Britain: ‘Sir’ Starmer vs the working class

With the Tories in turmoil, and the class struggle sharpening, the Labour leadership is straining to prove what a safe pair of hands it would be for the capitalists. It is clear whose side Keir Starmer is on: that of the bosses, not the workers.

‘Sir’ Keir Starmer has recently, and rightly, drawn ire for his attacks on those who have dared to defy him.

In recent weeks, Starmer has threatened his own MPs; sacked a shadow minister for visiting a picket line; and expelled prominent socialist activist Audrey White from the party, after she confronted the Labour leader during his visit to Liverpool.

This all comes alongside further commitments to pro-capitalist policies and flagrant anti-worker gestures.

The Tories are in complete meltdown. Yet instead of providing any genuine alternative, ‘Sir’ Starmer has ramped up his efforts to transform the party of labour into a party of big business. 

In doing so, however, he has only alienated the working class even further, and enraged the trade unions, the party’s biggest financial backers, sowing the seeds for Labour’s own crises and splits down the line.

Starmer vs socialist stalwart

The encounter between Starmer and White – a renowned trade unionist, who famously fought against workplace sexual harassment – was caught on video, and has subsequently gone viral.

In her protest against the Labour leader, White points out his shameful record of writing for the S*n; his witch-hunt of grassroots Labour members, and demoralisation of thousands more; and his backtracking on left-wing policies, in favour of Tory-lite policies. 

All the while, the video shows Starmer sitting in shameful silence, no doubt in shock at being confronted for once. A staffer then manhandles White, a pensioner, and pulls her away from the scene.

This footage has understandably received a hugely sympathetic response online. The echo it has gained is reflective of the general disgust amongst ordinary working people towards Starmer’s leadership of the Labour Party.

As if to prove all of the points made by White, within four days of confronting the Labour leader, she received a letter of expulsion from the party.

“Starmer is like some mediaeval monarch,” White commented on Twitter. “Criticism of the king is now an offence.”

As has now become commonplace, the stated reasoning behind her exclusion from the party was ‘showing support for Socialist Appeal’ – in this case, by giving an interview to our paper seven months before we were designated a proscribed organisation by the right-wing dominated Labour NEC.

Ironically, the very same interview was about the suspension of grassroots activists in Liverpool, including Audrey White herself, who was initially targeted by the party bureaucracy due to her campaigning efforts to oust right-wing Labour MP Louise Ellman.

Although her suspension was lifted, she has now been expelled by the party in revenge for her dressing down of Starmer.

Starmer vs the unions

Not content with attacking individual trade unionists, Starmer has recently turned his sights on the trade unions as a whole – and the very concept of solidarity with workers in struggle.

In the first round of RMT strikes, the Labour leadership explicitly threatened to sack any Labour frontbenchers seen joining rail workers on the picket lines. Nevertheless, commendably, numerous MPs defied this diktat, seemingly without punishment.

Last week, ahead of the RMT strike on 27 July, Sir Keir asserted that “a government doesn’t go on picket lines; a government tries to resolve disputes”.

And this time round he followed through with his threats, sacking Sam Tarry, MP for Ilford, from his shadow transport minister position.

Trade union leaders – such as Mick Whelan of ASLEF and Sharon Graham of Unite – responded sharply to this outrageous move. 

“The decision to sack Sam Tarry was not only wrong, it was stupid,” wrote Whelan bluntly in an article for LabourList. “I believe we are one movement, the Labour Party and the labour movement, and we forget that at our peril.”

“It is undoubtedly the fact that Labour is becoming more and more irrelevant to workers,” Graham commented in the Observer. “What’s required right now is for the party that is there for workers stands up, and stops being embarrassed about being the party for workers.”

We completely agree with both Whelan and Graham. The truth of the matter, however, is that this is not a mistake on the part of the Labour leadership. Nor is Starmer going to have a sudden change of heart and halt his rightwards march. 

‘Sir’ Starmer  is a conscious agent of the capitalist class, whose aim all along has been to expunge any trace of socialist content from the party.

Unsurprisingly and understandably, in the wake of these recent criticisms, the unions have once again raised the prospect of cutting funds to the party. Graham even went so far as to describe the unions’ links to the party as an “abusive relationship”, saying “there’s no point giving money to a party that is basically sticking two fingers up to workers”.

Such a move would pull the rug from under the party, especially given that Unite contributes over £1 million a year to Labour’s coffers.

The likely result would be a further lurch rightwards by Starmer and co., as they chased millionaire’s money to make up for the shortfall. Such donations might not be so forthcoming, however.

Cutting affiliation funds would therefore send the party into further chaos, given its already strained finances, and would ramp up hostility between the unions and the party – precisely at a time when there is huge public support for striking workers.

A Starmer government?

All of these recent shenanigans paint a clear picture of what side of the class war a Starmer-led government would be – the side of the bosses, not the workers.

PMQs Starmer Image UK Parliament FlickrThe Labour leader has gone into overdrive to prove to the ruling class that he will be a reliable servant for their interests / Image: UK Parliament Flickr

In the same week as these anti-worker attacks, for example, when asked about whether he stood by his famous 10 pledges, Starmer backtracked on his previous commitment to the nationalisation of rail, mail, water, and energy – despite such a policy having widespread support amongst voters.

With the Tories tearing themselves apart, Starmer likely believes that he could be moving into Number 10 sooner than expected.

The Labour leader has therefore gone into overdrive to prove to the ruling class that he will be a reliable servant for their interests; particularly compared to the loons on offer in the Tory Party, with Liz ‘hand grenade’ Truss predicted to win the Conservative leadership contest. 

Starmer and the Blairites are positioning themselves as the ‘sensible people’; a safe alternative to the reckless leaders of the Tory Party. And certainly a section of the British ruling class are angling for a Starmer-led government. 

Whether this will come to fruition will be decided by events. What is noteworthy, however, is that Starmer’s anti-union, anti-strike stance has gone down like a lead balloon amongst workers, with a large proportion of the public supporting the RMT’s strike, for example.

Similarly, without any solution to the cost-of-living crisis and the endless attacks on the working class, it is clear that there is no real enthusiasm amongst ordinary people for the idea of a Starmer government.

One recent poll even found that 38% would prefer to see Liz Truss in Downing Street, with only 37% supporting Starmer as a potential future PM!

Socialist leadership

Should Labour come to power, then, it would largely be the result of a strong anti-Tory vote; that is, due to the Tories losing, not Labour winning.

Socialist appeal march Image Socialist AppealFrom the beginning, the Marxists have warned of the role that Starmer would play as Labour leader / Image: Socialist Appeal

No doubt workers would welcome seeing the backs of this odious Tory government. But whoever replaces them would face all the same crises: high inflation and a stagnant economy; a global downturn; continued Brexit chaosNHS collapseheightening tensions within the Union; and intensifying class struggle.

And on every major question confronting the working class, there is barely a cigarette paper separating Labour’s programme from that of the Tories.

A Starmer administration, therefore, would be a government of crisis from day one, and would quickly come into conflict with workers and youth who are moving into action, demanding a solution to the urgent problems they face.

From the beginning, the Marxists have warned of the role that Starmer would play as Labour leader. And we have been proven correct every step of the way.

This shows the need for a strong Marxist tendency in the labour movement – to provide a clear perspective and a firm backbone amidst the explosive events and sharp struggles that lie ahead.

In this process, the whole of society – including the organisations of the working class – will be shaken from top to bottom. And a new layer of militant class fighters will come to the fore.

It is therefore imperative that we build the forces of Marxism now: to be ready to decisively intervene in the battles to come; and to ensure that the working class gets the fighting socialist leadership that it deserves.

Originally published on 2 August at

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