Deferential leader wants to serve power, not to challenge it

In his latest exclusive column for this website, ANDREW FISHER asks whether only two Union flags in a video on Coronation day is sufficiently obsequious for the Labour leader

Knight of the realm: Labour leader Keir Starmer

A Labour leader called Keir once said that, “The toady who crawls through the mire of self-abasement to enable him to bask in the smile of royalty is the victim of a diseased organism.”

Of course, that was party founder Keir Hardie, rather than the current Leader of His Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition (to give it its full and formal title).

Republicanism has always had a voice within the Labour Party. In December 1936, the Independent Labour Party MP James Maxton proposed a “republican amendment” to the Abdication Bill. He argued that “the monarchical institution has now outlived its usefulness”. The amendment was defeated by 403 votes to 5.

One of the five who voted for Maxton’s motion was the Labour MP for Glasgow Springburn, George Hardie, the younger brother of Keir.

Labour left stalwart and cabinet minister Tony Benn was a famous republican, as was former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

But by no means is the desire to abolish the monarchy limited to just one wing of the Labour Party. The Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee, who joined the SDP in the 1980s, and Paul Richards, a stalwart of Progressive Britain (the successor to the Blairite Progress faction) are also campaigning republicans, involved in the “Labour 4 a Republic” grouping.

Polling suggests a majority of Labour voters thought the taxpayer should not have funded last Saturday’s lavish coronation of King Charles III – and nor did they care very much about the coronation itself.

But a diktat from Labour Party HQ has now barred local parties from affiliating to Republic – the national campaign to abolish the monarchy. The authoritarian streak of the Labour leadership is in excess of any of his predecessors.

Proud tradition: it is not only leading Labour figures who argue for a republic

As former shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP observed, “A form of institutional paranoia has emerged in the higher echelons of the party’s bureaucracy which has led to a level of control-freakery in relation to the activities of local CLPs which borders on farce.”

This is increasingly the character of what Keir Starmer describes as “my Labour Party”.

He is deferential to power, and wants the party to toe the line. You don’t bend down on your knee and become Knight Commander of British Empire unless you hold the institution of the British monarchy in high regard and hold the baubles from the British state in high esteem.

Keir Starmer is more likely to stand up for the Establishment than stand against it. His record and actions speak for themselves.

Starmer’s obsequiousness reached new highs with his video for the coronation.

Flanked by his now customary two union flags (was one just insufficiently patriotic?), Starmer said, “On behalf of everyone at the Labour Party, I’d like to wish you all a very happy Coronation Day and to welcome our new King, Charles III to the throne”, before waxing lyrical about how Charles had “throughout his life used his position to drive through progress”, without specifying a single bit of progress the new King could claim as his own.

Obsequious: Starmer’s Coronation day video, complete with two union flags

But it is not only the Royals that Starmer’s solidarity extends to. When recently Cressida Dick was under fire – including from Labour peer Doreen Lawrence, former deputy leader Harriet Harman MP and others – Starmer defended the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.

“Cressida Dick is fit to continue. I’ve worked with Cressida over many years in relation to some very serious operations when I was Director of Public Prosecutions, and I was pleased that her contract was extended and I support her,” Starmer told an interviewer.

At the time, Dick was denying the Met was institutionally racist, and had been criticised in the wake of the killing of Sarah Everard by off-duty officer Wayne Couzens, and in the policing of the vigil for her.

And this was a few months after Dick had been found to personally have obstructed the inquiry into the unsolved murder of Daniel Morgan – one of the worst police cover-ups in recent history.

As he admits, Starmer and Dick go back a long way.

It was Starmer as DPP who chose not to bring any charges against the botched operation run by Cressida Dick as Gold Commander in 2005 which led to the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes by police at Stockwell Tube Station.

Numbers count: recent polling suggests that few Labour Party members cared for the Coronation, despite Sir Keir’s stirringly loyal position

Even after a 2008 inquest jury rejected the police claim of “lawful killing”, and delivered an “open verdict” (the judge had dubiously barred the jury from returning an “unlawful killing” verdict), Starmer failed to bring charges against Dick or any Met Police officers.

Starmer’s fealty to the police was also evident after the killing of newspaper vendor Ian Tomlinson at the hands of a Met Police officer in 2009, when the then DPP refused to charge the officer responsible.

When I was taking part in an election night special on BBC radio last week, broadcaster Nick Robinson commented that when he interviewed Starmer recently, he learned more about what the Labour leader was against (abolishing tuition fees or raising income tax on the richest) than what he was for.

So when Starmer says Labour will not repeal Suella Braverman’s controversial Public Order Act – that he himself voted against only a few months ago – it is inconsistent in terms of policy, but entirely consistent with Starmer’s character.

The late Robin Cook wrote of Tony Blair, “He is programmed to respect power, not to rebel against it.”

That, too, appears to be the character of the current Labour leader.

Andrew Fisher’s recent columns:

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5 Responses to Deferential leader wants to serve power, not to challenge it

  1. ixmals says:

    If you believe flying a British flag is being obsequious to the Royals. you are one of the reasons Lsbour lost the Red Wall. The flag belongs to all Britons. not just thecruling classes. The myth that lefties are not patriotic is one of the most powerful in the Tory storybook. Don’t add to that.

    • Ian Terry says:

      “If you believe flying a British flag is being obsequious to the Royals. you are one of the reasons Lsbour [sic] lost the Red Wall.”

      Where on earth does it say that?? It says being obsequious to the Royals is being obsequious to the Royals. And patriotism doesn’t require sucking up to the parasitic royals anyway.

  2. derekthrower says:

    It must seem awful Andrew seeing the Labour Party look likely to gain power after serving a previous version which never looked like having a chance of it. Lets face it this is what politics is all about. Providing an illusory perception that makes the electorate probably not likely to like them, but be less hostile towards them at least. It seemed your incumbency of the Labour Party thought politics didn’t matter and just your innate moral rightness would see you through to power. Well you failed miserably.
    Anyway your diagnosis of what is wrong with Starmer and his version of the Labour Party is a misdiagnosis anyway. The fundamental problem is the Westminster system and your complete lack of any policy reforms to that system proposed by you during the Corbyn era demonstrated that if you ever gained power you would have been clueless what to do with anyway.

    • Except all the psephologists, from Sir John Curtice down, and all the political realists agree that Starmer’s and Steve Weed’s Labour-lite non-opposition will *not* win enough seats at the GE to form a government.
      Which is extraordinary if you consider Johnson and Truss and Brexit and corruption and Hand-cock and PPE and corruption and cost of living and corruption…
      This isn’t about Corbyn.
      This is about Starmer and his non-opposition opposition, out-Torying the Tories, seeing voters last week in their droves seeking a third option

  3. Peter Underwood says:

    This is one of the reasons why we are seeing a steady stream of people leaving the Labour Party and joining the Green Party

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