Vote Labour – Back Corbyn – And prepare to fight the most right-wing Labour government ever

There is a very limited political choice at this general election. But there is a major test for socialists in how they approach that choice.

Opinion polls persistently show a strong Labour lead which indicate Keir Starmer will be the next Prime Minister. The hostility to the Tories is so deep and broad that the election outcome is now only Starmer’s to throw away.

Yet it is clear that this Labour leadership, contrary to many who initially described it as ‘continuity Corbynism’, is actually ‘continuity Conservatism’.  Starmer started his Labour Leadership whilst the Covid virus was spreading. In that pandemic he followed Boris Johnson in putting first the interests of big business first – which was wrongly described as the interests of the economy. As a result hundreds of thousands of people died, many of them quite avoidably, with poor people, older people, Black communities and disabled people being hit hardest.

 This is an approach which has been repeated on every major issue since, whether in the racist campaign to curb immigration, to the huge attack on living standards, to opposing strike action, to abandoning even limited pledges on climate change. Starmer has echoed the Tory line on every one.

Nowhere is this more blatant than on war. Currently, this country is actively engaged in three wars in Gaza, Ukraine and Yemen. It is also helping the US to prepare another – on China. Britain is the US’s cheerleader for more NATO military spending and a lynchpin of alliances such as AUKUS. There can be no doubt that, after Starmer’s extraordinary support for mass starvation in Gaza, he is any less a vile warmonger than Blair. He has gone further than Blair and made NATO support a compulsory article of faith for Labour MPs, on pain of expulsion.

He has already gone much further than any previous leader in attempting to crush the left, trying to force out both Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott as well as hundreds or more left activists, critics, and opponents of the massacres in Gaza.

Starmer has also been explicit in terms of announcing a reactionary economic policy. Where Blair and Brown offered tokens such as Sure Start, the present Labour leadership boasts of its privatisation for the NHS. It has signed up to the vicious Tory austerity agenda of public spending cuts and tax raises on workers over the next five years, as set out in the March Budget. The result is that from day one a Starmer led Labour government will attack and come into conflict with the working class and oppressed.

At the same time, to help force this through, Starmer has carried out undemocratic changes to Labour party rules. Labour candidates in the election now include a slew of cronies, right wing activists and think tankers as well as a squad of candidates recruited from the armed forces. Starmer and his chief of staff both have direct connections to the apparatus of the British state.

Voters have registered these developments and do not welcome them. Over a prolonged period Starmer’s approval rating has been consistently below that of the Labour party itself, by between 10 or 13 points according to YouGov. This implies that between 1 in 10 and 1 in 8 votes already say they intend to vote Labour despite Starmerism, not because of it.

Starmer in office will also be accompanied by a further sharp turn to the right by the Tories – towards the line of Reform. Therefore, the fightback against a Starmer led government is also the best preparation for the fight against the return of the Tories in a still more vicious form.

From all this some have drawn the conclusion that people should not vote Labour or seek to secure a Labour government instead of the Tories – expressing justified moral outrage at its policy under Starmer. But that is a political error. It is necessary to get rid of the Tories and that will give the working class and oppressed more confidence than another Tory victory. The working class and oppressed in their majority has to be able to see what Starmer and the Labour right is clearly, they can only do that if he is in office. Only when they see in practice how reactionary a Starmer led government is will the great mass of the people be able to see through and break with Starmer and the Labour right.

There is one obvious and major exception to this general point. Jeremy Corbyn remains by far the best leader Labour has ever had, strongly opposed to Britain’s wars, a consistent opponent of racism and austerity. He has been unfairly and undemocratically excluded by Labour on completely spurious charges of antisemitism and should be supported.

There are some other progressive candidates who should be supported as a vote for them does not obstruct the creation of a Labour government. There is no possibility to create a mass alternative to Labour in the present situation. That would only be possible in conditions in which large sections of the working class were breaking with social democracy, which is not posed today, or where the first past the post electoral system was replaced or the present structure of the Labour Party were changed – which is also not posed. But significant votes for progressive candidates can aid the fight back against demoralising right-wing policies of Starmer.

In reality, it has been a crucial part of the Starmer project to decapitate the left. A victory for Corbyn in Islington North would be a highly significant step in reviving the left nationally. It could also be the beginning of the fightback against the most viciously right-wing Labour government in history.

So the task is to vote Labour to get rid of the Tories, prepare to fight an extreme right wing Labour government, and back Corbyn as part of that fight.