Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Some Critical Advice for Jeremy Corbyn

Regardless of what we think about him, we're going to be discussing Jeremy Corbyn for years to come. Decades, probably. And yes, I'm about to talk about him a little bit more. As readers know, I voted for Jeremy in this year's Labour leadership contest. I thought it was important for two key reasons. First is a point well-trailed by others, and that's about the kind of party we want: an organisation where the members are sovereign and have the final say, or one where a parliamentary establishment is in charge with all the chicanery and stitch-ups that entails. Incidentally, I have not seen one argument, let alone a convincing one suggesting that being a government-ready, effective opposition (that phrase, again) is at odds with having a properly functioning democratic party. And the second reason is about realignment, of a new, networked working class finding its political feet and pouring into the Labour Party in large numbers, and therefore saving it in the long-run from stagnation, decay, and final expiration.

All this, I'm afraid to say, is in spite of Jeremy. I would be lying to say I was enamoured with him before last summer, and since taking up residence in the leader's office my scepticism grew over into disappointment and, on occasion, got tinged with despair. The greatest opportunity the Labour left, indeed the left as a whole has had in modern times, and it was in danger of fucking up because of unforced errors and daft decisions. Yes, the PLP and media have been arseholes, but that would happen if Jeremy or similar sweated trough-loads of charisma, or was Competent McCompetentface, the honourable member for Competent Central. And what else has stirred my pot of disappointment is, well, Jeremy isn't exactly a newbie. As a MP of over 30 years and a lifelong labour movement activist, on the very basic details - organisation, messaging, discipline, competence - the sad truth is Jeremy has been found surprisingly wanting and occasionally naive. It is frustrating, sometimes embarrassing, and time after time given opponents and enemies targets so large they scarcely had to aim to hit them. Even worse, despite acknowledging mistakes and recognising he needs to do better, it still goes on. On the long awaited day Jez finally triumphed at Prime Minister's Questions, leaving Theresa May looking wooden and out of sorts, who thought it would be a good idea to write down a "hit list" of recalcitrant MPs, let alone leak it? Unconscionable amateurism.

"There is nothing socialist about incompetence", as one of my comrades put it recently. And he voted Jeremy last year. Like many other members who've repented their previous support, it's these issues that are the killer. And, crucially, they are for the wider electorate too. The party may be chaotic, but if the leader at the centre of it gives the impression of not coping well, then despite all their other talents and qualities this is fatal to our election chances, and imperils the relationship between our party and the new people flooding in and rejuvenating our politics. Simply put, Jeremy must up his game because, otherwise and eventually, his opponents will get the upper hand and win and the episode of his leadership will come to nought. This time, they were clueless, foolish enough to take constitutional phantasms for real relationships, and failed to understand their own party. They won't make the same mistake twice.

Luckily for Jeremy and everyone who's placed their hopes in his leadership, the situation is salvageable. The opportunity to fundamentally change politics and the country remains open. His being confirmed in position this coming Saturday will underline that, and it's likely another wave of new members will pour into the party. Some old hands are going to leave to spend more time with their bitter tweeting, and others could get under the duvet with the LibDems, but the losses are sure to be more than outweighed by the gains. To consolidate this and have a hope of winning over even more people, enough to carry the party back to power, we have no choice but to marry the impulse toward being a social movement relevant to the lives of ordinary people with the vision, ideas, and competence of a government in waiting. That's the challenge Jeremy's leadership must meet, but with a split parliamentary party and all the other problems unlikely to disappear it's going to be tough. Nevertheless, there are things he and his team can do to steady the party's course and set it on an even keel. Some are managerial and technical, some political, and while not guaranteed to magic bullet every difficulty away, they could make a positive difference.

Firstly, it's time for a tighter ship. This doesn't require the employ of a Malcolm Tucker of the left (though my rates are reasonable) or a Tom Watson to growl "traitor" at MPs walking through the wrong lobby. At the most basic level of organising the office, there has to be a grid and one Jeremy and team should single-mindedly stick to. There can be no more embarrassments like the leader undermining the party's day of action on transport, and therefore alienating good honest party people like Lilian Greenwood. With the exception of emergencies, the plan must always be adhered to. The method mostly served Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell well, and it could us too. Related to this is a problem oft-highlighted by former front benchers. This was how Jez would listen, promise to act on their suggestions/concerns, and then do nothing. I'm a bugger for this sort of behaviour too, especially when it comes to washing the pots. But there is a difference between a few dirty dishes and the political direction of our party and movement. If Jeremy is boss, he's got to start acting like one. Whether he pulls his own finger out, or has an empowered office manager that ensures meeting outcomes are implemented, it doesn't matter, as long as it gets done. Simple, basic stuff.

Then there's the biggest difficulty - re-winning the confidence of enough of the PLP so front bench functions can be maintained. The recent spat over shadow cabinet elections was so much factional jostling bound to end in zero agreement. But even with elections, there are some MPs who are lost forever. Over the coming year, it is to be hoped they will attend more to constituency matters instead of courting their own deselection. Meanwhile, there are just enough MPs who, for the good of the party, are willing to give a stint in Jeremy's cabinet another try. It behooves Jez to make this work. One way it might pique the interests of some is by offering them de facto autonomy in their briefs, which would mean freedom to develop policy provided it's consistent with the overall direction of the party (sorry Liz, no more business penetration of public services, ta muchly). This could prove attractive because it's the very opposite of how Ed Miliband used to run things. Shadow ministers frequently complained about micromanagement and interference with their briefs, and were weary of running every dot and comma of every press release and speech by his office, and especially the irritating insertion of the compulsory "as Ed Miliband says/thinks/has shown" line, Kim Jong-un style. Provided it is managed well and communication flows properly, giving shadcab members much more room allows for the emergence of something Jeremy very definitely believes in: collective leadership. If local authority Labour groups, whether governing or in opposition can manage it, there's no reason why our leading lights, the party's crème de la crème cannot.

As we know, former "A-listers" are seeking out powerful committee positions and there's the persistent rumour of that shadow shadow cabinet set to provide "proper" opposition to the Tories. To be honest, I have no problem with our Rachel Reevess and Michael Dughers tearing the Tories a new one from the back benches. It would be an improvement on what they did in office. But there are very significant policy challenges coming down the line that require the application of talent and intellect. As this wing of the party aren't short of wonky brains, and I mean that in the nicest possible way, they would do the party and themselves a service by heading policy commissions (as mandated by the leader's office). These should lead and feed from the hitherto moribund National Policy Forum process. It's not as though there aren't problems to be discussed. Climate change, refugees, Brexit, the new economy, electoral and constitutional reform, automation and the future of work, life long learning, care and the ageing society, the NHS, and so on. We often hear there's unanimity on the Labour benches around domestic policy issues, so let's see this in action. Because if we're ever going to win, we need distinctive definitions, understandings, and strategies for addressing these politically contested problems.

Jez has to do politics better. His performance last week at PMQs show he can galvanise and unify the party on the right issues. But sometimes, it is necessary to make compromises too, of realising there are big fights to concentrate on and causes one should not die in a ditch for. One of these, as far as I'm concerned, is Trident and nuclear weapons. I fundamentally agree with Paul Mason on this issue. Nukes may be repugnant and Trident a waste of money, but if accepting their renewal smooths the path to power it's a price the party should be willing to pay. Not least because nuclear power status feeds into a complex of security anxieties. To put it simply, there are a lot of otherwise sensible voters who would not support Labour if they think our party is going to make them less safe. Jez doesn't have to hug a warhead, not least because it would be entirely inauthentic. Instead, all he needs do is signal that settled party policy stays settled. There is absolutely nothing to be gained from stirring up the party even more about an issue the public don't care about, unless it is made an issue. Magnifying division is never a clever move. Far more helpful would be concentrating on matters the party can rally around and where the Tories are weak, like education, the economy, health, housing, and Brexit. These are the grounds on which the next election, whenever that is, will be fought and won, so we need to make that terrain ours by relentlessly attacking them and their record on it.

Not an exhaustive list, but something for comrades to think about. In his long interview with Gary Younge, Jez reflected that people wanted him to be tougher, but added that it's not his style. No, we don't need him to be tougher. We need him to be smarter. With the support of good, close comrades and with the goodwill of most of the party behind him, Jeremy can rise to the challenge. Politics doesn't often give out second chances, but it has this time. Don't waste it.

24 comments:

davidjc said...

Makes some sense until you factor in the moves the right are likely to make. Given the recent NEC meeting and Alan Johnson's and today David Miliband's attacks, I don't see many signs of them holstering their guns.
On defence - Corbyn's anti militarism is exactly what proves he is not with the establishment.

Speedy said...

Your fundamental error (almost a category error!) is to believe Jeremy Corbyn truly desires power, either for himself, or for the Labour Party.

His former career as refusenik backbencher indicated he had no interest in bending his personal principals for either advancement within the party or advancement of the party. He has made only the most tepid, symbolic gestures since becoming leader - and contributed to Brexit.

I would add, that he had no real interest in even becoming leader, other than it was "buggins turn" and a series of "accidents", as David Milliband put it, led him to power. As an (albeit atheist, I suppose) "faith-led" utopian having lucked into this post, I'm sure he has no intention of changing - he's as much of a believer as the Pope's catholic.

Marina Hyde put it best: "I can’t think of a Westminster character more made for the movie bookending device , where the final scene is an almost exact echo of the first. Everything is the same - except it isn’t. In the first scene of the Jeremy Corbyn story I picture him where he spent decades of relative obscurity before becoming Labour leader: in some forgotten meeting room, addressing the ragtag faithful of some questionable cause. And this will be exactly where we’d see him for the dark reprise that is the final scene. Everything is the same as it ever was. Except the Labour party is now dead."

Boffy said...

Critical Advice To Jeremy Corbyn

At the start of last year's leadership campaign, I wrote a comment here that there was a danger of over emphasising the role of the individual at the expense of the need to build rank and file organisation. My concern has been more than addressed by the massive rise in membership, and by the growth of Momentum. But, there is still a danger of cultism. We have seen what happens when people attach themselves to individuals like Galloway, Chavez and so on. Moreover, size and enthusiasm have for now outweighed inadequacies in organisation. It will not always be so.

There would be some advantage in reading “What Is To Be Done?”. Not the bits that the romantic revolutionaries always fetishise, about secret organisation and covert activities, which Lenin only included, because, as he says, they faced particularly harsh conditions of operating within a police state, but the far more significant bits that he based on the practices of the German SPD, about the ability to relate to all levels of society, to be able to operate in all spheres on a higher level of professionalism than the bourgeois parties and so on.

Some years ago, I pointed out that it was those aspects of Blair's regime, that much of the sectarian left criticised.

I think some of the criticism of Corbyn a bit harsh, given that in addition to trying to run the Opposition, he has also been fighting the internecine battles and conspiracies within the PLP. I also think that we might want to consider who leaks some of the things that you refer to, because part of the problem is that the forces around Corbyn are not themselves homogeneous. Various factions of Trots have done what they always do, and which gives the right their perfect opportunity for attack, of using their “sharp elbows” as Trotsky once referred to it, to get themselves into leading positions way out of proportion to their own size or support within the Labour party, let alone the working class. Some of those individuals and organisations would not at all be averse to leaking such lists so as to intensify the battle for deselection, at a time when Corbyn is trying to play down such ideas.

As Len McCluskey put it on Panorama, the AWL must be laughing all the way to the bank with the media attention they have been given. An organisation of maybe 100 active members has been given a prime role by the media. Yet they represent less than nothing, a minus amount, within the labour movement. In 2010, when they declared the Labour Party to be “a stinking corpse”, and stood their own candidate in the General Election, they obtained a less than derisory 75 votes, yet their candidate today sits on a leading body of Momentum!

We've seen it all before that potentially significant developments within the Labour Movement are wrecked by sectarian infighting between such organisations, as they see putting their own organisation's interests above those of building the wider movement, and that is facilitated by the lack of democracy and structured organisation within Momentum itself. That becomes a pressing requirement in the weeks ahead, not just to democratise the Labour Party, but also Momentum.

We should also be careful in that respect. Its ridiculous to think an organisation of more than half a million can rationally debate policy via an annual conference. The Third International had a series of Commissions permanently developing policy, for example. The sects want a return to the old structures, because they created the kind of sectarian bear pit in which they feel comfortable operating, and where they can advance their own interests to “build the party”, meaning their particular sect not the LP.

Igor Belanov said...

“Nukes may be repugnant and Trident a waste of money, but if accepting their renewal smooths the path to power it's a price the party should be willing to pay.”

This is the start of the slippery slope. That kind of narrow ‘electoralism’ has many problems:

1) If the Party Conference decides to vote against Trident, is Corbyn, against his own principles and those of the membership, supposed to ignore that decision? Where would the vaunted party democracy be then?
2) The idea that ‘it doesn’t matter’ is ridiculous. Nuclear weapons and great power posturing are an important part of the establishment and need challenging. It is delusional to think that they add to our security. Russia is not camped on the Pas de Calais ready to invade, and terrorists are hardly deterred by weapons of mass destruction.
3) If principled and practical opposition to UK defence policy is out of bounds for reasons of immediate popularity, then what next? A refusal to defend immigrants and benefit claimants, because rhetorical attacks on them are popular in sections of the media and the electorate? Unless certain important left-wing issues are raised into mainstream political discourse then you are stuck with middle-of-the-road, lesser-evil policies that don’t impress people and only work when the Tories have shot themselves in the foot. You may as well have Cooper or Kendall in charge.

There are an awful lot of people who think that they 'know' how to get elected to government. Many of them had a say in Labour's feeble attempts in 2010 and 2015. If getting elected means anything other than accepting the status quo, then it requires an awful lot of genuine opposition, and nothing is guaranteed.

MikeB said...

Focusing solely on public presentation, I think the question to ask is - what is the basis for Corbyn's popularity? Why are so many political novitiates attracted to the LP for the first time in decades?

I'd suggest it isn't mainly to do with Corbyn's policy positions - although there is something to this - but rather that he appears as an antidote to the cynical machine of politics. People, generally, see him as someone who says stuff because he believes in it, rather than because it advances his personal ambition.

If he is to succeed, it will be by building on this ground. It would mean, allowing the Shadow Cabinet space to dissent and then openly saying, "Yeah, well, I don't agree with that, but we have to work together so what we end up with will be a decent compromise..." It would mean admitting that there are merits in alternative policy positions, and that there are limits to what is feasible.

The commentariat will rip into him for "weakness", but they are going to use any pretext to get rid of him anyway (they'd call it "Stalinist" if he imposed unity a la Blair). Openness is the only way to break the iron grip of electoral opportunism and to continue to build popular support outside the Westminster village.

Speedy said...

Shades of 1984, with the past being erased.

"There are an awful lot of people who think that they 'know' how to get elected to government..."

It's as if there was not a three term Labour government. Of course, you might argue that it wasn't "proper" Labour, with a complete disregard to the context... but this is the voice that kept Labour from power, and will continue to do so.

Fundamentally, deep-down this kind of supporter would rather have an eternity of Tory rule than a Labour government that had to appeal to the actual masses to get elected. And fundamentally, this tells me that they don't give a toss about the people Labour was created to represent - i's all about themselves, and how they feel about who they support, rather than the reality of getting the party elected.

It's faith-led politics focused on personal salvation (via a sense of self-righteous superiority) and their JC is Jeremy Corbyn.

John Rogan said...

If Jeremy Corbyn were to agree to keeping Trident, all it would take is one question in a General Election, "Would you press the button?".

I think we call all imagine his response. Every answer under the sun except "yes" and a strategy to keep Labour "united" on defence would be undone. And why should we expect him to be any different, to say anything different? He's held CND views probably all his adult life.

So, there are two options if Labour is to be consistent. Either keep Corbyn and get Labour to adhere to a CND agenda (bye bye defence jobs and votes) or get a new leader before 2020 prepared to say, "yes".

My preference is the second option as Unite will kick up a stink (quite rightly) at thousands of members losing jobs. And I know there's some kind of an "empty submarine" policy re Trident but that again just makes Labour look like a laughing stock.

Igor Belanov said...

"And fundamentally, this tells me that they don't give a toss about the people Labour was created to represent - i's all about themselves, and how they feel about who they support, rather than the reality of getting the party elected."

So what about 'the people Labour was created to represent'? Who did you think they are, and why do the current PLP think that they can represent them without soliciting their views and opinions? I presume it's just the usual convenient 'silent majority' again, on whose behalf any group can claim to speak. The SED in the DDR claimed to represent the working-class, are you referring to the PLP in the same way?

Anonymous said...

Jeremy can rise to the challenge.

Like he has so far do you mean?

I'm an optimist but to think that Jeremy really can act like a proper leader of a major political party is a leap too far.

Makhno said...

"It's as if there was not a three term Labour government."

A 3 term government with ever diminishing returns. An unsustainable position for continued electoral success, as was shown in 2010. It makes no sense for any aspiring Labour government to copy the last "successful" one, otherwise Blair's would have been just like Wilson's and Wilson's would have been just like Atlee's, which would have been just like MacDonald's.

Added to this, in a global world this fails to look at the international, or even just European picture, in which the third way approach to social democracy has seen ever decreasing returns. The SPD in Germany could be described as the most "Blairite" of EU parties of the left, and they are pale shadow of their previous selves as a (very) junior partner to the CDU. This approach has been protected somewhat in the UK by our first past the post system, where such things aren't exposed to the cold light of PR, but to retend it isn't happening is rank hubris.

The final point I'd raise is that whenever people on the internet start to say that Blairism is a blueprint for success, they continually fail to state what this would entail in terms of polic and actions. They're generally bankrupt of ideas and have nothing to offer other than screaming that everyone else is "too left wing". If you haven't got anything to offer but negativity, no one will be interested in your message.

And no "keeping Trident" isn't really a broad enough policy platform to base a resurgence of the Labour right on. Soz. I agree with Phil that there are more important things to worry about than this talismanic white elephant. Sod it, keep the bugger, but what else have you got?

Mathias Alexander said...

Yes, but, again JC is the winner in a one horse race because he is the only one standing against NHS outsourcing, light touch bank regulation, TTIP, PFI, turning public services into cash cows for rich people. If there were two such candidates you would ask yourself which was the most competent. The fact that there is only one such candidate is a measure of the lack of democracy in the Labour Party, so democratising the selection procedure should be the priority.

The three turn government does not show that the things I've mentioned were, are or ever could be vote winners. Tony Blair won despite those things because fewer people were paying attention to them and because he had the support of Rupert Murdoch, but that was then and this is now. Business as usual has lost two elections in a row for Labour and if the right succeeds in getting rid of Corbyn, they will lose the votes of those that keep voting in the ever diminishing hope that the LP will do some of the things they keep promising to do. Then, like the Lib Dems they will disappear over an electoral cliff forever.

pewartstoat said...

'As a MP of over 30 years and a lifelong labour movement activist, on the very basic details - organisation, messaging, discipline, competence - the sad truth is Jeremy has been found surprisingly wanting and occasionally naive.'

Why? I'm a Corbyn supporter but the last thing I expected was immediate competence. He didn't expect to win and had never served on the front bench. He was a backbench MP of long standing riding a wave he didn't anticipate. It was always going to be a steep learning curve: we, on the left, have to patient.

pewartstoat said...

'This time, they were clueless, foolish enough to take constitutional phantasms for real relationships, and failed to understand their own party. They won't make the same mistake twice.'

How can you write this with confidence: they are venal and entitled incompetents, completely out of touch with members and voters. What's more, they loathe the new members (see Luke Akehurst's tweet today). They simply haven't grasped 21st Century politics or social media.

Dave Cohen said...

There's nothing to disagree with in your article, Phil, but your request for Corbyn to up his game is unlikely to be heard. He is who he is. In that Gary Younge article he says he doesn't believe in confrontation, which sounds good, but we now know it means when he disagrees with someone he waits until they're out of the room before doing the opposite of what they are asking. We've all had bosses like that at some stage haven't we? I've been freelance for 33 years and even I've had people like that, total nightmare.

MPs who tried to work with him lined up to say how they found it impossible. They all said 'he's a perfectly nice man, but he's not a leader'. And yet as recently as yesterday, he was describing these criticisms as 'personal attacks'. They're the exact opposite of that! He has learned nothing, only that he is now unassailable as leader for the foreseeable future. As these comments have pointed out, he never wanted to be leader. Unfortunately he does now.

Alex Ross said...

Speaking personally – if Corbyn were to engage me, I’d suggest a few things. (1) Come up with some fresh ideas (e.g. explore substantial Minimum Basic Income, radical ideas around deliberative democracy) and create a genuinely distinctive and credible programme for developing better social equality rather than just being “anti-austerity”. It’s very easy to be "anti-bad-things" and most people are savvy enough to see through it unless you convince them concerning what exactly you are *for*. (2) Convince people that you see NATO as genuinely important for the security of our democratic allies (my Polish, Latvian and Estonian friends all *get* this – in the face of an increasingly belligerent and authoritarian Russia in their vicinity – whatever their politics) – Jez should listen to such people, and stop blaming Russian aggression and expansion on the west. (3) Ditch Milne and the StWC – make it clear that Labour is a party of the *Democratic* Left – and doesn’t fraternise with those from totalitarian political traditions. You can still be anti-intervention/anti-war – just leave oddballs such as Andrew Murray, Lindsey German, John Rees etc. out in the cold. (4) I can’t stand John Mcdonnell – his angry rhetoric often seems to be about “smashing” and “destroying” things – and whilst this may play well to the identity politics of the hard left it alienates those of us who don’t want our politicians to be shouty, macho thugs. Give him some HR training in basic people skills – and lets also have a genuinely sincere apology for his previous support for the irredeemably reactionary terrorists of the IRA. (5) Criticise Israel by all means – but ensure that members always use neutral, non-racially charged language and compare human rights abuses fairly with other countries.

I’m not suggesting that all this would immediately halt attacks on a left-wing Labour platform from the media. Of course it wouldn’t. It would, however, remove some hostages to fortune. And start to convince some waverers (such as myself) that Corbyn has something interesting to offer and is genuinely committed to democracy and *universal* human rights. That would be a start, at least.

Hecsentric said...

I get frustrated when PLP don't provide reasons for their view that Jeremy Corbyn is not fit to be leader. Leadership is about the personal qualities of the person and the cause/project they are leading. So I would like to hear precisely, which personal leadership qualities they feel he doesn't have and which part of the labour party cause he is or isn't putting forward that members want or don't want him to do. The only clear things I've heard so far are his views on defence matters. As I understand it he has said these matters would be a free vote?
So I'd like to hear examples of leadership attributes where he is strong/weak such as:
Courage
Honesty
Integrity
Fairness
Humility
Intelligence

Which parts of the Labour Part cause is he at odds with?
As far as I'm concerned and to my knowledge he meets my criteria as a good leader in these times of dishonest and bullying politics. He is the antidote that many people want to see and he is doing it without media support.

Igor Belanov said...

Many of the Labour Party’s travails of the past year have been due to the party organisation and the ‘presidential’ style of leadership election that now prevails.

Last September the only thing that changed (formally) was that Corbyn was elected as leader of the party. He faced a largely hostile group of professional politicians, an unhelpful party bureaucracy, a divided NEC, and semi-independent Scottish and Welsh parties. In this state of flux, there were going to be a lot of difficulties that the most accomplished leader would at best have been able to postpone rather than solve. As it is, with the pro-Corbyn membership growing rapidly, the other sections knew that they would have to act quickly to prevent themselves coming under the membership’s sway. Thus the panicked coup of June-July this year. If Corbyn is re-elected then the power struggle will continue and the ‘threatened’ sections of the party will get increasingly desperate, possibly even biting the bullet and initiating a split.

In this situation the best thing the membership could do is to ground the position of leader in a much more ‘bottom-up’ structure, reducing its significance and avoiding such damaging conflicts between elements of the party. The best way would be for the leader to be elected by a democratically-constituted Party Conference, and for this to be confirmed at conference on an annual basis. If this sort of measure is carried out with a determined programme of mandatory reselection it should make the party a lot more responsive and coherent.

MikeB said...

Alex Ross is spot-on in terms of the people Corbyn is surrounded by. And the suggestion about NATO is probably the best way of finding a way around the nuclear weapon problem. Igor B is right in terms of internal democracy, too.

The linking theme for each of these is the sense of a collective approach - a sense that seems to me to chime with a core impulse driving the new wave of LP supporters.

The current PLP and LP bureaucracy has been a problem for ever, but heavily reinforced by Blairite patronage and opportunism. Ridding the Party of that legacy will be problematic and painful no matter who does it - but it's the only way to salvage the LP as an alternative force to neoliberal hegemony.

CableStrada said...

I can't speak for everyone who's proud to identify as socialist / progressive, but personally I'm opposed to JC / Momentum root-and-branch. As Nick Cohen and others have repeatedly demonstrated: JC is, at best, enabling antisemitism and the sexism, homophobia, bullying and general vileness that inevitably accompany it.

At worst JC is... I really don't like to think. For the first time in my life I don't feel that bad seeing the Tories in power. I will never (ever) vote Tory. But that doesn't mean I will automatically vote Labour from now on. If JC is still there come the next election, I definitely won't be (absent some serious recantation and house-clearing on his part).

And frankly I'm baffled that my views aren't much more widely shared in the progressive community. Why can so many of the genuinely decent and caring (<-- as I'm happy to admit) people who support JC not see his long, long history of appeasing some of the worst anti-progressive forces on the planet? Religiously justified fascism is no more palatable in Palestine and Bangladesh than it was in Franco's Spain.

Speedy said...

Cablestrada: because the need to belong is a greater than a need for the truth?

Because there has always been an internationalist/ totalitarian element of the Left that has been on the fringes of the Labour Party, but in our "post-Labour" age, in which the working class no longer has a consciousness that automatically identifies itself with the Labour Party (as if it ever did, because there were always working class Tories but I think the trouble was the Labour Party under Blair stopped identifying itself with this class and its values, because they erroneously identified working class aspiration with Thatcherism, and so detached themselves from this class and sought to appeal more to bourgeois values, which in any case, being largely bourgeois themselves, they found more appealing) this element has been able to capture centre stage?

The great irony is therefore that Balirism laid the ground for Corybnism, but not in the way Corbynistas think: the working class did not stop voting Labour because they were too far to the right, but because their cosmopolitan values no longer chimed with their own conservative ones. So Corbynites are making a profound error in thinking they want a more left wing Labour party - on the contrary. They are actually speeding up a detachment from the working class initiated under Blair.

This is why Corbynites and Blairites have much more in common than they think (and, incidentally, why I have been equally critical of both over the years).

Blissex said...

«There are an awful lot of people who think that they 'know' how to get elected to government..."
It's as if there was not a three term Labour government.»

I am a bit fed up with the usual witch-doctors who argue that leaders, MSM support, manifestos, even spin matter that much to winning elections. There is very plausible research that they don't matter much.

New Labour won 3 elections only because before 1997 there was a huge recession with a large drop in house prices in the south, and then managed to keep southern house prices going up until 2008, and then lost hugely. In 1997 Blair was at the time mostly the PR face of Labour, like Cameron was in 2010 for the Conservatives.

The actual votes for a few years:

1983: Labour 8.46m, Conservatives 13.01m, Liberals 7.78m
1987: Labour 10.03m, Conservatives 13.74m, Liberals 7.34m
1992: Labour 11.56m, Conservatives 14.09, Liberals 6.00m
---
1997: Labour 13.52m Conservatives 9.60m, Liberals 5.24m
2001: Labour 10.72m Conservatives 8.34m, Liberals 4.81m
2005: Labour 9.55m, Conservatives 8.78m, Liberals 5.99m
---
2010: Labour 8.61m, Conservatives 10.70m, Liberals 6.84m
2015: Labour 9.35m, Conservatives 11.30m, Other 6.00m

The great UK electorate keeps re-electing a government until they screw up, and then they "throw the bums out" and the opposition wins, regardless (a bit exaggerating here) of who the leader, manifesto, spin skills are.

Those matter greatly as to gets the goodies after the win.

Blissex said...

I like this post, but I think some of the criticism is misplaced, because of a lack of perspective. Perhaps too close to the action. I have read recently what seems to me a rather plausible story here:

http://uk.businessinsider.com/momentum-the-inside-story-of-how-jeremy-corbyn-took-control-of-the-labour-party-2016-2

«on the very basic details - organisation, messaging, discipline, competence - the sad truth is Jeremy has been found surprisingly wanting and occasionally naive.»

I understand so, but even Cameron and Osborne made a lot of mistakes like that, and they did have some government and front bench experience, and eventually piles of spads and civil servants. But nobody raised it as a major personal issue. Plus Corbyn has been under a lot of distracting pressure. You can't compare to Ed Milliband who was part of the famously tight Brown organization, as well described I think in McBride's book, and had many years of government experience.
And the organization mistakes Corbyn has reportedly done are pretty minor, even the transport day one, and happen in every organization. His priority has been the politics, because everything depends from that, and he has done pretty well on those, even the few PMQs he has had to do. For example he has not done them on Brexit, because too premature and a waste of time. The second one was focused on housing, which is a pressing issue, far more than Brexit. I was disappointed he did the one on grammar schools, but obviously that was a tactical move, obviously he felt that a bit of theater would help the troops.

«It is frustrating, sometimes embarrassing, and time after time given opponents and enemies targets so large they scarcely had to aim to hit them.»

That's unfortunately unavoidable: he has some views that are deeply felt by him, like Trident as you mention, and are somewhat unpopular. His compromise has been sensible: don't advocate his positions, and if asked reply straightforwardly but briefly, and give free votes to himself and others. That is as good as it gets. Of course this is going to cause trouble, but I look at the big picture and it looks like many voters do too. It would help if someone near him put out arguments like his but in a more palatable form, for example quoting Tony Blair on the useleness of nuclear weapons for the UK, and that they are poor value for money. The other major, and far bigger issue, is Likud/neoconnery; likudniks and other far right neocons will never stop attacking him. That's a really big problem and unavoidable. Even Jack Straw was sacked for not being an extreme enough likudnik/neocon ("How the US Fired Jack Straw" by William Rees-Mogg, Times, London August 7, 2006). The simple test is: would X order to bomb Iran? Anybody who says "no" is reckoned by likudniks/neocons not fit for office in the UK or the USA, and subjected to massive hostile media campaigns. Obviously Corbyn will say "no", and that cannot be fudged. Sometimes I think that is the core issue with Corbyn.

As to the organization, couldn't he get some smooth, hard brownite to work with him on organization and being tough for him? Perhaps McBride has mellowed a bit and could be taken back from the wilderness. Even Mandelson came back. :-)

Blissex said...

As to "organization", I think that there may be an important detail or two that our blogger may not be aware of, despite being close to the actions.

I have seen reports that Corbyn's "organization" has been run on a shoestring budget ("Short" money delayed, perhaps) with the party treasury also near empty because of the cost of the 2015 election. IIRC McDonnell or someone was terrified that the legal action against the £25 voting fee could be successful, because if it were the party might have had to refund the supporters who paid it, and that was a few millions that were sorely needed. Lord Sainsbury stopped financing Labour when Ed Milliband was selected, and started financing Progress instead.

I have also seen reports (BusinessInsider article) that Corbyn does not use Labour central Office resources. I can imagine that is for rational precautionary reasons, considering how it was stuffed, but it is likely a significant handicap.

Speedy said...

I saw this in the indi today,re woking class support for Labour, as per my previous comment. But, keep the faith!

"The survey also exposes how impressions of Mr Corbyn held by those planning to support him in the future are completely detached from working-class voters and people who backed Labour at the 2015 election."

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/labour-leadership-results-live-jeremy-corbyn-owen-smith-poll-incompetent-working-class-voters-a7326486.html