Removal of the Left Remains Starmer’s Priority – By Rachel Garnham


“It is now almost laughable to recall Starmer’s leadership platform of integrity, authority & unity.”

Rachel Garnham

By Rachel Garnham, Vice-Chair, Campaign for Labour Party Democracy

The decision of the July meeting of Labour’s National Executive Committee to proscribe four organisations, and, more worrying still, to set up a new sub-committee to consider further proscriptions was only the latest step in Starmer’s obvious determination to remove Labour’s left-wing at all levels and ensure that never again will someone who is willing to make a serious challenge to the status quo be able to win Labour’s leadership.

It is now almost laughable to recall Starmer’s leadership platform of integrity, authority and unity. Starting on day one with the sacking of key left MPs from the shadow cabinet, followed by the removal of Rebecca Long-Bailey – where it appeared her willingness to working with teaching unions to oppose the Tories’ highly dangerous approach to schools was unacceptable – right through to the ongoing exclusion of Jeremy Corbyn from the Parliamentary Labour Party despite being cleared by Labour’s own disciplinary processes, Starmer has consistently made a point of trying to silence left leadership voices, no doubt with a view to demoralisation of members who understandably decide that this is not the Labour Party they signed up to. At the same time, key activists who choose to stay and fight for Labour values and an inclusive Party are rewarded with suspension and expulsion for which reasons offered are often unjust and sometimes bizarre, most notably those officers who may have in some way challenged the unjust dictats from the General Secretary curtailing democratic discussion.

I have documented previously the abuse of Rule 2.1.4B in enabling Labour Party head office to “auto-exclude” members for the most spurious reasons with no democratic accountability for the decisions made – examples include a Facebook post expressing an interest in “Britain’s road to socialism” from the Communist Party and a comrade sharing an SNP post attacking Boris Johnson for a visit to Scotland during lockdown. Proscribing four small left organisations makes auto-expulsion a whole lot easier without the bother of having to consult democratically elected members or actually consider whether members have breached the rules of the Labour Party. As well as members being directly excluded without so much as a panel, there will no doubt be other members who cannot bear to be in a Party that takes such actions or are concerned they might have once shared some most likely inoffensive social media from Socialist Appeal, for example, and decide to jump before they are pushed. And so the salami-slicing of the left continues.

A serious concern arises from the sub-committee set up to consider further proscription – making it clear that Starmer and his allies intend to come back for more. Thankfully NEC comrades did manage to ensure that ratification of any decision would come back to the NEC – so some opportunity for democratic accountability and demonstrating the value of continuing to elect left grassroots representatives and their opposition to this decision is welcome  – but who comes next? The deeply obnoxious Neil Coyle has suggested it should be Jewish Voice for Labour. No doubt the likes of Labour First will not rest until any left grouping remains organising within the Labour Party for Labour values, in defence of grassroots members and for a radical democratic socialist platform that could genuinely address the climate crisis, defend public services and reduce inequalities. Which is why we must fight the current policy and be ready to defend left groups who may be next on the list, even if we do not personally agree with all their objectives and methods.

Tony Benn famously commented: “If the Labour Party could be bullied or persuaded to denounce its Marxists, the media – having tasted blood – would demand next that it expelled all its Socialists and reunited the remaining Labour Party with the SDP to form a harmless alternative to the Conservatives, which could then be allowed to take office now and then when the Conservatives fell out of favour with the public. Thus British Capitalism, it is argued, will be made safe forever, and socialism would be squeezed off the national agenda.”

The quote is from 1982 but it could not be more valid. It appears that the Labour right are determined to exclude any vestiges of Bennism – now Corbynism – from the Labour Party. But despite their desperate efforts to replay the late 80s, society has moved on. Only the left has the answers to the multiple crises we currently face and Labour will continue to haemorrhage support until it understands the coalition that supported Labour in 2017 and why Labour’s promise to build a society for the many not the few through costed investment in the economy and public services alongside a commitment to fighting racism and building peace and justice internationally was popular and energised young voters, Black and Asian voters and those millions who switched from the Lib Dems and Greens who are now busily switching back. This is a fight we cannot afford to lose.

MP Portraits Project in The Reasons Room..

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