Keir Starmer has said that he would take action against Labour MPs who challenge the party’s “unshakeable support for NATO” and those drawing a “false equivalence” between the actions of the military alliance and Russia invading Ukraine.
In a Times Radio interview this morning, the Labour leader told listeners that he has been “very clear about the expectations of our MPs” on issues including antisemitism and anti-NATO sentiment and said he will be “firm on those issues”.
The Times reported this morning that Starmer’s allies are urging him to force “hard-left” MPs out of the party in a bid to further distance himself from his predecessor, from whom Starmer withdrew the Labour whip in 2020.
Following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia earlier this year, 11 Labour MPs pulled their signatures from a Stop the War statement that criticised NATO after being told to do so by the chief whip. The declaration urged a diplomatic resolution to the conflict and argued NATO should “call a halt to its eastward expansion”.
Labour MPs Diane Abbott, John McDonnell, Richard Burgon, Ian Lavery, Beth Winter, Zarah Sultana, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Apsana Begum, Mick Whitley, Tahir Ali and Ian Mearns had all signed the Stop the War statement.
Pushed today on whether he would act against his own MPs, Starmer said: “Yes, these are principles that are absolutely the root of the Labour Party, the centre of the Labour Party, and I’m determined that the Labour Party will face the electorate and not the sort of internal machinations and arguments that we have had too much of in the past.”
Asked whether Labour MPs should “take this as a warning”, Starmer told Times Radio listeners: “Oh I’m very clear about my position, yes.”
Momentum’s Mish Rahman told LabourList: “The leadership is out of control. It’s not enough to remove the whip from Jeremy Corbyn, suspend the party’s own youth wing over policy differences and marginalise the left at every turn.
“Now they want to break apart the broad church that has characterised Labour for over a century. It’s vital that all wings of the party call out this appalling, anti-democratic threat.”
Rahman added: “Keir Starmer ran on a platform to end factionalism, unite the Labour Party and defeat the Tories. After months of unprovoked attacks on the left, this anti-democratic move would spell the end of the Labour Party as we know it.
“A broad church which has held together for over a century would be torn down, wrecking Labour’s prospects with young people and communities of colour represented by a new generation of left-wing Labour MPs. As such, there is absolutely no mandate for such divisive, authoritarian action in the party, and we would fight it all the way.”