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The last thing Labour needs is ‘unity’ To purify the Party, its new leader must purge the hard Left squad

The new Labour leader needs to clean out the stables (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The new Labour leader needs to clean out the stables (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)


April 3, 2020   4 mins

Unity. According to Sir Keir Starmer, it’s the pre-requisite for Labour to re-establish itself as a serious party of government. As he put it recently (and has said repeatedly): “I don’t think there’s any victory without unity.”

Yesterday, back on the theme, he thanked the party for the unity it has shown during the leadership campaign. “I honestly believe that we have come out of the other end of this contest as a better party,” he said: “more united and ready to build another future.”

To which George Orwell had the appropriate response: “There are some ideas so wrong that only a very intelligent person could believe in them.” Unity is the precise opposite of what Labour needs or what its new leader should seek. Unity is the comfort blanket of the third-rate politician, afraid to confront his or her base with unsettling truths, pushing unity as a goal in itself. But to seek unity between decency and the abhorrent is not merely a mistake — it is itself indecent. Labour is now an indecent party. To purify itself, it needs not unity but a bloodbath.

It should not require a great feat of memory to remind oneself why Labour suffered its worst election defeat since 1935 last December. There were many specific reasons but they all had one thing in common: Labour has been overrun by nutters.

“Nutters”, you will of course know, is the technical political term for the allies and supporters of Jeremy Corbyn. People like Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon, who regards Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro as a hero; like communications chief Seumas Milne, who argues that Nato is the villain of the piece in Crimea, prompting Putin’s “defensive” annexation; like Mr Corbyn’s former key adviser Andrew Murray, who in a 2003 Morning Star article expressed his “solidarity with Peoples Korea (North Korea)”.

Or like Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, who described a thug who nearly killed a police officer by throwing a fire extinguisher from a rooftop during a student riot as “the best of our movement”; and, in fact, like Mr Corbyn himself, who
 well, you know the charge sheet. It’s familiar stuff now. And it has all sunk Labour.

There will be a temptation tomorrow to herald the removal of Mr Corbyn and his replacement with (one assumes) the patently decent and intelligent Sir Keir as somehow marking the end of Labour’s four and half years of shame. For sure, the party will have a leader whose views are within the mainstream of politics. And it is not impossible to imagine Sir Keir sitting round the Cabinet table or even leading it. But Labour’s problems go far deeper than the indecency of its soon-to-be-former leader.

As editor of the Jewish Chronicle I have led a team of reporters who exposed a seemingly never-ending stream of extremism among Labour members since Jeremy Corbyn became leader in September 2015. Specifically, of their anti-Semitism. It would not be an exaggeration to say these cases came up daily; indeed on same days they were an hourly occurence.

In December, a week before the election, the Jewish Labour Movement submitted a 53-page dossier of evidence to the Equality and Human Rights Commission into Labour’s institutional anti-Semitism. This followed a 1,000-page body of evidence supplied to the EHRC last May, which together added up to hundreds — perhaps thousands — of examples of Labour members’ hatred of Jews.

These are very same people who have been so unified, as Sir Keir puts it, in voting to choose the party’s next leader. These are the people with whom he aims to unite.

To be fair to him, Sir Keir has said he will ensure that any anti-Semite is expelled. Good — but that would only those foolish enough to show themselves publicly as racists (more often than not on social media). But that is just one type of extremism which has emerged. Labour has a much bigger problem with the Burgonesques, a far larger group who aren’t obviously hateful but whose views are way outside the boundaries of normal British politics.

We will find out tomorrow how many votes each candidate secures but in the most recent poll of Labour members by YouGov on 26 February, 19% said they would vote for Richard Burgon to be Deputy Leader. Think about that for a moment: one-fifth of party members believe that a man who looks to Venezuela for political inspiration should be the party’s deputy.

In reality, no decent mainstream left-of-centre party should give houseroom either to Burgon or those who support him. That is what fringe parties are for.

Instead of seeking to assuage the anger of Corbynite members because their hero will no longer be leader, Sir Keir should confront them and — as Neil Kinnock did with Militant in the 1980s — highlight the grotesque chaos of having such people in a mainstream party.

It’s obvious why he won’t. For one thing, the hard Left now dominates Labour’s National Executive Committee by 21 votes to 13 (with two places up for election). Anyone with the faintest memory of the 1980s is aware of just how energy- and attention-sapping it is for the leadership when engaged in a fight with the NEC. But some fights are worth it. Some are essential.

Had Neil Kinnock not fought and defeated Militant, Labour would have ceased to exist as a mainstream party in the 1980s. The situation today is of course different, but the same dynamic holds; if Sir Keir refuses to fight the hard Left, Labour will continue on its current trajectory and cease to exist as a mainstream party.

Does that matter? As an erstwhile member (very erstwhile — I left when Tony Blair was deposed in 2007) I believe it is essential for British politics and British public life.

Yes, another vehicle will surely emerge if Labour strides off further into irrelevance, but there is a residual base of electoral support for the people’s party that will always be difficult to shift. It makes far more sense for Labour to return to the mainstream and act as a serious challenger for government than for a wholly new party to take shape. Instead it will limp on as a large but politically irrelevant party, a permanent drain on the centre-Left.

Labour’s return to normality, and with it British politics’ return to normality, will only happen by design. By design, that is, of the party leadership. And that requires not unity but a bloodbath — a fight to the death.


Stephen Pollard is Editor of the Jewish Chronicle.

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mike otter
mike otter
4 years ago

Another good piece from Stephen Pollard. Some comments below attest that the problem may be deeper even than this. I guess all but the real neo-cons want a social democratic counterweight to unfettered one party Conservatism. I certainly do and have voted for both major parties over the last 40 years. Sadly the “biosphere” around Labour is so distorted by post modernist “feelings beat testable evidence” that Putinites, Stalinists, blood libel racists etc etc do not face the common sense opposition they did in the Kinnock era. This outer sphere exists in the universities, the grauniad/BBC type media and the white collar part of the public sector. As their politics is toxic to normal people they cannot win power at the ballot box which is why they are so hostile to open societies/democratic elections. Aside from doing an NSDAP and abolishing democracy having won at FPTP election, violence/terrorism are their only options long term. Therefore it seems likely a genuine opposition may take the form of a split between a softer social Conservatism adding on the more rational SDP/CHUK element versus the “red in tooth and claw” Hayekian tories of the Thatcher era. Labour will remain as a version of the SWP, more rent a clown than rent a mob.

David Radford
David Radford
4 years ago

Stephen’s incisive article fills me with sadness. In my early 20s I was a Tory by upbringing who was converted after much argument by friends and colleagues to supporting Labour. The most persuasive of my colleagues was Jewish.
Throughout my life I continued to support Labour including my time in Australia where I had the good fortune to have a conversation with Bob Hawke. He was a,great PM and,would have dealt with the disastrous situation in Labour in the UK in exactly the decisive way Stephen is suggesting.
I don’t think Sir Kier has that degree of courage and brutality. I now vote Tory with some regret as Labour is a million miles from the party it should be

Scott Allan
Scott Allan
4 years ago

The labour party is a sinking ship. It is time to man the lifeboats. The new party/s need a mental illness questionnaire. Do you believe in any of the following:

1. Patriarchy has oppressed everything as masculinity is inherently toxic
2. Thinking you are a woman makes you a physical woman
3. Freedom of speech is only for the “good” people like me
4. Health is free
5. Education is free
6. Housing is free
7. Money comes from the rich
8. Families are women and girls
9. Jeremy Corbyn was just unlucky

If your prospective member ticks even a single box they have failed the mental illness test. Probably best not to be connected to this group if you would like to win an election in the future.

The Labour party used to be about collective bargining and strong families. There is a terrific new book by Warren Farrell called “The Boy Crisis”. It takes apart the politics that have destroyed families in the Western world. Whilst it states there is a crisis with boys the book stays true to Warren himself in stating clearly that the solutions to making any country great again is to make the family great again.

The book is wonderfully researched. The analysis balanced and inciteful. There is also a great interview with former Australian Deputy Prime Minister John Andersen that is a must see where the key issues are discussed. Link https://youtu.be/8Jet7oeDYf8 I defy any person to say even one bad thing about these two men based on that interview. If you want a roadmap back to the traditional Labour Party please start there.

Robin P
Robin P
4 years ago
Reply to  Scott Allan

We do not need parties. We need to GET RID of parties!

Robin P
Robin P
4 years ago
Reply to  Scott Allan

“there is a crisis with boys”

There’s also a huge crisis with women who are now required to be some sort of “men.02”.

Scott Allan
Scott Allan
4 years ago
Reply to  Robin P

I don’t understand what that means?

David Waring
David Waring
4 years ago

” and the last thing we in the country need is more of the maniacal ego driven posturing” which has caused such distraction over the last three years. Consign the vapid left to the dustbin of history where it should have been a long time ago.

Adam Peter Lang
Adam Peter Lang
4 years ago

Goodness me
Give the guy a chance if indeed as expected Keir Starmer wins. He has spoken of listening & learning & taking action but we all need to move on and forward particularly in these unsettling & challenging coronavirus days.
Show some religious and moral forgiveness .

Jit Kach
Jit Kach
4 years ago

I am not sure I would describe Corbyn and co as hard left. From my understanding, the hard left took the economy as the primary goal to serve all working people and citizens while keeping the lid on the unwashed PC brigade. It is the pernicious infiltration by the divisive (and racist) PC brigade who have now put on the clothes of the hard left, masquerading as party of the working class. This is what the working class have belatedly learnt that Corbyn was a PC ideological protest movement rather then a movement for betterment of the working class citizens of this country. A party of protest rather then alternative constructive policies, throwing money at working class citizens at election times to get elected as the main strategy.

Keir Stammer, if he wins, is not going to be much of a change to Corbyn as he is shackled by the unions and the unwashed PC brigade.
I had hoped that Chukka take the opportunity of constructive centre ground before the last election but the remainer mania got to him.

Nicholas Rau
Nicholas Rau
4 years ago

“Unity” as in “Jeremy Corbyn wasn’t really such a bad chap” isn’t desirable, but nor is a bloodbath (it’s also unlikely, as T Hopp says below, but I’m not as pessimistic as he is). The Blair government that Stephen Pollard and I liked was full of former Trots and Commies who had been persuaded of the errors of their ways by self-interest, rational argument and events, dear boy, events. Bloodbaths had nothing to do with it.

andy young
andy young
4 years ago

The question is, who will triumph: the People’s Front of Judea or the Judean People’s Front? Will Stan ever get his gestation box?? These are questions that need answering.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
4 years ago

I look forward to being proved wrong but imho Starmer couldn’t lead his way out of a paper bag. He was the architect of Labour’s disastrous fence-sitting Brexit policy – the archetypal lawyer’s on the one hand, then on the other hand, that’ll be £2,500 + VAT please, legal opinion.
His failures as DPP will also come back to haunt him. Labour looks doomed.

Robin P
Robin P
4 years ago

The last thing we need is political parties. They are merely HERDS of semi-talented incompetents, no longer having any real purpose other than to have themselves in control of the brown envelopes.

We need to get rid of the systems of mass electioneering which have failed in all countries they have been tried. http://www.realdem.co Many people are now catching up with these facts, even intellectuals such as David Van Reybrouk. Sad to see this site behind the curve!