The most extreme measure in the entire Labour Party manifesto of 2019 – and this is a high bar – was a pledge that Keir Starmer ought to have disavowed explicitly on day one of becoming leader.
It committed a future Labour government to ‘conduct an audit of the impact of Britain’s colonial legacy to understand our contribution to the dynamics of violence and insecurity across regions previously under British colonial rule.’
This planned wallowing in national self-abasement was, to my mind, clearly conceived as a precursor to a demand for the payment of reparations by Britain for the excesses of empire. That such an unpatriotic measure made it into the Labour manifesto was a sign of the grip that practitioners of extreme identity politics had upon the party.
The fact that Sir Keir did not use the honeymoon period following his landslide leadership victory to dump it suggested that he agreed with it. So did his readiness to take a knee for the statue-topplers of BLM in the summer. So does the fact that upon his election as leader, Starmer failed to abort or at least redirect an ongoing Labour Party inquiry into the ‘British State’, which has now reported – much to his discomfort.
For prominent among the recommendations of this 234-page declaration of war upon British traditions, heritage and historic conduct is indeed an explicit demand that current UK taxpayers pay compensation to the developing world for ‘past wrongdoings’.
The relevant passage is worth quoting in full:
“‘In recognition of the past wrongdoings of the British state, the new constitution should make an unreserved apology to all of the countries of the world that the Empire invaded and negatively impacted.In addition, the British state should set up a reparations fund as part of the constitution, which offers financial assistance to communities across the world that can show loss and detriment as a result of the actions of the British state.’
There is, naturally, no consideration of appropriate measures for any countries that derived any benefits from British rule such as legal systems, neutral civil services, a diminution of corruption or the advent of railways and other key infrastructure.
And apparently the massively expanded overseas aid budget of the past 20 years, which has funnelled billions of British taxpayer pounds into many former colonies, doesn’t count either.
Starmer, at the time of writing, has said nothing about this latest lurch by his party into the peddling of explicitly anti-British agendas and propaganda.
Instead, a ‘Labour source’ told journalists that: ‘This report was commissioned by the previous Labour leadership. It does not reflect party policy.’ And an ‘ally’ of Starmer told the Daily Mail: ‘The last leadership were always getting reports like this written in order to keep their friends happy. Fortunately that’s not Labour’s approach any more.’
That Starmer should think such tentative, off-the-record distancing is sufficient to put the matter to bed tells us how desperately he needs the wise counsel of Lord Mandelson, reportedly now conducting Zoom masterclasses for the shadow cabinet.
Because in the eyes of most voters this report – Remaking Of The British State: For The Many, Not The Few – will merely confirm their suspicions about Labour’s hostility towards its own country.
Last week a YouGov analysis found that only 19 per cent of people think the British Empire should be a source of shame, despite schools and universities pushing ultra-negative narratives about it for years. But so far removed is Labour from Planet Normal that within party circles that figure must be close to 100 per cent.
The signs of Labour’s extremism on cultural matters are all around. Just within the last week the frontbencher Alex Sobel, a culture spokesman no less, demanded that public bodies and the private sector start using the term ‘Mx’ (denoting gender fluidity) on official forms and documents, and in the past has called for the abolition of single-sex public facilities – including prisons – and suggested that women who oppose such steps are bigots who should not vote Labour (that last instruction probably superfluous).
Meanwhile Sadiq Khan has set up a new star chamber of leftists to rule on the appropriateness of public monuments and street names in the capital. No doubt his private polling tells him that stoking identity politics grievances will help him turn out the vote to secure his re-election as London Mayor in May. Starmer, by contrast, needs to win in provincial England.
Over the weekend the former Labour MP and now crossbench peer Ian Austin, who quit in disgust at anti-Semitism in the party, put out a tweet defending Winston Churchill from the latest attempts to ‘cancel’ him as a national hero.
The abusive replies he received from left-wing Labour supporters led him to ask: ‘How can you possibly ask decent patriotic people to let you lead a country you hate?’
Reparations over the empire, the attempted recasting of Winston Churchill as a villain, plans to remove statues and change street names, the dismantling of single-sex spaces thrown into the mix – or should that be mx? – brow-beating people into taking a knee to the extremists of BLM: these are the animating causes of Starmer’s Labour as much as they were of Corbyn’s.
That Starmer should think, even for a moment, that the British public will give him the benefit of the doubt on these issues implies a preposterous level of personal vanity. As I have suggested before, he has already lost the battle to be the biggest party in the next parliament. But his successor would probably prefer him to avoid another landslide election defeat.