After the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn, Lewis Akers argues ‘unity’ between the left and Starmer is meaningless and disarming.
While the Tories dart from crisis to U-turn, and as a second lockdown descends, you would think that the Starmer and the Labour Party would be on the front foot; highlighting the governments blatant failings on everything from the Job Support Scheme to free school meals. But this is not the case. Instead Starmer has focused on conducting a witch-hunt against the left in his own party – starting with its figurehead, Jeremy Corbyn.
This exposes a truth which everyone on the left must understand. Starmer is not seeking some limited social democratic government in 2024. That is not the primary purpose of his restoration regime. His primary purpose is to attack the left. A fatuous ‘unity’ between the left and anti-leftism is neither possible nor desirable.
Although many on the left laughed when Starmer boldly proclaimed that Labour was under “new management” the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn has been one of the most definite signs that this is the. The suspension of Corbyn, as stated in Conter message of solidarity, does not just represent an attack on one person but on the whole of the left. The purpose is not just to eliminate Corbyn but to advance a crackdown of left forces within the Labour Party and to return it wholly to its traditional function as the second party of British capitalism.
As anyone who has been paying attention will know, Corbyn is not an antisemite – he has a proven track record of anti-racist campaigning, including at times when this meant he was relatively politically isolated. During his tenure as Labour leader Corbyn was steadfast in his opposition to antisemitism and took concrete steps to combat it within the party – many of which were blocked by the right-wing bureaucracy. The campaign against him is not one which is taking antisemitism seriously but one which seeks to weaponize It (and by consequence do lasting damage to it as a real category of analysis) in order to disarm and weaken the left.
In contrast to his vicious and continual attacks on the left, Starmer has made little of the calamities of the Tories. Despite Johnson and his inner-circle starting their term victorious, promising to be the “people’s government”, and reveling in the capture of former Labour seats their policies in relation to the pandemic have been disastrous for both public health and the livelihoods of millions.
Other forces, outside Labour HQ, have had to do his job for him. The footballer Marcus Rashford has delivered the heaviest blow on the Tories – putting them in a corner over out-of-term school meals for the millions of children facing food poverty in the midst of a recession. Councils and Community groups, likewise, have pulled together and plugged many of the gaps.
In Manchester it has been Labour Mayor Andy Burnham who exposed public anger at the continuing disparities, heightened by the Government response to the pandemic, between the North and the South East. As Joe Bilsborough has highlighted, Robert Jenrick’s constituency, one of the least deprived areas in the country, was given £3m more from the towns fund than Manchester was given as part of the boost to test and trace. The failure to apply the furlough scheme evenly across the regions and nations of the UK, has caused consternation and damaged any pretence of a ‘one nation’ approach. Even within his own party Johnson is facing more effective opposition over his betrayal of the North from the North Research Group than Starmer is providing.
These areas where the Tories are failing disastrously are areas which have traditionally been Labour’s home territory. They channel considerable public outrage and are the government’s weak points. Starmer and Labour should be attacking the Tories with everything that they‘ve got. They should be taking a stand on behalf of the working class people they purportedly represent.
But as stated before, this is not the purpose of Starmer and his administration. Since the suspension of Corbyn, some on the left, including John McDonnell, have appealed for the unity of the Labour party. Attempting unity with people determined to destroy you is the surest way to defeat. The left must instead fight back against the witch-hunt, giving no ground to its opponents.