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Prominent Welsh left-winger denounces Starmer as he quits Labour after 35 years

02 Jun 2024 7 minute read
Darren Williams

Martin Shipton

One of the most prominent left-wing members of Welsh Labour has resigned from the party after 35 years, denouncing the direction it has taken under the leadership of Keir Starmer.

Darren Williams, who heads the PCS union in Wales and co-founded the Welsh Labour Grassroots group, said in a letter to Sir Keir: “After 35 years’ continuous, active Labour membership – including time spent on the National Executive Committee, the Welsh Executive Committee, the National Policy Forum and as a Cardiff councillor – I have cancelled my direct debit today, as I can no longer bear to remain in a party that treats its members, representatives and voters with such contempt.

“I have witnessed some pretty unedifying behaviour by various party leaders over the years but you have outdone them all. Your abandonment of all the pledges on which you originally stood for the leadership was shameless enough but you have proceeded to water down policy commitments on green investment and workers’ rights, among other areas, while failing to take a clear moral stance against the Tories’ inhuman attacks on refugees and migrants or against Israel’s genocidal onslaught in Gaza.

“And all the time you have persecuted decent socialists, suspending, expelling, driving them out of the party and besmirching their reputations, all to show that you have ‘changed the party’. Well, you have certainly done that: rules are bent and broken on virtually a daily basis, democratic decisions are ignored or overridden and candidate selections are routinely stitched-up.

“Developments over the last week have finally convinced me to give up on the party to which I have belonged for almost my whole adult life. Constituencies like my own, in Cardiff West, have had your stooges foisted upon us as candidates – people with no connection to local communities – while you have treated the likes of Diane Abbott, Faiza Shaheen and Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who have been a credit to Labour, in the most despicable fashion.

“I’m sure that, even if you read this, you will be completely indifferent to my resignation, or even pleased to see the back of another troublesome leftie, but the fact is that long standing members like me are continuing to leave the party in their droves – or, at best, sitting on their hands – when you still need us to knock doors, deliver leaflets and keep the party functioning.

“It looks virtually certain that Labour will comfortably win the general election and the overdue expulsion of office of the awful Tories will be something to celebrate, but my concern is that this opportunity for lasting change will be squandered because you lack the moral and political courage to deliver the radical reform that is needed to improve people’s lives – and seem determined to alienate and antagonise so many of Labour’s natural supporters along the way.

“I hope that you start to listen to the concerns that must surely be reaching you from people like me, before it’s too late.”

Facebook

Mr Williams also posted a message on Facebook which said: “I’ve been feeling increasingly demoralised for some time but, until the last few days, I intended to scale down my activity but retain my membership. Recent events, however, have convinced me that I need to make a clean break with a party whose leadership increasingly treats its own members, its representatives and sections of its presumed electorate with blatant contempt.

“I should say that I’m not starry-eyed about what Labour was like before the current leadership. I know my history and I’ve been involved in enough internal battles over the years to understand that Labour’s never been socialist and that policy climb downs and democratic deficits are nothing new.

“Nevertheless, I’ve always understood that, given Britain’s electoral system and political culture, as well as the party’s relationship with the organised working class, it was essential to be inside the party in order to contribute to any realistic chance of progressive change.

“So, I’ve campaigned in every election for Labour candidates – some more impressive than others – and was briefly a Cardiff councillor myself. Most of the friends I’ve made over the last 30 years are people I’ve met through the party, or at least with whom I have party membership in common.

“With Labour almost certain to win office in a few weeks’ time, probably with a comfortable majority, I should be feeling excited about the political prospects for the years ahead. Certainly, the overdue expulsion of the awful Tories will be something to celebrate, and there are aspects of Labour’s platform – on public transport and energy, in particular – that will bring benefits if they are delivered as promised. But everything Keir Starmer has done since becoming leader makes me pessimistic about the chances of an incoming Labour government standing up for ordinary people once the pressure is on.

Ruthlessness 

“But it’s the ruthlessness of the party’s internal regime under Starmer that has been hardest to live with,” he added.

“Hundreds of hard-working activists and dozens of principled politicians – beginning with Rebecca Long-Bailey and Jeremy Corbyn – have been traduced, disciplined or even expelled on the flimsiest pretexts, to appease Labour’s media and establishment critics,’reassure’ floating voters and show ‘Labour has changed’.

“The party’s own rules have been bent or broken on virtually a daily basis, democratic policy decisions (e.g. in support of electoral reform) have been dismissed and selections have been routinely stitched-up. Of course, much of this has been seen in the party before, but even under Blair there was some residual respect for consistent rules and accountability and the leadership’s left critics were simply marginalised, rather than purged.

“Good comrades will say that we should just keep on fighting – they don’t call it ‘the struggle’ for nothing – and I would have agreed with them until recently, but we all have our limits, which are as much emotional as analytical. And in the last week, we’ve witnessed some of the real leading lights of our movement – Diane Abbott, Faiza Shaheen and Lloyd Russell-Moyle – be attacked and humiliated, following on from the similar treatment meted out to the likes of Beth Winter, Jamie Driscoll and, of course, Jeremy Corbyn.

“At the same time, a whole series of MPs, including my own, have conveniently announced at the last minute that they would not be standing again, allowing the leadership to parachute in its preferred candidates. Here in Cardiff West, we have been gifted a Starmer apparatchik with no ties to the city, or south Wales, with no meaningful input from local members.

“So I’m out. I won’t be joining or campaigning for another party but will concentrate my efforts on my ‘day job’ with the union for which I am so proud and privileged to work. For the time being, in fact, I think that positive change is more likely to come via pressure from trade unions and other progressive forces in civil society, rather than from political parties. But in the long run, we desperately need electoral reform at Westminster, so that it will be harder for party leaders to take ‘their’ voters for granted.”


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Annibendod
Annibendod
11 days ago

“Nevertheless, I’ve always understood that, given Britain’s electoral system and political culture, as well as the party’s relationship with the organised working class, it was essential to be inside the party in order to contribute to any realistic chance of progressive change.” I’ve every respect for those who have campaigned tirelessly over the years to change the economic and political consensus of the UK for the better. I can’t help but feel that the gentleman has missed a trick however. Until Britain enjoys radical constitutional reform, we will not achieve the economic and political reform we need. That is purely… Read more »

Neil McEvoy
Neil McEvoy
11 days ago

The Labour described by Darren Williams is very much the Labour he propped up for years. I recall anyone non white not being allowed into a Riverside, Cardiff West selection in 2003, even though they were members! The Branch secretary at the time? A certain Darren Williams! They went on to lose Riverside for 8 years. It took Rhodri Morgan knocking on doors continuously whilst FM outside of election time to turn it around; anonymous Plaid councillors helped also. Hey ho…Propel is promoting a Wales of opportunity & fair play, not a begging bowl Wales full of nepotism for the… Read more »

Gary H
Gary H
11 days ago
Reply to  Neil McEvoy

Don’t wasre your breath Neil. Politics is the art of the possible and the only group to boot Labour out is Plaid, like it or not. Propel? Who?

Neil McEvoy
Neil McEvoy
11 days ago
Reply to  Gary H

Plaid does want to boot Labour out, they rather take instructions from them. That’s my lived experience. An alternative does not happen overnight, or everywhere. Propel is strong is key areas we know we can do well in. Though we have members all over Wales, we are realistic and there is a good chance you’ll see us in the Senedd in 2026. I’d rather spoil my ballot than vote for the Uniparty.

Alwyn
Alwyn
11 days ago

Telling! I wonder how many from Cardiff West will be looking for a socialist outside the ‘Labour’ Party to cast their vote for?

Rhddwen y Sais
Rhddwen y Sais
11 days ago
Reply to  Alwyn

Very few.

Last edited 11 days ago by Rhddwen y Sais
Y Cymro
Y Cymro
11 days ago

Anybody in Wales horrified at the genocide in Gaza , who are aware that Thatcherite Keir Starmer is happy that HS2 remains an England & Wales infrastructure build even though over 100 miles from our border and has stated he will not give Wales the £4 billion HS2 consequential due rightly ours. Who parachutes in right-wing English Labour party loyalists as General Election candidates with zero Welsh family or connection to those Cardiff & Swansea constituencies standing in but still willing to vote for a Labour, a party that regards Wales as an irrelevance, who think of Wales as a… Read more »

John Ellis
John Ellis
11 days ago

I do rather empathize with Mr Williams. OK, I don’t feel anything like his degree of grief, because personally I’ve never remotely been tempted to invest the degree of commitment to the Labour party which he seems to have done over many years – I’ve never found Labour noticeably especially appealing. But he clearly, for a very long time, thought that ‘the game was actually worth the candle’, so I must take his point. For quite a while I could at least understand – at least as it seemed to me to be – what Sir Keir’s strategy has been.… Read more »

Shan Morgain
Shan Morgain
11 days ago

Well done Darren. I think you held on too long as I saw all this yonks ago and cut my membership. For the first time in 55 years I won’t be voting Labour. They’ll get in but with many acting like me a smaller majority might modify the ruthless authoritarianism Starmer has built. He’s do a bit of good, and unlike the Tories this current ‘Labour’ is not blindly insane. Expect efficiency and a few sops to pacify – perhaps children might get to eat properly again. One hopes.

John Davies
John Davies
10 days ago

As a resignation statement, Darren’s piece sums it up nicely. Elegant, readable, well expressed and covers all the issues. Like many traditional Labour people with real Labour values, he is unhappy about the Mandelson/Starmer project to transform Labour into a centre-right party of government. Well and good, but the issues that have driven the recent resurgence of the left will remain. Britain is plagued with huge inequalities of power, wealth and privilege. If the next Labour government does not do something about them (which appears increasingly unlikely), they will find themselves going head-to-head with the Trade Unions and other left-wing… Read more »

Philip Martin
Philip Martin
10 days ago

I 100% agree Darren and I’ve done likewise. I cannot help but feel that Kevin Brennan’s decision was delayed deliberately, giving the NEC a chance to step in to impose a candidate and preventing worthy alternatives from emerging from within the local party. If this is indded the case, it’s an insult to Cardiff West constituency who have done so much to support him and an insult to Welsh Labour, who are now fielding a candidate with tenuous if any links to Wales let alone Cardiff. I’m saddened and angry about this turn of events and strongly feel we need… Read more »

300734429295
300734429295
10 days ago

Under FPTP, anyone who doesn’t support a centre-left Labour party is pro-Tory. It’s as simple as that. If Labour-left politics is to be properly represented, and voters do deserve this choice, the voting system must be changed. This means both Labour and the Conservatives becoming two separate parties, probably governing together in coalition with voters, not the factions, deciding how strong each wing is in government.

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