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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Brighton rocks…

...but clearly not for everyone at Labour Party conference this week. Maybe not the factional blood-bath predicted in the Tory media but nevertheless still a battleground between the Blairite bureaucracy and what’s left of the Corbynistas.

The Starmer clique used every trick in the book, including last minute suspensions of delegates, to smooth the passage of their most contentious rule changes at the Labour conference. But they didn’t get their own way on everything and on the key issue of individual voting in the leadership elections they were forced by the unions to back down.

This was meant to be a defining moment for Sir Keir Starmer at his first sit-down Labour conference since he was elected leader in April 2020. His minions told the press that this week Starmer would lay to rest the ghost of Corbynism and revitalise the Labour Party in the run-up to the next general election. But Jeremy Corbyn was still there, rallying his troops at fringe meetings far livelier than the old ennui that permeates the Brighton Centre when a Blairite takes the mike, whilst Starmer’s followers had to make do with a mediocre pamphlet that no-one will read and a maudlin speech that few will remember by the end of the week.

Now Blairite MPs, who sadly make up the overwhelming majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party, can sleep safely in their beds following de-selection rule-changes that will strengthen their grip over their constituencies and make it near-impossible for another Corbyn-style leadership challenge in the immediate future.

Being a Westminster MP is reward enough for most, but some want more. They want the honours, power and patronage that comes with high office. But that depends on Labour winning a general election – and with Starmer at the helm the chances are pretty remote.

The Tories are still ahead in the opinion polls and a recent poll by Opinium for Sky News showed that many voters think Starmer is weak, boring and out-of-touch. That just about sums him up and the one thing that most delegates in Brighton could agree on, despite their factional loyalties, is that Sir Keir must go. The question is when and who’s going to take his place?

It’s an easy one for the Corbynistas. They’ve got no-one willing or even capable under the new rules of mounting a challenge to the current leader. It’s not so simple for the right-wing. There are plenty who think they can do a better job than Starmer at the moment – his deputy Angela Rayner is one. Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, is another. They both claim to be old school “centre-left” social-democrats and have the street-cred Starmer so plainly lacks. But now’s not the time. They clearly don’t think Labour can beat the Tories at the next election – and they certainly don’t want to take Starmer’s place simply to lead Labour into a further defeat at the polls.

They believe time is on their side and that when Starmer goes Labour will then turn to them to pick up the pieces.

That may be their timetable. It’s not ours. Labour could win the next election if it mobilises its core vote around a working-class agenda drawn up by the unions and the labour movement as a whole. Corbyn showed what even a modest shift to the left can achieve on the street, drawing crowds of Biblical proportions to his rallies when he was leader.

We have to campaign to sweep the careerists out of the labour movement. We must strive to elect genuine working-class leaderships who are prepared to represent, and fight in, the unions against the employers and the right-wing within the movement. We must struggle to put the communist answer to the crisis back on the working-class agenda.