It’s just over a year since Keir Starmer swept to victory in the 2020 Labour Party leadership election. Front and centre of his campaign were 10 Socialist Pledges, a commitment to progressive manifesto pledges and policy statements forged under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.
As centrist journalists never tire of explaining, Starmer is a canny political operator. Were his socialist pledges statements of principle or a cynical attempt to win the support of the contingent of left-wing members who propelled Corbyn to two leadership victories?
We look at the pledges a year on to see how long each one lasted..
pledge 1 – Went in the bin February 2020
This should have been the easiest pledge for Starmer to keep. Britain’s corporation tax rate (a tax ONLY on profits) is one of the lowest in Europe at 19%. For comparison France is at 35%, Spain 25% and Germany 30%.
The need to increase tax revenues to pay for the pandemic is so obvious EVEN THE TORIES plan to increase corporation tax. They proposed raising the rate to 25% in February.
Did Keir Starmer push them for a greater increase?
“Now is not the time for tax rises on families and businesses,” he declared (as part of his new, “pro-business” strategy).
What family was he talking about – the Murdochs? Bransons? Any other members of the billionaire elite who have seen their wealth increase as the public purse has drained?
HUGE reversal here.
pledge 2 – WENT IN THE BIN MARCH 2021
A lot in this one but the focus has to be on the NHS, since Covid has thrown it front and centre
Starmer’s decision to hire Ben Nunn, an ex-lobbyist for private healthcare companies was an early warning sign (it somehow doesn’t sing out “I have wavering belief in the NHS!”)
An acid test arrived in March 2021, when The Tories caused outrage with their proposed 1% “pay rise” for nurses.
Did Starmer step up the plate and stand up for nurses at a time when they have an unprecedented amount of public sympathy and support?
“I think the starting point should be the 2.1% that was promised…” murmured Socialist firebrand Sir Keir.
2.1%! That’s Starmer offering £3 a week more than The Tories, the lowest rise that tracks inflation…
Labour have backed Marcus Rashford’s campaigns for Free School Meals and an extension of the £20 Universal Credit increase so they haven’t QUITE done nothing on social justice.
That does, however, raise a question in itself: why is Marcus Rashford, a footballer, leading the fight for a fairer society and not Starmer?
pledge 3 – WENT IN THE BIN summer 2020
What could be more important than this pledge?
“Our house is on fire” Greta Thunberg has said.
Why, then, would Labour drop the ambitious 2030 climate crisis target it adopted under Jeremy Corbyn?
“The next manifesto, the next target, will be written in four or five years’ time and we’ll have to deal with the circumstances we are in then” Starmer’s office have said.
When your house is on fire…Starmer’s policy is to let it burn for another five years and see what the circumstances are.
pledge 4 – went in the bin september 2020
Who better to lead the opposition in the face of the most authoritarian, law-breaking government in recent memory than a celebrated human rights lawyer?
Step forward Sir Keir…
Test 1 – The Overseas Operations Bill
An outrageous Tory bill that would grant British soldiers immunity from crimes committed while serving abroad.
Sir Keir: Whipped MPs to abstain and sacked frontbenchers Nadia Whittome, Beth Winter and Olivia Blake for defying him…
Test 2 – The “Spycops” Bill
An outrageous Tory bill which would grant undercover officers the right to commit crimes and continue doing things like, uh, deceive women into sexual relationships and have children with them before disappearing.
Sir Keir: Abstain!
Test 3 – Priti Patel’s “Policing” Bill
This Tory bill would make “annoying” protests punishable by up to 10 years in prison, violating the right to peaceful protest enshrined in The Human Rights Act.
Sir Keir: According to Diane Abbot he was again whipping to abstain until some high profile scenes on Clapham Common…
Starmer’s frontbench showed their true colours a few weeks later, though – after police in Bristol were recorded beating prone protestors with shields, assaulting a journalist and punching a female protestor in the face.
“Asked whether the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which Labour has opposed, seeks to prevent the sort of scenes seen in Bristol, Ms Dodds said the party’s criticism concerned “the lack of measures within that bill to protect women and girls”.
Starmer’s Labour: not concerned about the loss of peaceful protest to fascist policing but keen to protect women and girls – unless they’re being battered by fascist police, of course!
pledge 5 – went in the bin at the cbi conference
Sir Keir: “A Labour government led by me will be pro-business”
Anyone still in doubt about Starmer’s lack of commitment to nationalisation (in a year that’s shown, once and for all, that outsourcing is inefficient, ineffective and riddled with cronyism) is referred to the below exchange with a member of his front bench.
pledge 6 – went in the bin august 2020
According to The Independent:
“Labour members were angered after the front bench criticised the government’s “incompetence” in dealing with migrants arriving by dinghy, instead of defending their right to claim asylum in Britain”
Sir Keir (again, we remind you, A FORMER HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER) has been extremely quiet on the subject of migrant’s rights…at a time when the government have been LOUD.
Priti Patel is the most reactionary Home Secretary in living memory. Her controversial, callous and provocative statements/policies include sending asylum seekers to Ascension Island, more than 4,000 miles from the UK, to be “processed” and making the English channel “unviable” for migrant ships.
Starmer would have had to defend migrant rights with force to meet this pledge. He has not.
pledge 7 – went in the bin January 2021
Shall we ask teaching unions about this one?
In early January, with the second wave of Covid climbing to its peak, Starmer refused to back teaching unions in their long-running struggle against the government. As a result teachers went back for one pointless, dangerous day.
When Starmer finally did get around to supporting a union – Unite, fighting against the awful practise of fire and rehire – he tweeted the below.
Then panicked and deleted it.
The actions of a man truly willing to stand “shoulder to shoulder with trade unions and to stand up for working people”?
pledge 8 – went in the bin january 2021
Sir Keir, inevitably, “promotes the union” with Scotland:
“LABOUR leader Sir Keir Starmer has defended Boris Johnson’s trip to Scotland to promote the Union today, insisting the mid-pandemic visit is “legitimate””
What did Starmer have to say about The House of Lords when Johnson announced the latest intake of Tory donors/cronies? Russian-born newspaper owner Evgeny Lebedev? Brexit-supporting cricketer Ian Botham? Libertarian-for-hire Claire Fox?
Keir Starmer: “___________”
pledge 9 – went in the bin summer 2020
- Starmer describes Black Lives Matters as “a moment”
- Starmer’s “diversity audit…so far includes only white LOTO staff”
While expelling left-wingers for questioning (factually) the prevalence of anti-Semitism, Starmer has ignored every other form of racism
- Buried the Forde report on internal racism (to the fury of BAME party members)
- Accepted donations from David Abrahams, accused of making Islamophobic statements
Meanwhile, a report suggesting Islamophobia is worthy of every bit as much attention in Labour as anti-Semitism…
Drew no direct response from Sir Keir.
pledge 10 – went in the bin october 2020
There’s a lot in this one.
Let’s look at the headline first: Effective Opposition to Tories?
Starmer is behind in the polls to a government led by a buffoon, whose negligence and cronyism contributed to the deaths of 150,000 citizens and a tanking economy. Here is the latest, damning poll:
We had our pick of stats showing how hopeless Starmer has been (they get worse by the week) but the below are particularly relevant as they highlight the role played by “party unity” in the decline. Note the decline accelerating from October in the left graph and the October cross-over from positive to negative on the right graph…
This was when Starmer expelled Corbyn from the party FOR MAKING A STATEMENT OF FACT EXPLICITLY PROTECTED BY THE EHRC REPORT (as we document here):
“the scale of the (anti-Semitism) problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents”
Starmer’s subsequent attack on the left, conducted with staggering hypocrisy, has been accompanied with an assault on internal democracy that has been positively Stalinist:
- banning discussions of Corbyn’s suspension at branch meetings and suspending members who do so
- A grotesque inversion of Starmer’s supposed “clampdown on anti-Semitism” sees “at least 35 recent or on-going investigations by the party targeting Jewish members on grounds related to antisemitism. At least 11 Jewish members have been suspended or expelled on such charges.”
- Young Labour chair Jess Barnard forced to take a stand. She describes “bullying” within party machinery and “attempts to undermine members democratic rights and free expression”
- Prominent Labour member (and former South African parliamentarian) Andrew Feinstein says “To me, as a Jew, the son of a Holocaust survivor, the way in which antisemitism has, in my opinion, been abused by the Labour Party to fight factional battles is of deep concern to me.“
If you believe all of this is in the name of unity check out Starmer’s conference call with select “unifying” centrists.
Margaret Hodge, who publicly called Corbyn a “Fucking Anti-Semite” while he was leader.
Peter Mandelson, who said during Corbyn’s reign: “I work every single day in some small way to bring forward the end of (Corbyn’s) tenure in office”.
so what is starmer’s game?
This is a biased article. We don’t like Starmer, that’s obvious, and his supporters could doubtless pick through the smallprint of the above pledges and find a few small areas in which he’s stepped up.
Whatever your standpoint, two things are clear:
1. Starmer IS NOT a socialist and clearly has NO COMMITMENT to pursuing socialist policies. If he did, 2020 would have been a gift. Even the Tories were forced to turn to socialism, with unprecedented furlough schemes and business support. When they did push their privatisation agenda it backfired spectacularly – billions wasted on useless PPE, Serco Test and Trace and cronyism. Starmer, presented with an open goal for socialism, not only turned his back but booted the ball as far as he could in the opposite direction.
2. Starmer is struggling. Faced with an incompetent, corrupt and contemptuous cabinet, he has failed to generate any traction and is currently going backwards at such an alarming rate even his centrist superfans are beginning to question him.
Starmer is, however, smart. He is also consistent. His position on every issue is predictable, dictated by one simple premise: how will this play on the pages of the Sun and Daily Mail?
Why else would he purge the left, pose with flags, be passive when confronted with Tory authoritarianism?
These are not natural things for a metropolitan, human rights lawyer (who marched against the Iraq War, let’s not forget) to do – and it shows. Starmer is uncomfortable, uninspiring, “looking,” in the words of Frankie Boyle, “like a cross between the bloke who says he’s “unstoppable” before getting fired first on the Apprentice, and an Anglican vicar trying to hold in a fart at a funeral.”
But it doesn’t matter.
What Starmer and every centrist since Tony Blair have come to understand is that the nature of the media in the UK means that you don’t have to be principled, trustworthy or humane to get elected. You simply need to be willing to march in step with the agenda of the three companies — DMG Media, News UK and Reach— that dominate 90% of the UK national newspaper market.
At some point, to preserve the illusion of democracy, Murdoch and co. will have to ditch the Conservatives. If Starmer is waiting, on his knees, with a couple of years of spineless submission behind him, he might find himself on the “right” side of the slanderous, manipulative propaganda that did for his predecessor.
For years it’s been argued that Rupert Murdoch effectively decides UK general election winners. Victory for Starmer in 2024 would prove it.
Unlike Tony Blair (who at least offered voters a feel-good factor prior to his transformation into a deluded, mass murderer), Starmer offers voters nothing.
Sir Keir is a wet wipe, an empty suit, a PR weathervane blown hither and tither on the post-apocalyptic winds of a malicious right-wing press he’s bet everything on winning over.
And he’s your next PM – if Murdoch and co. say so.
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