Starmer's record, especially in the last 4 years under Corbyn's leadership, shows he's no friend of the left, argues Reuben Bard-Rosenberg
Since he began his campaign for the Labour leadership, Starmer has been gone out of his way to burnish his leftish credentials. “I want the Labour Party to be radical in the sense that we need fundamental change”, he told BBC news. “The challenge for Labour today is to defend our values, retain our radicalism and make that relevant”, he said at his launch.
Considering his post-election rhetoric alone, it is curious that he has received so many nominations from the right of the Labour Party. What I suspect many of Starmer’s supporters understand is that right now Starmer needs the support of Labour’s rank-and-file left more than he ever will again, should he win the leadership contest.
Given this, it would be unwise to wager too much on the current flavour of Starmer’s rhetoric. A more useful approach would be to consider his firm political commitments and his actions up until this point. The former are virtually invisible, whilst the latter do not inspire confidence - either politically or electorally.
In 2016, Keir Starmer participated in what can only be described as a coup against the membership. Just a year after Corbyn had been elected with a huge majority, he resigned from the Shadow Cabinet as part of a co-ordinated attempt to force Corbyn and the left out of office.
Following its failure, Starmer returned to the Cabinet as Brexit secretary. In this position, he exerted as much pressure as he could to turn Labour into a Remain party, and to push the leadership into the disastrous position of backing a second referendum. Indeed he wanted Labour to go further and commit to campaigning for Remain vote in any future referendum.
Like the vast majority of people who have presided over the Labour party in recent times, Starmer worked on the hopeful presumption that Labour voters in the kinds of places that voted Leave would have nowhere else to go. As it turned out they did. And to socialists, commitment to the neoliberal European Union ought to seem a bizarre hill for a radical Labour party to die on.
Making Starmer the leader could have serious consequences for what kind of party Labour is - not just at the level of policy but in terms of its social and electoral base. Right across the northern hemisphere we have seen social democratic parties (and their closest American analogue, the democratic party) beat an electoral retreat to the biggest cities, at the expense of the towns that have suffered the most from thirty years of globalisation and economic liberalisation.
Electing a man whose chief political actions, during the past five years, have been to try to defenestrate Labour’s radical leadership, and to try to turn Labour into a Europhile party. If Labour aims to fight as a radical vehicle for working class interests, then its members need to reject Keir Starmer.
Reuben Bard-Rosenberg is a socialist activist and radical folk music promoter.