By Phil Maxwell
WHEN KEIR STARMER went to Liverpool in January 2020 for the first hustings in the leadership campaign, he made ten pledges to the membership “based on the moral case for socialism”.
He said “My promise to you is that I will maintain our radical values and work tirelessly to get Labour in to power.” It’s easy to understand why Starmer has not been to Liverpool since. He’s dumped most of the policies that secured him the votes he needed, purged the membership and signalled that Labour is now a pro-business party where rich donors will have a significant stake in policy development. Starmer’s fake pledges had the moral integrity of a government PPE contract.
At a time when Starmer has refused to call for the resignation of Matt Hancock after being found guilty by the High Court of breaking procurement law, we should remember that when he was the Director of Public Prosecutions he instigated 24-hour courts which charged an 11-year-old child for stealing a £30 bin, and jailed a 23-year-old for stealing bottled water. Now Labour has supported the government’s decision to delay a rise in corporation tax for two years – a position on tax which makes no economic sense and which betrays the values and purpose of the Labour Party.
His first pledge to win the leadership was headed ‘Economic justice’ and stated “Increase income tax for the top 5% of earners, reverse the Tories’ cuts in corporation tax and clamp down on tax avoidance, particularly of large corporations. No stepping back from our core principles.” Not only has Starmer stepped back, but he’s walked all over the party membership in the shoes they bought for him. Against this background its unsurprising that the incursion of Labour’s bureaucracy into the election of a new candidate for Liverpool mayor has angered the membership.
Liverpool members were expecting to choose between an all-women’s shortlist of three candidates who are all councillors in the city: Anne O’Byme, Anna Rothery, and Wendy Simon. On the day the ballots were supposed to arrive the candidates were cross examined and re-interviewed. After the interviews and before the candidates were even told they would not be able to stand, Labour issued the following statement:
“After careful consideration, the Labour Party has determined that applications for the position should be re-opened in order to allow the Liverpool Labour membership to choose from an alternative shortlist of candidates.”
The decision to start all over again stunned the membership, and local Black activist and party member Chantelle Lunt tweeted “unbelievable! Solidarity with the three amazing women who were shortlisted for mayor. Is this what happens when Starmer’s favourite candidate isn’t shortlisted? Liverpool will not stand for this kind of corruption!” Party members will now be given a choice between two right wing candidates, Anthony Lavelle and Joanne Anderson.
The attack on democracy is in full throttle in Liverpool but it has ignited a debate about the role of Labour councils. Cllr George Knibb told me: “When we come through the pandemic, we cannot allow deep cuts to basic services to continue. Without a Labour government in power, Labour councils have a key role to play in defending our communities in conjunction with the trade unions.”
He wants Labour councillors to organise a mass public campaign in Liverpool along with the trade unions over the next year, “so that we can win the resources from cen tral governmen t to defen d working class communities by refusing to make cuts. Meet the needs identified in our community. Bring all services in-house, raising pay to at least £10 an hour for all workers. Then, in conjunction with the trade unions, to increase pay to a level that reflects the real contribution of all essen tial worker s.”He also wants Liverpool City Council to link up with other Labour councils, local communities, and trade unions to campaign to reverse the cuts in local governmen t.
These ideas aren’t new. In 2019 at the North West regional conference, they were passed as policy following a motion from Liverpool Walton. Keir Starmer has abandoned the ‘pledges’ he was elected on, but Liverpool is unlikely to abandon socialism .
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