by Sunetra Senior

Labour has shown to lead by 20 full points in the first major political poll of 2023. That number has since jumped to 28 at the time of writing. This looks potentially promising ahead of the looming local elections. However, it has not been because of the leading power of Starmer but rather the lingering legacy of the corruptive Conservatives, including the habitual trademark ‘sleaze’. This is hard to shake off, even with a full head of gel and the snappiest suit from the most exclusive vault: the last few months saw the  kempt PM, Sunak, come under pressure to sack, and not simply investigate, his cabinet member Zahawi, under fire from the HMRC for dodging tax and later controversially settling the issue with a payment of £1 million. Meanwhile, Dominic Raab joined Priti Patel in the hall of shame amid accusations of the favourite Tory pastime:serial bullying the junior staff.  Such institutional indiscretion, of course, is but a microcosm of the national socio-economic devastation that continues to ravage the UK. An extension of the Tories’ self-serving tenet, widening social inequality, financial desperation of middle and low-income households, exploding xenophobia and the generally cowed demeanour of present-day Britain, are the direct social result. 

Under the dangerous façade of friendliness, fair-play and concern, the Tories have brought in a new era of crushing hardship. What has supposed opposition, the  Labour party, done to successfully combat this: denounce this second decade of brutal austerity, call out the poor handling of the pandemic and the continuing compounding adverse effect of Brexit upon it; or maybe they’ve been out on the streets rallying behind the right to protest? No, of course not – it is far more important to be diplomatic, especially when it comes to foreign affairs, preserve the status quo and simply mind one’s own business. Indeed, Labour’s new slogan could easily be ‘insidiously ineffectual.’Last year, it was clear that Starmer had basically become interchangeable with the former Chancellor of the Exchequer. Specifically, I had called him: “an enabling electoral clone who was merely shadowing” his opposition. Now, in 2023, it appears he wishes to entirely become them, down to the keenly kept look. The Labour leader seems to emerge as a type of subtle alternative Tory, going so far as to employ the typical dodgy tactics of the blue party, rather than any meaningful progressive who spearheads his own distinct movement, as he urgently should. Indeed, last month, Starmer banned ex-leader, Corbyn, from re-joining the Labour Party which was an affront to democratic parity let alone the endorsement of the comprehensive values of an insurgent Left. He recently also released a vague but calculated manifesto that nationalistically put economic invincibility first. He has become a full-on, frightening ally of the establishment, supporting flawed individualism over the fundamental livelihood of the people. Indeed, it is hyper-capitalist hierarchical order that has facilitated the encroaching despotism that we are currently witnessing: from unabashed announcements by formal authority of proposed bans of trade unions to silencing those who do speak the collective inclusive truth – just ask Lineker – and driving the marginalisation of minority groups. Starmer’s recent backpedalling on the issue of introducing robust trans rights; public support of Sunak’s comment on the matter shows overt backing of this.

As opposed to identifying universal essential needs and presenting the possibility of an empowering future, which benefits the majority of society, Starmer’s elitist tactics show where his interest truly lies: himself, ruling glorified at the top.

The Middle East Eye goes further to help interestingly detail how the Labour leader’s often confusing messaging in the media is likely a political ploy to play into the favour of the wealthy, winning over mainly influential, business-minded voters. This is certainly clear in the vow for a “massive role for the private sector in mission-driven government” where the honest funding of public services such as the NHS has been a cursory side thought. The initiative may help companies, even small ones, as well as procure wealth for the state, but does little for the broadly besieged individual, the fully-fledged wellbeing of society or the wider systemic disparity that continues to be the UK’s gaping blight. As opposed to identifying universal essential needs and presenting the possibility of an empowering future, which benefits the majority of society, Starmer’s elitist tactics show where his interest truly lies: himself, ruling glorified at the top. It is worse than disappointing: in the face of the terrifying rise in the cost of living, catastrophic energy bills, stagnating wages, dying healthcare, flimsy protection of workers’ rights, and the mental and national health crisis, it is complete sacrilege; a colossal act of moral neglect. Starmer devalues vulnerable lives, siding with trendy corporate concepts, the already privileged, sheer electability and ultimately, ideologically, the Conservative Party. His overall aim appears to be turning the UK into an international force to be reckoned with which only hollers his alternative egomaniac agenda.

Many have attempted to optimistically liken the Labour leader to a modern-day Blair. However, given his empty, opportunistic resurrection of this already failed megalomaniac era, it can be said that the direction of Starmer’s particular paradigm is far worse. As opposed to reviving the plucky spirit of the ninetiesor, better still, contemporarily adapting Labour to responsibly evolve, a concept I unpacked in my previous political  piece, he seems to have contrarily regressed the party into a movement that I will sadly have to deem the Soft, or veiled, Right. The rebranding of Labour as a party of ‘Patriotism not Protest’ was no subversive ruse: Starmer has strategically focussed on multifariously securing questionable votes at once systematically evacuating his party of the notion of deep substantial reform. His affirmation of Brexit, unilateral support for the Israeli state and strangely stunted focus on second-wave feminism are politically performative and divorced from critical social reality. It is then bitterly ironic that he recently accused Sunak of this disconnect: an idea the PM, of course, was able to swiftly turn around back on him. Many who had voted Brexit, including traditionally working-class areas of Britain, have been increasingly regretting the decision and the position of the LGBTQIA+ community has greatly advanced over time to accommodate a plethora of lived experience. 

Thus, Starmer knowingly generally targets right-wing working-class sentiments, nostalgic Blairites, and attempts to steal the votes from the Greens and Lib Dems via a deceptive progressive veneer. Again, a classic move of the existing state. This is seen, for example, in Starmer’s aim to make Britain the world’s superior green power where there is scepticism about how realistic this really is, especially considering the insincere means through which he plans to achieve it. It underlines the hypocritical amorality behind Starmer’s veil of ambiguity and confusion. His emphasis on the non-domiciliary status attached to Sunak thus only heightened the incongruity of his own actions. Starmer has yet to outline how exactly he will develop the education sector and the NHS, both cases in which true concern is in the attention to detail. There is evident a clear bid for polling popularity that ensures that Starmer will win in the short-term over the earnest investment in the prosperity and vigour of the individual public in the long run. His manifesto is void of radical benevolent change, much less the pursuit of truth or the desire to widely unify. 

Where is the passionate appreciation of the NHS as opposed to blaming it as a problematic institution that is begging to be ‘fixed’; what about the comfort and income of the staff themselves and similarly that of those working tirelessly in education? Are there plans to revolutionarily rewrite the democratic human rights charter, which is in worrying contention after leaving the EU; what of inclusive endorsement of humanistic justice, since Starmer has apparently worked before in the area of criminal defence? Indeed, his key pledge that he will be tougher on crime and criminals shows empathy for only one side and, again, unsettlingly contradicts his effort, this time rooted in the past. What of tackling the often-circumstantial source of crime in impoverished communities and increasing job opportunities for the most disadvantaged as well as the brightest in society? Starmer chooses instead to flatly mimic the same punitive philosophy of the last mayoral candidate for the Conservatives: Shaun Bailey. His plans to devolve governance also parallel the Tories’ own phoney, throw-away plan of economically ‘levelling up’ the UK, touted by Boris Johnson. In the last month, Starmer has further resorted to the crooked ‘gutter politics’ of his opponent. 

There is not then demonstrated unique counteractive heart, let alone the fighting charisma that could deliver a different positive vision of the UKUnlike this time last year, Starmer has finally taken action, but it has been the most destructive, backward one. As opposed to being a strong rebellious force, he has become a copycat manipulator who’s a shoddier version of Sunak. He has gone from apparently not doing enough to consummately aligning with the enemy, reinforcing the chaotic self-centredness that we experience. This is what happens if you become predominantly preoccupied with your competitor – in lieu of personal growth and self-actualisation. It is as if the Labour leader is in the leadership bid for the Conservatives rather than formidable national successor who heads an enlightened pushback. Mimicry does propel Labour in the moment but highly conditionally and to a pointless, annihilative end. It is also ethically low being foolish and manipulative, tainting newly the reputation of the party. There is not the ambition of mightily transforming an ailing nation by the only party who can realistically unseat the Tories; led by the inspiring internal consolidation of Labour itself, channelling integral leftist soul. Starmer’s superficial imitative gambit instead relies on weakly backing up his failing rivals, swooping in to steal their thunder while forfeiting the authentic reconstructive character that could dynamically boost Labour, giving it the necessary impactful philosophical legs. If Starmer does make his way through the black door of Downing Street, people will eventually realise they’ve been duped. Many continue to be disillusioned by the neoliberalism of New Labour and desperately want a proper change from the bleakness of current rule. Starmer borrows from both these places and offers redemption from neither. 

What is required is connected, spirited liberalism that transcends the situation. Many of my pieces for The Norwich Radical have discussed this up-to-date state of progressivism, especially its implementation within Labour, and identify the fact that it is imperative to learn from the past rather than wholly shuck it precisely because such mindless paltriness does result: for today’s Labour to have adopted an ethos of Centrism was to spectacularly fail. The unassuming does not work in such an increasingly authoritarian political climate that demands passionate grit to be remedially reshaped. Even if there was an issue with comprehensive electability, including more lucid plans to rigorously navigate the faltering economy, the compassionate grass-roots approach of Corbyn was principally correct. As detailed over a couple of previous articles, he was pivotally able to emotionally resonate with many different groups by frankly focussing on real-life nationwide worries, using this as the functional and so potent conceptual core. Conversely, to be removed or politically moderate in this time is to be dismissive and uncaring, and so inherently right-wing: to toe the line and indulge an extreme default is to be subsumed. Even if one began with the best of intentions from the middle of the ideological spectrum, they would inevitably be pulled towards the unrelenting engine of traditional folly – because it is endemic. Thus, to pose a viable challenge, the diehard doctrine of social democracy must form the heart of the red party which is aptly its historical niche. 

Starmer has been consumed by a baffling game of obsessive strategy, reverting to the disengaged mistakes of Blair without the pro of cosmopolitanism, putting all his effort into parliamentary fanfare.

Labour should prioritise overarching happiness and harmony within a truly equitable schema. For example: there should be the push towards a fair, inclusive economy as well as a thriving one, and increased civil security across society as well as the workplace so that having a home is as important as being able to afford one; multiculturalism should be celebrated alongside the dedicated development of neglected British communities. This holistic beneficial model is vital in supplanting the ubiquitously flawed system where loving command is the efficacious corrective way. Instead, Starmer has been consumed by a baffling game of obsessive strategy, reverting to the disengaged mistakes of Blair without the pro of cosmopolitanism, putting all his effort into parliamentary fanfare. There is consequently no profound natural fire that blazes from within. This is what intuitively gains votes for the mutual lasting benefit of the public: genuine well-meaning confidence translates into legitimately earned trust. Earlier this year, The Guardian actually commended Starmer for adopting what may have  passed for a ‘covert grounded’ method that had the perceived air of neutrality only to cleverly reveal progressive policy when in governance.

However, one must have intent to luminously lead. Indeed, over time, the idea of a genius bluff seems to have less validity than the idea of reptilian conspiracy theory. As Sunak’s own ‘down-to-earth’ brand of Conservatism has gradually eclipsed that of the Labour leader, Starmer has been forced to show his shady blank hand, which suggests a scaly Machiavelli at work more than anything else. There has been distortion over adaptation. Instead of applying a mere gloss of institutionalism that could have potentially served the party in its mission to widely emanate new higher goals, an idea for the direction of Labour that I had also entertained, he has maniacally poisoned himself with it so that this is all there is. He has been so harsh on the party’s Left when that aspect was Labour’s defining worth. Sometimes it is not even clear whether Starmer knows himself, much less the virtue of his chosen side. Labour is at its worst just as The Tories reach their next horrible height. And yet Starmer’s Labour remains the lesser of two evils. This is why many will, and perhaps should, still vote for the party. However, it is sad that one cannot feel good about the choice. Starmer does not simply undercut the country, but also the chance of a better, stable and energising world.

Featured image by The Norwich Radical

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