Starmer’s most shameful U turn yet

Another day, another Labour U turn. It has got extremely tiresome to write that sentence, and no doubt equally tiresome to read it. Keir Starmer’s right wing U turns have become drearily predictable. At this point the only question is how many more can Starmer squeeze in before the general election. Probably quite a few is the answer to that question. Starmer and his team are going through every Labour policy and promise with a fine tooth Tory comb and are carefully weeding out anything that seems even vaguely left wing or social democratish. If it’s going to annoy the Daily Mail or the Telegraph then it’s got to go. If it doesn’t meet with the approval of the right wing British nationalist flag shaggers then it’s far too dangerously subversive for Keir Starmer, who keeps telling us how he has changed the Labour party. And that would be true. He’s changed it into a slightly less insane version of the Tory party.

The reality is, if you construct your party’s policies, promises, and presentation with the sole aim of putting forward a manifesto that is palatable to the right wing press and which will be attractive to Conservative voters, then what you are offering is a Conservative manifesto. That is precisely what Starmer is offering.

The latest U turn involves Labour’s prior commitment to financial compensation for women who lost out due to the changes to the age at which women become eligible for a state pension, or Waspi women (from Women Against State Pension Injustice.) In its 2019 manifesto Labour promised to ensure that these women would receive full compensation. However following last week’s publication of a report from the Parliamentary and Health Standards Ombudsman (PHSO) which found that those women who lost out should receive financial compensation the airwaves have been filled with the screeching sound of senior Labour figures desperately pulling on the handbrake. Except for viewers in Scotland that is, where the branch office is equally desperately trying to keep out of the public eye until the entire embarrassing story goes away and Anas Sarwar can find a pensioner in a wheelchair whose long delayed hospital appointment was cancelled due to a broken down ferry.

Incidentally, is is just me who finds it odd that there’s an ombudsman who specialises in Parliamentary and Health standards as those are two areas which do not naturally seem to go together. Unless it’s because Westminster is the sickest institution in the UK, which is quite the achievement in a state which also includes the BBC, the royal family, and the privatised railways and water companies. But I digress.

Appearing on the Laura Kuenssberg Show on BBC 1 on Sunday, Labour and party chair MP Annaliese Dodds U-turned when confronted with her own party’s 2019 pledge to compensate the women. That pledge has never officially been rescinded and the Labour branch office in particular has heavily dined out on it over the past few years, hence the current media blackout from Anas Sarwar. On the same show the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt refused to commit the government to paying Waspi women the compensation they are due, saying only that the government would ‘consider’ the PHSO report, then after an interminable period of ‘consideration’ the government will say no when public attention is safely elsewhere. Tories gonna Tory, and Labour gonna Tory as well.

Dodds denied that it was Labour policy to compensate Waspi women, and would only say that Waspi women deserved ‘respect’. But not so much respect that it would involve compensating them for what the PHSO found in a preliminary report published in 2021 to be ‘maladministration’ on the part of the Department of Work and Pensions. Dodds said that Labour’s 2019 manifesto had been put to the electorate in that year’s general election which Labour had lost, so the manifesto had been rejected by the voters. It was a gobsmackingly asinine attempt by Dodds to shift the blame for Starmer’s mean spirited U turn on to the electorate.

Equally mean spirited was Sam Taylor, the prickly and thin skinned director of anti Scottish independence frothathon These Islands, who took to Twitter to say: “Principled and correct from Labour. The government should not be paying compensation to women simply because they were too feckless to look up their own state pension age.”

Imagine a) thinking that then b) typing it out, then c) publishing it for all the world to see just what a nasty and unpleasant empathy free individual you are without at any point in the process pausing to wonder if tweeting that out was going to make you look like a dick for calling hard working women “feckless” just because they didn’t expect or realise the government was going to rip them off.

Oh Sam, Sam. What a little ray of sunshine you are. You’re supposed to be trying to stop people wanting Scottish independence, not making them think: “The further away we can get from this guy the better.” The only feckless people here are the ones who were running the DWP.

The real reason that the only thing Labour wants to pay Waspi women is ‘respect’, which of course costs nothing is because the cost of compensating the women properly is thought to exceed £10 billion.

Dodds was joined by former right wing Labour Home Secretary David Blunkett who warned that a future Labour government may struggle to afford the potential of over £10bn in compensation for the millions of women hit by changes to the state pension. Actually we can just dispense with the phrase ‘right wing’ when it is followed by Home Secretary as being intolerant and right wing is an essential part of the job description.

But what Blunkett said is not entirely true, a future Labour government could afford to pay adequate compensation to women affected by the DWP’s fecklessness if it was not so in thrall to the right wing press and committed to a proper programme of progressive taxation and abandoned its commitment to abiding by Conservative party fiscal constraints. That however is the very last thing that Keir Starmer is going to do. Vote Tory, get Tory policies and contempt, vote Labour, get Tory policies and contempt too.


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