Sir Keir Starmer has, somehow, found himself in the envious position of being the leader of the biggest “left-wing” political party in Europe, the British Labour Party. Sharp suit and expensive haircut, Starmer is very much in the Tony Blair mould, despite apparently being named for Labour’s iconic socialist founder Keir Hardie. Yet the comparisons with Hardie go little beyond a name, with Starmer coming under increasing and early scrutiny for his actions during his time at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and in particular his close association with the security services.
As a former Director of Public Prosecutions, a certain level of interaction with the security services can only be expected, certainly where cases surrounding national security are concerned. However, there have been suggestions that Starmer’s relationship with MI5 may have gone beyond the professional.
Writing on Twitter, the independent journalist and co-founder of Declassified UK Matt Kennard has been highlighting concerning interactions between Starmer and the apparatus of the state. He noted a meeting between the new Labour leader and then Director-General of MI5 Sir Jonathan Evans in April of 2013, a year after Starmer made the decision not to prosecute the security services over their role in torture during the “War on Terror”.
In 2010, Starmer said that the CPS had decided there was “insufficient evidence” to prosecute an MI5 officer for any criminal offence arising from the interview of Binyam Mohamed in Pakistan on 17 May 2002″. This was despite the Court of Appeal ruling that Mohamed had been subjected to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities” as part of which the British Intelligence services had been complicit. Evans said he was “delighted” by the decision.
The decision by the court of appeal overruled then foreign secretary David Miliband as the New Labour government was accused of engaging in a cover-up, with then Home Secretary Alan Duncan forced to deny that government lawyers had forced the judiciary to water down criticism of MI5.
In 2012, it was also decided that MI6 had nothing to answer over the Mohamed case. The CPS stated that “there is insufficient evidence to prove to the standard required in a criminal court”. This was even though officers “knew or ought to have known that there was a real or serious risk that Mr Mohamed would be exposed to ill-treatment amounting to torture” over the information provided to the United States.
Starmer’s time at the CPS was marked by his assimilation into the right-wing state apparatus of Blairite Britain. In 2009 he refused to prosecute the police officers responsible for the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes, in 2010 he did the same in the case of Ian Tomlinson.
Also in 2010, after massive student protests swept the country following the coalition government’s announcement of plans to treble student fees, the protesters were met with the expected brutality of the state. Starmer’s role was to announce new powers to crack down on protest, implementing new guidelines that encouraged the prosecution of the protestors including those who came to a rally “equipped with clothes or mask to prevent identification [or] items that could be considered body protection”.
In 2013, he fell again into line with the government of the day, announcing new guidelines for the prosecution of “benefit cheats” as the Tory-Lib Dem coalition began it’s decade long assault on the poorest in society. In the same year, the CPS applied pressure to Swedish authorities to ensure that they maintained the false prosecution of Julian Assange to keep him confined to the Ecuadorian embassy.
For his services to the state, Starmer was made a knight of the realm in 2014.
Indeed, such is the relish with which Starmer rolled out increasingly right-wing policies during his time at the CPS, you’d have been hard-pressed to identify even the smallest kindling of socialist or left-wing ideology.
Starmer’s time at the CPS tells the tale of a careerist and a yes man who is willing to kowtow to the government of the day, be it Labour or Tory, to ensure the advancement of his own profile. The fluidity and expediency of his neoliberal beliefs pour from every image and soundbite of Starmer. When it increased his chances in the leadership contest he sounded like a socialist, when he now wants the backing of Rupert Murdoch, he’ll sound like a Tory.
Starmer’s vapidity is underpinned by the repressive nature of his neoliberal centrist ideology, an ideology that commands obedience and the supremacy of the capitalist state. The results of these beliefs have been seen in Chile where Sebastian Pinera has brutally suppressed protests against his regime and ideology and in France where Emmanuel Macron has done likewise.
With his refusal to stand against the Conservative’s “war crimes bill” and “spy cops bill”, as the state’s knighted servant, we have little doubt that Starmer will walk down a very similar path should he ever become Prime Minister.