“Just when I say, “Boy, we can’t miss.
You are golden”, then you do this.” The opening lines from the Steely Dan song ‘Gaucho’ immediately sprung to mind when I read Keir Starmer’s 10 pledges to the Labour Party. Just when I’d started to refer affectionately to the man I hoped would be Labour’s new leader as ‘Starmzy’ and this happens. Shocked, I can tell you. And here’s why.
One of the main reasons Labour lost the last general election – by a landslide, may I remind you – was its crazy wish list of slogans dressed up as policy, giving everyone lots of free money. Not only that, many of the policies were based on old-style 1980s socialism which were overwhelming rejected by voters. For Labour to go back to the future and reheat failed old policies was suicidal. Yesterday, Starmer appeared to be doing the same thing. Let’s look at the evidence.
Starmer confirmed the following:
- Tax increases for the top 5% of earners
- Abolish Universal Credit (UC)
- Abolish tuition fees
- No more illegal wars. Introduce a Prevention of Military Intervention Act
- Nationalise the utilities and railways
- All the stuff about handing back power to trade unions
There’s lots of other stuff, but this is enough for starters. And you know what? On the face of it, on first glance, this is continuity Corbyn. It’s old medicine in old bottles, trying to convince the electorate they were wrong not to vote for it in December. Isn’t it?
Either Starmer means this stuff or he is pandering to the hard left. The other possibility is that he is playing a long game and will look to slowly change Labour’s election losing policies over the next decade. My guess is that it’s all of these things.
As things stand, I am just about still with Starmer. He is unquestionably the smartest man in the room and he isn’t Corbyn or any of the hard left deadbeats who seek to replace him. If it was either Starmer or Rebecca Long-Bailey only a fool, or someone from the hard left not interested in winning elections, would not vote for him. But briefly, here are my issues.
If Labour is going to be honest with voters – and what’s the point of not being honest? – then they will have to level with them. Making the very richest people and the large corporations pay more is a given. However, the reality is that the crisis in our public services mean we will all have to pay more. If we want a well-funded NHS, properly funded schools and a social care sector that is fit for purpose, all of us will need to pay more, with the wealthiest paying the most. This is unavoidable.
Why abolish UC? The reason for problems is adequate government funding due to huge cuts made to it by the then chancellor George Osborne. Even Iain Duncan Smith resigned at the cuts made to it by Osborne. It will work if it receives the proper resources. How much would scrapping it cost?
Abolishing tuition fees would be a tax break for the middle and upper classes, a subsidy to the better off. Reduce them, perhaps, yes, but abolish them, just like that? The money for universities would have to come from somewhere. But why from people who could never afford to attend or are too old, which is almost everyone?
Illegal wars? You mean Iraq, don’t you, Keir, and it wasn’t illegal. At least he admitted Tony Blair was not a war criminal, which has always been a ludicrous assertion, but this is nonsense. And a Prevention of Military Intervention Act? Really? That would have been a fat lot of use to the people of Kosovo when they needed our help. I could never vote for a Labour Party that put obstacles in the way of our national, international and moral obligations. Corbyn’s anti-west instincts put off millions of people. Why would Starmer want to do the same?
Give us a reason for nationalising everything. I suspect most voters would be happy with strong and effective regulation when it comes to the utilities and as for nationalising the railways, think about this: how many people do you know who use trains to get to work? Lots of them are wealthy business types commuting to London or wherever. Most people on or around the average wage and almost no one who earns less uses the train on a regular basis. These are very complex issues. Ticket prices are a huge issue. Do we nationalise trains for the few not the many and allow the middle classes and working classes to subsidise the better off? Well, Keir?
And handing back power to the likes of Len McCluskey? I am arguing that Labour needs to change its relationship with trade unions, not strengthen it, especially given that 77% of workers do not belong to unions. This is not the 1970s and 1980s. Trade unions are A Good Thing in principle but so many are highly politicised hard left talking shops and have lost much of their power because of their own (in)action. The hard left will never relinquish control because of the way they are constituted. Labour needs to recognise this.
As I said, Keir Starmer is very clever indeed. I am still just about in his corner and if he wins I’ll end up voting Labour again unless he wholly embraces Corbyn’s toxic agenda. However, I find his 10 pledges nightly disturbing. I wouldn’t let the likes of McCluskey and Mark Serwotka anywhere near government.
In the end, a decision will need to be made as regard the hard left. My own presence would be to kick them out of the party altogether, particularly Momentum, the party within a party. That might be an evolutionary process but it will need to happen otherwise we end up with more Corbynism and more years of opposition. Only the Tories want that.