PMQs just exposed Starmer’s complete lack of principles

Keir Starmer at PMQs on 7 October
Steve Topple

It’s fair enough if you’ve given up watching Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) recently. Because the previous few weeks have been dire to say the least. But a question from Keir Starmer to Boris Johnson over the 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants cast a light on another big story. And it shows the Labour leader is devoid of principles.

PMQs: Starmer rebelling?

As BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg tweeted, Starmer might be about to ‘rebel’ against Johnson:

 

She was not the only one who spotted it:

So, it seems Starmer could tell his MPs to vote against the 10pm rule. But this is particularly damning given the bills he’s asked MPs to abstain on. What a shame he couldn’t do the same over, say – the potential torture and murder of people by UK government actors?

A ‘covert’ bill

The covert human intelligence sources (CHIS) bill has hit the news this week. LabourList said it:

aims to give legal protection for a previously secret power – ‘the third direction’ – allowing MI5, police forces and other specified public bodies to authorise agents and informants to commit criminal offences.

Amnesty UK has warned that ‘this bill could end up providing informers and agents with a licence to kill’ and stressed that it ‘does not explicitly prohibit MI5 and other agencies from authorising crimes like torture and killing’.

Essentially, as the Guardian reported, the:

bill confirm[s] MI5’s right to let informants commit crimes in pursuit of intelligence material.

Or, as the Morning Star summed up:

Even the equivalent legislation in the United States rules out torture and murder, yet nothing is ruled out in this Bill. We are assured only that law-breaking will be limited to specific, internally approved cases.

Abstaining: the centrist way

On Monday 5 October, there was a vote on the bill in parliament. Starmer, though, had told his MP’s to abstain. But 20 MPs, including Jeremy Corbyn, voted against the bill. And Starmer’s decision caused outrage:

But Labour abstaining on massive issues is nothing new. Starmer previously sacked Nadia Whittome from the front bench for not abstaining (and voting against) another bill. Centrist leaders have a track record of forcing MPs to abstain. Not least during repeated votes on welfare issues.

The CHIS bill has still got more stages to pass through. The Canary will be publishing more analysis on the implications of the bill. But Starmer’s whipping on it sums up his leadership entirely: devoid of principle and pandering to right-wing rhetoric.

Featured image via BBC iPlayer – screengrab

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  • Show Comments
    1. The only reason I would now vote Labour is if I lived in Islington or Hackney (And a few other places with decent non-centrist candidates). There is no way in hell I can square voting for Starmer with my conscience.

      McDonnell and Corbyn should not have quit.

      But they did. :'(

    2. I don’t quite understand this article’s angle, given thecanary.co is (I think) independent and anti-plutocracy.

      In a general election, if one was choosing between centre-left Starmer and socialist-left Corbyn it’d be a genuine choice between two politicians with different ideologies but same aim i.e. to make a better country for all the people who live in it.

      But an election with either Starmer or Corbyn versus deregulate-and-grift Boris Johnson is not a genuine real-world choice. Boris isn’t aiming to make a better country for all the people who live in it. His focus is on enriching his inner circle, while giving away as little as possible to everyone else.

      And this is where I don’t quite understand thecanary.co. By sniping at Starmer, it’s not helping the socialist-left and it undermines the chance of a united opposition necessary to wrest power from the Tories. It plays into the hands of the Boris Johnson cabal. Plutocracy thrives on divide-and-rule.

      I guess you could say “every opportunity to state one’s principles unadulterated matters more than winning elections; if the election can only be won by compromising them”. Is that the reasoning? I’d like to understand, if possible.

      1. I think it comes from the wonderful political freedom that we have for not being American. You see, those poor saps only HAVE two choices. “Lesser evilism” ensures they never have to count above two. Stupidity and apathy are rampant.

        However, here in the UK, we have more than two parties. There is Plaid Cymru, Sinn Fein, Greens, SNP, NI Religious Dinosaurs, hell even the Liberal Party.

        Why exactly should we all “Line up behind The Dear Leader” – especially when he is neither dear (except in cost to principles), nor leads in the direction we want to go?

        You see the problem here?

        And now perhaps you understand.

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