Keir Starmer should declare independence from unions

Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey believes a second referendum should not include an option to r

Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey believed a second referendum should not include an option to remain in the EU - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

It's time for Labour to look for funding from those that share its internationalist social liberal values.

I thoroughly agree with the views expressed by Alastair Campbell in his open letter to Keir Starmer. However, I would like to draw attention also to the important trends set out by Peter Keller in his excellent analysis.

This made me reflect upon the historical dependence of Labour upon trade union financing, with the attendant compromises it involves.

If, as Keller rightly points out, British society has changed utterly since the 1980s, surely the Labour Party could now reach out more actively to new sources of funding from its more affluent voter base of internationalist social liberals? In this way it could reduce its dependence upon trade union funding and be less in thrall to ideologically driven factions within the union leadership.

New policies could be articulated that appeal to both social liberals and instrumentalist working class voters without getting lost in never-ending divisive arguments with a collectivist power clique.
Frank McCusker

Were I Sir Keir reading Alastair Campbell’s open letter I would be left wondering what specific steps I should be taking. May I, a member of the Green Party, suggest one? There is nothing Labour can do to win back the red wall. It can however fracture the former Conservative voting bloc.

The way to do so is continuously to attack the trade and co-operation agreement with the EU. Labour should campaign to re-enter the single market and the customs union. That is compatible with the referendum result.
Stephen Horne, London, N4

I was a little disappointed that Alastair Campbell – and apparently his old mucker Tony Blair too – have suggested that Labour should move away from so-called ‘wokeness’.

If ‘wokeness’ means tearing down statues of mass murderers like Edward Colston and challenging systemic racism then that is surely a good thing? Brexit, the Tories and their enablers in the right-wing media are all on the wrong side of history. Labour shouldn’t make the mistake of joining them there.
Will Goble, Rayleigh

There were many interesting points in Peter Kellner’s article. I would hasten to add however, that Hartlepool is not an outward-looking pro-EU town full of white collar workers.

In reality the Conservative and pro-Brexit vote in Hartlepool did not increase by very much but the Labour vote dropped as a result of its voters either staying away or voting for minor parties.

Hartlepool and constituencies like it can’t be compared to Metropolitan cities so Labour has to appeal to many spheres to be electable, but the toxicity and narrow mindedness of Brexit will infect politics in the UK for at least a decade yet.
S Wigtson, Stockton-on-Tees

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I was interested in Peter Kellner’s analysis of Labour’s lost voters. As in many analyses of this kind, it is easy to describe what has changed but difficult to prescribe what course of action by Labour would alter outcomes. As a former member of the SDP, I appreciate many of the problems of political change at first hand.

I believe the task is too great for Labour acting alone. An easier path to reform is to embrace constitutional change, in particular the voting system, and for parties to accustom themselves to working together.
John Martin



Can I congratulate Peter Kellner on his article? I don’t think I have read such a clear-headed and honest assessment anywhere else.

Peter’s suggestion that Labour should just concentrate on policies that will make Britain richer, fairer, cleaner and more content seems to be a good place to start.
Kevin Irving, Newcastle upon Tyne

There’s so much talk about how to rescue Labour, of which I was a loyal supporter until the Iraq War. It was always an alliance between the unionised industrial working class and the liberal part of the middle class, and Peter Kellner’s article shows how this has come apart and is not going to be stitched back together.

The electoral system necessitates a big beast to the left of centre, or the Tories will divide and rule for ever.

That is not going to be the Labour Party, which is now a rusting piece of legacy infrastructure that needs to be broken up and cleared away, so a new political alignment can be created starting with the foundations.
Richard Mortimer

There was good advice to Keir Starmer in your paper last week. I hope that he will take heed as I and many centre ground people want him to succeed. He needs to recognise that the labour base of his party’s namesake is gone and will not return.
He must form alliances with all UK parties wishing to save the Union. If the Union breaks, the chance of regaining any Scottish seats will go. He must regularly publicise the negative impacts of Brexit and publicly declare his support for electoral reform.
Norman Harris, Croydon

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