Keir Starmer received another big boost to his leadership bid when Laura Parker wrote a piece for LabourList yesterday about why she was endorsing him. Why is this significant? Parker was national coordinator of Momentum until just two months ago, and previously worked as Jeremy Corbyn’s private secretary. As you will know, Momentum is backing Rebecca Long-Bailey for the leadership and its chair, Jon Lansman, is director of her campaign.
This news is also remarkable when you think that Parker was working in the Labour leader’s office at the time that the mass shadow cabinet resignation and subsequent leadership challenge took place in 2016. These factors make Parker’s support the clearest realisation so far of Starmer’s broad appeal within the party – and it offers another example of the recent fragmentation of the Labour left. Of course, it would be remiss not to note that Brexit – with Parker and Starmer being on the same side – continues to play a huge role in this shake-up of factional allegiances.
Parker’s piece is well worth a read: unlike other endorsement pieces, it puts across genuinely felt and well-considered arguments. The key one is around party unity, which happens to be Starmer’s core message in this contest. The theory is that while having politics of at least the soft left constitutes a basic requirement, the focus of members now is on the adoption of a pluralist approach to internal Labour politics that will improve party culture. Parker takes that conclusion further by making the case that under first-past-the-post coalitions are not supposed to be produced but they are instead anticipated – and that party unity is needed to build Labour’s membership to “a force of one million plus”. And then win.
Corbynsceptics have particularly picked up on the following excerpt of Parker’s piece: “I trust that Keir means what he has written in his ten pledges to us. It would be self-defeating for him to say one thing then act otherwise.” For some on the Momentum-repulsed wing of the party, those pledges went a bit too far in their appeal to the Labour left. All eyes will be on how well Starmer, if elected, can negotiate those tensions within the broad coalition of support that he would have built.
Will Laura Parker be disappointed, or will Labour First be disappointed? If he can win a general election, there is a lot of compromise that members on all sides will be willing to suck up – but before that, there are four years of careful party management to get through. Whether his pick for Shadow Chancellor is left rival Long-Bailey, Corbynsceptic favourite Rachel Reeves, or a unity figure such as Anneliese Dodds will be the first test if a Starmer win is announced on April 4th.
- Thursday: Keir Starmer ‘BAME engagement’ event in Manchester (4pm); LGBT+ Labour hustings in Manchester (6.30pm)
- Saturday: Peterborough and Bedford party leadership hustings; Rebecca Long-Bailey rally in Birmingham (3pm)
- Sunday: Durham leadership hustings; Lisa Nandy event in Newcastle (4pm)