By Nick Clark
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Labour leader candidates promise lurch to the right

This article is over 4 years, 5 months old
Issue 2687
Keir Starmer launches his Labour Party leadership election campaign
Keir Starmer launches his Labour Party leadership election campaign

Labour MPs have decided overwhelmingly that the best candidate to take on the Tories as party leader is right wing, Remain-loving knight commander of the order of the bath sir Keir Starmer QC.

Starmer—who under Jeremy Corbyn fought for a second European Union referendum and said he would campaign to Remain—won the most nominations from Labour MPs.

This is despite the fact that Labour lost the 2019 general election because many working class Leave voters thought it would ­overturn the Brexit vote.

The other candidates who won enough nominations from MPs were Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy, Emily Thornberry and Jess Phillips.

Starmer appealed for the support of left wing party members by trying to present himself as the person able to deliver “radical values” of Labour under Corbyn.

Yet his pitch to the right is based on his promise to “rebuild trust” with working class people.

And though Starmer hasn’t actually said what his changes would be, it’s sure to mean dragging Labour back to the right.

While Corbyn was leader, Starmer resigned from the shadow cabinet in a bid to force him to quit, and backed right wing challenger Owen Smith for leader.

As director of public prosecutions in 2013 he increased the maximum sentence for benefit fraud to ten years.


Nandy, Phillips and Thornberry also talk about making Labour ­relevant to people outside of London. Neither of them have said what this means either.

But Phillips wants policies that are “financially credible”—a tacit rejection of Corbyn’s ­anti-austerity politics. And Nandy has said she would drop some of Labour’s more ambitious policies, which she ­counterposes to issues such as local bus services.

The left’s candidate Long-Bailey promises to stay closest to the policies of Labour’s left wing 2019 manifesto. But even the left believe they need to move to the right to stay in charge, keep the party together and win an election.

Long-Bailey wants Angela Rayner to be elected deputy leader rather than Richard Burgon or Dawn Butler who are more closely linked to Corbyn. She persuaded the leadership of Labour left group Momentum to back Rayner.

In a letter to Momentum’s leading members she said backing Rayner over a left wing candidate would protect them from attacks from the right.

Candidates now need to win the backing of two Labour-affiliated trade unions and one affiliated society, or five percent of constituency parties. There will then be a ballot of party members and supporters running from 21 February to 2 April.

Whoever wins, the election will be a long-drawn out traipse towards a more right wing leadership.

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