England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

Starmer’s Labour: Open to Tories, closed for socialists

With his credibility in tatters, and his own MPs increasingly turning against him, Johnson’s days may well be numbered. The rotten sleaze and chummy behaviour behind closed doors that characterises the Tories has finally come back to bite not just Johnson but the entire government. Already up to 30 no confidence submissions have been submitted against Johnson by Tory MPs. 

Increasingly as a result, ‘red wall’ Tory MPs elected at the last election in 2019 will have been left asking themselves: ‘are our jobs safe?’ Elected on the false promise of ‘levelling-up’ and ‘getting Brexit done’, this government has done anything but that. The effects of capitalism’s crisis have only deepened since then, added to by an entirely preventable pandemic that continues to wreak havoc with lives. 

So what is Keir Starmer’s approach? Has he used this as an opportunity to provide a radical alternative that can speak to the real interests of working class people? Far from it. He has taken to, shockingly, instead doing everything and anything he can to prove himself to be a knight in shining armour for the capitalist elite. This has been revealed most shockingly in the admission of Christian Wakeford, the 2019-elected Tory MP for Bury South to the Labour fold.

This is clearly little more than a calculated career move for Wakeford. Although the BBC sympathetically paints it as a genuine change of heart for a man who had “many sleepless nights” pondering over his principled shift over the government’s policies on levelling up and workers rights, we have to see through the facade. Only when the red wall seats have fallen vulnerable has a move been triggered. Almost never has Wakeford been a rebel in the face of Johnson before now. 

Wakeford’s voting record is appalling, ranging from votes against measures to tackle the climate crisis and tax avoidance, all the way to voting in favour of racist immigration policies and in favour of the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill. This is not a man that deserves any place in a party claiming to represent the interests of working class people.

For Starmer himself, this is an act of pure opportunism. Not content just with purging the party of all traces of the Corbyn era, packing the Labour benches with ex-Tories will be his dream come true. A genuine ‘Red Tory’ party in all but name. 

This highlights the need for urgent discussion from socialists, trade unions, anti-racist, climate and Kill the Bill campaigners on the next step forward for a genuine political voice for our movements. Young Labour for instance were correct to disavow Wakeford and point out his role in “consistently voting against the interests of working-class people”. But this will have to go further. Clearly Starmer’s Labour, a home for Tories of all stripes (but not for the still-expelled Corbyn!) has ceased to be a viable force for representing the protest movements and workers organising over the last two years. 

More urgently than ever, what is needed is a new party to organise the resistance. In this sense, it would be a step forward for Jeremy Corbyn to use his platform to do what the press has speculated about in recent weeks and take a step towards forming a new left-wing party. This must not just be based in parliament, but root itself in workplace, community and street-level struggle if it is going to be effective in providing a genuine alternative for working-class people. 

A force like this would have the potential to fight for the socialist programme urgently needed. From fighting to scrap the anti-trade union laws, for public ownership to fend off the worst effects of the cost of living crisis, to radical action to combat the capitalist-driven climate crisis with a socialist Green New Deal, this is all more urgent than ever.  

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