Starmer shown red card and has early Bath

It seems as though Keir Starmer can add unlucky to his present list of troubles following his unfortunate encounter in Bath with a Brexiteer.

Your first thought is how on earth did his minders get him into such an encounter; the very kind of publicity he’d not have wanted.

But then on further reflection, what on earth was he doing campaigning in Bath which is already represented by a radical and progressive MP. You’d have thought his efforts would have been better aimed at a Tory seat rather than helping the Tories to unseat an MP of the centre-left who is far more radical and progressive than the vast majority of Labour MP’s. Having said that maybe it’s as simple as he’s on the same track as Jez Corbyn i.e. get rid of all other radical left of centre MP’s who are not Labour; the Tories can wait until we’ve achieved that. Trouble is that the tribal approach simply does not work and it lets the Tories have a free run.

Whilst Starmer is clearly more electable than Corbyn he’s no progressive leader at all and he seems to spend much of his time making progressives both inside and outside of the Labour Party cringe. He also seems to be on a very different course to Tony Blair who gathered progressives around him, made friends with the then Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown and made himself look like a progressive who could and would win. Starmer’s approach seems to be one of hiding behind his party political sofa saying as little as possible and certainly not reaching out to other progressives in the Greens, Lib Dems etc. So the ‘one more heave’ policy of Labour under Corbyn is still thought to be alive despite it being pronounced very much dead in the December 2019 General Election.

The trouble with Labour is that they are a wide collection of political sects from the right, through social democrats and off into the many sects of socialism. This means working-class right-wingers, who have bought into Johnson, are in the same overall tent as Momentum! No wonder Labour spends so much of its time fighting itself and trying to heal internal divisions. They call it a ‘broad church’ but it’s so broad that its internal sects often hate each other more than they do the Tories.

So no one on the progressive left really has any idea where Starmer is heading as he clearly didn’t in Bath.

Having read this far you may think I want Starmer to fail but actually, the opposite is true. We desperately need a centre-left, progressive and yes radical alternative to our UKIP-type Tory Party. A Progressive Alliance of Labour, Lib Dems & Greens is required but for that to happen Labour has to stop attacking fellow progressives and Starmer has to start to look like a real leader of women and men. Sadly, the way things are going there’s not much room for hope and the Tories march on without a credible opposition.

Labour’s dilemma – Class based V Progressive Politics

Labour is trying to pull back into its fold the right wing white working class voters who voted Tory at the last General Election. This despite the fact that these voters can often hold views which would embarrass a truly progressive party – This is summed up by Jim Hancock who says this in one of his recent blog pieces (Hancock’s Half Page):-

‘Sir Keir’s statement that “we love our country” was really important. For Labour to have any hope of regaining its northern strength, it must recognise the deep patriotism of the working class.’

To me that deep patriotism sadly often proclaims itself as racism, anti-Semitism, pro-Brexit, anti-gay, anti-Muslim etc. etc.

At the same time Labour’s also looking to bring on board real progressives who certainly reject the views outlined above but who, like the working class backers, became disillusioned with the party in recent years mainly due to the party’s fence sitting over Brexit and its anti-Semitism problems.

And thereby hangs Labour’s dilemma; trying to appeal to progressives and regressives at the same time. Under Tony Blair they achieved it although more I think by ignoring their white working class supporters (whom I’m sure must have been a huge embarrassment to Blair, whilst he still needed their votes) than by currying favour with them.

Starmer, who certainly does not have Blair’s charismatic qualities, therefore has a huge task on his hands. And if you add into that heady mix the fact that Labour has been almost wiped out in Scotland the task gets all the more difficult with Labour, like the Lib Dems, being a unionist party when the Scots are moving further towards independence.

My point in writing this posting is that Labour needs the Lib Dems to be successful just as much as Lib Dems need Labour to be successful. They’ve tried going toe to toe and it gave the Tories a free hand so they’ve got to do just the opposite and find a way not to fight each other in those seats where doing so simply hands seats to the Tories.

Yes I know that in many policy areas the Libs will continue be to the left of and more progressive then Labour. That’s just been highlighted by the Libs backing UBI & Labour rejecting it. And of course Labour traditionally has wanted to fight the Libs probably more than the Tories because they’re another left wing sect they want out of their way. However, unless the two parties want a re-run of the terrible campaigns which Corbyn and Swinson delivered in December 2019 then they’re going to have to find a way to live with each other as Blair and Ashdown did.

And yes I know it’s our appalling electoral system that creates this need to co-operate between two very different parties but without that co-operation then you know what the probable outcome could well be – yes that’s right another Tory Government!

But Labour’s USP has always been that they are not the Tories and maybe not being the Tories is all that’s needed now? If so it explains why Labour’s all but a policy vacuum; they stand for nothing much at all but they’re not Tories.

Why is a ‘leftie’ like you not a member of the Labour Party?

One of the major reasons a ‘leftie’ like me can’t support the Labour Party is because it’s fundamentally a class based party. A party which encompasses such a broad range of political opinion is bound to be riven with sects perpetually at war with each other; that’s Labour’s burden which has bedeviled it and held it back from being a truly progressive party for as long as it has existed.

Yes Labour’s so called middle class supporters are often progressives who’re for example anti-Brexit and they’re predominately of the left/left of centre. However, many of the party’s core working class (you could even say their white working class) supporters drag on the party like an anchor. They’re often far from being progressive with racist/antisemitic views and with a reluctance (or damn right objection) towards real social reform.

Karl Popper’s ‘paradox of tolerance’ comes to mind: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.

To my mind Labour tries to manage and suppress the intolerance within its core vote but it must be like squeezing a balloon in that for every part you push in an equal part pops out. Indeed, if you look at Labour’s political sects they’re seemingly set up to be intolerant of other political sects and I don’t just mean sects outside of Labour here!

I became an active trade unionist in 1975 when I started work some 5 years before I became a Liberal Party member, or you could say until I realised my views were ones of a leftie, radical and Liberal nature. In my early days as a trade unionist I often scratched my head when hearing some folks in the TU movement who said they were socialists and/or members of the Labour Party but who seemed to hold views of a right wing nature. It took me a while to realise that they were invariably white and they would often refer to themselves as working class*. The Penny dropped when it dawned on me that anyone within a social class could hold any kind of view within the political spectrum and they certainly did! So to base a political party on a class of people means that some very intolerant and racist folk belong to the same political movement as folks with progressive and left wing views. That the right wingers are clearly tolerated within Labour despite their views has long troubled me; the rule of thumb seems to be if you say you’re working class you’re one of us, if you’re not you’re a Tory.

So I rejected Labour as a party for me and I signed up with the Liberal Party which seemed to be a better fit for my leftie, radical and progressive views. And anyway I had difficulty (and still do) with seeing the world or our UK society via the prism of social class. Us and them politics has never done much for me yet I realise that it can be a hugely motivating factor in the Labour and Tory Parties who seem to thrive on it. I find it most odd when someone from a self proclaimed working class background makes a few bob and then becomes a Tory or even a champagne socialist. It’s a world I simply can’t relate to.

I found that the collectivism of the trade union movement fitted well with my Liberal views although others in the TU movement found it hard to understand my politics. However, when Labour lurched towards the centre ground of politics under Blair and the majority of my fellow TU officers (those with left wing views I mean) had left it in disgust they seemed to look upon me as a genuine leftie. The paradox for me as a Lib Dem councillor though was hearing Labour councillors shouting out ‘we’re old Labour’ whenever Blair got a mention at council meetings. You see I saw the Lib Dems as being more to the left than most of the Labour councillors who were shouting it! Where each of them really stood on the political spectrum always baffled me as they seemed to me to cover the whole political range from left to right whilst uniting under the working class banner of Labour which they felt, at the time, had been hijacked by moderate/centrists. Yet the those same moderate/centrists who were so despised within Labour were probably more to the left of politics than some of the shouters of ‘we are old Labour’. Get your head around that if you can…….

I’m certainly not a political moderate or centrist. My happiest political times were during Charles Kennedy’s period as Lib Dem Leader when often our policy positioning, particularly with regard to social issues, was significantly more progressive than those of Labour. My fervent hope is that Layla Moran becomes the next Lib Dem Leader as to me she seems to show the progressive instincts which are very much required in UK politics particularly since Labour is seemingly moving back to the moderate/centrist ground again.

That the Lib Dems lost their way after Kennedy is a statement of the blindingly obvious to me. Saying we’d oppose Labour’s imposed Tuition Fees, for example, and then not doing so was a massive political miscalculation by Clegg. It precipitated a big decline in the Party from which it has only recently started to recover.

For me the Lib Dems need to be politically radical, be a voice for the poorest in our society, be unashamedly socially/environmentally progressive and willing to take risks by taking on all those issues which the Daily Mail will hate us for. Being timid and centrist, no thank you, I’ll leave that to Starmer. That’s not to say we shouldn’t work with the likes of Starmer, indeed we should work with them where we have common policy interests and that goes for the Greens too. What I like about Moran is her willingness to work with others to try to forge common politically progressive goals…….

* And in far more recent times I’ve come across so called socialists who’ve backed parties such as UKIP and the Brexit Party at the ballot box! When they tell you they usually vote Labour, because they’re working class, but then trot out to vote for right wing candidates makes my point. Clearly, this happened by the spadeful in the 2019 General Election.

Merseyside Labour – They didn’t learn Kinnock’s lesson so Starmer’s sent more learning pills

I’ve seen a number of social media postings from journalists, political commentators and politicians in the last couple of days regarding there being no Merseyside MP’s in Starmer’s new Shadow Cabinet.

Here’s my take on it. Merseyside Labour Party decided to indulge itself in another round of Militantism, only this time it was called Momentum/Corbynism. And just like the previous time (1980’s) they got slapped down; last time by Kinnock now by Starmer. It really is as simple as that.

Yes of course there will have been MP’s and indeed councillors who pretended to be Corbynistas to either avoid deselection or to garner favour from the former leader’s sect. But whilst that gave them cover during Corbyn’s time as top dog it created the very opposite at the end of his reign. So what do you do as a Social Democrat, centrist or moderate within Labour who decided to take Corbyn’s shilling? A sudden about face (not very credible) or more likely keep your head down for a while whilst slowly emerging with differing beliefs.

But of course that also works in reverse. If you were an ardent Corbynista, where do you go now? Walk away from a party which now seems to be all but embarrassed by by what it believed in until the electorate said not on your Nellie in December 2019. Alternatively, do you change your spots and start to cheer-lead for the new more moderate and very much establishment man at the helm?

So is it really any surprise that Starmer has calmly put Merseyside Labour on notice? No of course not. But will they learn. No of course not!

Little Twittering for Europe morphs into ‘let’s save Labour’

I don’t know about other progressives and Remain Alliance (Lib Dem, Green & PC) supporters but I’ve noticed that many of the Facebook Groups I subscribed to before the General Election who were backing Remain and also encouraging progressives to vote tactically are now little more than recruiting sergeants for trying to turn the Labour back into a Social Democrat Party.

My thoughts on this are:-

* Why did the centrists, moderates & social democrats leave Labour in the first place?
* Isn’t Labour now a Socialist Party which has thrown off its Blair era past to be a narrower church of the far left?
* Why do moderates, centrists and social democrats think they can return Labour to Blairism?
* Isn’t it better that Labour is a socialist party rather than a generation by generation see-saw party sometimes of the middle ground and sometimes of the far left?
* Haven’t we been here before when Kinnock ‘rescued’ Labour from the far left only for it to return there under Momentum/Corbynism?
* Why do moderates think they can get the left to relinquish power within Labour so it can become akin to Blairite again?
* If Labour is ‘rescued’ again how long will it stay moderate?
* How long will it take to ‘rescue’ Labour again?
* Is it even realistic to try to save Labour?

Being of the left and as someone who thinks of himself as a bit of a leftie I’ve often found that many Labour voters, supporters and indeed members are to the right of me as a Liberal and that’s both when Labour is moderate and when it’s left! My view has always been that Labour is too broad a church, ranging in support from working class ‘Tories’ to posh privately educated socialists and everything in between. I use the word ‘Tories’ quite deliberately but not in a derogatory way as many Labour factions talk about each other. What I mean is at heart they are actually quite right wing but they ally themselves to Labour because it’s their tribe; they’re no more progressive than I’m a Dutchman so to speak. Of course it was this section of the Labour family that the Labour leadership was pandering to prior to GE 2019. It led them to be all things and no things to most women and men on Brexit the biggest issue of the day; indeed their leader was neutral! That was never going to inspire anyone and of course it didn’t.

So Labour whilst being very much of the left under Momentum and Corbyn was actually singing the tune (well mumbling it quietly really) of its right wing supporters many of whom then promptly deserted Labour to vote for a far right alternative! You could not make this up but that’s what happened in GE 2019.

My point here is why are moderates, centrists and social democrats trying to save Labour? Is it because it’s a tribe they were born into and they feel they have to try to save it? If the motivation is tribalism then no good will come of it as tribalism is the fault-line in UK politics not its saviour. Labour’s ‘our way or no way’ approach to politics has bedeviled it and progressive politics over generations except for a brief period when Blair & Ashdown tried to promote inclusive center left politics. If Labour does swing back (and that presently is a very big if) towards social democracy it needs to want to work with other progressives in other political parties. If it pursues the mantra of everyone else on the left is a Tory then nothing will be achieved.

If you want to save Labour for it to become moderate, centrist and social democrat again then good luck to you but I fear you’ll have to keep doing it every 15 years or so, even if you do succeed, because fundamentally Labour is probably more comfortable as a socialist party. Remember in the Blair years when Labour activists often chimed in with the chorus of ‘we are old Labour’? Well they were and they’ve gained control of the party machine this time far more firmly than Michael Foot’s supporters or Militant ever did.

My advice is don’t waste your time if you think you can return Labour to centrist politics, that ship sailed a long time ago.

Labour’s Brexit problem – They are openly not Remainers

The Liverpool Echo has the article on its website – see link below:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/labour-mp-accuses-unite-boss-17247986

Whilst the report is about internal Labour Party difficulties the mere mention of McCluskey makes Remainers most unhappy. What on earth has a trade union leader been doing not fighting Brexit when it will in all probability lead to job losses and it threatens employment rights? It just makes no sense at all to me as a life long trade unionist.

And people like McCluskey must surely be at the heart of Labour being unable/unwilling to join the Remain Alliance? Here we have 3 political parties of the left PC, the Greens and Lib Dems fighting to stop Brexit because amongst many other things it is a threat to jobs and employment rights whilst a trade union leader with obviously huge influence within Labour leans towards Brexit. It beggars belief in my view.