A message to anyone thinking of voting for Keir Starmer in the Labour leadership race

Keir Starmer and an image of an undercover police officer
Emily Apple

Keir Starmer announced his intention to run in the Labour leadership contest on 4 January. But there’s a message that anyone thinking of voting for Starmer needs to read before supporting him.

Let’s be clear on Starmer’s record

Starmer has reportedly taken an early lead as the favourite candidate among Labour MPs. A promotional video for Starmer’s campaign features the work he did representing the striking print-workers at Wapping and the free legal advice he gave to poll-tax protesters. The video also states that:

Keir stood in solidarity with workers and trade unions.

Later in the video, his work ‘standing up for protesters’ in the 1990s is extolled.

Starmer has, without doubt, done some excellent work in his career. But the video omits some of the decisions Starmer made as the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). As DPP, Starmer was responsible for prosecuting all those lovely people he previously defended. But more significantly, there are serious questions over Starmer’s role in covering up the undercover policing scandal.

Not systemic?

Keir was DPP when revelations were published about the first known modern ‘spycop’, Mark Kennedy. Kennedy infiltrated environmental and anticapitalist groups between 2003 and 2009. In 2011, a trial of environmental activists accused of plotting to break into Ratcliffe power station collapsed after it emerged that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had covered up vital evidence. This evidence consisted of recordings Kennedy had made of planning meetings. Starmer was present in court the day the case was thrown out.

20 people already prosecuted from the same action had their convictions overturned. And a further 29 people convicted of blocking a train carrying coal to Drax power station also had convictions quashed due to Kennedy’s involvement.

The CPS ordered an investigation into what had happened. Interviewed about the ensuing report in 2011, Starmer said:

If Sir Christopher Rose had found systemic problems, then I would quite accept perhaps a retrospective look at all the cases. But he didn’t, he found individual failings.

Utter bullshit

But it was systemic. In 2015, the Guardian reported that 83 people could have been wrongfully convicted after evidence of spycop involvement was withheld. And details of exactly how systematic it was are still coming out. On 6 January, the Guardian published details of the case of an 81-year-old man trying to get a conviction overturned for an anti-apartheid protest in 1972. Following revelations from the Undercover Policing Inquiry, he discovered that the person he was convicted alongside was actually an undercover police officer.

Meanwhile, the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance claims:

If the other 150 or so officers have similar tallies [as Kennedy], it means about 7,000 wrongful convictions are being left to stand. Even if we conservatively estimate just one false conviction per officer per year of service, it adds up to about 600. It may well be that spycops are responsible for the biggest nobbling of the judicial system in English history.

So Starmer’s suggestion that Kennedy’s actions were not systematic is bullshit.

What’s less clear is how much Starmer knew and how much he covered up. But those of us involved in the Undercover Policing Inquiry are not convinced of his innocence. As one core participant said, the scandal:

wasn’t just the police. Released papers showed the Crown Prosecution Service had been deeply involved – they knew about the plan before the arrests, they worked with the police to withhold evidence from the defence and the courts.

“Do you trust him to lead the Labour Party”?

Regarding Starmer’s involvement, the participant added:

As the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer went on TV to promote the report. Clearly untrained for media, he did this weird rapid blinking thing whenever he was lying.

Paxman opened by asking if Starmer could be sure there were no other cases of spycops being in prosecuted groups of activists apart from Kennedy. Starmer did the blinking thing and said that we have to accept Rose’s already discredited conclusions. Which is not an answer to the question, so Paxman asked again… It was excruciating viewing.

Starmer went on to say that, if anyone suspects a co-defendant might have been a spycop, to tell him. But how can we know which of our former comrades were cops?

It’s like getting burgled, finding a fingerprint and the police saying ‘come to us if you know whose print it is’. It’s they who have the records that put names to the prints, they should be looking at them and telling us and then we can check. Surely they should check their own files to see if officers were known to have been prosecuted.

It’s clear that officers deceived courts and orchestrated wrongful convictions for decades, and they did it with the active collusion of the Crown Prosecution Service. As head of the CPS, Starmer knew this but, rather than try to expose it, he lied to cover it up, saying it was just rogue officer Kennedy even though it was already public knowledge that wasn’t true.

And this leads to one very important and fundamental question for everyone selecting the next Labour leader:

Do you trust him to lead the Labour Party with honesty & integrity?

He had the power to deliver justice and didn’t

I was also spied on by several police officers and am also a core participant in the inquiry. My simple answer to the question above is no. We don’t know exactly what Starmer knew. But he was DPP. Even if he didn’t know all the details, he was one of the few people in the country with the power to find out and with the power to deliver justice. He didn’t. And this lack of integrity means I could never vote for him as Labour leader.

As DPP, Starmer also worked with Nick Paul, the national coordinator for ‘domestic extremism’ at the CPS. As the Undercover Research Group reported, Paul:

had the job title of CPS’ National Coordinator for Domestic Extremism, even though that term has no legal definition and thus no meaning in law. He was in a powerful position of control from the start, overruling senior police as he steered the case. Which raises questions about his role in other cases. He had already helped create another miscarriage of justice the previous year, securing the wrongful convictions for the ‘Drax 29’ group of climate activists. The CPS refused to say which other cases he had handled.

Grossly offensive and disingenuous

But in terms of Starmer, this raises other questions about his suitability for Labour’s top job; particularly for anyone who’s ever attended a protest and who could be labelled a domestic extremist. And as someone with a domestic extremist file going back to the time when Starmer was DPP, Starmer’s radical history tour video is grossly offensive and disingenuous. His video states that:

Keir stood up for the protesters who were trying to stop the widening of the M3 and the destruction of the downland when the full force of the state was against them.

These are the same protesters that were spied upon and labelled domestic extremists.

Starmer’s work as the DPP is a classic case of poacher turned gamekeeper. However good his work in the 1980s and 90s, he was happy to work as head of an organisation which: promoted prosecuting people for protesting; promoted using the term domestic extremist; and couldn’t even be transparent over how many cases Paul was involved with.

“This is about my people, our people, us”

Ultimately, Starmer was head of an organisation that supported and enabled the political policing many of us have spent years fighting. Even if he didn’t have the oversight of what was happening with spycops, he was happy being part of that system. And that’s without going into detail over the appalling decisions Starmer made regarding prosecuting the officers involved in the deaths of Jean Charles de Menezes and Ian Tomlinson.

As Mae Benedict, who was spied on alongside her young child, put it:

This is about my people, our people, us. It’s hard to explain to generations below us the immense damage that these bastards did to us, not just as activists, as a community, but on a personal level, and much more so for those closest to them. This will never, ever be forgiven or forgotten.

This is exactly how I feel. Supporting Starmer would be a betrayal. So if you’re voting in the Labour Party leadership election, please listen to how the victims of police spying feel. Not just out of solidarity – but because of what our experiences, and how Starmer is using his radical past, tell us about his honesty and integrity.

Featured image via Wikimedia and Police Spies Out of Lives

We need your help ...

The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.

Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.

We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.

Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?

The Canary Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. Extraordinary that Labour’s ‘shadow Remain Secretary’* is anywhere near being suggested as a potential new Labour leader when it was Labour Remainers like him who failed catastrophically and allowed the Tories their devastating ‘Get Brexit Done’ win in the recent general election. Yes – he may have a certain grasp of detail dressed as he is inclined to in banal city suit and with slippery, slimy gelled-down hair. So what? He has the charisma of a wet lettuce. Of course, we all know why the media and that ‘disunite Union’ are pushing their bland fellow forward to be next Labour leader. It’s because he looks and sounds kinda like many across the political parties so able at waffling their dreary centrist pragmatic nothingnesses trying to be all things to all political stratas and satisfying not a single anybody.

      *Yes – we know. He was actually ‘shadow Brexit Secretary’ in a former life.

      1. If it were not for “leave” voting Labour MPs, Labour could have forced through a second referendum. If “remain” had won, which is very possible as only 45% voted for leave supporting parties, Johnson would have lost face, making it more likely for a Labour win at any subsequent election. We now have to wait for Tories and brexiters to die of old age before this country sees any hope.

    2. Strangely he, Starmer, supported the Mclibel Two, whose meetings were also spycopped back in the 90s.
      Here below the link, the full doc, in which he appears.

      Three years of parliamentary stalemate as, Starmer, part of a labour team that should have and could have outwitted the combined, pleb-authoritarian, tory petit-bourgeois gammon goons…had they had a minimum of contemporary psychological insight and read the results of three plebiscites ..the referendum, the May election and the EU elections and… polls that spoke volumes about the puritan , repressive, tidal wave of english populist fascism that lingers in every supermarket queue.
      But…we got this instead…( quote from article in the New European)..

      ‘The cause(of the failure of advice ) is the sectarianism of those who advised Corbyn, principally Seumas Milne and Andrew Murray, who are the modern equivalents of one of the strangest figures in Labour movement history, Rajani Palme Dutt. Dutt was the leading theoretician (that was the word they used) of Britain’s Communist Party, from the 1920s until he died in 1974.

      Like Milne and Murray, Dutt came from a privileged background. Milne is the Wykehamist son of former BBC director general Alasdair Milne; Murray, educated at top Catholic public school Worth, is the son of Peter Drummond-Murray, stockbroker, banker and herald, and the daughter of a hereditary peer.
      ……..
      ….In the 1980s Murray and Milne ran Straight Left, the monthly journal associated with the ‘Stalinist’, pro-Soviet, anti-Eurocommunist faction of the Communist Party.”

      The labour leadership front bench, failed to address let alone understand the nature of the forces against them, that they could not simplistically address by standard economic proclamations. We are in the 21st century of hypnotic induction for goddsake.

      I do not see in Keir Starmer the wit, the audacity and the dexterity needed to proclaim and vindicate truth as power nor to reverse the Cummings -Johnson ruthless vanity. Starmer hasn’t got the balls and more importantly , the voice of oratory.

      Mclibel Two:

      https://youtu.be/V58kK4r26yk

      Psychoanalysis and Democracy

      https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00548hr?fbclid=IwAR0GbkkqQfbYG0tI4Vr5z84crK0yLtebiFgVUBH9dShwX2dr2ywgp4a4ERU

    3. Its a defining moment how people close to power change to be like the ones in power. Its difficult to overcome this social chemistry. One has to utterly ignore the thought of power as relevant in finding out what the truth is, and requires a different courage, and mindset.
      Corbyn has it, but Keir Starmer doesn’t through no fault of his own, and doesn’t mean he ought to be vilified.
      You find stories in simple cultures of the dangerous influence leaders fall under once leaders are in a position of power, and this influence is very socially destructive.
      Its an observation from people down through the ages to be taken to heart and learnt from.
      Shooting each other in the foot and elsewhere isn’t going to help the labour Party resolve any issues, and
      your keeping company with a very bad mainstream press who are masters of this demented game played out upon an intelligence barely formed.
      My God life isn’t easy!
      As the saying goes you become the change you want to see in the world.

    4. The question is do you want a Labour Government. Of the candidates on offer Starmer is the best bet. He’s acceptable to me and I think he has a chance. I also think he has the wit to stand up to the blond twerp. Long Bailey is tainted by Corbyn. Angela Rayner will be a good Deputy,. However I am an old lady and I do not remember in my life time a far left govt (Foot) and as Corbyn has lost two elections it is time to bring the country back from the extreme left towards the centre. Doorstep feedback not voting for Corbyn.

      1. I too am old enough to remember when Neil Kinnock took the party “back to the center”. He than lost 2 elections in a row. Tony Blair only won in 1997 because people were sick of the Tories by that time. None of the “moderates” who left the Labour party kept their seats.

        1. ‘Moderates’?

          Who or what are ‘moderates’? Are they those Labour middling Tory-lite centrists that made Mr Corbyn’s life a living hell from the outset of his election to the leadership? Were or are any of these ‘moderates’ moderate in their ongoing spiteful language – the ‘moderates’ that blasphemed at him and time and again defamed and insulted him – calling him a Trot, a friend of extremists, a supporter of anti-Semites..?

          ‘Moderates’?

      2. Yeh!, lets elect another loser like Corbyn and make the Labour party as meaningful as Greenpeace, CND, Save the Whale etc
        Starmer as leader with Raynor as deputy. Way to go.

      3. I do want another Labour government. That’s why I’m anxious to avoid a repeat of Blair. Under the Blair government, income inequality grew, meaning that the rich got richer, and the majority of the population got poorer. This tallies with the fact that during that time housing, heating and food, fundamental necessities, all became considerably more expensive relative to salaries. And social mobility fell, meaning, it became harder for poor people to achieve success in life, harder to overcome the headstarts that wealth gives the rich. Against this, Surestart looks like a window-dressing: essentially the purpose of that was to enable create more workforce, it was for the benefit of employers, not employees.

        They didn’t do anything to counteract the chronic overcentralisation and rural decline affecting the country. All those mining communities, places exactly like and including Bishop Auckland and Blythe, which had the hearts ripped out of them after the miners’ strike, were allowed to continue to decline. They paid people to be unemployed rather than moving or creating jobs in places they were needed; so as soon as the Tories came along it was easy for them just to cut all the benefits and bingo, foodbanks galore. That crisis was enacted by the Tories but cued up by Blair.

        By avoiding raising income tax like the plague, and instead doing all those stealth taxes which everyone saw through, he reinforced the idea that tax is baaaad. He never made the argument for raising tax. Neither the practical nor the ethical ones. Which is why when an actual Labour leader came along – Brown, then Miliband, then Corbyn – the argument that sometimes, tax should be raised, you know, to pay for the stuff we need, looked like crazy Marxist extremism.

        They did nothing to rebuild the unions – of course they didn’t – Blair hated unions as much as thatcher, his very first act was the removal of Clause 4 after all. So now we’re all on zero hours with fuck all bargaining power and very precarious situations. Indeed, ZHCs were invented under Blair. Along with foundation hospitals and academy schools. Everything that the coalition did was set up by Blair. He didn’t contradict any of thatcher’s policies, he allowed them all to bloom.

        So we have to ask ourselves what is the point of a Labour government? What is the point if after thirteen years poor people are worse off? What is the point of voting Labour if the result is to further Tory ideology? Clearly, that’s why huge chunks of the population lost trust in Labour specifically and politics generally. It’s a funny thing how all the parts of the country that refused to listen to the advice of virtually all politicians and in particular Labour, regarding Brexit, are exactly the ones shafted by Blair. Exactly the people he assumed would always vote for him and he could therefore treat with contempt. I’m not exactly clear why anyone thinks all those people will suddenly forget about the last 20 years and rewind their mindsets back to 1997.

        Finally, the behaviour of the “centrists” since the fall of Blair has been disgusting. All three Labour Leaders have had to contend with insurrection from people who basically wanted Blair back. All these people who whine on about “broad church” did everything in their power to ensure that the Labour Party would not be elected if it was one inch away from their preferred direction. What went on under Corbyn was a disgrace. Mandelson boasted in 1997 that “I try to undermine Corbyn every day”. There’s your broad church. Clearly, these people, who do not command enough support to get their own way within Labour, and whose attempts to form new “centrist” parties always collapse because nobody wants it (it’s as if they haven’t noticed the centrist party that’s been coming a weak third in every election for the last century), are not willing to compromise, not willing to work together, not willing to take their turn in the back seat. What they mean by “broad church” is: “you give us your money, your energy and your votes, and then fuck off”. Broad church, like everything else that comes out of these people, is a lie. They can’t be trusted a single inch.

        I am poor. I want to be better off. I want a government which will raise taxes and renationalise the obvious things that everyone (76% for rail, last month) wants renationalised. A government which will create jobs in places that need them, and that will genuinely attempt to improve the lives of people towards the bottom of the economic scale. I’ve decided that going forwards, I will only vote and pay for a party that promises these things and I will vote and campaign against any party which does not, including Labour.

    5. It guess Chris Williamson in the ” broad church” scheme of things is a heretic duly punished, never to be heard of again. Wasn’t allowed to even run as an incumbent in his own riding? Am I wrong here?
      Or have I been mesmerized by events I can’t understand?
      Being older I can’t march to this right,left ,centre tune, and feel comfortable I’m engaged with any sense. Analogies are useful in speaking to one another, but just phrases leaves one wishing for a strong drink.

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.