Socialist Worker

Keir Starmer’s victory will drag Labour to the right

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2699

Keir Starmer beat the lefts candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey by around two to one among individual members and trade unionists

Keir Starmer beat the left's candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey by around two to one among individual members and trade unionists (Pic: UK Parliament )


Keir Starmer has won the election to replace Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party.

He won the election with 56 percent of the vote in the first round, meaning party members’ and supporters’ second choices didn’t have to be counted. He got 275,780 votes. That’s 140,502 more than the left’s candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey.

Starmer won in all the different categories of members, and beat Long-Bailey by around two to one among individual members and trade unionists.

Meanwhile Richard Burgon, the left’s candidate to be deputy leader, came third behind Rosena Allin-Khan and the winner Angela Rayner.

Both Starmer and Rayner campaigned on promises to defend the legacy of Corbyn’s leadership while appealing to the right and bringing “unity”. 

Their victories are a sign that many party members have been won over by the argument that Labour lost the 2019 general election because it was too left wing.

Long-Bailey came last in the trade union section, despite endorsement by the Unite union.

Critics of Corbyn backed by the Progress and Labour First groups swept the board in the by-elections for Labour Party’s ruling national executive committee.

In a statement following his victory, Starmer already showed signs of dragging Labour back towards the right. 

He said that Labour would “have the courage to support” the Tory government during the coronavirus crisis “in the national interest.” “Not opposition for opposition’s sake,” he said. “Not scoring party political points or making impossible demands.”

At every step the Tories’ response to the outbreak has been to put the interests of the bosses and business ahead of the lives and safety of ordinary people. But Starmer said Labour’s goal during the outbreak is “the same as the government’s”.

Starmer also promised to scrutinise the Tories, and that after the crisis things “cannot go back to business as usual”.

Refused 

He has promised that under his leadership, Labour will remain an anti-austerity party—but has refused to say he would keep the radical policies in the 2019 manifesto.

Starmer also joined in with the attempt by right wing MPs to remove Corbyn in 2016, resigning his shadow cabinet post to pressure him to resign. He led the way in pushing Labour towards adopting a policy of reversing the EU referendum result—which was behind Labour’s disastrous result in the 2019 general election.

Starmer is backed by right wing MPs who openly want to drag the party back to the right—and reportedly plans to bring some of them into his shadow cabinet.

Rachel Reeves is reported to be Starmer’s choice for shadow chancellor. She has previously implied that immigration could cause race riots and said Labour was “not the party of people on benefits”. 

Starmer is also certain to launch a witch hunt against the left under the guise of building unity.

In his statement he said antisemitism had been a “stain on our party.” It was a reference to the argument that Corbyn’s left wing policies—particularly his support for Palestine—meant antisemitism was encouraged and tolerated.

“I will tear out this poison by its roots,” said Starmer.

He will also reportedly demand that general secretary Jenny Formby—an ally of Corbyn—resigns because she didn’t rush to expel left wing members accused of antisemitism.

One Corbyn aide described Starmer’s plans as a “scorched earth” policy against the left.

His victory should be the final nail in the coffin for the idea that the main focus for the left is inside the Labour Party. The focus has to return to building resistance to the Tories outside parliament. 


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