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New dawn fades April 5, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Well now, that was the shortest honeymoon ever. Keir Starmer, who some will recall (just about), is leader of the British Labour Party has been finding himself in the unusual predicament of taking fire from left and right within the BLP. Why so?

Shadow cabinet ministers are understood to be among those who have concerns that Starmer is losing crucial momentum at the end of his first year in office, with several MPs calling for more experience to be injected into his team to spell out “what Keir is for”. It comes as the Conservatives are still enjoying a lead in the polls, with several pollsters suggesting that a “vaccine bounce” has also helped Boris Johnson repair some of his personal approval rating in the wake of major mistakes in his handling of Covid last year.

And:

Short-term annoyances in the run-up to the budget, during which Labour contrived to have a row over its own position on corporation tax, and shadow business secretary Ed Miliband backed electric cars while conceding he did not own one, have fed into frustrations that have been building over recent months. The emergence of wider unease follows Peter Mandelson’s call for Starmer to begin a review of the party’s policies, in order to adopt measures that are “radical, credible, affordable”.

And:

Another said: “There is deep frustration in the shadow cabinet over a lack of direction.”

While there is widespread acknowledgement in the party that Starmer faced a major challenge after taking power following years of party infighting, concerns have begun to focus on former MP Jenny Chapman, his director of politics, and Morgan McSweeney, his chief of staff. MPs complain of being ignored and that there is no sense of a “shared political project”.

The problem is that there’s no sense of what Starmer is for. He had promised to retain the broad outline of the Corbyn period policy approach. This, though, appears to have been pushed away, and tellingly with nothing to replace it.

This excoriating, but far from incorrect, overview in the Guardian by Moya Lothian-McLean notes the change in rhetoric from the start of this leadership:

Starmer’s ascension, media pundits trumpeted, was Labour getting back on track. Philip Collins, writing in the Times, compared Starmer favourably to Labour prime-minister-who-never-was John Smith, stating he was “very good indeed”. Ian Dunt exclaimed that “finally, there’s a grownup in charge”, and in July celebrated the first phase of Starmer’s leadership as a “resounding success”. In the Guardian, columnists confidently predicted that, under Starmer, Labour could once more hold the Tories to account, describing the QC as a big-brained grownup wielding cool authority.

And with the leader and the party now on the backfoot – or more accurately, more on the back foot, she notes:

Despite the break with Corbynism, “Starmerism” has not defined itself in any sense beyond sitting on the fence. On traditional Labour turf, Starmer has upset trade unions with his attack on the party’s left wing, and dissuaded teachers from taking strike action over being forced back into schools. He’s been outflanked by the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, on raising corporation tax, despite an explicit pledge to reverse Tory corporation tax cuts at the top of his leadership manifesto. It’s all very confusing.

And she notes that the BLP is seemingly reinventing itself as a ‘pastime’ of the Blair party of the 1990s. But she makes a compelling point – time has moved on since then, with vastly greater polarisation in British politics, and where sitting it out and making noises about being centrist won’t cut it. Indeed this void at the heart of the BLP means that its voice is missing in action on a range of issues at precisely the time when it is most needed.

“What does Keir Starmer stand for?” people have begun to wonder.Starmer himself doesn’t even seem to particularly know. He has wholeheartedly abandoned his pledge of party unity, triggering a “civil war” over his suspension and removal of the whip from Corbyn. Gone too is his commitment to a strong relationship with the EU: he has barely said a peepthrough all the chaos wreaked by Boris Johnson’s hodgepodge of a deal, even as UK trade plummets.

The strange thing is that Starmer arrived with considerable goodwill – and a seeming willingness to retain the best of the Corbyn project. That he has managed to lose that goodwill and to retreat from his own commitments is remarkable not simply because it is so inept and counterproductive, but because he and those around him appear to believe this process would not be noticed.

Comments»

1. Phil - April 6, 2021

On the very last point, there’s a simple explanation: they think we’re stupid.

I’m serious about this. The general theory is that when we look at other people we see ourselves, or slightly defective versions of ourselves. Jeremy Corbyn is a principled campaigner, so he’s surrounded by people who aren’t yet but could become principled campaigners (although some of them, annoyingly, seem not to want to bother)*. The political self-image of the Right of the Party consists of (a) kicking the Trots (b) getting Labour elected and (c) being very, very smart – so for them the rest of the world consists of dim people who hate Trots and vote Labour, dim people who hate Trots *and* Labour, and Trots.

They have no big ideas, and they don’t trust anyone who does – they don’t think there are any big ideas worth having. But they still think they’re the smartest people in the room. I don’t see things improving any time soon.

*The trouble with Arthur was that he meant well, he meant too well, he wanted everyone to mean as well as he did. When he would find out they didn’t, that not all of them burned with his own pure flame but some had pride, others were self-interested and power-hungry, he would become angry. He was a prisoner of conscience.”
– Margaret Atwood, Lady Oracle

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sonofstan - April 6, 2021

” there’s a simple explanation: they think we’re stupid”

yep.

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