Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Why I Voted for Jeremy Corbyn

In last year's Labour leadership contest and after much shilly-shallying, my vote went to Yvette Cooper. This year there was no hesitation: I duly ticked the box for Jeremy Corbyn. The passage from the poster woman for "sensible" managerial politics to Corbynism might be puzzling for some, so here are my reasons.

First off, it's partly a protest. Partly. Over the last year, my dismay has grown over into disgust at the behaviour of the PLP. Of course, it's not all of the PLP. A minority are doing the behind doors briefing, and complaining loudly every time Jeremy so much as picks his nose. But it is also a collective problem because no one is reining our brave souls in. Far from it. For every Jamie Reed, Jess Phillips, and Wes Streeting there are five, six, many MPs egging them on. They say Jeremy's leadership is a clapped out old banger, and to prove it they're puncturing his tyres and pouring sand (and scorn) into the petrol tank. Do they genuinely, honestly, really believe their moanin' and sabotagin' is helping the party? Because I can tell you, the number of people in realworldland sat there thinking "good on Mike Gapes for socking it to Corbyn, at least someone in Labour has their head screwed on" is precisely zero. Quite independently of Jeremy, they're making our party look like a shower of shit and inflicting incredible damage to its name.

There's a second string to my protest bow. If the behaviour of the PLP isn't disgraceful enough, there's the litany of incompetent shenanigans. The failed coup is an abject lesson in how not to go about one. And as we know, this was but the beginning of a glorious summer that ranged over efforts to remove Jeremy from the leadership ballot, the collapse of an arm's length court case designed to accomplish the same, the shock re-imposition of the six month eligibility rule for new members after having taken a holiday since 2010, increasing the supporters' fee to £25 and allowing only a 48 hour window for registration, and now the farce of new members getting turfed out for retweeting an opposition MP, or for previously voting Green in 1911. These awful, outrageous moves to try and stitch the party up have happened in full view of the public, and it is disgusting. But, unfortunately, not surprising given our party's inglorious history of favouritism, cronyism, and subverting its own process. A vote for Jeremy is a vote against this rotten culture. It's a vote for a cleaned up party machine, democratic policy making, and a culture where people go places because of their talents and not who their friends and/or parents are. So no to fixed shortlists. No to nobbled selections. No to malicious expulsions. And yes to the party being the property of its membership.

I also voted against the Owen Smith campaign. At the Westminster disco, few have thrown so many shapes in so short a space of time. From bland Milibandism to hard Bevanism to Roy 'Chubby' Brown, them's quite some moves. I don't dislike Owen, but the summer campaign has absolutely shown he's not the anti-Corbyn the anti-Corbyns were hoping for. First off, to use an unfashionable splash of NuLabspeak, his challenge wasn't fit for purpose. From the off it has never been a serious affair. His is a front for timid "A-listers" who would move to dispose of an Owen leadership within 12 to 18 months of his unlikely victory. Your Chukas and Stella Creasys, the Caroline Flints and Dan Jarvises are all conspicuously absent, or being seen to do anything but help the campaign. The second major problem is the politics. There's the usual observation - Jeremy's articulates the interests of our movement and constituency more clearly than any Labour leader since, well, ever. Meanwhile, like every other past leader and would-be leader, Owen's politics fall short - his out-of-hand dismissal of the basic income being yet another example. Yet much more seriously, Owen is recklessly and foolishly pushing a politics that poses an existential threat to our party. His repeated nonsense about a second referendum, which is designed to keep Britain in the EU by hook and by crook puts us on a collision course with a substantial chunk of our loyal support. UKIP are in decline, yet it appears Owen wants to throw them a life line - incredible. After the disaster of Scotland, of ignoring what our people were saying for years it is unconscionable that a leadership candidate is determined to repeat the cataclysm.

This brings me to my fourth reason: the ruin of the Labour Party isn't a province Owen rules over alone. Repeated time and again is the mantra that elections are the be-all and end-all, nothing can be done without holding office and therefore Jeremy must go. Actually, there is something more important than winning a general election and that is our party's continued existence. The default of Owen Smith and his quiet friends is managerial politics and opinion poll chasing because, after all, that worked for His Majestic Tonyness. They lack an understanding of Labour as a conduit of interests in a political field structured and reconfigured by competing and antagonistic interests. As such they pursue and have a history of implementing policies that strike at the social position of our constituencies - a rookie error the Tories are careful never to make. This isn't solely down to a failure of intellect, though. As a class system in which the the owners of capital have the whip hand, running capitalism against capital is like using a whisk to mix cement. Matters aren't helped by the 30 year estrangement of establishment politics from popular aspirations either. Here you will find the roots of the Scottish collapse and the implosion of centre left parties elsewhere in Europe. Yet, despite this many friends and comrades, good Labour people, stick to this approach because an alternative cannot possibly be imagined. Elections are won on the centre ground, the party has to appear as a competent government-in-waiting, and putting forward anything too social democratic will kill our chances. And so Labour is in a bind. It either submits to the logic of centre ground electioneering and find itself rudderless and buffeted by the political weather until the howling winds blow us apart, or try and do something different.

The members have decided they want to try something different, and the minority need to work with it, just as the left have under the right's near uninterrupted dominance since the party's inception. Of course, I understand the problems with Jeremy and his strategy as it stands. There are the well-publicised complaints about his competence, which I'll talk about after the contest is done. And there is the appalling opinion polling. It does Jeremy's case no favours to pretend everything would be hunky dory if the PLP struck a helpful note and the media were kinder. Yet, despite everything, in Jeremy's campaign, in the movement that is coalescing and feeding into the Labour Party, there is a germ of both the party's continued existence and possible future general election victories. Neither of those things can be said, alas, about the approach favoured by Jeremy's opponents.

This is the positive reason why I voted for Jeremy. British politics is undergoing a process of realignment, where the previously established connections between parties and constituencies of people are thrown out of kilter and settle down into new relationships. The mushrooming of Labour to its gargantuan size, and which is set to get even bigger should Jeremy win, come after the rise and fall of the LibDems, the rise (and fall?) of UKIP, the slow burn growth of the Greens, and the supremacy of the SNP. If what was happening to Labour was a few Trots and middle-aged lefties reliving their youth, similar things wouldn't be happening to different parties in this country or elsewhere in the world. That something making itself felt is another periodic crisis of capitalism and the state. Sociologically speaking, the people joining and finding collective purpose with us are results of long-term trends too. In the main, they are drawn from the emerging occupations - the knowledge worker, the care worker, the precarious worker, forms of labour that are mostly concerned with the provision of a service in some way, work that has the production of social relations at its heart. Now this, of course, is nothing new. Sociologists of the left and the right have been talking about the shift in this direction since the early 1970s. It's happened, it's happening, and now those people, atomised by 30 years of neoliberal economics and governance are making their weight felt on our politics.

This lends itself to two political conclusions. This section of people who have to sell their labour power in return for a wage or salary are a rising group. Just as the industrial worker was the "hegemonic" form of work and the left's preferred political agent of the past, so the networked worker (for want of a better phrase) is the increasingly dominant constituency in all the advanced countries. It's slowly waking up, therefore it is vital for the future health of our party that we be its party of choice. Should we choose to ignore it, then it will find political expression elsewhere - we only have to look at Scotland to see what fate awaits. It follows that the party has to stretch every sinew, exert every effort to recruit, recruit, recruit. As they pour into politics, we have to be their vessel. A million, two million, perhaps three, that is not beyond the realms of possibility. And if the party is of that size, very strange things start happening to politics. It isn't just that we have more leafleters and canvassers than ever before, but the party becomes an electoral factor itself beyond campaigning. A millions-strong party will have multiple members in every workplace, at every school gate, in all the further and higher education institutions in the land. Down your street, in the pub, at the summer fete or community centre, and all across every social media platform. It can become a self-organising machine that counteracts the media barrage through the sheer weight and breadth of the party, which is precisely what has happened to the SNP despite its rather staid, steady-as-she-goes leadership. The physicality, the familiarity of everyone knowing someone who is a party member is the most potent electoral weapon Labour could have at its disposal. It may have attracted scorn from the cognoscenti, but the online rebuttal work already being done around #wearehismedia shows this in digital embryo.

This is why I voted for Jeremy. In the end, the behaviour of the PLP, the shenanigans, and Owen Smith's campaign is almost incidental. Jeremy's campaign has opened politics up. It's not just the best way to secure Labour's long-term future and win again, it's the only way.


Phil said...


Syzygy said...

Very timely and heartening argument when many Corbyn supporters are losing the will to go on in the face of the PLP… and who can blame them. The 'saving the party, by burning it down' strategy has opened a lot of eyes but has simultaneously repelled and sickened.

pewartstoat said...

The Forward March of Precarious Labour?

pewartstoat said...

Spot on. There's no future in a Labour Party whose operational parameters continue to be set by the Tories. The evidence is in Scotland and Europe. It's an unappealing prospectus for voters and members and will result in the Pasokification of Labour.
Corbyn's the only game in town for genuine, forward-looking progressives. The party machine have made that abundantly clear.
Conjunctural times call for conjunctural politics. One would hope that we've learned something from Stuart Hall after all these years.: Owen Smith's tedious appeals to Nye Bevan and Labour traditions have little appeal to new members. He's speaking to a shrinking echo chamber.

This is good:

and this:

Speedy said...

I'll have to come back to this, but "Do they genuinely, honestly, really believe their moanin' and sabotagin' is helping the party?"

What? Like Jeremy Corbyn for 30 years?!

David Walsh said...

"It isn't just that we have more leafleters and canvassers than ever before," If only...... and i speak from an area (teesside) where we have had three local by-elections over as many months. The people on the street or at the end of the phone ? The same old crew. We even had a lot of people phone banking for Jeremy on one by election Thursday......

Gabbyvee said...

Well said. I agree that by increasing membership to well beyond the million figure, Labour will be a political force, not just as a voting power, in the same way the grey vote is a voting power, but also as a power that if applied tactical, can influence the actions of those who would seek to disenfranchise members or stray outside Labour values. The broad church would have to narrow down. A huge party membership would have to be appeased, as we have seen with the powerful grey vote being appeased and protected by the triple lock on pensions, even during massive austerity measures being imposed elsewhere. If we could sign up three million members we would gain a strength and power that could not be chipped away or into. Any MP or group of MPs would struggle to raise their heads above the papapet. Very interesting article. Thank you.

jim mclean said...

Scottish Labours situation has nothing to do with left or right, it is about cronyism, corruption, gangsterism about every half brained idiot thinking they should be the leader. I have never seen any indication of Scotland being more to the Left than England and the fact that white on white hate crimes top the list we are indeed at times reactionary. The fact that Davidsons approval rating beats Sturgeon, who beats Dugdale who hammers Corbyn into the negative ratings shows how dire and right wing things are.

MikeB said...

The utter bankruptcy of the anti-Corbyn forces is a point well-made. I only wish I was as optimistic about the prospects for an alternative.

On a global scale, there's every indication that catastrophic environmental collapse, huge population movements and resource wars have an inescapable momentum. Immigrant scares, the primacy of finance capital in our economy, "outsourcing" and zero-hours culture, the integration of foreign policy into a globalised war economy are trends which will drive societal dynamics, and politics, regardless.

I agree that the new Labour Party mobilisation behind Corbyn offers an alternative to the LP's historic, failed vision of "parliamentary Socialism". A Corbyn leadership offers the only possibility at the moment to develop this.

Sadly, though, I can't see that there are the "sociological" grounds to suggest that that could unify an UK-wide alternative movement around concrete, hegemonic programme.

A series of shifting, localised, transient rearguard alliances and actions is more realistic. The SNP's current success is one example, based on a nationalistic impulse - it is maybe significant that here in Wales, Plaid is now advertising its mission as "to secure independence for Wales in Europe".

John said...

In reply to David Walsh. In my ward between September & the end of last year our membership doubled, the officers made a point of contacting all the new members. The numbers at our meetings doubled, the number who canvassed and campaigned in the May local election doubled. Other wards in my CLP who have made no effort to contact new members also complain like you that the new members don't do any work. The fact as you say that some of the new members were phone banking on a by-election night, just shows that someone one asked them to do something and they responded. It may be that you have spoken to all of your new members and asked them to canvass and they all refused, if so all I can say is that you must have a very unrepresentative bunch of new members.

BCFG said...

It would have been nice if you had focussed on policy! But I get your current gripe with your fellow travellers. I am sure if Yvette crawls out of the woodwork you will be fighting their corner again!

Corbyn is one of the very few the mainstream political voicse to take the environmental threat semi seriously. The Blairites always loved to pay lip service to the problem. But the end result of their time in office was ever greater omissions, increased car use and reduced bus services. This insanity is seen as reason in our corrupted political landscape.

Our horrendous media must take a share of the blame for this, the damage the Tabloids have done to culture and the human spirit are incalculable. I would be holding trials put it that way.

But of course the media need a willing audience for their poison and bile and let us face it there are too many ready to lap up their filth. New labour’s answer to this was to pander to it, what I like about Corbyn is that he doesn’t pander to this but at the same time he remains calm and reasoned. The reason the Blairites didn’t adequately deal with the environmental problem is that for them winning votes outweighs anything else. This is a modern view of politics, treating it like a game. Blair made it a consumer choice. What makes Corbyn really exciting is that he represents a return to real politics and provides choice and a voice to the working classes and those on the receiving end of the Tories underclass project.

But this part of Corbyn’s character could be his undoing. What other leader would have put up with the crap the PLP have thrown at him? You simply can’t, under any circumstances, ever have a situation where 90% of the PLP are hostile to the leader and the members. Something must give, either they go or Corbyn and the members go. But if Corbyn has no plans deal with this Blairite cancer he may as well go now and stop wasting all our time, because if he fails to act he will leave no legacy.

Kath said...

Also to David Walsh. I keep hearing about the new members not getting active, but in most cases this strikes me as a pre-conception rather than a genuine observation. I say this because, in my own CLP, new members are very active, but this is being channelled largely via Momentum, because Momentum are enabling and encouraging new members to get active. CLP meetings have been suspended, effectively cutting off the path to integration for new members. So having banned them from getting involved, it seems pretty silly to then accuse them of not doing so. Many are chomping at the bit and can't wait until they are 'allowed' to get going. If they haven't been culled by then, of course, for expressing themselves on social media, one of the few outlets left open to them. Let's see what happens when meetings re-open and the party stops telling them to go away because they are unwelcome, shall we?

andrew adams said...

You make some perfectly good points, and I’m certainly not enthusiastic about Owen Smith. I completely disagree about Smith’s pro-EU position though, in fact it’s the reason I’ll probably end up voting for him. Leaving the EU will do damage, possibly a great deal of damage, to our economy, and it would be the kind of people Labour is supposed to stand for who would suffer the most. What’s more, it would be a victory for the most appalling, reactionary right wing forces in the country – the Daily Mail and the Sun, UKIP, the right wing of the Tory Party. I don’t see how Labour people can in all conscience just lay down and let it happen without a fight.

Most Labour voters voted to remain, as did an overwhelming majority of members, and most unions supported remain as well. So Smith’s stance is hardly a betrayal of Labour’s loyal supporters.  Yes, there is a section of Labour’s support who were strongly pro-leave, there is also a section (probably with a big overlap) who are pro-austerity and pro-welfare cuts, are we supposed to support those things as well? I thought the whole point of Corbynism was to stand up for Labour values, instead of compromising with our principles in order to appease public prejudice and win easy votes.

Anonymous said...

David Walsh

I don't doubt what you say, but there is also a fair amount of anecdotal evidence that new members aren't exactly being made to feel welcome in certain local parties. The "entryists" meme is believed far too much by some (thanks, Tom Watson)

Canvassing in particular is not for everybody, and not the sort of thing lots of people grasp instantly. This wave of new members needs to be encouraged and helped - in some places this is happening, with a big increase in activity resulting.

And the fact is, there is no alternative anyway. Much of the PLP still dreams of a passive low membership party, dependent on the largesse of shady rich donors and the indulgence of media plutocrats. This way lies only stagnation and ultimate political death.

Labour future is either as a bottom up mass movement, or another PASOK (as has already happened in Scotland, arguably - part of the problem there is that so many who might have renewed the party are already captured by the SNP) This isn't just about Corbyn either, btw - it is much more fundamental than that.

Frankie D. said...

Corbyn will never win a GE. That's the only important issue. If you're prepared to let people die under a tory government rather than hold your nose and vote for someone who might actually breat them, but go against some of your ideals, then you really need to take a good hard look at your priorities.

Frankie D. said...

John et all

There was a study a few months back that showed that only 1 in 6 new members did anything to help the party and that those that did mostly involved talking on facebook.

Phil said...

There's 1,800 words in the post above, Frankie. It would be nice of you addressed the argument actually put rather than made up nonsense no one is putting.

James Semple said...

Terrific article. Thank you.

Joining Labour was my first experience of party membership, and I'm 76 years old.

Sorting out what to do and whom to consult was complicated and is not yet fully understood, but Corbyn is a continuous inspiration in what he says and how he conducts himself.

Trying to organise a ward of 60+ members (most of them equally new and confused) in a widely spread rural constituency is quite a challenge, but we keep at it and will improve in time.

Makhno said...

Ha. Well said, Phil.

On the actual topic of discussion, I can't really fault your analysis, aside from it may be a touch optimistic, but we need some of that at the moment.

I have just held my nose and voted for Corbyn. Through this campaign I have gone from intending to vote for Smith, to intending to abstain to - after today's abysmal hustings showing by Smith - being entirely comfortable with my decision to vote for Corbyn.

Corbyn may or may not be "unelectable", but the utterly misguided, hubristic, shambolic, vindictive and above all incompetent campaign waged by his most vocal opponents in the PLP has shown no evidence to me that they offer an electable path.

I could also, in all good conscience, not give my vote to Smith after he attempted to harness dogwhistle anti-immigrant sentiment by flat out lying about the number of middle eastern refugees in Wales. I don't care how electable a party is, if the message it's putting out there is one of dishonest racism in order to garner votes, then it loses mine.

Anonymous said...

If I hadn't voted for Smith early on, then his utterly cynical use of the "Corbyn voted leave" smear would have lost my vote.

He had better not win now ;)

Paul Canning said...

Ugh. Podemos has big rallies. Look at the electoral result.

Imagine the Corbyn recruits schooling the electors on the doorstep. That's absent from Phil et al's thinking ...

Your trucking hero has historic negatives. Deal. For once. FOR FUCKING ONCE.

This is all BS, Phil. And you know it.

Talking to a brick wall...

david walsh said...

In terms ofa reply to John, Kath and anon, I can only say that my CLP made a point of trying to contact all new members, and does this regularly at branch level by personal visits by branch officers to these new ebers. The response is polite agreement to participate in work, but when it comes to meetings, by elections activity and the rest, the earlier agreement disappeared like a summer ist. A lot of time is spent on Facebook, but little elsewhere. Perhaps the acid test will be next year when we begin the selection process for councillors (and I speak as a councillor on a Labour controlled council) We need an influx of new blood - but lets see if this emerges.

Mathias Alexander said...

If you don't like light touch bank regulation, tax avoidance, selling off the public services, TTIP, lobbying, erosion of civil liberties, there is only Corbyn to vote for, so his faults don't matter much at this stage. The PLP has had thirty years to address these things and massively failed, so its about moving on from failed ideas.
We don't know what is happening in the electoral middle ground, business as usual has filed twice to win a GE.

Speedy said...

"A millions-strong party will have multiple members in every workplace, at every school gate, in all the further and higher education institutions in the land."

I salute your indefatigability, Phil, but what all this really reminds me of is 1982. I don't think you would remember that, but I do.

The rest is history.

Phil said...

I'm sorry I didn't produce the blog post you wanted me to, Paul. But it would have been nice for you to have dealt with the substance of the one I did write.

Gary Elsby said...

The party belongs to the membership?
The Party leader is possibly the sole possession of the membership, the party belongs to the NEC and/or the PLP (in any order).
The NEC has just excluded 100,000(alleged) potential voters on flimsy or untrue allegations and the PLP are to hijack the party (alleged) once more by joining the co-op party and forming an 'official' opposition in Westminster.

I seem to have been excluded from voting based on the simple fact I was expelled in April 2010 for 5 years( NEC decision).
I was not a member of the Labour party when I was 'expelled' from it.
...but the game goes on.
I am however, invited to become a full member (wait for it) ' but I will have to be interviewed by the NEC and Stoke Central CLP (just like every other would be member, oh yeah).
I'm considering this option but I have worded an appeal along the lines of above.
Astute readers will know my 'expulsion' ended 18 months ago and I have questioned the validity of the sanction imposed on me.
It doesn't matter of 500,000 members, it only matters of an NEC acting on their behalf of which they promoted.
The PLP can run around all day causing great harm from within but that don't matter one bit.
The Labour party is owned by the NEC.

pewartstoat said...

Re Paul's post: Podemos have delivered remarkable elecotral results as have Syriza. One party is around 12 years old and in government, the other around 4 years old, is running some of Spain's biggest cities and may well be in government in 2017.

Astonishing. What is it you expect from a new party? A resounding majority within 2 years of birth?

John West said...

This is a good post and there is much of substance that I agree with on what Labour needs to be to make social democracy relevant in the 21st century. Your concluding thoughts on the networked employee ring true (as I believe Yvette Cooper wrote recently, Labour must be the party of the Uber driver and the Deliveroo biker).

I also agree that the PLP (#notallthePLP) have not covered themselves in glory.

Their apparent lack of curiosity about where Corbyn's support comes from is bizarre. That they spent the last year briefing rather than charting a political course - just trying to rethink social democracy for our times, even if they did not succeed - is a disgrace.

Also, let's be honest - the average Corbyn supporter's fear that, were he to be deposed, the Labour Party would inevitably slide towards crappy PFI, appeasing racists and indulging in priapic atlanticism is not wholly paranoid, is it?

And yet I would argue it's not wholly balanced to conclude "therefore, we will keep a man at the top who could kill the party and salt the earth of the entire left".

Given I actually want Labour to revive social democracy for the 21st century, which is a tough gig given trends that extend way, way beyond the UK, I don't want any efforts in that direction to be associated with the walking disaster zone that is Jeremy Corbyn.

Much as Ed Miliband's appalling political presentation led to an election loss, and therefore torpedoed the credibility of the soft left, Corbyn's ownership of this revivalist project can only lead to defeat, despair and a burial at sea for the few decent ideas developing *around and because of* Corbyn's position.

The polling is truly terrifying. A leadership team that thinks the UB40 stunt worth a go is not one that is competent enough to steer the wholesale reformulation of the left you desire!

As limited as Owen Smith's campaign is, and as problematic as some of his statements have been, for me Labour members' priority should be to remove from the public perception that the party is happy to have a joke as leader.

Igor Belanov said...

@ Frankie D

"If you're prepared to let people die under a tory government rather than hold your nose and vote for someone who might actually breat them, but go against some of your ideals, then you really need to take a good hard look at your priorities."

This rubbish is tiresome. As we saw during the 'interregnum' of last summer, the majority of the PLP refused to oppose the government's welfare plans under the ridiculous apprehension that it would help their 'electability'. They've demonstrated that they're quite willing to throw the poor under the bus if it makes certain elements of the media treat them more favourably. There are many things that the PLP prioritises over people 'dying under a Tory government'.

Paul Canning said...

Substance? 'We need a new politics'. 'But what about your man Corbyn?' 'Never mind that, we need a new politics'

Podemos got 21%. With Milne/Paul Mason, Thornberry, McDonnell and your man Corbyn + the Tories breaking open the safe of past historic lovlies (IRA posters everywhere) yet to be deployed we'll be lucky to get that.

I do think Owen has issues, tweeted about some of them. Thing is, Owen backers can talk about it. 'Understanding' Corbyn support means understanding support that either refuses to discuss his screaming issues, thinks it's all MI5's fault or thinks the village needs to be burnt to the ground in order to save it.

'Miasma' is the word I've deployed and I think it about covers it.

Gordon Liddle said...

He didn't. He stuck to the original roots of Labour. It was Bliar who dragged the party to the right. And he didn't sabotage.

Makhno said...

"Thing is, Owen backers can talk about it."

Really? I haven't seen a single Smith supporter address his appalling and utterly untrue dog-whistle racist statements about middle eastern refugees in Wales.

I would class myself as neither a Smith or a Corbyn supporter, but the defining characteristic of the former is that they have nothing constructive to bring to the table other than their screeching opinions as to how awful the other side are.

This is what has alienated many party members, including me, from voting for Smith. The fact that Smith et al have signally failed to adequately present themselves as a "competent" alternative, when this is meant to be their biggest selling point has also done nothing to change or even retain hearts and minds in the membership.

I'd happily see a new leader of the party, but until the PLP clean up their own house, take a long hard look at their historical mistakes over the last decade and practice the competence they preach, they are not in a position to supply one.

David Parry said...

Paul Canning

'thinks the village needs to be burnt to the ground in order to save it.' a perfect description of the stance of certain elements within the PLP.

Makhno said...

'Understanding' Corbyn support means understanding support that either refuses to discuss his screaming issues, thinks it's all MI5's fault or thinks the village needs to be burnt to the ground in order to save it.

That is a straw man so enormous it can fit both Edward Woodward and Nic Cage.

A large number of people I know that voted Corbyn did so reluctantly, as a reaction to the utterly idiotic, counter-productive actions of sectors of the PLP and the Labour hierarchy.

As for your latter point, it's those sections of the PLP who have been constantly attacking the membership and muttering about splits that seem hellbent on this.

I suppose it makes your support for these actions easier to justify to yourself if you can "other" those who disagree with you as evil screaming conspiracy theorists and terrorist sympathisers, but those of us active in the party without a factional cross to bear know that this portrayal (aside from a tiny minority of nutters) is utterly unfair. It just makes you look like a dishonest debater and nasty piece of work, to be honest.

Paul Canning said...


Not heard anything about those Smith comments and Twitter Corbyn supporters would surely have brought them to my attention.

'have nothing constructive to bring to the table'

Well apart from all the policy proposals he's brought out what have the Romans ever done for us?

'justify to yourself if you can "other" those who disagree with you as evil screaming conspiracy theorists'

We just had a poll saying over half of you think MI5 are plotting against him.

I am not a huge Owen supporter at all but these responses just illustrate how head-in-the-sand, disconnected from reality, living in its own bubble Corbyn backers are.

Dave C said...

I've always found your analysis to be well-considered Phil but I'm afraid I have to take issue with a lot of what you say here. I agree we will never do coups as well as the Tories, and part of me is pleased about that. This was not a skilfully organised cut throat operation, it was a shambolic collapse brought about by desperation by those who took part. You may prefer not to discuss Corbyn's competence or lack of it, for me it's the central issue.

Take for instance these MPs you talk about, egging on the rebels from the sidelines. I agree with you that there have been people since day one gunning for Corbyn, just as there were people gunning for Cameron (IDS, Redwood, Cash, Davies and Co never let a day go by without briefing against him) and Tony Blair (Corbyn chief among them). A competent leader always finds a way of dealing with those people, and it's not by moaning every time someone criticises you.

I can only speak for my own ward, where membership increased massively over the last year. We did everything we could to encourage the 200 or so new members to get involved - held a meet and greet, a Christmas party, put on talks and had great guest speakers to tie in with events happening at the time, begged and pleaded with members to come and canvas for Sadiq, and then for Remain. I can honestly say that three of them became involved, one of whom has spent the entire year turning up to meetings to say never mind canvassing, we should be trying to change society.

To me it is irrelevant how many far left Trots or whatever have (re)joined, the fact is that the core leadership is steeped in far left politics. Again I have no problem with this, apart from the fact that from my own experience, whenever the far left gets anywhere near power they implode. Their purity doesn't allow them to show any pragmatism, better to leave in a principled huff than stick around and make things happen. The single exception in my lifetime has been Ken Livingstone in charge of London. He made things happen and was for many years a popular leader. One reason he kept in power though was because of his pragmatism. He made no secret of despising Blair and Brown, but was not afraid to compromise with them if it meant maintaining control of London, and rightly so.

I agree that like all the candidates from last year (including Jeremy), Owen has failed to articulate a vision of what is wrong with Labour and how to fix it. But Jeremy also hasn't done that. You talk of him articulating a different vision of how Labour should behave, but I don't see an explanation that makes me say 'why yes, of course.' I agree Owen's call for a second referendum is desperate, but with Brexit dominating our lives for the next few years where is Jeremy's vision of how we deal with it? Why is he not attacking the Tories every day, whose handling of Brexit would be funny if it wasn't so tragic? How does he view the frightening rise of fascism across the Channel, and the growing race divisions on our own streets? Never mind single market versus immigrant barriers, how the hell do we help Europe recover from the massive fallout of our voting to leave?

David Parry said...

Dave C

'the fact is that the core leadership is steeped in far left politics.'

Sorry, but that's bollocks. 'Far left' denotes revolutionary socialism of one sort or another, and Corbyn and co ain't no bunch of revolutionary socialists. Socialists, yes; revolutionary, no.

'Why is he not attacking the Tories every day, whose handling of Brexit would be funny if it wasn't so tragic?'

Good question. Mightn't it have something to do with the fact that he's having to face down a leadership challenge, perhaps? Just a thought.

'How does he view the frightening rise of fascism across the Channel, and the growing race divisions on our own streets?'

Well, I should think that, like any halfway decent person, he's deeply perturbed by it.

Dave C said...

Thanks for your reply David. Looking at the most influential people among Jeremy's group, I'd say McDonnell, Lansman and Milne have a pretty strong far left pedigree between them. Guess we'll have to agree to differ on that one.

"Mightn't it have something to do with the fact that he's having to face down a leadership challenge, perhaps? Just a thought."

That's part of the answer, but as Jeremy proved last year, the winner of the leadership election is the one who stops talking inwards and appeals outside his core group. Smith is guilty of the same error, I think he would have won a lot more respect if his campaign hadn't gone for his stupid theme of trying to sound more socialist than Jeremy (quite apart from his slightly niche request for a second referendum) and concentrated all his fire on the Tories, who are currently an even easier target than they were during the last leadership election.

Re the rise of fascism in Europe, I'm sure what you say is correct but I'd like to hear Jeremy talk about it. I may be wrong but for me that's the biggest issue of the moment.

Meme Means Meme said...


Not seen anyone.

Blissex said...

«The failed coup is an abject lesson in how not to go about one.»
«I agree we will never do coups as well as the Tories, and part of me is pleased about that. This was not a skilfully organised cut throat operation, it was a shambolic collapse brought about by desperation by those who took part.»

The coup was very well organized, by professional spinmasters. It succeeded wildly in distracting from the tory mega-shambles, and in largely distracting from the publication of the Cholcot report.

It was never designed to achieve election by members of a mandelsonian leader: as someone else has written on this page, O Smith seemed from the beginning a sacrificial candidate, which he probably would have been even if he had chances of winning.

My impression is that the leadership challenge was designed to prove a point. That point is not that the membership cannot trust the mandelsonians, but that the mandelsonians cannot trust the membership. Therefore if the membership won't elect the "right" candidate, as Brecht suggested the mandelsonians will elect the "right" membership, that of the Co-operative party, as someone hinted.

The project is to redesign english (not UK) politics with two major pro-business, pro-property parties, the Conservatives and Unionists that are for bigger rents and anti-EU, and the New Conservatives (I mean, New Co-operatives) for Europe that are for bigger rents and pro-EU.

The opportunity seen by the mandelsonians is that 42% of Conservative voters are pro-EU, and many of them are ex-Liberal voters, and that after the Conservative and Unionists turned officially into a "Leave" party, many pro-EU business and property owners are prepared to bankroll an alternative.

Relevant quotes:
«In 2015 business and finance were 100% behind the Conservatives. With the Brexit vote, and the campaign’s leading lights running the coming negotiations, that has fundamentally changed. [ ... ] With the Brexit vote what I would call the pro-European centre desperately wants an effective voice.»
«The party recently rejected speculation that it could be a vehicle for Labour MPs who oppose Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership to split away and form their own movement. It is staying neutral in the Labour leadership contest. Gareth Thomas, the MP for Harrow West and Co-operative chair, said the party would be making more of an effort ahead of its 100-year anniversary in 2017 to develop a voice more of its own. “We want to be more distinctive,” he said. “We are very clear we want to stay in the [European] single market. We see it as an exercise in international cooperation. And we are pretty pro-business as a party. It is co-op businesses that set us up and which continue to affiliate to us, and it is one of the things that marks us out. We have very good links into the co-operative business community as well.”»

The curious thing is that J Corbyn, as an internationalist social-democrat would, is still campaigning pro-Remain, that is now for single-market and freedom-of-movement:
«He replied that he had campaigned hard but the Brexit decision should be accepted. “We put the case to remain and reform. We did not win the referendum and we have to work with the result,” Corbyn said. He said he criticised the EU’s attempt to impose privatisation but argued that he still wanted access to the single market.»

Blissex said...

«'Why is he not attacking the Tories every day, whose handling of Brexit would be funny if it wasn't so tragic?'
Good question. Mightn't it have something to do with the fact that he's having to face down a leadership challenge, perhaps?»

The question is disgusting, and the answer is weak.

A better question would be why there are dozens of New Labour MPs and members who spend a lot of their time attacking in often repulsive ways their party leader who is pro-worker and pro-remain instead of the tories who have an anti-worker and pro-leave government.

And a better point about J Corbyn is that he is attacking the Tories in a straightforward way every time he has the opportunity, for example at his second question time:
«With Brexit uppermost in everyone’s minds and the government front benches struggling even to maintain the “Brexit means Brexit” line, Jeremy Corbyn asked the prime minister about the housing crisis.»

Brexit right now is *irrelevant* outside the Westminster/press bubble, and the last thing that the Labour leader needs to do is to show the finger to the 37% of Labour voters who went "Leave" by obsessing about it like O Smith is doing.

Housing instead is the true fulcrum of UK politics. If housing were less expensive perhaps many fewer lower-income people would have chosen "Leave", for example.

PS O Smith is obsessing against Brexit, I think because he and his sponsors want to get rid of that 37% of unwelcome "bigot" labour voters, and attract the 42% of very welcome "conservatory-building class" tory voters who chose "Remain".

Dave C said...

I never thought Corbyn should take the rap for the Brexit vote. He actually made a really good speech at the start of the campaign, that talked to people like me who weren't enthusiastic but on balance preferred remain.

Regarding the coup, even if one believes the conspiracy theory, the fact is that such coups don't happen unless a huge number of people are prepared to sign up for them. IDS, Redwood and co have been plotting coups since the day Thatcher was sacked, and they're probably plotting one against May as we speak - and don't get me started on Brown plotting against Blair (and Corbyn and McDonnell doing the same for that matter). Generally, coups don't happen because any leader worthy of the title will have spent time reaching out to people who may not be his core support, but are prepared to give him the time of day. I'd say more than 100 of those who signed the no confidence vote had been prepared to give Corbyn a chance but had become disillusioned by the summer.

Blissex said...

«Much as Ed Miliband's appalling political presentation led to an election loss, and therefore torpedoed the credibility of the soft left,»

My guess is that leaders and even manifestos don't matter much, and believing that voters take much notice of leaders, manifestos or even the press is typical of the Westminster bubble, as those are the topics over which political hacks hold their jobs. And regardless E Milliband's presentation seemed fairly reasonable to me.

In practice for several decades UK have always re-elected incumbent government parties unless they screwed up, and that so far has meant falling house prices. The legendary T Blair himself "charismatically" lost several million voters 1997-2007, mostly to abstention, but Labour only lost a parliamentary majority when house prices fell.

Probably, but this is somewhat controversial, leaders and the press make *some* difference, in extreme cases worth up to some percentage points.

As to «want Labour to revive social democracy for the 21st century» the alternative is not between "disaster" social-democratic Corbyn and "smooth" social-democratic X, because the mandelsonian PLP will never support a social-democratic X even if she were a smooth operator. They even attacked G Brown for being a far-left fool, and E Milliband for being a far-left fanatic, never mind "kenyan communist muslim" :-) J Corbyn. A very illustrative quote of a certain "New Conservatives" mindset, from the editor of the New Stateman:
«People felt the system was rigged against them. But the financial crisis and the Great Recession had created a social-democratic moment. [ ... ] Miliband is very much an old-style Hampstead socialist. He doesn’t really understand the lower middle class or material aspiration. He doesn’t understand Essex Man or Woman. [ ... ] And he might have to accept before long – or the electorate will force him to – that Europe’s social-democratic moment, if it ever existed, is fading into the past.»

Then my usual quote from L Price describing a strategy meeting among the top New Labour leadership in 1999-10-19:

«Philip Gould analysed our problem very clearly. We don’t know what we are. Gordon wants us to be a radical progressive, movement, but wants us to keep our heads down on Europe. Peter [Mandelson] thinks that we are a quasi-Conservative Party but that we should stick our necks out on Europe.»

Blissex said...

«any leader worthy of the title will have spent time reaching out to people who may not be his core support, but are prepared to give him the time of day.»

He has created a very mixed cabinet, with a majority of people sceptical of him. He has even started speaking the party line even when it was different from his preferred line, except where it conflicted with his principled, and then he refused to speak against it, or declared a free vote about it. As a leader he has made a very big change from the times where as an individual felt freer to speak for himself.

«I'd say more than 100 of those who signed the no confidence vote had been prepared to give Corbyn a chance but had become disillusioned by the summer.»

So merely "disillusioned" people instead of waiting and seeing or letting someone go ahead start attacking their own party leader, who has been doing fairly well at the poll, just at the time when the tories are in a massive shambles, and the Chilcot report is about to be published. Not only that, but over 60 of them who had been given shadow-cabinet posts by the leader being "disillusioned" resign very publicly attacking their leader, following a spin-doctored schedule. and none of those 100 MPs speak out against that. That's quite amazing for "disillusion" :-).

Consider, and it is fortunate that such a point of reference exists, the behaviour of Andy Burnham, the second in the previous leadership contest, and likely at least partly disillusioned with J Corbyn too, if only because of that; he wrote on 2016-06-26:

«It is for our members to decide who leads our Party & 10 months ago they gave Jeremy Corbyn a resounding mandate. I respect that & them»

He has not resigned as shadow Home secretary, he has not attacked Corbyn even if he has not been enthusiastic for him either. At times I suspect that Corbyn thinks that his job is to ensure a very mild nudge to the left for Labour, and pave the way for a successor that is prepared to live with that, and he may be thinking of Burnham.

BTW, I just did a web search and found some amusing news:
«On 3 June the three Labour candidates to be the Mayor of Greater Manchester attended a meeting with local Co-op Party members. After listening to the candidates, members voted to back Tony Lloyd, [ ... ] Also seeking to obtain the Labour Party’s nomination are Ivan Lewis, MP for Bury South and Andy Burnham, shadow home secretary and MP for Leigh. Mr Lewis served as a minister in the Blair and Brown governments. A member of the Co-op Party, Mr Burnham was involved in setting up Supporters Direct.»

But then as we know:
«Burnham won 51% of a vote from party members in the region, beating the area’s police and crime commissioner and interim mayor, Tony Lloyd (29%), and the MP for Bury South, Ivan Lewis, who was a government minister under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown (19.8%).»

Looks like he was considered too left wing by the members of his party, but not by the members of Labour.

Makhno said...

@Paul Canning

Not heard anything about those Smith comments and Twitter Corbyn supporters would surely have brought them to my attention.

Well, I guess if no one Twittered it at you then it can't have happened, can it?

Except, of course, it did.

Lidl_Janus said...

The problem with a three-million-member party is that, at present, all evidence suggests such a party would consist of hundreds of thousands of members each piled up in London, Bristol and Brighton, and similar areas, whilst the small and medium towns in the Midlands which actually contain the marginal seats (yes, including motherfucking Nuneaton) still continue to spread as thin as ever. I just checked the online presence of my own nearest CLPs, and if Corbynmania has hit the region, it's very much by stealth.

The OP also dodges around the fact that, whilst there's certainly a case against the PLP, there's absolutely none in favour of Corbyn as an actual individual - he's no policy wonk, man-manager, rhetorician, spin bowler, brand developer, clean slate or ideological intellectual. Blair, Brown and Miliband were at least some of these things during at least some of their leadership, and yet Corbyn has an abject lack of any of these talents, so why this particular man? The only real reason is because McDonnell and Abbott would offend the electorate even more.

Phil said...

The piling up isn't confined exclusively to the big cities. Locally, for instance, the membership is much higher in Labour held marginal Newcastle-under-Lyme than any of the Stoke CLPs. I wouldn't be surprised if the same is true of local safe Tory seats like the Moorlands and Stafford now.

As for Corbyn, I'll be writing something critical on him as soon as the election is over. But 'why Corbyn?' is a very interesting question, and one that deserves some thought ...

Blissex said...

«at present, all evidence suggests such a party would consist of hundreds of thousands of members each piled up in London, Bristol and Brighton, and similar areas»

That is indeed an interesting point. Coincides with the university towns where "Remain" won. But there are reports of Corbyn being popular in many traditional areas, look at the map of CLPs who have declared for Corbyn.

Anyhow New Labour (and not only) campaigned against AV. Too bad for that. FPTP works too well at making median voters win elections, and the median voter, which is not the median citizen, is typically a tory-ish small-property rentier in some affluent market town.

«there's certainly a case against the PLP, there's absolutely none in favour of Corbyn as an actual individual»

What about "popilar" and "good campaigner" and "motivating"?

But also what if he is just good enough? That he just advocates the policies most members advocate? Not everybody is a managerialist and thinks that only magic leaders give victory.

«The only real reason is because McDonnell and Abbott»

Decades have passed for both Corbyn and McDonnell, office seems to have made them more cautious, and McDonnel currently looks like a moderate hattersleyte like Corbyn. But Abbott seems to me just a tiresome "identity politics" politically-correct SJW.

If you remember, right-wingers nominated Corbyn for the 2015 election precisely he seemed like the most unelectably extreme, other-worldly candidate from the Labour wing of the Labour party. What a surprise that he has been.

jim mclean said...

Corbyn and McDonell are the wrong side of Scotland's very much active sectarian divide to have much effect in parts of this country, and the few of us that support Labour do not see much comfort in either of the leadership challengers. Reports in the Herald suggest that Glasgow is in total meltdown, open talk about a City Unionist alliance after next years local elections. With the deputy Scottish leader openly campaigning against the leader there will be a split, especially as Corbyn refuses to mention Dugdale by name, the conceited oaf. Not a nice man really and Smith is out of his depth. DD cancellation may be on the way. Think I'll stick to collecting vinyl.