Starmer's given Corbyn the boot, but he may still be doomed to fail - analysis by Tom Harwood

Starmer's given Corbyn the boot, but he may still be doomed to fail - analysis by Tom Harwood

Jeremy Corbyn is barred from standing as a Labour MP

GB News
Tom Harwood

By Tom Harwood

Published: 28/03/2023

- 16:18

Updated: 28/03/2023

- 16:24

Is this Keir Starmer's big "Clause IV moment," or just another twist in the Labour Party rollercoaster?

Today Keir Starmer attempted to present the clearest break yet from the Labour Party of 2019. The clearest break yet from a man he once called his friend, Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn won not one but two Labour leadership battles with the overwhelming backing of the Labour Party membership. He also led his party into two general elections, and despite being defeated both times maintains a strong following within the party he led for half a decade.

And yet this afternoon Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) decided to ban Corbyn from standing as a candidate in the next general election, backing a motion proposed by Sir Keir Starmer with 22 votes to 12.

Some around Sir Keir the hoping this will be the new labour leader’s "Clause IV moment," likening it to Tony Blair's dramatic reinvention of the party back in 1994, the revision of Clause IV of the Labour Party's constitution, ending the party’s to mass nationalisation through “common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange”.

Keir Starmer and Jeremy Corbyn in the House of CommonsSir Keir Starmer has blocked Jeremy Corbyn from standing as an MPPA

Blair’s move symbolised a break from the party's socialist past and marked the beginning of the "New Labour" era, which embraced a more centrist and market-oriented policy platform.

Can Starmer repeat his success? Not necessarily.

The first problem for Sir Keir is his previously stated effusive support for Jeremy Corbyn.

He stood to be Labour leader promising to defend his predecessor’s legacy; promising mass nationalisation, to defend free movement of people, and give Labour members more power.

He also stood in two general elections arguing for Jeremy Corbyn to be made Prime Minister. So washing his hands of the Corbyn era isn’t as easy as booting the man out.

And the move to ban Corbyn will certainly ruffle some feathers among party members who still support him. While it could be seen as a daring move to forge a new path for Labour, it could also be perceived as an undemocratic and hypocritical power play, which might just fan the flames of division within the party.

The powerful left wing campaign group Momentum has already condemned the move as “venal and duplicitous”, calling today “a dark day for democracy.” And Corbyn’s own Constituency Labour Party have already issued a statement saying “we reject the NEC’s undue influence in Islington North”, drawing out battle lines for whatever comes next.

While rumours swirl of a potential independent candidacy from Corbyn in Islington North if he is unable to stand for Labour, it is important to remember that such a move would not be without precedent.

Jeremy Corbyn leaving a meeting

Jeremy Corbyn's departure will anger many of his supporters


In 2005, Labour lost ultra-safe seat Blaenau Gwent to Peter Law – who represented Labour in the Welsh Assembly and stood against the party in the general election as an ‘independent socialist’ when they refused to select him for the seat.

In 2001, Labour lost the marginal seat Wyre Forest to independent left wing campaigner Richard Taylor. And in Feb 1974, Labour lost the safe seat of Blyth to their own former MP Eddie Milne after he was deselected by the party. Jeremy Corbyn may well be taking notes.

So, is this Keir Starmer's big "Clause IV moment," or just another twist in the Labour Party rollercoaster? It all depends on whether this move leads to a successful reinvention of the party or if it just adds more fuel to the fire of internal conflict.

One thing is, however, clear. That Sir Keir Starmer is desperate to present his party as one that has changed.

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