By William Hallowell | Editor
Starmer must choose woke or workers’ politics.
Two ideologically opposed factions reside within Labour – and the public won’t side with Starmer if he won’t pick a side himself.
Jeremy Corbyn’s 2019 election defeat, and Keir Starmer’s subsequent leadership election win, was meant to bring stability to left-wing politics. It was meant to heal the divide and unify party members and politicians over the embarrassing defeat to Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party. Suffice to say, Starmer hasn’t achieved anything close to party unity since stepping up as Labour leader.
Having always been seen as a more left of centre – or ‘soft left’ – approach towards Westminster politics, Corbyn’s allies on the hard-left were always going to struggle with Labour’s leadership under Starmer. He was always going to be unchangeably unpopular, because he isn’t ‘socialist’. Following Labour’s catastrophic losses in the May local elections and in the Hartlepool by-election which was won over to the Tories, there have been growing calls for Starmer to resign. There have also been rumoured leadership challenges from other popular (among members) MPs like Ian Lavery, race-baiting Dawn Butler and even Keir’s second-in-command, Angela Rayner.
After the disappointing results of the local elections, some MPs came out and said there was a ‘lack of vision’ for the Labour Party. This is absolutely true. Starmer may have a few populist policies – such as a pay-rise for NHS staff – but what he lacks almost entirely is an ideology, which is where the driving force for a ‘vision’ of a Britain under his leadership would look like. To compare, Boris Johnson was given an unprecedented mandate in 2019 for his promise to carry out the will of the 2016 referendum: to Take Back Control – a Brexit Britain under the leadership of Boris. Brexit was Boris’ ideology, his focus, the forefront of his general election campaign.
It is clear that he won this election for his stance on the referendum. It must be acknowledged that this promise was arguably a leading – or indeed, the only – factor for his overwhelming victory. To compare, in the lead up to December 2019, Corbyn was still choosing whether to back Leave or Remain. This was almost undoubtedly the reason for his loss – that, and his opponent’s early declared support for withdrawing from the EU. The public wanted to leave the European Union and Johnson promised he would deliver an exit strategy. Corbyn, on the other hand, pledged another EU referendum, and then if the result was the same as in 2016, deliver a another follow-up referendum on the deal he would negotiate with the EU. Simply, Johnson received an overwhelming victory for pledging an – albeit populist – ideology to the British people.
Now, it seems that little has changed for either the Conservatives or the Labour Party. Yes, whilst it is true that Johnson receives some opposition to Covid measures from ‘rebel’ backbenchers, it has hardly caused any significant instability within his government. In contrast, Labour is still as divided as it was under Corbyn, and perhaps even more so. Two main, and completely opposed, factions seem to dominate the left – and in trying to appease both, Starmer has displeased everyone. Firstly, are the traditional, northern blue-collar communities – the miners and such. They are not necessarily traditional or conservative in their social views, but certainly value patriotism and representation of the working man’s interests. These are probably the most significant priorities for this first faction of the Labour Party. Secondly, are the predominantly middle-class, ‘woke’ bourgeois socialists: the pampered and patronising university student stereotypes who – ironically – talk down to the working-class patriots, and out of the kindness of their self-important hearts, inform them on why being pro-Brexit is racist, and why being anti-BLM is an avid display of white supremacy. As expected, this group of self-awarded scholars at the University of Life prioritise enforcing the ‘right’ pronouns with which to address people, and threat of using the ‘transphobic’ ad hominem (which only really matters to Twitter users and Guardian readers); apparently this is what twenty-first century ‘socialism’ looks like.
Both the northern workers and the self-indulgent champagne socialists are so clearly ideologically opposed. Their priorities differ greatly, and with one talking down to, and displaying contempt for, the other, they will clearly never see eye-to-eye. One side values patriotism and fair representation of the workers; the other shames the former for ‘flag-shagging’ – because the Union Flag is also racist (apparently). One side takes issue with an intentionally racially-dividing political movement propagating a radical, far-left ideology; the other shames the former as ‘racist’ for not submitting to an agenda which is hell-bent on ‘abolition’ of fundamental state institutions in the prevention and punishment of crime. Yet, Keir Starmer ‘took the knee’ in support for this inherently anti-British movement, and then back-tracked and declared that the party will begin to embrace patriotism, pride in the Union Flag and for our military veterans, when it upset the other side. Therefore, it is truly hard to see an argument for any sort of unification of the party. If anything, Labour could possibly be even more divided under Starmer now than it was when he was elected leader.
If you stand in the middle of the road for too long, you’ll be hit by both sides of traffic. Starmer must choose woke or workers’ politics, otherwise the prospect of winning a general election seems incredibly unlikely.
Image credit: UK Parliament