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Exclusive: ‘Starmer wanted to take socialism out of Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers' name’

Lawyer who joined the society at the same time as the Labour leader lifts the lid on Sir Keir's lack of commitment to socialism

A LAWYER who joined a professional organisation at the same time as Sir Keir Starmer lifted the lid today on the Labour leader’s lack of socialist commitment in an exclusive interview with the Morning Star.

Barrister and academic Bill Bowring became a member of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers in the late 1980s.

Professor Bowring said that, although the former director of public prosecutions did a “magnificent” job as a human rights lawyer and had written for publications such as Socialist Alternative, he believed that Sir Keir was “never much of a socialist” as he did not seem to be “oriented towards the class struggle.”

He told the Star: “His ambition always took priority. I never heard him argue about whether it was possible to have a socialist programme in Britain.”

In his leadership campaign, Sir Keir described himself as a socialist, but critics said that he was merely attempting to retain the hundreds of thousands of party members who had joined under his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn.

The Haldane Society held its annual general meeting earlier this week, during which Sir Keir was “censured” for his controversial actions since he replaced Mr Corbyn last year.

The meeting heard criticisms of Labour’s “outrageous” abstentions on the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill and the party leader’s “authoritarian overreaction” in refusing to restore the whip to Mr Corbyn after the suspension of his membership was reversed.

Mr Bowring said that his earliest memory of Sir Keir was at one of the “angriest ever executive committee meetings,” where the latter was heard proposing a change in the name of the group to remove “Haldane” and “socialist” and add “progressive” or “democratic.”

He added that Sir Keir has long been a “moderniser” and that he had wanted to “modernise” the Haldane Society to resemble the Liberty human rights organisation, which was formed around the same time.

Both proposals were rejected.

Prof Bowring praised Sir Keir as a “very good organiser,” as was shown by his ability to gain approval to obtain premises for the society and then set up an educational trust with a paid member of staff.

But he added: “Keir is not a Marxist.  He would have considered himself a socialist, but he was always intensely ambitious.

“He had leadership ambition from early on. His model appears to be Clement Attlee and he never showed signs of radicalism or socialism.”

Prof Bowring said that there used to be “huge arguments” in the society about who was more working class, with Sir Keir insisting that he was on the grounds that “he played five-a-side football every weekend.”

The Morning Star has contacted Sir Keir’s office for comment.

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