Will abandoning left-wing voters backfire for Keir Starmer?

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Original article by Paul Rogers republished from Open Democracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence

Labour leader’s reluctance to differ from Tories on policy or Gaza sets stage for progressive independent candidates

Keir Starmer has moved Labour to the right – leaving left-wing voters without a political home  | Belinda Jiao/Getty Images

Almost all of Britain’s pollsters agree: the Labour Party is heading for a massive victory in this year’s general election, while Rishi Sunak’s Tories are set for a historic defeat. But there is another, far less talked about shift underway, which could see a wave of independent left-wing MPs elected.

Most polling firms expect Labour to win a majority of more than a hundred seats. A ‘poll of polls’ by political forecasting website Electoral Calculus suggests the party is on course for a 200+ majority.

These polls could all be wrong, but little seems to shake them. There is some evidence, though, of another trend that is yet to be reflected in the polls: Keir Starmer’s unwillingness to set out any clear policy differences from the Conservatives may be backfiring.

One area likely to cause the Labour leader trouble is his position – or lack thereof – on Israel’s war on Gaza.

Several polls in recent months have indicated that around 70% of people in the UK want an immediate ceasefire, and there are weekly demonstrations in towns and cities across the country in support of Palestinians. Organisers of a march in London last week estimated that up to 400,000 people had gathered to demand an end to the violence.

These protests receive minimal coverage in the mainstream media, bar senior Conservatives labelling the peaceful crowds as ‘hate mobs’. The government maintains strong support for Israel, continuing to sell arms and share intelligence with the country, as well as allowing it to use RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus as a support base – a position Labour has largely agreed with.

This leaves a huge gap in political representation, at least from the biggest two parties, for swathes of people nationwide.

It was in this opening that former Labour MP George Galloway – who was kicked out of the party in the 2000s after objecting to the UK entering the Iraq war – was elected as an independent MP for Rochdale last month, following a campaign that centred the need for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Another gap in political representation has been created by Starmer’s remodelling of the Labour Party, which has been sanitised to ensure it poses little or no threat to the political establishment. The majority of his policies so far appear to be a continuation of the status quo, suggesting little will change if the party wins the forthcoming election.

In contrast, so bold and progressive were the policies of his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, that the higher echelons of the Labour Party and the wider political and media establishment were determined to get rid of him from the offset.

A leadership challenge was mounted against him in the summer of 2016, little over a year after he was elected the party’s leader. Corbyn won comfortably – a fact I found unsurprising, having seen first-hand how he could pull a crowd of more than a thousand people to a hurriedly arranged event half a mile from a city centre.

Internal party opposition to Corbyn surged following his re-election, again backed by the mainstream media. When then Tory prime minister Theresa May called an election in 2017, many anticipated she would win a landslide victory that would consign ‘Corbynism’ to the outer margins.

Instead, Corbyn and his Labour manifesto struck a chord with many voters. Labour gains resulted in a hung parliament, to the horror of the political establishment, which worked to eliminate this threat from the left over the following two years.

After Labour lost the 2019 general election, Corbyn resigned and Starmer moved the party rightwards – prompting tens of thousands of its members to desert it as a result. Their votes are now up for grabs, and left-wing independents are hoping to win them.

Take a meeting in London just last weekend, scarcely reported on except by socialist paper The Morning Star. Two hundred of Labour’s former parliamentary candidates, councillors and supporters gathered to develop an alternative to its current stance on Gaza and other issues.

A sense of the mood at the event was best summed up by Tyneside’s independent socialist mayor Jamie Driscoll, who quit Labour after the party decided not to select him to run again for the north-east mayoral election in May.

In a video message played at the meeting, Driscoll said: “In the next election, both parties will have the same manifesto and the same rich donors pulling the strings.”

similar event is planned in Blackburn next month – just one part of a much wider movement that will likely see independent left-wing candidates standing against Labour candidates in many seats in the general election.

This is already being seen in England’s upcoming local council elections, where clusters of non-party, progressive candidates are working together in many parts of the country. In Blackburn, for example, every ward will have an independent left-wing candidate standing, as will all six wards in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. Early indications suggest similar trends in Merseyside and parts of London.

The accepted political wisdom in the UK is that once a general election is called, voters tend to revert to the usual pattern of voting. But if independent candidates were to pick up substantial numbers of votes in the local elections, even taking some council seats, it could indicate a political shift that means this wisdom will not apply this year.

This may seem unlikely but there is undeniably a political vacuum waiting to be filled – and a sense that something is afoot in British politics that is simply not being recognised.

Original article by Paul Rogers republished from Open Democracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence

Status Quo, again and again and again and again
Continue ReadingWill abandoning left-wing voters backfire for Keir Starmer?
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Sunak’s extremism speech 1 to 5

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Not decided if I’ll do more (but I probably will because I enjoy telling him how it is ;).

Response to Rishi Sunak's extremism speech at Downing Street 1 March 2024.
Response to Rishi Sunak’s extremism speech at Downing Street 1 March 2024.

Response to Rishi Sunak's extremism speech at Downing Street 1 March 2024.
Response to Rishi Sunak’s extremism speech at Downing Street 1 March 2024.

Response to Rishi Sunak's extremism speech at Downing Street 1 March 2024.
Response to Rishi Sunak’s extremism speech at Downing Street 1 March 2024.

Response to Rishi Sunak's extremism speech at Downing Street 1 March 2024.
Response to Rishi Sunak’s extremism speech at Downing Street 1 March 2024.

Response to Rishi Sunak's extremism speech at Downing Street 1 March 2024. Second version of this image with text slightly altered.
Response to Rishi Sunak’s extremism speech at Downing Street 1 March 2024. Second version of this image with text slightly altered.
Continue ReadingSunak’s extremism speech 1 to 5
Edit Sunak’s extremism speech 1 to 5