New Times,
New Thinking.

Keir Starmer’s remodelling of Labour is complete

But by deselecting left-wing candidates, the leadership risks alienating the parliamentary party.

By Freddie Hayward

Keir Starmer’s team swooped on the party’s left last night. Three candidates from that faction have reportedly been banned from standing: Diane Abbott, Lloyd Russell-Moyle and Faiza Shaheen. Meanwhile loyalists such as Labour Together think tanker Josh Simons and Rachel Reeves’s former senior aide Heather Iqbal have been handed plumb seats. Luke Akehurst, a much-reviled National Executive Committee (NEC) member on the party’s right has been selected in North Durham. The left has been squashed; the right elevated. Yet again.

The leadership can do this because the NEC, on which Starmer’s supporters have a majority, has the power to impose candidates during the short campaign. If you are surprised at his ruthlessness then you haven’t been watching. His project is defined by its comprehensive wresting of control of the party from the Corbynites in order to impose the message discipline his strategists think is necessary to win the election. He wears the changes to the party as evidence of his ability to change the country.

In terms of the campaign, the plan seems to be to condense the controversy surrounding candidate selections into as short a time as possible. Abbott was already dominating the headlines; they may as well, the line goes, block some other lefties at the same time. Otherwise, the story will drag out over this week and next. Take the hit and try to move on, in other words.

But Starmer is also looking beyond the campaign. He is taking his chance to shape the future parliamentary party, to minimise the risk of dissenting voices that would distract from his agenda. As I wrote yesterday, the risk with the poor treatment of Abbott is that it alienates the rest of the parliamentary party. But that argument carries less weight if there are so few MPs from the left in the first place and if MPs are so cowed that they won’t step out of line however annoyed they might be. Starmer achieved both of those things last night.

This piece first appeared in the Morning Call newsletter; receive it every morning by subscribing on Substack here.

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[See also: The junior doctors’ strike is not a gift to Labour]

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