Friday, 28 August 2015

Who I Voted for Labour Leader

Like my friend Lawrence, I haven't been terribly inspired by the Labour leadership campaign. Even Corbynmania has failed to stir me, except to the extent of writing many posts trying to understand what it means and how it will effect our party and our movement. So when it came to deciding who to vote for, I found it very difficult.

Now, I have a confession to make. Last month our constituency party met to decide who to nominate. Liz, Yvette, and Jeremy had their speakers - Tristram gave a good account for Liz. Andy, a new comrade, spoke for Jeremy. And I spoke for Yvette. Why? In a frankly terrible speech (so much for applying the 'be prepared' maxim I berate others for failing to employ), I laid down the reasons why I liked Jeremy's policies, but also that a strategy dependent on mobilising non-voters is most unlikely to win. Of Yvette, Andy, and Liz, it was Yvette who had the best chance of winning over those Tory voters we need to capture. Much to my amazement, these incoherent mutterings did the business and the Stoke Central nomination narrowly went to the shadow home secretary. This was before the Welfare Reform debacle saw the party descend into disarray and put a Saturn 5 under Jeremy's campaign. Has my mind changed much since?

I have found choosing incredibly difficult, so let's talk about the easy parts first. There was no way Liz Kendall was getting any of my preferences. I think she comes across as someone who's terribly insincere, and has shown an appalling lack of judgement in the running of her campaign. Berating members for not getting it, and allowing herself to be painted as a continuity Blair figure raises serious questions about whether she could win an election. Matters are not helped by stubbornly defending free schools and invasive private sector penetration of the NHS. If that wasn't enough, like many of her PLP friends and comrades, she doesn't understand the nature of our party. Had things turned out differently and she was a proper contender, I would be seriously worried about the future of the party.

And Andy Burnham. What can you say? Ask me a year ago who I'd be supporting for Labour leader, and I would have said him. Now? Not on your Nelly. The time for examining what has gone so badly wrong for his campaign isn't now - especially when it's a subject this blog will be turning to in the future. But honestly, to have tacked right with his leadership declaration and then opportunistically zigged-zagged here, there, and every-bloody-where as the contest has worn on ... Andy is a nice bloke, can speak with genuine conviction, and does have some good policies to sell. Yet he's like a driver with a faulty SatNav on a cliff's edge - you never know whether he'll follow a dodgy prompt and dash the car on the rocks below, or ignore it convinced that the thin air in front of him is the right road to take. While not as dangerous to the party as a Liz leadership would be, it's well within his range to take Labour in a disastrous direction if he thinks the head winds are favourable.

That leaves Jeremy and Yvette. Yes, I do think Jeremy is less divisive and problematic than Andy and Liz, and that any "chaos" resulting from his winning is overstated. His campaign has not only proven slick and well-run, it has set the political tone for the entire contest. It's telling that the two candidates with roots in the wider party - Andy and Yvette - have moved leftwards to compensate while Camp Liz floats away in a Blairist bubble of their own making. For the first time in a long time, the left have made an appreciable - and I for one hope lasting - impact on mainstream politics.

You know there's a but coming, don't you? I do have some major reservations about Jeremy's candidacy - for all the good it has done - and I don't think these can be ignored as "ephemeral" or "inessential". We've visited the issue of dodgy associations before. Of course, it is absurd to suggest Jeremy in any way shares the politics of some of the unsavoury individuals he's rubbed shoulders with in the past, and so much of the muck-raking by the likes of Louise Mensch is just that. But time and again, it happens. More recently, for instance, Jeremy happily gave an interview to the Australian branch of the LaRouche cult. If you've never heard of them, look Lyndon LaRouche up - anti-semitism is but one of their appalling characteristics. This sort of carelessness is a problem for some on the left, and it worries me that Jeremy and/or his staff are seemingly incapable of Googling background information, or don't deem it to be relevant. If Jeremy wins, this one will come back and come back some more.

The second big issue I have is electoral strategy, namely the seeming indifference much of Jeremy's support has to winning over Tory voters and the emphasis he wishes to place on mobilising non-voters. This approach has been gamed on Ravi's blog under the present boundaries. His best estimate puts us behind the Tories - assuming present Labour and Tory support stays where it is - and he also notes that the 2020 election will be fought on boundaries less favourable to our party. The next election is going to be a tough slog, and I'm sorry, I have very little time for anyone agnostic about us winning. Over the next five years the Tories are going to shaft our funding base and throw obstacles in the way of trade unions. And do we have to talk about what they have in store for our people as well? Can you imagine what could happen again if they win in 2020? I've got a good job and have no reason to believe my health will deteriorate over the next 10 years, but that could easily change. There are, of course, many millions not as fortunate as I and will suffer unless we get back into power at the first available opportunity.

And there is the development and strength of the left itself. Few, if anyone expected a left insurgency of this magnitude. But one should not cheer lead uncritically, like much of the far left outside Labour are doing, but to try and understand it in order to shape it. As far as I'm concerned the new member/supporter wave is not a 'social movement' as such, as per Scotland, but more like a mass affiliation of many ones and twos. It is a tendency attracted by Jeremy's unorthodoxy and amplified by social media. Some of it are former Labour people, but the overwhelming bulk are new to politics - that's if the membership surge we've had in our neck of the woods is anything to go by. If you like it is unrooted, a variegated and individuated group of people in search of a social movement. As such, noting its rootlessness, it would be a huge mistake to take this as evidence of a much wider constituency waiting to gift us local election after European election after general election. The second related point here comes from an opportunity/risk analysis. A Jeremy leadership is likely to attract another wave of new recruits and strengthen the gravity of left politics generally. The problem is I cannot see how, in the absence of a catastrophe, that this will be enough to win an election. Even worse, an electoral defeat will be taken as a defeat for socialist ideas, just at the moment their revival is getting underway. There is, of course, never a right time for the left to make a play, and the opportunity Jeremy's candidacy represents is one that does not come along too often. Nevertheless, that is what I think - an early peak could see us stumble into an equally early trough.

Who was my alternative then? In the end, it came back to Yvette Cooper. It's only these last couple of weeks her campaign has cranked up. Just like Labour until a year before the general election, she's gone from having no policies to them appearing in abundance. Yes, her platform is pretty dull by the mould-breaking standards of Jeremy's, but interestingly she has moved from austerity lite to anti-austerity lite. There are a couple of things to get excited about, such as universal childcare, and boosting investment in and wages of those in the care industry and those who care for loved ones - Yvette is absolutely right to see this as an infrastructural issue. Yvette has found her voice attacking the government about the refugee crisis in the Med, on FE cuts, on their stupid assault on green industries. Yet I have to say my support doesn't come with much enthusiasm, hence why I'm merely stating my views rather than proselytising. But as the compromise candidate, Yvette has the best chance of keeping the party together and winning a general election in 2020.

Of course, if Jeremy wins politics becomes much more interesting. In that event I will carry on building the party and using this platform to dispense analysis, unsolicited advice, and support. It was a very difficult decision but, unfortunately, I just don't fancy our chances if we go to the country with him at the helm.

61 comments:

Igor Belanov said...

I suspected there would be quite a few masochistic back-sliders once it got close to the time to vote.

Your type really are the reason why the Labour Party is a shattered wreck ready for the scrapheap. You always aim for the 'least worst', least inspired option, and then act surprised when the electorate isn't 'reasonable' enough to vote for them. Re-read Miliband's 'Parliamentary Socialism' a hundred times and never ever make fun of dedicated socialists who stay outside 'your' party.

Phil said...

An ounce of experience is worth a tonne of theory.

I'm not surprised in the slightest why some people are turned off the Labour Party - unlike some, I do actually take the time to speak with them. But the question you never have a satisfactory answer for is how "uninspired" people end up plumping for a party in their millions in favour of a party diametrically opposed to their interests. You have to face up to the facts that a) non-voters tend not to vote b) a good chunk of the missing millions since 1997 are actually dead and c) another chunk are those have subsequently switched to the Tories.

So how does Labour win? Let's hear your bright ideas.

Speedy said...

Igor will have no convincing answers and presumably doesn't care. As summed up by Gareth Evans:

Corbyn’s supporters, the cosmopolitan and bohemian left, the middle-class young and so on, can all afford to value principles over power. They can afford to doom Labour to perpetual opposition at little to no personal cost. The hungry, the sick and the poor cannot. After all, aren’t these the exact people that socialists should be prioritising? Instead, we are witnessing the absurd ordering of ideals, of utopia, of piousness, above pragmatic realism. And by extension, above the people who so desperately need a Labour government.

http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2015/08/it-is-un-socialist-to-support-jeremy-corbyn/

Chris Spence said...

That would be to mischaracterize Jeremy's support: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyns-supporters-are-more-working-class-than-other-candidates-research-finds-10476433.html

Chris said...

But if someone proposes socialist policies (and lord knows Labour hasn't done much of that recently), aren't socialists obliged to vote for him? In what way are we socialists otherwise?

Matt Wardman said...

Phil.

Totally off topic question that you may know the answer for.

Just thinking about the German Model for Trade Unions.

How did that develop as largely non-political but with major management input?

Could you point me to a history?

Is the current structure reflecting pre-1st War reconstitued after WW2, or a new structure developed from 1945-50?

On the leadership I am surprised how lightweight Mr Burnham has turned out to be. The Dr Eoin kiss of death?

Thanks

Igor Belanov said...

Listen. Myself and my partner both earn around the median average wage, are owner occupiers, and work in the public sector. At the last election, as far as I could tell, Labour was offering us very little in the form of narrow self-interest. At best they might have let public sector wages rise to the level of inflation, though given I had below-inflation wage rises under Brown and Darling, that was a dodgy assumption. I basically voted Labour in the end because I thought they would at least put a stop to the rise of food banks, zero-hours contracts and the bedroom tax. Then, lo and behold, after the election we are told that the association of Labour with 'benefits claimants' cost them votes, and the party ceased to oppose 'welfare reform'. That is what kickstarted 'Corbynism'. Thus the Labour Party has already given up 'the hungry, the sick and the poor'.

And no, I don't know 'what will win Labour the election'. Nobody does, especially in the current multi-party climate. These leadership candidates that struggle to win an election in their own party, even when backed by the media and the career politicians, are hardly in a great position to lecture us on 'electability'. Political parties aren't football teams to 'win at all costs' and give us some gratification when we vicariously bask in their reflected glory. They should be there for a purpose, but I'm pretty sure that Yvette Cooper will struggle to tell you what the Labour Party's is.

David Parry said...

'Corbyn’s supporters, the cosmopolitan and bohemian left, the middle-class young and so on, can all afford to value principles over power. They can afford to doom Labour to perpetual opposition at little to no personal cost. The hungry, the sick and the poor cannot.'

Tell me, what good would it do if Labour ended up 'compromising' so much that even in the event of attaining power, it has committed itself to not doing anything to alleviate those people's plight and to shafting them in a slightly less mean-spirited manner?

BCFG said...

a so called socialist inside the Labour party who says he is in the party to move it in a left direction decides, when the opportunity arises to advocate for a centre right tory lite candidate!

You are a complete fraud.

The people who desperately want a labour government are overwhelmingly voting Corbyn, the careerists are desperately wanting anything but. The people who desperately want a labour government know only Corbyn can give them that.

That pro war anti war marcher speedy has nothing but contempt for those who desperately want a labour government!

Phil said...

I think a strategy of mobilising non-voters, if it can be made to work, could be incredibly powerful. Before 1997 there were never as many as 12 million non-voters at a British General Election; since 2001 there has never been fewer than 15 million. New Labour was, among other things, a great demobiliser. And there's at least one precedent for a 'non-voter' strategy: between October 1974 and May 1979 the Labour vote actually went up. The huge rise in the Tory vote was largely down to new voters and previous non-voters. (Thatcher wasn't particularly popular with the BBC, either.)

Anyway, you haven't answered the two questions that really interest me. How did you actually vote - Cooper 1 Corbyn 2, Corbyn 1 Cooper 2, or just Cooper? I'm seriously considering Cooper 1 Corbyn 2, but only on the assumption she'll get knocked out; if I get the feeling there's any chance of JC not ending up the winner I'll go back to Corbyn 1 and, er, that's it.

Secondly, what about the deputy? I've found that contest, and the general lack of attention to it, incredibly frustrating. I'm leaning towards Tom Watson - because I think JC will need (1) an enforcer & (2) someone with links to the Right, plus (3) it's Tom Watson. But Ken Livingstone's endorsement of Angela Eagle has got me wondering. Again, the AV system makes me wonder about how best to use my vote, but I'll probably keep it simple and go 1 Watson 2 Eagle, where Eagle's a back-up vote to cover the unlikely event of Watson getting knocked out early.

Phil said...

In reality, as distinct from Gareth Evans's head, Corbyn's supporters are lower-income and less middle-class than those of any of the other candidates - not just Kendall (although her hard-nosed realistic election-winning rhetoric does seem particularly unpopular lower down the income scale).

Phil said...

Good question, Chris. I haven't got an easy answer for you. I would like to have voted for Jeremy and I certainly agree with what he says - in fact, I was at a Corbyn rally today to see this phenomenon in the flesh. But ultimately it has to come back to the question of winning. While the right have spouted a lot of hot air about power and principle, etc., they are right that power is an inescapable object of the labour movement. It's that, which I've talked about at length above, that explains my choice.

Phil said...

Sorry Matt, I can't help - I'm as familiar with the specifics of German trade unionism as some on here are with stubborn electoral realities.

Phil said...

Thanks for your more reasoned reply, Igor. You might not have an idea of how Labour can win, but I think I do. Yes, it is incredibly frustrating that to win many activists like me feel that the route to victory is through Tory-held constituencies. I wish it was not the case, I wish millions of voters who hold the outcome of elections in their hands weren't scared of their own shadow, but they are. I'm hopeful that the Jeremy campaign has shifted political gravity to the left, that many ideas become mainstream common sense (after all, his platform isn't that radical), but can we win on it? I don't think we can.

Phil said...

Thanks for your fruitful contribution, BC. After you've finished fulminating and done with your moral grandstanding, how about you address the reasoning in the post. As you know, I am of the view that politics is more important than just being an occasion to show off one's virtuous, radical creds.

Phil said...

If Jeremy wins, I hope you're right Phil. It's something I'll certainly be working towards. Our chief objective locally is voter registration as it looks like the numbers game the Tories want to play will involve the Stoke-Newcastle-under-Lyme conurbation losing one of its seats. 70,000 or so is the target and we're now on about 64,000. It's a campaign we hope all Labour supporters - and perhaps others - can rally around.

And for your info, I didn't use any of my preferences. It was all or nothing. Ditto for the deputyship, where I voted for Tom Watson.

Pinkie said...

Does anyone know where Corbyn's support comes from? Is it just the £3.00 supporters or is it from existing members? Whichever way it seems the other three simply do not know what they are doing - they were happy to throw the electorate open but then cannot deal with the fact that they are not popular. What party do they want to lead? Have they really payed any attention to what LP members and activists think, or do they just regard them as electoral skivvies? Loads of questions but no indication from the loosers about what they think about the actual party and its supporters or potential supporters.

Speedy said...

What people genuinely do not seem to grasp us that this is not about the Labour Party but Tory Government.

Whatever a Cooper or Burnham government will look like, it will not be Tory. It seems people have been so distracted by their own political navels they have missed what the Tories ha e been up to just months in to their rule. We have at least another four years of this, and AT LEAST ANOTHER TEN YEARS OF TORY RULE if Labour chooses Corbyn.

After a decade of Tory rule what will the UK look like? Will there even be an NHS or BBC or meaningful social safety net? Will there be a public sector in any meaningful sense? Only people who have either not considered this or just don't care can vote Corbyn. I know plenty of thoughtful working class people horrified by what is happening, the only ones I know voting Corbyn are rich, basically. Tories, in short, and over the years ahead when Tory government after Tory government rolls back everything we gained and they whine self-righteously about it I will never forget it.

Phil said...

According to data I've seen he's got a solid majority in all three categories - full members, union voters and £3 newbies; none of the others is anywhere near him.

It's another story among New Labour fans in Nuneaton and Croydon, of course - but then it would be, wouldn't it? (I grew up in Croydon. Dreadful place.) Seriously, looking at the figures I can't see where this idea that the votes Labour needs to gain are from Tories has come from. Between the Labour victory of 2005 and the humiliating defeat of 2015 the Labour vote went down by 300,000. The Tory vote went up by 2.5 million, but most of that came from the Lib Dems (down 3.6 million). In the same period the Greens and the SNP have both put on a million and the Kippers have gone up by 3 million. The non-voting total went down by about a million and a half in that time, but in 2015 it was still over 15 million - 33% of the registered electorate.

Forget Tory-Labour switchers - there's only one way to get them, and the price isn't worth it. And the non-Tory pool of potential voters is much bigger. Fortunately, as I said over on Ravi's blog, there's a coherent set of policy positions which will appeal to Greens, Scottish nationalists, Kippers and non-voters - small-c conservative social democratic policies (rebuilding some of the infrastructure that was demolished under Thatcher and Blair), articulated with conviction and without sloganeering or politician-ese. I'm not going to stick my head right out and say that Corbyn's an election winner, but I do think his approach has a better chance of winning than those of any of the other candidates.

David Parry said...

'We have at least another four years of this, and AT LEAST ANOTHER TEN YEARS OF TORY RULE if Labour chooses Corbyn.'

We're lumbered with another ten years of Tory rule anyway, barring another major bust-up within the Tory party over Europe, a second financial calamity, both, or some other, as yet unforeseeable, spectacular event (sorry, Phil). Even then, Labour's only hope of outright victory, as opposed to merely being the largest party, is if it can begin the long, arduous process of winning over SNP defectors, non-voters and 'the lost millions' (those who are still alive). That's only remotely doable with Corbyn as leader.

asquith said...

If I can point one thing out too, appealing to non-voters will only get you so far because most of them live in solid Labour seats and can't sway elections. It's not as if the disposessed of Surrey Heath are about to overthrow the capitalist running dogs and hyenas if only someone left-wing enough comes along, is it.

You will have to appeal to the floating voters ("centrist" is too strong a word to use for people most of whom have little interest in politics) whom left-wing activists instinctively find distasteful.

The thing about Corbynite (and UKIP) ideas, theoretically they’re popular but the same people who think utilities shoiuld be renationalised would end up not voting for a party that proposed to do what they “want” because in the public mind it’d be associated with profligacy. Likewise a party that’s as anti-immigrant as they “want” would be associated with nastiness, etc.

The mere fact of this Corbynmania means that the Corbynites have won a kind of victory and will (to my regret) get their ideas mainstreamed, just as Scottish nationalists have done, and Eurosceptics.

As a liberal, I can sensationally reveal that I won't be voting Labour, and my allegiance aty this point is to Tim Farron. Nevertheless, I think this government needs to be opposed for its many misdeeds such as the bedroom tax, Libya, Syria (only MiliE stopped that, and would a Corbynite Labour be able to stand in the way again) and the very existence of IBS, Grayling, and whover the rest of them are (I find myself not even wanting to know the details these days).

And given that I'm not some irresponsible, unserious halfwit like Tobes Young ot Stewart Jackson, despite not supporting Labour I want them to be offering a strong voice opposing and scrutinising the government. I have decided Yvette is the "best" for this. I don't like her in the least, and that's part of the problemn, but of what's on "offer" I think that's what we need.

PS-
That exhibition at the museum's not bad at all, is it.

David Parry said...

'The thing about Corbynite (and UKIP) ideas, theoretically they’re popular but the same people who think utilities shoiuld be renationalised would end up not voting for a party that proposed to do what they “want” because in the public mind it’d be associated with profligacy. Likewise a party that’s as anti-immigrant as they “want” would be associated with nastiness, etc.'

I'm sorry, but I don't buy this nonsense about the voters saying one thing to opinion pollsters and another at the ballot box. It suggests that voters are indecisive, that they can't make up their minds about what they want in terms of policy, which displays far more contempt for the electorate than anything the left are guilty of.

Chris McDermott said...

I've been reading your blog for years, Phil. I've agreed with many of your positions too. But you really have lost the plot. Yvette Cooper? You're losing your perspective and have become a New Labour trade.

Igor Belanov said...

"While the right have spouted a lot of hot air about power and principle, etc., they are right that power is an inescapable object of the labour movement."

If it proves anything, the history of the Labour Party proves that 'power' does not come from winning the most seats in a general election. I thought you were an academic- surely you can give us a better analysis of power than that.

The 'strategy' of the Labour right involves such a level of appeasement of wealthy and influential interests that is has already surrendered power. All it offers is efficient administration of the status quo, and its credentials on that score don't look particularly good at the moment.

It seems to me that anti-establishment feeling is running at a very high level at the moment. It must be time to give those sentiments a bit of left-wing guidance.

Speedy said...

Did you say you were a Tim Farron supporter Asquith? Well I never!

Scratch ten years, I think that's minimum. More likely 15 with all the damage this is going to do. Again, I do not see the belief that we are doomed to Tory victory "anyway" as a reason to vote for suicide. Labour "coulda shoulda" won the last election, or at least deprived the Tories of their surprise majority. I would have been supremely relaxed with a Labour-Liberal-SNP coalition, and with a credible Labour offer we could achieve it at the next election.

This "we're doomed" to Tory government is as false a meme as "the public sector caused the economic crisis" though I suppose if you repeat it often enough and are unchallenged maybe it will become dominant. But it is utterly false, and no excuse for effectively voting, by omission, for Tory hegemony.

As Asquith points out, under the current system those disenfranchised Ds and Es will not decide elections. And neither will the young, by the way, who proportionately vote far less than the old. Sure you may be able to mobilise them, but of those that did vote in the last election, half did not vote Labour. Etc, etc.

All the romance of the Corybynites doesn't stack up against the reality.



Jeff Goatcher said...

Are they 's area of their own shadow' or have they learnt through bitter disappointment that tory, lib, and lab will all shaft them in favour of serco, bankers et al?

David Parry said...

'I do not see the belief that we are doomed to Tory victory "anyway"'

Well, I didn't say that we would end up with another Tory victory in 2020. We won't necessarily. I said that but for another financial crash, a bust-up amongst the Tories over Europe, both, or something else entirely but equally monumental, we're lumbered with another decade of Tory rule. That could mean (indeed, I believe it probably will mean) that the Tories lose their majority in 2020 but remain the largest party and end up forming the next government, be that as part of some coalition or as a minority government.

'as a reason to vote for suicide.'

I know we're never going to agree on this but I simply don't accept your implied suggestion that voting for Corbyn means voting for suicide for Labour. On the contrary, I think that Corbyn is the only hope Labour has of starting to win back SNP defectors, a necessary (though by no means sufficient) condition for victory for Labour in 2020.

'I would have been supremely relaxed with a Labour-Liberal-SNP coalition, and with a credible Labour offer we could achieve it at the next election.'

Do you seriously believe that Nicola Sturgeon, having spent years denouncing the Labour party for its commitment to continued austerity, attacking the Blairite-Brownite cabal that runs the Labour party and positioning herself and her party as representing a left-leaning alternative to the Westminster consensus, is all of a sudden going to compromise the near-monopoly of Scottish representation in Westminster that her party has achieved as a result of doing so by having her party jump into bed with a Labour party led by people committed to austerity and right-wing, neo-classical, market fundamentalist orthodoxy more generally? Get real! Nicola Sturgeon is not Nick Clegg! She would never be so myopic; she's a much savvier politician than that!

'This "we're doomed" to Tory government is as false a meme as "the public sector caused the economic crisis"'

Labour presently trail the Tories by 99 seats. I could be wrong here but I don't believe that there has ever been a single example in British political history of a governing party going from having a lead on this sort of scale over the main opposition party to being usurped by said opposition party in the space of one parliament. It would take an event of a pretty significant order of magnitude for a precedent to be set. Such an event could be another credit crunch, the Tories self-combusting over Europe (again!), or both (none of which scenarios are totally beyond the realm of probability, but none are guaranteed to happen either), or it could be something else entirely, but make no mistake: whatever it is, it has to happen and it has to be monumental if Labour are going to be the largest party from 2020, let alone win outright.

'under the current system those disenfranchised Ds and Es will not decide elections.'

So Labour should carry on alienating people in those economic categories in some quest for 'Middle England' votes, so that eventually those in the D and E categories who still plump for the party desert it and are left with no one to vote for, and we end up with government of the comfortably well off, by the comfortably well off and for the comfortably well off? Because that's the logical endgame of your prescription for Labour.

Igor Belanov said...

"Labour presently trail the Tories by 99 seats. I could be wrong here but I don't believe that there has ever been a single example in British political history of a governing party going from having a lead on this sort of scale over the main opposition party to being usurped by said opposition party in the space of one parliament."

Nitpicking, but in the 1959-64 period Labour turned a 100-seat Tory majority into a Labour majority of 4, while Labour's 96 seat majority in 1966 became a relatively comfortable majority of 31 for Heath's Tories in 1970. Where things are different is that this was in a period of bipartisanship with the two main parties achieving 90% of the vote. It would be a lot more difficult now, requiring Labour to take votes from all their rivals.

David Parry said...

I stand corrected, Igor. Still, that was a very long time ago, and as you so rightly day, radically different circumstances prevailed.

Speedy said...

The Tories have a majority of 19 not 99.

This is about getting the Tories out, and say what you like about Ds and Es but they are the least likely to vote and when they do, do so in Labour safe seats. The reality (although I know reality is not in fashion these days) is one has to attract the ABCs in marginals to win. Only then can you govern in a way to help those most at need.

How much more obvious could it be? I would despair if I hadn't already passed through the stages of anger and denial to grim acceptance. Have your party of protest, but when you choose Corybyn you are choosing Tory hegemony, so not a word about "those bloody Tories" ever again. Rarely has Lenin's "useful idiots" been more appropriate.

Anonymous said...

It strikes me that the Labour left is in something of a tragic position. When Corbyn got onto the ballot no one expected him to win. Yet it appears he probably will.

The value of him standing, and getting a decent vote, is that it would help to re-build the left. Great. But to win the leadership, when 90 per cent of the PLP are against you, and the organisational and ideological strength of the left at grassroots level is highly uneven and fragile at best, is a political car crash waiting to happen.

If the social movement left was bigger, better organised, stronger and more resilient, then Corbyn would have a social base that might be able to mobilise sufficient electoral support to make his leadership a success. He may be able to mobilise sufficient social forces to make his economic programme effective - because it will require force, in addition to evidence and argument, to stand a chance of working.

But none of this seems likely. Many of Corbyn's supporters seem to be (or pretend to be) oblivious to these structural weaknesses. Full of understandable hatred of New Labour and frustration at the PLPs piss poor response to austerity, they seem to have embraced the worst of Trotskyist voluntarism. Decades of defeat and demoralisation will count for nothing once Corbyn wins and the obvious virtues of his arguments become clear to all.

This is nonsense. And I suspect many of Corbyn's more reasoned supporters know this fine well. They support Corbyn because they genuinely agree with much of what he says. But they also know that re-building the left from a position of leading a party whose legitimacy and self-image is grounded in short-term electability is very likely to be disastrous.

In short, Corbyn's victory could be the biggest set back for the left in the history of the Labour Party. The left should be preparing for how to retreat and how best to use Corbyn's brief leadership to strengthen the left and learn lessons for future strategy. However, there is little sign this is happening. Genuinely tragic.

Mike

David Parry said...

'The Tories have a majority of 19 not 99.'

You clearly weren't paying attention to what I actually wrote. I said that Labour had 99 fewer seats than the Tories, not that the Tories have a majority of 99 seats.

' The reality (although I know reality is not in fashion these days) is one has to attract the ABCs in marginals to win. Only then can you govern in a way to help those most at need.'

I repeat my question to you, then. What if, in the process of trying to attract those people, Labour dilutes its commitment to the poorest and neediest people to virtually nothing, and end up promising to shaft them in a slightly less nasty, slightly more benign manner? Where's the virtue in that?

'Have your party of protest, but when you choose Corybyn you are choosing Tory hegemony'

We're lumbered with another decade of Tory hegemony anyway, barring (to repeat myself) another credit crunch, an implosion of the Tory party over Europe, both, or some other spectacular calamity altogether. I said earlier that there's no historical precedent in this country for a incumbent governing party with a lead of this scale over a main opposition party having that lead overturned in one parliament. As was kindly pointed out to me by Igor, I was mistaken about that. There was a time in British politics when a main opposition party that trailed a governing party by 90-110 seats could quite easily usurp it in the space of one parliament. That time has long passed, however, what with both the largest parties nowadays facing much stiffer competition from smaller parties. Under the present circumstances, it will take a major disaster of some description for Labour to become the largest party in 2020, let alone win outright.

BCFG said...

Yet again Corbyn's supporters are seen as being dim witted and downright simple, it is like every village idiot has come out in support of Corbyn's campaign according to the 'realists'. Mike's comment in just another variant of the patronizing attitude being taken toward Corbyn's supporters. Every Corbyn supporter is well aware that the PLP is solidly against Corbyn and doing everything to fight against him! And they are aware of the structural weaknesses! It is why they left New Labour in the first place! But guess what, nothing lasts forever!


What Mike 'articulates' isn't a tragedy for the Labour left, just Labour.

All you are 'articulating' is that the Thatcherite, Tory lite neo liberals not only stole the Labour party but probably killed it off as a party of the labour movement.

So the battle probably does lie outside New Labour, but one thing is for sure, if Corbyn does win we have to do everything to fight the inevitable backlash. And we should remember that if Corbyn does win a majority then this puts the PLP in an awkward position, i.e. we have total contempt for the members, we will do everything to defeat what the members want! Let us talk about that structural challenge to which you appear oblivious!

Speedy said...

David, times have changed - the Tories have only a 19 majority in parliament and the previous government was a coalition. Even the Tories were surprised they won outright so stop repeating this tosh about "inevitability".

It is perfectly reasonable to have a platform that moves towards a fairer society for the poorest (as indeed under the Brown government, for all its shortcomings) and attract the centre vote. It is not a binary choice between Liz Kendall and Jeremy Corbyn.

Because we have not reached the promised land it does not mean the journey is not worth making, but beware the prophet who preaches it is just around the corner. Verily, I say unto you ...;-)

David Parry said...

'David, times have changed'

Indeed they have. I said as much in my previous post. I pointed out that, while once upon a time, a main opposition party that trailed a governing party by 90-110 seats could quite easily usurp them in one parliament, the significantly stiffer competition that both big parties face from smaller parties makes this nigh-on impossible, barring a major disaster of some sort.

'the Tories have only a 19 majority in parliament'

...but they have a 99-seat lead over Labour, which is the really germane fact here.

'Even the Tories were surprised they won outright so stop repeating this tosh about "inevitability".'

It's a total non-sequitur to suggest that because we've just had an election result that's taken everyone by surprise, that means we should just dispense with any attempt to formulate reasonable predictions about will happen in the near future based on the facts of the present, and on the grounds of the cold, hard realities of the present, it's clear that but for an exceptional set of circumstances, Labour is not going to be the largest party after 2020, let win outright. It's as simple as that.

'It is perfectly reasonable to have a platform that moves towards a fairer society for the poorest (as indeed under the Brown government, for all its shortcomings) and attract the centre vote. It is not a binary choice between Liz Kendall and Jeremy Corbyn.'

The idea that you can even put a piece of fag paper between a 'Blairite' and a 'Brownite' is a total fiction, so please don't bullshit me with the notion that there's some substantive ideological difference the two. There isn't.

'Because we have not reached the promised land it does not mean the journey is not worth making, but beware the prophet who preaches it is just around the corner.'

I don't accept your judgement that Corbyn is such a prophet.

BCFG said...

"Because we have not reached the promised land it does not mean the journey is not worth making, but beware the prophet who preaches it is just around the corner"

And who exactly is promising this?

I would also caution those against the prophet who cautions against non existent prophets! Or the pro war anti war marcher, or anti UKIP defender of UKIP. Or the anti left leftist. Or the I am not racist but...


I would also caution against those weary people who think basic social democracy amounts something akin to an unobtainable Utopia.

speedy has spent the last year telling us Labour is run by middle classes, see this article where speedy is tearing into the middle classes who run labour:

http://averypublicsociologist.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/immigration-and-class-politics.html

Now he tells us that Corbyn's supporters are, erm, middle class and that we should support the, erm, leaders, who, erm, speedy has been telling us are middle class!! So also beware the anti middle class pro middle class prophet!!


Looking back at speedy's past contributions to this site one is struck by 2 things, his obsession with the detrimental effect of immigrants on Britishness and his tactic of saying he is for something while arguing directly against it. Maybe this is dialectics but it rather sounds like bile to me.


Speedy said...

As ever, I am touched that you take so much interest in my "articles" from your Rotherham eyrie, bcfg.

But this is a real test of what is important, isn't it? And as much as I may despair of modern Labour I would not simply abandon ordinary people to the tender mercies of George Osbourne.

As for David, really, the same applies - the Tories path to power involved a coalition. At the end of the day, the Labour Party is less important than the people. In a fit of narcissistic self-loathing, it seems to be all about Labour, but it is not. And that is where it has all gone wrong.

David Parry said...

'As for David, really, the same applies - the Tories path to power involved a coalition.'

Your point being...? That Labour should aim for a coalition in 2020? With the SNP? With a Blairite-Brownite as Labour leader? As I said, get real!

Incidentally, another benefit of having Corbyn as Labour leader would be that even if Labour fails to make significant headway in terms of winning back defectors to the SNP (which is quite possible), the SNP would be far amenable to forming, if not a formal coalition, then certainly a confidence-and-supply arrangement (assuming, of course, that Labour were in a position to form one) than would the case with any of other the candidates as leader. We've already had Alex Salmond a few weeks ago making noises to that effect, indicating that the SNP would be willing to work with a Corbyn-led Labour party in a way that wouldn't be possible were the party to be led by any of the other candidates. Meanwhile, Corbyn, for his part, has indicated a preparedness to work with the SNP. It kind of follows logically, therefore, that if Labour wants to prepare itself for the possibility of forming a coalition with the SNP, it cannot but elect Corbyn as leader.

Gary Elsby said...

I think you should apologise Phil.
To yourself and then everyone else.
To vote for someone to bring in the Tory votes is very disingenuous and is not the right way forward.
I have one policy for the Tories, fuck off!

Jeremy only has one flaw and that is the looney tunes who want a round of apologies given out like sweets along with a string of arrests of top Labour figures for illegal (UN/Parliament) wars and while we're at it, remove the Monarchy.
If those people are contained, then the left stands a chance of distancing itself from the London media mafia and rich labour peers.

To vote for Yvette based solely on the notion that she is not Jeremy is crap. Sorry Phil, it is just crap.

People who adjust politics and policies to administer a disingenuous principle is someone and something not to be trusted.

Anyone would have won for Labour in 1997 but no-one suspected anti trades union laws especially when foxes ran free and schools went up.

Why help the Tories, why appease Toryism when nothing of the sort is dared to be considered when they step in?

Honesty throughout this Country is wanted by everyone in the face of political parties trying to outdo each other on who best to deliver free market Tory capitalism followed by bankruptcies paid for by the working classes.

Your slide from the far left towards the centre has amused me for some time Phil and it won't be long before you're called as a defence witness for Tony at Chilcott or being employed as Liz Kendall's election agent!

Don't worry too much though Phil for I know how it works.
No one wanted to know that I never voted for Tony Blair ever but the insults still came in when I supported Labour through thick and thin. For the loons, only all out civil war would win today's argument regardless of Tories rubbing their hands with glee.

Vote Jeremy.

Anonymous said...

Gary,

I think you are correct, I think Phil should post an apology to all his readers because he has been stringing us along all this time.

He never joined Labour because he was a non sectarian socialist, he joined because he was a Blairite.

If he had said that from the beginning many people would not have wasted time and effort debating the issue of inside or outside labour.

So as a loyal reader I demand an apology also!

BCFG said...

The Tories have now been back in power about 6 years, with a few more to go. Since being in power they have basically carried on the job New Labour left them, i.e. effectively privatizing more and more of the Public Sector and going to war, both materially and ideologically, with those on benefits. This process was started by New Labour, they pandered to the Daily Mail and the Murdoch press, rather than challenging their ideas. In this context the 3 Blairite candidates have not said anything beyond Tory lite prescriptions. In fact by attacking Corbyn's ideas as lunacy, as old fashioned etc they are only confirming their total adherence to neo liberalism and the Tory agenda.

So by attacking Corbyn and supporting the other candidates all one is doing is consigning us to the tender mercies of Osborne even when he is no longer in office!

The only candidate challenging Osborne is Corbyn. A vote for any of the other candidate is a vote for Osborne lite.


Looking at the breakdown of Corbyn's support, see here:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyns-supporters-are-more-working-class-than-other-candidates-research-finds-10476433.html

it seems he is getting more votes from the working class, while the other candidates are attracting the middle class. It is clear those who are directly suffering at the hands of Osborne want something more radical than Osborne lite.

ordinary people 1 speedy 0

speedy -

Pro war anti war marcher
Anti UKIP defender of UKIP
Anti Left leftist
anti racist who thinks Britishness is being undermined by foreigners
Anti Middle class Pro Middle class
Pro ordinary people anti what ordinary people want

Pinkie said...

Anonymous said of Phil:

"He never joined Labour because he was a non sectarian socialist, he joined because he was a Blairite."

I think that Phil is wrong in his choice, but what bollocks the above comment is. There's not much else to say, so I won't.

Speedy said...

Bcfg, apart from the "Britishness being undermined by foreigners" (if anyone is undermining a sense of national identity it is the so-called "elites" who are definitely not foreigners) I would say you were spot on.

Thank you for paying attention.

Alexander the Coppersmith said...

Though saying that, some of the elite are foreigners, such as the Russian gangsters and Arab oil sheikhs making a home in zero-regulation, "libertarian" London. We have an unrepresentative overclass that do more harm than poor people and working-class immigrantgs could dream of doing.

David Pavett said...

There are key factors missing from from this evaluation of the relative merits of Corbyn and Cooper.

(1) In what way has Cooper switched to anti-austerity lite? What does that even mean? Last thing I read she was arguing that we should oppose 40% cuts but without telling us what level of cuts would be acceptable to her: "The chancellor’s proposal to cut 40% from our public services goes way beyond anything needed to get the deficit down". Way beyond? This gives an impression of opposition while nothing.

(2) Cooper opposes public ownership of any industry. She does this by an evasive argument which rejects nationalisation without compensation or printing money for the purpose. She fails to mention the case of the railways which is both popular and would require neither of these things. She is not a fool and knows what she is doing. This places on the right of the party that not only rejects socialism but also social democracy.

(3) She says "Second, we need to bring borrowing and debt down in a sensible and fair way, with a clear commitment to sound public finance". What does this mean? It sounds remarkably like Osborne. It also is very unlike what leading mainstream economists (like Krugman and Ha Joon Chang) are saying. Cooper's economic discourse is virtually all tendentious rhetoric. She has no plan.

(4) Cooper is firmly in the Labour tradition of politics with no perspective. That is she promises various positive sounding things like ending child poverty in a generation with no costing and no indication of how present society, with no fundamental changes, can deliver the goods. As to the how all we get is hand-waving stuff like "We need to work with business to double our national investment in science and create 2 million more hi-tech manufacturing jobs. With a vocational revolution – ending the age-old British snobbery that treats vocational skills as second class."

Essentially what we get from Cooper is a re-hash of the Labour Manifesto 2015. And as Shadow Home Secretary the least that we can say is that her reaction to the migrant crisis has been disgracefully slow and weak.

We have an unexpected left upsurge on our hands. If we went along with P B-C the existing left would be saying to those wanting a different type of politics "We understand your enthusiasm and we share your objectives but now is not the time. You are too inexperienced and unorganised so for now we should support continuity Labour and postpone the radical stuff untill we have had time to get our act together". This sounds remarkably like a cop out to me.

And it sounds even more like a cop out when we look at the other side of the case: that the Corbyn camp is more concerned with radical policies than with winning in 2020 and that Cooper makes the hard task of winning feasible. First this is wrong about camp Corbyn. The great majority of his supporters are passionately concerned to see the Tories removed. In addition he Corbyn strategy is not confined to winning non-voters over but also on appealing to the various sections of the population that have left Labour in dispair. Exactly what sort of relief from the Tory onslaught we would get from a Cooper government. As an astute but evasive representative of continuity Labour we can be pretty sure what we would get: a government with an austerity-lite programme, a right-wing Cabinet, reforms like Gove's fragmentation of education (Cooper is very evasive about this) would remain in place. And you know what? After one or two terms the Government would hit the rocks, probably on economic matters and the Tories would be back. It would be, to be brief, the same old story.

This is not what we should be offering the members joining with the hope if a new style of politics. I am not blind to the problems on the Corbyn side and, with others, I have tried to draw attention to them. But it makes little sense for anyone committed to the socialist transformation of society to supoort Yvette Cooper.

BCFG said...

Coopers (also assume Burnham and Kendall) economic criticism of Corbyn is ironically based on 1920’s economic conditions. For example, she claims Corbyn’s plans will cause an increase in inflation but disregards current conditions that make that most unlikely, e.g. private debt levels, house price bubble.

She also fails to take into account the risks associated with her neo Liberal economic agenda, i.e. the huge danger of the asset bubble blowing up and of a huge financial crash.

Rather than taking on board the idea that neo liberalism brought the whole economy crashing down, caused an all out attack on vital public services and resulted in the biggest fall in real wages since records began, she will just continue the neo liberal agenda. Now that is what I call the economics of lunacy!

Duncan said...

It's disappointing but not surprising to see you advocating a vote for Yvette Cooper. In some ways, the Corbyn campaign has called your bluff. You claimed to have joined Labour as it was the only viable space to push for left-wing political ideas but when one of the few unambiguous left-wingers in Parliament makes a surprisingly successful bid to be party leader - a development no-one anticipated - you can't bring yourself to vote for him.

Should we now wait for the post, perhaps in a year's time, where you defend your decision to join Tristham Hunt in splitting away from 'unelectable' Labour to form the SDP Mk II?

Phil said...

Or, just perhaps, the real reason for my not voting for Jeremy is in the post written above.

David Pavett said...

"Or, just perhaps, the real reason for my not voting for Jeremy is in the post written above."

Which post? Can you elaborate on your reasons?

Phil said...

I think I'll write something more substantive than the comment box allows if I get a moment this week.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't bother Phil, nothing you say can justify your stance.

I like a lot of things you write about but when you say you are in the Labour party to move it to the left you have been lying. Simple as that. No amount of flannel can change that fact.

Tell yourself in the mirror that you are correct but really, you have wasted enough of our time on this matter.

And where is that apology!

Phil said...

The wound, it hurts!

What strikes me about your anonymous pontificating is how you see politics as a matter of identity, of virtue signalling one's leftyness to your immediate contemporaries. That might work on your Facebook groups, but has little use for anything else.

Politics is about interests and it is about power, and my view is that in the medium and long-term a Jeremy victory will not be the best outcome for our movement and our class for the reasons discussed in the post above. I'd be interested in hearing your views about them, anonymous or not, than your tedious posturing.

Lastly, if Jeremy wins I'll be out campaigning for a Labour victory, signing up people to vote, getting people into the party, and so on. Can you say the same?

Speedy said...

"how you see politics as a matter of identity, of virtue signalling one's leftyness to your immediate contemporaries"

Lol. How true, and not just "anonymous"

Anonymous said...

"Politics is about interests and it is about power, and my view is that in the medium and long-term a Jeremy victory will not be the best outcome for our movement and our class for the reasons discussed in the post above."

I am sure you even have a graph to prove it!

Cutting through the bullshit for just a minute, electing Jeremy Corbyn will be the best chance of moving Labour toward a left agenda. Waiting for the day when all the circumstances will be right is just posturing on your behalf. It is literally an excuse without meaning.

You are voting for Cooper because you share her world outlook.

If Cooper gets the vote then we will be yet again carrying out bombing raids in Syria, we will be responding to the migrant crisis by stopping them at the Libyan border and the NHS won't exist to be saved. A victory for Cooper will bring a collective cheer from all the establishment and its supporters. And it will embolden that establishment to continue its current course of action. Cooper is business as usual as anyone who has been watching Sky news over the last month can only testify.

None of the above matters to you because that is you. You are no leftist, you never joined Labour to move it leftward. You joined Labour because for you that is home, a comfortable place. You decided to leave the left sects not out of tactics but because you didn't feel at home.


You are a fraud, you have been lying, you have been wasting everyone's time.

YOU HAVE BEEN POSTURING ON A GRAND SCALE.

Phil said...

No wonder many thousands of activists have left the sects behind with numbnuts like you about. And indeed, what you've done here is provide a sectish view of the world in which everything is black and white. Any shades of grey have to be denied or denounced.

So yes, let's, as you say, "cut through the bullshit". Politics is complex. It doesn't fit your goodies and baddies view of the world. The job of socialists is to try and make sense of it, and formulate responses accordingly. As you say, Jeremy's candidacy represents the best opportunities for the left for generations. Yes, it does. But does it reflect a wider shift, a movement in society? No, or at the very least, not yet. My issue, and one I doubt you've even considered, is that this relative isolation might not be the jumping off point for a wider radicalisation and could be the prelude to another huge defeat for the left as it is tested on the electoral battlefield and found wanting. I note you are indifferent to how Labour does in elections, which says all I need to know about your politics and your commitment to class politics.

Of course, if I'm wrong I'll say so. The mea culpa you're obsessed with will appear. More to the point, despite the way I voted I'll be working to stop that from being the case. Are you, or will you carry on pressing those like buttons in the hope socialism turns up?

Igor Belanov said...

IIRC, in Emile Zola's 'Germinal' there was a bar-owner called Rasseneur who claimed to be a staunch socialist, but who dismissed any calls for action, claiming that the time was never ripe.
That seems quite appropriate.

Anonymous said...

"It doesn't fit your goodies and baddies view of the world."

This is disingenuous. We have had 30+ years of neo Liberal politics, with the resulting consequences. The left have been debating how we push society in a progessive social democratic direction. One important debate has been around the political path. For the first time in those 30 years we have the chance of the main opposition in one of THE major economies being headed by a leftist on the back of a popular upsurge. And you choose this historic moment to, well, pick a candidate of the neo Liberal consensus! And looking at the ruling class media, you choose the candidate that they would like the most!

And then you come out with blather such as its all very complicated, its not about goodies and baddies and why are you so shocked a declared leftist would chose to do this. Come off it, your position is inexplicable from a left wing point of view. It is only defensible from someone who now believes in that neo Liberal consensus. This is the only way to make sense of your position. Everything else is bullshit.

The fact that you say you will campaign for Corbyn if he happens to win just makes you a labour loyalist who happens to sit on the right of the Labour party.

But it still makes you a liar, a time watser and someone who has been posturing for years.

Speedy said...

"Come off it, your position is inexplicable from a left wing point of view."

Your left wing PoV maybe - one in which the left carps from the sidelines achieving absolutely nothing for the working class, while enabling the very politics it purports to loathe. Bourgeois enablers, that's basically a large part of Corbyn's support - different side of the same coin.

David Parry said...

'Your left wing PoV maybe - one in which the left carps from the sidelines achieving absolutely nothing for the working class, while enabling the very politics it purports to loathe.'

As opposed to your vision, where the left is in power in name only and ... achieves absolutely nothing for the working class and ... enables the very politics it purports to loathe?

Gary Elsby said...

"It is about interests, it is about power" (Phil BC).

er...what about political principle, the one that Jeremy has held dear and crucified for a lifetime?

Of course it's about power and Kinnock will talk you to death of political principle being defeated over and over again.
....and so the principles were shelved in a power grab that never came.

The notion you are displaying is that only the right of left is acceptable to the masses (tory voters in your words) and the left of the left (or left) is unacceptable.
I don't necessarily disagree with you on this but it doesn't explain away Jeremy's march to the top.

The reasons he is in a favourable position is that the conscience of the party has kicked in and political principles have outweighed the false premise of any power grab being the sole aim or intent.

The view of members/newbies/freshers and new clueless is that they are voting for what they believe to be right and as I've already pointed out, 50% ARE right and not wrong.

I have some sympathy with your new positioning in politics Phil, it comes with age and a belief in responsibility and collective responsibility for the good and better outcome.

Burnham, Cooper and Kendall don't go that far though because two would have dropped out by now.

Vote Jeremy.


Chris said...

I voted the same way as you did, Phil. I think Jeremy Corbyn has run a great campaign and come over much better than I thought he would. His "associations" don't bother me, I know he's a good man, but I guess I'm a pessimist. I wish the left had 100 MPs to back Jeremy in the Commons, but as it is, I just envisage the right wing hacks in the PLP making trouble.

Cooper has come across better than Burnham. I think she recognised many of the problems we face, even of she lacks the answers to all of them. She is a flawed candidate, but safety first, I guess.

It does feel wrong not voting for Jeremy though. Best case scenario he wins and I'm proved wrong.