Camden Momentum urges Labour Party members not to back Keir Starmer’s leadership bid
Supporters defend MP against factionalism claims
14 January, 2020 — By Richard Osley
THE Camden branch of Momentum today (Tuesday) issued a call for Labour members not to back Sir Keir Starmer to be the party’s next leader.
In a statement, the group, formed to support the party’s left wing direction and Jeremy Corbyn during his time as leader, criticised both Mr Starmer’s time as a lawyer and an MP.
It said: “Can he win back seats lost in the Midlands and the North? Will he have the courage and principles to stand up to relentless media attacks on the barest hint of socialism? Will he continue the transformation of the Labour party into a socialist, democratic and member-led organisation? We do not think so; we think he will roll back the few gains that have been made during Corbyn’s time as leader. If you are a member or supporter of the Labour party who has been inspired or enthused by Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership; if you want our movement to continue travelling in the direction of socialism, internationalism and solidarity: we urge you NOT to vote for Keir Starmer.”
Rows had broken out online yesterday (Monday) over a claim that Mr Starmer’s pledge to end factionalism in the party had been undermined by the regularly fractious nature of CLP meetings in his own Holborn and St Pancras constituency. The council group in Camden has also seen such sharp differences of opinion that the party last year booked mediators to try and bring the two sides together.
Mr Starmer already has endorsements from both council leader Georgia Gould and the Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq, and other members have written to the New Journal in the last two weeks urging people to support his campaign. Lord Andrew Adonis, the Baron of Camden Town, has also announced that he is backing the former director of public prosecutions, while Unison, the union based in Euston, has also announced its support.
He is one of the front-runners after winning the largest support among MPs, but now must try and translate that popularity with the wider, voting membership. He faces competition to succeed Mr Corbyn from Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy, Jess Phillips and Emily Thornberry.
One of the hurdles for Mr Starmer is the ambition among some of the membership for the party to elect its first female leader, and one from further afield than north London,
Sir Keir Starmer on election night
But Camden Momentum said in its statement its concerns were based on his record, criticising Mr Starmer’s support for a second referendum on Brexit with an option to remain in Europe. It also questioned Mr Starmer’s time at the CPS, referencing among other cases the lack of prosecution against any police officer involved in the Stockwell tube station of Jean Charles de Menezes.
The statement from Momentum said: “It has been clear to us for years that Starmer has been positioning himself to become leader of the Labour party. Now that he has launched his campaign, it’s equally clear he’s making an opportunistic tilt to the left – because he correctly perceives that the majority of the membership wants to continue what Jeremy Corbyn started. Starmer has hired some of Corbyn’s former advisers; at his campaign launch, he said that he doesn’t want to ‘trash’ Corbyn’s legacy as we ‘move forward’. But based on our experience, we do not trust him to follow through on these gestures and warm words.”
It added: “Leaving aside his public role in steering Labour towards the electorally disastrous People’s Vote campaign, he has not sought to engage with, encourage or welcome the left at the local level. In Holborn abd St Pancras, he has built a team around his that has worked tirelessly to marginalise the left within the CLP, yet he now calls for an end to ‘factionalism’. The fact that the CLP executive mooted to suspend constituency-level meetings during the leadership campaign suggests Starmer will hardly be a leader to empower or listen to the membership.”
This claim about meetings is firmly disputed by officers of the local party.
Georgia Kaufmann, secretary of the Holborn and St Pancras CLP, said this afternoon (Tuesday) described it as an “untruth”, adding: “The Executive never mooted the suspension of constituency meetings, although we were worried that the NEC/Labour party guidance might rule them suspended. Happily they were not.”
As a debate raged online about how meetings are conducted in Holborn and St Pancras, several of Mr Starmer’s supporters took to social media to intervene. Baroness Glenys Thornton said: “I have attended many meetings of Holborn and St Pancras for the last three years. It would be amazing if from time to time we didn’t have political disagreement and debate. At no point during all that time has Keir Starmer been anything other than respectful and comradely.”
Gospel Oak councillor Jenny Mulholland added: “Keir has frequently called for unity in meetings and is a decent sort of bloke who would always have a reasonable conversation with anyone willing to be reasonable with him, regardless of political leaning.”
Mr Starmer has said during his campaign interviews so far that he will not allow himself to be defined as a Corbynista or a Blairite, the familiar catch-all labels used to mark the contrasting ambitions within the party. He has, however, repeatedly said he would not roll back the “radicalism” the party had seen during Mr Corbyn’s time in charge.
In a sign of how Momentum is viewed by the opposite side of Labour’s ‘broad church’, the council’s cabinet member for finance, Labour councillor Richard Olszewski, tweeted a photo of Iranian politicians chanting ‘death to America’ and captioned it: “Looks like a meeting of Tehran Momentum.”