Just when you think he can’t get any worse, Starmer finds a way, argues Terina Hine
Starmer’s leadership bid was an act of fraud. The pledges he stood on have been abandoned, the 2019 manifesto, supposed be his foundation, “put to one side”. In his own words, the slate has been “wiped clean”.
He has rejected nationalisation in a “pragmatic” move, has dropped the promise to abolish student tuition fees, the Green New Deal is diluted beyond recognition, and anti-war internationalism has been replaced with hawkish warmongering.
For all his promises of unity, Starmer is a one-trick pony, and that trick is battling the left. He has cracked down on socialists, proscribed left groups, instigated deselection campaigns against left MPs, and most recently expelled a member of the Merseyside Pensioner’s Association for having the audacity to confront him publicly.
And now the ten pledges have been replaced with five. Starmer’s Labour is to be ‘financially responsible’, ‘distinctively British’, ‘work in partnership with business’, ‘spread economic power’ and ‘boost productivity’. Soundbites with no bite.
His meagre and short term plan for a six-month energy price freeze paid by a slightly expanded windfall tax which will do little to reduce costs for most people or the exorbitant profits of the energy companies. And beyond this, here is nothing to tackle the country’s Dickensian levels of inequality or deal with unprecedented rates of inflation, nothing to help millions of ordinary people fearful of the coming winter. There is no mention of the planet burning before our eyes, or of how to save the NHS, which is currently on life support. There is no hope, no vision.
So how low can he go? His response to the current wave of strike action provides a clue.
In issuing diktats against joining picket lines and sacking his shadow transport minister, Sam Tarry, for showing solidarity with striking rail workers, Starmer has shown us which side he is on, and it is more blue than red.
Blindsided by the subsequent row with the unions and the backlash from his own MPs, Starmer has been exposed as politically naive. Lisa Nandy’s open defiance, attending a picket just days after Tarry was sacked, was a direct challenge to Starmer’s authority.
To start another factional war with the unions, the left, the membership and significant parts of Labour’s electoral base can only be described as suicidal.
Starmer’s position is increasingly insecure; he faces condemnation from the unions that fund his war-chest, and manoeuvrings from soft-left MPs.
If he goes any lower he’ll fall flat on his face.
Polling shows a narrowing Labour lead even as the Conservative party tears itself apart. YouGov put Labour just one point ahead in the last week of July, and Savanta ComRes polling has Truss beating Starmer (38% to 37%) as the preferred potential PM. How long until even the Blairites have had enough?
Starmer failed to oppose Johnson during the pandemic, letting the Tories literally get away with murder. He failed to challenge blatant corruption in government and in the City, and now he stands to one side as real wages fall and household income is squeezed beyond breaking point. He is an establishment stooge who refuses to engage with the structural change the country so desperately needs.
In September he will no longer face a disgraced Boris Johnson at the despatch box, nor indeed at the next election. It is very possible the new Tory leader could prove more of a challenge.
As Starmer’s authority recedes, the Party may decide it is time to find a replacement. If so, the relaunched Tories will face even less opposition as the country free falls into economic crisis.
It is clear the establishment has lost control and is spooked, Labour is less than useless and the Tories are weak. It is at such moments when political action moves out of parliament and onto the streets. That is where we should be.
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