In the aftermath of Corbyn, candidates understand the need to be seen to tack left. Kier Starmer's career offers an insight into why we should examine the facts, argues Jonathan Maunders
There is little doubt that Keir Starmer is the Labour right’s preferred candidate to defeat Rebecca Long-Bailey in the leadership election and reverse the tide of Corbynism.
Starmer’s sizable lead in CLP nominations makes it increasingly obvious that his lip service to the left and pitch of party unity is proving successful in winning over Labour members, many of whom previously voted for Corbyn.
However, when we look beyond the rhetoric, it becomes clear that no socialist should vote for him.
One of the key components of Starmer’s leadership pitch has been the idea that he can unify the party, but the facts contradict this. In 2016 Starmer backed the coup against Jeremy Corbyn, resigning from the shadow cabinet and supporting Owen Smith in the ensuing leadership election.
Meanwhile, Starmer’s candidacy has been backed by many party figures who have consistently attacked and undermined Corbyn’s leadership. He is the candidate of the right, not party unity.
Many of Starmer’s supporters argue that he has strong leadership credentials and that he would be able to win back lost constituencies in the north. This logic flies in the face of the reality of the election and subsequent polling.
Labour lost Leave constituencies because it became a Remain party, with Starmer and others mounting pressure on the party leadership to support a second referendum, and stating that they would campaign for Remain regardless of what was in any prospective Labour deal.
Starmer argued that this was the path to victory for Labour. In reality, it was a disastrous approach that alienated traditional Labour voters and drove them to the Tories. It’s difficult to defend Starmer’s leadership credentials when he was behind such a great miscalculation.
Indeed, it’s hard to see how a millionaire North London lawyer who is a knight of a realm and a fanatical Remainer would be able to reconnect with Labour’s former heartlands where de-industrialisation and poverty has created deep cynicism about middle-class, London-centric Westminster politics and opposition to the EU.
Starmer’s team has worked hard to stress his left wing credentials during the leadership election, but he is no friend of the left.
For example, his campaign video champions his presence on picket lines with the striking print-workers at Wapping in 1986. However, it is worth noting that he was there in a legal capacity rather than in solidarity.
Starmer’s voting record shows he voted against an investigation into the Iraq war and voted to replace Trident nuclear submarines to maintain the UK’s nuclear weapons system.
Meanwhile, he has also repeatedly called for limits on freedom of movement, stating immigration should be reduced.
These are not the policy positions of a committed socialist and it’s clear his politics is starkly different to Corbyn’s. These left-wing credentials become further in doubt on inspection of his legal career.
Starmer’s former role of Director of Public Prosecutions and head of the CPS are often highlighted as giving him the gravitas to become prime minister, but his record only casts further doubt on his left-wing credentials.
Starmer was DPP when the ‘spycop’ story broke, revealing Mark Kennedy had infiltrated numerous activist groups during the 2000s, with the CPS withholding vital evidence in ensuing convictions. After a subsequent CPS investigation, Starmer refused to revisit the cases despite there being up to 83 wrongful convictions relying on withheld evidence, as The Guardian would later report.
In 2009, he also refused to prosecute the police officers responsible for the fatal shooting of innocent Brazilian Charles de Menezes in July 2005, robbing his family of the justice they deserved.
A year later, Starmer announced the decision not prosecute the police officer allegedly responsible for the death of homeless newspaper vendor Ian Tomlinson, with Starmer only reversing this decision following public pressure and accusations of a police cover up, after a subsequent inquest revealed Tomlinson’s death was unlawful.
Starmer also played a key role in the persecution and incarceration of Julian Assange following his arrest in London in 2010. The CPS opposed a lower court decision to release Assange on bail and appealed to the high court.
If Keir Starmer were to win, he would take Labour back to the centre-ground that proved so disastrous for Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband and social democracy across Europe and beyond. He is no friend of the left and no committed socialist should vote for him.
More articles from this author
- Ecuador election: what went wrong for the left?
- Latin America: a new ‘Pink Tide’?
- Ecuador election: neoliberalism on its way out
- Venezuela: electoral fightback in America’s ‘backyard’
- Guatemala protesters force Congress to shelve corrupt budget
- Mass protests in Peru against the coup and neoliberalism have toppled Merino
- Victory for the movement as Chileans vote to rip up Pinochet constitution