Tag Archives: keir starmer

Britain and Europe: Turning Around

Keir Starmer promises to do no more than tinker with Britain’s EU relationship during his ‘first’ term of government. By accepting the EU’s regulations on food safety and animal welfare, Labour will ease the worst problems facing Northern Irish trade. But Starmer’s stated intention of “making Brexit work” is no different in principle to that of Rishi Sunak’s. That leaves the field wide open for the Liberal Democrats.

Many Lib Dems would like the UK to rejoin the European Union as soon as possible. That will not happen. Leaving aside the necessity of surmounting a divisive referendum campaign, unless the UK accepts the goal of political, economic and monetary union it is not eligible for full EU membership. There is really no appetite in Brussels to make a special case for the UK as a prodigal member state. On the contrary: once bitten, twice shy. In any case, EU enlargement is stalled and will remain stalled unless and until its constitutional treaties are revised in a federal direction.

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Labour Party constitutional reform proposals

This week Keir Starmer launched a report for consultation entitled  ‘A New Britain: Renewing our Democracy and Rebuilding our Economy’.  It is admirably full of attitude survey results, international comparisons, and north-south contrasts.

The report has a solid narrative and an overall theme, and in this sense can be said to have a certain amount of clarity of purpose.

The emphasis is on what some might call ‘the real economy’ – industry and commerce, and small businesses, and social deprivation resulting from declining economic activity, especially outside London and the SE.

The ‘problem’ which the report focuses on addressing is a serious collapse in trust in the UK political and administrative system; which gets worse the further people are from London. It blames this not only on accelerated regional economic decline, but also on a corrupt and over-centralised governance system, where development and infrastructure proposals from areas distant from London, sit for decades at the bottom of the pile in Whitehall.  These conclusions have seemingly emerged in part from Labour mayors, and other government decentralisation processes around the UK over the last decade, where Labour leads. Rising Scottish and Welsh nationalism are also blamed in part on fiscal over-centralisation and mutual disdain with London.

The proposed remedies reflect the definition of the problem; greater participation of regions and nations in central decision-making (including a new second chamber of regions/nations to replace the House of Lords), moving central government civil servants out of London, and limited devolution of transport, employment support, and economic development spending decisions. One has to assume that the absence of basic detail behind the remedies means that they are still being worked through, (under cover of the report being ‘for consultation’; all the relevant consultees having already been consulted, it seems).

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Labour join the Tories in trying to remove Young People’s rights

On Monday Keir Starmer had an interview with Mumsnet. He was asked the, by now, depressingly standard question on children and young people having access to treatment and support for gender identity issues. His incompetent response threw every under 16 in the country under the bus.

“I feel very strongly that children shouldn’t be making these very important decisions without the consent of their parents. I say that as a matter of principle. We all know what it’s like with teenage children, I feel very strongly about this. This argument that children should make decisions without the consent of their parents is one I just don’t agree with at all.” – Keir Starmer

In a few sentences Starmer committed the Labour party to undoing nearly 40 years of medico-legal practice in the name of appeasing a tiny minority of authoritarians. At a stroke stating he would deny the children and young people of this country access to everything from paracetamol to abortion, vaccination to blood transfusions, if their parents don’t agree they should have access to it.

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How to achieve Electoral Reform in the light of Keir Starmer’s obstructionism

On Monday, members at Labour’s Annual Conference voted in favour of a motion to replace First Past the Post with Proportional Representation in general elections. This comes after Unison, Unite, and the GMB, three of Britain’s largest trade unions, came out in support of PR in the months following the 2021 Labour Conference, where the withholding of such resulted in the failure of a similar motion despite nearly eighty per cent of Constituency delegates supporting it.

However, it seems as though Labour’s National Executive Committee will ignore the motion, preventing such a promise from becoming part of their next manifesto. With Keir Starmer saying that ‘it’s not a priority’, he plans to ignore the wishes of the majority of his party’s members, the red wall voters he needs to win back, and indeed the wider British public, and reap the rewards of disproportionate, unstable FPTP and gross Conservative mismanagement to win an unwarranted parliamentary majority.

As the next general election is likely to be upwards of two years away, the Labour leadership could yield to popular demands and adopt PR as official policy if pressure on them is maintained. Nevertheless, moving forward, we Liberal Democrats must consider our strategy for how to abolish FPTP given official opposition to such by one of the major parties against the wishes of its own supporters and its own self-interests.

Whilst FPTP is favoured by the larger parties for supposedly providing strong single party governments, recent history has proven otherwise. Seven out of the ten years of the 2010s saw the election of hung Parliaments, with the Conservatives losing their majority in 2017 despite increasing their vote share to 42.3% up from 36.8% in 2015. It may be possible that FPTP delivers unto Labour a plurality or a razor-thin majority, rather than a working majority. If we manage to poach enough blue wall seats, we would be the most palatable option for Labour as a potential coalition or confidence-and-supply agreement partner.

We should learn from our party’s previous experience with negotiating with a major party in achieving electoral reform. In 2010, we entered into coalition with the Conservatives on condition that a referendum be held over replacing FPTP with Alternative Voting. With still-majoritarian AV being a dissatisfactory substitute to both FPTP and Single Transferable Voting, our party’s preference then and now, the Conservatives and Labour alike depicted it as scary, confusing, and distracting. The defeat of AV wrongly signified for some, most notably David Cameron, the defeat of PR, stymieing momentum for years afterwards.

If we find ourselves in the same position again but with Labour, we must be more determined. If the Conservatives were the only adamantly anti-PR party in Parliament, and all others were broadly in favour of it, we could insist that electoral reform be achieved via a simple Act of Parliament without a referendum. A broadly pro-PR supermajority in Parliament would have sufficient a mandate to do so.

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Sorting out the mess

The country already had big issues to deal with before last Friday: price increases that are severely reducing the standard of living for many, a health service which is struggling to cope, climate change which is becoming more visible, and a  war in the Ukraine.

To this the government has added a completely unnecessary financial crisis. Another major unforced error following on from Brexit.

The best thing we can do to help sort out the mess is to get elected and to contribute in some form or other to a sensible and effective government. In this respect at least, the last week has moved us forward.

First, the Tories are making it easier for us to evict them (if more difficult to deal with the chaos once they have gone). They are backing policies that are both wrong and unpopular. Tax cuts for the rich. Incompetent economic management. Refusing to implement a windfall tax. Fracking. (Winchester, Wells, Lewes, Guildford and Esher are all interesting seats with fracking licences within the constituency or its hinterland)

Second, Labour is adopting reasonable political positions and has not yet messed up.  It would be naïve to assume that the Tories will lose (or that we will make significant progress) in the absence of a decent showing from Labour.  So it is therefore to be welcomed that hey had a largely successful conference this week on an electoral platform with many similarities to ours. There are obviously areas where policy is different, but there is a very large core we agree on. Look at the ‘pre manifesto’ prepared for our conference (Policy paper 149)  and Labour’s conference road map to a ‘Fairer, Greener, Future” and ask how much difference a neutral observer would see.  Conversely consider the clear water between what both parties are now saying compared to the Tories.  We know where we all stand.  (Labour members even voted in favour of PR – though it seems unlikely that this will be adopted by Starmer any time soon.)

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Caption Competition: What are Davey and Starmer thinking?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. They say that body language tells all.

At yesterday’s Service of Thanksgiving for The Queen’s reign in St Paul’s, Sir Ed Davey and Sir Keir Starmer were seated next to each other. So, what were the two men thinking?

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Ed Davey on historic North Shropshire win and Keir Starmer pact

Lib Dem leader Ed Davey spoke to BBC reporter Justin Webb earlier this morning. He said he was proud of our party and our campaigners. We have brought hope to the whole nation by proving the Conservatives can be beaten anywhere. Brexit was not an issue in the by-election. Voters were more concerned about ambulances and GPs.

Ed is cool on a pact with Keir Starmer for the next general election but confident that we can make more inroads into the Blue Wall.

Here is the transcript.

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LibLink – Vince Cable: Keir Starmer needs a miracle – he has nothing to lose by being brave

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Over on the Independent, Vince Cable argues that Labour needs to “turn around the oil tanker of negative public opinion about Starmer, and to erode the remorseless Tory lead, which seems to persist no matter how many errors Boris Johnson presides over”:

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The Independent View: A letter to the Liberal Democrats

Dear Liberal Democrats,

As you anticipate your digital conference gathering at the weekend, I thought I would send some heartfelt reflections on the party’s progress and prospects.

As the Director of Compass my main concern is with effective cross party working in pursuit of what we call a good society – one that is much more equal, democratic and sustainable. But the issue of a so-called progressive alliance gets us to the dilemmas and challenges facing the party.

To have a change of government, and the only feasible/desirable alternative is a Labour led administration, requires extensive cross-party cooperation given the injustice of the current voting system.  Indeed, given the electoral mountain is higher than 1997 then it requires more cross-party work than 1997.  Back then Blair and Ashdown got on famously and squeezed the Tories morally, politically, and electorally.

Nothing like that is happening today. Of course, it takes two to tango and Labour as the biggest party should and must play its part.  Its vote on proportional representation at its conference will be key – and not just to be passed but written into the manifesto and acted on. But as a party more committed to democracy and pluralism than Labour – if you don’t show leadership on this what hope is there?

So why isn’t the party doing more?   Of course, it’s tough working across parties in a system designed to be adversarial. But if it was achieved in 1997 it can be again.  There is rumour of a non-aggression pact between the Starmer and Davey offices but there needs to be much more public policy alignment – not least because there was so much overlap in the 2019 manifesto as Compass set out here, and there could be much more next time. We pretty much want the same things.

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The Independent View: Can Ed Davey help a political realignment?

The Lib Dems have been in the doldrums.  But make no mistake, their Party matters to the future of progressive politics in the UK a lot.

First because ‘liberalism’ matters. Against populism and statism, the place of the individual and more broadly a healthy civil society, based around robust human rights, are essential to any progressive politics. And second because Labour cannot win on its own.

Ed Davey has rejected equidistance and working with the Tories. It’s game on. But to play properly together means getting over the past.

When Compass, the organisation I’m Director of, opened out from being just Labour in 2011, the Coalition made Lib-Labery impossible. The Corbyn era put up new barriers. With the Brexit fight lost and Starmer leading Labour there is a chance to build sensible cooperation.

This demands a recognition of common interests and different complementary traditions.  Liberals are not socialists, but both can and must compliment each other in terms of ideas, beliefs and electoral reach. And anyway, Labour, the party of the Iraq War, 90-day detention and antisemitism, needs to be careful about claiming any moral high ground.

Given Scotland, there is little or no hope of Labour winning alone. It either leads and shares some power or returns to the wilderness and leaves the country in the hands of the Tories once again. The Lib Dems are second in 91 seats – 80 of them are Tory facing and none where they present a real challenge to Labour. To get the Tories out means the Lib Dems have to win as many of those seats as possible. The electoral maths demands cooperation, whether its tactical campaigning or something more formal.

In many cases the Lib Dem targets are soft Tory voters who may never vote Labour – unless Labour goes full New Labour once more. That, to say the least, is unadvisable in a world where neoliberalism is crumbling before our eyes. Letting the Lib Dems soak up these voters, actually leaves Labour the space to be more radical.

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Progressive politics needs Starmer to ‘definitely’ be a better Labour leader

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Let’s hope that Ed Miliband’s candid admission is right: that Keir Starmer is ‘definitely’ a better Labour leader than he was.  Miliband’s failed strategic approach, after all, helped put the cause of progressive politics back a decade. And as the Liberal Democrats pick a new leader, it’s essential that those lessons are learned – for both parties.

When ‘Red Ed’ snatched the Labour leadership from his heir apparent brother David in 2010, it was in the aftermath of a crushing election defeat: the lowest share of the vote since 1918 and seat numbers back to 1980s levels.  There was resentment, of course, that the Liberal Democrats did not cobble together a coalition to keep Gordon Brown in Number 10 but any rational assessment would conclude this was never going to happen: the numbers simply did not add up and frankly voters had resoundingly rejected Labour after 13 years in office.

There was talk, in those early days of the coalition, with David Cameron’s Conservatives, of ‘New Politics’. That is a new era of cooperation and consensual discourse.  The sort of politics that would come about in a system where all votes count and which represents the views of all voters. This was, after all, the first government since before the Second World War able to claim it represented more than half of all those who voted.  It was an idea promoted by David Miliband who soon left the Westminster stage.  But for Ed Miliband, it was never on the agenda.

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Non-publication of SAGE minutes could mean that the government are taking decisions contrary to the scientific advice and we won’t know it until it is too late


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Over on the Debated Podcast there is an excellent interview with Judith Bunting, a scientist by training, who was PPC for us in Newbury and West Berkshire in 2015 and 2017, and also MEP for the South-East of England from 2019-2020. Will Barber Taylor engages with Judith on the following topics:

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Why Starmer’s arrival can benefit the Liberal Democrats

From speaking to many Lib Dem activists since the election of Keir Starmer as leader of the Labour Party, one would have assumed this was the end of the Liberal Democrats. Starmer is expected to shift Labour closer to the centre, thus closer to the Lib Dems, rendering us sitting ducks, our voters to automatically assimilate into their ranks. However, I would argue this is not the case.

Firstly, it is wrong to assume that the Labour party under Starmer will drastically swing closer to the centre of the British political spectrum. Starmer himself is named after ardent socialist Keir Hardie and has a long-standing involvement in socialist groups, namely the East Surrey Young Socialists and the youth wing of the labour party, inherently democratic-socialist organisations. Indeed, Starmer has not booted all aspects of Corbynism from his shadow cabinet. Rebecca Long-Bailey, Tony Lloyd and Nick Brown all maintained influential posts, albeit alongside figures who would not have stepped near a Corbyn cabinet, namely David Lammy, Ed Miliband and Jim McMahon.

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A question for the new Labour leader

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Labour’s new leader Keir Starmer has gained a lot of publicity recently for stating that he will tackle Anti Semitism in his party but he has been silent so far on the existence of organised Trotskyist groups within the ranks of the party he now leads.

Trotskyist entryism dates back to the 1930s when Leon Trotsky advised his supporters in France to join the Socialist Party with the aim of winning new adherents. Ever since then democratic socialist parties have been targets for entryism.

In the 1950s British Trotskyists split over whether to infiltrate Labour, with Gerry Healy’s faction going in initially as a secretive group known simply as ‘The Club’ then more openly as the Socialist Labour League. It eventually won control of Labour’s youth section before the party’s National Executive Committee took action.

The forerunner of today’s Socialist Workers Party followed Healy’s supporters into Labour as the International Socialist but didn’t stick around long.

Then came Militant, the most successful so far, who by the 1970s had, like the Socialist Labour League before them, won control of the youth section. It went on to have thousands of ‘supporters’, three of whom were eventually elected as Labour MPs. Militant flourished because the left in the party was strong particularly on its National Executive, where people like Tony Benn resisted any attempts to take action against them. Eventually Labour acted but it was only after years of Militant operating openly and growing.

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Should Left-leaning Liberal Democrats back the policies of Keir Starmer’s Labour Party

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In January Sir Keir Starmer, then a candidate for Labour’s leadership, wrote an article in the Guardian about his motivations and values. There was much in what he revealed there likely to appeal to Liberal Democrats of a centre-left persuasion.

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19-20 January 2019 – the weekend’s press releases

  • GP postcode lottery shows vital need for a national workforce strategy
  • Lib Dems: Car insurance rise shows cost of Brexit
  • Labour failing their duty as Official Opposition on Brexit
  • Fox’s failure to sign trade deals shows Brexiters’ ‘Global Britain’ does not exist
  • Corbyn isolated as over 100 Labour MPs set to back Lib Dem call for a people’s vote

GP postcode lottery shows vital need for a national workforce strategy

Responding to the analysis done by the BBC which shows the huge variation in the availability of GPs in different parts of England, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Judith Jolly said:

Getting access to your GP should never

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Labour lashes out at Lib Dems

Remember how, last week, Jeremy Corbyn’s relaunch was such a runaway success. Not even Tony Blair in the early years could gather such positive headlines.

Ok, so maybe that’s not quite how it happened. At least we’re now clear on their policy on freedom of movement. They love immigration and they hate it, depending on who they are talking to.

Labour has stepped up its attacks on the Lib Dems in the last couple of days, presumably because they have to fight two by-elections on 23rd February where the Leave vote will be split 3 ways and we are the only party offering any sort of opposition to the Tories.

But they couldn’t quite manage it competently. The International Business Times was none too chuffed to find its video being used by Jeremy Corbyn, uncredited, to attack Tim Farron.

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Julian Huppert writes… The future of universal jurisdiction

The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill about to complete its ride through the Commons, contains a range of items under ‘social responsibility’. One of these relates to changes to the way arrests for crimes under Universal Jurisdiction would be implemented (Clause 152). These are crimes such as genocide, torture, piracy and hostage taking, where the UK asserts the right to try people regardless of where the crime may have taken place.

This has been controversial in the past, particularly with the attempted arrest for private prosecution of Tzipi Livni, the former Israeli Foreign Minister, in 2009. She avoided arrest …

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Daily View 2×2: 26 January 2010

Today we say ‘Happy Birthday’ to the Special One – Jose Mourinho – who is 47, and to ice hockey’s record goalscorer Wayne Gretzky, who is two years older.

Nine years ago today, more than 25,000 people died after a massive earthquake measuring up to 7.9 on the Richter scale hit the Indian state of Gujarat and neighbouring areas in Pakistan. In 1998, US President Bill Clinton told a White House press conference “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky”.

2 Big Stories

Mother aquitted in new ‘mercy killing’ trial 

Yesterday Sussex mother and former nurse Kay Gilderdale was acquitted of attempting to …

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