Labour leader Keir Starmer has said one of his most important jobs is “rebuilding the relationship between the Labour Party and business.”
He told the bosses’ Financial Times newspaper he wanted to make the party “very proud” of its right wing governments under Tony Blair.
Starmer’s promise of yet another “relaunch” of his leadership came amid criticism of him from right wing Labour MPs, and a financial crisis for the party.
It’s a sign that, ahead of his first Labour Party conference as party leader next month, he is desperate to win over the right and the bosses.
The Financial Times said Starmer is “determined to rebuild the party’s political culture and repair its battered reputation on the economy.”
He has already begun preparing to make a show of crushing the left with a demonstrative purge of activists from four left wing groups inside Labour.
And the left wing Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) group last week said its members were being disproportionately targeted with disciplinary procedures.
Its chair Jenny Manson was last week told she is under investigation over a BBC Newsnight interview last year.
Jenny had said—accurately—that the scale of antisemitism in Labour had been exaggerated by the right.
JVL said the Labour Party is collaborating with right wing groups to silence left wing Jewish opinions.
Now Starmer has hinted at more attacks on left wing activists.
He told the Financial Times, “We have to turn the Labour Party inside out and that’s what we’ve been doing for the last 18 months.
“Too many of our members and supporters think winning an internal argument in the Labour Party is changing the world—it isn’t.”
Starmer also told the paper that his conference speech would be a “big moment”. Labour MPs, who are frustrated that their shift to the right hasn’t made Labour more popular, also agree.
One told the Guardian newspaper—anonymously—“It’s going to have to be the speech of his life,” and that MPs are “just so resigned to the fact that he’s a dud.”
Starmer hopes that his attacks on the left ahead of conference will convince MPs to keep backing him as leader.
But he also wants to win more support for Labour from big business and rich donors—just as Blair did.
Labour is in a financial crisis as tens of thousands of party members and activists have left or stopped paying membership subs.
Sienna Rodgers is editor of the Labourlist news website.
She wrote that Starmer’s Financial Times interview “looks like another attempt to woo donors—a pool of people who are thought to want Labour to be more pro‑business, to want Starmer to talk about Brexit and to prefer Tony Blair over Jeremy Corbyn”.
Conference looks to reinstate Corbyn
Left wing Labour groups want to use their party’s conference next month to get former leader Jeremy Corbyn reinstated as a Labour MP.
Current leader Keir Starmer had Corbyn suspended last year.
This was for correctly saying that the scale of antisemitism inside Labour was “dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party”.
Members of Labour’s ruling national executive committee reinstated him as a member after he backtracked and said concerns over antisemitism were not exaggerated or overstated.
But Starmer refused to allow him to also return as a Labour MP, meaning Corbyn is considered an independent in parliament.
Left wing Labour groups want the Labour conference to change the rules so that members have the final say on decisions by Labour MPs.
This would mean conference delegates could then vote to reinstate Corbyn.
Labour’s rules have allowed MPs to ignore conference decisions ever since the early 1900s.
Left wing Labour MP and former shadow chancellor John McDonnell called for Corbyn to be reinstated before conference.
But he is worried that a row between activists and Starmer at conference would “highlight a party bitterly divided, turning off voters.”
Left wing MPs’ worry about unity with the right means many have shied away from rebelling against Starmer, or also sitting as independents in support of Corbyn.