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Farewell Sturgeon and Corbyn: it’s been a good week for rational politics

The departure of two divisive politicians might mean that calm, inclusive competence will prevail, writes John Rentoul

Thursday 16 February 2023 15:07 GMT
Thus the message was sent out loud and clear: welcome back, Middle England
Thus the message was sent out loud and clear: welcome back, Middle England (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Keir Starmer condemned him, first indirectly as “the previous leadership”, and then by name: “Jeremy Corbyn will not stand as a Labour candidate at the next general election.” It was the final breach, a symbolic moment as significant as Neil Kinnock’s denunciation of Derek Hatton and Militant at Bournemouth in 1985, and Tony Blair’s pledge to rewrite Clause IV at Blackpool in 1994.

Gone was any pretence that Starmer wanted to continue with any part of the Corbyn legacy. “The Labour Party is unrecognisable from 2019 and it will never go back,” Starmer said. The news conference was ostensibly to mark the moment the Equalities and Human Rights Commission formally declared the party free of the stain of antisemitism, but Starmer chose to make it a wider declaration that the party repudiated its recent past.

That manoeuvre was not without its intellectual contortions, because the more Starmer attacked his predecessor, the harder it should have been for him to explain why he worked to make Corbyn prime minister in 2017 and 2019. Yet he was asked the question only once, and sidestepped it without much difficulty. He has some skill in the deployment of bland generalities.

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