Starmer’s sacking of Long-Bailey from Shadow Education brief – in reality because she challenged him on rushed schools return – hardens concerns about ‘posh, out of touch’ leader
Keir Starmer today sacked Rebecca Long-Bailey – in reality because of a huge row between the then-Shadow Education Secretary and Starmer over Starmer’s support for Boris Johnson’s rush to send children back to school – after the latest figures showed a huge surge in school-based virus outbreaks.
Starmer had been warned by unions of the risks, but his proxies continually undermined Long-Bailey by pushing support for the Tory back-to-school plan in a string of media interviews.
But Starmer’s actions are tilting him further toward the unintended consequence of uniting left MPs behind a challenger to his leadership.
Since the 2019 general election there is a big enough pool of left MPs to trigger a leadership challenge at any point, but support for the idea has not been consistent across this group. However, there is now huge anger at Starmer’s action against the one left MP appointed to a senior Shadow Cabinet brief after his leadership victory.
Former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s quick public support for Long-Bailey is one barometer of that strength of feeling, along with a parallel show of support from Momentum founder Jon Lansman, in spite of Lansman’s recent enthusiasm for an accommodation with the ‘soft left’.
But the action goes beyond expressions of support for Long-Bailey – and the drivers for action go beyond her sacking.
Left MPs are now generating a list of supporters for a leadership challenge to take place next year, after the 2021 local elections, in the event that Starmer fails to shape up.
There has been real concern among northern MPs that Starmer is seen as posh, elite and out of touch, as well as a feeling that enough is enough after Starmer’s lack of resistance to Tory recklessness while he comes down hard on black women MPs and others of the left and conducts a ‘diversity-audit’ led by white staff. Those concerns have only crystallised today.
Who the challenger might be is still unclear, but there are several MPs in the frame who would receive immediate support from the grassroots in the event of a challenge materialising.
Starmer has cause to worry ahead of a meeting requested by the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs this evening. The news makes it all the more essential that Labour’s left grassroots retain their membership and their vote.
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