Sir Keir’s Tory bigot

Natalie Elphicke is welcomed in. Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott are kept out. Meanwhile, the Corbynista left limps on in 57 insipid varieties, writes Carla Roberts

Sir Keir Starmer had big hopes for the defection of rightwing Tory MP Natalie Elphicke: just after the boost of the local election results and the defection of former health secretary Dan Poulter, he orchestrated a bit of political theatre by having Elphicke cross the floor just before prime minister’s questions, all in front of live cameras.

Starmer’s intention was to prove to the establishment and big business once more that Labour is not just more popular than the Tories at the ballot box, but also very much a safe pair of hands. See, even a rightwinger like Elphicke now finds the Labour Party more attractive than the crazies who presided over the Brexit disaster, crashed the economy under Liz Truss and are now banking all on getting a few hundred traumatised refugees sent to Rwanda! It was also supposed to be a signal to other Tory MPs to jump the sinking ship and join Sir Keir’s merry second eleven.

Alas, he picked the wrong kind of Tory. The press had a weekend of great fun after former justice secretary Robert Buckland (Tory MP for South Swindon) chose to dish the dirt on his erstwhile colleague: in 2020, she allegedly asked him to intervene on behalf of her now ex-husband, Charlie, in his sex assault trial, hoping that Buckland would be able to switch the trial to a different court and a different judge. Buckland now says she behaved “outrageously” – it was “completely inappropriate”.[1]

Not inappropriate enough to report it straightaway, obviously. He and the rest of his Tory chums would no doubt have continued to cover up her behaviour, had she not changed sides. This, and similar tales about her defection being due to thwarted ambition – she was not made a minister – and her ill-considered attacks on her husband’s victims, are supposed to serve as a powerful warning shot to other Tory MPs, some of whom must be toying with the idea of following her example … and perhaps prolonging their parliamentary careers. There are doubtless compromising files in the whips’ office detailing all manner of indiscretions, scandals and missteps waiting to be published. (Despite that, however, rumours are circulating of other possible defectors.)

The press backlash over Elphicke somewhat overshadowed the more obvious point: while Sir Keir welcomes with open arms a particularly unpleasant rightwinger into the party, left MPs like Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott remain in limbo land, having had the whip withdrawn over nonsense charges and, in Abbott’s case, an admittedly stupid letter to The Guardian, in which she claimed that white people cannot experience racism “all their lives”. Travellers, anyone? But if stupidity was a crime, the current parliament would be a very empty place indeed.

The Labour left, as far as it still exists, has been relatively outspoken over Elphicke’s change of party. Zarah Sultana MP told the BBC that Elphicke was

a member of the [Eurosceptic] European Research Group; she voted for Liz Truss in the leadership; she’s at odds when it comes to fire and rehire; she has attacked trade unions and their activities; [she’s] not great on the environment either. So, unless she’s had the biggest Damascene conversion ever, I just don’t buy it.


Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Labour-affiliated Fire Brigades Union and, since September 2023, president of the Trades Union Congress, complains in a letter to Sir Keir (published by The Guardian) that the “disgraceful” MP for Dover has spoken “in support of the new anti-union laws and blamed firefighters for the deaths of three people who perished during a national strike”. This is “alarming”, he says,

considering that it is current Labour policy to repeal the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act, which effectively bans strike action across parts of the public sector: Labour’s pledge to repeal this authoritarian legislation within 100 days of taking office, alongside the 2016 Trade Union Act, is a crucial commitment. Natalie Elphicke should never have been given the Labour whip, but these remarks further undermine the decision to accept her into the party.[2]

Sir Keir has since promised not to waver on this commitment. At his meeting with trade union general secretaries on May 14 he reaffirmed his pledge not to water down workers’ rights. But we all know that it would not be the first time he has broken a pledge or two, nor will it be the last.

Brother Wrack thinks that Elphicke’s political views make her “incompatible” with being a party member, while the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy has produced what might well be the tamest model motion in the history of the soft left: It reads, in full: “This CLP calls on the NEC to consider the party’s membership criteria for the PLP to ensure they are in line with Labour values.” That is it!

Members are further given ‘advice’:

not to mention either Jeremy or Diane when discussing this motion in local party meetings. This because the general secretary previously banned local parties from discussing any individual who is subject to the party’s complaints and discipline processes. The ban is undemocratic and it is applied in a factional way. However, breaching it has led to party members being suspended. So for the present it is advisable to observe these factional restrictions that have been imposed on local party meetings.

Real fighting talk there!

There is, of course, no definition of what such “Labour values” might be and how Elphicke’s views are “incompatible” with them. Historically Labour government values have been to throw a few crumbs to the working class while promoting the interests of British capitalism at home and abroad (including, of course, fighting colonial wars against the uppity natives). However, so supine is Sir Keir, that he promises few if any crumbs when he’s in government.

For example, Labour has just been outflanked on the left by ‘Cruella’ Braverman, who has argued for the scrapping of the two-child benefit limit, which “aggravates child poverty”. No shit, Sherlock. Starmer’s mini-me Wes Streeting, however, has confirmed the decision that a Labour government will not scrap the limit, because capitalism simply “cannot afford it”.[3] Meanwhile, David Lammy has praised the “misunderstood” Donald Trump; Rachel Reeves celebrates Margaret Thatcher as a “visionary leader”; etc.

Clean party

This is all designed to assure the ruling class and soft Tory voters that Sir Keir has now fully cleansed the party of the last traces of Corbynism. It is not surprising that there is very little opposition inside Labour. After all, most members with a spine have long ago been expelled and whoever remains on the left of the party seems to have no problem with keeping their mouths shut – useless.

Presumably both Kate Osamor and Andy McDonald have promised to do exactly that, which is why they both recently had the parliamentary whip restored (having been suspended over their comments on the genocide in Gaza). Shadow foreign minister David Lammy might have been sent out to demand a “pause [!] in the sale of weapons to Israel that could be used in an assault on Rafah” – after US president Biden did the same thing.[4] But that does not mean that Labour Party members or MPs are suddenly allowed to speak out freely in support of the Palestinians. The same ‘good behaviour’ cannot be expected of Abbott or Corbyn, of course. They have proven themselves over many decades to be somewhat more ‘unreliable’, so there is little chance they will get the whip back.

While Abbott seems to be preparing for retirement, Corbyn is, we understand, still planning on joining or leading Andrew Feinstein’s semi-launched party, ‘Collective’ – after the general election: until then, he does not want his prospects sullied by any ‘dodgy’ lefties being involved. Further proof of his lack of leadership skills, if any were needed.

What’s left

Labour’s candidate selection process is now under way for Islington North, Corbyn’s seat.[5] That will put pressure on him to confirm very soon that he will, as expected, run as an independent candidate.

Collective, incidentally, has formed a “political pact” with 14 other groups “in order to stand a single candidate for each electoral seat”. It seems to be working quite closely with the Reliance Party (“Rely on us. We stand for you”) and Assemble – the latest project by Roger Hallam, founder of Extinction Rebellion. Collective’s website features two lists: one of eleven candidates supported by Collective (including Andrew Feinstein and “should he stand”, Jeremy Corbyn); and a list of another 100 ‘independent’ candidates supported by a variety of local campaigns and groups. However, it looks like not everybody is playing ball. Only six candidates of the Workers’ Party (including George Galloway, Chris Williamson and Craig Murray) are listed, and two candidates standing for Tusc. The left cannot even get together for a non-aggression pact, it seems – underwhelming as this one is.

In the meantime, the left outside of Labour is tying itself into ever smaller knots. Two new ‘organisations’ have emerged in the last few weeks – joining the myriad of existing Corbynista grouplets and campaigns.

There is, firstly, the Reliance Party, based mainly in the West Midlands and led by Kamel Hawwash, vice-chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, who is running against shadow veterans minister Steve McCabe (chairman of Labour Friends of Israel) in Birmingham Selly Oak.[6]

Then there is Laura Pidcock, former MP for North West Durham. She is involved in the ‘Rise Movement’, which was launched on May Day this year and “re-commits itself to the pursuit of working class liberation, socialism and world peace”.[7] Its short programme is somewhat to the left of the countless other Corbynistas, but its structure and internal democracy are much more opaque.

A number of self-declared Marxists and socialists have been meeting in secret for 18 months, we are told, working out Rise’s programme, constitution and membership criteria: just like Talking About Socialism, it wants to build a “mass working class party” for socialism, but does not allow members of other political organisations to get involved, because “we all know they can behave in a sectarian manner”. Differences of opinion “are allowed, but not for public consumption – that’s counterproductive”.

The comrades want to go “straight to the working class” and ignore the rest of the organised left – yet another group based on anti-sectarian sectarianism, in other words. And just like the new and shiny Revolutionary Communist Party (aka Socialist Appeal), Counterfire, RS21, the SWP, the Socialist Party in England and Wales and similar groups who think they are ‘it’, these sects are likely to end up as a short footnote in history (if that).

Despite the mass demonstrations in support of the Palestinians and the obvious discrepancy that the onslaught on Gaza has revealed between the vast majority of the population and the warmongering ruling class, the left in Britain is weaker than it has been for decades. The defeat of the Corbyn movement (in large part self-inflicted) has demoralised many – and given others the idea that all they have to do is put up a version of Corbyn’s reformist programme and the masses will come flocking.

Cue in to Momentum, the most well-known of the pro-Corbyn groups. Co-chair Hilary Schan has just resigned from her position, which will probably lead to the overdue collapse of the organisation founded by the born-again Zionist, Jon Lansman. Schan wants to “campaign for the Green Party and independent candidates”[8] as part of turncoat Owen Jones’ campaign, ‘We Deserve Better’[9]. We certainly do!

General election

Communists will judge tactically who to support in the forthcoming general election – but things look admittedly dire. Where left Labour candidates are allowed to stand – Zarah Sultana, for example – communists should support them critically, while at the same time proposing the immediate demands they should be fighting for: stop arms sales to Israel, for example, plus the ditching of the Rwanda scheme and an end to all immigration controls.

Millions of working class people will be looking forward to the end of the Tory government. Rather than moralistically abstaining from any contact with the Labour Party – which is still a bourgeois workers’ party, due to the affiliation of the major unions – communists should seek an active and principled engagement.

The same goes for left candidates standing, for example: on a platform of opposition to Israel’s genocide; as part of George Galloway’s Workers’ Party; as candidates for the Socialist Party’s Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition; or on any other socialist or communist platform. Where such candidates stand against each other (which, after Galloway’s announcement to stand more than 500 candidates, is now likely), communists should decide according to the programme and the electoral prospects of the candidates.

Should George Galloway stand again in Rochdale, for example, we certainly would call for a vote for him, despite all our criticisms. His election was a victory for the pro-Palestine solidarity campaign, not for his reactionary views on abortion, immigration or trans and gay rights. In other places, a vote for Tusc might be the better call. None of them, we should say, are the kind of principled, partyist, anti-imperialist, Marxist alternative we so desperately need l

[1]. The Times May 11.

[2]. The Guardian May 13.

[3]. The Independent May 12.

[4]. The Guardian May 13.


[6]. The Independent May 10.


[8]. The Guardian May 6.

[9]. See ‘We deserve better’ Weekly Worker March 28:

Selective justice is no justice

John McDonnell has rightly called for her reinstatement. But, asks Eddie Ford, what about all the many others wrongly accused of anti-Semitism?

By now everyone will be familiar with Frank Hester’s comments about Diane Abbott. The Tory mega-donor said (five years ago) that she made him “want to hate all black women and “she should be shot”. Presumably, his remarks were purely hyperbolic, not an instruction. Nevertheless, they were highly unpleasant, reeking of misogyny and racism, even if the man has apologised – laughably claiming that his comment had “nothing to do with her gender nor colour of skin”. Of course, there were demands that the Conservative Party return Hester’s £15 million donations, but that was never going to happen – maybe they have spent it already in a near doomed attempt to prevent Sir Keir becoming prime minister.

In response to Hester’s bile, which Abbott described as “frightening”, some have called for her to be reinstated to the Parliamentary Labour Party, being both the first black woman ever elected to parliament and the longest-serving black MP, getting re-elected in every general election since 1987. As readers will recall, she had the whip withdrawn almost a year ago after writing a stupid letter to The Observer, saying that, while “many types of white people with points of difference, such as redheads, can experience this prejudice … they are not all their lives subject to racism”, going on to cite Jews, Irish and traveller people (April 23).

While she appeared to treat today’s Romany gypsies and Irish travellers as just another type of white people, you can reasonably argue that in fact they are subject to overt racism by politicians, the media and the police – we are dealing with far more than mere prejudice. And by reducing racism to simply a question of skin colour, she was effectively proposing a hierarchy of racism, where being black trumps being Jewish or whatever, which is dumb.

Anyway, Abbott apologised for her comments, saying the letter was an initial draft sent by mistake, though according to the Jewish Chronicle the letter had been sent twice – but who believes anything they say? She has now been under “investigations” for 11 months – an absurd amount of time to simply reread a letter – making you draw the conclusion that the party leadership are just playing for time in a bid to prevent her standing as a Labour candidate in the forthcoming general election.

Unsurprisingly, as a black woman, she has received a large degree of support from many within the party. Harriet Harman, former Labour deputy leader, said she would be “sad” if Abbott’s career ended without her being readmitted to the PLP. The current deputy leader, Angela Rayner, too “would like to see Diane back”, but added that the party “has to follow its procedures”.

But they involve a process deliberately designed to thwart natural justice. Otherwise how come it has taken so long to come to a decision? Ed Balls, hardly a natural ally, has also added his voice to those calling for Abbott to have the whip restored. “She was suspended from the PLP a year ago for saying something she probably shouldn’t have said and she apologised for it,” he said. “… following that apology, she should be supported and defended rather than left on her own, which is what’s happening at the moment”. We are informed by the Morning Star that “thousands” have signed petitions calling for her to be returned to the PLP. Good.

Of course, communists demand that Diane Abbott is restored to full membership and is allowed to stand in the next general election if her local party wants her to – everything we know about Hackney tells us the vast majority of party members in the constituency do want her to be their MP again, which should be their right. Yes, Abbott was stupid 11 months ago – so what? Whether her letter was a draft sent for publication by mistake or not, her sins are dwarfed by those committed by the Labour right and the vast majority of the PLP, who are pro-capitalist, pro-imperialist, pro-Nato and overwhelmingly pro-Israel – as it makes another step towards the genocide of the Gazan people, with Benjamin Netanyahu saying there is “no alternative” to a ground invasion of Rafah. Equally important, by calling for Abbott’s reinstatement, we are defending the space – which admittedly is extremely limited to almost vanishing point – that still remains in the Labour Party where any sort of leftwing views can be expressed and debated.


Showing that Diane Abbott has not been “left on her own”, as stated by Ed Balls, was last weekend’s demonstration called by the TUC and the SWP’s front, Stand up to Racism, to mark the UN’s Anti-Racism  Day – an event observed annually on the date when the police in Sharpeville, South Africa, opened fire and killed 69 people in 1960. Naturally both Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell were there, marching amongst banners declaring: “Racism is extremism”, “Freedom is a constant struggle”, “Say no to Islamophobia”, “Stamp out anti-Semitism, yes to diversity”, and so on.

Loud cheers broke out when McDonnell, who was shadow chancellor under Corbyn, made a fiery speech in “solidarity with my friend, my colleague, my comrade, Diane Abbott” – going on to lead those gathered in a chant of “No justice, no peace”. He declared that Abbott is nobody’s victim, but facing racism “day in, day out” from various sections “takes its toll, and I want to pay tribute to this woman, her bravery, courage, determination”. These remarks echoed his earlier statement to the PA news agency: “… the reason people are mobilising in such large numbers is because we are seeing the rise of racism within our society again”, adding that it was “disrespectful” that Abbott had not been allowed to speak in the House of Commons despite the fact she was the focus of the debate around racism – something that “absolutely shocked” him.

McDonnell got an even bigger cheer when he told those assembled outside the home office: “If the Labour Party wants to be perceived as an anti-racist party, there is one simple step that can be done today, and that is Sir Keir Starmer restoring the whip to Diane Abbott.”

Now, these are perfectly fine sentiments – as said above, she should be reinstated. But the difference we have with John McDonnell is not over that, obviously: rather, why has he come out in “solidarity” just with Diane Abbott … and, for that matter, Jeremy Corbyn, but not the many others? After all, they are not the only ones who have suffered injustice or been monstrously slandered. What about Marc Wadsworth, Stan Keable, Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker and the hundreds – indeed thousands – of others who have also been wrongly accused of anti-Semitism? Or, more exactly, were first accused of anti-Semitism and, when that would not stick – as it was transparently false – were then charged with the catch-all crime of “bringing the party into disrepute” – an act of monumental hypocrisy, as it was the accusers who were guilty of that very offence with their kangaroo courts, inquisitions and malicious fabrications.

Why has McDonnell not come out in “solidarity” with all of them and led a militant campaign to have them exonerated? Why have they been left on their own? Are they lesser human beings because they are not MPs? For the official Labour left, it does seem that there are two tiers of solidarity – some are more worthy than others. The real reason for this is not too hard to establish. The official ‘lefts’ in the shadow cabinet looked the other way when these comrades were being suspended and expelled – named and shamed for something they had not done – in an attempt to appease the right, even though it was never going to be appeased.

The Labour right was always going to demand more and more – an obvious fact of political life that Jeremy Corbyn seemingly never understood, to the point where we had Jennie Formby, the general secretary appointed under his leadership, boasting about how the party was “speeding up” investigations and expulsions for ‘anti-Semitism’, much to the great delight of the bourgeois media, which was running non-stop lurid stories about the anti-Jewish hatred that was supposedly rife in the Labour Party.

Yes, we need to be critical not only of Jeremy Corbyn – who has thoroughly exposed himself as a complete nincompoop – but also of John McDonnell, who is equally guilty of trying to appease the right by sacrificing former friends and allies. We should not be selective about who we are in solidarity with, because we are up against a big lie: a witch-hunt that actually puts senator Joe McCarthy to shame. After all, at least in the 1950s there was a Soviet Union and a Communist Party of the USA, and the communist parties were a real force in many parts of the world.

But the anti-Semitism campaign in the Labour Party was based on nothing – a big lie of Goebbels proportions. That cannot be said often enough, and the likes of McDonnell and Corbyn ought to be saying it and saying it out loud.

Joining the living dead

Carla Roberts wishes she was surprised that Jon Lansman has joined the Jewish Labour Movement

A psychologist might explain Jon Lansman’s decision to join the Jewish Labour Movement at the end of 2023 as some kind of an attempt to escape trauma, stress and anger by regressing to his Zionist roots and Orthodox Jewish upbringing, including his much romanticised stay on a kibbutz at the age of 16. After all Lansman has seen his world come crashing down. Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party ended in a humiliating general election defeat. Embracing big business, Sir Keir Starmer has junked almost everything from the 2017 and 2019 ‘socialist’ manifestos, and if that were not bad enough, in July 2020 Lansman found himself replaced as chair of Momentum by a firefighter and a climate activist.

But joining JLM is still an odd choice. After all, JLM was one of the key organisations behind the defeat of the Corbyn movement. As an official affiliate of the World Zionist Movement and sister party of Israel’s Labor Party (Havodah), the JLM worked tirelessly to smear Corbyn and the left by making bogus claim after bogus claim about the supposed anti-Semitism problem in the party. The bourgeois press and the right in the party eagerly lapped up their nonsense, no matter how ridiculous or weaponised.

Surely, as one of Corbyn’s “key allies” and decades-long leader of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, Lansman must know what a despicable role the JLM played in destroying the Labour left’s biggest opportunity in a lifetime? Corbyn put him in charge of setting up Momentum, so how could Lansman be so disloyal now and join the very organisation that helped bring him down?

The sad truth is that this was a long time coming. And it is not just down to Lansman’s soft Zionism. It is a reflection of the total bankruptcy of the strategy of the entire official Labour left.

From the CLPD and Momentum via the slightly less horrid Labour Representation Committee to the various bitty groups represented in the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance: they all operate under the illusion that the Labour left needs to make peace with the ‘centre’ of the party.

Lansman is a long-time admirer of Vladimir Derer, the founder of CLPD, who he considers his political mentor: “Like Momentum, CLPD is an organisation which seeks to democratise the Labour Party, not to operate like a party-within-a-party. Similarly, Vladimir [Derer] was determined for CLPD to reach out to the centre of the party, since without doing so we would inevitably lose. The same is true for Momentum now”, he wrote in 2017[1].

‘Winning’, for Lansman and the rest of the official Labour left, of course means Labour winning a general election (under any leader, no matter their politics) and forming a government – not winning the civil war in the Labour Party.

This is why Corbyn bent over backwards to appease the right inside and outside the Labour Party. And that is also the reason why Lansman closed down democracy in Momentum at the end of 2016. Lansman (and, sadly, Corbyn) never meant for Momentum to become a fighting organisation. He told the Jewish Chronicle at the beginning of 2023: “I wish we’d never had Momentum branches. It was never our decision to set them up – they set themselves up.”[2] But he certainly did his best to clamp down on them, not least by imposing his outrageously undemocratic constitution in a cloak-and-dagger-operation otherwise known as the ‘Lansman coup’.

With the full support of Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Diane Abbott and others in the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs he went on to cancel preparations for Momentum’s national launch conference, abolish the regions and downgrade the role of local groups. Lansman used a members’ survey to claim endorsement for his new constitution, ensuring he kept control of what was his private property, while also sneaking in a clause that banned from membership all those who had been expelled in the witch-hunt against Corbyn and the left. Although Lansman has since been ousted from Momentum, this clause remains intact and continues to be enforced by the all-new leadership of wannabe Labour bureaucrats.

Zero tolerance

In other words, Lansman might not have started the witch-hunt against the left, but he certainly enforced it. While maintaining that he supported Corbyn “100 percent”, he was always keen to state his view that there should be “zero tolerance” towards anti-Semitism.

From a communist point of view, zero tolerance towards any form of prejudice is entirely the wrong approach – we much prefer education and debate to convince people of their wrong ideas rather than tell them that they are ‘beyond the pale’. After all, there is a lot of prejudice, whacky ideas and racism within society – they are part and parcel of the capitalist class society we live in. We want to win people over and convince them that socialism and communism has something to offer them.

The problems with the strategy of trying to appease the right in the Labour Party are all too obvious.For a start, it is debatable how much better off the working class is under a rightwing Labour government of the Blair or Starmer variety: the self-censored left moans quietly about this war or that attack on the working class, while waiting for “the unions” to do something, anything.

And once you actually have a leftwinger in as leader, as happened by pure accident with Corbyn, the whole strategy quickly falls apart. The centre-right clearly had no interest in being appeased. There was no way they would have supported Corbyn as prime minister. They would have continued to plot, to sabotage, to undermine. Everybody could see it – apart from those on the official left who continued, right to the bitter end, trying to win them over by securing them in their cushy positions, be it in the regional offices, the CLPs or as MPs … all the while pointing their fingers at so-called ‘anti-Semites’ and keeping their cowardly distance from the victims of the witch-hunt (“we can’t have a suspended or expelled member speak on the platform”). This, sadly, included the Corbyn leadership itself, which – under its general secretary, Jennie Formby – vilified and smeared good comrades like Chris Williamson, Tony Greenstein, Marc Wadsworth and Jackie Walker.

Yes, Lansman is a touch worse than your garden-variety official Labour leftie, because his soft Zionism also made him a keen supporter of the much-criticised, fake definition of anti-Semitism promoted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and adopted by the Labour Party under Corbyn (who made a half-hearted attempt to oppose it, but without publicly distancing himself in some sort of campaign, he had no chance).

Lansman fully embraced the attempt by the Israel lobby to redefine what anti-Semitism is: not hatred or discrimination of Jewish people, but criticism of Israel. He has stated, for example, that formulations like “I hate Israel” are not expressions of anti-Zionism, but are “clearly anti-Semitic”.[3]

He was more than happy to sell out Corbyn supporters and, pressed by Stella Creasy and Louise Ellman at the 2023 JLM conference, was quick to point to “anti-Semitic left activists around the country”, in particular those “in Riverside and Liverpool.”[4]

No wonder that he ended up joining Corbyn’s enemies in the JLM.

Lansman’s Zionism is very similar to his Labourism: he appeals to the sensible ‘centre-ground’ – which in reality means support for the hard right. In an interview with The Guardian in November for example, he expressed “sympathy” for Keir Starmer’s conclusion that calling for a ceasefire now in Gaza is wrong: “A ceasefire now could merely sustain Hamas as a continuing threat.”[5]

You see, “Israelis and Palestinians have been betrayed by their leaders – each side needs a new leader as soon as possible, each of whom wants peace and has the confidence of their own people!”, he recently tweeted.

Leaving aside the obvious contradiction of the latter (nobody who is calling for “peace” at the moment has the “confidence” of the majority of either population), his whole political outlook echoes the dumb ‘bad apples on both sides’ of the establishment media. He has been sharing dozens of tweets by Standing Together[6], a campaign of Jews and Arabs living in Israel, which has been promoted in Britain by Nadia Whittome MP, fellow traveller of the pro-imperialist and pro-Zionist Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. The campaign still peddles the illusion that there could be a capitalist ‘two-state solution’, when clearly no mainstream politician in Israel has any real interest in it whatsoever (Labor’s Merav Michaeli pays mere lip service to the idea).

Standing Together focuses on “de‑escalation and solidarity within Israel” by offering hotlines, workshops and other such worthy things, run by Jews and Arabs. Their mission statement reads like the naive wish list of a 14-year-old who just ‘wants peace’. It is appealing to those in charge to be a bit nicer to the Palestinians and stop supporting illegal settlements on the West Bank. But the campaign makes no demands, for example, to change any of the racist laws that condemn Arabs within Israel to second class citizenship.

For Standing Together, the root of the problem is not Zionism or the structures of state oppression. It is just that for some unfathomable reason Jews and non-Jews don’t seem to get on too well in Israel. Something a de-escalation course or, indeed, a new set of leaders who “want peace” are unlikely to fix.

Lansman is not a stupid man, so he knows all of that. But just like in the Labour Party, he wants to leave the structures of inequality intact. His main problem is that he has no confidence in his vision of socialism or, indeed, in the working class as the only force that can overthrow capitalism and liberate humanity.

We would not be surprised if Lansman was rewarded for services rendered with an OBE, a CBE or even a KBE by Sir Keir at some point in the next few years (presuming a Tory general election defeat). One thing is for sure, though, Lansman has not only joined the JLM, he has joined the ranks of the living dead.

Labour Marxists

Of course, while Lansman has betrayed himself, what took him to there is far from unique. I have come across quite a few self-declared “Marxists” in the Labour Representation Committee who will quote this infamous passage from the Communist Manifesto to justify their opposition to ever building a Marxist Party: “The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other working-class parties. They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole.”

Very odd, isn’t it, that a booklet with the full title The Manifesto of the Communist Party, written by Marx and Engels as a political programme for the Communist League (described by Engels as “the Communist Party in process of formation”) should argue against forming – a Communist Party!

Because Marx and Engels did no such thing. The German original makes it clear that in fact they said the exact opposite: “Die Kommunisten sind keine besondere Partei gegenüber den anderen Arbeiterparteien. Sie haben keine von den Interessen des ganzen Proletariats getrennten Interessen.”[7]

Hal Draper translates it as follows: “The Communists are not a special party vis-à-vis the other workers’ parties. They have no interests separate from the interests of the whole proletariat.”

In other words, communists do form a separate party – but they do work and engage with other working class parties, because they are trying to equip them with a winning strategy for socialism.

Despite the fact that this was laid out in detail in 1994 in Hal Draper’s very entertaining book The adventures of the Communist Manifesto (which pointed out many other mistranslations and misreadings), the official Labour left continues to ignore his important work – and continues to misquote Marx and Engels. A fig leaf for their own political cowardice l








Cowards, careerists and Corbyn diehards

Momentum MP Navendu Mishra claims to be in favour of a Gaza ceasefire. Despite that he followed Starmer’s orders to abstain, reports Carla Roberts

In how much trouble is Keir Starmer over Palestine?

Some commentators have been very excited about the fact that a total of 56 Labour MPs ended up voting against the whip and the instruction to abstain on the Scottish National Party’s ceasefire amendment. And, yes, 10 frontbenchers were duly sacked from their positions, most prominently Jess Phillips, the vicious anti-Corbyn MP for Birmingham Yardley, who wrote: “On this occasion I must vote with my constituents, my head, and my heart, which has felt as if it were breaking over the last four weeks with the horror of the situation in Israel and Palestine.”[1] (Makes you wonder on which “occasions” she consciously voted against her constituency, head and heart – a few votes during the Corbyn years spring to mind). No doubt, her role in the witch-hunt and her support for Labour Friends of Israel[2] will ensure that she will be back on the front bench before long, as will some of the other ‘rebels’.

It would be a stretch to call this vote a ‘rebellion’ – it was more of a small, controlled display of disapproval. Not even all 34 members of so-called Socialist Campaign Group managed to vote in favour. A couple of them at least had an excuse: Olivia Blake had a doctor’s appointment and was paired; Kim Johnson was on a “prearranged parliamentary overseas visit”;[3] and Mick Whitley had a “family emergency”.[4] All three of them let it be known publicly that they would have voted in favour of the SNP’s motion.

Labour left

Not so Navendu Mishra, MP for Stockport and formerly Momentum regional organiser (and supported by many on the official Labour left). On November 15, the day of the vote, he had the audacity to post on Twitter: “I stand with Labour Friends of Palestine’s call for a ceasefire and enduring peace. I will continue to make that case within Labour and to government, so that humanitarian aid reaches civilians and the siege ends.”

But then he did as ordered by Keir Starmer! In other words, the man is lying through his teeth. “Labour Enemy of Palestine Navendu Mishra is a fraudulent liar: he actually abstained on the ceasefire vote, meaning he has the blood of 5,000 Palestinian children on his hands,” rages Asa Winstanley on Twitter.[5]

It is very doubtful that Mishra fell for Starmer’s last-minute attempt to appease some of his ‘leftwing’ MPs (it is all relative now) by tabling an amendment that called for “longer humanitarian pauses” instead of a ceasefire. No, the man is an out-and-out careerist who does not want to endanger his position of parliamentary private secretary to Angela Rayner – after all, he was only appointed in September 2023 and, unlike Phillips, cannot rely on being in Starmer’s good books. His lack of a backbone really should not come as a surprise. In December 2018, at the height of the anti-Semitism smear campaign in the Labour Party, he actually posted a selfie in front of a protest by the Jewish Labour Movement.

If the Socialist Campaign Group had any bottle, it would expel this toxic careerist weasel immediately. But then it stopped playing any kind of useful role a long time ago. Not even Momentum (which “proudly” endorsed Mishra to become an MP in 2019 and an NEC member in 2020[6]) has sunk that low and has been calling on all supporters to write to their MPs to demand a ceasefire. Of course, they do not have it in them to criticise their erstwhile creature publicly.

It is very obvious that Starmer has succeeded in clearing the Labour Party of any principled opposition. The ‘left wing’ is now entirely neutered and most ‘left’ MPs have stuck to Starmer’s orders not to speak at demonstrations and protests in solidarity with Palestine. John McDonnell MP is something of an exception, perhaps because Starmer knows he is very popular in his constituency of Hayes and Harlington, which he has been representing since 1997. And, having shown during the anti-Semitism smear campaign that he is all too willing to dance to the right’s tune, he can easily be tolerated as a sort of eccentric old uncle.

Choppy waters

Of course, the political situation in the Middle East does continue to present Keir Starmer with some choppy waters, even if those are not caused by the left. He committed a major blunder when he backed Israel’s decision to cut off the water, electricity and food to the Gaza Strip. “Israel has that right,” he said over and over again in his now infamous interview on LBC Radio.[7] But after some serious criticism from across the board, he rowed back just in time, “clarifying” that, actually, he believes pretty much the opposite.

Increasing numbers of ‘normal people’ can see that the “war” is in fact a very one-sided mass slaughter. According to the not very neutral polling company, YouGov (founded by Liz Truss’ former sidekick, Nadhim Zahawi MP), 58% think that there “definitely should be a ceasefire”, another 18% said there “probably should be”.[8] So 76% of the population are more principled than Starmer.

In his speech during the November 15 debate in parliament, Starmer explained what his position is really about. He wants to be seen “working with our international allies”, because that is “what you would expect from someone who wants to form the next government”. He added: “Leadership is about doing the right thing. That is the least the public deserves. And the least that leadership demands.”

By aping the position of Joe Biden, Starmer does exactly what Tony Blair did so successfully: he is showing that he can run capitalism just as well as the Tories. Better, in fact, seeing as they are in severe crisis. By not rocking the capitalist boat, Keir Starmer can sit and watch Rishi Sunak’s increasingly wild efforts to save his sinking ship.

Sunak’s latest announcements of some possible minor tax cuts were a vague effort to ‘bury’ the latest horror stories from the parliamentary Covid inquiry – to no avail: Sunak has now personally been named as driving the second Covid wave with his disastrous ‘Eat out’ campaign, according to the government’s chief scientific advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance. “I think it would have been very obvious to anyone that this inevitably would cause an increase in transmission risk, and I think that would have been known by ministers.” He also said that scientists were “not aware” of the scheme until it was announced.[9]

Bar some major political upset, Keir Starmer will be the next UK prime minister – not because he is so popular, we hasten to add, but because the Tories are so despised. The Labour Party currently stands at 47%, according to a meta survey of all the polls, with the Tories on only 23%.[10]

Rupert Murdoch can tell which way the wind is blowing – his papers, The Sun and The Times, have been gradually, but markedly, shifting their support to Starmer’s Labour. And, of course, Suella Braverman can tell – that rat jumped ship in rather dramatic fashion, orchestrating her own dismissal with increasingly weird and desperate announcements. When her rants about “hate marches” and “lifestyle choices” failed to do the trick, she attacked the police for their ‘softness’ towards Palestine demonstrations. That’s a big no-no for any home secretary and she really did not leave Sunak any other option but to throw her overboard – straight into her cushy lifeboat.

Socialist Worker[11] and The Socialist[12] have both made rather sweet attempts to try and convince their readers that it was in fact themselves who did the damage: “the hundreds of thousands of people who have taken to the streets in the last month for Palestine … have forced Rishi Sunak to sack Braverman,” writes Socialist Worker. The Socialist proclaims: “The anti-war movement – whose demonstrations she tried and failed to ban – has scored a victory!”

Nothing more but wishful thinking, sadly. No, Cruella has managed to row free of the toxic Sunak and will be busy building her own leadership campaign. To paraphrase The terminator, she’ll be back.


But Keir Starmer, we are told by many on the left, is deeply unpopular ‘out there’ – very few will want to go leafleting or canvassing for him. There is an element of truth in that – but it matters not.

For a start, the big donors are back. The last quarter saw, in fact, an historic “record”: Of the £10.4 million received between June and August 2023, only £2.7 million stemmed from “public funding and donations from trade unions”. But there was a £3 million donation from David Sainsbury and £2.2 million from Autoglass billionaire Gary Lubner.[13] Starmer does not need the membership and he certainly does not need the left.

The snazzily-named ‘Organise Corbyn Inspired Socialist Alliance’ (OCISA)[14] has now officially launched its campaign to “unseat Starmer” in his constituency of Holborn St Pancras: it is calling for candidates to apply to stand against Starmer at the next general election – on Corbyn’s ‘For the many’ programme. The organisers think that they have a realistic chance of overturning Starmer’s majority of 48.9% by using the “digital community”. This method, they think, is so fool-proof that they want to spread it to all areas “where the action of individual attack on the MP becomes necessary”.

The small text on the website explains “the mechanics of harvesting the vote”, which are:

a matter of technologists who can provide the platform for the votes to be harvested. These votes are applied in two ways, under the model proposed. Primarily to harvest the vote for the candidate, but secondly to make the policy choices and managerial issues relating to the company itself, so that it becomes self-governing by the membership and democratic in nature. This gives it the necessary weight and credibility to approach the constituency.

Clear enough?

Of course, there are a number of campaigns already in existence who want to do exactly that – with slightly less eccentric and technocratic language. The electoral front of the SPEW, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, has called on other groups to “join us to co-host a convention to organise a working class challenge at the next general election”.

Ditto ‘Transform’, the merger of the rump Left Unity and the Breakthrough Party, which will be launched on November 25 in Nottingham. Point 8 of their 10 “core principles” explains that they want to “contest elections”.[15] As an aside, this already looks like a stillbirth: we hear that Kate Hudson and Andrew Burgin, ‘leading lights’ of Left Unity, are growing cool on Transform – for a start, should LU be disbanded in the process, the comrades would lose their affiliation to the European Left Party. Of course, this only exists on paper, as Left Unity has never recovered from its disastrous decision not to join the Labour Party during the Corbyn years – pretty much its entire membership did, leaving a corpse behind. But for some people, such titles matter.
















Doubling down on genocide

Sir Keir’s Chatham House speech shows exactly where he stands. But, asks Kevin Bean, where will the official Labour left go, given the massive popular movement against Israel’s war on Gaza? An uncertain tincture of courage combines with continued fear for careers and expense accounts

If anyone had any doubts over where Sir Keir Starmer stands in relation to Israel’s war on Gaza, then his Chatham House speech would certainly have removed them: he lines up with US imperialism and the rest of the western imperialist powers in solidly backing the Zionist state’s genocidal assault on the Palestinian population of the Gaza Strip. He does not support a ceasefire – that would leave Hamas intact and still a potential threat to Israel – but he is sympathetic to a “humanitarian pause” and relief efforts by the “international community”.[1]

It was, of course, a carefully crafted speech in which there were the obligatory hypocritical references to the humanitarian crisis unfolding before our eyes, combined with cautionary reminders that states should always follow ‘international law’, when launching attacks on civilian populations! Sir Keir is a lawyer, you understand, and he knows all about these things. He also knows about bourgeois politics and, as the leader of British capitalism’s second eleven and widely expected next prime minister, he chose his words judiciously. After all, he has been setting out his stall in this way since becoming Labour leader, demonstrating that his new order really does represent a clear break with the old Corbyn regime.

Sir Keir could do nothing else because he was addressing several different audiences, with the most important being in Washington DC. However, Starmer also wanted to reassure the British capitalist class and the political establishment at home that he could continue to channel his inner Tony Blair by standing firm behind Israel and holding the line, irrespective of internal party criticism or successive mass demonstrations in London against Israel’s war. A little further down the list is the electorate and the various media that frame the limits of acceptable political debate so as to shape ‘public opinion’. In this respect the speech was no different from countless others he had made since 2020, in which he carefully triangulated with the Tories and showed he was a safe pair of hands who could be relied upon to uphold the Atlantic alliance, the capitalist system and the constitutional order.

The speech certainly did its job with the ruling class at home and abroad, receiving positive approval and editorial support where it matters.[2] Noisy protests by anti-war activists simply served to reinforce the message. Labour wants to be the next government, Labour wants to be trusted by the USA no matter who is in the White House.

So in that sense Sir Keir managed to steady the ship, but a lot of questions still remain about how the crisis in Gaza will impact on the Labour leadership and the party as a whole. Let us go back to the Labour conference in early October. The leadership was clearly in control and, apart from some purely symbolic votes on rail and utility nationalisation, the pro-capitalist Labour right swept the board. Nowhere was this more clearly illustrated than in Starmer’s conference speech, in which he unequivocally backed Israel … and, of course, condemned anti-Semitism. The staged standing ovations and staged applause served to highlight the contrast with previous conferences – was it really only four years ago when delegates waved Palestinian flags and enthusiastically grabbed copies of Labour Party Marxists because of Moshé Machover’s lead article denouncing Israel as a racist endeavour?

Throughout the witch-hunt against the Labour left and the smear campaign to equate anti-Zionism and opposition to Israel’s repression of the Palestinian people with anti-Semitism, the Palestinian cause acquired a huge political significance. The Labour leadership used loyalty to Israel to demonstrate its unswerving fealty to imperialism and the US hegemon, and to draw a clear symbolic boundary between itself and the Labour left, which has been totally cowed for the last four years, having surrendered to the leadership all along the line. Nowhere has this abject cowardice been more openly on display than on the key questions of war and peace in foreign policy – remember the way members of the Socialist Campaign Group withdrew their support from a mildly critical Stop the War statement on Ukraine following the merest hint of Sir Keir’s displeasure?

Initially the same was true about the Labour left’s response to the war on Gaza, with only the most circumspect comments during PMQs in the Commons on the civilian casualties and ‘the humanitarian crisis’ caused by Israeli attacks.[3] So confident was the party leadership and apparat that the official Labour left was servile, quiescent and effectively online. The HQ bureaucracy further clamped down on internal debate on Gaza in Constituency Labour Parties and even banned councillors and MPs from participating in protests against the war.[4] But the huge turnout on local and regional demonstrations, especially the huge numbers in London, the last one being 500,000-strong, that seems to have breathed some little courage into the official Labour left.

New challenge?

The size and character of the demonstrations, drawing in new layers of young people and mobilising the widest sections of the Muslim population, has surely had an impact on the previously quiescent and largely silent Labour left in parliament and beyond. Members of the SCG such as John McDonnell and Andy McDonald have spoken alongside Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott, and left trade union leaders Mick Lynch and Mick Whelan on the last two national demonstrations. Other signs of opposition to the leadership’s line have been letters and statements of protest from CLPs and significantly Labour groups in local government. There have also been a large number of resignations from Labour councillors and individual party members, which have had a significant local impact; in Oxford resignations of councillors have cost Labour its majority and control of the local authority.[5]

Starmer’s unequivocal support for Israel’s siege of Gaza and his support in a radio interview on October 11 for cutting water and fuel supplies to the Palestinian population acted a catalyst for much of the criticism, which began to extend beyond the ‘usual suspects’ of the Labour left to include London mayor Sadiq Khan, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar.[6]


Perhaps the most serious challenges in parliament to Starmer’s line on Gaza was the early-day motion signed by 39 Labour MPs calling for the lifting of the siege, along with a number of other individual statements by Labour frontbenchers calling for a ceasefire.[7] Closer examination of the texts and the nature of the ‘support’ shown, such as retweeting Labour for Palestine statements, shows definite equivocation by shadow cabinet ‘rebels’, but, given the disciplinary measures taken previously against MPs for merely sharing such statements, this growing body of opposition to Starmer does have some real significance.

It seems that the Labour leadership was wrong-footed and initially drew back from confronting the opposition head on – after all it extended far beyond the official left and some in the party’s apparat feared that the usually reliable ‘Muslim vote’ might greatly diminish, with this section of the electorate refusing to back a party so clearly committed to supporting a genocidal attack on the Palestinian people. Some might be tempted, as in 2006, to look elsewhere. Thus, in an attempt to smooth things over, Starmer loyalists spoke publicly about understanding the ‘concerns’ of the critics and hoped that a ‘clarification’ of the leadership’s position could head off the growing criticism.[8] In media briefings before the Chatham House speech Wes Streeting and Chris Bryant prepared the ground by talking about ‘engaging’ with the critics on Gaza and addressing their specific issues.[9]

While there were some nods to the concerns of his critics, combined with the usual platitudes about a “humanitarian pause” and “international law”, Sir Keir’s Chatham House speech was in truth just a restatement of his pro-Israeli stance. Furthermore, in subsequent comments and interviews he doubled down by opposing any talk of a ceasefire and emphasising that his main aim was to support Israel without reservation in its Gaza war and its objective of crushing Hamas, whatever the cost to the civilian population. Just to show that he meant business and that the olive branches he had offered before Chatham House were merely a holding operation, the party bureaucracy followed it up by suspending SCG MP Andy McDonald for a speech he made at the national demonstration on October 28.

McDonald’s crime was to use an amended form of the widely used slogan, ‘Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea’: this slogan, identified by Suella Braverman and other supporters of Israel as ‘an anti-Semitic chant’, was changed by McDonald to read: “We will not rest until we have justice. Until all people, Israelis and Palestinians, between the river and the sea, can live in peaceful liberty.”[10] In this modified form it can be variously interpreted as supporting a one- or two-state solution, or merely a pacifistic call for an end to violence, but what it most definitely is not is anti-Semitic! However, in drawing on a slogan so dishonestly identified by the leadership as anti-Semitic, McDonald was putting it up to Sir Keir and testing the limits of Starmer’s patience with critics.

We know the political agenda that the pro-capitalist leadership of the Labour Party works to; in terms of Israel’s war in Gaza that has been very clearly set out in the House of Commons, as well as in the Chatham House speech. We also know how the Labour right and their media friends continue to use the big lie equating opposition to Israel’s occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people with anti-Semitism. Starmer will not row back on his pro-imperialist strategy of lining up with the US and ‘the west’: that is one of the cornerstones of his politics and will remain so.

No, the more important question is how the official Labour left will respond to his continued defence of Israel’s war and his attempts to crush opposition to it within the Labour movement. Having discovered the merest hint of a backbone in making the mildest of mild criticisms of the Starmer line, will the SCG and the other remnants of the official left now go further and really open up an attack on his policy? The suspension of Andy McDonald is a real challenge to the Labour left: after three, four years of laying low, of apologising, of grovelling, of advising quietness, will they risk really aligning themselves with the truly massive movement that has sprung into existence against Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza?

All they have to lose are their parliamentary careers, their expense accounts and their not inconsiderable salaries. But there is a world to win l


[2].; and


[4].; and


[6].; and




[10]. Ibid.

Don’t mention apartheid

Sir Keir bans Labour banners at Palestine demonstrations, Jeremy Corbyn appeals to ‘international law’, while the Campaign Group of Socialist MPs sticks to empty platitudes, reports Carla Roberts

A few short years ago, Labour Party conferences were awash with Palestine flags. In 2018 and 2019 in particular, there was a sea of hundreds of them, many handed out by Labour Against the Witchhunt. In both years, there were also motions passed that were highly critical of the Israeli government.[1]

Even in 2021 – when Sir Keir had already been in charge for over 16 months – a motion was passed that heavily criticised the “ongoing Nakba in Palestine”, “the deadly assault on Gaza” and the “de facto annexation of Palestinian land”. Furthermore, the motion contained this interesting formulation: “Conference also notes the unequivocal 2021 reports by B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch that conclude unequivocally that Israel is practising the crime of apartheid, as defined by the UN.”

Fast-forward two years. The Liverpool conference could not have been more different. In the run-up to the stage-managed event, Labour HQ unilaterally removed the words “end apartheid” from the title of a fringe event organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, leaving the title ‘Justice for Palestine’ in the conference guide.[2] The PSC protested, but to no avail, and was eventually told that using the word “apartheid” – a formulation also used by that radical leftie group, the United Nations (!), to describe Israeli policy[3] – is now “detrimental to the party”.

As an aside, it depends, of course, on how you define ‘apartheid’. The situation in Palestine is entirely different from the former apartheid regime in South Africa, where a small white ruling class massively exploited the black population. Israel’s aim, however, is not exploitation – more like mass expulsion. It wants to ethnically cleanse the occupied territories and get rid of all Palestinians.

Funnily enough, among the speakers at the PSC event was former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, a keen defender of the policy of ‘zero tolerance’. He and Momentum founder Jon Lansman were the key people in Jeremy Corbyn’s team responsible for the disastrous tactic of trying to appease the right by apologising over and over again for the myriad of false and weaponised claims that the party was overrun by anti-Semites. The PSC meeting went ahead with the shortened title, but it would have been very ironic if McDonnell had become a victim of the anti-Semitism smear campaign after all.

It is, of course, not just Keir Starmer who has bent over backwards to the pro-Israel agenda of the establishment. Unite general secretary Sharon Graham allegedly tried to force the cancellation of a Unite Palestine solidarity conference fringe event. But, because she did not seem to have the guts to have her name attached to such an attack on free speech, the meeting went ahead unchallenged.[4]

Touching calls

After conference, Starmer and his enforcer, general secretary David Evans, turned up the heat some more. On October 11, Starmer stated that he backs Israel’s decision to cut water, food and medicine supplies to Gaza – “Israel has that right”, he repeatedly said, before ‘clarifying’ that, “obviously everything should be done within international law, but I don’t want to step away from the core principles that Israel has the right to defend herself”.[5] Well, you can’t have it both ways. Punishing a civilian population is clearly a war crime, as defined by the Geneva Convention. But international law is clearly very stretchy.

Jeremy Corbyn too has issued almost touching calls for “peace”, “moral principles” and for politicians to “defend international law universally and equally”.[6] He seems to believe in some form of neutral and just ‘international law’ that stands above all the squabbles in the world. If only it was enforced properly. No, Jeremy, just think about who has written ‘international law’ or indeed enforces it and to what purpose. The war against Iraq was entirely legal – they just made up a bunch of lies to make it just about acceptable at the time. The US government, the EU and virtually all western imperialist governments are unequivocally supporting Israel – and have been for decades. Why on earth appeal to such laws and organisations?

Then, on October 13, Labour general secretary David Evans sent an email to all constituency and branch secretaries warning that MPs, councillors and other representatives should not take part in any of the pro-Palestine demonstrations that were taking place the next day:

Elected representatives have been given strong advice not to attend any of these events, and I would urge you to exercise similar caution. Not only is this in the interests of our members’ safety, but also to avoid placing colleagues in a position where they may share a platform with, or are close to, individuals that threaten to undermine the values and principles of the Labour Party.

In the event that individual members are in attendance at these protests and demonstration, I ask that no Labour Party banners are taken along. Individuals will not have the ability to control who they will be photographed alongside, and this risks threatening the Labour Party’s ability to campaign against any form of racism and discrimination.

The email further outlines that “attempts to table motions at meetings that are prejudicial or grossly detrimental to the Labour Party and risk infringing the Labour Party’s Codes of Conduct on Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia” will, “consistent with previous precedent, be ruled out of order”.

And, just to make sure that nobody gets away with any such nonsense or has posted something online “detrimental to the party”, the email reminds the snitchers of just how to snitch: “If you or someone else considers that a Labour Party member has breached our rules, this should be reported to us here …”[7]

It was, of course, under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn that such ‘guidance’ emails started to come in thick and fast. His general secretary, Jennie Formby, was so keen to be seen to implement the demands of the pro-Zionist lobby that she sent out numerous emails ‘advising’ members not to pass motions, for example, against the witch-hunt or in support of Chris Williamson, who was the only Labour MP who dared to stand up to the vicious campaign to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Overly eager branch and CLP secretaries and regional officers (most of them on the right, although there were not a few official ‘lefts’ among them) were only too happy to interpret the advice as outright ‘bans’. Labour Against the Witchhunt did a good job explaining the facts,[8] but many members were too scared to stand in solidarity with their smeared and vilified comrades. That was the point of it all, of course: self-censorship.

And, boy, does it work! It worked under Corbyn, when Labour left campaigns like the short-lived Don’t Leave, Organise and Howard Beckett’s even shorter-lived Labour Left for Socialism refused to associate publicly with anybody who had been expelled or suspended from the party. Needless to say, this policy helped to lead to their quick demise, especially after people like Beckett were themselves suspended.

And it continues to work now: I have not heard of a single Labour MP addressing any of the Palestine demonstrations around the country. They all seem to have toed the party line. A bunch of cowards the lot of them – especially the so-called Campaign Group of Socialist MPs. Their only effort so far has been an early day motion condemning Hamas and echoing calls for a humanitarian ceasefire. We know many of them are strong supporters of Palestine, but they probably feel even stronger about their own careers.

And, because the campaign to smear all criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic was so successful in the Labour movement, it quickly spread beyond it. It was not designed to get rid of Corbyn – that was just a very welcome side effect from the point of view of the Zionist lobby. The key aim was always to prepare for exactly the situation we are currently witnessing: Israel’s campaign of ethnic cleansing going into overdrive.

But the campaign in the Labour Party and the left’s appeasement certainly helped to prepare the ground for today, where critics of Israel can be gotten rid of in record time. Innocent until proven guilty? Forget it. Now the smallest whiff of alleged anti-Semitism (actually anti-Zionism) is enough to get people suspended, sacked, their livelihoods ruined.

Just in the last week, there have been dozens of examples that show how the right to free speech has been hollowed out in the attempt of the establishment to back Israel hook, line and sinker:

More victims

  • Cartoonist Steve Bell has just lost his job at The Guardian. The paper confirmed that it “will not be renewing his contract” after he submitted what they claim is an anti-Semitic cartoon of Benjamin Netanyahu. It shows Israel’s leader operating on his own stomach with boxing gloves on: the cut is in the outline of the Gaza Strip. Bell says his artwork was inspired by a famous cartoon of David Levine showing US president Lyndon Johnson with an operation scar on his belly in the shape of Vietnam. The Guardian, however, does not believe him. Oversensitised like all bourgeois media outlets, it has taken the cartoon to be a reference to the Jewish moneylender, Shylock, in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, who demands “a pound of flesh” of Antonio’s if a loan is not repaid within three months. That seems to be quite a stretch, to put it mildly.
  • On October 16, former British ambassador and journalist Craig Murray was arrested at the airport by UK security forces under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, on his return from Iceland. His phone, laptop and other electronics were seized and he “doesn’t expect he will get them back”. He said he was questioned about his attendance at the Palestine demo in Iceland. He was also questioned about his involvement in the Assange campaign and “whether he is paid for such work”.[9] Inconvenient campaigners and journalists like Kit Klarenberg have similarly been detained in recent months.
  • Ofcom has just suspended its online safety director, Fadzai Madzingira, after the vile website, Guido Fawkes, published screenshots from her private Instagram account, in which she called Israel an “apartheid state” and wrote: “As if it wasn’t bad enough already, the UK is also set to participate in the ethnic cleansing and genocide of Palestinians. Shame on this vile colonial alliance. #freepalestine.” [10]
    It is difficult to imagine that any employment tribunal would not dismiss these posts as a valid form of free expression. But Madzingira’s career prospects are certainly looking gloomy after such an exposure.
  • After a fire alarm went off during a pro-Palestine rally at the School of Oriental and African Studies, the university suspended a number of students who took part in the demonstration. Later, members of the Palestine Society “that were not present at the rally were issued formal warnings through disciplinaries by the university, demonstrating this is a targeted act of political repression against the Palestine Society”.[11]
  • Even more seriously, counter-terrorism police in Brighton have arrested Palestinian Hanin Barghouti, an elected women’s officer at the University of Sussex students’ union, for the speech she gave at a pro-Palestine demonstration the day after Hamas’s attack. This is what she said:

Yesterday was a victory. For freedom fighters to break out of a 15-year blockade so successfully under the inhuman genocide of Israel was so beautiful and inspiring to see. It shows the world that we will always fight and always resist and we need to celebrate these acts of resistance, because this was a success. Revolutionary violence initiated by Palestinians is not terrorism – it is self-defence.[12]

Communists would disagree with calling the Hamas attack “a victory” or particularly “beautiful” – but clearly, this is a young Palestinian woman deeply moved by what has just happened in her home country. It would be absolutely appalling to charge her with ‘an act of terrorism’.

However, worse is probably still to come. Immigration minister Robert Jenrick has announced his plans to “withdraw visas and deport anybody who commits hate crimes or supports Hamas”.[13] Seeing as “aggressively waving” or “wearing” the Palestinian flag could – according to Suella Braverman’s letter to the police[14] – now be constructed as proof of support for Hamas, that is a pretty low threshold. Some backbench MPs have called for pro-Palestine demonstrations to be banned altogether, “as in other countries” – though Braverman and co will probably be aware that that would guarantee a record turnout at such events.













[13]. i News October 15.


Two-term chatter being heard

James Harvey reports on the stage-managed Labour conference, the courting of big business and unconditional support for Israeli colonial oppression

Apart from the incident involving Yaz Asmawi, the People Demand Democracy protestor, who covered Sir Keir Starmer with green glitter (and which he was able to turn to his advantage with a stoic one-liner on the differences between ‘protest’ and ‘power’) the Labour conference went completely according to plan for the party’s machine.

Everyone on the platform and in the hall was on message, while delegates enthusiastically cheered and gave the required standing ovations for fairly mundane rhetoric and largely content-free speeches. It was the very model of a modern party conference – more of a carefully choreographed theatrical performance than a political event, with carefully framed sets and Union Jack backdrops and almost flawlessly managed throughout. Even the unscripted ‘defeats’ on energy and rail nationalisation were used to good effect by the Labour leadership to demonstrate that, whatever the conference proposed, it would be Sir Keir who disposed.

Compared with previous years the corporations were everywhere: Goldman Sachs, Boeing, Google sponsoring special events. At evening receptions CEOs shmoozed with shadow cabinet members. The FT even dubbed it “Liverpool Davos”. And the money is pouring in from companies and rich individuals, now that “Labour is the party of all businesses”: £8.6 million of it so far in 2023 (more than trade union contributions).

In that sense, this year’s Liverpool conference was just the latest stage in the Starmer project to make Labour the preferred eleven for capitalism and demonstrate his credentials as a reliable, alternative prime minister. With the chaos of Boris Johnson and his “fuck business” approach, the shambles of Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak’s complete lack of strategic thinking (apart from a desperation to avoid a drubbing in 2024), Labour’s managers think they have it in the bag … unless there is some kind of almighty blunder. So steady as she goes is the message.

With just over a year expected before the next election, the Labour leadership has to persuade the largely mythical ‘centre ground’ of Labour’s ‘responsibility’ and ‘credibility’: code for Tory voters. Sir Keir’s electoral strategy of triangulation was clearly on display in shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves’ speech on the economic programme of the next Labour government, as well as framing the leader’s keynote speech on October 10.

Charm offensive

Reeves built on the pro-business line that she had been setting out in interviews with the Financial Times and during her charm offensive in the boardrooms over the past three years, with promises of fiscal discipline and responsibility: economic growth would not be generated through higher taxation and the unsustainable stimulus of government borrowing, but through a new relationship with business and a state-backed National Wealth Fund – to all intents and purposes, a rebranding of the Blair government’s ‘private-public partnerships’, albeit in the very different and much less favourable capitalist economy of the 2020s.

For this commitment to ‘realistic politics’, she was rewarded by the endorsement of former Bank of England governor Mark Carney and the rather favourable response from other business leaders, who saw her as a politician and potential future leader they could work with. So, after the disorder and uncertainties of the Corbyn years, the capitalist class can be reassured that rightwing ‘order’ has finally been restored.

If Rachel Reeves set out the pro-capitalist framework of the next Labour government’s economic programme, essentially maintaining the status quo with vague commitments to growth and “rebuilding Britain”, it was left to Sir Keir to draw the threads together to reach the “inner soul of the British people” and provide potential Labour voters with an uplifting vision of “getting Britain’s future back”. His speech was received rapturously in the conference hall and attracted a record number of standing ovations, with the shadow cabinet team and others on the stage acting as a claque, engaging in a competitive form of sycophantic gymnastics to see who could stand up most frequently and more quickly than the rest. The anthemic dance music, and Starmer’s return to the stage after finishing his speech for an encore with his wife, only added to the theatrical atmosphere and the echoes of 1990s New Labour.

The content and the rhetoric of the speech also referenced Blairism, drawing on the ‘achievements’ of the Blair government and using a similar language of reform, renewal and rebuilding. There were few specific policy commitments beyond a promise to “bulldoze” planning restrictions to enable new development, create new towns and build 1.5 million homes – alongside nebulous proposals on local devolution of power away from Westminster and more ominous references to ‘reform’  (privatisation?) in the NHS and other public services.

This was a pre-election speech, in which the Labour leader was trying to set a tone, whilst leaving few hostages to fortune that could be dragged up by the Tories when the campaign proper begins. With his references to realism and the difficulties ahead, it was obvious that Starmer was promising very little.


As if we needed any reminders, what we learnt from the speech is that the next Labour government will be the most rightwing and explicitly pro-capitalist in the party’s history.

Not only will it meet the needs of British capitalism and the dictates of the market domestically, but it will be a loyal servant of the constitutional order at home and the interests of British imperialism and the US hegemon internationally. Starmer underlined this with his references to the role of the 1945-51 Attlee government in founding Nato and Labour’s support for ‘the west’ during the cold war and beyond.

Starmer’s unconditional support for the Israeli state’s attack on Gaza and its continued oppression of the Palestinian people drew a very symbolic standing ovation, serving as a visual reminder that the massed Palestine flag waving at conference during the Corbyn years is now safely a thing of the past, though Labour has not gone quite as far as home secretary Suella Braverman in calling for police action against anyone displaying a Palestinian flag in public.

Naturally, Starmer repeated the big lie about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party under the Corbyn leadership, and smeared the left with his conflation of support for Palestinian rights and hostility to Jewish people. Thus, Starmer reassured the ruling class in London and Washington that the left had been finally defeated and that it was now his Labour Party, unquestionably loyal to the status quo at home and abroad, and ready to serve capitalism in whatever way was deemed necessary.

There was a hastily arranged demonstration outside the conference centre organised by local supporters of the Palestinian struggle, but in the conference itself the left kept its head down and raised not a peep on this issue. So, as well as providing the Labour leadership with an opportunity to stand solidly behind Washington and its Israeli client state, the bombing of Gaza also shows how far the Labour left has fallen and how retreat has degenerated into a political rout.

With Sir Keir meeting foreign prime ministers and heads of state, big money pouring into the coffers, success in by-elections and huge leads in opinion polls, there is now the real prospect of a Labour government. There is even talk of two terms and burying the Tories for a generation. The nonsense peddled by sections of the left that Sir Keir did not really want to beat the Tories, did not really want to get into No10 can be seen for what it really was all along – nonsense.

What passes for the official left therefore hides itself under vague calls for ‘boldness’: John McDonnell, Sharon Graham and Andrew Fisher being typical. ‘Left’ MPs do not want to be seen rocking the boat. The threat of deselection hangs over the head of every one of them. None wants to share the terrible fate of Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott and find themselves without their parliamentary salary and expenses accounts. True, Momentum claims conference victories over energy and rails – due, in fact, to the trade union bloc vote – but as an organisation it was a much diminished force. In internal elections – National Constitutional Committee, Conference Arrangements Committee, National Women’s Committee – candidates of Labour to Win trounced the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance by a margin of around 3:1. The World Transformed was itself a turgid and timid affair, though on the final day there was an informed session on solidarity with the Palestinian rebellion presented by the British chapter of the Palestinian Youth Movement.

The question of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle will, of course, be to the fore for the working class movement in Britain and internationally, especially given the way that US imperialism and its Nato clients have rallied behind Israel’s war. Like the Tory government, Sir Keir has attempted to delegitimise support for Palestinian rights and opposition to Israeli repression by smearing the left and the Palestinian solidarity movement with false accusations of anti-Semitism. In that he is, disgracefully, being urged on by the likes of the Alliance For Workers’ Liberty and turncoats such as Paul Mason – from Workers Power to warmonger. He desperately wants to become an MP and – who knows? – eventually defence minister in a Starmer government.

Refound Labour as a permanent united front of the working class