A sociologist just slammed Starmer’s new paywalled Telegraph article

Keir Starmer with the Union Jack and the Telegraph logo

Keir Starmer has once again written an article for the right-wing Telegraph. And once again, it’s behind a paywall. But this time, he and the Labour Party have a new catchphrase. And already a sociologist has pulled apart this new, decidedly worrying, slogan.

Starmer in the Telegraph. Again.

Starmer has a habit of writing for the Telegraph. He has, to date, not seemed bothered by the fact people have to pay to read his five articles. In his latest piece, the Labour leader has taken aim at Boris Johnson. BBC News reported that the Tory government is changing the council tax rules. It will allow local councils to increase bills by up to 5%. The government has changed this figure in the past. For example, in 2020/21 it reduced it to 4% from 5% in 2019/2020.

The Labour leader isn’t happy about this. He wrote in the Telegraph that:

It is absurd that during the deepest recession in 300 years, at the very time millions are worried about the future of their jobs and how they will make ends meet, Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak are forcing local government to hike up council tax.

Fair enough. But it was something else Starmer said that caught the eye of a sociologist.

Sorry, what…?

Gayle Letherby noted a new catchphrase from Starmer, who said in the article:

Under my leadership, Labour will be the party of the family. That starts with helping families through the current lockdown and protecting family budgets.

Letherby took issue with the phrase “the party of the family”. She tweeted that:

She continued, saying that the “hierarchy of family” translated to:

the most valued being heterosexual, white, able-bodied, married, financially secure, not too many children, not too few children, father as breadwinner… against which other family forms have been found wanting, even defined by some as ‘unnatural’, ‘abnormal’.

And she noted that:

This focus also excludes MANY people who do not live – either by choice or circumstance – within a family.

Indeed. Because the idea of a “family” in 21st century UK is completely diverse.

What is a family?

Figures for 2019 show that in the UK there were:

  • 2.9 million lone parent families; of these, 14% were lone parent fathers.
  • 8.2 million people who lived alone; a rise of a fifth in 20 years.
  • 212,000 same sex couples living together, up 40% since 2015.
  • 297,000 “multi-family households” that consist of two or more families.

Moreover, 16.3% of families with children were cohabiting (not married). Also, in 2018/19, one in seven adoptions were to LGBTQI+ couples. So, Starmer calling Labour the “party of the family” seems a bit odd. Because aside from excluding millions of people living on their own, “family” is a word with a now-sweeping meaning. But why did he say this?

Blue Labour rearing its ugly head?

Letherby noted that:

I’m old enough… to remember [Margaret] Thatcher’s focus on ‘family values’ which translated as traditional (Victorian) patriarchal, middle and upper class (so called) morality. Yes Victorian values; when poverty, exploitation of children and abuse within households was rife.

Starmer’s use of the phrase may well be playing into this “traditional” right-wing idea. The Canary has repeatedly written about his seeming affinity with the Blue Labour movement. It noted that the ideology is:

a concept founded by Maurice Glasman based on socially conservative values of ‘family, faith and flag’ but more socialist economic policies. It is rooted in the values that Glasman perceived existed in the party pre-WWII.

The Canary wrote in May 2020 that:

Starmer is not the biggest socially left-wing liberal going: his muted support for trans rights has been criticised, and during the leadership election he didn’t sign a pledge card committing to expel “transphobic” members. Moreover, he’s come out recently and said Labour should be “proudly patriotic”. And he even got a front page in the Telegraph.

So is this more of the same from the Labour leader?

Misunderstanding working class people

Possibly. The idea of Labour being “the party of the family” seems to build on this narrative. It’s one that may well be trying to win back so-called Red Wall, working class voters. But in doing so he’s excluding millions of people. Moreover, by doing it in the pay-to-read Telegraph, he’s intentionally speaking to middle class, right-wing Tory voters. So, Starmer is just playing into socially conservative narratives, as opposed to challenging them. As Letherby said:

just who is doing the research for Labour now? Whoever it is I’d advice a quick chat with any sociologist before proceeding further with an agenda likely to be limited, limiting, judgemental and open to easy critique before it begins.

Happy #SocialistSunday everyone.

Indeed, happy socialist Sunday; a sentiment unlikely to appear on Starmer’s Twitter timeline any time soon.

Featured image via Sky News – YouTube and Wikimedia 

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  • Show Comments
    1. That interview by Starmer on Marr was a car crash. I would hardly accuse Marr of needing to be “forensic” to see Starmer make error after error, to go back on his “promises,” to show that he is simply playing to what he thinks [sic] may be the current gallery – whether that is the red wall or the Telegraph reader.

      Clearly, he believes that by not having inward migration from the EU, that he’ll appeal to the racists. He agrees on virtually everything with Johnson (what’s this – don’t scare the horses[Tories]).

      Where are your principles man? THAT is the cause of the car crash interview – you have no principles on which to found your policies. Trying to falsely appeal to a theoretical Tory voter is NOT a principle, and it’s a policy that will sink Labour. And if Labour is simply a Starmerite Party, then that can’t happen soon enough.

    2. Isn’t it marvellous to see the right wing media, from the Beeb to the broadsheets giving airtime and printspace to the new Labour leader.
      Wonder why they never gave Jeremy Corbyn the same concideration?

      1. JT: don’t let the subtlties of poitical ambience trouble your ‘old colonial’ racists consciousness. I for one don’t perceive any irony in your sad little moniker. Read a bit more, do some volutary work, you might see a bit more.
        Starmer’s ideology seems to be increasingly tending toward national socialism – should suit you do sir!

        1. Just in from a 12 hour shift. I’m a key worker by the way.
          Now where’s my nazi armband and stick on tooth brush. mustache?
          Kier Starmer and moderates in the Labour Party are tending towards national socialism. Hilarious.
          Do you think it might be you that’s tending towards totalitarian thinking ? I’m guessing your a rather angry and puritanical chap.

          1. Congratulations. If you are one of the millions of keyworkers I applaud you. However, I still maintain you are an old style racist of the imperial variety and angry, vicious and without any natural empathy for your neighbours. Not sure where you get the ‘…rather angry and puritanical chap.’ from, I would never have referred to you as a steaming spelling error in prior posts if I was puritanical. I find it amusing to respond to your purile responses to articles in The Canary, but I’m pleased you support it. ;o)

    3. It’s unclear to me whether councils will be allowed or forced to raise council taxes.
      From this article: “the Tory government is changing the council tax rules. It will allow local councils to increase bills by up to 5%.”
      From The Telegraph’s 9 January article by Starmer, ‘Boris Johnson must scrap this absurd council tax hike and start supporting families:’ “Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak are forcing local government to hike up council tax.”

    4. Starmer is in danger of losing the lib dems who have flocked to labour – they are usually socially liberal -he’s already upset them by enthusiastically throwing in the towel over brexit and his surrender over human rights.
      Is he for the middle classes (lib dems), the softer tories or the so called red wall?
      One thing I do know he isn’t for the working class, he isn’t for the dispossessed, he isn’t for the downtrodden, and he isn’t for the many and varied ways that people choose to share their lives with others.

    5. Perhaps he is targeting Tories by concentrating on the relatively narrow reach of this publication. In practical marketing terms, this means tailoring the message to reflect what that very specific, small readership most want to hear. But in Ethical marketing terms, whether by accident or design, to target mainly Tory readers by appealing to them on their own turf, in their own terms, where he feels himself at home while ignoring the harsh realities experienced among Labours bedrock constituency. Apparently sidelined will likely be perceived negatively by most workers, from teachers to nurses, transport workers and public service workers, our elderly and our young people, and all those whose livelihoods and means of existence are taking a big hit under Tory austerity in the dark days of Covid.

    6. Perhaps he is targeting Tories by concentrating on the relatively narrow reach of the Torygraph. In practical marketing terms, this means tailoring the message to reflect what that very specific, small readership most want to hear. But in Ethical marketing terms, whether by accident or design, to target mainly Tory readers by appealing to them on their own turf, in their own terms, where he feels himself at home while ignoring the harsh realities experienced among Labours bedrock constituency. Apparently sidelined will likely be perceived negatively by most workers, from teachers to nurses, transport workers and public service workers, our elderly and our young people, and all those whose livelihoods and means of existence are taking a big hit under Tory austerity in the dark days of Covid.

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