Keir Starmer's anti-democratic electoral college plan is dead in the water in a humiliating defeat for the Labour leader, writes John Westmoreland
Keir Starmer’s attempt to replace Labour’s democratic ‘one member one vote’ with an electoral college appears to be ‘dead’. Angela Rayner, Starmer’s deputy, said the proposed electoral college would not be put to conference after Starmer met with trade union leaders yesterday.
Starmer’s credibility lies in tatters after what has been described as a self-inflicted humiliation. He thought the trade union leaders would have the same fear and dislike for grassroots democracy as himself. But the election of Sharon Graham as Unite general secretary, and the dismal performance of the Starmerite Gerard Coyne, plus the uptick in industrial action, shows union leaders cannot be trusted to simply fall in with Starmer’s pro-business strategy.
Starmer’s wooing of business leaders to ease Labour’s financial crisis has rankled trade unionists and activists.
In a desperate and failed attempt to purge the left once and for all, Starmer and the right are exposed as fundamentally anti-democratic. The electoral college would have rigged Labour elections so that MPs and trade unions got one third of the votes each in any leadership election. This was aimed at securing the domination of the right.
It would be a mistake to think that this will be the end of the matter though. Starmer is already looking at new and more acceptable proposals to bolster the power of the right, including increasing the MP nomination threshold lor leadership contenders. Starmer also wants to prevent CLPs from being able to deselect their MPs.
The Labour right know that they haven’t got the grassroots support that Jeremy Corbyn had, and they want to garner as much top-down power as they can. No matter how much Starmer bangs on about making Labour electable, his objective is a right-wing power grab.
There is a massive crisis looming and the working class is going to be asked to pay for it. Starmer often appears frozen, like a rabbit in the headlights, when it is time to make a stand.
The Labour Party in government, and this is a real possibility if the Tories continue to fail, has always served the bosses, but in times of crisis more so. When the capitalist system crashed in 1929 and the Great Depression put millions on the dole, the Labour Prime minister Ramsey MacDonald simply handed power back to the Tories in a ‘national government’.
Starmer and the right really have no vision to answer the fundamental questions of the day. It is surely no coincidence that Jeremy Corbyn, from whom Starmer withdrew the whip, should make the case for radical policies most clearly. Calling out Starmer’s feebleness as a Labour leader, Corbyn said:
"Our movement has the answers to the big questions of the age - inequality, the climate crisis and the pandemic - but our leaders are failing to listen and put these solutions front and centre.
"At conference, I hope to hear how Labour will bring in a wealth tax to fund a National Care Service like the NHS, will take the radical action needed to decarbonise by 2030, stand against the drumbeat of a new Cold War, and will rein in the runaway wealth and power of a tiny elite.
"I know our trade unions and members have developed these policies. But the signs are that the party leadership wants to try to shut down debate, side-line the members and trade unions with the end result that Labour props up rather than challenges our broken political and economic system."
This can only reach fruition if activists in and outside Labour come together to put massive pressure on whichever party is in government.
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John is a history teacher and UCU rep. He is an active member of the People's Assembly and writes regularly for Counterfire.
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