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THE hard-right drift of Starmer’s Labour is laying bear the failures of the Corbyn era to provide institutional protection for socialist politics in Labour now he is gone.
Since day one, Starmer has made it abundantly clear that he no longer sees a place for socialism in the Labour Party. In the first instance this was done by sacking the left general secretary Jennie Formby, and replacing her with Margaret Hodge’s former campaign manager David Evans.
Secondly, through the promotion into his shadow cabinet of numerous hard-right figures with barely any representation from the previous team — then by undermining the few shadow ministers he did have from the left (such as Rebecca Long Bailey) in their briefs.
Then, by rigging the investigation panel over the leaked report into former office staff to ensure a whitewash of the report — while penalising whistleblowers. And now, by sacking Long Bailey.
The reality that the left of the party — including the Socialist Campaign Group — have no clear recourse to defend Long Bailey has been a hugely demoralising realisation for many. It has revealed the complete failure of Corbyn and his team to make contingency plans for a time out of the driver’s seat. Many are leaving the party — fearing a return to the warmongering, corruption and privatisation of the New Labour era.
But rather than simply throw the last four years on the bonfire — there is a hurdle on the horizon which will decide conclusively whether or not the Corbyn movement has totally failed. The upcoming National Executive Committee elections will decide the fate of the party’s current governing body and with them the lasting institution presence of the left in Labour.
Starmer’s actions in recent weeks would have been impossible had it not been for the loss of two NEC seats at the last NEC election, following vacancies after the election of Navendu Mishra and Claudia Webbe to Parliament.
Those seats were lost following a complete failure of the left to pull together a united slate, despite the fact that the combined left vote was more than double that of the victorious hard-right candidates who won.
But the fight to bring together a united left slate for the NEC elections is still underway — and they are eminently winnable. If the left retake the NEC, Starmer will be put back in his box and the grossest excesses of his rightward drift tamed — while the left can continue to consolidate their gains.
If the left win, then an institutional foothold will have been gained in Labour which alongside the increased number of left MPs will be a crucial counterweight to liberal ideologues.
A left majority NEC will have total power over most administrative decision-making, huge influence over MP selections and staffing decisions. The Socialist Campaign Group currently has 36 members — easily enough to get a new left candidate into the leadership race.
If the left loses the NEC elections, then there will continue to be a tempting argument to leave Labour. But it is eminently foolish to do so now with such a pivotal election at stake.
Charlie Winstanley is data officer for Manchester Momentum.
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