Rachel Sylvester & Andrew Sullivan on Keir Starmer. American Writer comments

Headline: Keir Starmer should finish the purge of Corbynism

Sub-headline: Voters are warming to Labour’s leader but need to see he has the strength and courage to take on the party’s left-wing


Rachel Sylvester’s Time’s column, of June 15, 2020, reiterates all the shopworn accusations, that have become the Party Line of the Anti-Corbyn coterie. The opening paragraph is framed by L. Frank Baum’s ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and its two beloved characters The Tin Man and The Scarecrow:

In the Wizard of Oz theory of politics, Labour has traditionally been the Scarecrow. The voters think its heart is in the right place but they want it to find a brain. The Conservative Party is like the Tin Man — it is seen as competent but the public wishes it had a bit more compassion. With laser-like focus, Jeremy Corbyn managed to turn Labour into both scarecrow and tin man, lacking heart as well as head. He negated his party’s reputation for tolerance and kindness by presiding over the rise of antisemitism and a culture of bullying while at the same time failing to reverse the impression that Labour could not be trusted to the run the country.

As many years as I have read about politics, and political theory, I have yet to encounter such a theory! Should that surprise me? Sylvester’s talent for imagining political theory is confined to the nursery, or perhaps to the 1939 Hollywood Movie Classic?   

 The Party Line on Corbyn is/was his tolerance for, and even coddling, of Anti-Semites, and Anti-Semitism, within the Labour Party. Can only rightly be called a personal attack on Corbyn’s vocal  and unapologetic  public support of Palestinian Rights. The propagandists Jonathan Freedland, and Margaret Hodge, with the collaboration of the Blairite faction, constructed this self-serving mythology. With Blairite Keir Starmer as the new leader of the Party, the purge of Corbyn loyalists, and even just fellow travelers, is now in full swing. 

Ignore the glancing blows against the dull-witted Boris, he is simply a minor player, in this  dull black and white, 21 inch screen half-hour telenovella. The next walk-on: 

Chris Curtis, research director at the polling company YouGov, says there has been a transformation in Labour’s standing in the two months since the new leader took over. “What’s happened a lot quicker than many of us expected is that Keir Starmer has turned those brand metrics around. The Labour Party is starting to be seen once again as the party that cares about ordinary people and has more tolerance.

“That’s impressive but it still doesn’t mean it can go on to win an election unless you also build an association with competence and having a clear sense of purpose.”

‘Turned those brand metrics around’ the reader is now in the territory of Public Relations supplied by Chris Curtis, via that old classic by Edward Bernays, expressed in the more current technocratic jargon. Eventually Sylvester returns the the primacy of ‘Brand’ , but the reader wades through her verbose speculations/prognostication, or call it self-congratulatory chatter, to reach this penultimate paragraph: 

Brand matters in politics at least as much as it does in business. That is why both Tony Blair and David Cameron were so determined to detoxify their parties. Their aim was to change perceptions and reach out to new audiences rather than simply reinforce preconceptions. For Mr Blair that meant adding an element of the Tin Man to Labour’s Scarecrow, and for Mr Cameron that required giving the Tory party a heart as well as a head. Their electoral fortunes depended largely on how far they succeeded. Sir Keir is currently trying to broaden Labour’s appeal: his refusal to back the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol reflects the views of voters more than his party’s left wing. By contrast, Mr Johnson is trying to shore up his base by refusing to extend the Brexit transition period and fuelling the “culture war”.

Market primacy is the fools gold of the Present Age, and ‘Brand’ is one of its cornerstones. 


Note that even Andrew Sullivan commented on Starmer’s strict and swift ‘discipline’ of Long-Bailey.  ‘Anti-Semites’ will be purged from the Labour Party, that is Starmer’s commitment. Sullivan thinks Starmer is a ‘fully fledged lefty’ not a ‘Tony Blair’: Sullivan’s career is defined by his, not just bad judgement, but that cost human lives in obscene number. He is a shameless self-promoter ,without scruple. 

The firing was swift and decisive and crisply defended: “The sharing of that article was wrong … because the article contained anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and I have therefore stood Rebecca Long-Bailey down from the shadow cabinet. I’ve made it my first priority to tackle anti-Semitism and rebuilding trust with the Jewish community is a number one priority for me.”

The left’s suspicion that Starmer would be purging its ranks from senior leadership is almost certainly overblown. Starmer is not Tony Blair; he’s a fully fledged lefty and has been ever since his high-school days. He doesn’t want to inflame party tensions. But he rightly understands that this is a key issue in regaining voters’ trust of Labour, and it will almost certainly help him build on the momentum against the Johnson government that his leadership has jump-started. As he becomes more widely known, Starmer is winning fans. His approval rating has gone from 39 to 48 percent in a month, as Boris Johnson’s ratings have plummeted and as COVID-19 continues to wrack Britain. Forty percent of Brits now see Starmer as a credible prime minister–in–waiting; and although his party continues to lag the Tories, it’s beginning to make gains. This stand against tolerating anti-Semitism will, I think, help it gain some more.


American Writer








About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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