It does not seem like it now, but Keir Starmer ran for Labour leadership on the basis of a left-wing manifesto – Corbynism in a suit, with a serious sensibility and haircut to match. Yet, almost since that moment, he has drifted further and further to the right, abandoning the principles upon which he ran for leadership.
He has used the war in Ukraine to further attack, ostracise, and silence the left-wing faction of his party. Eleven left-wing MPs who signed a Stop the War petition were forced to remove their signatures after they were warned about the removal of the whip.
Young Labour – a democratically elected body – have had their social media presence removed by Labour leadership too old to elect them. Starmer and co have taken to smearing Corbyn as a Putin apologist – which is a categoric lie. In fact, his best pal Peter Mandelson himself has a very chummy history with Putin.
And those smears led to Labour MP Zarah Sultana receiving brutal death threats describing her as ‘Putin’s whore’ – but Starmer has not showed any support for her.
Seemingly, the only time Starmer can accept pluralism is when transphobes are involved. In September 2021, Labour MP Rosie Duffield said that “only women have a cervix”. In fairness, Starmer did say that it was “something that shouldn’t be said” and that it was “not right”, but he refused to call the comments transphobic.
I do believe that it was right of him to condemn those who made Rosie Duffield feel unsafe – violence is not the way to change opinions – but if he was able to show support for a transphobe, he should be able to do more than the same for Zarah Sultana.
It is a display of dictatorial muscle far beyond Blair, and a real obsession with the left, Corbynism, and Momentum that borders on mania. It may be because of this, or because of what he perceives to be the failure of the previous Labour leadership, that blinds him to any idea associated with the left.
It has been reported that Starmer will “slaughter [the] sacred cows of Corbynism” in the coming weeks – including nationalising public industries. He wants to drop nationalisation to appeal primarily to the centre-right. In doing so, Keir Starmer is missing out on the point. Nationalising industry would be a slam dunk for Starmer, and for Labour.
Firstly, it would appease the left of his own party, and remind them why they are members. It would prove the first half of this article partly wrong, and I would be very happy to be wrong. It would show that he wasn’t blindly driven by distancing himself from the left. Unfortunately, this might just be the reason it doesn’t happen.
Secondly, it would be a policy. I struggle to imagine Keir Starmer’s Labour party having a policy. It has been a criticism of him and his leadership for a long time, and from every corner of the political spectrum. At the moment, his main appeal is simply not being Boris Johnson, instead of being better than Boris Johnson. Starmer has seemed solely reactive for a very long time, and this would be a good step away from that.
Thirdly, it’s been popular for a very long time, across the whole country – and that’s even before the energy crisis. Were he to pledge to support common ownership of “rail, mail, energy and water”, as he did in the leadership election, it would be hugely popular. 32% of Brits ‘tend to support’ energy nationalisation, and 27% more of the population ‘strongly support it’. If nearly 60% of the population support something, and it is something that has a long history of affiliation with your party, why would you not support it?
Fourth, finally, and by far most importantly, it would be a good idea – one that would really, truly help people. The free-market exists to make profit, not benefit the consumer – those companies certainly do that. But the other purpose of the market is competition – designed to inadvertently get the consumer the lowest price and the best product, something that simply does not happen.
Let’s take water for example. Your water provider is not something you can change without moving halfway round the country – there aren’t alternative companies vying to get you to drink their tap water, from their little bit of the reservoir.
It’s a false market – designed for profit for the companies at the expense of, and with no benefit for, the consumer. So why do we continue to let companies bid for these contracts and rip off the consumer – and why is Labour okay with it?
We should not price people out of the products they need to survive. Put simply in those terms, it becomes clear that this unequivocally should be a Labour policy, but Starmer appears too angry at the left to acknowledge it.
As many previously loyal members rip up their membership cards, let us remember what Labour stands for. Labour should be a party of the people, for the people. A party that opposes Thatcherism and embraces social democracy and policies that will help people.
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