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Starmer might be looking inwards, but Labour’s left is looking forwards

The party leadership is lacking ideas and looking for scapegoats for its own failures, yet a transformative programme has the capacity to inspire the public – and that can still be built, says ANDREW SCATTERGOOD of Momentum

THE Labour Party is crying out for leadership. Trailing in the polls, the party looks flat-footed and unsure of itself.

Keir Starmer’s awkward embrace of “pints and flags” failed to appeal to red wall voters in Hartlepool and the party lost 300 council seats across the country in the local elections, while a couple of months later in Batley and Spen Labour shed much of its Muslim core vote.

The party needs a transformative vision that unites our disparate coalition — but at the moment it looks to be fracturing.

Starmerism is proving to be a political ideology devoid of serious solutions to the crisis of the 21st century.

Far from doing some serious thinking about electoral strategy and policy ideas, the Labour right has turned inwards.

True to form, they think the solution to this stagnation is simple: attack the left.   

But this approach is failing on their own terms. Starmer kicked off his offensive with the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn following the Equality and Human Rights Commission report.

Those around him believed it would help to send a signal to the establishment that this was a clean break with the socialism of the Corbyn era.

Maybe it did. But it also contributed to tanking his poll ratings to a low point from which he is struggling to recover. 

Now, after a proposal from the party leadership, Labour’s NEC has proscribed four organisations, each made up primarily of Labour members.

Anyone found to be a member or “supporter” of these groups will be expelled.

In some instances, to qualify as a supporter and to be auto-excluded from membership of Labour, one only has to attend an event.

For a party struggling for mass appeal among the electorate, and for a leader who promised unity, this is a bizarre battle to pick. 

Labour should be the home of all who are committed to delivering a Labour government and share our party’s values.

Our party has always been home to a wide range of political traditions and we have a responsibility to work with each other to build support for socialist ideas and policies.

We must collaborate with each other in the spirit of tolerance and respect, and with the values of socialism and anti-racism.

When members fall short of the standards — whatever group they belong to — they should be held to account through the party’s disciplinary processes, with respect to natural justice.

When members meet these standards, they should not expect to face automatic expulsion. 

The formal justification for the proscriptions is on the grounds of anti-racism (though in Socialist Appeal’s case the grounds are “Trotskyism”) and anti-racism must be at the centre of our mission as a party, from top to bottom.

Yet as well as making proper use of the party’s disciplinary processes to achieve this, it also requires those with power in the party to lead by example. 

On this front, Starmer has failed. The Forde report — which includes an investigation into racist cultures in Labour Party workplaces — appears to have been buried.

Meanwhile, the anti-Muslim prejudice coming from within the party during and after the Batley and Spen by-election has not spurred the leadership into serious action. 

When there is such a clear and obvious double standard, how can the leadership be viewed as trusted arbiters of anti-racism? 

But we all know the real reason for these petty manoeuvres. It’s far easier to stay in your comfort zone and wage internal warfare against your factional opponents than it is to take the fight to the Tories.

When your wider political project is failing, why not find a scapegoat?

But the Labour Party’s current malaise isn’t down to a few hundred members, or ex-members. It’s down to the failure of those at the top. 

In 2017, we massively increased our vote share with a transformative policy platform that won us support in large swathes of the country.

There are clearly lessons to be learnt from that election. Yet Starmer, and those around him, are insistent upon expunging it from the record.

We now hear very little about policy, and instead we’re treated to the Labour leader — again and again — telling voters that he will do all he can to “listen.”

It’s a return to the bad old days of focus groups and triangulation, and a total lack of conviction in socialist ideas.

What’s more, it clearly isn’t working, and any small bumps in the polls this may achieve will be built on sand.

But while Starmer flounders and Labour stalls, our movement has the dynamism and ideas to change the country.

From the inspiring community organising work that has reconnected the party with working people in Broxtowe, Walton and Worthing, to the Community Wealth Building that has put power back into the hands of local people in Preston, Salford and North Ayrshire, our movement has the ideas and strategies required to deliver a socialist Labour government.

The leadership may be looking inwards, but at Momentum we are continuing to build a network of activists and groups that can build a better future.

Recent announcements from Andy McDonald, shadow secretary of state for employment rights and protections, on cracking down on bogus self-employment and repealing the anti-trade union laws show that there is a viable way forwards for the left in the party.

By building the power necessary to move the ground under the leadership’s feet, the socialist left can shape the future of our party. 

Andrew Scattergood is co-chair of Momentum.

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