Turning a Little Blue

James Butler

At 1 a.m. on 10 September, Jess Barnard, the chair of Young Labour, received an email from the party telling her she was under investigation for ‘hostile or prejudiced’ behaviour. Citing two tweets condemning transphobia, the message asked if Barnard regretted ‘posting such comments on Facebok [sic]’, and instructed her – as is standard in party investigations – that the notice must remain confidential. Barnard nonetheless wrote to Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC), concerned by the notice’s irregular timing, slapdash composition and scanty evidence. ‘As a young member already facing hostility from some members of staff,’ she said, ‘this is very much starting to feel like harassment and intimidation.’ The email leaked, and the party rescinded the notice with a grovelling apology, blaming it on a junior staffer on a temporary contract.

The timing, though, is curious. Young Labour is one of the few institutional redoubts of the party’s left, and the notice came shortly after Barnard had revealed that the general secretary’s office was interfering with her organisation’s choice of conference speakers, issuing an informal general prohibition on any speaker associated with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and Jeremy Corbyn in particular. Young Labour exercises a peculiar hold on the imagination of the party’s right, redoubled since the abolition of Labour Students in the dying days of the Corbyn era; the student wing had effectively served as a rotten borough and pipeline for future MPs on the Blairite flank. But it’s on policy that Young Labour has been consistently awkward for the new leadership, remaining committed to the positions that attracted many young members under the previous dispensation – public ownership, serious climate politics, internationalism – as well as advocating for trans equality. A late-night disciplinary email, concocted on scanty grounds, apparently outside the party’s legal processes: anyone acquainted with Labour’s unending internal power struggle will find it hard not to read the hallmarks of a botched factional ploy.

Older members justify the inordinate attention they give to Labour’s youth wing by citing its seat on the NEC, which gives young members a say on major party matters; for those interested in Labour power politics, such votes are precious. To more casual observers, this episode may seem only to confirm a few eternal truths: everybody in Labour hates each other, everything in the party is subject to factional thrall, and you wouldn’t trust any of them with your spare change. But the case is illustrative: according to someone else on the NEC, a number of similar letters have been issued to less prominent party members, with fewer avenues of defence than Barnard, and more likely to be cowed by the demand they keep it secret. The party still seems to have difficulty interpreting the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s insistence that disciplinary processes should be insulated from political or factional interference.

More excitable voices on the party’s left complain of purges in response to even the most isolated and justifiable of disciplinary cases. But the recent spate of investigation notices might give even sober observers pause. On 17 September, the left-wing Labour MP for Jarrow, Kate Osborne, received a similar notice to Barnard’s, based again on unclear and contradictory evidence (in her case, a tweet expressing solidarity with Rebecca Long-Bailey). Osborne’s legal team got it rapidly rescinded, but she drew attention to the smearing effect such investigations can have, in her case leaving her fearful for her job.

The party’s official response, that these are all errors made clearing a backlog of complaints, is curious. Given the variety of complaints made at the peak of the factional warfare, processing errors ought to be distributed randomly between left and right: no such distribution is apparent. Meanwhile, activists in Bristol have submitted subject access requests that require the party, under data laws, to share any documents concerning them. And it seems that someone has been patiently sifting through members’ appearances on obscure livestreams, to log such heinous infractions as calling for constituency parties to disburse funds to tenants’ unions and food services early in the pandemic.

Anyone detached from the party inferno may well find all this boring and repellent in equal measure. But Labour’s poisonous internal struggles are only part of a more significant shift ahead of its conference, which should alarm its more general progressive voters, many of whom had hoped Keir Starmer would deliver the core planks of Corbyn’s policy programme without his predecessor’s baggage.

Marsha de Cordova resigned as shadow equalities secretary on 14 September. She said she needed to devote more time to her Battersea constituency, a marginal she first won in 2017. But two days later, a different story appeared in the Voice: Labour’s most senior Black woman had quit her role in frustration at Starmer’s reluctance to engage on issues of race. His office was said to have stymied attempts to develop a progressive race equality policy for fear of alienating ‘red wall’ voters. The story, confined to Britain’s sole Black newspaper, sank beneath wide press indifference – but it isn’t hard to imagine more concerted media interest under a different leader.

Attempts to prevent a motion proposed by Labour for a Green New Deal from reaching the conference floor, along with furious briefing against Ed Miliband for rearticulating a commitment to public ownership of energy suppliers, suggest a move away from the party’s pioneering climate platform.

Most puzzling, though, is Starmer’s personal project: reforming the way the party leader is chosen, and returning to the old electoral college system instead of the one member, one vote (OMOV) method that elected both Corbyn and Starmer himself. Starmer’s proposal is being spun as returning power to the unions, but the chief beneficiaries will be MPs and the biggest losers will be the general membership (other reforms would also reduce their ability to dislodge constituency MPs). The precise tenor of the proposal, however, matters less than Starmer’s determination to push it through now.

None of the political work needed to smooth its passage appears to have been done: no major union leader could be found to enthuse over the change, and even Starmer’s front bench were reluctant to praise it. Starmer himself has repeated again and again – especially after the loss of Hartlepool – the need for the party to look outwards and cease its internal strife: prioritising an arcane change to party rules seems unlikely to achieve this, though it guarantees that the ambient, booze-fuelled paranoia of the party conference will be particularly intense.

Starmer’s motive is hard to discern. It’s vanishingly unlikely that he intends to leave and wishes to smooth the way for a successor, since he believes the pandemic is primarily to blame for his doldrums. More probable is a peripheral awareness of intrigue on his restive backbenches – and perhaps closer to home, too. Angela Rayner is still the only plausible challenger – and she seems unlikely to move soon – but Dan Jarvis’s stepping down as mayor of South Yorkshire after one term, and Wes Streeting’s recent bump in fundraising, suggest there are a few MPs expecting a change of leadership in the medium term.

Perhaps most likely, though, is that Starmer wants to get as much bloodletting out of the way now, far enough from an election that it can recede in voters’ minds, while he burnishes his image as a doughty, fair-minded and exceedingly competent patriot. This suggests, in turn, that Starmer thinks Johnson will avoid going to the polls until 2024, after the new boundary changes come in. But none of this explains the sloppy execution and appearance of panicked haste; accomplished machiavellians don’t look like they’re scheming.

Starmer should feel largely unthreatened from his left. The Corbynite rump in the party has broadly failed to regroup since 2019, spending much of the pandemic relitigating its defeat. Many left-wingers have disengaged from the party while retaining vestigial membership, giving their attention to less poisonous local issues, community support in the pandemic or climate activism. The left’s counter-festival of socialist ideas, The World Transformed, will be held again in Brighton alongside the sealed tomb of the party conference. Its wide-ranging programme suggests that sincerity, intellectual energy and ambition are still there on the left of the party. But the outcome of its scheduled debate, ‘Starmer Out?’, is academic: even as earnest members wrestle with how best to transform society in response to the climate crisis, the political capacity to realise those ideas ebbs.

All of this points to a relaunched Starmerism – at least the third relaunch in eighteen months – divested of the residual progressive commitments on which he built his leadership bid. Staking out his ground with a turgid 12,000-word pamphlet for the Fabian Society, apparently channelled from the year 2012, Starmer has ditched socialist rhetoric in favour of threadbare admiration for ‘hard-working families’, British business and a woolly commitment to fairness. Public ownership and the Green New Deal are out, ‘A New Deal for Businesses and Working People’ is in (no, me neither).

‘The Road Ahead’ is, in effect, a bloated version of the speech he is poised to give at conference. Yet its reliance on vague cliché dismayed even the vacuous ranks of the commentariat usually first to applaud him. There is little in it that Theresa May or David Cameron could have disagreed with. It is hard to know at whom it’s really aimed: few of Labour’s former voters will be eagerly awaiting their copy, and the enthusiasts likely to read it will find its circumlocution and avoidance of commitments frustrating. Perhaps the hope is that its sentiments will diffuse into a general sense of Starmer’s values: country, family, work, security and, above all, Not Being Jeremy Corbyn.

Starmer’s essay is a Rorschach blot: his opponents see a flailing dearth of ambition, his acolytes a sensible pitch for the centre-ground. Most telling are its absences. The climate crisis digresses into a paean to private industry. If Starmer is reluctant to define what he means by ‘contribution’ and ‘fairness’, old prejudices about ‘skivers’, ‘strivers’ and ‘benefit parasites’ will rise from their graves. Britons are working ever harder and for ever less pay: everyone agrees things should be fairer, and everyone wants more say and greater security. Some may even want to work a bit less, for better pay, and get to see the other members of their hard-working families when they aren’t exhausted. The obvious question Starmer avoids is: how? Facing a protean Tory adversary – willing to radically adjust the way they use the state, including its taxation capacity, and perhaps making a burgeoning turn on the climate – that question is all the more pressing. But answer came there none.


  • 24 September 2021 at 5:55pm
    Christopher Wright says:
    The final paragraph goes to the heart of the problem. We need to celebrate skiving in the low paid private sector. Pitch it like this: 'If you voted Brexit, why should your boss have freedom of movement for his money? You work harder for less pay, why should your boss work less for more pay because of your hard work? You know the union in your sector is cowed. Joining, or organising, will bring you under tighter surveillance and job insecurity. So, just try to work as little as possible while keeping hold of your job. The company you work for will become less competitive over time, and face going bust. This is really the only viable way to change things. Make those private equity people lose money through grassroots action.

    • 25 September 2021 at 2:48pm
      Joe Morison says: @ Christopher Wright
      This seems to me a very risky tactic. You suggest ‘working as little as possible while keeping hold of your job’, but that’s a difficult thing to judge. If it’s just a few individuals doing it and the company gets into the financial trouble you are aiming for; shedding jobs is a classic response, and the first to go will be those following your advice - there’s no shortage of people desperate for work to fill the new vacancies. On the other hand, if there is a general willingness to so behave then organizing into a union is viable and creates something with the power to effectively negotiate.

      In short, the workers united can form a real fighting force but the worker alone is fucked.

  • 24 September 2021 at 9:18pm
    Robin Durie says:
    "Most puzzling, though, is Starmer’s personal project: reforming the way the party leader is chosen, and returning to the old electoral college system instead of the one member, one vote"

    I know that you know this perfectly well, James; but (aside from the remarkably crack-handed way that Starmer's gone about it), this is only puzzling as long as you fail to remember the fundamental truth - that Labour right wingers loathe democracy. Not least, because democracy ultimately means ceding power to ordinary people.

    • 25 September 2021 at 9:52am
      joel says: @ Robin Durie
      Indeed, it's why they were at the forefront of the People's Vote movement. But it was not only they who demanded a laughably anti-democratic 2nd referendum and ultimately forced it on Corbyn, to predictably disastrous effect. Equally signifcant were McDonnell, Abbott, and a Labour membership besotted with Sir 2nd Referendum.

      James and his sober Novara crowd also pushed for that antidemocratic policy, when not promoting some antisemitism "crisis" that had magically appeared when Corbyn became leader.

      We are as likely to hear some expression of regret or contrition about their role in facilitating Corbyn's defeat as we are from the Labour right.

      They've moved on.

  • 25 September 2021 at 2:47pm
    XopherO says:
    There is surely something rotten about a party that still has MPs who voted for the illegal war on Iraq, putting their future prospects (courtesy of the Whips) within the Parliamentary Party ahead of the certain deaths of innocent civilians (and British servicemen). Some of them have indeed advanced to senior positions, even ministerial, and I don't believe Starmer when he claims he would have voted against - he is a careerist. A lot of what has happened to the Party since stems from this. And Bliar, Campbell etc just won't shut up, reminding everyone of that disaster! And these dubious characters are determined to regain control by proxy. I am not a member, never have been - I am just a voter who will not be voting Labour in a constituency held by Labour, but at risk, having changed hands several times since 2010.

  • 25 September 2021 at 2:54pm
    RegPresley says:
    So was the email in the opening story a mistake by a junior staffer or a factional ploy? Who knows and perhaps more importantly, who cares?

    But this is just a warm-up for another attempt to undermine the current Labour leadership, Starmer in particular. A lot of this is purely rhetorical - ' the 'sealed tomb' of the conference; 'bloodletting'; 'vacuous ranks of the commentariat' - and sufficiently vague as to qualify for a vacousness all of its own.

    Starmer's pamphlet is indeed far too long and stuffed full of more linguistic kapok than a giant teddy bear. It is not a policy document and doesn't pretend to be. It's arguable that it's unnecessary and counterproductive, in that it provides an easy target for cynical attack. On the other hand, its heart is generally in the right place, as compared to anything that Johnson or his Cabinet come up with. It does convey a sense of Starmer's values, however generalised, and could form the backdrop to more specific proposals in course, on workers' rights, de-centralisation of resources and decision-making etc.

    After reading pieces like this, I always end up thinking, yes, it's possible to criticise Starmer and his current approach but if he were in power now would he be removing the Universal Credit uplift; would he be recouping pandemic costs by a regressive measure on NI contributions; would he be needlessly pissing off the EU with Frostian clumsiness or Johnsonian schoolboy jokes in franglais; would he be proposing voter suppression measures; would he be awarding posts and contracts to cronies with as little transparency as possible? And so on.

    In short, if it's not just self-indulgence, what is the point of this piece? But answer came there none.

    • 25 September 2021 at 3:42pm
      freshborn says: @ RegPresley
      Would he be removing the Universal Credit uplift?

      Well, he appointed as shadow chancellor the woman who, as shadow secretary for work and pensions under Miliband, said she would be tougher on welfare than the Tories (who were at their worst, at that time). And if he's opposing it now it's certainly not on principle but because he was pushed into it.

      Would he be awarding posts and contracts to cronies with as little transparency in possible?

      Would a right-wing Labour MP ever do such a thing? The cash for honours scandal was 15 years ago, I'm sure they can be trusted now.

      Would he be "needlessly pissing off the EU"?

      Starmer is proudly carrying on the legacy of a party which is responsible for the deaths of a million Iraqis, which some would argue is worse than offending bureaucrats. But every premier in the continent pisses off the EU from time to time, it isn't exactly a utopian organisation.

    • 25 September 2021 at 4:19pm
      RegPresley says: @ freshborn
      The simple answer to my questions is no. It would be absurd to say directly the answer is yes; but it also doesn't work to try rhetorically to *imply* that the answer is yes by dragging up irrelevant events from the past.

    • 25 September 2021 at 9:03pm
      jcoprario says: @ RegPresley
      "would he be proposing voter suppression measures"

      no need to speculate on this front

    • 26 September 2021 at 12:21pm
      roger gathmann says: @ RegPresley

      Wow, it is "possible" to criticize Chairman Starmer? We have to stamp that out! We have to make sure that Labour does its honorable role as it goes down to defeat in 2024, to prepare for further defeats down the rode as the UK devolves! Enough with this nonsense of tolerating Labour party members. The purge should clear the lot, so that Labour will consist of a glorious zero - but a centrist one! - as it continues to play patsy to the dominant party.

  • 25 September 2021 at 3:20pm
    freshborn says:
    "[...] the core planks of Corbyn’s policy programme without his predecessor’s baggage."

    The policies are the baggage. To think otherwise requires either incredibly naivety.

    A fairly long article that failed to mention the Forde Report by the way. Starmer and his friends have been throttling the left-wing of the party before he was elected leader on false promises.

  • 25 September 2021 at 7:33pm
    beast says:
    The only thing Starmer is there to do is to ensure that nothing like Corbyn can ever happen again. The rest is nothing.

  • 26 September 2021 at 7:41am
    Margaret Bluman says:
    How odd that this article fails to mention the issue that is exercising thousands of women (and indeed many men) in tha Labour Party, and the reason membership amongst women is shrinking so fast. Sadly this publication has a problem with this issue too. For feminists of my generation who identified that our female bodies needed to be taken into account in order to fully understand patriarchal structures, the current failure of the Left to engage with these issues is more than deeply disappointing.
    Suzanne Moore's cry of anguish a few weeks ago in The Telegraph (of all places!) that women who know the difference between sex and gender are now politically homeless, strikes at the heart of our dilemma.

  • 26 September 2021 at 9:34am
    steve kay says:
    Our maritime correspondent writes:

    Whilst Captain Smith has undoubtedly made a number of serious errors, passengers and crew will be relived to know that the officer on starboard watch duty has matters under control. An assessment of the number of lifeboats has begun, and decisions on the correct crew members to be allocated to lifeboat lowering duties will be made in due course. Urgent steps are being taken to ensure that all deckchairs are facing in the approved direction, when the compass indicating deck chair orientation can be found. Lists of passengers for each lifeboat are being prepared, although interviews of passengers to ascertain their social, economic, sexual and national origins may take some time. Young passengers in particular must be checked to ensure that they will not shout, cry of want to drown with their parents. Consideration of how to respond to threats to Lascar seamen have beeb delegated to a working group,. Whilst Captain Smith and Lord Rand, chairman of the shipping line Murdoch and Barclay ,have undoubtedly made mistakes, the duty officer has sent a message below decks. Engineers, stokers and trimmers are instructed to stay at their posts, to ensure that the ship keeps under way as long as the master and his owners command it to. Aye aye sir.

  • 26 September 2021 at 1:05pm
    Clive says:
    Labour is a right wing political party, and has been for the vast majority of my 40 years.

    It's not clear to me why anyone on the left would want anything to do with it, or its laughable leader.

    • 27 September 2021 at 8:55am
      Joe Morison says: @ Clive
      Why bother with Labour? Because politics is the art of the possible; it’s about what can be done, not what we’d like to be done in an ideal world. If Starmer’s a joke, at least he’s not a sick one like Johnson. If you want to classify Labour as a right wing party, I say better a right wing government than an extreme right wing one.

    • 27 September 2021 at 9:24am
      XopherO says: @ Joe Morison
      I'm sorry, but I don't agree. Listening to the interview with Mandelson this morning almost made me sick - apparently Labour members are not Labour voters! It came after a coherent interview with Corbyn. There is nothing underpinning Starmer's vague cod philosophy. The Tories have one - it's simple. Fill the pockets of the rich and your friends from the pockets of the poor, and that is more or less what Blair did after his Faustian deal with big business - remember it is OK to be filthy rich (but how does one become filthy rich?) The Blairites are taking over by proxy, but any cachet attached to that name with the traditional Labour voter was contaminated long ago, well before Miliband and Corbyn.

    • 27 September 2021 at 10:55am
      Joe Morison says: @ XopherO
      So, what are you suggesting? This is not a radical country, I’m all for trying to change that but it’s a long term project - what’s the plan until then? Blair may have been ghastly; but if it had been the Tories there still would have been the Iraq war but there would have been no massive reduction in child poverty, no minimum wage, no low pay commission, no devolution, and instead of all the investment in the NHS and schools there would have been more privatisation and more exam based selection.

    • 27 September 2021 at 11:05am
      sol_adelman says: @ XopherO
      Apparently there were more contact numbers listed n Jeffrey Epstein's black book for Peter Mandelson than for anyone else in his circle. That Mandelson is never questioned about this really tells us everything we need to know about the British establishment and its media.

      Had Corbyn been puppeted throughout his leadership by a close friend of Jeffrey Epstein there would not have been a person in the western world who would not have known about it.

      What does it say about the appeal of Sir Keir and his Labour Right-ChangeUK-Epstein crew that they endure no negative media coverage or hostile briefings and yet -- despite all the Tories' crimes and howlers -- are still performing diabolically in the polls?

    • 27 September 2021 at 2:43pm
      XopherO says: @ Joe Morison
      Joe, I think you are exaggerating somewhat. Child poverty was not 'massively' reduced. Indeed, perinatal mortality, infant mortality, cancer survival rates remained some of the worst in the EU. The NHS 'investment' was nearly all spent on giving doctors a massive pay rise, and other NHS staff some crumbs (a complete lack of planning on how to spend billions!) Pay and investment remained low, as did productivity as a consequence. Schools got some money, not enough, but FE was starved, and pay rates for part time teachers radically cut, while full time staff were offered below-inflation rises. University fees were introduced, completely contrary to what the Dearing report recommended, and raised to £3000 a year, just to keep some of HE funding off the balance sheet - because the return to HMT coffers was close to zero. (The Tory/LD coalition was able to massively exploit this 'PFI' arrangement to no particular fiscal advantage, other than keeping it off the books, now found to be out-of-order by HMT) It has been terrible for students. Would the Tories have joined with Bush - open to question whether they would have ignored the UN and engaged in an illegal war? Of course they supported the vote so as not to look weak. Some Tories voted against or abstained, but I will concede it might have been probable. But why did Labour?!! Devolution OK, but the minimum wage, that really was minimum. And as for doing something about the Care sector - zilch. Plus the UK was worse hit than other EU nations by the banking crisis because of all that deregulation Blair and Brown oversaw. Great record for 13, yes 13 years - less than Attlee did in 5 and Wilson in 6. To conclude, the cabalistic way Blair, Brown, Campbell, Mandelson ran No 10 was a complete contradiction of parliamentary and Labour democracy, and another nail in the coffin of social democracy and an open door to neoliberalism. Even local democracy suffered seriously from the long arm of No 10, particularly Labour councils and Labour constituencies. And the new rules give No 10 (if Labour ever gets there) an even longer arm.

    • 28 September 2021 at 5:36am
      Joe Morison says: @ XopherO
      We could knock figures back and forth about New Labour’s successes (for example, the IFS calculated that without their increases in financial support, child poverty would have increased, between 1997 and 2010, from 3.4 million to 4.3 million whereas it actually fell to 2.3 million) and the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. My point is that the country was a lot better and more justly run than it would have been under the Tories (and, yes, they would definitely have followed Bush into Iraq - slavish loyalty to the US was one of the many items of Tory clothing that Blair stole for himself).

      Politics is nearly always a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils. New Labour was immensely disappointing and dispiriting (I completely agree with your last four sentences). If only John Smith hadn’t died and Al Gore’s victory against Bush had been recognized by the courts, the world would surely be in a far better state. But we are where we are, and I ask again: what are you suggesting we do? In the long term, we can work to open the country’s eyes, but if in the short term we just say ‘a plague on both your houses’ we are ensuring that this despicable bunch of grifters and incompetents are with us for the foreseeable.

      The thought of Starmer as PM after the next election does not fill me with enthusiasm, but the idea of another term for Johnson makes me want to scream.

    • 28 September 2021 at 9:26am
      XopherO says: @ Joe Morison
      I can see your point of view. But Blair reduced Labour membership to a small rump, which probably helped lose the 2010 election - fewer grass-roots helpers. Corbyn revived it, bringing in much needed cash, and helping him come near to victory in 2017 (the Kippers returning to the Tories did for him, and cemented their drift to the extreme right) but it is ebbing away again. Labour has always won on the stump. Given what is happening in Brighton, it is hard to think that this shower could ever get elected. In Scotland there is the SNP, left of Labour. In Ulster the SDLP and SF - about time the DUP was beaten. And in England? Certainly not the traitorous LDs. The Greens? At the moment, they get my vote. Anyway, Labour is unlikely to have an absolute majority for a long time, and maybe never.

    • 29 September 2021 at 5:03am
      Joe Morison says: @ XopherO
      I think the rule should be: in a marginal vote for whoever is the biggest threat to the Tory, otherwise vote with your conscience. As for the chances of getting this lot out, I comfort myself with the old saw that it’s not oppositions that win elections, it’s governments that lose them. Whether Johnson can keep fooling his fans remains to be seen, but at least they’re not fanatically blind-to-all-the-evidence loyal to him like the MAGA crowd are to Trump. It seems clear that we’re in for a rough few years, I’m hopeful that by the time of the next election enough people will have seen through the charade to the nasty little lying creep beneath - the trouble is that if that happens, the Tories are more than capable of booting him out and reinventing themselves under some shiny new leader.

    • 29 September 2021 at 8:43am
      sol_adelman says: @ Joe Morison
      If there were to be sudden popular revulsion at nasty lying little creeps it is difficult to see how that would redound to the benefit of people like Sir Keir and Lord Peter. They aren't capable of masking it with good natured joviality and human charm.

  • 26 September 2021 at 2:22pm
    Rowena Hiscox says:
    By the end of Starmer's essay, I wouldn't have been surprised if he'd claimed that Gordon Brown invented the railway engine. Every good thing about Britain is a Labour achievement; every bad thing is the fault of The Tories, or, for variation, the SNP (note how he lovingly details the shortcomings of the NHS in Scotland, but doesn't say a word about Wales). I wasn't expecting a brutally honest assessment of the failings of the last Labour government, but a few touches of humility, or even just an acknowledgement that some of our current problems (declining social mobility, for example) might date back to before May 2010, wouldn't have gone amiss.

    The other thing about the essay is how infernally optimistic it is. I thought Starmer's schtick was being a Serious Person Who Takes Tough Decisions, so I expected a lot of "these are complex issues, and there are no quick fixes" rhetoric. Not a bit of it: it seems there isn't a problem in the world that can't be solved by voting for Sir Keir Starmer. It reads as if it was written back in spring, during the period when it seemed as if science had beaten Covid. Now we're back to wondering when the next bit of Concerning News is going to hit, it looks unreal. Who knows if the next government will get the chance to build anything?

    It's Starmer's fate to be trying to play the transformative leader in an era when it's even more obvious than usual that politicians are at the mercy of larger forces. New Labour ended up nationalising the banks; now the Conservatives are having to expand the state. What will Starmer be dragged into doing if he ever gets to No.10?

    Pure political inertia is almost certain to bring Labour back to power at some point, given the lack of alternatives. The Lib Dems are back where they were in the 1960s, getting overexcited about the occasional by-election win; the Greens have degenerated into the woke wing of the Lib Dems. The only thing that can be said for sure is that when it does happen, it won't look much like Starmer's essay.

  • 27 September 2021 at 5:01pm
    Graucho says:
    A house divided against itself cannot stand and a party divided against itself cannot win elections. The bulk of voters who will elect the next government couldn't care less about political theology. They want a competent government that will improve their lot. Labour needs a program that will directly address their pressing needs and to unite behind it. They could do worse than start by having a housing plan that builds homes for everybody across the social spectrum.

  • 29 September 2021 at 12:02pm
    frmurphy98 says:
    A 'little' blue? They are genuinely outraged that the Tories have gone soft, as they see it, on austerity, warmongering, corporation tax, crime, etc. It is no act with these people . As Blair himself confessed to conference years ago: "It's worse than you think, I really do believe it!!"

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