Keir Starmer, as the Labour leader, pledged to create a better future based on several progressive policies, including nationalization, higher taxes, and cancelling of tuition fees. These policies were crucial to persuading Labour Party members to elect him as their party leader. However, Keir Starmer has abandoned the policy promises that helped him win the leadership position. If u-turn is a political character, Starmer defines it in both letter and spirit.
Laissez-faire attitude of the Labour leader baffles many and amuses Tories. Under Keir Starmer’s leadership, the Labour Party has completely abandoned its commitment to the progressive transformation of politics, society, and the economy in Britain. Starmer argues that he is not ideological about progressive policies, such as public ownership over national resources, which matter to people and their well-being. Instead, he focuses on “growth, growth, growth.” However, he does not define the direction of his growth trajectory, leaving many questions about who benefits from his policies and which path he will take to achieve growth.
Starmer’s approach sounds like that of a committed conservative leader who is following in the footsteps of reactionary Sunakianism or Trussonomics, which only work for a few. This is neither an ideological free zone nor political junk; these are clear political projects to uphold the political and economic hegemony of the ruling elites over the working masses. Keir Starmer promised to uphold social and economic justice by ending the cruelty of Tory politics in Britain. However, his current political positions defy any logic of progressive politics to ensure social and economic justice. His political positions on the free movement of people and migration sound like those of an entrenched reactionary Tory. He has abandoned the progressive policy promises on the nationalization of rail, water, and energy in the UK. This is why so many Tories love Starmer like a true Conservative.
The National Health Service is crumbling under pressure, with doctors, nurses, and other health workers overworked and underpaid. Schools, colleges, universities, and other educational institutions are also in a state of ruin, with teachers, researchers, and educational workers struggling to make ends meet on low salaries. Public services are becoming directionless, while banking and financial institutions face crises on a daily basis. Train travel and utility bills are a daytime robbery of working people, and the falling living standards are the legacy of decades-long practices of neoliberal economics and conservative politics. The question remains: does any of this matter to the Labour Party under Starmer?
As the cost-of-living and climate crises loom large, nationalisation is the only available policy framework that can help countries recover from economic crises and work for the working masses. Public ownership and control help stabilise the economy and protect the strategic industries, infrastructures, and assets crucial for the economic security of the country and its people. Nationalisation injects stability, innovation, and an entrepreneurial spirit into the economy, whereas privatisation is a legal plunder of national resources that breeds inequality, exploitation, and marginalisation of the labouring masses.
In abandoning nationalisation as a policy framework, Keir Starmer has not only abandoned working people but also taken the Labour Party to an ideological zone concomitant with the Conservative Party. Starmer’s politics is not pragmatic but rather plays to the conservative gallery. His political pledges are like British weather, changing four times in a day and bringing four bankrupt seasons in politics. His dishonesty defines his politics of conservative populism. The list of his policy reversals is long, reflecting his regressive leadership practices. The rightward shift of the Labour Party under Starmer’s leadership strengthens the Conservatives and destroys progressive potentials. Starmer’s disdain for class politics reveals his attraction to amoral ways of gaining state power without the moral anchorage of the masses.
Keir Starmer’s pursuit of power reflects a neoliberal conservative praxis that does not offer an alternative but a political and economic curse to everyday life in Britain. He lacks the ideological and political credibility to provide an alternative for the British people. The Labour Party needs a new leader and a new direction that aligns with the requirements of the people and the planet. In the conservative political and economic landscape of Britain, radical mass movements are the only options for working people to regain control over democratic politics and the economy for a progressive transformation of society.
Bhabani Shankar Nayak, University of Glasgow, UK