Labour Left-wingers blame Starmer for party exodus

·3 min read
Sir Keir Starmer - Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images
Sir Keir Starmer - Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images

Momentum has blamed Sir Keir Starmer for Labour losing nearly 100,000 members, with Left-wing MPs piling pressure on the party leader over his stance on strikes.

The socialist group said the drop in membership, revealed in the latest Labour accounts, was “alarming” and accused Sir Keir of “prompting an exodus” of grassroots supporters.

Labour’s accounts, published by the Electoral Commission, showed that the party lost some 91,000 members last year and ended the year with a deficit of more than £5 million. Membership fell from 523,332 at the end of 2020 to 432,213 in a year, according to the accounts.

It comes amid mounting tension within Labour over strikes, with Momentum holding a virtual summit on Thursday to express its solidarity with workers.

‘Alienating trade unions’

Hilary Schan, who co-chairs Momentum, said: “These figures are alarming. Keir Starmer’s pledge-breaking and factional approach has prompted an exodus of Labour members and a financial crisis for the party.

“Yet the leadership has welcomed these departures while actively alienating Labour’s affiliated trade unions, which give millions to the party.

“If Starmer wants to get Labour back on the right track, he should start by properly supporting the affiliated trade unions and striking workers fighting to defend their livelihoods.”

The party treasurer’s report described 2021 as a “difficult and demanding year”, with redundancy pay-offs contributing to its losses, saying party finances “do remain challenging with pressure on income coinciding with increasing costs”.

Labour sources pointed out that the amount of money the party made from membership fees last year was comparable with 2017 and 2018 levels, when membership boomed during Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

A Labour spokesman said: “Thanks to Keir Starmer’s firm leadership and clear commitment to taking Labour back into power, the party is on track to returning to a firm financial footing, with commercial income and donations rising significantly.”

The Momentum summit, organised to coincide with Thursday’s rail strikes, is designed to put pressure on Sir Keir to back workers taking industrial action.

Sam Tarry will be one of the speakers at the Momentum summit - Maighna Nanu/PA
Sam Tarry will be one of the speakers at the Momentum summit - Maighna Nanu/PA

Sam Tarry, recently sacked from the front bench after joining workers on the picket line last month, will be one one of the headline speakers along with Dawn Butler and Jon Trickett.

A spokesman for Mr Tarry said it was not in any way an “anti-Keir Starmer rally”, adding: “This is about low pay and support for workers, bringing the unions and the Labour party closer together.”

A Momentum source The Telegraph the group was trying to address Labour’s “failure of leadership” over strikes and the cost of living crisis. It is urging every Labour MP to stand on the picket line with striking workers and calling on the party to back inflation-proof pay rises as well as the abolition of anti-trade union laws.

It said: “The time for solidarity is now. The labour movement must unite behind striking workers, and for a new social settlement based on fair pay and public ownership.”

Momentum will attempt to change Labour’s policy on strikes by introducing a motion at the party conference in October calling on the party to support wage rises in line with and above inflation, commit to increasing taxes on corporate profits and campaign against anti-trade union laws.