Now a year into the job, and with the May elections approaching, things are not looking so good for Labour leader Keir Starmer.
On the one side, Boris Johnson and the Tories are enjoying a ‘vaccine bounce’ in the polls. On the other, it seems that voters are not as enamoured with Starmer’s strategy of so-called ‘constructive opposition’ (i.e. no opposition) as he had initially hoped.
According to recent polls, Starmer’s personal approval ratings are now in negative territory. Only last summer, by contrast, the Labour leader had a net rating of +31% (percentage satisfied minus percentage dissatisfied).
Keen to demonstrate that the Labour Party is under ‘new management’, the Starmer leadership has jettisoned the left-wing, class-based policies brought in under Corbyn. In their place is patriotic flag-waving, appeals to big business, and a pathetic cocktail of the two in the form of the ‘British Recovery Bond’.
This approach has not gone down well with the party’s left-wing rank and file. The wider public, meanwhile, are also not happy with the rightward direction that Starmer is taking Labour.
“One in five Labour voters from 2019 say they are unfavourable towards Starmer and one in five think he is going to move the party in the wrong direction,” stated Keiran Pedley, the director of politics at surveying firm Ipsos Mori. “They don’t think he is opposing the government strongly enough.”
Labour MPs on both wings of the party are unhappy. While the left is looking to launch a fightback against the attacks on activists and party democracy, right-wingers are also lurking in shadows, looking to make their move.
Rumours are circulating of a leadership challenge from the right – all the more likely if Labour performs badly in the upcoming elections, particularly in the Hartlepool by-election. Notorious names such as Yvette Cooper and Rachel Reeves have been mentioned as potential replacements for the party’s top role.
Nevertheless, in the face of this crisis, Starmer is doubling down. For example, egged on by Blairite relics – such as the ‘Prince of Darkness’ Lord Mandelson – the Labour leader is said to be considering a reshuffle, to push the shadow cabinet even further to the right.
Again, renowned right-winger Reeves has been suggested as a possible candidate for the shadow chancellor position, replacing the almost-invisible Annaliese Dodds.
Loud and clear
The message is being shouted loud and clear: Labour under Starmer stands on the side of big business.
And just in case anyone was in any doubt, Labour MPs who might have once held socialist sentiments are being forced to publically repent for their former sins.
Recently, for example, Leeds North West MP Alex Sobel was pressured into apologising for comments made years earlier, when he described climate-destroying corporations as “the enemy”.
“Alex Sobel knows what he said was wrong,” affirmed Starmer in response. “He has apologised. He’s apologised to me. The Labour Party, under my leadership, is very clearly pro-business...And Alex Sobel understands that.”
“Under my leadership, I’ve been very, very clear that the Labour Party is pro-business,” Starmer stressed. “We’re more than pro-business. We want a partnership with business.”
Meanwhile, the leadership’s garish displays of patriotism continue unabated, with ‘Sir’ Keir Starmer joining the nauseating ‘Queen and Country’ chorus surrounding the death of Prince Philip.
Struggle for socialism
All of this noise and nonsense is paving the way for electoral disaster. Neither pandering to nationalism, nor grovelling before the establishment and big business will help Labour’s chances.
Only by taking the fight to the Tories, with a mass campaign for bold socialist policies, can the party turn things around.
But Starmer has made his position clear. He and the rest of the right-wing are agents of the ruling class, looking to make Labour a ‘safe pair of hands’ for British capitalism and imperialism.
This is why we must organise and mobilise to remove these Tory infiltrators and saboteurs: to reclaim the party as a weapon for workers and youth in the struggle for socialism.