Wednesday, 16 Jun 2021

John McDonnell and Corbynites undermine Starmer with new socialist policy bill

Keir Starmer outlines planned Labour Party 'changes'

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The Labour Party is embroiled in an identity crisis that has taken root in the very policies it promises to govern the country with. Significant confidence was lost in leader Sir Keir following Labour’s drubbing at England’s local elections earlier this month. The party’s left said losses councils up and down the country, as well as a defeat in the Hartlepool by-election, proved that voters wanted a return to the radical manifesto pushed by former leader Jeremy Corbyn.

John McDonnell, the former Shadow Chancellor, has been one of the most vocal proponents of this, along with a small group of members from the Socialist Campaign Group, and Labour figures elsewhere.

He, alongside Richard Burgon, Ian Mearns, Bell Ribeiro-Addy and Pauline Bryan – all Corbynites – recently published a radical alternative Queen’s Speech, setting out the policies they would implement if a Labour government came into being.

Some of the policies were in stark contrast to Sir Keir’s rhetoric in recent months, however.

The alternative speech could yet prove to be another thorn in the Labour leader’s side as he grapples with taming the factional wings of his party.

The most salient difference pushed by the Corybnite group and Sir Keir’s own agenda is found in their “Finance Bill”.

Here, Mr McDonnell and his allies promised to deliver a “global minimum rate of corporation tax,” and “ensure that those companies that profited during the pandemic pay a windfall tax on any excess profits.”

Corporation tax became a point of conflict in the Labour Party earlier this year ahead of the Government’s March Budget.

The likes of Mr McDonnell got behind Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s plans to hike corporation tax in order to make up for losses from the coronavirus pandemic.

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Yet, from the outset, Sir Keir was vehemently opposed to the idea, however.

It further plunged his image in the eyes of the Labour left, with many questioning the party’s new ethos.

He and his former Shadow Chancellor, Anneliese Dodds, argued that any increase in corporation tax would stifle economic growth, punishing many businesses that have been hit hardest during the course of the coronavirus pandemic.

Even before Mr McDonnell’s alternative speech, was told that he and his allies were beginning to feel uncomfortable with Sir Keir’s direction.

Professor Steven Fielding said: “Some people have a sense of unease about Starmer and the direction he’s taking the party, they view him as a sort of Trojan Horse.

“That’s how they see him, and for some of them, it fits into their nightmare scenario, that Keir Starmer is Tony Blair reborn.”

At the time, Mr McDonnell and Mr Burgon suggested that Sir Keir pressure the government to introduce a windfall tax if he was opposed to punishing small business, as they later set out in their alternative speech.

Yet, Sir Keir stayed by his and Ms Dodds’s reasoning.


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He has since sacked Ms Dodds and moved her into the role of Labour Party Chair.

Interestingly, in his “Ten Pledges” that saw him elected Labour leader Sir Keir pledged to “economic justice” as his first policy.

This included: “Increase income tax for the top 5 percent of earners, reverse the Tories’ cuts in corporation tax and clamp down on tax avoidance, particularly of large corporations. No stepping back from our core principles.”

Just over one year into the job and Sir Keir has disregarded at least two of his Ten Pledges.

He promised to keep much of the radical manifesto Mr Corbyn had drawn up in 2017 and 2019.

This was, Richard Wyn Jones, a political scientist, told, much to the delight of the soft left who liked “some of the things they associated with Corbyn but to get rid of the chaos and the stuff they disapproved of”.

Yet, Sir Keir this week said Labour will have a completely new blueprint for power not based on Mr Corbyn and Tony Blair’s manifestos.

He also hurt his party’s Remainers earlier this year after crossing out another of his Ten Pledges: the free movement of EU nationals.

After promising to push the Government to retain the policy, later saying he would reintroduce it in a Labour Government, Sir Keir finally abandoned the commitment in January.

Paul Embery, a trade union leader and Labour member, told that Sir Keir’s “hands were tied” on this aspect, however.

He said: “He made that pledge when he was standing for Labour leader, it was before we knew what Brexit we were gonna have, before any deal was signed, and now it has been signed, free movement is at an end, his hands are tied and therefore it’s pointless trying to bang that drum.”

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