Labour leadership candidate Keir Starmer has called for former Blair adviser Alastair Campbell to be readmitted to the party. Campbell was expelled last year after admitting on radio that he had voted LibDem in the European Parliament elections.
Labour’s rules require ‘auto-exclusion’ of any member who supports a rival party, yet Campbell’s supporters complained about the supposed ‘injustice’.
Starmer told the Huffington Post:
Alastair is a constituent of mine. And he was a long standing Labour member, a huge contribution to the party. I think we need to get past this whole question of chucking people out and expulsions, etcetera.
Huge numbers of Labour members welcomed the expulsion of a man who not only voted LibDem, but also consistently attacked both their politics and the leader who represented their views.
Many of those same members have long been angered by the claims of right-wing politicians and Establishment media of widespread antisemitism in the Labour Party when the figures show otherwise, with a single individual responsible for fully a third of all complaints last year.
Yet Starmer combined his call for Campbell’s return with a push for an increase in summary expulsions that many members feel have already led to deaths that the party is investigating.
Starmer’s comments represents a serious campaign blunder just a day after ballots started to go out to Labour members, affiliates and supporters – and a serious misjudgment of his electorate. Who else does he want to welcome back – Chuka Umunna?
Starmer is not alone in misjudging his audience. Rebecca Long-Bailey made a major misstep in endorsing demands from organisations that she seemed not to have properly read.
But Starmer’s comments, together with Angela Rayner’s tone-deaf ITV interview about MPs’ lack of respect for Jeremy Corbyn, seem to suggest that the pair – touted as favourites by the mainstream media – think they already have the contest sewn up, in spite of the early stage of the voting process.
If so, it may yet backfire on them – especially now that Long-Bailey has followed deputy candidate Richard Burgon’s example of directly challenging their rivals’ weaknesses when she published a list of her campaign donors after Starmer avoided a question about his.
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