Politics & Media
Jul 08, 2024, 06:25AM

Patronage and Power

How Keir Starmer won the UK election.

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Britain has a new Prime Minister, Keir Starmer. Those of us on the left already know who he is. The rest of the nation, and the world, are about to find out.

He looks harmless enough. He has a slightly high-pitched, nasal voice, like one of those squeaky toys you give to dogs to keep them quiet, and his eyes are a little too close together, which makes him look like someone permanently startled by the sound of their own farts. He’s well-groomed, with a sensible haircut, sensible shoes and a sensible mind. You have the feeling that everything is filed away neatly in there, in alphabetical order, like index cards in a library, and that he even makes love according to routine: first Friday in the month, after drinking his cocoa, but before cleaning his teeth. At least that’s the impression he likes to give. Safe. Predictable. Dependable.

He’s managerial in his demeanor, and he wants us to see him that way. In his first speech as Prime Minister, standing at the famous lectern on the tarmac outside the front door of 10 Downing Street, he referred to himself as a politician who stands for “stability and moderation.” The words “service” and “public service” came up a number of times, and he offered a list of working class types—“nurses, builders, drivers, carers, people doing the right thing, working harder every day”—citing himself as one of them.

“Working class families like mine,” he said. He likes to remind us that his father was a toolmaker—telling us over and over again, at every opportunity in the run up to the election—except that, when you look into his history, his father actually owned the factory in which he practiced his trade. So he wasn’t really a toolmaker, he was a factory owner. Such is the nature of the deliberate linguistic sleight of hand Starmer employs, almost by second nature.

He’s a lawyer, a barrister, one of the UK’s pre-eminent legal figures: Chief Prosecutor of the Crown Prosecution Service and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) from 2008 to 2013. He was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in 2014 in recognition of his services to the state. He’s not any old Keir Starmer, he’s Sir Keir Starmer. You don’t get to be a Sir without serving the Empire. He’s a member of the British elite, establishment to the core, appointed to serve their interests, adopting the mantle of the working class in Britain’s historic Labour Party in order to get the job done.

It’s the British way of doing things. Patronage and grooming, sponsorship and tutelage. No person gets into a position of political power unless they’ve already been indoctrinated into knowing what’s expected of them. Their job is to serve power while keeping the population quiet. If you show any signs of challenging the power structure you’re swiftly removed, as his predecessor was, using a combination of lies, smears and relentless repetition of the same unfounded accusations, until it’s drilled into everyone’s head as a form of hypnosis, and people start to think those thoughts are their own.

“Groom” is a good word. It means both to wash and brush, as in grooming a horse, and to patronize, as in grooming a client, with the darker implication of exploiting someone for sexual purposes. We talk about grooming gangs manipulating adolescent girls into sex. In the case of the Labour front bench, they’re all well-groomed—hair trimmed, shoes polished, trousers and skirts pressed—but also groomed in the other way: not for sex, but power. Power is the aphrodisiac they’re conditioned to respond to.

They’re also heavily sponsored. This is what the British public doesn’t get. There’s money involved. A large number of British MPs, more than a quarter—including members of the new cabinet—have accepted funding from the Israel lobby. They are bought and paid-for Zionists. Other lobby groups funnelling cash to key Labour figures include private health care companies, such as those donating to Wes Streeting, the new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. Streeting is on record as advocating for the National Health Service to pay private health care firms for the use of their resources. This is a clever move, and shows how these people operate. The NHS will not be privatized as such: but private companies, working for a profit, will be brought in under NHS contracts, funnelling public money into private hands via the back door. As Robin Williams once said: “Politicians should wear sponsor jackets like Nascar drivers, then we know who owns them.”

Starmer has accepted more gratuities in his time as Leader of the Opposition than all leaders of the Labour Party combined since Tony Blair, while the party as a whole has been courting the wealth and patronage of billionaires. This is in contrast to the previous incumbent, Jeremy Corbyn, who stabilized the party’s finances through large scale membership and small donations by supporters.

Billionaires aren’t backing Labour for the benefit of society, they’re doing it because they expect something in return; which makes you wonder why The Sun, Rupert Murdoch’s flagship title, supported Starmer on its front page the day before the election. The Sun is the most reviled paper in the city of Liverpool after its coverage of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, in which it blamed Liverpool football fans for their own deaths. It’s loathed by the left. After his election to the leadership in 2020, Starmer promised he would not speak to the Sun. Later he started writing for it. Now he has its endorsement.

This is only one of a number of bare-faced lies that Starmer told on his route to power. In his bid for election to the Labour Party leadership he made ten pledges, only to renege on all of them. Obviously this was because the membership of the party at the time was overwhelmingly Corbynite. After he’d ascended to his position of power he immediately began a process of expulsion of all of those members whose support he’d previously courted, hiring a former Israeli spy to trawl through people’s social media posts to find incriminating evidence of deviant thought. This was in the name of “tackling anti-Semitism,” reinterpreting the term to mean opposition to the state of Israel. Thousands were expelled, including myself. Many more left in protest, or in desperation, as the atmosphere in the party became toxic and the witch-hunts took effect.

Here is a moment where Starmer reveals himself for what he is. It’s from one of the live TV debates prior to  the election. Fiona Bruce, a BBC journalist, asked him if he meant what he said when he told people, in February 2019, that Jeremy Corbyn would make “a great Prime Minister.”

Bruce: “Did you mean it, or did you have your fingers crossed behind your back?”

Starmer: “It wasn’t a question that really arose because I didn’t think we would win the election.”

Bruce: “But we all heard you, we all heard you saying he would be a great Prime Minister. That was your way of telling the people here, vote for him. Did you not mean it?”

Starmer: “I was campaigning for the Labour Party. And I’m glad I did.”

Bruce missed a trick here. She didn’t pursue the question much further. You can see how uncomfortable he is. The audience is laughing. He tries to brush it off. What he was saying, effectively, was that he didn’t think that Corbyn would’ve made a great Prime Minister, he was only saying that in order to keep his seat. He lied to the British public in 2019 to get elected. The obvious follow-up question would’ve been to ask why, if he had lied before, we should believe him now.

There are a number of lessons to be drawn from this. That managerial exterior hides an inner core of steely ambition. You can’t trust a word he says. He’ll lie, cheat, steal—as he stole the Labour Party election in 2020—do anything, to get what he wants. He’ll take back-handers and bribes, undermine the opposition, destroy democracy, use any means at his disposal. Beneath that buttoned-down demeanor, that tidy bureaucratic mind, stirs a seething morass of primitive drives that fuel his lust for power.

One of the tricks of Western so-called democracy is the illusion of choice. Having removed Labour’s core of socialists, idealists and peace activists, Starmer offered the electorate “Change!” He’d changed the Labour Party, he told us, now he plans to change the governance of the United Kingdom. Except that what he’s offering is more of the same. The same fiscal rules. The same spending plans. The same cut-backs and austerity. The same squeeze on public services. The same low-wage economy. The same impoverishment of the working class. The same support for Israeli genocide. The same drive to war in the East. Nothing has changed except the opposition. There’s no opposition any more. The ruling party has changed its name, from Conservative to Labour. All the rest remains the same.

Meanwhile that landslide victory masks another illusion, that the British public support him to any large degree. The Labour win was broad, but shallow. Starmer actually got less votes than Corbyn, in 2019 and 2017. He won with 34 percent of the votes cast, on a low turnout: far less as a percentage of the population as a whole. It was the collapse in the Conservative vote, the rise of the Reform Party, the implosion of the SNP in Scotland, and the vicissitudes of the First Past The Post voting system that gave him his victory, not any love the British people may feel for what he’s promised. Starmer remains unpopular, just not as unpopular as the Tories. Once the people find out that they’ve been conned, and that nothing will change, there’s likely to be a backlash. It’s at this point that Starmer’s authoritarian tendencies will come to the fore and the public will see—what we on the left have already experienced first-hand—that he broaches no dissent and is a dangerous, vindictive individual.

He’s also, very possibly, a security services asset. In his time as DPP he served British foreign policy interests, keeping Julian Assange incarcerated long after the Swedish authorities wanted to drop the case against him. All records of his meetings with Attorney General Eric Holder in Washington at the time have since been destroyed. He also refused to prosecute MI5 officers who were implicated in CIA torture, and was thanked personally by Jonathan Evans, the head of MI5, for it. There are a number of other dubious decisions, such as failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile, the notorious paedophile and friend of the Royal Family, refusing to charge police officer Simon Harwood after he struck and killed a newspaper vendor during a protest, and deciding not to prosecute the killer of Jean Charles de Menezes, shot by armed police officers who mistook him for a suicide bomber.

After becoming the Leader of the Opposition, he brought Sue Gray in as his Chief of Staff. Gray was a high-ranking civil servant before she worked for Starmer. She’s an odd character, "notorious… for her determination not to leave a document trail," according to Chris Cook, policy editor at BBC Newsnight. She gave advice on how to destroy emails through "double-deletion" and made at least six interventions "to tell departments to fight disclosures under the Freedom of Information Act." During the Troubles in Northern Ireland she took a "strikingly unorthodox" career break in the Northern Irish town of Newry, running a pub on the border with her husband. This led people to speculate that she might’ve been involved in spying operations. What was a senior member of the British civil service doing there, at that time, in that place, running a pub? It was very strange. According to the Belfast Telegraph, her car was stopped by IRA paramilitaries one night. They wanted to commandeer it but she was allowed to pass. "That's Sue Gray from The Cove, let her go on," they were told.

Is Gray Starmer’s handler? She keeps a firm grip on everything that happens in the Party, including who gets to be its candidates and what they’re allowed to say. According to political journalist Andrew Gimson, "She owes her allegiance to the permanent government and the deep state."

When Starmer took over the leadership of the Labour Party in 2020, I was immediately suspicious. I suggested to friends that he could only have two possible motives: either to tame the Party, to make it establishment-friendly, to ensure that it could never again be led someone from the left like Corbyn, or to destroy it in the process. Either would do. I think he’s gone a long way towards both.

—Follow Chris Stone on X: @ChrisJamesStone 


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