When outsiders and their money drive policy and choose staff…
I may have left the Labour Party but it continues to fascinate — a bit like watching a driverless train heading quickly towards the buffers at a deserted station.
What has become clear over the last few days is that the party’s funds seem to be in parlous shape. This has forced Sir Keith Strimmer to abandon any struggle to manage the optics around bowing to the wishes of prospective donors.
To be fair to the man, he can afford the gamble at the moment because the media are occupied with other matters and they already know that Labour under the garden gnome is not going to be a party that threatens the status quo. No attacks on inequality, poverty, and militarism are on the cards.
But with the exodus of many thousands of left-wing members of Labour both at the election of Starmer as leader and then after, when his purge of socialists began, money is now increasingly tight at Labour H.Q. Luckily, a Labour Party now shorn of left-wing policies can go cap in hand to some of the old centrist donors. These are the rich with consciences, the equivalent of the Victorian philanthropists who saved fallen women or set up foundations for foundlings and orphans.
The trouble with being dependent on donors to pay for a party’s infrastructure is that sometimes the donors want reassurances. Centrists don’t want to slip Labour a few million now and suddenly find they’ve sponsored a party that wants to make real change. To actually improve the lives of the majority.
And so we get outcomes that stink, no matter how they’re perfumed with press releases and briefings. One such outcome is the sudden resignation of the leader of Scottish Labour — or, more accurately, after Starmer’s intervention Labour’s Scottish branch. Richard Leonard has long been on the receiving end of attacks from right-wing party colleagues, no doubt briefed from down south about the best ways to undermine a leader.
But a call with prospective donors followed by an indication — at the very least — from Starmer that Leonard should go in order to secure funding in not a good look. But, as I said at the top, Starmer is gambling that looks are not important, especially now. And especially when money is needed to counter the loss in party subscriptions.
There are elections to the Scottish Assembly in May. It’s not the best time to switch leadership, especially when the likely winner of any race is probably on the right of the party and someone leaning more stridently towards unionism. Two of the political positions that more or less led to the destruction of Labour in Scotland in 2015.
But still, if the wealthy are prepared to back those positions and keep the party running despite election results, the voters can go hang.