The robotic nasal voice of Keir Starmer echoes around Labour Party HQ. Wes Streeting is putting his hand up and yelping “no sir, not me sir!” The Socialist Campaign Group pretends to be busy with their work, averting their eyes from Sir Dear Leader. John McDonnell risks a furtive scowl as he polishes Starmer’s spare shoes. On the walls hang vast posters of Corbyn with red eyes and the word ‘Antisemite’ emblazoned across the former leader’s forehead.
God Save the King plays on a portable speaker on the leader’s desk, which is flanked by large Union Flags. Not commie trade union flags, patriotic British ones. Streeting is sat on a red, white and blue chaise longue crossing out the words “democratic socialist party” on a stack of membership cards and colouring them ‘Brexit Blue’. Rachel Reeves and Jonathan Ashworth are throwing darts at a picture of benefit claimants. Jon Lansman appears pushing a tea trolley and pours Starmer a weak milky tea which he snatches without thanks and downs like a scalding hot pint.
Racist posters of Tory PM Sunak are being workshopped for the election campaign by briefcase-wielding interns sporting Starmer-style quiffs. Peter Mandelson flicks out his tongue to catch a passing fly. Wearing the colour red is banned, as are the words ‘socialism’, ‘peace’ and ‘love’. At least, that’s how I imagine it. As we are writing our fantasy versions of Labour HQ this week, I thought I might as well do my version. Maybe this will get picked up uncritically by The Guardian too.
Corbyn blocked from standing as Labour Candidate
In the latest instalment of the “Jeremy Corbyn is a hideous racist Bogeyman who wants to murder your granny” saga, the Labour NEC have blocked him from being selected as a Labour candidate in the next general election. Corbyn is a hard working and popular MP of 40 years and, without this interference from the NEC and Starmer, he would easily have been selected by his local Labour Party and elected for Labour an 11th time.
The oddly bland motion put to the NEC by Starmer states that Corbyn should not be allowed to stand as he lost the last general election. There was no mention of antisemitism but the shadow cabinet were keen to insinuate that this was the real reason in media interviews. Wes Streeting, gleefully speaking to Times Radio, opined that if had properly accepted the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) verdict into antisemitism “things might have been different”. Starmer must rely on snide insinuation from his besuited attack dogs because putting it in writing might have negative legal consequences. All that smearing and it hasn’t come to much.
The trade union reps on the NEC were split, with the cowards in the GMB, USDAW and fucking Musician’s Union flinching and voting for the motion. The Unison delegate abstained and the Deputy Leader, former Corbyn ‘ally’ Angela Rayner, did not attend. For consistency the NEC should also prevent election-losing former leader Ed Miliband from standing for Labour, but I’m not holding my breath.
Corbyn remains an obsession for Starmer and his cabal of right wing sensibles. Socialists are being purged from the party and he is the big one; the dragon that must be slain by Sir Starmer. They remain horrified that he did unexpectedly well on a social democratic platform in 2017 and that his ideas about helping each other spoke to the future generation of voters. This was doing politics wrong. The adults were not in charge. How dare this upstart talk about ridiculous things like ending homelessness and funding social care and education so that no one is left behind?
How dare he propose investment in council housing, properly funding the NHS and free nursery places for all 2-4 year olds? What a monster. Thankfully, now the adults are back in charge and are creating racist attack ads claiming that Sunak does not support convicted paedophiles going to prison, as well as putting out social media posts on combatting fly tipping and nuisance phone calls. I’m not pro nuissance phone calls but they aren’t priorities for the majority of working class people. Not to forget tackling people smoking weed, which Starmer thinks is ruining the lives of people (families!) who have to smell it. That’s the biggest problem of people in Britain right now in Starmer land; the smell of weed.
Starmer’s Labour is going all-in on a ‘Law and Order’ strategy designed to out do the Tories from the right, which makes the reaction of the left in Labour to Corbyn’s election ban all the more infuriating. This is the only way we can achieve socialism? By supporting a party that’s calling for thousands more cops? Just after the Met Police has been found to be institutionally racist, sexist and homophobic? Really?
Corbyn’s long time ally and fellow socialist MP John McDonnell has not covered himself in glory during this unpleasant factional episode. Firstly urging Corbyn to “keep on apologising” over his EHRC report response (the same EHRC that is now proposing the removal of trans people’s legal rights and is packed with Tories) and then responding to the NEC decision by saying “I am a great believer in the powers of conversation, and I think we can reverse this decision, full stop”. This is fanciful, but McDonnell is firmly wedded to the Labour Party, even abandoning his anti-war position over Ukraine rather than stand up to Starmer, as did Diane Abbott.
The Socialist Campaign Group (SCG) MPs have mostly been completely useless on this, with many of them remaining silent in order to keep their jobs. MP Apsana Begum has been steadfast in her support for Corbyn, as someone else who has been treated disgracefully by the Party, but a lot of the big “left wing” names have not. At the beginning of the Corbyn demonization project the SCG might have issued a strongly-worded letter, but now even that level of collective solidarity has been abandoned. Some individual SCG members tweet something vaguely supportive but there is no concerted and collective effort to defend one of their own. Is this the “staying and fighting” we were told was going to happen? Sit, Stay and Roll Over more like.
Jon Lansman, founder of Momentum (a left campaign group within Labour, set up to support Corbyn after he became leader), issued an awful statement in which he said it was bad and factional of Starmer to block Corbyn’s candidacy but urged Corbyn not to stand as an independent. “We need a Labour government not a lone backbencher — Jeremy should follow Tony Benn & leave Parliament to devote more time to politics”, he weaseled. So much for solidarity.
The argument that we need a Labour government is based on the assumption that it will do good things. Voting in any old bunch of clowns wearing red rosettes won’t do. Why should working class people support Labour if it is useless and hateful and right wing? Most of us aren’t getting really vexed about fly tipping, we are trying to scrape together enough money to heat our homes and feed our children. Throwing socialists under the bus so Labour can get on with the grown up business of tackling fly tipping, off-road biking in rural communities (keeps me up at night, this one) and people smoking weed by the method of “more cops” doesn’t seem like a great strategy for the left.
Momentum issued a bizarre statement after the NEC decision to block Corbyn’s candidacy saying that “The call to leave Labour is the siren call of despair… its only effect is to weaken the Labour Left and the survival of socialism within the public sphere.” I think they’re deluded. It is difficult to see how the Labour Left could get much weaker and the idea that the Labour Party is now anything but an obstacle to the development of mass struggle and socialism in Britain is bemusing.
Imagine having to go out door knocking for Starmer and his “cops cops cops” agenda when you could be building a strike or campaigning over the cost of living and the climate crisis, fighting for decent housing, against the attacks on trans rights, against racism and for migrant’s rights? Even off-road biking, Keir. Why would you waste your time? There is more to life than Parliament and the Labour Party. Our biggest struggles will not be fought at the Palace of Westminster. We were right to have hope, but wrong to place it in the parliamentary Labour Party.
It is a waste of any socialist’s time and efforts to remain in this Labour Party that will never let an anomaly like Corbyn’s leadership happen again. The Labour Party despises socialists; the call for socialists to stay inside it is the real siren call of despair. We can do better.
Will Corbyn stand?
At the time of writing, Corbyn has not said whether he intends to stand as an independent candidate. I would like him to, partly to piss off ‘comrades’ like Lansman, and would probably go to London to help campaign for him. For him to do this would mean him relinquishing his Labour membership, again I don’t see the problem, but he may. What is certain is that he has the support of his constituents and his local Labour Party members. He is well loved in his community. The bakers and food workers union BFAWU released an excellent statement pledging to support him if he does stand as an independent. It would be inspiring if other unions did the same. Labour members campaigning for an independent Corbyn would no doubt be purged, hopefully that won’t stop them.
Union reps on the Labour NEC from the CWU, Unite, ASLEF, TSSA and FBU unions all voted against the motion to block Corbyn’s candidacy. Union funding for the party has already declined under Starmer and this trend seems likely to continue. The Labour leadership have been unwilling to support the recent wave of strikes but still expect union backing. If Corbyn stands as an independent, it will be interesting to see if his campaign attracts any union money.
Corbyn standing as an independent could help to derail a Sunak vs Starmer ‘Law and Order’ general election campaign, with media attention being centred on just one London constituency that has voted for a progressive MP for 40 years rather than the frothing racists with fly-tipping gripes that Starmer is apparently courting, wherever they reside.
Corbyn’s influence could be stronger outside the Labour Party in this case; he would have the media spotlight and be able to promote socialist policies. I’d enjoy the general election if this were to happen, it would be refreshing to hear from at least one decent left wing candidate on the telly. It would give a boost to strikers, migrants, people who can’t afford to pay their bills, people persecuted under the punitive benefits system and anyone who wants a better society. People that Labour is determined to ignore or demonise. If he won, which could happen given his local popularity, it would be a welcome kick in the teeth for Starmer and his spineless NEC.
Having said all this, we should focus our efforts and attentions outside the internal wranglings of Starmer’s Labour, apart from occasional piss-taking as required. I almost didn’t write about this (maybe that would have been for the best…) as I am weary of thinking about Starmer, his adenoidal voice grating in my beige purgatorial nightmares. But he continues to be a shit to Corbyn who gave a lot of ordinary people hope. It’s not just about Corbyn, although it’s upsetting to see someone who has dedicated his adult life to anti-racism be called a racist by shameless arseholes who couldn’t care less about racism, it’s about the deliberate destruction of that hope. The attack on Corbyn is an attack on all of us who believe in fairness and social justice. Standing in solidarity with Corbyn is an assertion that we haven’t gone away.
Starmer is the anti-hope candidate. We can be the hope we need. We should look for the strength we need to organise and improve society within our communities, workplaces, unions, tenant’s associations and campaign groups. Let the two main establishment parties squabble about who is tougher on crime and call each other paedophile-lovers without us and let’s build something that will give them nightmares.
Am I now or have I ever been a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn? Unlike most of his ‘allies’ in the Labour Party, I’m proud to say that I am.