Starmer has sunk to new depths in his latest personal and vitriolic attacks on his once friend and colleague, Jeremy Corbyn, by ensuring that he will not be allowed to stand as a Labour MP at the next election.
The motion he tabled to the National Executive Committee that will prevent Corbyn from standing for his Islington North seat was passed on March 28th by 24 votes to 12. The reasons are that “he would diminish Labour’s electoral prospects”.
This is nothing more than a blatant and personal assault, thinly disguised as an expedient political decision. It shows a total disregard for the facts. For a start, Corbyn has held Islington North since 1983, currently with a 26,188 majority. Momentum condemned it as a “venal and duplicitous act from Keir Starmer”.
As the leader of the Labour Party in the General Election of 2017, Corbyn won 40% of the votes, one of the largest since 1945. Even in 2019, viewed as a low point for Labour in terms of the number of seats lost, the share of the vote was still 32.2%. This was higher than the results in 1983, 1987, 2010, and 2015 under the leadership of Michael Foot, Neil Kinnock, Gordon Brown, and Ed Milliband.
Whilst this didn’t translate into a successful outcome in terms of the current first-past-the-post voting system, it showed a level of support across the UK that contradicts the reasoning behind Starmer’s motion to the NEC. No other Labour leader has been treated so despicably, despite not covering themselves with glory in previous general elections.
It is also interesting to note that Starmer has decided not to pursue the antisemitism allegations as a reason for deselecting Corbyn. He has clearly been advised that there is credible evidence contained in The Forde Report and Al Jazeera’s Labour Files that would form part of the defence case if Corbyn chose to challenge the decision through the courts. Starmer had previously moved away from Corbyn’s supposed refusal to apologise for his comment on the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report to saying it was the fact that he didn’t unreservedly support NATO that was the problem.
Clearly, though, his enemies have not taken the time to read the motion carefully enough. Ed Miliband jumped in quickly on Radio 4 today saying they had no choice but to deselect him, as Corbyn hadn’t apologised for underestimating the scale of the antisemitism allegations. The Guardian reported the slip immediately saying, “Ed Miliband misrepresented the reasons why Jeremy Corbyn was being de-selected”. Some on Twitter weren’t quite so measured with ToryFibs saying, “I’m personally devastated at Ed Miliband’s betrayal of Jeremy Corbyn today. I spent five years of my life day in day out rebutting attacks on Ed Miliband and fighting his corner, often against the very people he now sits in Shadow Cabinet with. Today is a dark and depressing day.” Others pointed out that Corbyn was the only MP who came out in support of Miliband when his father was attacked by The Daily Mail in 2013 for being an “unpatriotic Marxist.”
Shamefully, Skwawkbox reported that Unison abstained from the vote yesterday, while the GMB, USDAW, and the Musicians Union voted for Starmer’s motion.
In a statement issued before knowing the result of the decision, Jeremy Corbyn said that Keir Starmer had broken his commitment to respect the rights of Labour members and “denigrated the democratic foundations of our Party..” He concluded by saying, “Our message is clear: we are not going anywhere. Neither is our determination to stand up for a better world”.
It has been reported that Jeremy Corbyn has decided to stand as an Independent MP. Labour will therefore have the battle of all battles to retain this seat. We can only hope that the constituents of Islington North will send a very clear message to Starmer that they are not willing to have their democratic rights removed in this way. One thing we can be sure of, if the past is anything to go by, is that it will be a bloody battle. Starmer’s ruthless Labour Party will use its new friends in the media to throw whatever mud it can at the campaign. We will need to organise and be ready.
Even if Corbyn succeeds in Islington, what are the options for socialists in the rest of the country now that Starmer has demonstrated that Labour has no place in its ranks for democratic socialists who stand for peace and justice?
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