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.” (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 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”; and Mick Whitley had a “family emergency”. All three of them let it be known publicly that they would have voted in favour of the SNP’s motion.
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.
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) 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.
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. 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”. 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.
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%.
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 and The Socialist 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. Starmer does not need the membership and he certainly does not need the left.
The snazzily-named ‘Organise Corbyn Inspired Socialist Alliance’ (OCISA) 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.
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”. 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.