22 months ago at a leadership hustings in Liverpool, Keir Starmer vowed never to write for the Sun. This promise was met with rapturous applause and cheers. It very likely won him more than a few votes from Labour members in Liverpool – and importantly, won him their trust.
But like the rest of Starmer’s promises during the leadership election, this promise has now been well and truly abandoned. In an affront to the people of Liverpool, Starmer wrote an opinion piece in the Sun on 3 October.
The so-called ‘Scum’ newspaper is widely boycotted across Merseyside. It is actually banned from retailers in Liverpool city centre, due to their despicable treatment of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.
Terrible sense of betrayal in Liverpool that Keir Starmer has written for the Sun newspaper. Yet during the leadership campaign Starmer said that he would not. pic.twitter.com/TryFBZX6aV— Diane Abbott MP (@HackneyAbbott) October 4, 2021
The ‘newspaper’ ran the infamous ‘The Truth’ headline: a front-page piece about the Hillsborough disaster, only four days after the tragedy. The piece claimed that “some fans picked pockets of victims”; “some fans urinated on the brave cops”; and “some fans beat up PC giving kiss of life”.
These were all lies. They had been fed to the paper by disgraced police inspector Gordon Sykes and Conservative MP Irvine Patnick. The fabrications were an attempt by the establishment to cover up the role of the South Yorkshire Police (SYP) in the disaster.
The Murdoch-owned paper was more than happy to help cover up the role of the SYP. Their aim, like all the capitalist press, was to defend the capitalist state by any means necessary – even if that meant smearing the names of the victims, many of whom were only children.
Given their role in this despicable cover up, a ‘total eclipse of the Sun’ is practically enforced in Merseyside and in the labour movement.
Starmer’s breach of this boycott has rightly provoked a backlash from across the labour movement.
Liverpool Labour MPs – with the notable exceptions of Blairites Angela and Maria Eagle – have called out the Labour leader for his decision to write for the Sun.
Liverpool West Derby MP Ian Byrne’s statement in response was particularly strong, making it plain that if “any leader of any components of our great Labour and trade union movement write in the rag, they are not fit to be in that position”.
Today the families & survivors of Hillsborough, the people of my city, supporters of our great club & the millions of others smeared by the rag will feel profoundly betrayed by the leader of the party I was elected to represent.— lan Byrne MP (@IanByrneMP) October 3, 2021
My full statement below.#JFT97 pic.twitter.com/vASeZmhyAI
This sentiment is widely shared by the Labour membership across Merseyside. Ford Branch Labour Party in Bootle CLP recently expressed their disgust by passing a motion calling for Sir Keir Starmer to resign over this matter (see below).
The motion states: “It isn’t right that a leader of the Labour Party should ignore the Merseyside peoples’ feelings on this huge issue for Merseyside…”, and that the hurt caused “can only be rectified with his resignation”.
Local trade union branches have also voiced their anger. Merseyside Fire Brigades Union have put forward a similarly scathing motion that states:
“This Brigade Committee believes that Starmer’s position as leader of the Labour party is now untenable and demands a personal and public apology for his actions and for him to step down from his leadership role to try and save what little credibility he has left as a human being.”
This latest betrayal, however, should come as no surprise. Already, Starmer’s Labour saw the shameful invitation of the Sun to this year's Labour conference, while Socialist Appeal reporters were denied press passes.
Even before this, Starmer and other right-wing Labour MPs have already been writing in the Sun and other Murdoch rags.
Liverpool Labour members protesting the presence of the S*n at Labour conference.— Socialist Appeal (@socialist_app) September 25, 2021
While Starmer and the Blairites blocked Socialist Appeal from having press access - they welcome Murdoch’s rags with open arms! #JFT96 pic.twitter.com/KLZtp89aKc
These Blairites will excuse this by saying writing for these rags is how the party can ‘reach voters’.
This is nonsense. The Sun’s readership has been in freefall for years, and only 2% of voters actually read it. In any case, Labour should be trying to appeal to the working class, and not ‘voters’ in general. The party’s role should include mercilessly exposing the role of the Sun, instead of cosying up to its editors and owners.
But writing for the Sun will only actively alienate the party’s working-class supporters even further. Trade unionists and Labour members have already made their opposition to writing for the Sun heard. And no doubt Labour’s reputation will be even more bruised in Merseyside following this episode.
The truth of the matter is that Starmer will write for the Murdoch press to prove himself a loyal agent to the capitalists and win their approval. Just as with his support for the police or patriotism, Starmer’s support for the capitalist press is yet another signal to the ruling class that they can trust him.
The Murdoch rags have proven time and again to be hostile to the working class, and to be loyal defenders of the ruling class. Given this, Starmer’s breach of the Sun boycott is a disgrace, and we support the completely justified calls for Starmer to go.
There can be no collaboration with our class enemies from anyone within our movement. We say: Starmer out!
Ford BLP strongly condemns the party leader Sir Keir Starmer for his decision to renege on his promise to the people of Merseyside made during his leadership election campaign, to not speak to the Sun newspaper, and that as a result we call for him to resign the leadership of the Labour Party.
The decision to write in the Sun, is a betrayal of the people of Merseyside, and the 97 Hillsborough families, whose children, spouses, brothers and sisters lost their lives unlawfully on the 15th of April 1989.
It isn’t right that a leader of the Labour Party should ignore the Merseyside people’s feelings on this huge issue for Merseyside, the Labour Party’s biggest supporter, and it is not acceptable, which can only be rectified with his resignation.
Therefore Bootle CLP calls for the resignation of the Leader of the Labour Party Sir Keir Starmer, on the grounds we no longer have any confidence in his leadership, as he says one thing, and then does another.