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Starmer, Bristol, 2020. Photo: Rwendland/cropped from original/licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0, linked at bottom of article

Starmer, Bristol, 2020. Photo: Rwendland/cropped from original/licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0, linked at bottom of article

Starmer’s return to Blairism at the Party conference offered nothing but feeble responses to Tory class war, argues Michael Lavalette

The conference started against the immediate backdrop of the Tory mini-budget and offered an ‘open goal’ for any socialist: a chance to make clear the vicious class-war logic at the heart of the Tory project, and make the case for redistribution, protection of the poorest and most vulnerable in society, taxing the rich and nationalising the main utilities, and defending trade-union rights and the right to strike.

Unfortunately none of this was even discussed in the conference. Although Starmer said the top rate of tax would be reintroduced, he was less clear on the other tax cuts. Frankly, it was a pathetically weak response to the disastrous budget the Tories have inflicted on us.

Any hopes that Starmer’s Labour might use the week to present a case for significant social change were quickly dashed. The conference opened with a grovelling rendition of ‘God Save the King’ and the unveiling of the Party’s new logo: a version of the Union Jack which seems to emphasise the flag of St George (have Labour given up on Scotland?). 

The logo is so bad, it would not be out of place at a far-right rally.

Party conferences are no longer places for democratic arguments and political debate. They are stage-managed political theatre. As part of the theatre, policy agendas are floated and set out.

The weekend papers were full of Labour policy ‘announcements’. First there was Wes Streeting arguing that the crisis in the NHS was so bad we ‘needed’ the private sector to help us out! Of course we all know what this means. Private providers will get access to public funds to cherry pick the most profitable parts of the health system.

Then there was the bizarre justification for not being on picket lines. Angela Rayner suggested that history showed what strikers needed was not support on a picket line, but a Labour government.

This claim seems to indicate that Rayner needs to read a little more history! In fact, Labour in government has regularly attacked unions taking strike action. Examples can be found from the 1945 Labour government using soldiers as scabs, to Blair telling us that public-sector unions had left ‘scars on his back’.

Finally, there was the assertion that Labour was committed to a strong economy and economic growth (which doesn’t sound any different from Truss), and there was the compulsory new party slogan, ‘New Leadership’. 

‘New Leadership’ is absolutely true. There is nothing like the hope of the Corbyn years on show. The conference has been hollowed out and Labour politics have reset to Blairite orthodoxy.

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