Left hand drive

The Rebel
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‘Don’t re-tweet that. There’ll be trouble…’

Our political correspondent The Rebel looks at the astonishing parallels with the 1980s as the Labour leadership tries to take on left wing extremism within its ranks to make the party electable again, following the extraordinary sacking of shadow education secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey.


Neil Kinnock attacked the Labour Left, but Jeremy Corbyn was one of them

The parallels are stark.

I have lost count of the number of Labour MPs who have said to me that the times now are like deja vu of the 1980s all over again!

Nobody should underestimate the sacking of the Corbyn protege, Rebecca Long-Bailey, for re-tweeting a comment which contained an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.

Sir Keir Starmer was a radical lefty once, but now he must take them on

As shadow Education Sectary she was the standard-bearer for the Left in Sir Keir Starmer’s cabinet, Ms Long-Bailey was the runner up in the party leadership race earlier this year and her ousting has enraged the Corbynistas.

A statement from them following the meeting where she was sacked said: “On the sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey from the shadow cabinet, it was clear that significant disagreement remains on this point.

Harking back to radical protests of the past was not attractive to voters

“The Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs made it clear that Rebecca Long-Bailey should not have been sacked and should be reinstated.”

Jon Lansman, founder of the hard-Left campaign organisation Momentum, said that by getting rid of his leading left-wing rival for the leader, Sir Keir had made it more difficult to reunite the party.

But to Sir Keir’s supporters it shows his determined leadership, and that he is finally getting to grips with the Left in the party.

Telling off the tories will not be enough

His task, though, is enormous.

As The Economist put it:  “Rehabilitating a party that disappeared down an extremist rabbit-hole and lost four elections on the trot is a big task”.

Just as Sir Keir is trying to make Labour electable again now, a predecessor of his, Neil Kinnock, too took on a left wing faction during a bloody internal party war which he ultimately won in the 1980s.

Age changes you

And it seems Sir Keir has many fans from that time.

Lord Kinnock himself said “He’s more capable, and more reassuring, at 58 than I was at 41”.

It seems New Labour stalwarts, so long reviled by the Corbynistas, are back.

Peter Mandelson, an architect of Tony Blair’s victories, thinks the party needs a new agenda that embraces life sciences, artificial intelligence and entrepreneurs.

Labour must drive into the future

“We have to own the future, not try to reheat the past”, he said.

Yet nobody should be in any doubt of the enormous mountain which Sir Keir and Labour must now climb, and it won’t be enough to rely on hatred of the tories.

The Labour leader is liked but his party is not.

‘I’m back’

In polling, Sir Keir’s net satisfaction score of 31 per cent matches the best figure Mr Blair achieved as leader of the opposition.

The best the bearded one could manage was minus one per cent.

Worryingly for the tories, undecided voters tend to go for Sir Keir as they make up their minds.

Voters find him less likeable than Boris, but more competent and more decisive.

But while voters tell pollsters that Sir Keir looks like a Prime Minister in waiting, they believe by larger margins that Labour is not ready for UK Government.

It’s NOT Christmas come early for Labour!

The tories still have an eight-point lead over Labour, according to the most recent YouGov poll, even though that is down from 24 at the height of the coronavirus crisis, and a little below its 12-point lead in the general election.

Voters think that Labour is weaker, less competent and less moderate than the tories are.

Labour needs to win 123 seats to form a majority in the UK parliament in 2024, a swing similar to Mr Blair’s in 1997.

Given that Labour’s performance in the General Election of December 2019 was its worst since 1935, it might reasonably be assumed that things can only get better.

It’s like ‘DEJA VU’ all over again

But a report by the modernising campaign group Labour Together warns otherwise.

It concludes that cultural and demographic trends had loosened Labour’s grip on northern English seats for 20 years before Jezza handed them over to the tories.

Another moderate swing in the 2024 election would see 58 seats, including Rotherham, Hartlepool and Halifax, turn blue.

Book posterSo it will not be enough for voters to like Sir Keir, they have to like Labour too.

There’s almost 40 years between Lord Kinnock’s attack on the Left and now, but to many Labour MPs, it seems like yesterday…



Tomorrow – our Editor Phil Parry looks at how the average of a councillor has gone down massively since he started reporting in 1983. 

The memories of his extraordinary 36-year award-winning career in journalism as he was gripped by the rare neurological disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now!