It’s a fair cop! I have been caught — in a “prohibited act.”
My Labour Party membership days have been numbered since appealing last summer’s investigation into sharing a 2021 Facebook event about the Grunwick Strikes, hosted by an organisation not proscribed until 18 months later.
Momentum’s solicitor contacted me for appeal details because I was then one of two people who had appealed successfully out of the hundreds of members expelled.
So many internal investigations clog the party machine and Labour relies on local members trawling online content to “dredge and rule,” targeting core activists. Limiting free speech, pluralism and open debate, London dictates singular soundbites and narrow pills for the regions to swallow.
In September I received the awaited notification of investigation again for supporting left-wing North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll on social media. Not shortlisted for the expanded North East Mayor role he negotiated the creation of, and barred from appealing, Driscoll subsequently resigned to stand independently.
Supporting a non-Labour candidate is of course prohibited.
Founded with the trade unions to take voices from the shop floor to the chamber, to drive legislation to protect the working class, for Labour to rebrand itself as the “party of business” is a betrayal reified in its U-turn on digital taxation and the acceptance of Google and YouTube gifts.
It is impossible to represent both employer and employee.
Left is the root of the party
“Left” has become a pejorative term, yet left is the root of the party. A move to the right is a move away from the trade unions and fighting for the working class.
“I was raised in the trade union movement” said former deputy leader Angela Rayner on the eve of Durham Miners’ Gala last year, the largest trade union celebration in Europe, when I asked her about directives to the Labour front bench not to support striking workers: “I’d need a shower, I wouldn’t feel clean.”
Shadow secretary for Health and Social Care Wes Streeting is cited as saying that Labour leaders appeal to the left of the party to get leadership votes and then move right to win general elections. A casuistic shift. Streeting and others may have been swayed by large donations from private health firms.
Ambition and power underpin the Labour policy of not rocking the Tory boat. Being anodyne is key to slipping under the swing voter radar, picking up marginal seats and slipping into a majority lead. Anodyne means not scaring the floating voters.
Interviewing shadow secretary for education Bridget Phillipson for Socialist Educational Association North in February 2022, it was clear she would not bring fundamental changes to the sector that are so desperately needed: “It’s not worthwhile unravelling what is already there.”
It is so very worthwhile to end academisation, competitive tables, bonuses for academy boards, marketisation, teacher recruitment crisis and lift pay, nurture creativity, enable people to retrain throughout life and so on.
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves witnessed first-hand the closure of the Inner London Education Authority and the ensuing deprivation of resources; her lack of compulsion to prioritise education spending is cold.
Like Westlife, “You say it best when you say nothing at all.”
Social mobility and fear
Both Reeves and Phillipson talk of their non-privileged roots, working hard, getting to Oxford, and propelling themselves up the jobs and social ladder. And herein lies the crux of it; the impetus in Starmer’s front bench is not to drive forward on social change but to buffer behind, ensuring they never go back.
This is about social mobility and fear; a fear from those who rose from the lower working class, who made it,’ and for whom affluence is everything.
The language shift from “working class” to “ordinary people” is pertinent. There is now a whole layer in the Labour Party who are anti-working class and have something to lose.
Leading the ‘Blairite’ culture charge, Keir Starmer lacks dynamism and principle; with a story of working-class origin, he is affluent, managerial, and lacking in political character.
From culture to cult, Blair has used Starmer’s ambition ruthlessly, driving his policies through over 40 countries via his modestly named Tony Blair Institute earning him a fortune for providing political leaders with strategic advice; profiteering from the Tories’ broken Britain and accepting huge donations such as the $33 million from US businessman Larry Ellison with interests in tech and medical research.
It’s arresting. From holding to account to bank accounts. Just follow the money.
First published in The Morning Star 3 October 2023