By William Hallowell | Editor
Since the result of the Hartlepool by-election, the shadow defence minister has resigned from the Labour frontbench, and Starmer has sacked Angela Rayner from her position as party chair - a decision met with great criticism.
Starmer's leadership is crumbling. Following the Conservatives taking control of Hartlepool, Khalid Mahmood resigned as shadow minister for defence procurement because "Labour has lost touch with ordinary British people." The following evening, Sir Keir Starmer sacked popular - among party members - MP, Angela Rayner, due to an alleged row over 'Super Thursday' election losses. This leaves Starmer's Labour hanging in the balance.
Already unpopular with the hard-left influence of the party for his more central stance to traditional Labour, it seems Starmer is set to lose much more support - not just with the electorate, or even party members, but within his shadow cabinet and wider party. There is certainly the possibility that the 2021 May elections have set in motion a chain of resignations from prominent members of the shadow cabinet. Diane Abbot, who played a key role in Corbyn's Labour, described the party's loss of Hartlepool as a "crushing defeat". John McDonnell, who is a close ally of Corbyn - as is Abbot - also weighed in and accused Starmer of cowardice; and even Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester's re-elected mayor has criticised the Labour leader over the decision to sack Rayner.
Keir Starmer said yesterday that he took full responsibility for the election result in Hartlepool & other losses. Instead today he’s scapegoating everyone apart from himself. This isn’t leadership it’s a cowardly avoidance of responsibility. https://t.co/HysX0DQn8D— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) May 8, 2021
If more prominent party members are to be dismissed over internal squabbling, or should they opt to resign, Starmer's future as leader looks bleak; after all, it was a lack of faith from colleagues that toppled the governments of both Thatcher and May. Some party supporters have already called for his resignation, but he is unlikely to because he has to save face for the sake of his own reputation and the party's. Though stepping down would be a huge party-political victory for the Conservatives, it is probably more likely he is challenged and deposed. Only months ago there were rumours of a leadership challenge from Ian Lavery, a more hard-left member of the party, who would represent traditional Labour voters far more than Sir Keir Starmer; so, there are certainly other Labour representatives that fancy a chance at leadership.
It seems - at least for now - that there is little the Labour leader can do to regain support from the working-class and, clearly, his colleagues. In the first year or so that Starmer has served as leader, these 'Super Thursday' elections were the first test of popularity with public, which have proved he is currently incredibly unpopular. This is despite the relentless attacks towards the Conservative Party - and the Prime Minister personally - over the Downing Street flat refurbishment, so-called 'Chumism' and the all-too-famous phrase 'U-turns', carried out by the Government - which he has been sure to point out at every opportunity.
It is fair to say that Labour took these votes for granted. They relied on the working-class votes because there seems to be a sentiment that the only party for these largely northern communities is Labour. Evidently this is not so, and the shadow cabinet is paying the price. Some have said that 'the working-class haven't abandoned Labour, Labour have abandoned them'. This may be true, but it is both simplistic and dismissive of wider problems. This ignores the fact that Labour has placed far too much emphasis on their medieval Corbynist rhetoric, and launching personal attacks against the PM.
Starmer's vision (or lack of) for Labour seems to be somewhat contradictory; he took the knee for Black Lives Matter, an openly anti-patriotic, Britain-loathing, race-baiting movement, and then announces plans to bring back flag-waving to the flag-hating party. The phrase 'if you stand in the middle of the road for too long you'll be hit from both sides of traffic' comes to mind - there is no saying more applicable to Sir Keir after such as catastrophic performance in the May elections.
On Sunday he is set to reshuffle the shadow cabinet; this is an opportunity to demonstrate he still represents the working-class. In order to do so he must grit his teeth reinstate some elements of the Corbyn regime back into the Labour frontbench, despite initially removing them to turn over a new leaf.
Where, therefore, does this leave the future of the Labour Party? Sir Keir Starmer is going to have to conjure up a humble apology or an ideological rethink ASAFP, to steal one of Malcolm Tucker's acronyms; otherwise, his chances of a general election win will be significantly reduced even further. Until then, his party and his leadership are in grave danger.
Image credit: Rwendland