Starmer’s flip flop on Corbyn suggests he has integrity issues5 min read
Andrew Gwynne calls for a complete ban of the practice
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A little-appreciated fact about Sir Keir Starmer’s shadow ministerial team is that 50 of them were also in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow ministerial team hoping beyond hope to serve in his government had Labour been victorious at the December 2019 election. The crushing disappointment etched on their faces when it emerged they had failed the moment the exit poll was announced shows the extent of their dashed hopes.
Yet, little more than three years later Starmer supported by his shadow ministerial team will tomorrow confirm that Jeremy Corbyn is beyond the pale as he will be banned from standing as a Labour candidate.
This includes the 12 members of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet in Starmer’s team and the 15 members of Starmer’s current shadow cabinet who were in Corbyn’s team.
No wonder people are questioning where integrity has gone in politics.
It’s worth recounting the interview Andrew Marr had with Starmer on October 20, 2019 ahead of that election.
Marr: “Louise Ellman says that he [Corbyn] is a danger not just to the Labour Party but to the entire British Jewish community.”
Starmer: “I don’t accept that. I don’t accept that.”
The problems with antisemitism essentially being used to bar Corbyn were well-rehearsed and well-known at that point.
Honourable Labour MPs refused to serve as shadow ministers.
Others, like former Dudley North MP Ian Austin, left the party and stood down.
But not Starmer or current shadow cabinet members Emily Thornberry, Angela Rayner, John Healey, Louise Haigh, Annelise Dodds, Jonathan Reynolds, Nick Thomas-Symonds, Luke Pollard and Steve Reed.
They were prepared to serve as ministers under a leadership they later acknowledged was antisemitic.
It was interesting that Starmer, when he was campaigning to be Labour leader in 2020, pledged as well to adopt Corbyn’s policies as well as praising the outgoing leader, even describing him as “a friend”.
All that seems to have changed.
So during the leadership election Starmer said: “We have to make the case for freedom of movement.”
After becoming leader, he appeared to change his tune: “We don’t want open borders, freedom of movement is gone and it is not coming back.”
During the leadership contest he told Andrew Neil that the 2019 manifesto commitment to nationalise water, Royal Mail and the big energy companies would be in his next manifesto.
But after winning power, he told Marr that he would not nationalise the big six energy companies.
During the leadership campaign at a hustings in Liverpool he said: “I certainly won’t be giving any interviews to the Sun [newspaper].”
After becoming leader one activist phoned into Call Keir on LBC to ask him why he had just written an article for the Sun.
Asked if he would write for them again, he said: “I would do, yes.”
Serving in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet he said that the decision to strip Isis bride Shamima Begum of her citizenship was “the wrong decision and a rushed decision.”
After becoming leader when a court refused to over turn the result, it was: “I think the court decision is the right decision.”
Or there was the time when he joined a picket line outside McDonalds but as leader said Labour MPs should not be on picket lines.
Or the time when he opposed police taking legal action against Extinction Rebellion activists: “Climate change is the issue of our time.”
But as leader: “I think they [Extinction Rebellion] are wrong. I think their action is wrong.”
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It is not just Starmer, though.
The issue of Labour double speak arose recently when Conservative strategists were hawking around a video of shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne where he was proposing banning all forms of private medicine.
It was embarrassing because Sir Keir Starmer had just proposed a massive expansion in the use of private health.
Labour’s response was to note that the video was seven years old and more than enough time for people to change their minds.
Gwynne, who had been a key ally of Corbyn’s and is now in Starmer’s team (spot the pattern), according to a Labour source, had changed his mind just in the same way that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is no longer a Remainer and now supports Brexit.
That wasn’t the strongest argument given that most Tories don’t think Hunt ever really changed his mind on the EU question, but it also flags up an issue with Labour.
The issue is what do Sir Keir and his Labour government in waiting really believe?
If Starmer and his shadow ministers can brazenly say one thing to keep hold of jobs or try to win an election or become leader of the party and then say the opposite to try to win another election, how do we know what they really think?
Can Starmer’s new assurances on respecting Brexit – in a party where the pro-EU wing is ensuring Rejoiners get winnable seats – be really trusted?
Can we believe him when he says he will stop illegal immigration and the now allow millions into the country?
Can we believe him claiming to be pro-business now?
Is it that he just says what he believes will get him elected?
These are all issues which will need to be resolved before the election.
But with Rishi Sunak and the Tories closing in on Labour’s previously massive lead it is clear that the problems of integrity are not only Conservative problems.
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