Labour civil war: Left poised to leave party ‘in disgust’ as Starmer prevails

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Sir Keir has upped his attempts challenging Prime Minister Boris Johnson in recent weeks. Before the end of last month, the new Labour leader’s criticism of the Government was threadbare, with calls from within his party to show opposition leadership during the coronavirus crisis. Following the suspension of former leader Jeremy Corbyn, Sir Keir appears to have taken the reins of the party and lashed out at Mr Johnson.

He has warned the Prime Minister over the “dim view” the next US President Joe Biden will take of his Brexit bill; blasted the 10pm pub curfew; and earlier today criticised Westminster’s expenditure on a PR team to promote UK vaccines.

Many have noted that his reputation on the left of the party had diminished even before he suspended Mr Corbyn.

Groups like Momentum demanded the Labour leader do more against what they perceived as a purging of the working classes in Britain by Mr Johnson in light of the pandemic.

Yet, his renewed aggression towards the Government, one political expert told, is not so much to cater to the party’s left as it is a sign that Sir Keir’s power is beginning to prevail – with many of his opponents likely to depart before they put up a fuss.

Several key figures of Mr Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet remain a part of the party: John McDonnell, Diane Abbott, Rebecca Long-Bailey are but a few.

Tim Bale, Professor of politics at Queen Mary University, explained, however, that these names are soon likely to fade from the party.

He said: “I think going forward, people will simply start to leave the party in disgust rather than stay around and try to fight.

“This is particularly if it looks as if that fight isn’t going to be particularly successful.”

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It came as Prof Bale discussed the idea of a potential civil war breaking out in the party.

Murmurs of discontent have surfaced since Mr Corbyn’s departure.

And, even before, central figures to the party like Unite the Union’s general secretary, Len McCluskey, were threatening Sir Keir’s ability to lead.

In October, Mr McCluskey slashed his union’s funding to the party – of which Unite is the single biggest donor – by 10 percent.


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It was a move that many perceived as Mr McCluskey’s anger at Sir Keir’s decision to pay substantial fees to former Labour employees turned whistleblowers who spoke out against the party during a Panorama investigation.

After the European Court of Human Rights (EHRC) report into Labour antisemitism, several of those who were named refused to resign.

And, following Mr Corbyn’s suspension, the party’s general secretary, David Evans, warned party officials that he would not “hesitate to take action” against their allowing members to speak of Mr Corbyn and the report.

All of this has led many to question how a civil war can be avoided at this point.

Comparisons between Sir Keir and Labour’s former leader Tony Blair have also appeared to spark fears from many supporters of Mr Corbyn, leading them to fear that Labour could be returning to the middle ground.

And although these Blair-Starmer parallels were quickly struck out, Mr Corbyn’s suspension has reignited what political observer Steven Fielding told last month were “deep fears” over a centrist overhaul.

Meanwhile, in an opinion piece for The Guardian, Sir Keir championed Mr Biden’s election victory as a moment for “Britain to stand with him”.

He told of how the Democrat victory in the US was “only the beginning” for the Labour Party in the UK – suggesting he has high hopes for the 2024 election.

Others are not so optimistic.

Mr McCluskey earlier this month warned that Labour risks defeat in the next election.

He said: “A split party will be doomed to defeat.”

He added that Sir Keir’s decision to suspend Mr Corbyn could result in “chaos”.

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