Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has confirmed that his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn will not be allowed to stand as a candidate for the party at the next general election.
Corbyn was suspended as a Labour MP for saying that the conclusions of an EHRC report into antisemitism within the party under his leadership had been “dramatically overstated” by his opponents and the media.
The report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission published in 2020 found that under Corbyn, Labour had been responsible for unlawful harassment and discrimination around handling complaints of antisemitism.
He also said that he found antisemitism “abhorrent” and that it had no place in the Labour Party.
Never go back
Speaking at a press conference, Keir Starmer said that the party was “unrecognisable” from what it had been in 2019 and “would never go back”. In an open challenge to the what remains of the left wing, he said, “if you don’t like the changes we have made, I say the door is open and you can leave.”
Despite the antagonism towards him shown by the leadership, it is understood that Jeremy Corbyn will still seek the nomination of his constituency party in Islington North, which would force party bosses to formally ban him from standing.
Responding to the comments made by Sir Keir, Corbyn said they were a “flagrant attack on the democratic rights of Islington North Labour Party members. It is up to them – not party leaders – to decide who their candidate should be.”
He went on to describe the move as “a denial of due process” and a “divisive distraction from our overriding goal: to defeat the Conservative Party at the next general election.”
There will, I am sure, be polite applause in the drawing rooms of Hampstead at brave Sir Keir riding out to prod the left-wing dragon with his lance. That this should be a priority now is something that will surely be baffling to everyone else.
It may also prove to be damaging to what Corbyn correctly identifies as the overriding goal for Labour of winning the next election.
As it stands, Labour looks like a sure bet to win the next general election whenever it is called. A YouGov poll published earlier this month suggests that 47% of voters would pick them with only 24% backing the Tories.
Simple political pragmatism says that the best way to keep this healthy lead before Rishi Sunak calls the next election is for Labour to be focussed on calling out a flailing government at every opportunity. Not least because given that the available choice is one between a rock and a hard place, Rishi Sunak may well cut his losses and go to the country before Spring 2024.
Waging war on Corbyn and what remains of the left is a pointless waste of time and effort that could be spent attacking the real enemy.
Keir Starmer seems to have bought into the attractive, but illogical, myth that leadership is all about powering ahead and never compromising. In reality, every leader must be adept at forging endless compromises. Failing to do so makes them as inflexible as an oak tree that is blown over by the gale, while the pliant grass survives.
Perhaps it is time for the current Labour leadership to recognise that Jeremy Corbyn connected with the membership (which, after all, grew during his tenure), and particularly young people in a way that they simply can’t.
He achieved this because he said and did things that, it was transparently clear, he believed in wholeheartedly. That didn’t always make him right, and it certainly didn’t make him popular; but it sure made a welcome change.
After years of squabbling, plotting and power games, the voting public are heartily sick of the soap opera that politics has turned itself into. The challenge at the next election isn’t going to be getting voters to prove their identity, it’s going to be getting them to turn up at all.
In his own way, Keir Starmer is as much of a throwback as his supporters accuse Corbyn of being. Instead of refighting the battles of the 80s, he’s trying to recapture the glory days of Blair and Cool Britannia. An equally pointless exercise.
If he really aspires to be prime minister for more than the gratification of his ego, then he needs to show humility, the ability to forgive, and the courage to swim against the tide of received opinion.
Not least because his grace period with the electorate will be painfully short, maybe no longer than three months.
What remains of the left in the Labour Party is a shadow of its former self, composed of people who are sticking around out of a misplaced sense of loyalty or a lack of imagination.
For all the advantages he seems to hold right now, Keir Starmer may be about to discover that taming a paper tiger is a poor way to prepare for entering a bear pit.