Starmer's search for the missing members is like looking for sand in the desert Photo by Finding Dan | Dan Grinwis on Unsplash

Jumping ship

The Labour Party has lost at least 200,000 members according to Ann Black of Labour’s National Executive Committee. This is a major blow for the party’s finances, taking it to near bankruptcy. It also reflects a dramatic percentage loss of members. One in every three Labour Party members since 2019 has jumped ship. Why?

I decided to ask Twitter.

A matter of scale

I was unprepared for the scale of the response. I had more than 1,000 replies from ex-Labour members, many of which generated extended conversations. A few of the responses were blunt and singular, such as “Starmer” or “You’ve answered your own question”. Others offered detailed lists of reasons stretching over several tweets.

I was also unprepared in another way. Those of you who read my tweets and articles will know I’m not a Starmer fan. I consider Sir Keir more of a Demolition Man than a successful party leader. If you want to check out why, take a look at my article ‘Keir Starmer’s Top Ten Mistakes’.

All the same, I was taken aback at the anti-Starmer sentiment so clearly articulated by such a large sample of those who had left Labour. These were people who were once confirmed Labour members, few of whom could be defined as ‘hard Left’, and many with decades of Labour membership behind them.

If these 1,000 were anything to go by, Starmer had managed to inspire, in his short tenure as Labour leader, lasting feelings of betrayal and resentment – feelings strong enough to drive these, and another 199,000 members, away from the party.

That’s quite an achievement, I’d say, from someone who put themselves forward at Labour’s leadership hustings as ‘the unity candidate’.

Reasons for leaving: Winner and runners up

As I went through the reasons for leaving given by those responding to my tweet, I began to compile a list. It turned out that quite a variety of reasons came into play – though these were also weighted towards a select few.

Want to know the top 5?

They were:

👉  Bullying of members and attacks on party democracy

👉  The party’s treatment of Corbyn and the Left

👉  Starmer’s support for apartheid Israel and the right-wing Jewish group, the Board of Deputies

👉  ‘Labour no longer represents us’

👉  Starmer is a liar / can’t be trusted

Want to know the winner – the reason most frequently given by the thousand Labour leavers who responded?

It’s this:

👉  ‘Labour no longer represents us’

In other words, in the viewpoint of these responders, Starmer, and Labour under Starmer, no longer represents socialism or social democracy in the UK.

Taking only these reasons into account, we get a chart that looks like this:

Betrayal and disappointment

But there were many more reasons provided by those responding to my query. Some of the reasons had to do with betrayal:

👉 Sabotage by the Labour Right in the 2017/2019 General Elections as revealed by the leaked Labour report

👉 Starmer breaking his ten pledges

👉 Starmer caving in on the  Panorama libel case, which Labour had been advised it could win

👉 Treatment of Rebecca Long-Bailey and her dismissal from the Shadow Cabinet

👉 Labour’s treatment of Ken Loach

👉 Failure to publish the Forde report

Some had to do with Starmer as a person:

👉  ‘He’s a careerist’ / ‘a self-seeker’

👉  He lacks charisma / he’s uninspiring and dull

👉  He’s ‘a racist’

👉  He’s ‘a mole’, ‘a dupe’, ‘a stooge’, ‘a Tory’

Some had to do with Labour’s performance under Starmer:

👉 Weak at opposing the Tories

👉 Weak on climate change and the environment

👉 Lack of support for Black Lives Matter (with Starmer calling the BLM protests ‘a moment’)

👉 Failure to act for or protect the disabled

👉 Nearly bankrupting the party

👉 Failure of the Socialist Campaign Group within Labour to stand up to Starmer and the Labour Right

Some had to do with Labour, under Starmer’s leadership, becoming:

👉 A policy-free zone / without vision / unable to inspire hope

👉 A party with a ‘hierarchy of racism’ (i.e. some types of racism treated as more important than others)

👉 Uncritically supportive of NATO

👉 A waste of membership time and money – better spent outside the party

The chart combining all these reasons looks like this:

Conclusions

So what general conclusions can be drawn from this survey of the love Labour’s lost?

For me, the most significant finding is the level of distrust or dislike of Starmer inspired in those who responded to my query, and, by reasonable inference, in more than 1 in 3 of the party members he inherited from Jeremy Corbyn. A sense of distrust – and of betrayal and anger – so great that these members discarded their membership cards and walked away from the party.

For an organisation significantly dependent on membership fees for its finances, and for a political entity whose raison d’etre must surely be to inspire and engage, this can hardly be considered a success.

In my next article for Critical Mass, ‘Two Hundred Thousand Hindrances’, I ask whether Labour’s shedding of its members has been an accidental and unwanted outcome of Starmer’s leadership, or an intended one.

Luke Andreski

Luke Andreski is a founding member of the @EthicalRenewal and Ethical Intelligence collectives and author of Intelligent Ethics (2019).

His free eBook Our society is sick, but here’s the cure is out now.

You can connect with Luke on LinkedIn, https://uk.linkedin.com/in/luke-andreski-ethics, or via @EthicalRenewal on Twitter https://twitter.com/EthicalRenewal


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15 thought on “Love Labour’s Lost: How Labour Lost 200,000 Members Under Starmer (Critical Mass Exclusive Poll)”
  1. I agree. I joined the LP when Corbyn became leader but campaigned for them for many years. Some people didnt like Corbyn but a vote for Labour meant you could support the people you did like. Corbyn even had people to the right of the party in his shadow cabinet. Unfortunately Starmer has got rid of so many of the people we on the left admire and respect, not to mention policies we hold dear, that it becomes in teasingly difficult to support Labour.
    I will vote Labour in the council elections because we have 2 good lefties standing. If my current MP stands again next election, I will vote for him because he is one of the principled ones I can trust. I suspect he will not stand though and Starmer will prevent a candidate on the left standing. I will then have to make a difficult decision. I have never voted anything but Labour and I desperately want rid of these vile Tories. It’s a dilemma

    1. I very much agree – Starmer and the Labour Right have created a dilemma for us all, given the undemocratic First Past The Post system we live under…. How do you vote when you’re not actually being presented with a real alternative?

      1. I won’t vote in a GE ever again until we get PR. We live in a one party state at the moment. In my ward, the Tory candidate won 49% of the vote last Thursday. Beggar’s belief. I rejoined the Labour Party when Corbyn was elected, having resigned my membership when Michael Foot resigned in 1983. Guess you could criticise me for that, not staying to fight my corner, but it was obvious that the Party didn’t want the ‘likes of me’ in it! We need a new party. Corbyn should lead it if Labour won’t restore the whip. I would imagine Corbyn will win Islington as he always does, with a huge majority, although I dare say the billionaire non-dom media moguls will focus on his constituency in the next election to give Starmer a helping hand. The PLP and the media appeared to be in cahoots throughout the Corbyn years. I fear that we will never see a left wing government in power in my lifetime simply because the Establishment will not allow it.

        1. Thanks so much for reading and responding, David!
          I totally agree that PR would be a great first step towards re-legitimising our democracy – but another crucial step is needed, as you imply in your comment: democratisation of the media. With the media owned by the rich and the powerful, and in full propaganda mode, democracy just won’t work…..

  2. I don’t know if the 21% ‘No longer represents us’ and/or 10% ‘Bullying’ contributes, but near enough every single female Labour Party member I know who has given-up their membership in the last 18-months – that will be around three-dozen former members – have done so over one single issue. And that’s the trans vs women’s rights issue.

    Perhaps my cohort is an oddity, but I’ve not found, with exception of one former member who left because she felt Starmer was too willing to let Boris off-the-hook, a single female member who didn’t leave for that issue alone.

    It does of course refer to that oft-asked question; why have so many active, left-leaning women suddenly apparently, if the regular accusations on social-media are to be believed, become out-and-out Nazi’s?

    Perhaps a deeper dive is required?

  3. Good work!
    I left about 8 months ago. I really liked Corbyn as a person and a politician. I loved his manifesto and it gave me a huge amount of hope! I thought he was great in person, but I wasn’t sure he was the best leader, partly because he didn’t counter the smears against him, and partly because he wasn’t very good on TV. Rightly or wrongly, TV presence is a necessity in a leader.
    I thought we might well lose in 2019, but the scale of that loss was breathtaking to me.

    I wasn’t a big fan of Starmer, but I voted for him nevertheless, for various reasons:
    – He seemed like a solid leader,
    – We needed unity in the party,
    – He said he’d stick to the manifesto (I didn’t completely believe that, but I figured he’d hold on to at least some of the manifesto points), and
    – His background in justice, and particularly disabled rights, (erroneously) convinced me that he’d continue to fight for social justice, although I assumed he’d prioritise that somewhat less than Corbyn did.

    Good God was I wrong. I stuck it out for over a year, but I finally left 8 months ago. I just couldn’t continue to be part of what Labour was becoming. Yes, Labour no longer represented me, but in *so many* ways. The most personal was that the party deserted disabled people, as well as many benefits claimants (I’m both), and in fact it ignored us as we reached out for support during the pandemic. Labour also neglected to support BLM, trans people, those most vulnerable to Covid (including Black, Asian and other racial minorities, the poor, the disabled, those without sick pay, front line workers, etc. etc.) and Palestinians, Muslims, Jews, the Party Left and Corbyn, Ken Loach, environmental/climate change goals and policies, a huge chunk of the membership, local parties, etc., etc. (Oh, and the revelations about working against a Labour win in 2019 – disgusting!!) Who are Labour for, if not for the many? Labour now seems to be for a very small proportion of the people of the UK. Who are Labour if we’re not about solidarity, cooperation, and lifting all boats? Who are Labour if, in addition to focusing on workers, unions, etc., if we’re aren’t also workingfor increasing social justice, reducing inequality, building community, and doing the right thing? Who are Labour if not democratic socialists? I don’t know anymore, but at some point I looked around and realised that there was so little to be proud of in the ways that Labour had changed that I just couldn’t stick around anymore. It felt wrong. Who is Labour for nowadays? I honestly have no idea, but definitely not me.

    1. Brilliantly put, Jules….. The Starmer leadership team have deliberately set Labour adrift. No one knows who are what they represent, other than in negatives: ‘Not Corbyn’ (which is doubly negative, given how brightly he outshines them); ‘Not Johnson’ (a very low bar); not as bad as the Tories (but in some ways worse; at least many of the Tories believe the nonsense they spout!).
      The Starmer Project has been highly successful at crushing the Left, but in all other ways its a lost cause. I look forward to seeing it reap its rewards in terms of the broken careers of its sad MP fraternity.

  4. So many of these points echo my feelings. I deliberated for a long time as I had always been proud to be a party member but I cannot support a party anymore that does not represent the core labour values. Starmer’s treatment of Jeremy Corbyn was reprehensible then the 10 pledges he was elected on go out the window. I don’t feel I can trust him at all so I have left.

    1. And so many agreed with you – and rightly so! Starmer’s only success has been the long-term harm of Labour and a massive loss of membership. In everything else he and his team are a Labour-damaging, unelectable waste of space.

  5. The Labour Party is now Tory Party 2.0 The electorate who do not want the Tories, and basically the w/class, poor, the disabled and pensioners have been abandoned. There is no morality in any of it anymore, most politicians are careerists and the capitalism-on-steroids model is the only game in town.
    Politics now is also a thoroughly middle class game. People who can’t pay bills or might eat cheap food, if at all on occasions have little or nothing in common with any of them. The ‘Overton Window’ hasn’t just shifted in terms of politics but also in terms of class, particularly in socioeconomic terms. The working class are now seen as an obstacle to progress or a problem to be solved, rather than human beings. Both left and right have similar unpleasant views about class, which have become accepted practise. Until we have grassroots movements again, the weak as dishwater leaders who are supposed to represent us will just ignore. Starmer is wooden, there’s nothing there politically. The working class have been sold out.

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