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Eyes Left The Starmer era: a study in failure

Labour now faces three options — a liberal alliance with the Greens and Lib Dems, a leadership challenge that may well not go to the left — or gathering together the remaining socialist forces in the party to fight for policies, writes ANDREW MURRAY

THREE PER CENT. Just 3 per cent.

Labour’s nationally projected share of the vote based on the local election results this month was 35 per cent.

That is a mere 3 per cent more than it secured in the 2019 general election and 5 per cent less than it won under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership in 2017.

So that is the full achievement of Starmerism. For an advance of just 3 per cent plans to take the rail and water industries into public ownership have been sidelined, the rich have been reassured, rogue police given a blank cheque, the Muslim community cold-shouldered, Corbyn suspended, hundreds of activists sanctioned, Israeli colonialism appeased, flags waved, Peter Mandelson re-enthroned, Russia threatened, left MPs menaced, radicalism terminated and Johnson backed over the pandemic.

To say it is a poor return would be mild. Despite a very fair media wind, until the recent hiccup of Beergate, Starmer’s leadership is a study in failure.

The local election results look no better for closer scrutiny. Even in London, Labour lost control of as many councils as it gained. And there are only a handful of parliamentary seats still plausibly winnable in the capital in any case.

Where the battle needs to be fought, Labour is scarcely advancing. Modest improvements in Scotland seem to constitute only a realignment of the pro-Union vote, something unlikely to change until Labour can discover some constitutional radicalism to set against the SNP’s independence drive.

In most of England Labour’s performance was distinctly underwhelming, perhaps on course for a dozen or so parliamentary gains. Starmer’s defenders say that anaemic progress in these local elections is unsurprising since the party did very well the last time they were contested, in 2018.

Let’s see if we can remember who was leader in 2018? Yes, it was the much-demonised Corbyn. To prove the point, Labour’s strongest performance this year was in Wales, where the leadership champions Corbynite radicalism within the limits available.

Even up against a government as derelict and discredited as Boris Johnson’s, Starmer is not surging. The Tory share of the vote fell precipitately, but this mainly to the advantage of the Liberal Democrats and Greens.

Two years — even two years with political life often in a lockdown straitjacket — is long enough to make an impression and Starmer’s is of a dull authoritarian devoid of ideas and as deceitful in his own way as Johnson. The public ain’t buying.

It would be deeply ironic if this most conventionally law-and-order state-friendly politician had his career terminated by the Durham plod because of criminal curry consumption. Too ironic to come to pass, I feel.

So absent Beergate turning terminal, those who want to see a Labour government have two strategies. One, being prosecuted with increasing vigour, is for Labour to form a formal or informal pact with the Liberal Democrats and the Greens in the hope that this will maximise the number of non-Tories in the next parliament.

This wheeze comes around with monotonous regularity. Who can forget the Guardian urging its readers in 2010 to vote Liberal Democrat to keep the Tories out? That worked well.

Today it is advanced by erstwhile Remainiacs whose strategic genius pushed Corbynism down the second-referendum dead end and thereby bequeathed us Johnson — and a harder Brexit to boot.

It assumes that voters can simply be passed from one party to another by central edict. That is unproved, to say the least. What has been proved beyond peradventure is that the Liberal Democrats are no friend of the left and more natural bedfellows of the Tories.

Moreover, it is a plan that would finish the labour movement as any sort of a force in much of the country, where it no longer would seek parliamentary representation.

The other plan would be for the left in parliament, the affiliated trade unions and the constituencies to fight to retrieve the party — perhaps to the point of challenging Starmer himself. That is not easy, for sure.

There could be no certainty, with Rachel Reeves and Wes Streeting circling, that a new leader would be an improvement, although they could scarcely be more inept and undemocratic than the incumbent.

Even getting past first base — securing sufficient parliamentary support for a challenge — would be a steep hill to scale. But simply running up the standard would put pressure on the Starmer coterie, start a serious debate in the labour movement and break from the debilitating and dispiriting habit of acquiescence in every bullying outrage by the leadership. It would show that there could be an alternative.

And best to do it before every last Corbyn supporter either gives up in despair — 200,000 have already left under Starmer — or is excluded by the vengeful party apparatus, always better at fighting the membership than fighting elections.

If defeating Starmer seems too challenging right now, then at least form a common campaigning front of MPs, unions and members to promote Corbyn-era radical policies and defend Labour’s beleaguered democracy. At present there is nothing.

I mean, it’s not like Blair 1995 with the scent of electoral victory. What we’ve got really isn’t leading anywhere.

What’s behind Liz Truss’s sabre rattling over Ukraine?

This from a long and thoroughly researched article in US magazine the Atlantic concerning British foreign policy’s belligerence:

“Such stark language is unlikely to go down well in Paris and Berlin, where Britain’s hawkish stance toward Russia has been quietly criticised since the beginning of the conflict.

“According to some diplomats and officials I spoke with, Britain’s position has made reaching a ceasefire more difficult, driving up the price of peace that will be paid for with Ukrainian blood and all in a fairly see-through attempt to restore Britain’s reputation after Brexit.

“Even within the UK government, officials have voiced concern to me that Truss’s hawkishness is partly a political play to improve her standing ahead of any contest to succeed Johnson.”

How many dead Ukrainians would be too many in the bid to make Truss Britain’s next prime minister?

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