Right wing supporters of Labour Party leader Keir Starmer are champing at the bit for new assaults on left wing, anti-war politics. Labour MPs want to drive left wing activists out of their party. It comes after Starmer said former leader Jeremy Corbyn would be barred from standing for Labour at the next general election.
Speaking last week, Starmer insisted that Labour had changed since it was led by the left wing Corbyn, who stepped down as leader in 2019. And he said that anyone who still supports Corbyn or his politics isn’t welcome. “The Labour Party is unrecognisable from 2019, and it will never go back,” he said. “If you don’t like the changes that we’ve made, I say, the door is open, and you can leave.”
Starmer suspended Corbyn from the Labour Party in 2020 for saying that right wing opponents had exaggerated the scale of antisemitism in the party for political reasons. Throughout Corbyn’s time as leader, right wing Labour MPs and their supporters smeared him. In particular by claiming his anti‑war, pro-Palestinian activism had encouraged antisemitism.
Now, they want not just opposition to Israel but also anti-war, anti-business politics to be out of bounds. After Starmer spoke, right wing Labour MP Peter Kyle equated antisemitism to opposition to business and the West’s Nato-military alliance. “If you’re antisemitic or don’t agree with Labour’s support for business or Nato, then this isn’t the party for you,” he said on Twitter.
Starmer threatened 11 Labour MPs with expulsion last year after they signed a Stop the War statement opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but also criticising Nato. They all did as they were told and removed their signatures. It shows remaining inside now means left wing activists must hide their politics.
Only two Labour MPs—his close allies Diane Abbott and John McDonnell—have spoken out in defence of Corbyn since last week. Abbott reminded Starmer that he had a “perfectly friendly relationship” with Corbyn during his leadership. McDonnell said members should be “a coalition of a whole range of different political views, a broad church.”
Staying in Labour’s “broad church” would mean campaigning at an election for a party that demands more money for police and war, but not for public sector pay. Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper last week said Labour would effectively reintroduce anti‑social behaviour orders.
Right wing Labour prime minister Tony Blair’s government used these to criminalise people who hadn’t actually committed a crime. For the privilege of campaigning for that, activists would have to abandon Corbyn if he chose to stand as an independent—and the anti‑war movement as a whole.
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