The Shape of the Labour Left

As featured in Edition 38, available here.


BY LUCY YOUNG (4th year - Law and Sociology - Luton, Bedfordshire)

The next democratic election is due to take place in May 2024, but if Boris Johnson continues along the same feeble path as a powerless PM, the House may trigger a vote of no confidence or for an early election. One of these mechanisms was triggered just four years ago, resulting from a series of blunders surrounding Brexit. The question is whether Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will be ready for action.


The last Labour cabinets sat in office from 1997-2010, and unfortunately, alongside other Conservative cabinet counterparts, they left their own stains on the fabric of British political history. This included the mutual agreement to join the illegal conflict in Afghanistan with insubstantial strategy, persistent and flimsy cabinet reshuffles causing mass confusion, and the adoption of Thatcherite economic policies which worsened the blow of the economic crash for lower class communities.


Starmer is the new frontman for Labour, although it is difficult to gauge his passion for the party. He was once the editor of Socialist Alternative, later becoming a member of the Haldane Society for Socialist Lawyers. It is now Starmer’s favourite hobby to expel party members who share the same ideology he once had. It is clear that the internal division across the party spectrum will be Labour’s ultimate downfall.


Some may disapprove of Corbyn’s leadership, but it is difficult to sneer at his policies when the current leader doesn’t have any to call his own. To maintain public approval, the Conservatives implemented ‘Corbynist’ policies which were well received, including free domestic internet access, nationalisation of rail services and a halt in corporation tax cuts. After assuming leadership in 2020, Starmer promised to maintain efforts towards the 10 pledges that he campaigned on; his cabinet have since acted in direct opposition to these.


Alongside many others, I believe the Tories are wholly incompetent and self-serving as leaders of the nation, and they need to be voted out. However, there is no logical reason to remove the current cabinet if it will simply be replaced by a red-rose replica, with the same commercial and lobbyist priorities.


Starmer demonstrates these attitudes when being interviewed by the Guardian, stating, “my number one priority is winning the election”. With his plan to leave his 10 pledges behind, we won’t know what he stands for until the party conference in September. So far, we’ve been given celebratory remarks about the Blair epoch, with former ridicule and distaste towards his efforts now evolving into uncomfortable glorification across British media.


With all this being said, it would be naive to ignore the problems that exist on the left. While Corbyn managed to get the youth engaged in political discourse, he became something of a populist figurehead that the opposition electorate often feared or rejected. The internal divide seen throughout the party itself could be tied to the simplification of intersectionality in everyday life, leading to old-age debates about the relevancy of class on cultural development, whether 19th century philosophy still holds relevance in 21st century pluralistic society, and whether the youth are capable of carrying perceived ‘comradeship’ through the next era of socio-economic strife.


The left needs to focus on the fundamentals. Tony Benn stated the decline of the Labour party was caused by a shift of party politics to the right. Therefore, rather than creating confusing online discourse, the left needs to create socialist policy plans accessible for all - on housing, employment, education and empowerment of the youth. The idea of socialism, the very mechanism that created and maintains the NHS, is something mocked and ridiculed for its ‘failures’ - despite these ‘failures’ actually being caused by corporate greed and commercially-vested interests of our political leaders.


The left needs to get serious. Politics, despite its reinforcing party system, is not a binary structure. There are thousands of discussions to be had on a variety of issues, and not everyone will agree on everything. If the party is meant to organise as a unit, members need to actualise this, rather than ostracise the alternative view.


Ultimately, the new manifesto will redefine how the Labour left will act towards the party. Starmer must remember that persistent anguish from an ignored substratum of voters will only cause greater rifts when election day arrives. Starmer must find solace in the members that remain, rather than subscribing to the elitist agenda he was enlisted to fight.

IMAGE: Flickr / Jeremy Corbyn