Labour leader’s lack of authentic connection with the working class exposed again
Labour leader Keir Starmer attempted yesterday to piggyback historical action by working-class people to give himself a proletarian sheen – and failed abysmally.
Starmer referred back to a march on Parliament by match-factory workers and praised ‘their’ victory:
But Starmer had got it wrong, as historian Louise Raw – who has actually written a book about the matchwomen’s strike that did signal the start of the modern Labour movement – pointed out in response:
The action Starmer celebrated was forced on the women workers by greedy bosses who didn’t want a tax on their product – it was an expression of abuse by unscrupulous employers, not a workers’ victory. Dr Raw had a dim view of Starmer’s shoddiness:
She wasn’t the only person to spot Starmer’s blunder. Sarah Grant pointed out just how bad and abusive those employers were – and what triggered the strike – in 1888, not 1871 – that really started the movement:
The chemicals and processes used to make matches corroded the faces of workers, leading to the condition known as ‘phossy jaw’. The photograph of striking women workers below shows early signs, but as the picture of a male worker shows, the end results were horrific:
Dr Raw’s book, Striking a Light, shows how the matchwomen’s strike influenced the dockworkers’ strike the following year, which has traditionally been credited as the key moment in the Labour movement.
Keir Starmer, by contrast, can’t tell the difference – and didn’t do enough research to know it – between a capitalist imposition on women working in horrific conditions and their own movement to stand up for their rights. Small wonder that Labour has become so desperately disconnected from its core class under Starmer’s influence, both as ‘leader’ and before that as Shadow Brexit Secretary.
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