We Will All Gain if Progressive Independents Win Seats in the UK General Election

A statement from Peace in Kurdistan,
Caribbean Labour Solidarity wholeheartedly supports this position put forward by our friends and comrades

The UK is in the throes of a crucial general election where the Conservative Party, which has been in power for almost 15 years, looks set to be heading for a total wipe out. The main beneficiary will be official opposition Labour Party, headed by a former human rights lawyer, Sir Keir Starmer, who might end up with a majority of between 200 and possibly as many as 400 MPs, according to opinion polls.

Labour has adopted the simple slogan, “Change”, as its main pitch to the electorate. After 15 years of austerity and corruption of those in power, people are crying out for change and Labour is seeking to capitalise on this desire, while actually offering little tangible change of direction either in its domestic or foreign policy. Some observers have even predicted that a Keir Starmer led government will be even more belligerent and militaristic in its foreign policy than the current government, noting pledges that Starmer has already made to increase defence spending and his robust, unambiguous support for use of nuclear weapons and NATO, for example. More controversially, Starmer has made remarks supporting Israel’s right to impose a siege, to cut off water and power supplies to civilians in Gaza in response to the October 7 attacks by Hamas. Starmer has also stated forcefully that “I understand, and I sympathise, and I support Zionism,” in explaining how he stood full square with Israel in exercising its right to self-defence, showing little compassion for the ongoing slaughter of civilians in Gaza even as Netanyahu’s gross violations of international law became increasingly obvious. Labour had also procrastinated on calls for a ceasefire and is still refusing to oppose UK arms sales to Israel even though they are used against unarmed civilians.

Prior to the Gaza issue, Starmer had already earned a dubious reputation for being light on integrity, flip flopping on policy and ruthlessly ditching the entire platform on which he was elected as leader of his party less than four years ago. His party’s manifesto for the 2024 election presents an ultra-cautious, minimal offer to voters that bears no resemblance to the ambitious programmes in 2017 and 2019, under Labour’s previous leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who has since been expelled from the party, while many of Corbyn’s allies have also either been expelled or marginalised. A botched attempt to block the veteran Diane Abbott, Britain’s first ever Black woman MP, from standing again as its candidate for Hackney North, filled many observers with disgust as her shabby treatment came to symbolise the dirty tricks and duplicity that Keir Starmer’s rule has brought to running the Labour Party. There are real fears that these ruthless managerial methods will be replicated in government when Keir Starmer enters 10 Downing Street, as he appears certain to do once the final votes are counted on 4th July.

In this general election, several of the party’s new candidates had been handpicked at the last minute by a small group of officials working in the party’s central office who imposed their choices on local constituencies, while removing several other candidates on spurious grounds, including former MPs, and even appointing themselves to safe seats. Candidates have been drawn from a closely-knit coterie of Starmer loyalists, consisting of his closest political advisers, unelected appointees and members of factions within Labour Party who helped him win his leadership of the party. If elected Labour’s ranks on the backbenches and posts in government will be filled by corporate lobbyists and advocates of private healthcare and private education, while one private healthcare entrepreneur has been selected to run for Labour in Islington North against Jeremy Corbyn. Starmer wants to send a message that the party has changed, but the kind of change that this means is highly questionable indeed and it looks to many as if he has sold the party’s soul.

In summary, we cannot expect any substantial real change from an incoming Starmer government, and there will certainly be little or no alteration in its policy towards Turkey or the Kurds, which receive no mention in the party manifesto. We cannot expect an “ethical foreign policy”, as was propounded, though never delivered, by the first administration of Tony Blair, when Robin Cook became Labour’s Foreign Secretary. Those hopes of a new beginning in foreign policy were never fulfilled under the Blair government, but at least there were people in government who attempted to do things differently when they first took office, such as Cook himself and the likes of Clair Short, who because the Minister for International Development. The disaster of the Iraq war obviously finally put an end to all that talk of ethical foreign policy. But among Starmer’s present team there is nobody with even the modest ambitions of a Cook or Short. They are all uncritically loyal to the United States and NATO. Repeated statements from Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy and Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey make it perfectly clear what we can expect from an incoming Labour government: at best, it will be more of the same, while quite possibly their keenness to prove their loyalties may lead them into reckless future military adventures with potentially catastrophic consequences for us all.

According to the latest opinion polls, Keir Starmer looks set to achieve a landslide victory. But there are huge questions about his programme for government, what he intends for the country and what he wants to achieve for the people. He is a human rights lawyer who gives the impression of caring little about actual human rights abuses. In his treatment of his predecessor as Labour leader, Starmer has shown himself to be an absolutely ruthless political operator who condoned the attempt to “break Corbyn as a man”, to use a sickening phrase from one of those who worked to undermine Corbyn as party leader. Corbyn is now standing as an independent candidate as are many others up and down the country who are dismayed by Labour’s rapid swing to the political right and apparent abandonment of core principles.

Keir Starmer himself is not going unchallenged and faces a serious fight on his hands to defend his own seat in London. His opponent is Andrew Feinstein who previously served as an MP in South Africa under President Nelson Mandela. Feinstein left South Africa over twenty years ago and is now standing in the constituency of Holborn & St Pancras, where Starmer is defending his seat.

Feinstein is the son of a Holocaust survivor and was born in Cape Town where he joined the African National Congress and fought to end apartheid. He was also an advisor to Mandela. Since leaving South Africa, Feinstein has remained a human rights activist campaigning against the arms trade in particular. He is a well-known author of books such as The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade. Labour’s policy on Gaza was a key factor in motivating Feinstein’s decision to stand against Labour, which he says has “positioned itself as the pro-genocide party. It is completely indistinguishable from the Conservatives and the US administration.”

In further outlining his reasons for standing against the Labour leader, Andrew Feinstein states,

“The two main parties are virtually indistinguishable in their offers of permanent austerity, forever wars and environmental degradation.”

Describing the issues that matter to him in this election battle, Feinstein declares,

“We urgently require a new politics: a people-centred politics focused on the many not the super wealthy; a politics driven by integrity and honesty, rather than opportunism and mendacity; a politics in pursuit of greater justice and equality at home and abroad, and a more peaceful, environmentally sustainable, less corrupt Britain and planet.”

These fine aims encapsulate exactly all that is at stake in this landmark election, and we can without hesitation endorse them. Andrew Feinstein and other independent voices deserve our full unequivocal support. We will all gain much if a strong grouping of progressive independents, including Greens, win seats on 4th July and our politics will thereafter be changed all the better for it. If Labour obtains a massive majority we will definitely need as many effective opposition voices as possible to hold the new government to account.