Thursday 31 October 2019

If Labour Loses ...

As households shudder in anticipation of the nation's trick or treat'ers descending on their doorstep, there is a terrifying something Labour people need to think about. There's this frightful ghoul haunting our political imaginations - and one we need to face up to. I'm talking about the spectre of defeat. Yes, this general election is open and no one knows what result we'll be cheering or booing when the exit poll drops. Labour has its plan and can win, and so does Boris Johnson. Therefore if things go awry for Labour, we have to think about what happens next. We need to plan for victory and defeat and do so now.

Obviously, there is losing and there is losing. Labour lost the 2017 general election but confounded expectations to such a degree that it effectively emerged the winner, while Theresa May will forever be tarnished with the brush of failure. This time, if we do improve our vote and gain seats but not become the biggest party, or if we fall back, following John McDonnell's remarks earlier this month it is likely both he and Jeremy will resign. If that is the case, nevertheless there is no pressing reason why both should step down immediately. For example, Michael Howard stayed in post as Tory caretaker after their 2005 defeat while its leadership election was going on. There's no reason why we couldn't do the same and indeed, we should encourage Jeremy and John to do so. As this brief exchange notes, there is unfinished business aplenty when it comes to rule changes. The departure of Corbyn does not necessarily and should not herald the end of the left's dominance of the party. We still need his NEC seat while the contest unfolds and, well, do you really want Tom Watson as the interim boss?

That's the first thing then. Jeremy staying in post helps stymie the shenanigans of the right while the leadership is up in the air. There is a second more important reason for his staying on temporarily: the membership. It is true people flocked to the Labour Party not because of Jeremy's saintliness or magic grandpa nonsense, but because he articulated something different and broke decisively with the miserable managerialism of his predecessor. His continued tenure at the top of the party is a short cut for the millions who don't follow things closely indicating that the party's heart remains in the right place, and is pushing policies that stick up for constituencies long neglected by previous Labour leaderships, and the rest. Unfortunately, because Corbynism hasn't bedded down a programme of education and cultural transformation (it's still the case that if you want to avoid politics, your best bet is a Labour Party meeting), there is every danger his resignation would see tens of thousands of members follow suit and/or let their subscriptions lapse - as well as an unwelcome return of the brigades of melts and right wingers who previously, and very kindly assisted the left's efforts by demobilising themselves. Obviously, it goes without saying that the left will continue to rule the roost as long as it has the numbers, recent setbacks notwithstanding.

It's therefore encouraging then to see Jeremy plug Momentum, considering it has a big role in whatever happens next. The more members that can be signed up with the organised left, the more we will hang on to and continue our programme of transforming the party. Conversely, the more isolated the member, the more likely any shock of defeat and ensuing despair will push them back into private life.

And lastly, the most vexed question is who comes after Jeremy? It's pointless speculating and picking and choosing while the campaign is fresh and winning is a very real possibility, but there's no point being naive. Would-be leadership contenders will be doing their quiet soundings right now, asking for support here and there, lining up union backing and making sure their people are ready for the stretch of internal campaigning. It's what happened in 2010 and 2015 ... For Corbynism after Corbyn, however, our objective has to be the maintenance of our policy platform, the only one appropriate to the conditions of the 21st century, and unite around one leadership candidate who can consolidate the work already done and build on it.

Again, this is not a counsel of despair. Labour can win and, according to the patron saint of polling, John Curtice, a Labour minority government is the most likely outcome. But if that LibDem vote stays stubborn and, despite the deepening social problems and environmental crisis we're mired in, Brexit dominates everything - as Johnson hopes - we have to be prepared to fail as well. Nothing is set in stone. If we stumble on the 12th there will be new crises, new opportunities, and openings Labour can exploit. We can still make this century ours if we suffer a setback, but let's be clear, none of us want to spend the next five years pratting around with a socially regressive Brexit deal while the climate heats up. We're playing with high stakes, and the left needs to be prepared for the next move if it doesn't go our way.

Image Credit


Steven said...

I really think in the event of a leadership contest Rayner'd be the one to beat. Starmer would stand and'd be formidable initially but'd likely come across as boring and managerial in the event of a drawn-out contest. I think Rayner is virtually the only figure who'd be able to act as a unity candidate, marrying much of Corbyn's base (which'd splinter) with a willingness to soften the project for the PLP. It's probably a mild sign of success post-2017 that, for the first time, the credible names in the mix for next leader are largely new blood, and wouldn't necessarily have erasing the entirety of Corbyn's tenure as their day 1 priority.

She'd potentially end up roughly at Milibandism, but with a more competent performer in situ. But I'd be happy to be proven wrong and for her to be much better than that. She's a cut above Smith, Cooper, Burnham - politically and as a political personality - but yeah, we'll see how left her instincts end up being. She's impressive tho, she's the politician swathes of the press pretend Jess Philips is.

A lot of people I know want Pidcock to stand, and I like her, but I don't know how many nominations she'd get, and I think she likely needs more time unfortunately. I don't think Corbyn's coalition is transferable to anyone. It's an interesting thing really - only he could've won those leadership elections for the left, but also the things inhibiting a left advance more generally (ie, the need for discipline in the PLP and more losses of the whip) are also elements entirely baked into his personality. Only he could get the left this far, but he's also (potentially) the thing stopping us getting much further. It's one of the strangest political problems I've encountered. Not sure it's resolvable. Unless we win this election - at which point the left in the UK is changed, literally forever.

Anonymous said...

As you say, the scale of any defeat will be decisive. But if Corbyn (and so McDonnell) go, I suspect the shallow and fragile roots of Corbynism will be thrown into sharp relief. A defeat that results in a majority Tory government will facilitate a jolt to the right within some key unions as the strategic priority becomes "how do we win next time at almost any cost."

The PLP will re-assert its autonomy, aided by the media and some unions, before a policy review relegates most of McDonnell's pseudo-radical Keynesianism to history. The left will shatter between electoral pragmatists and Corbynista true believers. Revulsion at a Johnson government will lead most to submit to the electoralist logics of the PLP majority.

But hopefully some on the left will use the extra time they have as a result of being marginalised from influence within the party to read (or re-read) Ralph Miliband, Leo Panitch and David Coates - and so begin to understand why the socialist tranformation of Labour was always a doomed project.


Anonymous said...

Lets not get tired after this election. I agree it is about clever organisation. Good morning read.

Speedy said...

Sadly much of the Left, which had taken over the Labour movement, prefers the purity of oppositionalism over the compromises of government.

Outside of power it is little more than a dreamers' social club and far from the purpose the Labour movement was established to achieve - power.

Corbyn defines this tendency. The former private school boy had his rightful place on the fringes of the Labour movement, as a kind of crystal conscience, and the freedom to stand for his beliefs without compromise. But now a sort of self-deluding bourgeois lunacy has propelled him to leadership, this will simply not stand. Indeed, even his bourgeois supporters, many of whom will be looking toward the Lib Dems, have had the scales fall from their eyes over his EU stance.

When Boris wins in December, it will mean 15 years without Labour. Slashed services and the collapse of economic growth, and of course, Brexit. The Tories will do as the Tories will, but their greatest ally has been the leadership of the Labour Party - from Milliband on. Indeed, they might as well make them honorary Tories.

Boffy said...

Its a disgrace that again so many Blair-right sitting MP's will get a free pass. Day 1 of Corbyn's leadership should have seen mandatory reselection tabled, and a clear out undertaken.

The truth is there is a dearth of candidates that could be supported. Even if Labour wins, Corbyn will be hostage to the PLP Right. Until we get MP's that reflect the party, there is little point having a token left-winger as leader of them.

Anonymous said...

I think one of the key questions is how to respond to what will be the most right-wing government in Britain since the 1920s. I am hoping for a Coryn victory, but if this does not come about, and Johnson gets a working majority, which I fear, we will see policies that the more cautious Tories (and there were some) would have watered down. I've little time for people like Clarke or Grieve, but with Tories like them gone, the kind of Tory MP elected in 2019 will make them look like reasonable sensible liberals. I suspect that we will see more privatisation, the NHS handed over to US interests, the hammering down of what is left of the welfare state, and an escalation in military expenditure and actions. I doubt if the state pension will survive, and at some point some bean counter will look at the railway system and decide that a new Beeching is essential. I think this is just a sample of the sorts of policies that a new far-right government will try to bring about. Given that this is not impossible, what should the Left have in mind to do if there isn't a Corbyn victory?

I'm glad someone has raised the question of a successor to Corbyn - hopefully he will be prime minister, but if not - Angela Rayner would be a good candidate, Keir Starmer might well succeed, but I would think Clive Lewis would be as good as any. I am interested to note that no-one has mentioned Emily Thornberry or Diane Abbott.

In a succession, who will the Right-wing of the Labour Party put up? Owen Smith is going, so not him. Angela Eagle, maybe? Or Jess Phillips, or someone like Peter Kyle or Neil Coyle?

BCFG said...

“Sadly much of the Left, which had taken over the Labour movement, prefers the purity of oppositionalism over the compromises of government. “

Speedy once again showing his true blue colours, what a disingenuous so and so. I mean what is the point of compromising your policies to the point that they simply parrot those of the opposition! Why not just say, vote for the opposition. I think this is the message of speedy. VOTE TORY WHOEVER YOU VOTE FOR!

And what about the Tories, do they compromise ib givernment? This is the party that destroyed entire industries in the 1980’s, who laid waste to entire communities. This is the party that has murdered over 120,000 salt of the Earth, God Save the Queen Brits with their highly destructive austerity policies, putting every so called terrorist group in history to shame killing more Brits in 10 years than every so called terrorist organisation in history! There has not been a whiff of compromise from the Tories in their entire history! That is one thing I admire them for.

Therefore if Labour lose they should not fall into the trap of moving toward the Tories, the message should be no compromise with the Tory party.

And if Labour do win, for gods sake be as uncompromising and as ruthless as the Tories are when in power. Let the tax dodgers quake in their boots at the prospect of a Labour victory!

Speedy said he wanted to abolish private schools and said he wanted a government who could actually deliver it. That will never ever ever ever happen if Blairite Tories are in charge of Labour, the only way that could ever ever ever happen is if genuine progressives were patient, were prepared to lose elections and when the opportunity struck, when in power they actually made radical policies and did not under any circumstances compromise with the Tories, the Murdoch billionaire media empire of the private schooling BBC.

If ever there was a message the left needed, it is do not compromise!!!!

“When Boris wins in December, it will mean 15 years without Labour.”

You mean 15 years since the overtly Thatcherite Blair gang were in power! What speedy is really afraid of is a genuine Labour movement! The differences between Yvette Cooper and George Osborne or so superficial it really isn’t worth getting out of bed to cast a vote, whichever way you voted you got some form of Tory.

You see charlatans like speedy have to pretend that the difference between the Tories and Blairite Tory lite Labour is some profound and monumental that we are all doomed if we chose the wrong side. The fact is you really wouldn’t notice any difference in your everyday lives. To be honest I suspect the same will happen with Corbyn, after all this is a leader who has allowed all his allies to be witch hunted out of the party while he lets his reprobate enemies stay in the party no matter how many provocations.

That does not bode well when it comes to driving through the radical policies which are required.

Speedy said...

WTF makes a valid point - I do support the Labour manifesto, but as I said previously, it hasn't got much chance of being implemented.

There was little mention of the destruction of industry in Thatcher's manifesto - in order to get elected you have to box clever, something Labour has never truly grasped. In many senses, be it cuddling up to business, or being honest with the electorate, they could be said to be the true 'stupid' party.

In an environment in which you have a hostile, capitalist-controlled media and a part-indoctrinated inherently conservative electorate, the process of re-education needs to be smart, as with the left in Denmark, for example.

You need to shift the basis of conservatism in a leftward direction. This could have been the destination of Blairism had he not supported the foolish war, even Brownism had he not ducked an early election. That's a big 'if' but a hell of a lot better than 10 years of Tory damage where conservatism has been shifted radically rightward which makes socialism even further away.

Of course, WTF is deaf to reason, and will keep the faith, and the Tories will keep winning, and that will be better than engaging reason - like any faith based fundamentalist, Labour are losing because they are not left enough, and they never will be (note his comment re Corbyn) - but if one follows not the lesson of the Taliban, but that of the Islamists, Turkey being a good example, you see that the grind of gradualism is the only true route to success, violent revolution notwithstanding.

BCFG said...

I don't think Labour are losing because they are not left enough (in fact whoever said that?). On the contrary I think Blairism best represents the political centre of the UK. But I want to change things, the idea that winning means dropping your values to ape those you despise seems illogical to my mind, as I said just vote for those you despise then.

But who cares about all that. I am a socialist and want the labour party to be a socialist party. I don't give a shit of we lose every election for the next 1000 years. There has never been a time in the last 50 years when we can say we have had anything approaching a socialist party in power in the UK, I think we can actually say that has never been the case. Frankly I am used to being ruled by Tories of one stripe or the other.

What I don't want is that the two main political parties simply represent the interests of the bourgeoisie, I want a party that represents me, my politics, my morals and my world view.

I don't want some Tory lite Blairite in power anymore than I want a Tory in power but I won't cry if it happens. People like speedy have to pretend that their is a world of difference between the Tory party and a Blairite party, there is jack all difference.

For me, even if Corbyn is crushed at the next election, which won't quite happen I don't think, I don't care. I say stick with the project. I would rather have a socialist in opposition than a Blairite in power.

Cspitalism is a death cult, ISIS are a model of reason and logic compared to the masses in the West, who would gladly see the destruction of the living environment before stopping consuming. You want proof, just see every scientific paper on the subject over the last 30 years and cross reference that with the statistical data for trends such as household debt, consumer spending, average energy usage per capita, voting patterns etc etc etc. It isn't hard.

We even have a situation where the death cultists are pretending they will cut their net carbon emissions to zero by 2050. This is so laughable if it wasn't so dangerous, to make that stand you would have to ignore entirely the consumption of every person in Britain and pretend that all that carbon is really being produced by super exploited Labour overseas.

It is typical of the economic stats in the fundamentalist and supremacist West. I Mean they don't even include in their economic statistics the wages of anyone who actually produces physical goods. Think about that for a second, look at every physical product you see and then realise that the people who actually made all that are not counted at all in the statistics.

Forget ISIS, modern Brits are among the most dangerous humans to have ever walked the face of the Earth, they need to be stopped and stopped fast! Again, please see every single scientific paper on the subject for the last 30 years.