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Labour civil war: ‘Corbynista’ left turn screws on Starmer as fight for control hots up

THE FIGHT for control of the Labour Party has intensified, as Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership of the party comes under increasing criticism from the “Corbynista” left.

PUBLISHED: 03:16, Wed, Apr 22, 2020 | UPDATED: 03:43, Wed, Apr 22, 2020



Sir Keir is already under pressure to maintain his authority and keep his party unified in the wake of the scandal surrounding the leaking of an investigation into anti-Semitism last week. Now the resurgent left, led by the former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Richard Burgon, have taken aim at Sir Keir’s pledge to engage in “constructive” opposition to the Tory Party. The new Labour Party leader has vowed to work with Boris Johnson “in the national interest” to guide the UK through the coronavirus health crisis.


Immediately after his election as party leader, Sir Keir offered to work constructively with the prime minister and not provide “opposition for opposition’s sake”.

However, he pledged to call out the government over any failings in its strategy.


The former Shadow Chancellor, who is seen as the moral conscience and spiritual leader of the Labour Left, is clearly not a fan of “constructive” opposition.

He has argued that an opposition whose aim is to be a constructive partner to government ends up being no opposition at all.


THE FIGHT for control of the Labour Party has intensified (Image: GETTY)


Now the resurgent left, led by the former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Richard Burgon (Image: GETTY)

In a tweet he posted on Sunday night, Mr McDonnell’s frustration with Sir Keir’s tactic was all too plain to see.

Mimicking his party leader’s language, he wrote: “Had enough now with government failures.

“It’s not opposition for opposition’s sake to call out Gvt’s failure to pursue effective test & track programme & supply basic protection to front line staff & to neglect support for care homes & care workers.

“People are dying as a result.”

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He and Mr McDonnell are seeking to strengthen and refocus the Campaign Group (Image: GETTY)

Richard Burgon was also similarly critical of his party leader’s tactics in an article he wrote for the LabourList news website on the pandemic and the future of the party’s left.

The MP for Leeds East said: “Of course, where the government does the right thing, it is quite right that we work with it constructively.

“But it is even more essential that we apply maximum pressure when it is failing – as it is on so many fronts – to do what is needed.

“Lives literally depend on it.”

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It will not have escaped the notice of Sir Keir, that both groups have already attacked his approach (Image: GETTY)


The new Labour Party leader has vowed to work with Boris Johnson (Image: GETTY)

Despite his poor showing and that of other left wingers in recent internal party elections, Mr Burgon refuses to concede that the ideological struggle within the party is over.

He and Mr McDonnell are seeking to strengthen and refocus the Campaign Group, the caucus of socialist MPs who organised Mr Corbyn’s leadership campaign in 2015, according to allies.

Labour’s hard left wants to offer an alternative to the Fabian Society, which has traditionally developed policy ideas for the party’s leadership.



Mr Burgon and Mr McDonnell plan to use the reconstituted Campaign Group to develop and promote their own policy agendas in order to counter the influence of the Fabian Society, as well as provide support to their allies in the party.

The Fabian Society, founded in 1884, was involved in the founding of the Labour Party and has ever since remained affiliated to it.

Sir Keir’s shadow cabinet currently includes 15 Fabian members, according to the society.


Sir Keir decisively beat the left’s preferred candidate in the leadership election (Image: GETTY)

Ominously for the new party leader, the growing sense of discontent within the party is not confined to the backbenches.

Of the 28 signatories to a Campaign Group letter demanding the party leader takes action into allegations made in last week’s the leaked report, 11 are on the frontbench

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