Saturday, 12 September 2015

Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Jez

The scene some 60 years hence. A doddery and excessively wrinkled version of me gets up in a CLP meeting to drone on, again, about the time Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour left won the 2015 leadership election. But just what will that 90-something have to say for himself? Will he recount the triumph of a campaign well fought intersecting with an anti-politics seam that, for once, was successfully mined by the left? And then will the account of subsequent years be a tale of rough 'n' tumble times that led to a historic victory, or a historic defeat? I can't say what twists and turns that story takes, except that it's up to us, the hundreds of thousands of Labour members, to start writing it now.

Polling just shy of 60% on the first round is nothing less than an astonishing achievement. Absolute majorities in the registered supporter and affiliates sections. A commanding lead a whisker off 50% in the full members section. If these weren't legitimacy enough, this is despite the pruning of some 50,000 duplicate votes and 4,000 "undesirables". Forget the froth you'll see over the coming days, including this childish nonsense, Jeremy Corbyn has a firmer mandate than that ever enjoyed by any other Labour leader. And, as I write this, the join pages on the Labour Party website are groaning under new applications strengthening an already impregnable position. With the boundary review coming up, any MP challenging today's result would be foolhardy indeed.

What now? There is a mountain to climb and many imponderables, but between now and 2020 there are many battles to be fought. The Tories' proposals for trade unions makes you question who the real admirers of Vladimir Putin are. Another go at dragging Britain into the Syrian civil war is hardly likely to bring about the desirable results. Their green lighting of fracking up and down Britain and pouring cash into the HS2 money pit. All of these are going to touch off protest and conflict of some sort that will have electoral ramifications later on. Whatever one thinks of Jeremy Corbyn, under his watch Labour will have clear positions on them. Indeed, given that Jeremy's first political engagement as leader was to address a refugee solidarity crowd, I expect he'll be leading from the front on a few of these as well. If politics is to matter, it has to connect with the issues people find important to them. The Tories might feel smug now, but their cheers could later be recalled as naive memories as Jeremy champions the millions in swing constituencies not wanting to see their house prices and local environment blighted by a multi-billion choo-choo set and fracking rigs.

As for us, the normal members, those who voted Jeremy and the minority - like me - who didn't, we have a responsibility to make the new situation work. Even the penny has dropped among the 4.5%'ers that "resistance" has to be constructive, meaning engagement with the more open process of policy formation Jeremy favours and, crucially, realising they can only come back if they organise and recruit. I for one look forward to my MP leading a new member drive at constituency level.

The immediate - and eminently doable - job at hand is thwarting the Tories' bid to redraw constituency boundaries to their advantage. They want to make sure constituencies have roughly the same numbers of electors in each, and the Boundary Commission will receive their orders - like last time - to go not by the number of residents, i.e. potential voters, but those on the register. As the tendency across all advanced societies is for the poor to be disengaged from the political process, this is a direct attack on the base of our party and Labour should not take this lying down. We have the numbers and enthusiasm of hundreds of thousands of members, and rather let that ebb away on social media or interminable GC debates at CLP meetings, we as a mass should turn outwards. Jeremy won the Labour leadership election on the basis of growing our electorate, so that's what we should do - particularly in those seats where organisation has been taken for granted as per Scotland.

Politics is a brutal, filthy business. It's about interests and power, so how could it be otherwise? Even members accustomed to Labour being at the sharp end of calumny might be shocked by the shite about to be poured over our party by the press, the broadcast media, established commentators, and even some nominally on our own side. The point is not to let this distract us. Screaming bias into a social media circle of like-minded souls might be cathartic, but nowhere near as effective as taking to the streets, building campaigns, and getting more members into the party and the trade unions. Let's get to it.

9 comments:

Chris said...

I'll admit I was worried about what the MPs and the media would do. Yvette Cooper seemed like a safer bet and at least she was better than the other two. But now Jeremy's won, am I glad to have him as leader? Yes.

This is a big chance for socialists, trade unionists and even just mildly social democratic people (for this will be a social democratic leadership) and I think we have to embrace it. It's a big chance for Britain too. I'll be donating to the party today, obviously not all of us can afford to do that, but we can all find some way to help.

Anonymous said...

"This is a big chance for socialists, trade unionists and even just mildly social democratic people"

No thanks to you Chris, or you Phil. If it were up to you the socialists, trade unionists and even just mildly social democratic people would be consigned to the margins indefinitely.

There surely has to be a huge cull now in the Labour party, how can you have a leader and a party membership totally at odds with the MP's of that party? How can they possibly deliver the message? We have already seen on the corporate media how every Blairite has been trotted out to warn of the impending doom if Corbyn wins.

I really can't see any reason why these people don't leave Labour. After all there is a multitude of choice for anyone who wants a party that supports Israel, thinks the Palestinians are terrorists, supports NATO, thinks economic sense equates to cutting public services while dropping bombs and investing in a missile system that one one will ever use! And there are a whole host of political parties that are fully signed up to neo liberal policies, the sort of policies that wont lead to ruin but will lead to a rise in the number of people relying on food banks, a rise in the number of people living a precarious existence (due to labour market flexibility etc), a massive cut in public services and inequality levels where the richest 1% own more than half the population. And where investment is low, productivity is weak and where low value labour is the vogue.

Shop around guys.

But for the rest of us we have at last, well to use a good old neo liberal word, CHOICE!

Phil said...

Surprised to see that from Trevor - particularly given that Chartist came out for Corbyn. Handy for me, though - I'd been trying to remember the name of the Labour Co-ordinating Committee for ages...

Phil said...

Also, what's with Yvette? Surprised and disappointed to see her taking so sectarian an attitude; hopefully she'll reconsider.

ahairoftruth said...

An interesting read, Phil. Thanks you for sharing your thoughts.

For me, one of the highlights of the past few weeks has been watching Corbyn's supporters talk about building a 'new politics'. At the same time, many of these same people deride anyone that didn't vote Corbyn as apparently being a Tory, hence some of the vitriol that has been thrown at Liz Kendall in particular. This is one of the kinder comments:

https://twitter.com/DrKatyShaw/status/642687717634146304

I am bemused by this mentality. Firstly, what would people have MPs that don't agree with Corbyn do? Surely the best, most honest and upfront thing to do is go to the backbenches, rather than lie about supporting Corbyn's policies? A big part of Corbyn's rise seems to be linked to a public perception of lying politicians that are all the same, yet when Labour MPs are upfront people accuse of them being Tories or throwing their toys out of the pram. This doesn't seem at all like a new politics to me; it seems very much an old type of politics that seeks to make Machiavellian gain from promoting division; it is the politics of anger.

From many of Corbyn's supporters, there seems to be the idea that the legitimacy of the Labour MPs that were elected in the 2015 General Election is now destroyed, following Corbyn's victory and that these MPs should now either totally change their views or be purged for Labour altogether. This is truly a bizarre notion and there isn't enough space to write about it.

Whilst it is incredibly sad to see my party engaged in this utter madness, having allowed itself to be ripped apart by a flashmob that will soon get bored and leave, just like the 'I Agree With Nick' lot, as a social scientist this is an extremely interesting time. Subsequently, the best thing that myself and others of the centre left can do is study this car crash from a safe distance as it unfolds and develop ideas for a strategy that will rebuild and bring voters back after we've been massacred. It will likely take a generation to rebuild after this, so the hard work really does start now.

Igor Belanov said...

@ ahairoftruth

Hundreds of thousands of people certainly form a large 'flashmob'. Your contempt for the membership and supporters does speak volumes, as does the desire of memebers of the Labour establishment to 'rebuild' the party by performing the 'hard work' of writing anti-Corbyn articles in the right-wing press.

Given that 60% of voters in the leadership election backed Corbyn, but a small proportion of Labour's professional politicians did, then clearly there are some practical institutional difficulties. But, lets be honest, to resign immediately after an opponent wins an internal election does tend to suggest throwing toys out of the pram, and reveals an obvious desire not to cooperate with the Corbyn 'regime' in the hope that they can benefit later from destabilising the party. Given that this ploy is so blatant, it is inevitable that some of Corbyn's supporters will be frustrated.

Anonymous said...

"Firstly, what would people have MPs that don't agree with Corbyn do?"

They have to go, either they will have to go or Corbyn will have to go. You cannot have a party that stands for one thing and a bunch of MP's who stand for the opposite. It cannot and will not work! The MP's will spend more time trying to justify how they can be in a party that proposes policies they don't agree with than actually than campaigning! In fact they won't campaign they will undermine.

Corbyn was the token leftist, now he is the leader. The party has changed, we now need token rightists. But you simply can't have the entire PLP at odds with the leader.

IT CANNOT WORK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And as a social scientists you should should know better than to call yourself centre left. You are nothing of the kind.

As I said, there are plenty of poliical parties where you can more than indulge your 'centre lefistism'

Meanwhile, millions in this country now have a genuine choice.

Stick that up your scientific ass.

PS That flashmob as you arrogantly and disdainfully call them are committed to social change, to alleviate the mass suffering caused by the Tories and the centre left.

"the best thing that myself and others of the centre left can do is study this car crash from a safe distance"

Good riddance!

Gary Elsby said...

Great news that an even greater friend of Stoke Central Labour Party, John Mcdonnel has been made shadow chancellor.
I can hear the printing presses as I type ££££££££.
John had an open invite to visit his would-be Jeremy supporters club and did so just before everyone was suspended!

It's shameful that no CLP in Stoke-on-Trent backed Jeremy and is highly embarrassing.

hairoftruth said...

@ anonymous


"They have to go, either they will have to go or Corbyn will have to go."

Corbyn was the token leftist, now he is the leader. The party has changed, we now need token rightists. But you simply can't have the entire PLP at odds with the leader.

IT CANNOT WORK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

It's fair to say that you feel quite passionate about this, Mr Anonymous.... To say that every MP that doesn't support Corbyn 'has to go' is a frankly wild suggestion that gains nothing and has no bearing in reality. Incredible stuff.

"And as a social scientists you should should know better than to call yourself centre left. You are nothing of the kind."

Okay, if you say so.

"As I said, there are plenty of poliical parties where you can more than indulge your 'centre lefistism'"

Really? I can't think of any. I think I'll stay in my party, thank you.

"Meanwhile, millions in this country now have a genuine choice."

That's your view. Mine is that electing Corbyn brings the exact opposite: the electorate now have no choice at all, as a defacto Tory monopoly on electoral success is now in place, owing to the extremist direction that my party is now headed. I think this is a bad thing.

"Stick that up your scientific ass."

Thank you for your kind words, Mr Anonymous.

"PS That flashmob as you arrogantly and disdainfully call them are committed to social change, to alleviate the mass suffering caused by the Tories and the centre left."

'Flashmob' is a pejorative term and does give readers of a more volatile and emotionally charged disposition the ammunition that they need to rant. It was a poor choice of words (Machiavellian, even) and one I shall refrain from using in future. Concerning social change, well, there's no way that you're going to appreciate this but I am going to quote a Mr Antony Blair: "Power without principle is barren, but principle without power is futile."


"Good riddance!"

It's been lovely interacting with you, Mr Anonymous. Thank you for your insights. This 'New Politics' is indeed a wonderful thing and I look forward to further embracing this respectful and courteous dialogue.