The recent developments in the Labour Party have provoked many different and valid responses across the left in the UK. Particularly the piece in the Guardian, by Starmer indicating that Jeremy Corbyn will not be standing for Labour in the next election. This comes as no surprise to many of us who were foot soldiers in the campaigns to elect a labour government in 2017 and 2019. It is, though, bringing matters to head in a way that perhaps the left can take advantage of and this writing will elaborate on that with the Plan.
Indeed the order not to affiliate with Jeremy Corbyn’s Peace and Justice group by the London Region of the party is another piece of the puzzle working towards the exclusion of this honourable man. Many of us were enthused by the election of Corbyn to party leader in 2015 to take up the political cudgels beyond our trade union, community groups and keyboard activities to actually try to achieve change through the party and Westminster levers of power : and we nearly got there in 2017 much to everyone’s surprise. So, we know that there is an appetite out there for reformative change led by socialist principals of common ownership, mutual welfare and worker led industrial activity as well as the complimentary aims of environmental concern and international ethics. Obviously, the nature and degree of this change is open to debate but as far as the writer is concerned the difference between us socialists and the neo liberals who currently hold sway is that they seek power while we seek the power to change.
When Starmer's views were published the writer like many others finally understood that we have no voice. Whether having left the Labour Party or remained in it there is not a meaningful mechanism for criticizing the lurch to the right or removing the people responsible for this change in direction. Many of us are aware that Starmer is a puppet, a tool inserted into the Labour Party to ensure that the 2017 result can never happen again. We got too close. In many forums the writer had raised the idea of removing Starmer through the ballot box so, by direct challenge in Holborn St Pancras. There have always been parties other than the Labour Party because the so called broad church has on many occasions stifled the movement for socialist change in our society and these parties have grown and others have sprung up since 2019 because of the lurch to the right in the broad church and every day seeing the depressing course of the party it could be hoped that an idea like this could be taken up. The unseat Lisa Nandy campaign was founded so the idea of targeting specific MPs and specific seats was out there. Ii was obvious to the writer on the morning of the 15th February reading Starmer piece that this is what is needed to be done. So rashly and without fully thinking it through the campaign, the writer has called, Organise Corbyn Inspired Socialist Alliance (OCISA) was launched with the click of a mouse. It now has 4000 members.
That in a nutshell is the why. It is the how that is more difficult as the original idea was not fully thought through and may involve an evolving new methods of politics so ideas on this subject are gratefully received. We have roughly 18months to the next scheduled GE.
The basic idea is to mount a unity left wing socialist candidate in Holborn St Pancras against all comers but particularly Keir Starmer (his other titles are not recognised in this piece because they are unearned). This will involve forming a structure to enable fundraising, electoral compliance and campaigning of sufficient weight to attract an high profile candidate. These steps are underway. The candidate would be nominated by the groups formed in support of OCISA including the facebook group but also a local presence and a list of backers (possibly carrying block votes). The offer we would make to the candidate elected (the mechanics of election are being decided) would have to carry sufficient credibility to allow the candidate to have a fighting chance of unseating Starmer so perhaps a warchest of £50,000, a local constituency office (set up and ready to go), an election agent and the resources to campaign with boots on the ground locally, would attract the right person. That is the plan.
The 'who' would be settled by democratic methods yet to be established but it would have to be someone with enough existing media presence to throw a considerable spanner in the smooth path to victory that Starmer currently thinks he has.
Once a candidate is elected through channels the complimentary mission of building the structure will have been completed and it is on to phase 2, the campaign against Starmer. If, as anticipated, our candidate is a well known robust left wing figure we, I am sure would want them to have their own ideas as to the best way to attack Starmer, so as a hypothetical example, say we asked Dr Bob Gill to stand for us (giving him the warchest and the structure) it would be open to him to direct his campaign almost entirely to pointing out the attacks on the NHS and make that the issue that buries Starmer. Given that the national spotlight will be on Holborn St Pancras it is the ideal vehicle for him to do that. That is entirely hypothetical but illustrates the point that phase 2 of the plan is for the future.
That in a nutshell is the plan and we must consider the consequences and implications of such a move on the rest of the left movement and on the wider political environment and on the voters both in Holborn St Pancras. So: firstly on the left movement it is clear that those now operating outside the Labour Party are fragmented into pockets large and small and this is a persistent problem in engaging in concerted activity for positive socialist change and it is right that everyone is entitled to contribute their views in this ongoing debate but we are under time constraints and the dangers of neo liberal domination of the political discourse are not to be underestimated (indeed that is there purpose i.e. to give us no choice in the matter). Because OCISA is independent of any existing left wing socialist structure and has come from nowhere it is open to co-operation with all left wingers of whatever stripe or colour to get behind the Plan. This is an open invitation to all groups on the left to assist, counsel, contribute and coordinate behind the plan and most particularly those in Holborn St.. Pancras. In 18months all left wingers have their work cut out organising locally fighting nationally and campaigning generally across the UK and this would mean that they would not have to worry about the cherry on the cake, taking Starmer’s seat as it is being taken care of by good socialists with comradely intent. We reach out to the Trade Unionists among us in the same spirit.
The wider consequences. It is a given that our candidate will have to be well backed and widely supported or he/she/ they will be nothing. The Worst case scenario being that our candidate gets trounced and the deposit is lost. Even in this scenario the mainstream will have to take note of our candidate and the arguments that they put forward because of the spotlight that will be on Holborn St Pancras which in effect has become the presidential battleground. Our candidate could split the left wing vote (having the effect as outlined above) and thus lose Starmer the seat to the disgusting Tories. Well, if it is envisaged and polled that there will be a Labour landslide in terms of seats in parliament this contingency will have only the effect of reducing the Labour majority by one seat. BUT Starmer could not continue as Labour leader and the fight continues. Oh the embarrassment he Blair, Mandleson, Akehurst and David Evans would feel. Or lastly we win and whoopie can be the only response.
Jeremy Corbyn has his own battles to fight and many of OCISA would love to help him in Islington. We are Corbyn inspired and fight on the Spartacus principal that an attack on one is an attack on all. If it were thought that our campaign were to harm his political position an immediate rethink would be in order and our position reconsidered. Our position is entirely independent of Jeremy Corbyn and we are in a way owning the title of Corbynista cultists which was bestowed on us to destroy us.
Lastly, this is a newish way of doing politics to the extent that OCISA is trying to form a digital constituency which can have democratic input into a given political campaign. It is 10 days old. Clearly there are many objections, considerations and counter proposals that can be validly made and considered. But we have 18months to remove this pernicious stain on the political landscape in the UK because he and his cabal have removed all the other avenues to question their authority. Starmer is an impediment to public debate and ultimately leaves the whole UK public with no real choice. This is an open invitation to bring the left together under one banner to make this happen. It is a mountain to climb where we are at the foothills but it needs doing using the hope and energy of all the people the labour party is expelling and alienating as well as all good socialists everywhere, and we want to help doing it.
Phases of the project
We are in phase one to the extent that Organise is the way in which we will form the structure and you have noticed that post. The company will be called OCISA without further reference so will not have name problems. I am getting a website built which will eventually be the platform where the final vote for the candidate will be made so members will be non paying subscribers to the website> The college of electors envisaged will be answerable to the subscribed members. This is similar but more democratic than the momentum structure and indeed the structure of Peace and Justice. This could be a completely new way of doing things. Phase 2 will involve electing then approaching the candidate, establishing our presence in Holborn St Pancras and ensuring the electoral legal responsibilities are complied with. Phase 3 involves linking the candidate with the local presence at which time the subscribed members can be seen and organised as sponsors of the candidate (unlike the way MPs are sponsored at the moment which is undemocratic). Phase 4 is the campaign where the members will be encouraged to participate but will largely be dependent on the candidate’s wishes.
The Digital Constituency
This campaign was launched with the particular goal of removing Kier Starmer from his seat in Holborn St Pancras but it is set against widespread discontent with the political/constitutional system and the people running the system at present in the UK. There has been an increasing concentration and centralisation of power to the executive branch of government and the fact that the voting system perpetuates a two party system gives a disproportionate amount of power to the leaders of the two political parties. Theoretically they are answerable to their constituents and can be voted out and using Tony Benn’s analysis it is their constituents that give them their power. Further we have seen in Starmer and his backers, a determination to remove any democratic control over the actions of the executive which allows them to reach over constituency boundaries, in this case into Islington. We have learned through bitter experience however that this simple relationship of constituent to MP is easily corrupted by political party systems. Corbyn tried to undo this path to hegemony by a process of democratisation of the party, but given the constraints of real politique was to slow and too hesitant in pressing the changes that were necessary. We could have relied on his process if one further step had been taken and that was the mandatory reselection of MPs (the only good thing to be imported from the US system of candidate selection). Once this step was denied the members of the Labour Party the project Corbyn had began was ended. Hence the need for other ways of attacking the complacent system of safe seats and unanswerable MPs.
In the foundation of this campaign lies a possible method of achieving the objective set out above i.e. making MPs answerable for their actions particularly where they overstep their given powers and affect the lives of everyone in the country and not just their own constituency. This method is useable in the present system and is intended to disrupt the idea of comfortable safe seats and party hegemony.
In forming OCISA and campaigning in Holborn St Pancras the digital constituency open to all would mean that the public could circumvent the party structures particularly as in this case where those structures are being used to suppress democracy, open debate, freedom of expression, freedom of association and political dissent. This is the current characterisation of the Labour Party. Using the platform of companies limited by guarantee fundraising can take place which is unconnected to corporate, commercial or private interest individual donations and therefore can be seen as having popular support untainted by corruption. These companies can be formed with the single aim of removing an MP who is regarded as perverting the will of the electorate and targeted against MPs of any stripe.
Technological advances have allowed (although currently subject to the corporate whims of the big tech companies) a freedom of expression which was not given to previous generation. It allows us to consort with others without regard to distance or time. The present method of voting by attending the local school or village hall is becoming increasingly antiquated and with the current government actively using voter suppression methods such as voter ID restricting the youth vote and postal ballot companies that are wound up within weeks of an election we must consider whether we should start using the advancing technology to enable our democratic will to be enacted. The Structure proposed in setting up this campaign envisages using the technology, the internet as the source of democratic mandate. In this case the design of a website
The method outlined is that where the action of individual attack on the MP becomes necessary as it does in Holborn St Pancras, that alternative independent candidates are put up against the incumbent mandated by the digital constituency. The mechanics of harvesting the vote are a matter of technologists who can provide the platform for the votes to be harvested. These votes are applied in two ways, under the model proposed : Primarily to harvest the vote for the candidate, but secondly to make the policy choices and managerial issues relating to the company itself so that it becomes self governing by the membership and democratic in nature. This gives it the necessary weight and credibility to approach the constituency.
This is perhaps the most important part of the concept of digital constituency and that it has to have at its heart the will of the local constituency at the heart of the campaign. The main reason for this is that democracy must come from the ground up and not open to the accusation that it is a lawless mob of internet trolls who are invading a particular locality. This is guerrilla politics given the structure of the present system and this campaign to remove Kier Starmer from Holborn St Pancras is designed to disrupt the current complacency of MPs which is built upon a compliant media and structural bias (the two party system) The main question that we have to wrestle is how to ensure that there is local representation in the digital constituency. The answer is this; that the company has equal local representation on the board of directors so that the decisions of the company are taken with regard to local needs and political voice is taken from their views. Because the digital constituency is intended to be open it is open to be flooded with special interests. In fact the Holborn St Pancras is flooded with the special interest of socialism ( a subjective concept at the best of times) and it is envisaged that such campaigns are likely to arise in similar circumstances. In this case it arises because 83% of the site are ex Labour Party members who have left because they understand can no longer be relied upon as a democratic challenge. However given that the controlling company would have equal local representation would balance with influence of the overall movement in the effect it is having on the local community.
The ethical mandate for conducting an action outside one’s own locality comes because of the fact that the actions of the MP for Holborn St Pancras is having an effect felt firstly in the neighbouring constituency of Islington but also more widely where candidate selection is being gerrymandered nationally such as recently in Broxtowe. There will be many in Holborn St Pancras who are outraged by Starmer's actions and will want to take action to remove him. As previously stated this method circumvents the need to form a national political party as the funds for the campaign are held in a legal trust for the purpose outlined in the company document namely to remove Starmer from Holborn St Pancras.
The link to the community will be solidified in phase 2 of the method outlined in that a local independent constituency will be formed to assist the candidate elected in fighting the seat. In essence the campaign with its warchest, campaign army and expertise will be handed over to those operating locally. If there are sufficient funds and a good enough candidate it is the ideal vehicle then to mount an effective local campaign and as the campaign proceeds it can inform the local residents why the removal of the incumbent is so important nationally. The link to the digital constituency will be preserved by having a presence on the board of the local company and therefore having an influence on the activities locally and encouraging a national participation where necessary. It is ideal that the Holborn St Pancras constituency is likely to have sufficient media interest to ensure that the national as well as the local objections to the incumbent are heard.
It is envisaged that this model of formation is a blue print to redress the democratic deficit that is very much apparent under the UK political constitutional set up. There will be much criticism of this method and indeed this is one of the first companies registered at Companies House which has a socialist aim written into the founding documents. The second company to be so founded will be the local constituency company yet to be formed. The aim is to prevent the smooth transfer of power from one set of neo liberal apparatchiks to another and stands to ensure the objections are made clear by popular demand and concerted action.