Is Starmer another John Smith?

Now I’m a Liberal who had some time for John Smith as Labour Leader; I thought he had something about him even though I had little time for his party. That someone should compare him to Keir Starmer struck me as more than a little odd as to me Starmer as Labour leader has been quite a big disappointment. I’d thought that when he was seemingly reluctantly running along with Corbyn that there was far more about him than has subsequently been shown since he became Labour’s leader.

So what about the article that got me thinking about how on earth Starmer could possibly be another Smith? Here’s a substantial extract from it

When talking about Keir Starmer, think of John Smith – by Mark Pack

The parallels between former Labour Party leader John Smith and current leader Keir Starmer are striking.

Both took up post after four Labour general election defeats in a row (1979-1992 and then 2010-19). Both succeeded a Labour leader whose personal ratings had a positive burst but had fallen into persistent negative territory by the end (Kinnock, then Corbyn). Both themselves had not only been a leading member of the Shadow Cabinet prior to the last Labour defeat, they had even held the post central to the key issue seen at the heart of that defeat. Brexit for Starmer, the economy for Smith. On becoming leader, both addressed a major internal issue that had been seen as costing Labour votes (anti-Semitism with Starmer, the union block vote and move to OMOV for Smith). But beyond that, both also were modest in the extent to which they set out to change their party or its policies. Both looked to have an approach to winning the next general election of, ‘Let the government mess up while I’ll show that I’m not my predecessor’. One more heave rather than one big revolution.

Whether this would have worked for John Smith, tragically we will never know. The plaudits given to him after his early death from a heart attack in 1994 were of the sort any of us should be honoured to receive. If you or I receive even an echo of such fulsome words, we will have led a good life. For all Smith’s many positives, the one thing left hanging unresolved is whether or not he was a good leader of the Labour Party. Had he set the course for victory or was he going to turn out to be too timid to win? We’ll never know.

With Starmer, we will. For there are two competing stories waiting for historians to pick between them. One is of Starmer the triumphant, who wisely realised that oppositions don’t win elections but governments lose them. So he made clear he was not his highly unpopular predecessor and other than that mostly kept out of the way, doing little radical and letting the government destroy itself. The other is of Starmer the timidly defeated, who turned out to have nothing much to do or say beyond, ‘I’m not Corbyn and I’m opposed to anti-Semitism’, and who then went down to defeat as the Conservative Party pulled itself together when the general election neared.

Either could yet be true.’

Well yes I get the parallels but Starmer’s too right wing for me. Yes I know, he’s desperate to get his white working class right wing supporters back who voted Tory in December 2019 and virtually everything he does is a dance to their tune but that’s certainly putting off progressives in spades too. He’s not willing to embrace electoral reform/fair votes, he opposes Universal Basic Income (UBI) which is the only real way to seriously tackle poverty and he led his party to support Johnson’s appalling Brexit Deal. As I say there’s nothing to warm the heart of a progressive there what so ever!

So for me Starmer is no John Smith

Progressive politics in the UK is desperately short of leaders and that’s important because for the Conservative’s majority to be overturned* it’s going to take a huge joint effort by Labour, Lib Dems and Greens in some way working together rather than in opposition to each other. For that to happen credible leaders need to be found whom progressives can coalesce around. The alternative is more years of populist right wing government and if that’s not enough to sober up anti-Conservatives I don’t know what is.

* Labour’s usual route to a majority, via Scotland, went west when they were all but wiped out by the SNP.

Liverpool – An ongoing political crisis via 3 blog sites

Liverpool Town Hall

What to do with Liverpool City Council? A question many have asked for many a year as it seems to be one of those councils that lives and breathes crisis and pretty much has done throughout living memory.

Here’s former BBC North West journalist Jim Hancock’s take on things:-

jimhancock.co.uk/hancocks-half-page/

Another blogger with plenty to say about Liverpool City Council is former Walton Labour MP and Neil Kinnock’s man in Liverpool during the Militant era, Peter Kilfoyle. His blog site is accessible via this link:-

kilfoyleonpolitics.wordpress.com/

Then there’s veteran Liverpool Lib Dem councillor Richard Kemp who has lived through pretty much every Liverpool City Council crisis from the inside since goodness knows when:-

richardkemp.wordpress.com/

If you follow these 3 blogs you’ll probably come to a reasonable perspective on how local government works or indeed does not work in Liverpool – enjoy……….

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.

Realignment of the left

birkdalefocus.blogspot.co.uk/2016/09/realighnment-of-left.html

It’s no surprise that Cllr. Iain Brodie Browne is making and commenting on the case for realignment of the left. British politics is in a terrible mess and we are facing Tory (UKIP Lite) rule for many years to come. That should be a prospect to worry any progressive.

Have a read of Iain’s thinking and indeed that of other progressives, including the late great Jo Grimond, via the link above to Iain’s Birkdale Focus blog site.

If Labour can address its tribalistic approach to British politics there may be a chance for progressives to win a fight with our selfish, privileged, divisive Tory rulers. If it can’t then it’s probably going to be Tory rule for a long, long time indeed.

Iain’s reference to Neil Kinnock is interesting as I recall that he started off as very much a left wing MP who was anti-Europe. But he seemed to travel ever towards the right of his party. He also ended up working for the EU. BTW what on earth is it which makes some left wingers anti-EU? Makes no sense to me as surely socialism is supposed to be international. Maybe it’s that strand of socialism which is narrow inward looking and nationalistic?

Liverpool – The Militant Era

www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-29953611

The BBC has the story although it reads a bit rose tinted spectacles to me. Of course it ended up with both Militant and indeed the Labour Party losing control of Liverpool City Council to the Lib Dems for many years as Liverpool folk realised that this Militant era had done a huge amount of damage to the image and economy of Liverpool. Indeed, just the mention of Militant and most people across the UK and possibly beyond will sadly still think of Liverpool for all the wrong reasons.

It seems a long time ago now, but it is only 30 years. Liverpool has changed hugely since then with the 2008 Capital Culture year marking a complete break with its unfortunate and ill-conceived flirtation with Militant policies of the 1980’s.

Just now and again you still hear the odd Labour councillor/voice in Merseyside harking back to what they still think was a good time for Liverpool, but of course it was a desperate time that all but killed the City off.