DAN HODGES: It’s no good just kicking out Ken Loach… If Starmer wants to survive, he has to expel Corbyn, Momentum – and Alastair Campbell
They’ve finally come for Ken Loach.
After standing candidates against Ed Miliband in 2015, dismissing Labour antisemitism as ‘mood-music’ concocted by Jeremy Corbyn’s critics and demanding Labour MPs challenging it be ‘kicked out’ of their own party, the octogenarian film director is about to get the boot himself.
Loach’s membership of Labour Against The Witchhunt will reportedly see him ‘auto-excluded’, after Keir Starmer moved to purge the hard-Left faction.
According to one Starmer ally, ‘under Corbyn, those from the far-Left fringes with poisonous beliefs and warped world views were welcomed into the party.
Keir is right to stamp out antisemitism and toxic extremism and get the party back into the decent mainstream of Labour values’.
Which would be great. If that was actually what Labour’s leader was doing.
They’ve finally come for Ken Loach. After standing candidates against Ed Miliband in 2015, dismissing Labour antisemitism as ‘mood-music’ concocted by Jeremy Corbyn’s critics and demanding Labour MPs challenging it be ‘kicked out’ of their own party, the octogenarian film director is about to get the boot himself, writes DAN HODGES
Take the pledge to ‘stamp out antisemitism’. Kicking racists out of the Labour party doesn’t require any rule changes.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission report was clear. The problem wasn’t a lack of rules but an absence of the political will to enforce them.
‘We found specific examples of harassment, discrimination and political interference in our evidence,’ the report concluded, ‘but equally of concern was a lack of leadership within the Labour Party on these issues.’
Yet the person who was responsible for that leadership vacuum – Jeremy Corbyn – was readmitted to the Labour Party last November.
So, if the real purpose is ‘stamping out antisemitism’, Corbyn has to be thrown out with the same alacrity as Loach.
Of course, it may be that the focus on antisemitism is just a smoke-screen.
The primary reason for the expulsions could indeed be to cast out those extremists who swarmed into Labour’s ranks at the moment of Jeremy Corbyn’s election.
But again, if that’s the objective, it’s hard to see how kicking out Loach will achieve that.
In addition to Labour Against The Witchhunt, Starmer has moved to proscribe Resist, Socialist Appeal and the Labour In Exile Network.
Until they were banned, I’d never heard of those last three.
And in briefings to the press, it was estimated maybe 1,000 members would be ejected as a result of the move.
But Labour’s total membership remains more than 400,000. So Starmer’s Great Purge is set to see the removal of no more than 0.25 per cent of his party’s base.
Loach’s membership of Labour Against The Witchhunt will reportedly see him ‘auto-excluded’, after Keir Starmer moved to purge the hard-Left faction
And if you think that represents the extent of the hard-Left infiltration that occurred under Corbyn, I’ve got a Greek fisherman’s cap to sell you.
If Starmer genuinely wants to move against the Corbynites who have hijacked his party, everyone knows which organisation he needs to proscribe.
On Election night, as the scale of Labour’s latest implosion became apparent, Alan Johnson didn’t furiously exclaim: ‘I want them out of the party! I want Labour In Exile Gone!’
He correctly identified the plastic Marxists of Momentum as the architects of his party’s defeat. If Starmer is serious, that’s who he needs to target.
Momentum are the real party within a party. That’s where the plot to reclaim and recast Labour in Corbyn’s name is being hatched.
Ken Loach is an irrelevant Bennite relic. It’s Momentum who have the numbers, resources and network to bring Starmer down.
Not to mention the will – unless he deals with them first.
But even if he does, that would only represent half the battle. Because the Corbynites aren’t the only group of crazed ideologues within Labour who are intent on undermining Starmer’s efforts to realign his party with the electorate.
In 2019, Labour lost for two reasons. Corbyn’s alienation of Labour’s working-class base. And the Remainers’ alienation of Labour’s working-class base.
Labour’s stance on Brexit was as damaging to the party in its Red Wall seats as Corbyn was.
According to one Starmer ally, ‘under Corbyn, those from the far-Left fringes with poisonous beliefs and warped world views were welcomed into the party. Pictured: Jeremy Corbyn
But there is little evidence that Starmer is prepared to confront his equally toxic – and obsessive – Follow Back Pro Europe (FBPE) faction.
If Starmer did move successfully against the Corbynites, at that moment the balance of power would shift decisively in favour of Labour’s militant pro-Europeans.
The Corbynites were wrong about almost everything. But they did at least retain a healthy wariness of the zealotry of the FBPE crowd.
But with the Corbynites purged, those who see politics solely as a forum for replaying the 2016 referendum would be in the ascendancy.
At that moment, they would begin agitating for some form of ‘rejoin’ policy platform.
And even if those efforts were rebuffed, they would insist any Election campaign was fought on the basis of telling the British people ‘we were wrong to leave, admit it’.
If you speak to Starmer’s allies, they privately claim the move to eject Loach is about sending a signal that Labour has changed.
They also say it’s only the first step in a broader process of internal party reform. ‘Wait till we get to conference,’ one Starmer ally tells me. ‘He’s going to go further.’
Maybe he will. But the reality is that while his Great Purge is using up internal political capital, it’s providing a minimal political dividend.
If Starmer wants to signal his party is changing, he needs to shout it from the rooftops, not whisper it as part of some horse-trading in the corridor outside of Labour’s National Executive Committee meeting.
Ken Loach’s impending expulsion may have the Labour WhatsApp group buzzing but the aisles of Hartlepool Asda haven’t come alive with shoppers excitedly exclaiming: ‘Have you heard! Starmer’s expelling the director of those gritty urban dramas Kes and Cathy Come Home.
‘It’s Labour all the way for me!’
Labour needs to show it’s serious about antisemitism? Fine. Get rid of Jeremy Corbyn, the man who presided over his party’s descent into the antisemitic cesspit.
Labour wants to show it’s serious about purging the hard-Left entryists? Easy. Chuck out Jon Lansman, and proscribe Momentum, the parasitic vehicle he founded.
Labour has to communicate to voters in its former heartlands it’s listening to them and learning? No problem.
Turf out Alastair Campbell or Andrew Adonis, or any of the other high-profile pro-Europeans who insist on telling Red Wall voters they were duped, and the 48 per cent were right all along.
But to do that would involve an actual fight. And Starmer doesn’t want to fight to get his party back into shape.
He wants to fix and manoeuvre and nudge Labour back into electoral contention.
It won’t work, though. Starmer doesn’t have sufficient time. Slow, incrementalism won’t be enough.
Turf out Alastair Campbell or Andrew Adonis, or any of the other high-profile pro-Europeans who insist on telling Red Wall voters they were duped, and the 48 per cent were right all along
His enemies are already preparing. Labour’s surprise victory in Batley upset their plans momentarily. But they are regrouping.
And when they judge the moment is right, they will strike. And, unlike Labour’s leader, they will not do so incrementally.
Ironically, there is a template for Starmer to follow. Before the 2019 Election, Boris also needed to send a signal his party had changed.
He also had to show Theresa May’s tortuous attempts to split the difference between her party’s pro- and anti-Brexit wings were a thing of the past.
So he threw the pro-Europeans out. Winston Churchill’s grandson. Two former Chancellors. Dozens of former Ministers.
All cast into the political wilderness on the eve of a General Election.
‘It’s madness,’ one Tory Minister told me at the time. ‘It’ll split the party and we’ll get hammered in the Election.’ Instead the party rallied round and Boris romped home with a majority of 80.
But Keir Starmer does not have that political foresight, or courage, or ruthlessness. Yes, they’ve finally come for Ken Loach. But it’s too late.
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