For Keir Starmer, Labour conference was his chance to prove to MPs and the press he had beaten the left and could make the party “electable.”
On Monday, he toured the press room for an “off the record chat” to tell everyone how pleased he was with how conference had gone.
Some of the assembled hacks sniggered behind his back—Starmer hadn’t said much “off the record” that he wouldn’t want to say publicly. But to his face they gave him an easy ride and lapped it all up.
His shadow ministers had done a job of proving Labour is “responsible”—and in the eyes of most of the press room hacks, “electable”—again.
Deputy leader Angela Rayner threw a bone to union leaders. Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves tried to convince bosses she could manage the system better than the Tories.
And Lisa Nandy and John Healey—the shadow foreign and defence secretaries—demonstrated that Labour supports the army, US wars, and Israel once more.
This was coupled with a landmark defeat for the left on Sunday.
The conference agreed to give party MPs more power to stop a left wing candidate ever standing for the party leadership again.
It’s a big victory for Labour leader Keir Starmer in his drive to crush the left and marginalise activists—and show he is in control of the party.
Andy McDonald threw a spanner in the works when he resigned from Starmer’s shadow cabinet on Monday. He said he wouldn’t follow Starmer’s orders not to support a £15 an hour minimum wage.
And left wing activists cheered themselves for getting certain left wing motions voted through.
Labour left group Momentum says all this shows there’s still a battle for left wing activists inside Labour.
At a meeting at the parallel festival The World Transformed on Monday, Mish Rahman, a left wing member of Labour’s national executive committee, said, “We need people in the party to take over the machine. In the next few years the tide will turn.”
Yet Labour’s leadership has said explicitly it will simply ignore all the left’s successful motions at conference.
No sooner had delegates passed a motion agreeing sanctions on Israel for “crimes of apartheid,” than Nandy said Labour’s leadership “cannot support it.”
And Starmer and Reeves said Labour will not nationalise the big six energy companies, despite delegates agreeing nationalisation of the whole energy industry.
It all comes as Labour is suspending swathes of its left wing members for speaking out.
One Labour activist, who didn’t want to be named, told Socialist Worker, “The right are on the front foot—they feel emboldened.”
“It’s difficult for the left in the Labour Party at the moment. A lot of us have been searching our consciences on should we stay or leave—what’s the right thing to do?”