into smearing and besmirching Jeremy Corbyn, things could and would have been very different. 

So we come to now. Who would’ve thought Sir Keir Starmer would drag the Labour Party back to the centre ground in less than six months? Or should the question be, who DIDN’T think he would drag the democratic socialist Labour Party back to the centre ground in less than six months. 

As I write this, #StarmerOut is trending across the UK. 

One or two opinion polls have given Starmer’s Labour a slight advantage over the Tories. Are you really gormless enough to think this has been down to great leadership from Sir Keir? Don’t be daft. It’s down to the failed leadership of Boris Johnson. 

This government is so bad you could pin a red rosette on rent-a-gob Anna Soubry and she’d still be in with a shout. Johnson himself is already coming to the end of his time as Prime Minister, his health, and his complicated private life is weighing down on his very limited ability to govern. 

And then there’s the tens of thousands of deaths that simply didn’t need to happen, had Johnson acted sooner, instead of going on holiday to write a book.

So Starmer’s boost in the polls is explainable. Corbyn’s Labour sat eight points clear of the Tories, and Miliband’s Labour had a double digit lead over the Tories, so the Starmer fans/FBPE really shouldn’t be getting too excited just yet.

In his short time as Labour leader, Starmer has been exposed for what he is. A timid careerist, willing to sell out anyone or anything if it gets him one step closer to power. 

What’s wrong with wanting to achieve power, you may ask. Absolutely nothing. 

But what good is there in gaining power if you don’t have the same basic principles that was the glue that first bound the Labour Party together, some 120 years ago? 

I hear the argument that it’s either Starmer or Johnson. See, the thing is, we told you it was either Corbyn or May/Johnson, and you preferred the racist option. In fact, you did your very best to ensure we lost two general elections. Given your support for Sir Keir, the racist option probably makes sense to you. 

When you had to choose between Labour and the Conservatives, you took the blue option, and tried dressing it up in red. 

Now you’re taking the blue option and dressing it up in blue, do you really think a choice between Sir Keir Starmer and Etonian Johnson is a choice for the British left? Is it fuck. 

The purge of left-leaning members of the Labour Party, named “Corbynistas” by the right-wing press that the current Labour leader writes for, occasionally behind a Murdoch paywall, has been absolutely disgraceful. 

The decision to abstain on major legislation has been an embarrassing plea to the ‘I’m not being racist, but…’ brigade, in a desperate attempt not to look weak on matters of security. 

What is weak is not having the cahoolies to stand up for what you believe in. Or perhaps you don’t believe in any of the shared values which have held the British left together for more than a century. 

Starmer, who made a big deal of being loyal to his workers, sacked Rebecca Long-Bailey for outmanoeuvring him on schools (she was right), and recently sacked another left MP, Nadia Whittome, amongst others, for having the audacity to vote against torture legislation. 

So he’s loyal to his staff when you ask him why he is employing a former private healthcare lobbyist at the top of his team, but not so loyal to his staff when they show their principles to be the exact opposite of his. 

Face it Sir Keir, Long-Bailey got it right on schools, and you got it wrong, very wrong, and very publicly. No ifs and no buts, Sir. 

Despite being six months into his leadership, nobody really knows what Starmer stands for, beyond his embarrassingly pathetic “we support the government” monotone rhetoric, and his plea to big business to flood their cash into the Labour Party coffers, now the threat of them paying a little more tax to fund our vital public services has been removed. 

No Labour leader with real Labour values could look at Andrew Marr or Sophy Ridge and tell them with a straight face, “we support the government”, following the Conservative government's handling of the Coronavirus crisis. But Starmer did, over and over again. 

This wasn’t opposition, this was shameless opportunism at the expense of human life. 

While more than 1,000 people were dying every day, as a result of Covid-19, Sir Keir Starmer said “now is not the time” to ask difficult questions of the government. This gave Boris Johnson the licence to continue with his dereliction of duty, his abandonment of leadership. 

It took Sir Keir Starmer until October 4th to tell us he thinks the government has lost control of the Coronavirus crisis - something we have been banging on about since his first day in the Norman Shaw Buildings overlooking the Thames. 

Yes Keir, I sat in your chair before you did. 

Anyway, when did the government have control of this crisis? Have I missed something obvious? When I look at the news I see Serco, Excel spreadsheets, rocketing Covid-19 infections, failure to mass test NHS staff and care home workers, I see recession, I see incompetence. 

Let’s not pretend the government have ever had a grip of this crisis - you would be doing a disservice to the many people whose lives have been tragically ended by the deadly virus, and the families and friends that they have left behind. 

So there is no choice for people with compassion. There is no choice for people wanting a leader that is unashamedly red, rather than climbing into Murdoch’s bed. 

There is no choice for me. 

Four years is a long time, particularly in politics. The chance of the next General Election seeing Starmer and Johnson go head-to-head is remote. Michael Gove and Rishi Sunak are more likely to be leading the Conservative Party - they will disown Johnson with the same brutality that they disowned Thatcher, and more recently, Windrush Theresa. 

So Starmer versus A N Other Tory isn’t a choice. 

The capitalist ideology doesn’t help people at the bottom of the pile, which is a vast majority of us. Trickle-down is a proven myth. Privatisation has been a gargantuan failure. 

The only solution we have is to rip it all up and start again, because a few tweaks here and there simply won’t cut it. We need radical change. 

The great Labour figures of the past would be turning in their graves if they could witness this shambolic sycophancy from Sir Keir. 

Starmer put his true-blue establishment credentials on the table, and no matter how you try and spin it, he is not a Labour Party leader. You will find more socialism under my toilet seat than you will in the current party leader.

Labour, the party of the Human Rights Act, the party of social justice, the party of international solidarity, and the party of your National Health Service has changed into the party that abstains on human rights issues, the party that thinks social justice is the name of a London-based Think Tank, the party that is more committed to little Englanders than it is to making a better world for all of us, and the party that seeks the grubby cash of the private healthcare giants, while employing a private healthcare lobbyist at the top of the leadership team. 

I rest my case. 

Rachael - @Rachael_Swindon

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