In a move that should shock no one, Keir Starmer ensured on Tuesday that Jeremy Corbyn will not stand for Labour at the next general election. All he needed was for the party’s leading body, the national executive committee, to rubber stamp his ruling. And it was set to do that as Socialist Worker went to press.
It’s pretty extraordinary that the man who led Labour into the last general election will not be allowed to represent it as an MP at the next one. But then, this is the end of a pretty extraordinary—if brief—part of Labour’s history.
For a few years, against the party’s own nature, it was led by a left wing leader. Corbyn had been put in place and held there by an insurgent membership in defiance of the right wing MPs.
The way that has ended is revealing. The ambition, hope and excitement of Corbyn and his hundreds of thousands of supporters have been smothered by Labour’s machine. Those left in Labour—that haven’t quit or been expelled—can only offer whimpers of protest.
“It’s so unfair,” complained Labour left MP John McDonnell in a radio interview, as he appealed for Starmer to respect the party’s “democratic principles.” “In politics, you know, you don’t kick a person when they’re down. Jeremy hasn’t broken any rules of the party.”
Starmer doesn’t care about any “democratic principles”—and no one should expect him to. He cares about proving to the establishment that sought to crush Corbyn that Labour is no longer a threat to them.
In the face of this onslaught, Labour’s organised left has put up no resistance. When Starmer suspended Corbyn in 2020, McDonnell and the handful of Labour’s left MPs, chose not to rebel and resign, or risk suspension.
When Starmer ordered them to abandon their support for the Stop the War Coalition last year, they fell over themselves to do as they were told.
That’s why the routine call from Labour left group Momentum—that the important thing to do is stay and fight in Labour—convinces fewer and fewer activists. They can see, painfully clearly, that staying in means mounting no fight at all.
If Corbyn stands against Labour at the next election, it’s doubtful that Labour’s left wing MPs will support him publicly.
Socialist Worker will—but for us, parliament and elections have never been the most important thing. Strikes, demonstrations and riots such as those happening in Britain, France, Greece and across the world have always been more important.
Rather than pinning hopes on the weakness of a few MPs constrained by parliament, they tap the unrestrained power of mass action by working class people. And now they can give us better hope.
Union leaders have been silent