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All smiles on the leader front?

27 February, 2020 — By John Gulliver

The centrefold of the leaflet

THERE is a “beauty parade” element to the present Labour leadership campaign. All the candidates say such nice things about each other, and the common description one has for the other is that he or she is “brilliant”.

But, I suspect, in the real world behind the scenes, sharp bitter thoughts prevail. And factions have riven many constituency parties.

Certainly, this appears to have happened in the St Pancras party – with the majority at key meetings mustered behind Sir Keir Starmer, accused by those who regard themselves as pro-Corbyn of having brought in enough supporters to take over key committees, including the executive committee. It’s become a “them” and “us” division.

A Labour Party member sent me a large poster – big enough to put in her window – that had been sent by Royal Mail post to her home from Sir Keir Starmer’s campaign HQ.

One side is a full-blown picture of Starmer, the other has words of praise by various notables, with the commanding slogan across the poster announcing that Starmer has “integrity and authority”.

If, as is probable, this poster has been sent to, say, the individual membership of the party which is in excess of 500,000, the question is: Where did the funds come from to cover the cost of printing and distribution?

From my knowledge of poster and leaflet distribution, the cost could easily run into hundreds of thousands of pounds. Who is paying for it?

Rumours among members – admittedly those opposed to Starmer – as well as newspapers suggest “corporate” involvement.

Politics in Britain have become presidential since the 1980s, copying the US model. But money wasn’t thrown around on this scale in previous leadership campaigns.

A piece I wrote recently referred to Starmer’s support in the mid-80s for the “workers’ control” movement allowing for workers to, effectively, run companies for “socially useful” purposes.

My source was the Spokesman magazine published by the Bertrand Russell Foundation.

This week a contact told me he was at Oxford University where Starmer was active in one of the fringe wings of the Trotskyist movement.

Labour leaders have often begun life somewhere in that area of politics. Tony Blair among them, I believe.

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