Starmer Criticised after refuting calls for ‘bolder’ policies at Labour’s National Policy Forum – Momentum


“Starmer’s steadfast refusal to commit to scrap heinous Tory policies like the two-child cap and anti-protest laws means that an undemocratic and unequal status quo risks being left in place under a Labour government.”

By Momentum

Free School Meals and scrapping the two-child benefits cap were amongst the casualties as the Labour Leadership rejected all amendments which entail spending or investment at the National Policy Forum (NPF).

Starmer risked further alienating his own party after shadow ministers, operating under strict instructions to oppose any policy with spending implications, rejected attempts to scrap the controversial two-child benefits cap. In a sign of the unease permeating the party at the Leadership’s rightward drift, amendments on the topic were submitted by activists and members on the Right of the party, usually loyal to Starmer.

Amendments in support of free school meals, meanwhile, had been brought by multiple trade unions, but was dismissed out of hand by Bridget Phillipson due to the spending implications. Pressure had been building with campaigns from the National Education Union and The Mirror.

There was fury among trade unions on Saturday evening as the Labour Leadership attempted to row back on its previous commitments on workers’ rights. The GMB and Unite trade unions were reported to have walked out after the Labour Leadership rejected calls, both from unions such as USDAW and from member delegates on the Right of the party, for a single tier status of worker, despite the party previously committing to such a position. Other disagreements concerned the remit of the Low Pay commission. Unite slammed the Labour Leadership following the conclusion of the NPF, boycotting the final vote and rejecting Labour’s policy report.

USDAW – one of the unions most closely aligned to the leadership – had come into the weekend pledging to fight for workers’ rights policies including a £12 an hour minimum wage, rising to £15 over time (see Guardian preview), a position shared by UNISON and the GMB.  The Leadership offered no compromises, however.

The Labour Leadership had adopted a zero-sum attitude to compromise throughout the weekend, not just with activists but also trade unions. Amendments brought by Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham on public ownership of energy, UNISON General Secretary Christine McAnea (usually a Starmer ally) on a £15/h minimum wage and Paddy Lillis of USDAW (a close ally of Starmer) on single tier worker status were all rejected without meaningful compromise.

In another shocking U-turn, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Ashworth refused to recommit to protecting the triple-lock on pensions, despite the party having recommitted to just such a policy three weeks ago. The move risks further backlash against Starmer’s record of pledge-breaking.

Other policies rejected by the Leadership, include rent controls, ending NHS outsourcing, abolishing tuition fees, repealing repressive Tory laws such as the Police, crime and Sentencing Bill and Voter ID, and public ownership of water.

The Leadership even rejected an amendment to reverse Tory cuts to Sure Start, instead offering vague praise for New Labour’s scheme.

A Momentum spokesperson said of the NPF reports that:

“This weekend was a missed opportunity for the Labour Party to lay out real solutions to the Tories’ broken Britain. Trade unions and party members brought amendments on urgent, popular policies like a £15 minimum wage, strengthened workers’ rights and free school meals.”

But the Leadership’s fiscal conservatism put paid to any hope for the bold, transformative policies we need. Worse, Starmer’s steadfast refusal to commit to scrap heinous Tory policies like the two-child cap and anti-protest laws means that an undemocratic and unequal status quo risks being left in place under a Labour government. Britain deserves better.”  

Keir Starmer speaking at the 2020 Labour Party leadership election hustings in Bristol 1st Feb 2020 image credit: Rwendland under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

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