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Embrace progressive policies or face electoral oblivion, Labour left tells Starmer

THE Labour left has warned Sir Keir Starmer that he must embrace progressive policies or face electoral oblivion.

About 3,000 activists joined a virtual rally held by the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs on Wednesday night in response to a disastrous set of election results in England last week.

The leadership has faced heavy criticism over the Hartlepool by-election defeat and the loss of councils in former Labour strongholds such as Durham, Sheffield and Bristol.

Sir Keir’s botched shadow cabinet reshuffle then took the shine off more positive results in council elections in north-west England, in mayoral races and in the Welsh parliamentary election.

Addressing the rally, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “When people stand up, they get the rewards.

“Why did we achieve such great election results in Salford, Preston and Wales, where people stood up?”

In a nod towards Sir Keir’s backing of many of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Covid-19 policies, Mr Corbyn added: “When you’re seen just to walk away from the battle and not oppose, where’s the enthusiasm?”

Former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott quoted a Channel 4 News poll which found that the current leadership was the main reason that Hartlepool voters turned away from Labour.

“What we clearly need is the policies and the style of leadership that genuinely enthuses ordinary working people, whether in Hackney or in Hartlepool,” she said. 

Socialist Campaign Group secretary Richard Burgon said that the defeats were the result of the leadership’s failed strategy and pointed to the two victories in Hartlepool under Mr Corbyn.

“The first job of any opposition is to oppose,” Mr Burgon said. “But in the past year the Labour leadership has treated the government with kid gloves.

“[We] need a vision. But in these elections, it just wasn’t clear what the party stood for.”

He slammed the influence of New Labour adviser Peter Mandelson on Sir Keir and urged the Labour leadership to learn from US President Joe Biden’s progressive agenda and to work with trade unions to develop such an approach. 

The call was backed by Cynon Valley MP Beth Winter, who stressed that Welsh Labour had matched its best ever Senedd election result because of its radical policy platform.

Many speakers echoed the words of former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who reiterated calls for the Labour whip to be reinstated to Mr Corbyn and expressed solidarity with Palestinians after days of attacks by Israel.

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