Will Starmer Clear Out the Corbynites? Could McDonnell stay on?

As thoughts turn to what a Starmer run Labour party will look like, question marks hang over the futures of Corbynites.

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LONDON (Labour Buzz) - Although we’re still more than a month away from the final result many people have started to call this election already. According to YouGov’s latest poll, Starmer is set to win on the first ballot. If it’s even close to being accurate, it would take a miracle to stop him now, so questions inevitably turn to what his Cabinet would look like. 

Clear out at the top 

One thing’s for sure, Starmer’s top team will look very different from Jeremy Corbyn’s. The former Director of Public Prosecutions has promised to unite the party and build a broader coalition taken from all wings. Although, this was the original face of Corbyn's first Cabinet, prior to the failed 2016 coup d'etat.  

Inevitably, then, that means many new faces, but the question is: what happens to those members of the shadow cabinet who are unashamedly Corbyn loyalists? 

According to some of Starmer’s more moderate supporters, the scale of his likely victory could mean they have a stark choice: jump now or wait to be sacked. John McDonnell and Diane Abbott have already done the former, ruling themselves out of any Shadow Cabinet jobs.

Doing so would confirm the suspicions of the top team that talk of unity is little more than a front, an attempt to mollify enough people on the left to leave the way open for a resurgence of the right. It’s a prospect which have some of the anti-Corbynites salivating in expectation. 

For pro Corbynites there is also a choice. Stick around and serve in a cabinet with someone they are likely to have profound disagreements with or head to the back benches and get on with the valuable but unseen work backbenchers do. 

It’s worth noting that nobody yet knows who Starmer will turn to should he win. He’s been tight lipped on the issue and only committed to offering jobs to his fellow leadership candidates when pressed into a corner. However, he does face a difficult choice. 

Without a doubt, some of his supporters would relish a purge; the kind of thing they’ve spent the last few years accusing Jeremy Corbyn of planning, which never materialised, but that could be disastrous. For one thing it would risk inviting the kind of unrest Corbyn spent four years battling against, and can the party really survive the further widening of its divisions? 

Likewise, keeping key figures from the Corbyn regime could energise those in the party and in the wider country who were energised by Corbyn’s leadership. Starmer himself has talked about the need to bring those new voters who were, and still are, inspired by Corbynism. 

Already he has promised to keep Rebecca Long Bailey and there have been rumours that some in his top team would like him to keep John McDonnell on as Shadow Chancellor. It seems unlikely but Starmer is already presenting himself as a more moderate influence. Even those voters who left because of his Brexit policy still prefer him to the other candidates. 

Keeping McDonnell on would belly his somewhat boring reputation so far and inject some much-needed energy into the party and would demonstrate his socialist credentials, however it remains to be seen if McDonnell would even entertain the notion. 

Last, but not least, there is always the complete surprise of keeping Jeremy Corbyn himself in some capacity. Rebecca Long Bailey has already said she’d offer him a place in the team and he has said he’d serve in whatever capacity asked. It would be a bit of a curve ball, but while keeping Corbyn in her Shadow Cabinet might weigh Bailey down with the wider electorate, it might actually boost Starmer. It would signal to the left that he is not simply a return to centrism and might, just might, be able to use it to energise the young voters Labour will need if they are to return to power at the nearest opportunity.


(Written by Tom Cropper, edited by Michael O’Sullivan) 


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