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Letter to MPs shows Starmer treated abstention on spy-crime bill as 3-line whip but didn’t have spine to do it openly

Labour leader’s ‘unprecedented’ written warning to MPs who voted against Tory bill shows he wanted to use strongest whip to abstain on bill to legal crime by ‘covert intelligence sources’. That he used single-line whip but treated it as three is spineless

Last week, Keir Starmer ‘whipped’ Labour MPs to abstain on a Tory bill to legalise any and all crimes committed by ‘covert human intelligence sources’, including civilians. That a Labour leader would order MPs to abstain on a bill designed to allow such sources to commit any crime – up to and including rape, torture and murderought to be remarkable, but currently isn’t. Starmer only used the weakest possible ‘whip’, a single line – normally considered as ‘advisory’ and not subject to discipline.

The order was the latest in a string of abstention whips by Starmer as he tries frantically to avoid being seen opposing the Tories.

But Starmer has not treated this one-line whip – nor the one before it on a similar bill to legalise torture overseas by British personnel – in the way such an advisory whip is traditionally treated.

Novara Media explained in their analysis of his response:

Novara understands that all of the MPs who defied the whip on the overseas operations bill and the covert human intelligence sources bill (CHIS), also known as the spycops bill – both of which the party whipped to abstain on – immediately received letters from opposition chief whip Nick Brown.

The letters break significantly with party protocol. A one-line whip is the least strict instruction on how to vote, often considered advisory or non-binding, compared to tougher two or three-line whips. According to Labour’s standing orders, “minor breaches” by MPs should first be met with a verbal warning from the whips’ office. If a member continues to vote against the party, this should be escalated to a verbal warning from the chief whip. Only after these two steps have been taken would MPs usually receive a written reprimand. “They’ve gone straight for the harshest steps,” said one letter recipient. “It’s really heavy-handed.”

Similarly, when front-bench MPs ignored Starmer’s one-line order to abstain on the overseas torture bill, he sacked Nadia Whittome and required two others to resign.

On the UK criminal impunity bill, eight MPs resigned from the front bench in order to vote against it, when traditionally they should not need to – and all 34 MPs who voted against it, including back-benchers, received threatening warning letters.

In other words, Starmer used a single-line whip – but reacted as if a 3-line whip, the strictest, had been broken.

Lacking the courage to front up and actually announce that he was using a 3-line whip to order MPs to abstain on a bill that fractures the human and civil rights of UK citizens – but then treating MPs who broke his limp order as if they had broken a 3-line whip anyway.

Could anything better sum up Keir Starmer’s already-dire tenure as the party’s notional leader?

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33 comments

  1. I will never support anyone who either voted for or abstained on the overseas operations bill and the covert human intelligence sources bill!

  2. The knight is a man on a mission and has been well paid for it.Would you expect anything else from a”plant “..At least those that voted for him have got what they wanted.and have a tribute band for the Torys.

  3. 10 pledges will be on his gravestone as far as I’m concerned. pleased i didn’t fall for it but so many did. All the “unity” shit renders the word meaningless.

    1. “but so many did…(vote for Starmer)”.

      Many, probably most, of whom will be regretting it. Up and down the country hundreds of thousands of members will be kicking themselves with gusto

      mea culpa, mea culpa,
      mea máxima culpa.

      However, the VAST majority of party members did NOT vote for Sir Keir. There is hope. His policy decisions as leader in this – his honeymoon period – are making annulment and divorce more attractive by the day.

      Billionaires’ money does not buy the Labour members as cheaply and easily as it did Sir Keir Rodney Starmer.

    2. How was the vote for his leadership broken down. I really want to know who voted for this character. It makes no sense. Hold on, who were the rival? X

  4. Starmer understands that the important interests in the UK are the Security Establishment and the liberal, imperialist intelligentsia, who, between them own and control the media, the academy and the culture.
    Compared with them the power of the left, unorganised and obsessed with the formalities of electoral politics, is of little importance. Until socialists organise sufficiently to keep themselves from voting for Starmer and his ilk or even Lansman, why should he and they worry?

  5. Changing his nickname from Sir Starmer the Abstainer to Sir Starmer the Cowardly Abstainer

      1. noelstevenson12,
        You don’t understand what Starmer has done here (instructing a 1 line whip, but treating disobedience as in a 3 line whip) and nor does Skwawkbox, “Lacking the courage to front up and actually announce……………..”.
        What Starmer has done here, with this clever wee trick, is send out a powerful message to His PLP. And the message is; ‘ I will not tolerate dissent’. Further than that, he is reinforcing the message, with, ‘I don’t care if you disagree with me, you will do as I advise you to do or you are out, in the wilderness’.
        Now, Labour MPs might not agree with him (on CHIS), but they now know who is the boss .
        That is the way to lead. Jeremy Corbyn take note.

      2. noelstevebson12, i’m with u until “Nascent Tory”. Keith is an old committed full blown Tory. Not even a red one. Check his record. Interestingly, BBC Radio 4 replayed an interview from years back where he openly scorned decency and vision by admitting that he rejected Socialism and Socialist, since his teens / early twenties.

        Max Headroom was desperate to prove he would protect the status quo so he could get his turn to sneer at and exploit the many. I suspect he was desperate to advertise himself as Tory since 1943. Jelly Max was as dull as ever. No positive substance. I suspect the BBC replayed that interview to underline to Tories that Keith Starmer would continue to stand up for their worst selves.

        The BBC as ever, put millions of public funding, at the service of the Right Wing ie Iraq W.MD. Blair II.

      3. Richard MacKinnon – There’s nothing courageous or clever about asserting strength of leadership when his own “forensic” analysis is so wrong. Billionaire-backed sycophants – even when named Keir – do not make good leaders of Labour.

      4. Richard MacKinnon I agree with you, that is the message that Starmer wishes to convey to the PLP: I am the boss, do as I told you.
        However, one fatal flaw: Starmer is in not position to carry out his threat; every one with a bit of a brain knows that he is bluffing.
        Is he going to suspend the whip of 35 MPs, should they defied him again? I shouldn’t think so, this group would be large enough with the possibility of the remaining members of the Socialist Campaign Group joining in. Hence, straight away they would be in a position to become the third political party in number of MPs in Parliament and start offering effective opposition.
        It could get worse some Trade Unions would stop their affiliation to the Labour Party and affiliate to the one with the ousted former Labour MPs, prompting even reluctant Trade Unions to follow suit.
        The Trade Union Movement could sue Starmer’s LP for the use of the name through the Courts if all Trade Unions abandon Starmer were to abandon Starmer’s “Labour Party”.
        Hence, Starmer is either bluffing or the man isn’t as intelligent as he think he is. Already Unite and other Trade Unions have cut their funding, withdraw the whip from Labour MPs for defying a one line whip in defense of the Trade Union movement and Starmer would have a war in his hands worse that anything Corbyn faced. For once I very much doubt that Angela Rayners will remain quiet.

  6. I learned a new word today.
    SIPUNCULID – small unsegmented marine worm that when disturbed retracts its anterior portion into the body giving the appearance of a peanut.
    Invertebrate.
    Also known as ‘peanut worm’.
    No spine, no testicles, peanut for a dick – remind you of anyone?

  7. And they say Corbyn didn’t have what it takes to be a leader…Give me just five minutes on some sort of public platform to interrogate the gutless, spineless, slimy yellow bastard.

    Defend that if you dare, little steven and buttplug mckinon.

      1. I’ll bet you howled with derision when de piffle sacked those europhile toerags in the same way you no doubt sniggered when Marc Wadsworth, Jackie Walker and Chris Williamson got the boot.

        And you reckon stammer’s showing himself to be the boss? Yeah, alright….And de piffle’s HIS boss, you complete nuckfugget.

        Moron.

  8. Every day that passes surely shows ever clearer that the now restored NuLabour Party is no place for socialists, or even principled Left Liberals. Great little article from The Guardian today by a group of ex UN rapporteurs on the disastrous failure of privatised , formerly state-run, basic services , like healthcare and even water supply, worldwide, ie the complete failure of the bogus promises of neoliberalism. . The bogus promise that Labour first bought into big time under that corrupt , self-enriching, faker, Blair, and have now returned to under the Trilateral Commission’s creature, Starmer, (but not as yet in honestly stated Labour policy reversals to the Blair years of course ). https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/oct/19/covid-19-exposed-catastrophic-impact-privatising-vital-services

    From now on Blair-style slippery dishonesty and spin will be the constant feature of the resurrected ‘NuLabour’ brand. Even Blair actually first got elected largely on a platform to rescue our NHS from the then Thatcher assault on the service. NuLabour never ever spelt out its actual privatisation agenda, particularly in the NHS and Education . The privatisation process was always dressed up by Blair and Brown as just small changes to boost ‘efficiency’ , and bring in much-needed private sector cash. Remember the early NuLabour bollocks to justify early ‘Academisation’ , ie, that the private sector would INJECT loads of new cash into Academy schools ! How different the reality always is with privatisation.

    Those here still trying to excuse the large number of former ‘Corbynists’ who voted for Starmer are deluding themselves – it was the Labour ‘Left’ members just as much as the neo-Blairite Right who totally supported Starmer’s key electorally toxic policy of Remain and Second Referendum – and shared the Rights utter contempt for the old Labour Heartland Labour , Leave -supporting, voters . Our epochal 2019 electoral defeat , and subsequent election of a blatant creature of the Deep State and globalised capitalism, on the basis of his laughably bogus ‘Ten Pledges’ to respect the Corbyn policy legacy, was as much the responsibility of a pathetically craven PLP ‘Left’, and the largely middle class pro EU, pro Freedom of Movement, Left Liberals who compose most of the supposed Labour ‘Left’ membership, as it is of the ruthless saboteurs of the Labour Right.

    And that is the real tragedy of the failure of Corbynism – that the crap non-socialist politics of much of what passes for the UK ‘Left’ makes it very difficult for a new radical Left Party to emerge out of the now hopeless ruins of the Corbyn project, and have any chance of re-connecting with that huge mass of poorer working class ex-Labour supporters. And reconnect with the working class any viable radical Left Party will have to do. It is a huge pity that that old self-serving scoundrel, George Galloway’, new ‘Workers Party’ has , amongst some good solid socialist policies, attached itself to a tiny bunch of Stalin/Mao worshippers to do the basic organisational gruntwork.

    1. I had no idea that Jack the hat had a new party. I thought that he was doing something against the SNP or flogging second hand clothes on a radio show. Can’t keep up with the Catholic, Socialist, lexit, man who freed Mandela. ☮️

  9. qwertboi
    19/10/2020 at 1:47 pm
    “There’s nothing courageous or clever about asserting strength of leadership when his own “forensic” analysis is so wrong”. What does that mean? Forensic analysis? What are you talking about? So far, to my knowledge Starmer hasn’t analysed anything.
    Getting back to the subject of the article, the use of the one line whip followed by ‘ a threatening letter’ is a brilliant tactic. Sometimes when a new leader takes command, he has to crack the whip, make it clear, things are different now, that from now on, any silly nonsense will not be tolerated.
    That is good leadership. Starmer is not asking for approval, he is demanding loyalty.

    1. Richard Mackinnon, I agree with you, that it is Starmer’s objective. However, I hope that the Socialist Campaign Group stand firm in the conviction of their principles and carry on voting against Tory proposals, rather than following Starmer’s wishes.
      Their is nothing worse that uttering threats and then no be in a position to carry them. Instead of loyalty Starmers will get derision even for the right wingers.

  10. Even if his heavy handed misuse of bully techniques (your “the use of the one line whip followed by ‘ a threatening letter’ “) *were* brilliant, you seem to be overlooking the fact that even left-leaning liberals (who make up much of the PLP) never mind sensible democratic socialists find the whole thrust of the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill, otherwise known as the “Spycops Bill” THOROUGHLY OBJECTIONABLE.

    Herein lies Sir Keir’s vulnerability (some say wretchedness). I wish he’d just find something better to do. He’s not Labour Leader material.

    1. qwertboi
      19/10/2020 at 2:33 pm
      That last sentence says it all. I love it. “He’s not Labour Leader material”.
      It begs the question qwertboi, who has Labour Leader material?
      And remember I’m an old man so go easy.

      1. Suppose you either satisfy the billionaire press (with a Trilateral Commission specially selected ‘appointee’) or the Party membership – and,yes, although Sir Keir Rodney Starmer was elected by the membership, about 48-50% DIDN’T vote for him, the BBC and billionaire press did a massive sell on himand there wasn’t a single decent candidate for the position. So, honestly Richard, I’ve no idea. Were it possible, I’d revert to Corbyn (it isn’t) or establish a new SCG-type party within the current Labour Movement and at least have a standing start at founding a socialist (real) Labour Party. We’d have up to 20 or so MPS at the outset and – most importantly,
        A – centrists would have no part in it, and
        B – a largish membership would develop quickly and connect with community groups and issues.

  11. The Toffee (597)
    19/10/2020 at 1:04 pm
    Thanks for your reply, but I really dont know what it is you are talking about at 1:04 pm. I therefore cant give you a coherent reply.
    Here is a bit of advice, when you want to enter into a conversation with me, stick to the subject. In this case Starmer’s use of the whip.
    You reference in your reply to me “Marc Wadsworth, Jackie Walker and Chris Williamson” Why? What have they got to do with this topic? Where is the connection? You imagined I ‘sniggered’ when they got the boot? Wow.
    I am happy to discuss the rights and wrongs of expulsions under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, but that is another subject, another time, a different leader.
    Do you see why it is problematic following your train of thought?
    And who is ‘de piffle’? Is it a nick name? Are you using a code? I’ve noticed that in your comments, you like calling people by nicknames. You should stop that. Not only is it confusing, it sounds childish.

  12. I’ve noticed that in your comments, you like calling people by nicknames. You should stop that. Not only is it confusing, it sounds childish.

    Remind us how you’ve referred to Corbyn in the past, buttplug.

  13. Maria Vazquez
    19/10/2020 at 6:30 pm
    At least we agree on Starmers objective here.
    Im not going to dismantle your argument, point by point. But I will pick out a couple.
    Your right he is not going to suspend 35 PLP MPs. He wont have to. They now know the score and wont rock the boat. Being an MP is a good job.
    Socialist Campaign Group? Never heard of it.
    “The Trade Union Movement could sue Starmer’s LP…………..” Maria, please, your talking with the grown ups.
    “Starmer would have a war in his hands …..” Not a chance. You over estimate the influence of the trade unions. Maybe back in the 1970s. Not any longer. Trade Unions have no political power these days. How much did McCluskey cut Unites support by? 10%? no big deal. Infact its McCluskey that is on the run. McCluskey wants out. He wants to retire with dignity. Without the embarrassment of Starmer setting an example of the New Relationship as KS sees it, between His LP and the unions.
    ” I very much doubt that Angela Rayners will remain quiet”. No comment.

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