If Labour gets another right-wing leader the party will be unelectable for a generation

Poser: this image of Keir Starmer suggests that he supports the right-wing idea that it is better to present the appearance of a leader than to actually be one.

At long last, the Labour leadership election is about to end.

Members have been voting since long before now, so This Writer won’t be influencing the result by pointing out:

If a right-winger like Keir Starmer or Lisa Nandy is elected, the party will be unelectable – and here’s why: It’s attitude will be wrong.

You see, right-wing Labour is small-minded and vindictive, and also unimaginative.

In policy it is too close to the Conservatives – and we already have them, so Labour won’t win more votes from that party than it will lose by alienating, or driving out, socialists who came back when Jeremy Corbyn took the leadership.

And the right-wingers have already made it perfectly clear that they intend to expel as many socialists – the people who carry the torch for the party’s original mission – as they possibly can.

Consider this:

Do not be sentimental. This is the time to purge the party machine and put your own people in charge. Sack the general secretary and all the place people immediately. Don’t believe them if they pledge allegiance – either they are being duplicitous or, worse, they mean it: if they rat now, won’t they re-rat in the future? As we said when we expelled Militant, there’s no problem with a witchhunt when there really are witches to hunt.

It’s part of an article claiming to be a Memo to Keir Starmer from John McTernan, in the expectation that Starmer will win.

McTernan was very much yesterday’s man during the Corbyn years – a right-wing loony with views that were rightly considered certain to drive the electorate out the door.

Now here he is, trying to ingratiate himself with his preferred candidate for the leadership by urging him to follow Hitler’s example and have his own Night of the Long Knives, to consolidate his victory and paint it – as Hitler did – as a way of preventing a future coup.

Look at the way he suggests that it would be worse if the people in place at the moment mean it when they pledge allegiance than if they were being duplicitous. He thinks it would be wrong to be loyal to the Labour Party. For McTernan a leader must stand at the head of his own cadre of cronies. No doubt McTernan expects himself to be a member of that gang.

The lack of belief in the honesty of the current Labour party officers says much about McTernan’s own trustworthiness. Isn’t there a song that tells us “It’s no secret that a liar won’t believe anyone else”?

How about this part, which is subtitled “Punish the losers”:

There’s an old saying in the Australian Labor Party: “magnanimity in defeat, vengeance in victory.” Make it your motto. Continuity Corbynistas like Rebecca Long Bailey and Richard Burgon must be exiled to the back benches for the rest of their parliamentary careers, which should be as brief as possible. Victory has to be absolute.

This is duplicitous in itself. The Labour Right was never magnanimous in defeat! Backstabbers like McTernan (and many others) did their level best to undermine the Corbyn project at every opportunity.

And the desperation to remove socialists from any position of authority denies the possibility that the public might consider them to have opinions worth sharing.

Abraham Lincoln had a “team of rivals” running his government, and he was one of the most successful US presidents of them all.

Most importantly, though, McTernan is urging Starmer to alienate a vast number of loyal party members by abandoning their politics. He states:

Punishing Burgon and Long Bailey will alienate a portion of the membership. Good. Let them return in disgust to the fringe parties where they should have been all along… Restore party conference to its proper role — a loyal leadership rally.

This will certainly reduce Labour’s national vote to below eight million – and keep it there for many years to come if loonies like McTernan get a chance to take, and consolidate, power.

His comment about the party conference suggests that he wants to reduce the membership to a tiny core of mindless, obedient Nazis – and the Parliamentary party to a club of pseudo-Tories, grinning encouragingly at the real thing as they vote through law after law to elevate themselves and stamp the rest of the population into the dirt.

That’s McTernan’s vision of the Labour Party’s future. And I don’t think you can trust either Starmer or Nandy to reject it.


  1. Rik April 2, 2020 at 12:28 am - Reply

    It wasn’t too long ago that I thought
    Keir Starmer was alright but, within the last few months I have changed my mind . . but I’m just a lowly pled so what do I know?? This darned Brexit really screwed us, all up . . . but the Tory party are really showing their true colours now with all this coronavirus business + PPE for those poor front of the house NHS workers …it’s so appalling & my sister still says Boris is doing a good job even tho she got a months sanction for not turning up for another interrogation as she says she got no letter . . . Keep safe everyone & God bless you all . .

    • SteveH April 2, 2020 at 3:56 am - Reply

      Like you I am also baffled by Johnson’s popularity amongst those who will suffer most at his hands.
      His popularity with the oldies is particularly perplexing. My mother who (unfortunately at 90 with multiple medical issues) is a prime candidate for Johnson and Cummings’ geronticide but she still has excuses for all his failures and still thinks the sun shines out of Boris’s arse.

  2. SteveH April 2, 2020 at 12:58 am - Reply

    I’ve yet to see a reason why I should trust RLB.

  3. Justin April 2, 2020 at 1:03 am - Reply

    retrospectively there does need to be reform of the voting system, it should no longer be a first past the post and seats one system. there should be a capability test before a candidate can put themselves up for voting, part of that test should involve experience in various roles, there should also be either a system similar to Northern Ireland. the count should also be a total overall count, not how many seats you win, that should be part of it, if candidates don’t want to work hard then they be out, we never saw ours, they just bunged leaflets through doors, to scared to come round as they have got chomped apart for backing tory policy, so a overall count has to be a deciding factor, look at some who got in and ask yourself this, they been very quiet, are they actually fit for a proper government role while this is going on?

  4. Elijah Traven April 2, 2020 at 1:05 am - Reply

    Lincoln was assassinated. Not too successful then. I think your message was just boot boy stuff against the boot boys you chose. We do have a pressing problem at the moment. The destruction of the population. Everything else has become irrelevant. Petty squabbling in the party will be ignored in the news media.

    • Mike Sivier April 3, 2020 at 11:23 am - Reply

      The circumstances of Lincolm’s death do not change the facts of his life – that’s a rather pathetic false argument.

      And yes, we do have a pressing problem. It’s just a shame that some people are doing the wrong things to tackle it. Do you really want to bring in more of them?

  5. Chris Frost April 2, 2020 at 4:53 am - Reply

    In order to change anything, Labour has to get elected. To do that, it has to reach the people of Great Britain who, sad to say, have become increasingly right-wing in their outlook. I was desperate for Corbyn to win, and an election after COVID-19 might have changed things, but that didn’t happen, and we got slaughtered at the poles. Despite years of crushing austerity, and stories of people dying from sanctions, and the rise of food banks, and the spectre of the NHS being sold off, self-interest still ruled when it came time to mark an X in the box. People have a short memory. Nurses have no PPE, and yet working-class Tories are already starting to praise Boris for his handling of tis crisis! That’s the reality of Britain today.

  6. Jeffrey Davies April 2, 2020 at 6:15 am - Reply

    Tell your sister to get help has giving them credence keeps the hurt longer has for starma the early look at it was not people’s voting for him but then whose counting the votes has this lot of red tie Tories will stoop to fixing the vote in their favour

  7. Growing Flame April 2, 2020 at 8:44 am - Reply

    Here we go again….maybe. I left the Labour Party when Blair was elected Leader as I just could not face years of compromise and kidding myself that all the effort I was putting in would result in better lives all round.
    It wasn’t just the Iraq war that caused me to stay away when Brown and,then , Milliband took over. I just could not face more years of opposing the Tories and their ideology only to find that I was facing a version of the same , free-enterprise, dogma from my own leadership.

    Having to fight a war on two fronts!

    If Starmer is elected, I will hang on as I know that there is a broad swathe of the Labour membership that welcomed the bolder, more modern policies that have come in recently. Can Starmer really ditch the Green New Deal, or nationalising the railways and utilities, or protecting the NHS from privatisation.

    Tiernan makes comparisons with the old Militant tendency, but they were a specific , organised grouping with a particular,centralised ideology.
    Even Momentum isn’t remotely like that. The Corbinite Left is a disparate body of opinion within the Party that cannot be just expelled en masse.

    If they are like me, a lot of Labour members are loyal to policies, not particular personalities.

    As for “fringe Parties”, we should not forget that movements outside the Labour Party have had profound effects on British Party politics , from things like the fox-hunting ban to our Labour Green policies to the clear public majority in favour of public ownership of the railways.

    For the moment, I will hang on as a Labour activist. But if Starmer starts to ditch our policies which continue to enthuse millions of voters, like thousands of other Labour activists(including some of the hardest workers) ,I will be out of there, and Labour will be reduced to the status of the Tory Party ie a hollow-sham of its former strength, reliant on getting favourable Press coverage to win over voters as there won’t be enough activists at street level to get the Party message over.

  8. Julia April 2, 2020 at 9:31 am - Reply

    First of all Mike, a big thank you for all your hard work during these difficult times. I hope you and your family are all okay.

    Dreadful rhetoric from this man but I think these quotes from Wikipedia probably tells us all we need to know about John McTernan :

    “Following the 2016 revelations about David Cameron’s earlier offshore earnings, and Corbyn’s call for an investigation, McTernan argued in his Daily Telegraph column that tax avoidance is an expression of basic British freedoms.”

    and :

    “Mr McTernan who joined Momentum in 2017, had previously been a staunch critic of Jeremy Corbyn, having called on him to resign before June’s general election and once branding MPs who nominated him to get on to the initial leadership ballot “morons”.”

    Can anyone fill me in on his history in Momentum? One wonders why he joined…

  9. Mike Cooke April 2, 2020 at 10:24 am - Reply

    Australian LP is funny example. It was expected to win the last election easily and lost it anyway. During the Bob Hawke period(1983-1993) it was notoriously corrupt. It was a majority government 2007-2010 (43% vote), minority 2010-2013 (38%), and in the last few elections has only managed 33-34%.

    • Ludus57 April 8, 2020 at 6:50 pm - Reply

      I think that a major reason for the Aussie LP losing was because McTernan was their strategy advisor.
      Where the wheel meets the road he is not up to the level of his hype.

  10. Chris Kitcher April 2, 2020 at 10:49 am - Reply

    Sadly as a nation our political parties have been reduced to vote chasing toadies, thanks to Tony Blair, who will bow to the opinion polls rather than show real leadership that is in the interests of the country.

    Jeremy Corbyn (JC) et al had the correct ideology and policies but lacked true leadership capabilities and I have to say the JC was not the best at managing the leadership role that is needed to get the message over to the public.

    The major problem for a new leader is going to be the right wing press that effectively cost Labour the election by their constant and brutal attacks on JC, who never clearly called them to account because of the snakes in the Labour Party that were trying their hardest to undermine him.

    for the future the Labour Party needs a strong leader who is an ardent follower of JC’s ideals but will attack back viciously if need be at the snakes within Labour and more importantly at the right wing press.

    As a result I feel that Rebecca Long-Baily is the only leader who can take on the vacuous Johnson and his cronies and call them to account for their attacks on the poor and working class.

  11. kateuk April 2, 2020 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    If Starmer is elected it will be back to the Blair years and he won’t have to kick to many left wingers out, they will leave in droves. The main reasons that Labour couldn’t win the last election were – mainstream media brainwashing the public, and right wingers like Starmer slagging off Jeremy Corbyn. Plus Starmer convincing the Labour party to change tack over Brexit which lost them huges swathes of the Brexit voting North and Midlands.

  12. Neville April 2, 2020 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    Starmer may be the media’s favourite, but it’s the members who’ll decide who is elected leader, not them. With the government’s virus strategy about to get worse, whoever becomes leader must attack them as much as possible, and explain to the people why.

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