Starmer gets the job

As expected, Keir Starmer was declared the winner on Saturday of the British Labour Party’s leadership election, with his preferred running-mate Angela Rayner as his deputy. (Read my preview of the poll from a few weeks ago.)

Starmer won convincingly, recording 56.2% of the vote to 27.6% for Rebecca Long-Bailey and 16.2% for Lisa Nandy. Turnout was 62.6%: well down from the 77.6% that voted in 2016 when Jeremy Corbyn was re-elected, but nonetheless credible for an optional postal ballot conducted during a health crisis.

Unfortunately, because Starmer had an absolute majority the party didn’t bother distributing Nandy’s preferences, so we don’t know what his final margin would have been. Since Nandy was thought to be ideologically situated between the Corbynite Long-Bailey and the more moderate Starmer, her votes are unlikely to have flowed strongly either way (voting is optional preferential).

We know, however, that the left did badly, because in the deputy’s ballot the most strongly Corbynite candidate, Richard Burgon, could only manage 17.3%. That put him in second place on primaries, narrowly ahead of Rosena Allin-Khan but a long way behind Rayner’s 41.7%. Preferences from two eliminated candidates, while taking Rayner to 52.6%, also made Allin-Khan the runner-up with 26.1% to Burgon’s 21.3%.

All in all, it’s a sea change in the Labour party in the three and a half years since Corbyn won re-election with 61.8% of the vote. For all the suggestions that his supporters were impervious to electoral realities, it looks as if last December’s election loss persuaded at least a fair number of them that a new direction was necessary.

Starmer has so far played his cards close to his chest. He is clearly both more pro-European and less committed to the left (despite a youthful background as a Trotskyist) than Corbyn was, but he has avoided any promise to abandon the Corbynite elements of the party’s platform.

Corbynism, however, was always a matter of style as much as substance. Independent of any particular policies, Starmer’s task is to bring Labour back to the mainstream; to make it look like a normal part of British politics rather than an eccentric outlier (if occasionally an endearing one). Temperamentally he seems well suited to the task.

The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg put it well on Saturday:

In truth, many in the Labour Party tonight, at least, may not care that much, that for now his particular personal politics are something of a mystery – relieved at least that there has been an overwhelming victory for a politician they consider a principled pragmatist.

Firm ideologies have been the source of many Labour woes in the last few years, so competence and internal calm seem like real prizes.

In normal times Starmer would spend the next few months carefully staking out his ground, working to reconcile both the party’s left and those who are demanding a more radical break with the last few years. These, however, are not normal times.

Oppositions worldwide are having to walk a very fine line, holding governments to account while showing solidarity in the crisis. It’s a task that it’s hard to imagine Corbyn performing well; for Starmer it is a risk but also an opportunity.

One day, perhaps, there will have to be a more explicit reckoning with Corbynism and with the party’s failures of recent years. But that time has not yet come.

 

 

8 thoughts on “Starmer gets the job

  1. Starmer’s pledge to rid the Labour Party of its anti-Semitism is very welcome and sounds serious. He has offered to be judged by the numbers of Jews who return to the party after having been driven out of it (or having left it in disgust) under Corbyn’s leadership.

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  2. One hopes that the new leadership team will clear out the dinosaurs who helped devise the truly stupid election strategy that has assured the Tories of at least five years in office.

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  3. Absolutely appalling that a man like Keir Starmer has attained this position. He has never been held accountable for his decision in 2010 to destroy the life of Paul Chambers, a small-time nobody who made an ill-advised joke about “blowing up” an airport if his flight were delayed: https://www.theguardian.com/law/2012/jul/29/paul-chambers-twitter-joke-airport
    Most of the lower-level staff involved (including the airport manager who found the message) did not think the matter worth pursuing. But this so-called “human rights lawyer” insisted on prosecuting Chambers anyway. The matter was eventually dismissed on its third appeal: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twitter_Joke_Trial
    Either Starmer genuinely believed “Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!” was seriously “menacing” – in which case he ought to be sectioned and subjected to psychiatric treatment – or, worse he realised from the start it was a joke but insisted on punching down at Chambers anyway, whether for political points or “trying to save face by refusing to admit he was in the wrong” https://www.theguardian.com/law/2012/jul/29/paul-chambers-twitter-joke-airport, in which case the Entick v Carrington precedent would call for a hefty award of punitive damages against the great “human rights lawyer” personally. Whatever his motives, Starmer is unfit to occupy a seat in the Mother of Parliaments. Especially since he was happy to serve under Leader Corbyn, who didn’t merely impro jokes about blowing up government buildings but was happy to host tea with “reformed” terrorists who actually had blown up government buildings.
    Does nothing to allay my suspicion that little people like us are much safer from arbitrary abuses of power in jurisdictions that don’t have some kind of “Human Rights Charter Act”.

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    1. ‘He has never been held accountable for his decision in 2010 …’

      What makes you think it was his decision?

      ‘Does nothing to allay my suspicion that little people like us are much safer from arbitrary abuses of power in jurisdictions that don’t have some kind of “Human Rights Charter Act”.’

      Do you think people in New South Wales, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, and the NT are ‘much safer’ than people in Victoria, Queensland, and the ACT? That’s not obviously true.

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      1. > “What makes you think it was his decision?”
        Please click on the links I provided. Media reports are agreed that this was Starmer’s hobbyhorse all the way when he ran CPS. If you can find any source for him recanting or apologising, do share.
        > “are ‘much safer’ than people in Victoria, Queensland, and the ACT? That’s not obviously true.”
        Britain’s further along the road than Australia in this regard. As I’ve said elsewhere, probably on this site too – terminology is a giveaway. I want to live in a state run by its people, and I support a republic… but would never in my life move to a “People’s Republic”. My suspicion is that working in a bureaucracy that calls itself “Human Rights” encourages a mindset of infallibility – “Who, us? Violating people’s rights?” – that leads people to phone-in the moral self-assessments that we all need regularly. (Much like “But this body is called the ‘UN Human Rights Council’, even if Saudi Arabia is chairing it!” or “But we’ve been anti-racism campaigners ever since the Seventies! So we can’t be anti-Semitic, even if we’re acting as bagmen for Hamas to blow up synagogues in Europe!” or Canadian spinmeister Warren Kinsella’s spectacularly dumb Twitter-fail that no one should worry about Antifa’s methods because its very name means “anti-fascist”… or, on the Right, “But we’re pro-life! So if we support brutal immigration controls and incarceration policies, these can’t be a danger to the right to life!”).

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      2. UPDATE: Okay, Starmer’s in, and it’s now between him and Boris Johnson, whose record at doing sh###y things exceeds this single known (albeit medium-high) level blot on Starmer’s record, so now it’s like Hillary Clinton vs Trump again – hold your nose and vote for the lesser evil.

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  4. ‘Please click on the links I provided. Media reports are agreed that this was Starmer’s hobbyhorse all the way when he ran CPS. If you can find any source for him recanting or apologising, do share.’

    I did click on the links you provided. They did not agree that it was Starmer’s hobbyhorse all the way. They reported that some people said it was Starmer’s decision and that other people said it was not his decision.

    ‘My suspicion is that working in a bureaucracy that calls itself “Human Rights” encourages a mindset of infallibility’

    I notice that (a) you have not indicated what evidence there is to support this suspicion (I hope you don’t yourself have a mindset of infallibility) and (b) that you didn’t answer the question I actually asked you.

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