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Veteran anti-apartheid campaigner may stand against Keir Starmer in election

February 14, 2024 at 2:20 pm

Britain’s main opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer in Liverpool, northwest England, on October 11, 2023 [PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images]

UK Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer may face an independent challenge in his Holborn and St Pancras constituency in this year’s General Election. The challenger is said to be veteran anti-apartheid campaigner Andrew Feinstein.

South African-born Feinstein, an anti-Zionist Jew, is a former African National Congress MP and adviser to the late President Nelson Mandela. In a tweet announcing his desire to challenge Starmer, he said that two local progressive groups approached him about potentially running for the parliamentary seat currently occupied by the Labour leader.

“I am v[ery] grateful to the Camden For the Many local hub & OCISA for endorsing me as a possible independent candidate in Holborn & St. Pancras,” Feinstein wrote on X. “I’ve indicated I am willing to stand. But there still needs to be a more extensive consultative process across the constituency to identify the best possible progressive unity candidate to stand against Starmer.”

While expressing his openness to an election campaign, Feinstein stressed the importance of coordination across the constituency to agree on a unity candidate that embodies a “more accountable, more honest, more just politics.”

Feinstein pledged that if he is seen as that person, he will stand in pursuit of those principles in a challenge to the Labour leader. But he also committed to working “tirelessly” to help if someone else “more suitable is identified” in order to get them elected as part of the progressive front against Starmer.

With rising dissatisfaction with the Labour leader among some factions of the party’s left-wing base, an independent challenger with backing from those groups could pose an issue for Starmer ahead of the next general election, currently scheduled for later this year.

The anti-corruption campaigner may be the ideal person to mobilise an anti-Starmer campaign. The Labour leader has become extremely unpopular due to his policy on the situation in Gaza. His critics point to the fact that Starmer said that Israel had the right to cut fuel, food and water to the Palestinians in the besieged territory.

In contrast, Feinstein is seen as utterly authentic, totally straightforward and deeply principled, unlike Starmer. The Labour leader was recently described by journalist Peter Oborne as the “ultimate machine politician.” Feinstein, on the other hand, represents the type of new politics many disaffected voters want.

According to Oborne, while Feinstein may not defeat Starmer, he could “set the groundwork for a new political party” given the urgent need for such an alternative. His moral clarity and experience as an anti-apartheid activist gives him credibility on the streets.

Starmer, however, is viewed as cynical and dishonest, having abandoned many of the pledges he made during the Labour leadership election. His shift in policy on Gaza contradicts earlier human rights commitments, which is very odd for a human rights lawyer.

Oborne paints Starmer as an unpopular figure due to his policy on Gaza, while arguing the Feinstein’s integrity poses a serious threat. His potential candidacy taps into the public desire for a new type of principled politics.

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