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Starmer’s Labour purges left-wing members ahead of election

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Tory Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, left, and Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, right, laugh as they walk to the House of Lords in November, 2023. The Labour Party is dropping left-wing candidates ahead of the July election, anticipating an easy win, the writer says. – Picture: X

By Ana Vračar

The Labour Party has taken this year’s election campaign seriously, but not by emphasising progressive policies. Instead, the leadership has focused on purging left-wing candidates from its ranks.

After ousting former party leader Jeremy Corbyn and preventing him from running in his long-held constituency on a Labour ticket, Keir Starmer and his team have begun to target other members.

‘The political system is sadly no longer offering the hope for so many people that it should,’ Jeremy Corbyn said at his official launch in north London on Wednesday. ‘I will be an independent voice for equality, democracy and peace,’ says the former Labour leader who has vowed to campaign against inequality, child benefit limits, restrictions on disability benefits and privatisation of public services such as the post and water. He also promised to fight for more council housing, more green jobs, safe routes for refugees and to defend the local Whittington hospital and wider NHS. – Picture: WhatsApp / Socialist Worker

One notable case is that of Faiza Shaheen, who nearly unseated the Tory representative in her constituency in 2019. Since then, Shaheen has continued to engage with the community, canvassing with her baby, determined to achieve a victory this time around.

She had publicly announced her readiness to begin the official campaign, only to be shocked by the party’s decision to replace her with a candidate with no community ties. This decision was apparently based on Shaheen’s social media behaviour or, more specifically, her interaction with posts on Palestine, including a comedy sketch by Jon Stewart.

Shaheen is not the only Muslim candidate to be threatened by Labour’s selection process. Many believe this is because the party wishes to distance itself from their opinions on the ongoing genocide in the Gaza Strip.

It is anticipated that Apsana Begum, an MP in the last parliamentary cycle, might be dropped after Zionist media published calls for her deselection. Begum had experienced Islamophobia in her political career and had warned about the toll a lengthy court process had taken on her health, with Labour providing her with no support at the time.

She has also expressed her solidarity with Palestine on a number of occasions.

While dropping candidates like Shaheen, Starmer had no problem announcing candidates who openly support Israel’s attacks on Palestine. The selected candidate for North Durham, Luke Akehurst – who describes himself as part of Labour’s moderate wing – is a proud advocate in the “We Believe in Israel” group.

He has called the United Nations antisemitic and claimed there was nothing genocidal about Israel’s current assault on Gaza. Before his candidacy was announced, Akehurst deleted over 1,500 social media posts, but traces of his racist treatment of Labour peers remain.

Labour has been losing significant support from the Muslim community due to the party’s stance on the war in Gaza. Instead of taking the criticism seriously, the party leadership merely announced they would have a conversation with the voters. Judging by their actions since, that conversation has not taken place.

Starmer has also warmly welcomed former Tory members who switched camps ahead of the election. This treatment was not extended to Labour members with a track record of fighting for social justice. Diane Abbott, the country’s first Black woman MP and a recognised voice for peace, justice and inclusion, is still awaiting confirmation on whether she will be allowed to run as a party candidate.

Diane Abbott during a past Labour campaign. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Abbott was subjected to a lengthy disciplinary process after a letter she wrote was labelled as antisemitic. Despite the investigation’s conclusion in December 2023, Abbott remained suspended from the party until recently. While Starmer stated that Labour had not banned Abbott from running, members of his shadow government made ambiguous comments about how she would fit into the future vision of the Labour Party.

Since beginning the purge of members who supported Jeremy Corbyn, Starmer’s Labour has distanced itself from policies that promised a more just future for Britain, such as the nationalisation of key industries and the pursuit of peace. Instead, the party is pledging to crack down on antisocial behaviour.

Considering the comfortable margin Labour currently holds over the Tories, they might win despite these actions. However, for the people of the UK, this could be a Pyrrhic victory, as there is little difference between the current Labour and Tory leaderships.

This article was first published at Peoples Dispatch