Illustration by Sarameeya Aree
I was one of the biggest donors to Labour’s last election campaign. However, I—along with a group of like-minded fellow donors—have decided to no longer donate directly to the Labour Party while it remains under Keir Starmer’s leadership. We believe Starmer has proven himself to be ineffective and cowardly, refusing to accept Amnesty International findings, knifing progressives in the back at every opportunity, and seemingly set on bending to every whim of our nation’s billionaire-owned press.
With the political reality, we find ourselves in, it is time for a new strategy. Traditional methods of support and donations need to be re-evaluated. First and foremost, I want to make it clear that far from being the solution, I see rich donors as a problem. Given the current terrible trajectory, the world is on, in 100 years, people will look back and trace the turning point from collective progress to individualistic destruction back to the Citizens United ruling in the U.S. It was a time when dark money and support for tax havens entered politics without let or hindrance—meaning the world’s dirtiest billionaires were free to systematically funnel unaccountable funds into elections and campaigns without ever being exposed. Put simply, drug dealers and other charlatans are perfectly entitled to influence elections in America, and there’s no way to hold them to account or trace these funds.
Our donations to political parties are extremely valuable. The sad reality is that, statistically, funding plays a significant role in elections. Elections are won when “swing states” or “swing seats” are flipped, meaning a small number of strategic votes can determine the outcome at a national level. For example, in the 2016 US presidential election, just 79,316 votes in three key states could have delivered the election from Trump to Clinton. Likewise, in the UK’s 2017 election, Jeremy Corbyn was just 2,227 votes away in swing seats from a chance to become Prime Minister. Labour came up just short in seven Tory-Labour knife-edge seats. With the margins so small, spending has surged to win votes in battleground areas—in 2020, both Trump and Biden spent over $1 billion on television ads in six key states.
Prominent voices on the left often tell us that Labour should be supported unthinkingly and unconditionally, but this strategy has led us to the mess we are in today. In a war, if you are led by an inept military commander, you shouldn’t desert the battlefield or defect to the opposing army—it is your country that you’re fighting for, not the commander. You ought to stay and survive for as long as you can—and work to replace the commander with a functional, capable one. As such, members should not leave the Labour Party but stay and fix it. We should remain to have a say on the next Party leader at the first possible opportunity. It is a better country and a better world we are fighting for, not the inadequate and lackluster leader.
We must also always vote for the most progressive alternative on the ballot paper, the caveat being that, if that Party’s leader is as spineless and deceitful as Starmer, any accompanying financial support and donations should be withdrawn and redirected to where they will produce the biggest progressive impact. Funding the central Party is likely to remain wasteful as long as its weak leadership insists on pouring funds into shooting down progressives and the wanton waging of internal warfare. Instead, we suggest investing in more targeted and effective alternatives, such as local progressive candidates in key battlegrounds, progressive media outlets, and joining affiliated unions. By redirecting our money into more effective and targeted alternatives, we can maximize our impact in the fight for progressive change.
Ultimately, I don’t intend to discourage donations or support for the Labour Party altogether—and certainly not to encourage people to abandon their membership. The Party and its principles remain vital in the progressive fight in Britain and beyond. However, as donors, it is crucial to remain cognizant of where our money is going and how it will be used. When the leader of the Labour Party is effective again, sure, go ahead and donate to the Party. But when the leadership is dishonest and weak, give your financial support to local on-the-ground alternatives instead
Cowardly commanders fall sooner or later—it is just a matter of time. Ultimately, it is the patient and brave soldiers who must stand the test of time, until they can truly shine once back under effective leadership.
Tags mentioned:Elections Funding Progressive U.K. politics