The images that prove Starmer’s first shadow cabinet is much less about ‘unity’ than Corbyn’s was

Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer Labour leadership
Ed Sykes

The Canary has created two images which show new Labour leader Keir Starmer’s first shadow cabinet to be much less about ‘unity’ than former leader Jeremy Corbyn’s was. This is particularly important considering that Starmer positioned himself in the recent leadership election as the “unity candidate“, and that Corbyn’s enemies consistently accused him of “dividing” the party.

Corbyn sought unity from the very start. Starmer not so much.

To create the images below, we have used information about whom members of each shadow cabinet nominated or backed in:

For his first shadow cabinet in 2015, Corbyn seemed to bring only three loyalists with him (i.e. MPs who backed him in 2015 and 2016 and backed left-wing successor Rebecca Long-Bailey in 2020). For Starmer’s first shadow cabinet, however, he seemed to bring 16 loyalists with him (i.e. MPs who nominated him for leader in 2020 and who had generally opposed Corbyn’s leadership). In short, it looks like Corbyn made much more of an effort to reach out to his opponents than Starmer’s doing right now.

Starmer’s mandate?

Corbyn became leader with a bigger percentage than Starmer. In 2015, with a turnout of 76.3%, Corbyn got around 59.5% of first-preference votes (against three opponents). A year later, against just one candidate, Corbyn got 61.8%, with a turnout of 77.6%. Then, in 2020, the turnout slipped significantly to 62.6%, and Starmer won with 56.2% (against two candidates).

With these figures in mind, it would be easy to say that Starmer’s mandate is weaker than Corbyn’s was, and that the new leader should put even more of an emphasis on party unity. But his first shadow cabinet suggests he’s actually focusing less on unity than Corbyn did.

Labour’s new shadow cabinet

While the 2020 leadership election enthused a smaller percentage of the Labour movement than in 2015 and 2016, one thing is clear: members still back big Corbyn-era policies. From nationalisations to scrapping tuition fees, environmental action to empowering trade unions, from taxing the rich more to “a pay ratio of 20:1 for all employers”, one recent poll shows overwhelming support from members. So one might have expected Starmer to include a few more Corbyn supporters in his shadow cabinet. But it seems that wasn’t high up on his to-do list:

A table showing the members of Keir Starmer's first shadow cabinet and their leadership voting records
In first column, Andy Burnham is ‘AB’, Yvette Cooper is ‘YC’, and Liz Kendall is ‘LK’. In third column, Keir Starmer is ‘KS’, Lisa Nandy is ‘LN’, Emily Thornberry is ‘ET’, and Jess Phillips is ‘JP’.
Corbyn’s first shadow cabinet

Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile, took a big risk from the very start of his leadership by filling his shadow cabinet with many people who had little sympathy for his principles:

A table showing the members of Jeremy Corbyn's first shadow cabinet and their leadership voting records

*Watson, however, later admitted to voting for Smith in 2016. **Berger openly supported Smith, but appeared not to nominate him.

Not a good start, Keir

Starmer’s failure to reach out to left-wingers more isn’t the only problem with his first shadow cabinet, though. For example, there’s the likely loss of Corbyn’s principled anti-imperialist focus with Lisa Nandy as shadow foreign secretary. There’s also the worrying appointment of invasion-of-Iraq fanboy John Healey as defence secretary. Then, there’s the presence of Rachel Reeves – who once said Labour should be ‘tougher than the Tories’ regarding the benefit system and who recently got away with celebrating a ‘rabid antisemite’. And finally, there’s the firing of left-wingers like Jon Trickett and Ian Lavery – people who really get why Labour is losing northern communities in England, and how it could turn things around.

If Starmer is really interested in keeping left-wingers engaged with Labour Party politics, he’s clearly got a long way to go.

Featured image via YouTube – Owen Jones / YouTube – Guardian News

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  • Show Comments
    1. So, yet another bunch of warmongers and benefit slashers. I have posted this on another Canary blog:

      KIER STARMER’S VICTORY SPEECH TRANSLATED

      I Sir Kier Starmer do solemnly Swear that, as Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition I will:

      • Not provide or endeavour to provide any opposition to this Government. I will though, offer a mild rebuke now and then when they have made mistake(s) such as Austerity, Universal Credit and the removal of civil rights and liberties
      • For the good of the nation I will work constructively with this extreme right wing Government to ensure that the poor and vulnerable are further stamped on and support the chronic mess this Government has made of the British Economy by not questioning their track record and not proposing that anything should change
      • Sack from the Party all those alleged anti-Semites without investigation, without trial and without the right to a defence. I will also use this process to rid the Party of all those socialist, left-wing activists with the help of the UK Jewish British Board of Deputies. God help any MP who speaks up for the Palestinians
      • Unite the Party by clearing out any Corbyn supporters from the Party and from the Cabinet so that the Party will no longer have any dissenting voices to Tory Government Policy and purging the Party of all socialist principles including those that built the NHS, the Welfare State, Free Education and other socialist things
      • To allow a foreign Government, with the help of the BoD to, not only dictate The Party’s Foreign Policy but also to dictate its internal policies. This will provide a foundation for our Foreign Policy to be linked to that of the Israeli and USA in keeping with this current Government’s excellent objectives. The Shadow Foreign Secretary has deep-roots with Israel and the British Board of Deputies and her appointment will promote this policy
      • Do whatever the MSM tell me to do in order to maximise my potential for becoming the next Prime Minister. If they say Jump I promise to say ‘How high’. At their request, I have already sacked Cabinet Ministers who were loyal to Corbyn. I will do their bidding willingly and without question because it is important to support their blind allegiance to this corrupt Government and to get them on my side for when I am the next Prime Minister
      • Will not provide any challenge at all to the draconian Coronavirus Bill because the serious erosion of civil liberties and rights and the handing of huge power to the Prime Minister is what the people need to be kept in line with the official propaganda and fake news promulgated by this Government. My main priority of course, was firstly to appease the BoD; nothing else is more important at the present time
      • For the good of the nation, I will fully support further draconian measure that hand more and more powers to the police to enforce conformity of the citizens. People will know me to be firm in this regard as I refused to sign Warrants for the arrest of the police who murdered that Brazilian on the London Underground
      • Protect the rich from any transparency and scrutiny as to their business affairs as it is not necessary. I applied this to myself during my election campaign by refusing to disclose my list of financial backers so I must apply it to the rich and the powers that be also
      • Refute utterly, completely, emphatically and unequivocally all socialist principles and policies so that the newly Right-Wing Labour Party politicians are free from a conscience about supporting the many and not the few
      • Support this extremely right-wing Government in their progression towards Totalitarianism in the hope that I will one day lead the country as the Leader of such a regime
      • Refer to Jeremy Corbyn as my friend publicly whilst all the time stabbing him, his progressive, visionary Manifesto and his loyal MPs, in the back as I did when I resigned from his Shadow Cabinet because everyone else was doing in order to oust him from the Leadership of the Party

      Now is the time for all socialists, pacifists, anti-benefits cut MPs and members to leave the Party. What we have here is nothing more than the Tory Party we’ve got now. You know something is wrong when the British Board of Deputies has gushing praise for Starmer and for “we want to work with him on everything from poverty, anti-semitism, racism, poverty” you know this is double speak for – we will tell you what your policy is going to be. Strange though, that the I******i Government doesn’t apply the same priniciple to the Palestinians isn’t it?

      What a mess, bring back Corbyn for God’s sake, he was committed to greater equality, distribution of wealth, fighting injustice wherever it was and was brilliant at the despatch box. What a sorry state of affairs for this country, really sorry. I must admit to having shed some tears when I heard Stooge Starmer’s victory speech. More now than ever, this Government needs a robust opposition when they must be delighted to find they have a Party that will readily collaborate with them and NEVER oppose them, not on anything. Well hell, I guess there’s another war coming and Starmer will sell us down the river. Apart from David Lammy and Ed Milliband and Rebecca Long-Bailey (a token appointment) this Shadow Cabinet is useless, absolutely useless

    2. The Labour Party is a creation of the Trade Unions which grew from the bottom up in the 19th century. They were a response to poor working conditions, low wages, poor living conditions and the absence of political rights. By the end of the 19th century the unions were powerful enough to take on governments. The Triple Alliance of coal, steel and rail could shut down the economy in short order. Yet it was at this point the unions decided to create a political party to gain representation in parliament and councils. As soon as this happened, the party began to be colonised by middle-class careerists. Keir Hardie was an authentic working-class radical, but few of his kind came to represent Labour. It wasn’t long before the privately-educated, Oxbridge squad saw Labour as their best opportunity of political greatness. Hardly any wanted radical change. Figures like Nye Bevan, working-class and not university educated are rare among Labour’s leadership. Bevan was expelled. He is reviled by the likes of Roy Hattersley (anyone recall Hattersley’s great achievements ?). For almost all its existence, Labour has been a party of compliance. It has served as vehicle for the ambitions of slightly liberal folk, content with capitalism, many who educated their children privately, who are far more interested in their own place in the history books than creating a society of democratic equality. Blair leads Labour becomes a multi-millionaire who loves to rub shoulders with the rich and powerful. Tush. Corbyn was traduced because he believes in the equality of his rhetoric. Starmer is simply taking Labour back to is customary position. His appointees are more concerned for the own egos, bank accounts and celebrity than to solve the problems of climate change, the threat of nuclear war, the obscenity of great wealth cheek by jowl with great deprivation. Expect little from Labour in the coming years. But remember the trade unionist of the 19th century. They built a powerful movement from the bottom up. That’s what we must do. Outside parliament. A movement of persistent, principled protest and above all a campaign for a democratic workplace. Co-operation not capitalism. We must make Starmer’s Labour look like what it is: mealy-mouthed, pusillanimous and compliant. We must be the real opposition.

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