Sunday 22 November 2015

Jeremy Corbyn and Insecurity

Relax, Labour is not going to lose the Oldham by-election so there's no need to look for a bus to throw Jeremy under. It will be fine. Ish. Yes, the majority bequeathed by Michael Meacher is going to be cut, and part of that's because fewer people turn out for by-elections unless fired up by some motivating factor or another. Yet the coming performance can, should, and will be read as an early verdict on Jeremy's leadership.

Remember, Oldham West is a so-called "core area" filled full with "our people" - a mix of white and Asian working class and small business people. If Labour cannot win and win convincingly in a constituency of this composition, then we're in trouble. Second, much was made during the Labour leadership campaign that Jeremy had what it takes to reach out to voters alienated from politics, chiefly Labour people who've drifted to UKIP, or lapsed into voter abstention. Can his leadership inspire these folks back to the fold? Well, going by the inside track among activists who've worked the seat solidly these last few weeks, there is a Jeremy effect but, unfortunately, not the one the tens of thousands who supported him were hoping for. Apparently, one-in-ten of our regular supporters are either thinking of sitting at home or flirting with another party on by-election day.

As any party activist will tell you, voter ID is hardly a benchmark the science of data collection relies on. But then there is that ComRes poll that has the Conservatives on a 15-point lead. Is that the sky I hear tumbling down outside my door? No. As UK Polling Report note in their useful commentary on the poll, this is less a result of our party vote fracturing and more a case of them weighting it to reflect turn outs by class and age demographics. This could be dismissed seeing how the pollsters proper cocked up the general election, but the trend - also helpfully provided on the aforementioned - is one of divergence vis a vis the Tories. If that wasn't annoying enough, the actual votes in actual local council by-elections this month are pretty poor, and with only one more Thursday to go it's unlikely Labour are going to pull the irons from the fire in time to avoid turning in the worst monthly performance since this blog started tracking local by-elections.

This could be a temporary blip, a week being a long time and all that. Unfortunately, I don't think this is the case. Consider this for a moment. The government are on the ropes over tax credits. Jeremy Hunt, the clutz in charge of flogging off NHS services to "any willing provider", has provoked an ill-judged dispute with junior doctors. He's had his face smacked by a 98% support for full strike action on a 76% turn out. This week Osborne's going to announce more swingeing cuts to public services and, if that wasn't all, the press regardless of political complexion has been rammed with coverage over the shitty behaviour of Mark Clarke and the predatory cesspit of Tory activist life. It's hard to imagine the enemies of our movement getting a rougher ride out there in real-life land, and yet our support is failing. Why?

The Tories won in May because they played the fear card. They could very well win in 2020 as their policies increase precarity and pile up social anxiety. What Labour needs to do is make the issue of security its own. I've been banging about it for ages, not least because insecurity and the fear it engenders is the well-spring for all manner of nasties. Racism, antipathy to immigrants, social distrust, UKIP/far right voting. This was something the old leadership under Saint Ed at best only half-got, but what Jeremy and co. understood. Until this week.

Jeremy's position on shoot-to-kill is right, but was handled spectacularly badly in the wake of the Paris attacks. His equivocal response painted his leadership into a corner that suggested he would not countenance armed responses to terrorists on the streets of Britain. Very quickly, it didn't take much to string this together with his pacifism, with John McDonnell's did-he/didn't-he signing of a letter calling for the abolition of MI5 and armed police, opposition to bombing IS targets in Syria, and long-term objection to Trident replacement, And in so doing, Jez fell into a bind of his own making. In an anxious country where the Bulldog spirit has long since evaporated and insecurity is milked for political purposes, putting yourself out there as someone who isn't prepared to do what is perceived to be necessary to make the country safe against its enemies is doomed politically and guaranteed to fail electorally. In short, Jeremy has positioned the party as an unsafe option, and that is not a great place to be in.

Can Labour come back from this and win? It pains me to say this. I think anyone addressing the British political scene soberly, with an understanding of the emotions, the interests, the shifts that structure it day-to-day and week-to-week is going to have to err on the side of no. It's one thing to stir up insecurity for political benefit, as the Tories are past masters at doing. Quite another to be seen inadequate and equivocal before it.


Howard Huller said...

Jeremy Corbyn was wrong on "shoot to kill".Full stop. He not only appears weak, but is weak when it comes to security which in the current climate will be a vote loser.

He does not act like someone with the ability to become Prime Minister. He dithers and appears blinkered in his outlook which has been set by years of protesting without having any responsibility.

Add to that his previous support for the IRA, current friendship with Hamas and the fifth columnists of the so-called Stop the War Coalition and ordinary working people are not impressed let alone those sections of the electorate that are not easily won over by Labour but needed for victory and the picture is bleak.

Labour does appear to have a problem in Oldham the result of which will lead to further conflict within the party even if the non-Corbynite candidate wins.

Labour is a shambles. Corbyn is useless. Only the Tories will so long as he is in charge.

Boffy said...

The COMRES poll is a rogue as Polling Report say, and a look at the other polls by other companies shows Labour's rating rising not falling.

That's despite the viciousness of the attacks on him by the media, and the endless supply of Blair-right MP's ferried on to the media, who seem to be itching for Labour to lose, just to prove their point.

But, as I said recently Corbyn and other social democrats have a problem, which stems from their schizophrenic attitude to the state. McDonnell has particularly seemed to be continually apologising for the correct positions he has previously advocated, and part of the reason for that is that he isn't prepared to say openly what needs to be done here and now to build the kind of structures required to replace the existing state.

The US, for example, has in its Constitution as the Second Amendment, the establishment of a Citizen's Militia, and the right as part of that militia for each individual to bear arms. The reason they adopted that was because they wanted to prevent another King George III from assuming power over them.

As the WW have pointed out this week, in the year that the signing of Magna Carta is being celebrated, the idea of the state, or the Monarch having a standing army at their disposal, outside actual wars, was seriously opposed, for a similar reason.

Of course, socialists are not going to advocate the immediate dismantling of the armed forces or the police force, but what is required is to raise the demand here and now for every citizen to have the duty of taking part in the policing of their communities, and being part of such citizen's militia, in just the same way that they have a duty to take part in Jury Service, or is required to be conscripted when the existing state requires them to fight the wars it chooses to fight.

But, the idea that it is the duty of every citizen to undertake such action, and their right to do so if they want to maintain their liberty against the potential of the capitalist state - or any other state encroaching upon it - is inextricably tied to the idea that those citizens - overwhelmingly workers - have the same rights and duties in engaging in the control of every other aspect of their lives, including over their workplace. That should not be subcontracted out to a state, which is our main enemy.

Igor Belanov said...

The Labour Party is unlikely to do well in electoral contests when the vast majority of its professional politicians openly oppose the leader, who was overwhelmingly supported by the party's members and supporters.

When half the PLP vote for Cameron's bombing plan then the party will finally be on its last legs, just waiting for someone to give the coup de grace. It's been coming for some time.

jim mclean said...

Labour in England and Wales seems to be in quite a strong position, unlike Scotland where they are all but finished, Wendy Alexander, love her or loathe her could have revitalised the party had she not had the rug pulled from under her feet at every turn, but it is too late now as the actual structure of the party has collapsed outside the cities, and in the cities and Labour heartlands cronyism, corruption and associatiing with "businessmen" has tainted the party. Demographics, we are dying off and our kids are living in a non unionised world of casual short term contracts with no hope of a decent home or long term career. In England and Wales the Party is still functioning as a political movement and as for unity within the party it is far better than the tories who ar about to blow themselves apart. General Election in 2017.

Phil said...

Here's a theory: the rationality of politics depends on genuine debate. When political debate is structured around a left-right polarity and the left adopts large swathes of the right's positions, you don't get a friendly, consensual debate: you get no debate, and if the situation persists for long enough rational politics withers and dies.

On foreign policy, on counter-terrorism, on unemployment, on economic management - in a whole range of areas, British political debate has basically gone insane. Bringing sanity back will take time, and won't always be what the people want there and then, but it's got to be done.

I just wish the leader elected with an unassailable majority through the party's own democratic structures had a bit more support - even passive, tacitly resentful support would be an improvement at the moment. What's Tom Watson doing?

Speedy said...

It's interesting watching the Labour Party Random Excuse Generator here in the comments - Labour will lose the next election because of the media, the PLP, those wicked Tories, the stupidity of the voters, etc.

It's always someone elses fault - if you had a friend like this, what would you be thinking?

At some point in his or her self-pitying ramble, wouldn't you be thinking - maybe it's time to look in the mirror, mate.

Boffy said...

It will rather be the catalyst for the part members to begin the process of bringing appearance and reality into alignment by starting to remove the recalcitrant MP's from their positions, and Momentum should be quite open about the fact that that is what they will help organise.

It is only the same process taking palce as that which led to the formation of Syriza and Podemos, and other such social democratic forces, except it is more healthily happening inside an existing social-democratic party that had been captured by conservative ideas.

Chris said...

I don't care if we win. All I care about is that we are right. If voters don't like that they can vote for someone else.

Organized Rage. said...


You are overlooking how these day politics and people's minds can change in double quick time, if there is one lesson from Jeremy's leadership victory surely it's this and the examples of the rise of Podemos, Syriza and dare I say it UKIP. Now really isn't the time to poke
the coals of loss.

there are cards on the table the leadership should turn over, floating ring fenced tax rises to fund NHS adequately, No support for airstrikes unless UN resolution is inclusive of Syrian government, need I go on?

Anonymous said...

"Relax, Labour is not going to lose the Oldham by-election..."

In 2 separate polls (Sept 30 and Oct 4), Labour were shown to have a 19% lead over Ukip in the Heywood by election of Oct 9 2014. On the day, Labour won by a 2.2% lead, a majority of 617.

So, what happened there? How could a 19% lead collapse to a 2.2% one?

The Rochdale scandal, the Lee Rigby murder (he was born in the constituency) and the strong probability the polls were as messed up here as they were at the General Election.

Heywood is the neighbouring constituency to Oldham. The Clacton by election was help on Oct 9 as well so Ukip were stretched. This time, they're not.

At the moment, it's difficult to say what the outcome will be in Oldham but, I'm sure of one thing and that is Ukip will do well. Their odds have come down from 8/1 to 4/1 (7/2 in places) and, even if an opinion poll showed Labour with a huge lead, it wouldn't be trusted.

We'll have to wait and see then. One thing is certain, if Ukip come close or even win, the "blame game" in Labour will continue. It will either be "Corbyn's fault" or the "disloyal Right" and the civil war will continue although at a much more acrimonious level.

John R,_2014

BCFG said...

Howard Fuller would shoot to kill anybody opposing Israel. i think Corbyn's stance on shoot to kill is admirable and shows he can be a strong leader by not pandering to our unfree media.

It is this unfree media, relentlessly attacking Corbyn, from the TV to the crap they hand out on the buses for free that will make it hard for Labour to make headway in the short term.

What we shouldn't do, apart from listen to Howard Fuller, is make the mistake of pandering to the so called centre ground, this is the basis on which New Labour was founded. Instead the labour party should hold firm to its principles, safe in the knowledge that at some point people will reject the Tories. And then we will have the mandate to carry out socialist policies.

And instead of killing anyone with a dark face who moves in the wrong way we can actually end terrorism by taking on Israel, arresting Tony Blair for war crimes, paying compensation to the victims of the murderous Iraq war and offering a formal apology to the people of the Middle East for all the damage we have caused. You would think Fuller would keep a low profile because the policies he has consistently advocated have killed and displaced millions across the world and in Europe. These people are priceless to think they can call for more of the same. This is another illustration of the devastating impact of the unfree media. Instead of sober analysis we get a barrage of mind control.

I don't think the Fuller solution, lets just kill everyone we don't like, will ultimately succeed. After all it is the kill first and ask questions later policy that has created this mess in the first place.

Corbyn is more essential now than ever. People will slowly realise this. The next general election is not until 2020, why panic now, why panic at all?

Anonymous said...

"It is this unfree media, relentlessly attacking Corbyn, from the TV to the crap they hand out on the buses for free that will make it hard for Labour to make headway in the short term."

It was the fact that in Britain the media is free, and that there is freedom of speech, assembly and so on that meant that Jeremy could speak out, attend large rallies across the country and so on, which led to him getting elected. Its why, despite its limited nature, socialists should fight to defend it tooth and nail, as against those who would have us believe that Britain's media is unfree just as in somewhere like Saudi Arabia. By contrast, in Saudi Arabia, which you continue to fail to attack, compared to your attacks on media freedom in the UK, and which you continue to refuse to distinguish from the UK, Jeremy and his supporters would today be facing beheading and crucifixion.

"What we shouldn't do". What is this "we" here, some kind of Royal "We"? You are not part of the Labour Party, you have not been part of the Labour Party, you have continually attacked the Labour Party, and its members, so you have forfeited any right to tell the Labour Party and its members what "We" , "It" or "They" should do.

If Labour Party members, and all those workers who have joined or rejoined in recent months had listened to people like you, and you endless whining about how hopeless everything is, because you only want to be able to align yourself with some already completed, perfect and pure vehicle, but never to engage in any kind of work to bring it about in the first place, Jeremy would never have been in a position to stand, or to have been elected!

The last thing "we" need" is to pay any attention to people like you, who have been wrong at every turn, and continue to be wrong at every turn now.


treborc said...

To many errors to many mistakes and not enough really Sharpe attacks on the Tories, with labour looking more split then at any time we are just waiting for the right wing take over.