Islington North’s MP… Let the members decide! – Rachel Garnham, CLPD


“Keir Starmer has demonstrated once again that he is determined to whittle down the Labour Party in its current form to a party of the establishment with his latest statements on Jeremy Corbyn.”

By Rachel Garnham, Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD)

Keir Starmer has demonstrated once again that he is determined to whittle down the Labour Party in its current form to a party of the establishment with his latest statements on Jeremy Corbyn. At the same time he further underlined he has no respect for Labour Party democracy.

Starmer stated ‘Jeremy Corbyn will not stand as a Labour candidate at the next general election’ like it should be up to him – he seems to think he is CEO of some top-down organisation rather than attempting to lead a democratic organisation of members and trade unions, who he should be trying to unite to win elections rather than constantly undermining.

Starmer’s statement comes as no surprise. It has been quite clear for some time that his over-riding priority is not to fight against the Tories and their policies but to fight the left and eliminate them from the Labour Party. The leadership is doing everything possible to ensure that our movement cannot effectively pursue the necessarily radical policies needed to address the huge problems faced by the population.

The Tories’ framework is simply being echoed instead of an agenda that could transform British society, and Britain’s international relationships, in the interests of the many not the few. Most important in this mission is the removal of Jeremy, the leader of the movement for a progressive agenda, from the Labour Party and the outrageous trashing of his record; however the strength, hope and enthusiasm generated by our movement is such, that this is easier said than done.  

As many have pointed out, Starmer and his allies’ attempts to rewrite history are truly Orwellian and must be challenged at every falsehood. All evidence, including both the Forde and EHRC reports, have been clear that under Corbyn’s leadership, fighting racism in all its forms including antisemitism, was a priority. And in particular following the centre-left forming a majority on the NEC in January 2018 and the appointment of Jennie Formby as General Secretary, huge reforms were made to the disciplinary process – many of which are now being used factionally against the left – motivated by a desire to address antisemitism and other forms of racism.  

While the left must continue to set the record straight and challenge the dishonest narrative promoted by the current leadership, we must also build alliances across wide sections of the membership on the basic principle of members being able to select the candidates of their choice at all levels. It is an argument that Starmer himself advanced during the leadership contest when he said “the selections for Labour candidates needs to be more democratic and we should end NEC impositions of candidates. Local Party members should select their candidates for every election.”

Of course local members should select their candidates – it is a basic principle of Labour Party democracy for good reason. Local members, embedded in their communities, are the best judge of who will represent and stand up for those communities. They know who local voters will get behind, and who local members will be motivated to support. Starmer’s preferred method of only enabling members to choose from a select few who sign up to his establishment agenda and are unwilling to challenge the status quo creates identikit candidates, who are unlikely to put their communities first.

Starmer appears to be using the unaccountable and unjustified decision to keep the whip removed from Jeremy Corbyn to stop him facing a trigger ballot, and it may be that a hand-picked NEC panel decides to keep Corbyn off any future long-list of potential Labour candidates for Islington North, in the same manner that a whole range of centre and left candidates have been unjustifiably been kept off long-lists. A course of action that must of course be resisted. All this is despite the fact that the Party’s disciplinary processes have concluded and members in Islington North should have the opportunity to re-select their longstanding, popular local MP.

As Jeremy himself points out: ‘any attempt to block my candidacy is a denial of due process, and should be opposed by anybody who believes in the value of democracy. At a time when the government is overseeing the worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation, this is a divisive distraction from our over-riding goal: to defeat the Conservative Party at the next General Election.’ It’s time to unite against the Tories and their policies. It’s a shame Keir Starmer does not agree.

  • Rachel Garnham is the Vice-Chair of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD). You can join CLPD here.
  • Sign the petition demanding the whip is restored to Jeremy Corbyn here.
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Featured image: Jeremy Corbyn campaigning as Leader of the Labour Party in Thurrock, November 24th, 2023. Photo credit: Jeremy Corbyn under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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