What does Starmer stand for?

The Starmer project’s twin aims — to restore ruling-class faith in Labour as a party that won’t rock the boat, and to shut the door on political trends that might — were evident throughout the speech

JVL Introduction

In this editorial the Morning Star is clear that Starmer does have a political programme – and it has not much to do with socialism:

“The Starmer project’s twin aims — to restore ruling-class faith in Labour as a party that won’t rock the boat, and to shut the door on political trends that might — were evident throughout the speech.”

His watchwords “security, prosperity and respect” are not what one would expect from someone who stood as a unity and continuity candidate when Jeremy Corbyn stood down.

Even those who believe a progressive left patriotism is desirable and possible get little succour from Starmer.

As a letter to the Guardian commented: ” Starmer can scream until he’s red, white and blue in the face. Nobody will take him seriously so long as the only vision of patriotism is the one presented by the send-them-back brigade of Tory ministers, because they might as well vote for the people who really believe it.”

The Morning Star captures well the warning signs amid the waffle of Starmer’s politics and calls for us to make higher pay and public ownership the biggest political issues of the day.

Climate change needs to be added high into this list of priorities as well.


Added later on 5th Jan: The Independent’s assessement of Starmer’s speech: Keir Starmer did a Big Speech – it’s a shame he had absolutely nothing to say


This article was originally published by the Morning Star on Wed 5 Jan 2022. Read the original here.

Editorial: Starmer in Birmingham – warning signs amid the waffle

KEIR STARMER’S sales pitch to the nation in Birmingham today is billed as a bid to build on the momentum from poll leads following the scandals over Downing Street Christmas parties.

But the appeal of a vision as vague as “security, prosperity and respect” depends on a readiness by listeners to believe that the politician promising them has a set of policies designed to move us towards these rather nebulous concepts.

They are not terms likely to cut through in an age when the default expectation of politicians is dishonesty and spin — a development that owes a lot to the same Tony Blair who Starmer praises for making “Britain a better country.”

Starmer makes a virtue of vacuousness, saying we are “probably expecting a thousand clauses, seven appendices and a list of definitions” from him but “my contract [with the British people] won’t be anything like that.”

Indeed it won’t, but nobody who has managed to stay awake through Starmer’s multiple leadership relaunches, perused his 11,000-word essay on what he stands for and observed his slippery attitude to his 10 leadership pledges would have been expecting anything more specific.

The Starmer project’s twin aims — to restore ruling-class faith in Labour as a party that won’t rock the boat, and to shut the door on political trends that might — were evident throughout the speech.

At the start any malcontents who might want to change the system are warned sternly that “we don’t realise our own good fortune to have been born into a … liberal democracy.”

We are reminded that, as good Brits, we should cherish the “rule of law” (though due process is a closed book to Labour’s preposterous disciplinary machine), Her Majesty the Queen and “patriotism,” which since it is characterised by support for Nato and our “independent nuclear deterrent” here means militarism.

As with his now standard backdrop of Union Jacks, much of this looks like a bid to appeal to Brexit voters from someone with no understanding of the reasons Leave won.

Yet there are warning signs amid the waffle, pointers to a dangerous reactionary politics. For the left, there are a number of points worth noting.

Starmer’s promises of “police hubs … visible in every community” is ominous given the current government’s gross empowerment of the police and their appalling record of misogyny and violence.

He gushes over “the integrity of British justice [which] has always been the envy of the world” so is unsurprisingly silent on spycops and Julian Assange.

Once again Labour is in lockstep with the Tories in backing a more authoritarian state — resisting that will have to come from the grassroots, as will building a peace movement to oppose the cross-bench jingoism at Westminster.

There is a nod to the cost-of-living crisis, including rising gas prices, and to low wages. Starmer offers no specifics, let alone the nationalisation of energy to control prices he promised to support when standing for Labour leader; but there has rarely been a better time to raise this demand, and the labour movement can do so in his despite. Labour figures in local government and MPs can be pressed to join picket lines and back union wage demands.

There is a nod to climate change, but Starmer would rather praise as yet hypothetical zero-emissions lorries than mention railways, though emissions per tonne-kilometre are less than a fifth on rail than on road and though a battle over government cuts to rail — a crucial sector in any green transport system — is unfolding as he speaks.

Starmer continues to sidestep the most important questions — because answers to them challenge the capitalist system whose legitimacy he is working to restore.

All the more reason for the labour movement to look at how we make higher pay and public ownership the biggest political issues of the day.

Comments (8)

  • Richard Kuper says:

    David Rosenberg wrote an assessment of Starmer’s speech yesterday in Rebel Notes under the title Could I just flag up…? No, not really : “I had no great expectations from Keir Starmer’s address to the nation today. Quite the opposite – and he didn’t disappoint on that.”

  • James Simpson says:

    Starmer’s positions are hardly new for the Labour party which has long been in thrall to militarism, the police and capitalism. In foreign policy, Jeremy Corbyn when party leader notoriously weakened his previous long-standing goal of taking the UK out of NATO and began waffling. Starmer is merely back to the standard Labour role as HM Loyal Opposition – only the first two elements are real.

  • Allan Howard says:

    I assume you’re not aware of it, but the headline to this article says ‘Whet’, as in Whet does Starmer stand for? [No longer – lot of people pointed it out! – JVL web]

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that if I was putting a leaflet together about Jeremy Corbyn and the A/S smear campaign against him (and the left membership) whilst he was leader – and the purge of Jewish members since Starmer took over – I would definitely include this video in a list (on the last page) of recommended articles and videos for people to check out. And I would also include the video entitled ‘Meet the wrong kind of Jew’ etc that Naomi made last year, along with Norman Finkelstein’s interview entitled ‘The American Jewish scholar behind Labour’s ‘antisemitism’ scandal breaks his silence’, and also Ken’s resignation statement (on JVLs website), to name just four.

    And THAT’s just for starters!

    PS I’m referring to a leaflet to put through peoples doors….. Oh!, and not forgetting a certain video clip of someone on an Israeli news station several years ago spinning a Big Black Lie about Jeremy! Oh YES!!

  • ian duncan Kemp says:

    nor me what I heard was pretty inspirational to say the least.. The Guardain in the shape of Polly Toynbee seemed to think Starmer is PM in waiting/ She like O’Brian on LBC has a real blind spot re Corbyn or those who have supported him. Polly writes some great stuff re Poverty but like O’Brian has a blind spot but she is not as vindictive as him.

  • Nick Elvidge says:

    as a member of the labour party i shall not be voting for starmer lol…stay at home me…

  • Joseph Hannigan says:

    Is resigning from the LP enough?

  • Terry Messenger says:

    The Union Flag is an anti-Celtic trope. It superimposes the English flag of Saint George over the Irish flag of Saint Patrick and the Scottish flag of Saint Andrew. And it ignores the Welsh altogether. Many Irish regard it as “the Butcher’s Apron” – a symbol of centuries of colonial persecution. I thought we were supposed to exercise zero tolerance of racist tropes. Yet under Starmer we must revere the Union Flag. Being Irish and brought up by an Irish nationalist mother, I could demand that Labour condemns the Union Flag under our zero tolerance policy. But it would hardly be expedient or electorally popular. I believe in optimum tolerance – which means, on occasion, putting up with things you don’t like for the sake of harmony. We don’t really practice zero tolerance of anti-Jewish racism, either. Christianity is the greatest anti-semitic trope in history – the Jews as Christ killers. I doubt if Starmer will condemn Easter as a festival of anti-semitism or demand that the New Testament is re-written to rid it of anti-Jewish sentiment. It would hardly be expedient. So just among ourselves, can we be candid and acknowledge that what we actually practise is – zero tolerance of Jeremy Corbyn and people who think like him.

  • Allan Howard says:

    James, I just did a search regarding Jeremy Corbyn and your assertion that prior to becoming leader of the LP his long-standing goal had been to take the UK out of NATO and, as such, came across the following Channel 4 Fact Check, and apparently he’s never said any such thing. Yes, he’s said that NATO should be disbanded (as of since the end of the Cold War), but he has NEVER said that the UK should withdraw from NATO. The reason Channel 4 did the Fact Check is because of a spat between Emily Thornberry and Dominic Raab in October 2019:

    Mr Raab told the shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, that the situation showed “how we need NATO now more than ever”, adding: “That’s one of the reasons it was so irresponsible that the leader of the Labour Party has called for us to come out of NATO.”

    Ms Thornberry shouted: “No he hasn’t. Take that back… That’s absolutely not Labour’s policy and it’s completely misleading.”

    Later she made a point of order, seeking to “force the Foreign Secretary to withdraw his thoroughly misleading comments about the Leader of the Opposition’s commitment to NATO”.

    So it would appear you got it wrong, and I can’t help wonder how you did so. What did Jeremy say, and when? Thanks

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