Spartacus Blog

Keir Starmer and his Broken Pledges

Every month YouGov ask the question: "Do the main parties represent your values?" In November 2019 40% said that "At least one of the political parties represents my priorities and values well." By August 2023 it had fallen to 27% with a record 57% saying "none of the main political parties really represent my priorities and values." (1)

It seems that our main political parties are not representing the thoughts and opinions of the electorate. One of the reasons for this is people's dissatisfaction with the Conservative Party, who have been in power since 2010. However, there is another more important reason for this unhappiness with our political parties - the election of Keir Starmer as leader of the Labour Party.  

Since the fall of Boris Johnson, the Labour Party has enjoyed a lead over the Conservative Party of between 15% and 25%. However, at the same time Keir Starmer's approval ratings are little better than those of Rishi Sunak.  Every month Ipsos asks the following question: "To what extent, if at all, do you have a favourable or unfavourable opinion of the following politicians". The latest poll (August 2023) Starmer has a 30% favourable rating compared to Sunak's 27%. (2)

Do the parties represent your values? (August, 2023)
Do the parties represent your values? (August, 2023)

In a recent opinion poll by YouGov the public was asked to rate 20 Labour politicians: The top five approval ratings were: Jeremy Corbyn (30), Andy Burnham (29), Keir Starmer (29), Sadiq Khan (28) and Ed Balls (28). With people under the age of 40, Corbyn's lead was significantly higher:  Corbyn scored 44% compared to Starmer's 27%. (3)

Starmer is also unpopular with Labour Party members. Party membership under Corbyn reached 564,443 (down to 395,811 in 2023). To win the election to become leader of the Labour Party he had to get the support of former Corbyn supporters. For example, In September 2016, Corbyn was re-elected as Labour leader with 313,209 votes (61.8%) compared to 193,229 (38.2%) for Owen Smith (now a lobbyist for a pharmaceutical company). An increase on his election in 2015, when he was supported by 59% of the voters.

Starmer is unpopular with Labour Party members and to a lesser extent with traditional Labour supporters because of his actions since he became leader of the party in April 2020. The only way he could win the contest was to say he fully supported the policies of Jeremy Corbyn. This enabled him to win by beating Rebecca Long-Bailey (27.6%) and Lisa Nandy (16.2%), with 56.2% of the vote in the first round. (4)

I was one of those who voted for Starmer. I rejected Long-Bailey because I did not think she had leadership qualities. Lisa Nandy was a good communicator and several years previously I was predicting her to become the future leader of the Labour Party. However, she had been disloyal to Corbyn whereas Starmer had on the surface supported his leadership and during the election campaign he promised to continue with Corbyn's policies. If Starmer had argued what he really believed during the campaign, he would have lost to Long-Bailey. 

The first thing Starmer did when he became leader was to completely purge the left from his shadow cabinet. Even Tony Blair had Robin Cook, Clare Short and John Denham in his cabinet.  Straight away I realized I had made a terrible mistake by believing Starmer's promises and left the Labour Party. Most of my friends in the party did the same thing even though some of them were not foolish enough to have voted for him.

Starmer's ten pledges can still be found on his website. It begins with the words: "My promise to you is that I will maintain our radical values and work tirelessly to get Labour into power - so that we can advance the interests of the people our party was created to serve. Based on the moral case for socialism, here is where I stand." (5)

Since his victory in April 2020 Starmer has gradually abandoned most of the ten pledges he made during his campaign and has never used the word "socialism" again.

It is worth taking a close look at Starmer's ten pledges:

(1) Economic Justice

"Increase income tax for the top 5% of earners, reverse the Tories' cuts in corporation tax and clamp down on tax avoidance, particularly of large corporations. No stepping back from our core principles."

Starmer initially pledged to increase income tax for the top 5% of earners. He reinforced this point in a speech he made in Liverpool on 24 th September 2022. Starmer, commenting on the promises of Liz Truss, said it was "hugely divisive" of ministers to hand out a tax cut to people who were paid more than £150,000, and pledged to reverse the scrapping of the additional rate on the highest earners. Starmer suggested that this measure could raise at least £2bn, and possibly much more, for public spending. The shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, reinforced the proposal by saying that a future Labour government would need to increase the need to increase taxes on the rich to invest in public services such as the NHS, schools and childcare, as it was the only way to build the foundations of a strong economy. (6)

Since 2010 there has been a dramatic change in the distribution of wealth. As the Equality Trust has pointed out: "In 2022, households in the bottom 20% of the population had on average an equivalised disposable income of £13,218, whilst the top 20% had £83,687…. The richest fifth had an income more than 12 times the amount earned by the poorest fifth… The poorest fifth of society has only 8% of the total income, whereas the top fifth has 36%." (7)

Starmer initially accepted the need to use the tax system to redistribute wealth and income in the UK.  However, in recent months he began saying the country cannot spend its way out of its problems and denied Labour would be "getting its big government cheque book out again". At the same time, he has criticized the current high tax burden. In other words, he has rejected the theories of John Maynard Keynes and has accepted the Tory policy of austerity. (8)

As a result of this change of policy 70 prominent economists wrote a letter to Starmer. "We, the undersigned, are concerned that your current economic programme for government will not transform the economic orthodoxy that has made this country poorer, less cohesive and more unequal than fifteen years ago. The maintenance or extension of cuts in the current economic climate will only serve to deepen the poverty and hardship many are already facing. We believe it is the duty of an opposition to, where necessary, present an alternative vision for the future and when it comes to economics."

The economists urged the opposition to move away "from an out of date, economically and socially destructive approach towards a model which improves wellbeing, works in alignment with our environment, and achieves social justice". The letter urged Starmer to revisit the "legacy of the last Labour government", which they say was "achieved by increased spending on services like Sure Start and child benefit". (9)

Kate Pickett, professor of epidemiology at the University of York and co-author of The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone (2010) writing in The Guardian, looked at the record recent Conservative governments: "Motivated by political ideology over and above economic literacy, they opted for swingeing cuts, punitive social security and tax policies engineered to benefit a wealthy minority. It has left our country poorer, weaker and more divided. Healthy life expectancy has fallen, child poverty rates have increased and inequality has grown – and the pain seems only to worsen."

However, given his recent statements it seems that Starmer has not learnt from this disastrous policy of austerity. As Kate Pickett has pointed out: "We don't have to go back too far in our history to see how differently things can play out. Immediately after the second world war, Britain's economy was on its knees. Debt had risen to 270% of GDP (three times what it is today). Industries were devastated. Hundreds of thousands of British soldiers had been killed or wounded. International trade was in crisis."

The 1945 Labour Government who had inherited this crisis had learnt important lessons from the writings of John Maynard Keynes during the Great Depression. "The economic vision that won out has largely been attributed to the genius of John Maynard Keynes, who argued that straitened economic times call not for fiscal conservatism but a generous and ambitious package of public spending. Britain's postwar economy needed investment to get it back on its feet. That had to be coupled – as William Beveridge argued and championed – with a social safety net that ensured everyone could lead a decent life. The spirit of collectivism that saw Britain through the war had its legacy in the political and economic agenda that followed it." (10)

It seems that Starmer and his shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves have not read the works of John Maynard Keynes or have any understanding of the economic history of our past. Reeves has made several recent speeches where she said she has "no plans" to increase income tax. However, it was not until 27th August 2023 that she gave an interview to the Tory supporting The Sunday Telegraph that she finally confirmed that Starmer was abandoning this important economic pledge. She explicitly ruled out Labour imposing a wealth tax if it wins the next election. Reeves also confirmed that a Labour government would not bring in a mansion tax on expensive properties, increase capital gains tax or put up the top rate of income tax. (11)

"We have no plans for a wealth tax," she said. "We don't have any plans to increase taxes outside of what we've said. I don't see the way to prosperity as being through taxation. I want to grow the economy." Reeves was asked in the interview whether Starmer's pledge to increase the top rate of income tax had been ditched. She replied: "Yeah … I don't see a route towards having more money for public services that is through taxing our way there. It is going to be through growing our way there. And that's why the policies that we've set out are all about how we can encourage businesses to invest in Britain." (12)

Reeves' words, in this interview marked a shift away from her comments in September 2021 that "people who get their income through wealth should have to pay more", highlighting those with stocks and shares and buy-to-let properties. Although these comments were welcomed by Tory supporting newspapers, they warned their readers that this will be another promise they will break. If Starmer is willing to lie to Labour Party members to get elected as leader, surely, he will do the same thing to those voting in a general election. (13)

Economist, Josh Ryan-Collins, has recently commented that it is now clear that a future Labour government has no serious plans for reforming Britain's regressive taxation system. "There will be no new property taxes or wealth tax. Nor will tax rates on capital gains - unearned income from increases in the value of property or financial assets - be raised to match those on wages…. The economics of this stance are unambiguously flawed, and here Labour is taking an almighty gamble. For without major tax rises and reforms, it is impossible to see how Labour will generate the levels of growth it has made one of its central missions when in government."

Ryan-Collins points out that Reeves assertion: "I don't see the way to prosperity as being through taxation" is an implicit backing for "trickle-down" economics that encouraged the "wealth creators" by "keeping taxes low and the cake will get bigger for everyone". Ryan-Collins suggests that this central tenet of neoliberalism has been thoroughly discredited. "There is no evidence that the reductions in taxation on the rich that have proliferated over the past half century have led to higher rates of growth; rather, they have simply increased inequality."

Ryan-Collins highlights why the UK has such a terrible growth record: "The truth is that the UK is a leading global example of an economy where the tax system incentivises a form of ‘wealth creation' that doesn't actually support growth. By taxing capital gains less than income (as much as 50%, less according to a recent study) and instigating a swathe of tax breaks favouring property ownership and housing investment, we have supported the creation of a sophisticated form of ‘rentier capitalism'. In such a system, the majority of investment flows into the capture and ownership of assets such as property, infrastructure or financial assets."

Ryan-Collins goes on to explain: "This money does not then flow into the creation of new businesses, inventions or socially useful infrastructure, nor rising wages for middle- and low-income earners. Instead, it goes to private domestic and international investors and households lucky enough to own property, whose assets further inflate. None of the income generated goes into productive investment. Instead, the rest of society faces higher house prices and rents. The banking and asset management sectors have fully embraced this approach, preferring bigger loans against less risky assets, such as property, to lending to small firms." (14)

At the same time as dropping tax increases on the rich, Starmer and Reeves have stepped up their focus on wooing the corporate sector, with the annual business forum hosted at the party's conference this autumn over-subscribed by 75%, with 200 delegates due to attend, compared with 130 last year, and 150 on the waiting list. (15) The Electoral Commission has also reported that in 2022 the Labour Party received much larger donations from the large corporations than the Conservative Party. (16) This trend continued and in the final quarter of 2022 "the Labour Party raised £7.2 million in donations between October and December last year, £2.4 million more than the governing Conservative Party." (17)

Another disturbing trend is the money being paid to individual MPs. The main concern is the money being given to Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves who accepted a £1,250 "handbag and contents" for giving a talk to an investors' 'forum' run by a multimillionaire, her 'register of interests' reveals. As Private Eye has pointed out, the value of the bag is worth around four months' worth of the money a family hit by the Tories two-child benefit cap loses as a result - an annual sum of around £3,235 every year. (18)

Reeves register of interests reveals that she has accepted huge sums from former Lloyds TSB Bank chair Victor Blank, Vice-President of Jewish Leadership Council (£75,000), billionaire Liberal Democrat and Labour Friends of Israel donor David Sainsbury (£84,500) and Israel lobbyist Gary Lubner (£55,000), whose fortune is said to be in the hundreds of millions of pounds, gambling boss Neil Goulden (£10,000) and media baron Clive Hollick (£10,000). She also accepted free tickets and hospitality for herself and two friends at the Wimbledon Tennis Championship and has been "partying with union-busting press baron Rupert Murdoch." (19)

Other shadow cabinet members have also been accused of accepting money from rich businessmen. Sky News reported that in January 2023: "Left-wing campaign group Momentum has demanded Wes Streeting, Yvette Cooper and Dan Jarvis return more than £345,000 given to them by MPM Connect Ltd - donations it has branded ‘dark money'. As part of the Westminster Accounts project, which has collated MPs' second jobs earnings and donations in one database, the company has been highlighted as being the third largest donor to MPs of any party this parliament, since December 2019. The company has no staff or website and is registered at an office in Hertfordshire where the secretary says she has never heard of them. Cooper, the shadow home secretary, has received £184,317, former mayor of South Yorkshire Mr Jarvis £100,000 and Mr Streeting, the shadow health secretary, £60,900."

Kate Dove, co-chair of Momentum, said: "It's no surprise to see Tory MPs dominating the Westminster Accounts list - everyone knows the Conservative Party is up to its neck in sleaze. What is shocking, however, is that Labour MPs are joining them in accepting dark money donations - even senior members of the shadow cabinet like Wes Streeting and Yvette Cooper." (20)

(2) Social Justice

"Abolish Universal Credit and end the Tories' cruel sanctions regime. Set a national goal for wellbeing to make health as important as GDP; Invest in services that help shift to a preventative approach. Stand up for universal services and defend our NHS. Support the abolition of tuition fees and invest in lifelong learning." (21)

Several policies under Starmer's second pledge have been abandoned, including the promise to scrap tuition fees, abolishing universal credit and ending the current sanctions regime. The decision to break the promise on tuition fees was announced on the Today Programme on 2nd May, 2023: "We are likely to move on from that commitment because we do find ourselves in a different financial situation" Starmer said the cost of eliminating fees- estimated to be at least £6bn a year. (22)

However, as The Big Issue pointed out: "Labour's promise to scrap tuition fees was a core part of its manifestos in the 2017 and 2019 elections. But this wasn't just a zombie policy Starmer forgot to get rid of: he made it part of one of his key pledges while running to be leader in 2020." (23)

The most controversial of all Starmer's broken promises concerns the promises made about the two-child benefit cap. It was introduced by the former chancellor George Osborne in his austerity drive with the aim of encouraging parents of larger families to find a job or work more hours. The measure prevents parents from claiming child tax credit or universal credit for any third or subsequent child born after April 2017. It has affected an estimated 1.5 million children, and research has shown that the policy has impoverished families rather than increasing employment. One study found that as many as one in four children in some of England and Wales's poorest constituencies are in families left at least £3,000 poorer by the policy.

More than 50 organisations have called for it to be abolished, including the Church of England, the Trade Union Congress, the Children's Society and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Jonathan Bradshaw, Emeritus Professor of Social Policy at the University of York called it "the worst ever social security policy" in a crowded field going back to the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834. Charitable organizations and academics have claimed it is this policy that is the main reason for the dramatic increase in child poverty. (24)  

In July, just before the three by-elections Keir Starmer announced that the Labour government would not scrap the two-child benefit cap. Apparently, the shadow cabinet, who had been making speeches claiming this policy was "heinous", "obscene" and "immoral", were furious with Starmer over this decision. It did not help that he had not consulted them about this change of policy. However, no-one resigned over the issue, highlighting the fact that he has surrounded himself with people without principles. (25)

(3) Climate Justice

"Put the Green New Deal at the heart of everything we do. There is no issue more important to our future than the climate emergency. A Clean Air Act to tackle pollution locally. Demand international action on climate rights." (26)

During his election campaign Starmer pledged to invest £28bn a year in green industries as one of Labour's five national missions, and a key plank of the "greener, fairer future". Reeves promised to be the UK's "first green chancellor" and said she would use this money for a range of green schemes, including £60bn to pay for home insulation and £8bn to invest in green industries. (27)

On 9th June 2023, Rachel Reeves, announced that she was delaying plans for a green prosperity fund to start in the first year of a Labour government, saying it would "ramp up" by the middle of a first parliament. Reeves said the decision had to be taken because of the poor economic backdrop and rising interest rates. She said the priority was sticking to Labour's fiscal rule, that debt must be falling as a share of national income after five years. Reeves said: "No plan can be built that is not a rock of economic and fiscal responsibility … I will never play fast and loose with the public finances." She said her fiscal rules would be non-negotiable, so Labour would move to the £28bn green investment gradually rather than immediately if the party won the next election. (28)

However, it was not until 8th February 2024 that Starmer and Reeves jointly announced they would slash the green prosperity plan from £28bn a year to under £15bn - only a third of which would be new money. The largest cuts were to the party’s home insulation scheme. Labour had previously promised to spend up to £6bn a year insulating 19m homes over a decade. Under the revised plans Starmer and Reeves intend to spend just £6.6bn over the parliament – an average of £1.3bn a year. (29)

The following day Grace Blakeley wrote: "On the same day that climate scientists announced the world had breached the warming limit of 1.5 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels, Starmer effectively announced that he had given up the fight against climate breakdown." Blakeley quoted Ralph Miliband as saying that genuinely left-wing political movements tend to be dragged towards the centre when they achieve state power. She added: "The astonishing thing about Starmerism is that it appears to be dragging itself towards the centre without the need for much external pressure." (30)

(4) Promote Peace and Human Rights

"No more illegal wars. Introduce a Prevention of Military Intervention Act and put human rights at the heart of foreign policy. Review all UK arms sales and make us a force for international peace and justice." (31)

Starmer's promise of "no more illegal wars" and his proposal for a prevention of military intervention act was attacked by right-wing members of the Labour Party when he first made this pledge. The phrase "no more illegal wars", upset them as they saw it as a clearly phrased to reference Tony Blair's Iraq intervention. The name of this proposed piece of legislation raised some eyebrows. "At least call it "Abandon Sierra Leoneans, Kosovars and Kurds Act"," John Rentoul tweeted. The requirement to gain the consent of MPs through a Commons vote would formalise what is currently only an acknowledged convention. As there has not been any proposed "illegal wars" since he became leader, Starmer has not had to backdown on this policy. Nor is it a radical policy, unlike Richard Burgon's proposal, during Labour's deputy leader contest, who promised to ballot all party members on military action. (32)

(5) Common Ownership

"Public services should be in public hands, not making profits for shareholders. Support common ownership of rail, mail, energy and water; end outsourcing in our NHS, local government and justice system." (33)

One of Starmer's key pledges concerned common ownership. At the Labour's conference in 2022, Starmer promised to create a nationalised energy company, "Great British Energy", within the first year of a Labour government. (34)

In March, 2023 shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves announced that the policy of common ownership had been scrapped, with only rail in line for nationalisation under a Labour government. "I think with trains it's a different point, because as those contracts come up for renewal I think the Government have got every right to bring those into national control given the mess that some of our train operators have made of our transport infrastructure. But we would not be looking to nationalise a whole swathe of industries." (35)

And speaking on the BBC in July 2022, Starmer suggested "a massive move forward" on water quality could be made without nationalisation. "I think with stronger regulation, stronger enforcement of regulation, and accountability at the top of the water companies we can make a massive move forward on this." Instead, the Labour leader has backed a "pragmatic" approach involving greater regulation: "The answer is going to lie in regulating the market, changing the market, rather than simply taking things into public ownership." (36)

Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell is among those criticizing this change of policy:  "Water privatization has been the biggest rip-off privatization of them all. Fortunes have been made at all our expense as the service has deteriorated, charges have gone through the roof, massive debts have been incurred to pay shareholders, and they've polluted our rivers and seas. Thirty years of regulation has significantly failed. Public ownership is the only serious option from here on." (37)

(6) Defend Migrants' Rights

"Full voting rights for EU nationals. Defend free movement as we leave the EU. An immigration system based on compassion and dignity. End indefinite detention and call for the closure of centres such as Yarl's Wood." (38)

One of Starmer's key pledges as he ran for Labour leader was to "defend free movement as we leave the EU". However, he subsequently abandoned this, telling the Mail on Sunday on November 2022: "A Swiss deal simply wouldn't work for Britain. We'll have a stronger trading relationship and we'll reduce red tape for British business – but freedom of movement is a red line for me. It was part of the deal of being in the EU but since we left I've been clear it won't come back under my government." (39)

Starmer explained that he didn't want to rip up the Brexit deal, and said his support was in the context of ongoing negotiations. Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy suggested that the policy had changed because the party was reading "the room with public appetite, and the mood of the EU regarding renegotiations". Nandy added: "We've divided amongst ourselves for nearly a decade now on a whole succession of issues and this country's got to move forwards." Starmer has also ruled out a return to the Customs Union and the Single Market. (40)

(7) Strengthen Workers' Rights and Trade Unions

"Work shoulder to shoulder with trade unions to stand up for working people, tackle insecure work and low pay. Repeal the Trade Union Act. Oppose Tory attacks on the right to take industrial action and the weakening of workplace rights." (41)

Starmer has upset the right-wing press by so far not going back on the plans to repeal the 2016 Trade Union Act and has opposed the introduction of minimum service levels in the Strikes Bill currently going through Parliament. Angela Rayner has also recently recommitted to banning zero-hours contracts. The Daily Express claimed they knew why he had not broken this promise: "The news comes as analysis has revealed the party receives millions of pounds in funding from trade unions each year. Sir Keir has in recent years attempted to side-step debate around trade unionism, especially after his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, became almost synonymous with the likes of Len McCluskey, the former Unite General Secretary." (42)

However, Starmer has been unwilling to support trade unions in their struggle with the government. Sam Tarry was dismissed from his position as Shadow Minister for Buses and Local Transport on 27 July after appearing on a rail strike picket at Euston railway station. He said in a TV interview that workers should receive a pay rise in line with inflation. A spokesperson for the party said that "Sam Tarry was sacked because he appeared on the media without permission and then expressed views that was not party policy. Soon afterwards he was deselected as Labour candidate in Ilford South. (43)

Although he appears to be developing this anti-trade union strategy to please the right-wing press it does not appear to be popular with the electorate. Within the same period when the government was introducing anti-strike laws, a Sky News poll showed that support for organised strike action rose instead of fell, even while media and government messaging savaged those on strike, and members of the public suffered disruption to schooling, public transport and healthcare. "The findings suggest," the poll concludes, "that the government, which is refusing to deliver inflation-matched pay rises, may not be able to rely on waning support for strike action." (44)

(8) Radical Devolution of Power, Wealth and Opportunity

"Push power, wealth and opportunity away from Whitehall. A federal system to devolve powers – including through regional investment banks and control over regional industrial strategy. Abolish the House of Lords – replace it with an elected chamber of regions and nations." (45)

Devolving power away from Whitehall remains a key part of Labour's agenda, with Starmer promising a "take back control bill" in January 2023 to give more power to local and regional government. Abolishing the House of Lords and replacing it with an elected chamber of regions and nations also remains party policy. (46)

In an interview on Sky News in December 2022, Keir Starmer pledged to abolish the House of Lords in his first term if he is elected prime minister. Starmer told Kay Burley on the publication of the Gordon Brown report on UK's Future: "It's one of the recommendations, as you know, in today's report. What we're going to do after today is now consult on those recommendations, test them, and in particular, look at how can they be implemented… We're going to get one shot at fixing our economy and fixing our politics and I want to make sure we get it exactly right." (47)

(9) Equality

"Pull down obstacles that limit opportunities and talent. We are the party of the Equal Pay Act, Sure Start, BAME representation and the abolition of Section 28 – we must build on that for a new decade." (48)

So far, no policies have been announced to make this happen.

(10) Effective opposition to the Tories

"Forensic, effective opposition to the Tories in Parliament – linked up to our mass membership and a professional election operation. Never lose sight of the votes ‘lent' to the Tories in 2019. Unite our party, promote pluralism and improve our culture. Robust action to eradicate the scourge of antisemitism. Maintain our collective links with the unions." (49)

Starmer's promise to "unite our party and promote pluralism" was quickly broken. In fact, he has done the opposite by purging the left and forcing his candidates on local parties.  Starmer knows that the only way he can survive after breaking most of his leadership pledges is to control the selection of Labour Party candidates.

When Jeremy Corbyn was leader the Labour Party membership rose to 523,332 (2020). The plan was to have a party funded by the members instead of by large corporations (something that happened under Tony Blair). People were willing to join because they were promised a significant role in the development of policy and in the selection of parliamentary candidates. For example, I was one of over 200 members in 2019 to select Lavinia O'Connor as the East Worthing candidate. (I voted for Catherine Arnold but that is how democracy works.)

Starmer no longer allows candidates to be elected in this way. He has returned to the Blair tactic of having a leader-approved list of candidates. In by-elections Starmer selects candidates. This has led to mass resignations. The Labour Party lost 100,000 members in 2021. The trend has continued that has caused financial problems. The party Treasurers' report describes 2021 as a "difficult and demanding year", with staff redundancy packages to cut costs in the long run contributing to the financial black hole. (50)

Under Corbyn membership fees amounted to £19.3m and without any support from large corporations it ran a healthy surplus. The Independent reported. "Labour lost nearly 100,000 members in 2021 and ended the year with a £5m financial deficit, the party's newly published accounts show… Labour's income from membership fees fell from £19.3m in 2020 to £16.2m in 2021, a £3.1m drop in income which made up the majority of its £5.2m deficit. The size of the party's loss represents a significant increase on 2020, when the party had a deficit of £1m." (51)

Falling membership continued and lost nearly 25,000 in 2022. However, the Labour Party still achieved some of its highest income levels outside an election year, raising £47.2 million and returning a £2.7 million surplus after losing £5.2 million in 2021. The reason for this was the increase of around £500,000 in income from donations, while income from fundraising dinners rose from £10,000 in 2021 to £323,000 a year later.

Responding to the figures, a spokesman from Momentum said: "It is both saddening and worrying to see Labour’s membership decline for the third consecutive year. When Keir Starmer ran for leader he celebrated Labour’s mass membership and pledged to build on the people-powered party built after 2015. Yet since then he has turned Labour back towards corporate donors and interests, rejecting member and union demands for popular, urgent policies like public ownership, while undermining their rights by stitching up parliamentary selections for loyalists. Britain already has a party funded by the few and serving the few: the Tories. We need a Labour Party funded by and run for the many, one that is true to its trade union roots and its founding mission." (52)

Starmer has constantly used the claim of "antisemitism" to remove left-wingers from the Labour Party. He used this subject to remove Jeremy Corbyn, when in October 2020 he claimed the "scale of antisemitism within the party had been overstated for political reasons". On 17th November 2020, a panel drawn from the party's national executive committee decided to readmit Corbyn to the Labour Party. However, Starmer did not restore the Labour whip to Corbyn, effectively denying him readmission to the parliamentary party, saying that he would "keep this situation under review". He also stated that Corbyn might not be allowed to stand as a Labour candidate in Islington North unless the whip was restored. (53)

In April, 2020, a internal report of over 880 pages into Labour's handling of antisemitism was leaked to the press. It suggested that claims of antisemitism were part of a right-wing plot to undermine Jeremy Corbyn.  In response Starmer commissioned the lawyer Martin Forde to investigate claims of antisemitism in the Labour Party. The Forde Report was published in July 2022. There was virtually a media blackout of the Forde Report because it did not confirm the claims made against Corbyn. (54)

Forde was giving access to emails and What's App messages from staff at headquarters that was part of the original investigation. Forde pointed out that antisemitism had been used as a factional weapon by opponents of Corbyn by right-wing officials of Labour Party. It also laid bare how senior Labour staff displayed "deplorably factional and insensitive, and at times discriminatory, attitudes" towards Corbyn and his supporters, and revealed that there was a "hierarchy of racism" in the party which ignored Black and Asian people. So far, no action has been taken against those people accused of racism. However, the people suspected of leaking the report are apparently being sued by Starmer. (55)

Jamie Driscoll
Jamie Driscoll

Starmer's strategy of imposing right-wing candidates on local parties is going to end badly. Recently, Jamie Driscoll, was barred from the selection process to determine the Labour Party candidate for Mayor of the North-East. The post, to be elected in 2024, will cover Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and County Durham and have powers over transport, housing and skills. Driscoll, the Mayor of North of Tyne, is probably the most popular politician in the North-East. Driscoll, who was elected in 2019 and has been described as the "last Corbynista in power". A spokesman for the Labour Party said on that the reason why he was barred was because he appeared on the same platform as Ken Loach during the Newcastle Arts Festival in March, 2023. The Labour Party said the pair sharing a platform had been "incompatible" with their attempts to tackle antisemitism. (56)

In August 2021, Ken Loach was expelled from the Labour Party because of his membership of an organisation, "Labour Against the Witchhunt" proscribed by the party the previous month, saying he was removed for failing to "disown" Labour members who had been expelled from the party. The parliamentary Socialist Campaign Group issued a statement signed by 20 MPs and five peers, calling for the membership of Loach to be "immediately reinstated", adding: "That Ken is expelled while Islamophobes are welcomed is shameful". (57)

Ken Loach
Ken Loach

In an interview with The Jacobin the same month, Loach stated that he was not a member of any of the organisations which had recently been proscribed by the party, but that he "support(ed) many of the people who have been expelled, because they are good friends and comrades". He also argued that his expulsion was an ex post facto action as the evidence the party cited in their letter informing him of their decision dated from before the organisations he was accused of being a member of had been banned by the party. (58)

Two of the North's most popular politicians: Andy Burnham (Mayor of Manchester) and Steve Rotheram (Mayor of Liverpool) were quick to condemn Starmer's decision to remove Driscoll's name from the list of candidates. The  accused the Labour party of being undemocratic, opaque and unfair. Their intervention came after the trade union Unite said Labour's national executive committee (NEC) had made a "major error" in blocking Driscoll's candidacy, which it said was motivated by his support for the renationalisation of utilities. (59)

The official spokesman of the Labour Party described Ken Loach as anti-Semitic and criticized Driscoll for not saying this during the Newcastle Arts Festival. Driscoll, a member since 1985, announced he was quitting the party and will run as an independent next May. Within weeks he had raised more than £114,000. More than 5,300 people have donated, "You didn't leave the Labour party, Jamie. The Labour party left you. And me!" was a typical comment. Five Labour councillors in the region have quit in order to support Driscoll and more are expected to join him. It has been pointed out that 11 out of 22 constituency Labour parties (CLPs) in the region are refusing to endorse the Labour mayoral candidate, Kim McGuinness.

Mary Murphy was one of a number of Labour councillors to quit the party in solidarity, pledging to campaign for Driscoll. Murphy, a Northumberland county councillor, thinks Labour will come to regret blocking Driscoll's candidacy. "I think it's a complete misreading of the strength of feeling in the north-east of England with regard to democracy within the party, and our respect for our incumbent mayor. None of this is anti-Kim. It's very much about the process. I think they've just totally underestimated this all."

Ian Mearns, the Labour MP for Gateshead, picks his words carefully: "The decision to exclude Jamie Driscoll from the longlist wasn't done with a great deal of openness and transparency. If there was a good reason to block him, they (the Labour's national executive committee) should say what it was." Mearns admits that Labour Party membership is already down two-fifths on the Corbyn era, and they cannot afford to lose many more. "If you have a membership who are at all uneasy about the process by which candidates are selected it doesn't exactly motivate people to go out and campaign. The danger is that apathy reigns." (60)

Starmer removing a popular politician from the North reinforces the idea that he is a London establishment figure who does not understand the people living outside the capital.  Starmer is also doing badly in traditional Labour areas (Red Wall seats). He is not popular with working-class-voters. People who find it difficult to distinguish between him and the Tories. (61)

Starmer is a very lucky politician. The Conservative Party has provided us with 13 years of bad government. Starmer believes if he can get as close to the government in terms of policies, everyone to the left of them will vote Labour. This was the strategy of Tony Blair and with the support of Rupert Murdoch he will probably form the next government.

After the recent Uxbridge by-election result Starmer urged the Labour mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to "reflect" on the impact of extending the ultra-low emission zone to every borough, including Uxbridge and South Ruislip. In a speech in Nottingham Starmer bizarrely said: "we are doing something very wrong if policies put forward by the Labour Party during elections end up on Tory campaign leaflets." (62)

The opposition in the general election will no doubt claim that Starmer is not a man who you can trust. They will argue that how can you support a man to become prime minister when he has a record of lying to Labour Party members to win their votes. After all, in a democracy lying is one of the biggest crimes you can commit. 

1st September, 2023 (updated 10th February, 2024)  


(1) YouGov, Do the main political parties really represent Brits' priorities and values? (23rd August, 2003)

(2) Ipsos, Latest Public Opinion Polls (28th August, 2023)

(3) YouGov, The Most Popular Labour Politicians (August, 2023)

(4) Results: Leadership and Deputy Leadership election 2020 (April 2020)

(5) Keir Starmer, My Pledges to You (April 2020)

(6) The Guardian (25th September, 2023)

(7) The Equality Trust, The Scale of Economic Inequality in the UK (August, 2023)

(8) Lizzy Buchan, The Daily Mirror (5th January 2023)

(9) Jon Stone, The Independent (29th August 2023)

(10) Kate Pickett, The Guardian (20th August 2023)

(11) Pippa Crerar, The Guardian (27th August 2023)

(12) The Sunday Telegraph (27th August 2023)

(13) Stephen Glover, The Daily Mail (28th August, 2023)

(14) Josh Ryan-Collins, The Guardian (30th August 2023)

(15) Pippa Crerar, The Guardian (27th August, 2023)

(16) Political party donations and loans published for Q1 2022 (9th June, 2023)

(17) UK Labour Raises £7.2 Million in Party Donations, Beating Tories (2nd March, 2023)

(18) The Private Eye: 1603 (July-August)

(19) Skwawkbox (15th August, 2023)

(20) Sky News (10th January, 2023)

(21) Keir Starmer, My Pledges to You (April 2020)

(22) Keir Starmer, Today Programme (2nd May, 2023)

(23) Greg Barradale and Isabella McRae, The Big Issue (18th July 2023)

(24) Matthew Weaver, The Guardian (16th July, 2023)

(25) Owen Jones, The Guardian (17th July, 2023)

(26) Keir Starmer, My Pledges to You (April 2020)

(27) Kiran Stacey, The Guardian (1st June, 2023)

(28) The Guardian (9th June, 2023)

(29) The Guardian (8th February 2024)

(30) Grace Blakeley, The Tribune (9th February 2024)

(31) Keir Starmer, My Pledges to You (April 2020)

(32) Sienna Rodgers, Labour List (12th February, 2020)

(33) Keir Starmer, My Pledges to You (April 2020)

(34) Greg Barradale and Isabella McRae, The Big Issue (18th July 2023)

(35) Hugo Gye, iNews (7th March, 2023)

(36) Christopher McKeon, The Evening Standard (02 May 2023)

(37) Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead, As Calls Grow to Nationalize Britain's Broken Industries, Labour Needs to Listen (25th August, 2023)

(38) Keir Starmer, My Pledges to You (April 2020)

(39) Sam Blewett, The Independent (26th November, 2022)

(40) Greg Barradale and Isabella McRae, The Big Issue (18th July 2023)

(41) Keir Starmer, My Pledges to You (April 2020)

(42) The Daily Express (12th December, 2022)

(43) Alix Culbertson, Sky News (28th July, 2022)

(44) Nesrine Malik, The Guardian (7th August, 2023)

(45) Keir Starmer, My Pledges to You (April 2020)

(46) Christopher McKeon, The Evening Standard (02 May 2023)

(47) Sky News (5th December, 2020)

(48) Keir Starmer, My Pledges to You (April 2020)

(49) Keir Starmer, My Pledges to You (April 2020)

(50) Labour List (2nd June, 2023)

(51) Jon Stone, The Independent (17th August, 2022)

(52) Christopher McKeon, The Evening Standard (24th August, 2023)

(53) Keir Starmer, BBC News (18 November 2020)

(54) The Forde Report (July 2022)

(55) Rowena Mason, The Guardian (12th April 2020)

(56) BBC News (3rd June 2023)

(57) Labour List (16th August, 2021)

(58) The Jacobin (19th August, 2021)

(59) Helen Pidd, The Guardian (4th June, 2023)

(60) Helen Pidd, The Guardian (24th July 2023)

(61) The Labour List (31st May, 2023)

(62) The Guardian (22nd July, 2023)


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