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The Corbyn project is over, but Keir Starmer still needs the left

Labour’s new leader must honour his predecessor’s policies and hold failing Tory government to account, says Momentum activist. Da The Guardian.

Keir Starmer’s election as Labour leader marks the end of the Corbyn project and its domination of Labour’s internal politics. Having barely lost an internal election in four years, the alliance that elevated Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership is now shredded – in equal parts defeated, disillusioned and defected. But the hundreds of thousands of people who took part in the left’s re-emergence into British public life must not retreat into the shadows. The lessons of what went wrong must be learned – and the new leader must be pushed to understand that now is the time for bold ideas and opposition in response to the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Corbyn’s internal coalition was always very broad. It included much of the soft left of the party, and a large number of members who wanted to end austerity and break decisively from New Labour but whose politics didn’t go much further. The big majority opposed Brexit, and most of them get their perspective on internal party politics in broad brushstrokes from reading the news, not in granular detail from attending meetings. Starmer was an ideal candidate to appeal to this base: authentically soft left, and having played a high-profile and relatively loyal role in the shadow cabinet.

But the most crucial factor at play was mass disillusionment within the Labour left, and the failure to deliver on the promise of 2015, despite Corbyn’s own instincts. After some early moments of hope, Corbyn’s leadership came to be run not by “a new kind of politics” but by the left wing of the old politics. Momentum’s role as a brilliantly effective mobilising tool masked a lack of internal democracy that rotted its grassroots potential. The party management machine, familiar to long-suffering party activists of any era, shut down attempts to bring in open selections for MPs and ensured that key decisions were taken by professionals behind closed doors, not by members. This time it was staffed by people who read the Morning Star rather than Progress magazine.

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