Spartacus Blog

The Political History of Keir Starmer

In recent days I have been reading Oliver Eagleton's The Starmer Project (2023). The book takes a close look at Starmer's career as a lawyer before he became an MP. Eagleton is especially interested in his work at the Crown Prosecution Service. His internal memorandums and the praise he received from the Conservative government shows that he is far to the right of Tony Blair. On every occasion he supported the state against the rights of the individual. Starmer's attempt to criminalize peaceful protesters is particularly disturbing and provides an insight into the type of prime minister he will be. Starmer's attitude towards women's rights and welfare benefits is also worrying.

Anyway, here is a list of evidence against Keir Starmer. I have omitted the ten broken pledges of his leadership campaign as I have already covered that issue in a previous blog post:

(1) Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers: In 1990 Keir Starmer joined the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers. Soon afterwards he began campaigning to having the word "Socialist" removed and replaced with the word "Democratic". (1)

(2) Lee Clegg: In 1992 Starmer upset his friends in the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers when he agreed to defend Lee Clegg, a British soldier who had shot dead two young people by firing nineteen bullets into a car in west Belfast. Clegg was initially received a life sentence but after a campaign led by The Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph, he obtained a retrial. This time Starmer was able to get Clegg cleared of murder and he returned to active service. (2)

(3) McLibel Trial: Starmer developed his liberal reputation by providing free legal advice to Greenpeace campaigners, Helen Steel and David Morris, during what became known as the McLibel Case. The defendants were sued by McDonald's for distributing a fact-sheet detailing its environmentally destructive practices. It was the longest trial in English legal history (1990-1999). Starmer acted as their representative at the European Court of Human Rights. This made him known to Ken McDonald, the progressive Director of Public Prosecutions. (3)  

David Morris and Helen Steel
David Morris and Helen Steel

(4) Director of Public Prosecutions: Starmer, via his relationship with Ken McDonald, was appointed Director of Public Prosecutions by Patricia Scotland, the attorney general, in Gordon Brown's government, in July 2008. He expressed his intention to give up his private chauffeur but failed to do so and in his first two years on the job he claimed more than £160,000 in expenses for the four-mile drive between his home and the CPS offices. (4)

(5) Dominic Grieve: Starmer pleased the incoming Conservative/Liberal Democrat government in 2010 by making the cuts that left the CPS severely understaffed. The attorney general, Dominic Grieve has since talked about his "very good working relationship" with Starmer and described him as an "outstanding" Director of Public Prosecutions. (5) 

(6) Jimmy Mubenga: In 2010 Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan migrant, died when three security guards hired by the Home Office used lethal force to prevent him from leaving his deportation flight. The CPS reviewing lawyer ordered that the killers should not be charged and Starmer approved the decision despite a subsequent inquest which found that their actions were unlawful. (6)

(7) Blair Peach: In 2010 a retrospective investigation revealed that Blair Peach had been killed by members of the Met's Special Patrol Group, who had shattered his skull while he was taking part in an anti-racist demonstration in 1979. After studying the evidence Starmer decided not to charge the men involved in the killing. (7)

(8) Chris Huhne: In February 2012 Starmer ordered the prosecution of Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat Party energy secretary for perverting the course of justice over a traffic offence. At this time Chris Huhne was leading the fight in the Cabinet to stop Rupert Murdoch from taking over Sky broadcasting company.  In December 2023, Chris Huhne accepted a six-figure sum from the publisher of The Sun and News of the World in settlement of a phone-hacking and intrusion claim while he was a cabinet minister. (8)

(9) Decline in Rape Charges: From 2011 and 2014, the number of people charged with rape by the CPS declined by 14 per cent, despite a 3 per cent rise in reported rapes over that period. The reason for this was that in 2011 Starmer scrapped the protocol introduced by Ken McDonald that instructed police to refer rape cases to state prosecutors at an early stage of the investigation: a vital measure to ensure that victims' complaints were given a fair hearing. Starmer issued fresh advice that "emphasised the police's role in stopping all cases that do not meet evidential tests before referring to the CPS for charging". This reform, along with the government's swingeing budget cuts, caused the number of rape cases referred to the CPS to fall by a third over a two-year period. The Independent reported in early 2014 that thousands of cases had been "wrongly discontinued" as a result. (9) During this period Emily Thornberry was one of Starmer's harshest critics and she was especially upset by weakening guidelines that previously required specialist barristers to deal with every stage of a rape prosecution. (10)

(10) Women Against Rape: Oliver Eagleton has argued in The Starmer Project (2023) that surveying "Starmer's DPP record, one might wonder whether he has a particular blind-spot on women's issues". (11) Women Against Rape complained that during the same period where there was a drop in the number of people charged with rape there was an increase in women being prosecuted for "false accusations" of rape and domestic violence. This is because Starmer send out guidelines that false rape accusations should be "dealt with robustly", pledging that the Crown Prosecution Service would "prosecute these cases wherever there is sufficient evidence, and it is in the public interest to do so." (12)   

(11) Gary McKinnon: Starmer, during his time as Director of Public Prosecutions, became close to Eric Holder, the United States' attorney general. He agreed to help extradite several British suspects wanted by the American Department of Justice. Starmer "worked doggedly to extradite the autistic IT expert Gary McKinnon to the United States." In 2001, McKinnon had gained access to US military databases, exploiting their surprisingly weak security systems to find information about UFOs. Janis Sharp, McKinnon's mother was able to get an interview with Starmer, but she said he acted like a robot and showed no empathy for her son. On 16th October 2012, the home secretary, Theresa May, overruled Starmer, and stated in the House of Commons, that "a decision to extradite him would be incompatible with McKinnon's human rights." (13)

(12) Jean Charles de Menezes : In 2005 Jean Charles de Menezes, a 27-year-old Brazilian migrant, was racially profiled by Metropolitan Police officers who mistook him for a terrorist suspect and shot him seven times in the head when he boarded the Tube at Stockwell station. Ken McDonald approved the initial decision not to prosecute the killers as he accepted a series of falsehoods issued by the Met. However, during the 2008 inquest, the police narrative was demolished by eyewitness testimony and video footage, leading the jury to reject the official claim of "lawful killing". The case was sent back to Keir Starmer, but he refused to prosecute the killers. (14) 

Jean Charles de Menezes
Jean Charles de Menezes

(13) Syed Talha Ahsan: A poet from London, Syed Talha Ahsan, who was the winner of the prestigious Koestler Award for his poem "Grieving", was accused of having briefly run an Islamist website in his early twenties. He was arrested and detained without trial for six years because there was not enough evidence to get him convicted. However, because the website was briefly registered in Connecticut, the pair were indicted in the US on terrorism offences. An international campaign was formed to oppose his extradition and called on Starmer to prosecute him in the UK. This he refused to do, and Ahsan was extradited to the US on 5 October 2012. (15)

(14) Julian Assange : In 2010 Eric Holder, United States' attorney general, authorized the prosecution of Julian Assange under the 1917 Espionage Act for the crime of shedding light on American atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan. Assange who was also wanted for questioning over sexual assault allegations in Sweden, took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he was granted asylum by Rafael Correa's government. Assange was unwilling to go to Sweden for questioning because of the country extradition treaty with the US. Starmer refused permission for the Swedish authorities to interview Assange in London. Marianne Ny, the Swedish DPP, became increasingly eager to drop the case against Assange but the British CPS applied pressure to keep the investigation open. One member of the CPS sent Marianne Ny the message: "Don't you dare get cold feet!!!"  (16)

(15) Alfie Meadows : At a demonstration against tuition fees in December 2010, a philosophy student, Alfie Meadows, was assaulted by a police officer who hit him so hard with a truncheon that he had to undergo emergency brain surgery. While the officer escaped without charge, Meadows himself was prosecuted for violent disorder. After two trials returned inconclusive verdicts, Meadows's lawyers wrote directly to Starmer begging him to drop the case. Starmer declined, and the defendant was brought to trial for a third time. He was finally acquitted on all counts. (17)

In September 2023, the Metropolitan police finally apologised and agreed to pay Alfie Meadows a large sum of compensation for the life-altering impact of the actions of a police officer during its operation that day. His lawyer said: "Undergoing emergency life-saving brain surgery and the ongoing trauma of the assault deeply affected Alfie's studies, career, and mental health. This impact has been aggravated by the length of time it has taken to get to this point, through which he faced numerous prosecutions, endured a lengthy investigation by the IOPC and a judicial review by City of London police attempting to prevent police misconduct proceedings, and the proceedings themselves."

In response to the Met's apology, Meadows said: "In 2010, the coalition government turned to the police to violently crush resistance to its austerity programme. I came close to joining Kevin Gately, Blair Peach, Ian Tomlinson, and others who have been killed on protests by riot police and in police custody, including Brian Douglas who died after a police officer struck him on the head with a baton. After I was seriously injured by a police officer, the entire institution closed ranks, attempting to blame and criminalise me, defend its officer, and delay and deny accountability. In the light of recent reports confirming that the Met is institutionally racist, misogynist, homophobic and corrupt, it beggars belief that they continue to receive public money to abuse the public. But the current government's response has been to provide them with even more draconian powers to crack down on protest. Without fundamental change we will see no end to injustice at the hands of the police." (18)

(16) Prosecution of Peaceful Protestors : After the acquittal of Alfie Meadows, Starmer drew up prosecution guidelines that made it easier for the CPS to prosecute peaceful protesters. He wrote that the "potential for a number of protests over the coming years" had heightened the need to target "disruptive" activists who turn up to demonstrations "anticipating trouble or disorder". First, if "significant disruption was caused to the public and businesses". CPS lawyers were encouraged to take action, so effective forms of protest were criminalized from the outset. Second, anyone carrying a weapon should be held accountable. As Oliver Eagleton has pointed out, on the surface this seemed a sensible provision. However, Starmer did not explain what constitutes "a weapon", so "police and prosecutors were given the latitude to construe anything from placards to drinks flasks as such." (19)

The third point Starmer made was that anyone who made "threats… against an individual or business" which "could have caused alarm, fear or distress" would be targeted, which turned direct action against politicians or corporations into a prosecutable offence. Lastly, Starmer wrote that those who took "steps to conceal their identity" or wore "items that could be considered body protection" were more likely to be charged. (20)

(17) Mark Duggan: Following the killing of Mark Duggan by Met officers on 4 th August 2011, riots took place all over London. Over the next few weeks over 4,000 people were arrested.  When the riots broke out, Starmer promptly spoke to attorney general, Dominic Grieve, and agreed to establish a special CPS unit to deal exclusively with riot cases. By early October, 1,984 suspects had been charged in relation to the disorder. The CPS adopted a blanket policy of pressing serious charges "in all but the most exceptional of circumstances. Starmer demanded twenty-four-hour court sittings with no pause on weekends to increase the rate of convictions, and made a personal appearance at 4am in Highbury Magistrates Court to boost morale. The Guardian reported that a senior legal figure described these special hearings as "kangaroo courts" and "conveyor-belt justice". One defence lawyer observed that, "They were bringing 13, 14-, 15-year-olds into court at two or three o'clock in the morning… How are they meant to understand what I am saying and understand what they have to do, understand what the evidence was and what was going to happen to them?" (21)

(18) Dealing with Rioters: Starmer had to decide whether the main offence related to the riots – stealing from commercial premises – should be charged as theft or burglary. Theft had a maximum sentence of seven years, while burglary carried ten. Starmer advised that burglary offences should be slapped onto other public order charges to increase the likely jail time. (22)

In July 2012 Keir Starmer told The Guardian that his approach to the riots favoured quick prosecutions over extended jail terms.  However, as Morgan Paulett pointed out that a more accurate description of what was going on was "Starmer's role as DPP during the prosecutions of the 2011 rioters appears to be that of pushing for rapid prosecutions, which diminished due process, and heavier sentences." (23)

(19) Welfare Claimants & Tax Evasion: Starmer also agreed to support David Cameron's government strategy of demonization of welfare claimants. Starmer altered CPS guidelines so that those who had misclaimed small amounts of social welfare could be prosecuted by the crown courts. He also advised prosecutors to charge "benefit cheats" under the Fraud Act, which carries a maximum sentence of ten years. As he pointed out in September 2013: "The cost to the nation incurred by benefit fraud should be at the forefront of lawyers' minds when considering whether a prosecution is in the public interest. It is vital that we take a tough stance on the type of fraud, and I am determined to see a clampdown on those who flout the system… Indeed, prosecutors are also instructed not to shy away from using a range of legislation that carries higher sentences where it is merited." (24)

The year Starmer's reform took effect, the amount of taxpayers' money lost to benefit fraud was approximately £1.2 billion, or 0.7 per cent of total benefits expenditure. By contrast, HMRC's conservative estimate put the figure lost to tax evasion and avoidance at £7.1 billion during the same period. As Oliver Eagleton pointed out: "That Starmer refused to mention this ‘cost to the nation' was not only a stark indication of where his sympathies lay; it was also a factor in cultivating the public antipathy towards ‘scroungers' that enabled George Osborne's cutbacks." (25)

(20) Rupert Murdoch and Phone Hacking: During his time as DPP Starmer developed a close relationship with Rupert Murdoch's UK newspapers. When stories first emerged that News of the World had engaged in illegal phone hacking to access private communications, Starmer refused to prosecute senior journalists. The CPS was in possession of evidence that directly implicated the staff of the newspaper. On 16 th July 2009, Starmer was shown private correspondence which proved that phone hacking was routine company procedure at the newspaper – yet he decided that the evidence would not be examined, and no charges would be brought. This only changed in the summer of 2012 after a large number of civil cases and media reports unearthed the evidence that Starmer had failed to review. Starmer was censured by a parliamentary select committee for his failure to conduct a proper investigation at an earlier stage. The Huffington Post reported: "A top Scotland Yard officer and the head of the Crown Prosecution Service both ‘bear culpability' for failing to review evidence of phone hacking, the MPs found. The select committee said ex-Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism chief John Yates and Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer should have ensured that the material held by police was properly investigated in the years after the original prosecutions." (26)

(21) Labour or Conservative MP: Starmer began speaking to the Labour Party leadership about running for parliament months before he left the CPS in November 2013. Given his record at the CPS where he evolved into an unabashed authoritarian one would have thought he would have stood for the Conservative Party. However, coming from a Labour supporting family, he found this difficult to do. Ed Miliband arranged for him to be the candidate for the safe seat of Holborn and St Pancras. Labour officials pointed out that according to the rulebook, Starmer had not been a party member for long enough to run as a parliamentary candidate. As a result, Labour HQ intervened to delay the selection process so that this criterion was met. Starmer easily defeated his Tory opponent by 17,000 votes in the May 2015 general election. (27)

(22) Keir Starmer & Paul Myners: The Labour Party lost twenty-six seats and the Conservatives won an outright majority. Miliband resigned and was temporarily replaced by Harriet Harman while the party geared up for a leadership contest. Less than a week after he entered parliament, Starmer was urged to stand to become leader. An online campaign was started by the director of a private equity firm and garnered support from city financier Paul Myners. (28)

Polly Toynbee, one of the founders of the Social Democratic Party in 1981, also joined his campaign claiming: "In the coming months, candidates need to show their mettle by confronting David Cameron's oncoming torrent of extreme legislation. The argument for staying in the EU needs to start now, Labour standing out as the pro-Europeans in a storm of Europhobia. The Human Rights Act needs passionate defence: who better than new MP Keir Starmer, former director of public prosecutions and human rights lawyer, to help stop the UK joining Belarus outside the European court of human rights." (29)

(23) Andy Burnham: Starmer eventually told his supporters that it was too early for a leadership bid and supported Andy Burnham in the campaign. "Burnham's politics were consistent with Starmer's DPP record. The candidate had backed further cuts to social welfare (asserting that Labour must not be ‘soft on people who want something for nothing'), praised NATO, supported mass surveillance laws and defended the War on Terror." (30)

(24) Tory Welfare Bill: During the leadership campaign Starmer joined Burnham in abstaining on the Tory Welfare Bill, a raft of brutal cuts to social spending that disproportionally targeted women, children and disabled people. Jeremy Corbyn was the only leadership contender to oppose the measures, leading a group of forty-eight Labour rebels to vote against them. (31)

Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett, publicly asked Starmer how, as a human rights lawyer, he could support legislation that breached the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child by allowing children to go hungry. Starmer admitted that the bill was likely to have an "adverse impact on child poverty" it "also includes measures to support more apprentices and measures to support the troubled families programme." He went onto argue: "Although these measures do not go far enough, Labour should support them in principle." (32)

(25) 2019 Leadership Campaign : After the 2019 General Election defeat Jeremy Corbyn announced his resignation as leader of the Labour Party. Keir Starmer announced that he was a candidate. Although it was not revealed unto after the election, Starmer received financial support from a group of very wealthy individuals.

(26) Starmer's Financial Supporters: Trevor Chinn, a private-equity broker and Martin Taylor, a hedge-fund manager, gave a combined £145,000. In June 2015, Chinn and Taylor, established the think tank, Labour Together. Chinn has funded several right-wing Labour MPs and the Liberal Democrat MP, Tim Farron. He has also been a major donor to both Labour Friends of Israel and Conservative Friends of Israel. He has also been a long-time campaigner against increasing taxes for the wealthy. (33)

Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin, Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev, Deputy Labour Leader Mark Watson and Joan Ryan MP
Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin, Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev,
Deputy Labour Leader Tom Watson and Joan Ryan MP (2018)

Other financial supporters included Waheed Alli, the investment banker and media mogul, who gave him £100,000. Another investment banker, Clive Hollick, provided £50,000 and Peter Coates, the co-founder with his daughter and son of the online gambling company, bet365, donated £25,000. Jonathan Kestenbaum, chief operating officer of RIT Capital Partners and former Chief Executive of the charity the United Jewish Israel Appeal also helped to fund his campaign. Starmer also received thousands of pounds from property developers and real-estate companies. (34)

(27) Morgan McSweeney: Labour Together, an organisation run by Morgan McSweeney, was initially set-up to support Liz Kendall's leadership campaign in September 2015 where she won 4.5% of the vote. This time McSweeney ran Keir Starmer's campaign. (35) As the Labour Party membership was overwhelmingly supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, it was not possible for Starmer to tell the truth about his real intentions concerning taxation. He therefore made the pledge to "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." (36)

Of course, this went against what his financial backers had been urging him to do and this pledge was bound not to survive for very long. Starmer's shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, gave an interview to The Sunday Telegraph on 27th August 2023, where she confirmed that Starmer was abandoning this 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. (37)

"We have no plans for a wealth tax," Reeves 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." (38)

Labour has made clear that it will coddle and appease financial markets which means austerity, no public investment, increasing privatisation, no curbs on corporate profiteering and remaining outside the UK’s largest market. Reeves told a meeting in the City of London "every day, every month and every year of a Labour government, Labour will maintain its credibility with the markets and relationship with the City." As Richard Murphy has pointed out: As priorities for a Labour government go that has to be just about the worst possible. (39)

(32) Ten Socialist Pledges : Party membership under Jeremy Corbyn reached 564,443. To win the election to become leader of the Labour Party, Starmer 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), who was supported by Starmer. An increase on his election in 2015, when he was supported by 59% of the voters. The only way he could win the contest was to say he fully supported the policies of Jeremy Corbyn. This is the reason for Starmer's ten socialist pledges based on the policies of Corbyn. There were two other candidates for the leadership. Lisa Nandy, who had been highly critical of Corbyn, and had worked closely with Morgan McSweeney, Starmer's campaign director, when he led Labour Together. It has been argued that her image as a centre-left politician, was to take votes from the Corbynite candidate, Rebecca Long-Bailey. (40)

Long-Bailey turned out to be a poor candidate. On almost every point of principle she conceded to the right. At one meeting she declared herself as a "Zionist" and suggested it was antisemitic to criticise Israel. (41) In a campaign video she appeared to validate the view that immigrants are partly responsible for deteriorating public services. In a Guardian article she upet some members of the left by praising "progressive patriotism" without explaining what she meant by this phrase. (42)

Keir Starmer made it clear during the campaign that he was a strong supporter of Israel. "My parents' family are Jewish, and we've got extended family in Israel," he said. "I don't describe myself as a Zionist, but I understand and I sympathise and I support Zionism. So I wouldn't describe myself in that way. But, of course, you know, we have family in Israel. That is part of my family." (43)

Starmer, with his ten socialist pledges, and not revealing his financial backing from his wealthy friends, 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. The first thing Starmer did when he became leader was to completely purge the left from his shadow cabinet. As Oliver Eagleton pointed out: "The counter-revolution was in motion. With the Corbyn hiatus over, Labour would no longer be the party of the Left." (44)

Harold Wilson, Keir Hardie, Keir Starmer, Tony Blair, Clement Attlee
Harold Wilson, Keir Hardie, Keir Starmer, Tony Blair, Clement Attlee

(33) Centralizing of Policy: Starmer opening gambit was to centralize control over party messaging. After the 2015 leadership election, Corbyn spent time consulting each shadow cabinet member about what they wanted to achieve in their departments. Starmer did the opposite, informing his frontbench that their autonomy was minimal. All policy proposals and criticisms of the Tories were henceforth to come from the leader's office, which rigorously vetted the interventions of shadow ministers. Stephen Bush has argued that this strategy did not appear to be working as his approval rating slumped after the first few months of leadership. "Starmer has often seemed more focused on scoring points off a Prime Minister he disliked, and less on a strategic attack of the government as a whole." (45)

(34) Sam Tarry: One of the first people to suffer from Starmer's centralizing policy was Sam Tarry, Shadow Minister for Buses and Local Transport. In the summer of 2022 saw significant amounts of industrial unrest. Starmer instructed members of his shadow cabinet not to join picket lines. However, some Labour MPs did appear on picket lines including frontbenchers Kate Osborne, Paula Barker, and Navendu Mishra. Tarry was dismissed from the Shadow Cabinet on 27th 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 though Labour policy was that pay increases should be based on negotiation. A spokesperson for the party said that "Sam Tarry was sacked because he booked himself onto media programmes without permission and then made-up policy on the hoof." (46)

Tarry wrote in a newspaper opinion piece that "failing to join the striking rail workers on a picket line would have been an abject dereliction of duty for me as a Labour MP…. As a Labour shadow transport minister, a position I held until just a few days ago, I had to speak out against these horrendous Tory attacks on working people. That meant speaking out not just in House of Commons, which I did before recess last week, or in the TV studio debates, and political events. It meant being on the picket line, standing shoulder to shoulder with our rail workers." (47)

Starmer insisted that Tarry's disobedience should be punished by having him removed from the House of Commons. In July 2022 a trigger ballot was held in Ilford South to determine whether Tarry should face reselection; Tarry lost the vote 57.5% to 42.5%. On 10 October 2022 a reselection vote was held, which Tarry lost to local council leader Jas Athwal by 361 votes to 499. (48)

(35) Claire Ainsley: One of Keir Starmer's key appointments was Claire Ainsley as the Labour Party's director of policy. She is the author of The New Working Class: How to Win Hearts, Minds and Votes (2018). In the book Ainsley argues that progressives must accept that "class warfare is dead as a narrative, as it doesn't resonate for people"; nor does an "ideological view of the state", focused on issues like privatization. (49)

Ainsley suggests the party policy should be based on what the public already think about politics: "There are values that are deeply ingrained in British society and that cut across class that all politicians would do well to understand… Basically, parties should move closer to where the public is, rather than expect the public to come to them." (50)

Ainsley rejects the idea that the public wants significant redistribution of wealth and instead the Labour Party once in government should concentrate on introducing lower and higher rates of unemployment benefit "so that those who have made contributions through previous earnings receive a greater entitlement than those who do not have previous contributions." (51) She also believes that the Labour Party should call for curbs on immigration and a strong law-and-order offering, with schools made to teach "British values that put the rule of law in the centre." (52)

The problem with Ainsley idea of playing along with the public prejudices that have been encouraged by our right-wing media and have already been adopted by the Conservative Party. As Oliver Eagleton has pointed out: "It is a result of her methodology, which, fixated on focus groups and surveys, assumes that ‘good politics' means mirroring back to the public what they already think… The moral instincts are figured as innate components of the British psyche, not features that can be altered or affected by political interventions." (53)  

(36) Keir Starmer, Zionism and Israel : Since he was elected as leader Keir Starmer has caused concern with his attitude towards Israel. This is one issue where he has not lied about his policy promises. As I said earlier, during his leadership campaign he said "I sympathise and I support Zionism… of course, you know, we have family in Israel. That is part of my family." (54)

It started with the unfair ousting of Jeremy Corbyn after the publication of the government's Equality and Human Rights Commission published its report on antisemitism in the Labour Party. (55) This was followed in October 2020 when Stephen Kinnock suggested that the UK should not import products from illegal settlements. According to The Jewish Chronicle Starmer was "infuriated" by the remark and dispatched Lisa Nandy, Shadow Foreign Secretary, to give him a "dressing down". (56) 

When it emerged that Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Shadow Minister for Natural Environment and Air Quality, had once described Zionism as a "dangerous nationalist idea" Starmer forced him to resign. (57) In June 2020 Starmer sacked Rebecca Long-Bailey, Shadow Minister for Education, after accusing her of antisemitic conspiracism for retweeting an interview with Maxine Peake, with The Independent newspaper. During the interview Peake had suggested that the US police had been trained in the technique of "neck-kneeling" by their Israeli counterparts. (58)

Diane Abbott was the next left-wing Labour MP to upset Starmer. In a letter published in The Observer on 23rd April 2023, she argued: "Tomiwa Owolade claims that Irish, Jewish and Traveller people all suffer from 'racism'. They undoubtedly experience prejudice. This is similar to racism and the two words are often used as if they are interchangeable. It is true that many types of white people with points of difference, such as redheads, can experience this prejudice. But they are not all their lives subject to racism. In pre-civil rights America, Irish people, Jewish people and Travellers were not required to sit at the back of the bus. In apartheid South Africa, these groups were allowed to vote. And at the height of slavery, there were no white-seeming people manacled on the slave ships." (59)

Abbott quickly apologised and claimed they were made in error. She claimed an "initial draft" of her thoughts had been sent for publication by accident. Keir Starmer faced calls to intervene, including from Grant Shapps, the Conservative Party cabinet minister, who has previously discussed his Jewish faith. Shapps asked Starmer if he would "actually do anything", and added: "Once again, Jewish people have to wake up and see a Labour MP casually spouting hateful antisemitism." Starmer issued a statement saying the party "completely condemns these comments", calling them "deeply offensive and wrong". He added that the chief whip had suspended the whip from Abbott pending the outcome of an investigation. (60)

Keir Starmer also took the Labour Party whip from Andy McDonald, the former Shadow Employment Secretary, after making a speech at a pro-Palestine rally in October 2023. McDonald stated: "We won't rest until we have justice, until all people, Israelis and Palestinians, between the river and the sea can live in peaceful liberty". Starmer described McDonald's comment as "deeply offensive". (61)

The latest victim of Starmer's purge was Kate Osamor who shared a photograph of herself signing the Westminster remembrance book of the Holocaust Educational Trust. She also wrote that there was an "international duty" to remember the victims of the Holocaust, as well as "more recent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and now Gaza". Starmer took this as an attack on his foreign policy policy of giving his full support to Israel and Osamor had the Labour whip suspended. (62)

(37) Hamas-Israel War: During the 2023 Hamas-Israel War, Starmer emphasised his support for Israel, stated he would favour military aid to the country. In a radio interview with LBC on 11th October 2023, Starmer was asked whether it would be appropriate for Israel to totally cut off power and water supplies to Gaza, with Starmer replying that "I think that Israel does have that right" (63)

On 15 November 2023, Starmer suffered his largest defeat as leader when 56 of his MPs defied a three-line whip in voting for an Scottish National Party motion to support an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Ten of his shadow cabinet, Paula Barker, Andy Slaughter, Jess Phillips, Yasmin Qureshi, Rachel Hopkins, Sarah Owen, Afzal Khan, Naz Shah, Mary Foy and Dan Carden, resigned over the issue. (64)

Prominent Muslim Labour politicians have begun to deviate from the party line, throwing down a direct challenge to Starmer's authority. Anas Sarwar, the leader of a resurgent Scottish Labour, said Starmer's LBC comments were a "mistake" that had "hurt" Muslims, and called for a ceasefire. Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London also called for a ceasefire. (65)

On 20th January 2023 Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a telephone conversation with President Joe Biden. Netanyahu's spokesman claimed that in a phone call with Biden, the Israeli leader told the US president that his country's security needs left no space for a sovereign Palestinian state. "In his conversation with President Biden, prime minister Netanyahu reiterated his policy that, after Hamas is destroyed, Israel must retain security control over Gaza to ensure that Gaza will no longer pose a threat to Israel, a requirement that contradicts the demand for Palestinian sovereignty." Keir Starmer has yet to comment on this statement that undermines the reasons why he supported the bombing of Gaza. (66)


(1) Lamiat Sabin, The Morning Star (12th February 2021)

(2) Paul Vallely, The Independent (5th June 1995)

(3) Oliver Eagleton, The Starmer Project (2023) pages 14-15

(4) Tom D. Rogers, Bywire (29th April 2021)

(5) Martin Kettle, Prospect Magazine (28th January 2020)

(6) Steve Doughty, The Daily Mail (18th July 2012)

(7) Jon Clements, The Daily Mirror (28th April 2010)

(8) Brian Cathcart, Byline Times (5th December 2023)

(9) Melanie Newman & Oliver Wright, The Independent (4th February 2014)

(10) Emily Thornberry, letter to Keir Starmer (25th September 2012)

(11) Oliver Eagleton, The Starmer Project (2023) page 44

(12) Women Against Rape, Keir Starmer's Record on Rape (7th February 2020)

(13) Oliver Eagleton, The Starmer Project (2023) pages 30-31

(14) Tom Morgan & Margaret Davis, The Independent (12th December 2008)

(15) Owen Bowcott, The Guardian (1st October 2012)

(16) Owen Bowcott & Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian (11th February 2018)

(17) Oliver Eagleton, The Starmer Project (2023) page 48

(18) Sammy Gecsoyler, The Guardian (15th September 2023)

(19) Oliver Eagleton, The Starmer Project (2023) page 49

(20) Keir Starmer, New CPS Guidelines (10th March 2012)

(21) Fiona Bawden & Owen Bowcott, The Guardian (3rd July 2012)

(22) Carly Lightowlers & Hannah Quirk, The 2011 English Riots: Prosecutorial Zeal and Judicial Abandon, British Journal of Criminology (January 2015) pages 65–85,

(23) Morgan Paulett, Keir Starmer: Riots and Spycops, Medium Magazine (4th June 2020)

(24) The Independent (16th September 2013)

(25) Oliver Eagleton, The Starmer Project (2023) page 55

(26) The Huffington Post (1st May 2012)

(27) Oliver Eagleton, The Starmer Project (2023) pages 62-63

(28) Matthew Weaver, The Guardian (15th May 2015)

(29) Polly Toynbee, The Guardian (12th May 2015)

(30) Oliver Eagleton, The Starmer Project (2023) page 63

(31) Alex Matthews-King, The Independent (16th November 2017)

(32) The Islington Tribune (21st July 2015)

(33) Oliver Eagleton, The Starmer Project (2023) page 138

(34) Bob Pitt, Medium Magazine (19th April 2020)

(35) Oliver Eagleton, The Starmer Project (2023) page 137

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

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

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

(39) Richard Murphy, Twitter (25th January, 2024)

(40) Oliver Eagleton, The Starmer Project (2023) page 140

(41) Lamiat Sabin, The Morning Star (14th February 2020)

(42) Rebecca Long-Bailey, The Guardian (29 December 2019)

(43) 5 Pillars (15th February, 2020)

(44) Oliver Eagleton, The Starmer Project (2023) page 142

(45) Stephen Bush, New Statesman (15th September 2021)

(46) BBC News (27th July 2022)

(47) Sam Tarry, i-news (29th July 2022)

(48) Jessica Elgot, The Guardian (10th October 2022)

(49) Claire Ainsley, The New Working Class: How to Win Hearts, Minds and Votes (2018) page 20

(50) Claire Ainsley, The New Working Class: How to Win Hearts, Minds and Votes (2018) page 48

(51) Claire Ainsley, The New Working Class: How to Win Hearts, Minds and Votes (2018) page 126-128

(52) Claire Ainsley, The New Working Class: How to Win Hearts, Minds and Votes (2018) page 132-134

(53) Oliver Eagleton, The Starmer Project (2023) page 149

(54) 5 Pillars (15th February, 2020)

(55) Ronan Burtenshaw, The Tribune (20th November 2020)

(56) Lee Harpin, The Jewish Chronicle (22nd August 2018)

(57) BBC News (16th July 2020)

(58) Maxine Peake, The Independent (25th June 2020)

(59) Diane Abbott, The Observer (23rd April 2023)

(60) Aubrey Allegretti, The Guardian (23rd April 2023)

(61) The Daily Telegraph (30th October 2023)

(62) Rowena Mason, The Guardian (28th January, 2024)

(63) Keir Starmer, LBC (11th October 2023)

(64) The Guardian (15th November 2023)

(65) The Irish Times (3rd November 2023)

(66) The Guardian (20th January 2024)

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