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Take another look at Labour

Two-faced, untrustworthy, backsliding, careerist politicians — this is what has replaced Corbyn’s front bench. This is not likely to win back lost Labour voters, writes RICHARD RUDKIN

TWO years ago, following his successful bid to become the Labour leader, Keir Starmer announced to the waiting press, “We’re under new leadership,” then went on to say: “We’ve just lost four elections in a row. We’re failing in our historic purpose. Be in no doubt I understand the scale of the task.”

What Starmer ignored was that despite losing the election, in 2017 under Jeremy Corbyn Labour succeeded in securing more votes than Tony Blair achieved in 2005. And yes, it could have been built on to secure a victory in 2019 — however, as we now know, many in Labour put more effort into getting Corbyn out of office than getting Johnson out of Downing Street.

In the end, it was the decision to change Labour’s stance on Brexit that would finally do the damage — a path that was suggested and encouraged, of course, by Starmer. After all, only a naive person would suggest losing 52 seats to the Tories of which 50 were in constituencies that voted Leave was a coincidence.

In the belief it was other factors that lost Labour votes, last year, Starmer asked those that had turned their backs to “take another look at Labour” — so let’s do just that and see what we can find.

Starmer’s last reshuffle of his shadow cabinet had some interesting choices. Rachel Reeves, shadow chancellor of the exchequer, who, as work and pensions secretary in the Ed Miliband shadow cabinet in 2013 stated: “If you can work you should be working and under our compulsory jobs guarantee if you refuse that job you forgo your benefits,” later adding, “We would be tougher than the Conservatives.” Then in 2015, Reeves told the Guardian “we’re not the party to represent those out of work.”

Then we have David Lammy shadow secretary of state for foreign affairs who joined in the Corbyn bashing in December 2021 by apologising to an online audience for ever nominating Corbyn as the leader. This was the same Lammy that in 2017 after listening to a speech by Corbyn had this to say on Twitter: “This speech is bloody brilliant @JeremyCorbyn is heading to No 10.”

The shadow secretary of state for health and social care also appears to have views that depend on what’s in vogue at that particular time. On Twitter in October 2010 Wes Streeting wrote: “I think Blair should be tried at the Hague for the various war crimes to his name.”

However, in 2015 in a piece for the Huffington Post, Streeting, in an answer about his political heroes stated: “I thought he went off the rails a bit with Iraq, Tony Blair. I think it’s worth now saying in the modern Labour Party that he’s a hero because he won three elections.”

I would have described the destruction of the Middle East costing hundreds of thousands of innocent lives plus many British military personnel returning with life-changing injuries that has led to homegrown terrorism as a little more serious than “going off the rails.”

The two faces of Streeting emerged again shortly after Labour’s election defeat in 2019 when he declared to Sky news, “I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus this morning,” and then went on to say: “What I would say to Jeremy Corbyn, Richard Burgon and others, they had everything they wanted at this election.”

Yet only weeks ago Streeting admitted on BBC Question Time that he didn’t campaign for Corbyn in 2019. So in reality Corbyn never had everything he wanted going into the 2019 general election. Moreover, it begs the question how many other Labour MPs actually campaigned for Corbyn?

But should we expect anything different if their leader is prone to political opportunism too? In 2020 Starmer told a hustings event in Liverpool, “I certainly won’t be giving any interviews to the Sun during the course of this campaign.” In 2021 Starmer wrote a piece for it.

Two years into his leadership, it is evident that Starmer, beginning with Corbyn, has set his sights on ridding Labour of socialists and socialism. After witnessing the attack on Corbyn, many Labour members voted with their feet and resigned from the party. Estimates are somewhere in the region of 200,000 leaving, along with all the finance that number brings. However as Reeves was quick to point out, it was a price worth paying to “rid Labour of anti-semitism.”

By far the elephant in the room is the promise by Labour to honour the 10 pledges of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. Many of us wrote about this at the time, suggesting that this was a dangerous step to make as it could be used to suppress members from being critical of the treatment of Palestinians by Israel.

While some disagreed saying that simply wasn’t true, it wasn’t long before a member of the Jewish Voice for Labour, Naomi Wimbourne-Idrissi, was suspended for voicing her opinion that she was “uncomfortable” with seeing Labour members suspended over accusations of anti-semitism.

A clear example of the problem with this commitment appeared when Starmer was interviewed by the Jewish Chronicle and asked whether he agreed with the Amnesty International claim that Israel is “an apartheid state.” Starmer replied “No. I’ve been very clear about that. That is not the Labour Party position.”

Nobody was surprised by Starmer’s answer — of course, Starmer had no choice but to disagree with the claims by Amnesty: if he had said, “Yes, Israel is an apartheid state,” if just one Labour member had taken issue with that and made a complaint, in line with the 10 pledges of the Board of Deputies, the Labour Party would have had to suspend its leader pending an investigation. That’s how farcical the situation has become.

So after doing exactly as Starmer has asked and taking another look at Labour, what have we discovered?

From his broken promise to the people in Liverpool, Starmer has shown among other things, that he is not exactly a man of his word. Recent evidence suggests Labour is pro-war and anti-peace. If not, why would he threaten to remove the whip from MPs that are involved in the Stop the War Coalition?

Starmer has dusted off former shadow cabinet members, with ideas the voter has already rejected, in the hope that the electorate won’t remember just how ruthless they promised to be on the poorest in society if elected. Why do this? To win over Tory voters. And if Starmer was honest, that’s who he would say he was asking to “take another look at Labour.”

That being the case, to pinch a line from a well-known TV show for would-be entrepreneurs — “Sorry, your product isn’t for me. I’m out.”

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