Coronavirus: Keir Starmer calls on Boris Johnson to back Labour’s ‘national plan’ on jobs | Politics News

Sir Keir Starmer is calling on Boris Johnson to put party differences aside and work with Labour on a jobs crusade during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a move normally associated with wartime, Sir Keir is proposing a “national plan” to protect jobs, create new ones and invest in skills and training.

The Labour leader’s proposal comes in a speech to the TUC conference which he was due to make in person but will now deliver by video link as he is self-isolating.

Starmer backs new COVID-19 measures

“I’m making an open offer to the prime minister: work with us to keep millions of people in work,” Sir Keir will say. “Work with the trade unions and work with businesses. Do everything possible to protect jobs and to deliver for working people.”

Suggesting the sort of co-operation which saw Winston Churchill govern alongside Labour’s Clement Attlee in World War Two, Sir Keir will say: “At this moment of national crisis we should take inspiration from our past.

“Be willing to put party differences aside and work together in the interest of the country. Imagine how powerful it would be if we could form a genuine national plan to protect jobs, create new ones and investing in skills and training?”

But Sir Keir’s offer is likely to be rebuffed by the prime minister, who has repeatedly expressed disdain for the Labour leader, dismissing him as a “Remainer lawyer” and lampooning him as having “more briefs than Calvin Klein” and “more flip flops than Bournemouth beach”.

As part of his national plan proposal, Sir Keir wants the government to replace the furlough scheme and outlaw the sort of “firing and re-hiring” practices of companies like British Airways.

But despite his pledge of co-operation, Sir Keir Starmer will also accuse the prime minister of failing to get the basics of coronavirus testing or a plan for care homes right over the summer and of attempting to “re-open old wounds over Brexit”.

Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer

‘Government lurching from crisis to crisis’

And after calling on the prime minister at the weekend to “stop banging on about Brexit and defeat Covid” he will again urge Mr Johnson: “Get your priorities right. Get on with defeating this virus.”

Sir Keir claims Tory co-operation with Labour, business and the unions could avoid “scarring effect mass unemployment will have on communities and families across the country” and “with a bit of imagination and acting in the national interest, a better approach is possible”.

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Whereas the TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady called in her conference speech for an extension of furlough, Sir Keir will propose replacing the job retention scheme with measures from other parts of the world, including:

  • Expanding part-time working and rewarding employers who give people hours rather than cut jobs;
  • Providing training and support for those unable to come back full-time;
  • Targeting sectors most in need – including retail, aviation and those hit by local lockdowns.

In a pledge that will be welcomed by unions, Sir Keir will call on the government to outlaw “fire and re-hire” – where people are given notice of redundancy and then hired back on worse pay and conditions – as “not just wrong but against British values”.

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He will say: “These tactics punish good employers, hit working people hard and harm our economy. After a decade of pay restraint – that’s the last thing working people need, and in the middle of a deep recession – it’s the last thing our economy needs.”

And praising the work of unions during coronavirus, he will say: “When it came to protecting millions of jobs and keeping people safe at work it was the union movement that stood up.

“Without you there would have been no furlough scheme. No life raft for seven million people. The trade unions have always been the unsung heroes of our national story – and through this crisis you have helped to write another proud chapter.”

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Labour Party – Labour’s left wing is trying a new strategy to gain influence | Britain

SAUL ALINSKY, whose “Rules for Radicals” inspired community activists in 1970s America, is not normally a name to conjure with in Britain. But his reputation is enjoying a revival among Labour leftists. Deprived of power by Sir Keir Starmer, the party’s new leader, they think Alinsky’s tactics offer a way to regain some clout.

Sir Keir is taking a more centrist line than was generally expected. He has condemned the illegal removal of offensive statues by Black Lives Matter (BLM). He says little about left-wing economics. Claire Ainsley, his policy chief and a former adviser to Onward, a Conservative think-tank, moulds sound-bites designed not to criticise capitalism, but to appeal to a wide range of voters.

The left has a lot of support among party members, but although it is “still numerically strong…institutionally it is quite weak”, says Aaron Bastani, co-founder of Novara Media, a socialist news site. In the parliamentary party, the Socialist Campaign group, with 34 out of Labour’s 202 MPs, is small, but it is noisy and angry. “They are people who are bitter,” says a left-wing MP who has thrown in their lot with the leader, “who think that people like me will never be quite pure enough.” Sir Keir has strengthened his position within the parliamentary party by sacking his former rival, Rebecca Long-Bailey, thus depriving the left of a credible commander. He has given jobs to some left-wingers, and keeps them on a tight leash. “They can’t cough on a policy subject without approval from Keir’s office,” says a Corbyn-era advisor.

Momentum, a 40,000-strong group of activists that acted as a praetorian guard to the Corbyn leadership, has lost its raison d’être. The unions are still powerful, and Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, warned earlier this month that Labour shouldn’t take its donations for granted. But the argument over when children should go back to school has demonstrated that Sir Keir is prepared to stand up to them. The main teachers’ union published conditions it wanted met before going back. Sir Keir subsequently demanded that schools reopen in September, with “no ifs, no buts, no equivocations”. The union has since stayed quiet.

Socialists know they are beat. “I don’t think just ‘stay and fight’ is a particularly appealing slogan for much of the left of the party,” says James Schneider, a Momentum co-founder and Corbyn strategist. “It’s like, ‘stay and fight and, for a while, likely lose’ because the left is not going to be in the ascendancy. So we need to offer more.”

That is why talk has turned to Alinsky. Influential figures on Labour’s left want to relaunch along the lines of the grassroots movement he created in Chicago. Extinction Rebellion and BLM, which have turbocharged movements on climate change and race, provide further inspiration. Leftists want to exert public pressure on Sir Keir through protests, community projects and political education. “This is an ‘in and against the Labour Party approach’, where we occupy the corpse of the previous opportunity and continue to leverage that,” says Joe Guinan, a left-wing thinker.

Leftist bigwigs want Momentum to emulate Alinsky’s tactic of uniting communities against common enemies. Landlords will be one, says Mr Schneider. Sir Keir supports an extension of the current ban on evictions, but Labour activists want rent holidays. Mr Schneider thinks that if the left can mobilise tenants, it could force Sir Keir’s hand. Such methods, goes the argument, will reconnect Labour with working-class communities, while showing them alternatives to the status quo.

Sir Keir’s position looks unassailable. But if these plans work, an amorphous and leaderless network of media-savvy campaigns could start to challenge him. The left might look defeated, but it is working on a new rulebook for radicals.

This article appeared in the Britain section of the print edition under the headline “Left out”

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