In a recent interview with Novara Media’s Michael Walker, the editor of LabourList, Sienna Rodgers, offered a little insight into Keir Starmer’s gameplay within the Labour Party. According to Sienna, Starmer has been aiming for the top job and playing the long game for decades. Despite pressure from right wing allies within the party, Starmer chose instead to stay quiet and give the impression that he was supportive of Corbyn’s leadership. Some might say that this is a tactic he continues to use today when he repeatedly expresses his support for Tory government policy. It’s a way to endear yourself to voters who wouldn’t naturally vote for you by aligning yourself with the actions and policies of people in power, without having to take any responsibility for those actions, in the hope that the people who voted them into power would see you as a suitable replacement when the time comes. Certainly, Starmer managed to convince a large proportion of the Corbyn supporting Labour membership that he was left wing and that he was the right candidate to take over from Jeremy Corbyn. I suspect most Corbyn supporting Labour party members who voted for Starmer in the leader election, came to regret that decision almost immediately after Starmer took up the job. Sienna made a particularly interesting observation when she was asked what political faction she thought Starmer was naturally aligned to. Although Starmer frequently expresses right wing tendencies, Sienna believes Starmer is actually “apolitical”. This rather explains why Starmer says one thing one minute and another thing another minute. In her opinion, Starmer “lacks politics and that’s the reasons members should be a bit wary”. Essentially, what I believe Sienna is saying here is that Starmer’s personal career ambitions are all that drive him. Let’s face it, Keir Starmer has done well for himself. He was only elected as an MP in 2015 and was fast-tracked to a shadow cabinet position the same year. 5yr’s later he’s leader of the Labour Party and, in another 4yrs, you can bet he’ll be hoping to walk through the doors at number 10. The trouble is, who wants an apolitical PM you can’t trust? Whether you’re on the right or the left of the political spectrum, would you trust him to do what you want him to do?
Of course, now that Starmer has his feet firmly under the table as party leader, it seems that all of those highfalutin pro-remain principles that he touted during the 2019 election and the pledges he made to the Labour party membership during the party leadership election (e.g. to bring back freedom of movement) have all simply just floated out the window. Given that he spent years campaigning for remain and putting a wedge between the party and pro-Brexit voters and that he has now also abandoned his commitment to the many pledges he made to pro-remain voters and given that he has also, very publicly, taken aim at the socialist element of the Labour party (showing complete disregard for the wishes of traditional Labour voters, including the majority of Scottish voters), this rather begs the question.. ‘what is Starmer’s real agenda here?’ Frankly, if you wanted to destroy the prospects of the Labour Party ever winning a general election, you couldn’t honestly have planned it any better I don’t think – piss off the right, piss off the left, piss off your own membership?
Incidentally, it’s no secret that Starmer’s pro-Remain centrist stance during the 2019 election campaign, cost the Labour Party the election. The cynic in me wonder’s if this wasn’t another ploy by Starmer to remove the competition (Corbyn) and create an opportunity where he could run for the top job. The cross party voting data for the 2019 election clearly shows a massive boost in voting numbers for pro-Remain parties, such as the LibDems, the SNP and the Greens (away from Labour). It also shows that the Tories only really managed to maintain the same voting figures they had in 2017 (13,636,684 in 2017, compared to 13,966,451 in 2019) and that UKIP appeared to lose almost their entire vote share to Farage’s new ‘Brexit Party’. In fact the combined vote share increase of the two pro-Brexit parties (from their 2017 result) was a paltry 400,839 but its clear there was no waning of the pro-Brexit vote.
The fact that Starmer seems to be of the opinion that all he has to do is to re-position Labour party politically to the right and that this will be enough to charm Tory and Pro-Brexit voters and have them flocking to the Labour party is truly baffling. Perhaps he imagines that Brexiteers have short memories and will simply forget that he was a vocal remainer for 4yrs? It was this kind of thinking that cost Labour the Scottish vote. It’s no secret that Scots tend to favour socialist policies, which is why they remained loyal to Labour for many years. However, in 2015, Scottish voters sent a thunderous message to Labour centrists that they were no longer happy to support Tory-lite policies. Suddenly, the SNP, who had won just 6 seats in 2005 and in 2010, managed to take 50 seats away from mostly Labour and LibDems constituencies. Labour regained a number of these seats under Corbyn’s socialist leadership in 2017 but the divisive nature of the 2019 election, touted as a 2nd Brexit referendum, changed the road map yet again.
What’s absolutely clear is that British voters are not fooled by Starmer. Despite the Tories complete mishandling of the COVID crisis and despite the immense loss of life that resulted from their blundering, the Tories still maintain a lead in the polls and if Starmer can’t win a stonking lead at a time like this then when will he?
The fact is, there are signs that a dawning realisation has finally crept over Starmer’s Labour Party, as it appears they may have realised that pursuing the Tory/pro-Brexit vote might be a futile exercise after all. Certainly we’ve recently seen significant efforts to forge stronger alliances with former pro-remain parties and this is not the sort of action you would expect from a party leader who’s confident in his ability to secure a Labour majority at the next election. So, presumably, the equally apolitical LibDems and the Greens, eager at the prospect of forming a coalition government with Labour, have now also chosen to abandon their hard line pro-remain stance and simply accepted Starmer’s capitulation over the Tory Brexit deal? I wonder how many of them might be secretly wishing they had backed Corbyn’s plan to offer people a vote on the final deal after all?
Honestly, the Labour Party might do well to ask itself if Starmer is indeed the right person to be leading the party. He’s clearly not connecting with voters, he has lost the support of a large section of the Labour membership (not to mention their subs) and he’s even angered a number of trade unions. Not only that, Starmer’s battle with Corbyn is about to get messy and embarrassing and more so for Starmer, as a Judge recently found that Corbyn’s legal team have more than enough evidence to move forward to a more substantive case. The judge even recognised that the GLU report presented to the NEC Disputes Panel did not find that Corbyn had engaged in prejudicial conduct and that the Disputes Panel did not find that Corbyn’s conduct was ‘grossly detrimental’. In fact, she was satisfied that there was a clear arguable case of procedural unfairness. Given that there is every likelihood that Corbyn will win the legal case, either Starmer needs to back out of the challenge now (and at least save some face) or suffer a deeply embarrassing defeat, which could focus attention on how certain factions of the party appear to have weaponised anti-Semitism against their political opponents within the party and further damage the party’s prospect of winning over voters.
UPDATE: 31st January 2021 : 17.10hrs
Interesting look at Starmer’s inability to win over Tory voters and some serious concerns over Labour’s finances by Novara’s Michael Walker and Dalia Gebrial today. Apparently, Labour has seen a shocking drop off of funds compared to what the picture was under Corbyn, just a year earlier. I’ve said this before, Starmer’s plan to court big business donors who look at sponsorships as investments was a bad move. Why would big business take a risk with an unknown when they have a sure bet with the Tories – the gift that keeps on giving? The truth is, unless donors believe that Labour have a real prospect of winning an election, they won’t switch sides and if Starmer can’t win over Tory voters, and polling doesn’t improve, there’s really little chance these donors will be opening up their wallets anytime soon.
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