Tuesday, 17 November 2020

The Reinstatement of Jeremy Corbyn

Absolutely the right decision. Following the farcical suspension of Jeremy Corbyn, the NEC disputes panel this afternoon met to reinstate him. Coming to a unanimous decision despite three of the panel not coming from the Corbyn-supporting wing of the party and one (one!) from the Labour First/Progress lash up, they came to the obvious conclusion it wouldn't stand up. By giving readmission the green light, they might just have saved Labour a lot of money in lost members' fees and possible litigation.

Despite the EHRC report decrying political interference in the complaints process, we saw a couple of goes coming from without and within. The Board of Deputies demanded the book be thrown at Jeremy, while overegging the findings of the EHRC report. And this afternoon, a group of anonymous (of course) Labour MPs were threatening to resign the whip if Jeremy was reinstated. Following the news, the "group" had reduced to one and by tomorrow? Zero in all likelihood.

The usual suspects had a winge and a moan, while Keir Starmer took to Twitter to put out a statement designed to placate everyone but is surely destined to annoy all and sundry. Surely he must be rueing the day his general secretary overreached his administrative powers and plunged Labour into another unnecessary mess.

The problem Keir has is he's a politics novice. Anyone could be forgiven for thinking a lawerly background would make him fleet of foot, intellectually speaking, and how he rose to the position of Director of Public Prosecutions suggests something about him. True, but going up the greasy pole of a state bureaucracy demands a different skillset to managing a political party. For one, MPs are not employees who can simply be bullied with blackmarks on the record and written warnings, and members, as voluntary participants, aren't about to be brought to heel as if they were minions not hitting sales tragets. Keir and David Evans therefore responded to the EHRC report and Jeremy's statement about it as managers instead of politicians. And by doing so, they've multiplied the pain.

Let's consider an alternative course of action. Keir could have put out an identical statement to today's, but three weeks ago. Not suspending Corbyn would have seen the same gnashing of teeth and bad faith grandstanding, but he could have absorbed the hit and within a week be concentrating on whatever he thinks he's concentrating on. Instead suspension has meant dragging the issue out, damaged Keir's standing as Mr Competence, reinforced the perception of Labour as a disunited party, and with nothing to show for it at the end. Rounds of applause for the grown ups in the room.

What Starmerism is is starting to become clearer. The process criticisms and concentration on Tory incompetence, the manager's fix for political problems, the impulse to restore public authority by sparing Boris Johnson political criticisms, an anaemic and overly technocratic Fabianism is the name of the game. This reflects Keir's personality and career trajectory, and sets the tone for the remainder of his leadership, whether this takes Labour into Number 10 again or not. We can now see the outlines of future crises and difficulties made worse by a mob-handed response with little thought given to the political balance in the party. One doesn't need the clairvoyance of Mystic Meg to divine future trouble with the left. And the right.

Image Credit


Jim Denham said...

Phil: you seem to see antisemitism simply as a transaction and management matter for the Labour Party (happily, you have not gone along with antisemitic conspiracy theories) How about considering it as an historic affront to Jewish people, and that Corbyn's reaction was completely inadequate? I'm not even sure that his latest staement (which is a considerable improvement upon his previous response to the EHMR report) is sufficient. he still seems unable to understand why his half-hearted response to this simply will not do: I believe Kariee Murphy and Seamus Milne helped him draw up his previous response: well, he should have no more to do with them, for a start.

James said...

I actually think Starmer had better options last month than simply take some heat for a week then move on

If he actually wanted to solve the antisemitism problem, the only way is to depoliticize it, since as long as its a factional struggle, some comrades are going to react defensively to criticism, while the bad faith actors on the right don't actually want it to end, and will always look for opportunities to keep it going.

The EHRC report was the perfect opportunity to do this, because it was focused on process and didn't blame Corbyn. He should have just accepted the report, talked at length about the procedural reforms he'd implement, and completely ignored Corbyn - no need for a ritual condemnation. If he was put on the spot he could've just said "well I don't agree with that part of Corbyn's statement but the important thing is Corbyn agrees we should implement the report's recommendations." He shouldn't have let it become about Corbyn

Instead, he's managed to create the impression that the EHRC report does blame Corbyn, and that Corbyn rejected the report

Blissex said...

As I commented previously that the suspension of Corbyn by New, New Labour for *comments about* the report, instead of the contents of the report, means that the EHCR report has fully exonerated Corbyn.

That even New, New Labour has had to find the suspension itself for *comments about* the report to be unjustified seems to be an even fuller exoneration.

Anonymous said...

"how he rose to the position of Director of Public Prosecutions suggests something about him"

How generous of you! The trouble with some on the Left is they can't stand the working-class striver.

What does your career trajectory say about you?

Unknown said...

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From: simon sheppard
Subject: FREE ONLINE EVENT: 100 years of discoveries, disposals and debates: communism in Britain through its archives


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Alan Story said...

A good column Phil.

Yes, Starmer is a political novice and a prisoner of his background.

Re: the latter about Corbyn. He was too.

Being a backbench and often a dissenting Labour MP for three decades “demands a different skillset to managing a political party.”

Jon Hegerty said...

I think you've hit the nail on the head - Starmer approaches issues from that of a Manager. His attacks on the Tories have been based on their Incompetence rather than their Ideology. This implies there is no ideological difference between the parties - Labour aspire to manage capitalism more competently and effectively than the Tories.

Blissex said...

«Instead, he's managed to create the impression that the EHRC report does blame Corbyn, and that Corbyn rejected the report»

What a "surprise"! We are all astonished that a "forensic" barrister of great skill with words managed to make an inadvertent "mistake" like that. :-) (note also her weasely, "forensic" wording "if he thinks" instead of "as he thinks".

Equally surprisingly some other people made the same "mistake" :-):

«Margaret Hodge, the Labour MP for Barking and Dagenham, said: “I simply cannot comprehend why it is acceptable for Corbyn to be a Labour MP if he thinks antisemitism is exaggerated and a political attack, refuses to apologise, never takes responsibility for his actions and rejects the findings of the EHRC [Equality and Human Rights Commission] report.”»

Boffy said...

The decision of the NEC has put Starmer in a predicament, and now he's refused to restore the whip to Corbyn even though the NEC has lifted its suspension. Starmer is the creature of the Right. They pull his strings. Suspending Corbyn was a deliberate provocation of the Left, shown by the fact that already CLP officials have themselves been suspended just for discussing the EHRC Report, and Corbyn's suspension and demanding his reinstatement.

The JLM opposed him being brought back, backed up not unsurprisingly by the Tories who lead the Board of Deputies, Jewish Chronicle and so on, and that appears to be the position of the PLP Right-Wing who pull Starmer’s strings!

Of course, Corbyn did back track again, unnecessarily, just as he has done for the last 5 years, which is what has encouraged these witchhunters to pursue their course against the Left during all that time. They will not be satisfied until Starmer has removed all the left, and made Labour once more into a right-wing, conservative social-democratic party serving the interests of the top 0.01%, and the JLM, JC, and Board of Deputies will never be satisfied until Labour is destroyed completely, so as to give free rein to their friends in the Tory Party, or to make Labour into an even more Israel Friendly vehicle than are the Tories.

None of that has anything to do with fighting anti-Semitism, because unlike Corbyn and many on the Left those forces have never been seen anywhere near an anti-fascist demonstration, and instead are to be seen hob-nobbing with the friends of Trump, or sending congratulations to other anti-Semites like Orban.

Phil said...

The left have got nothing against "strivers", anonymous. They do however have something against clueless people getting into post and acting cluelessly.

Jim Denham said...

Clueless people getting into post and acting cluelessly": you mean one J. Corbyn ?

Stuart Davis said...

Ok I've not dug very deep but I've yet to see an example of this so called antisemitism, or the names of complainants or what they were offended by.
Unless of course support for Palestine counts.?
It shouldn't , unless of course the oppression of those people is an intrinsic part of the Jewish identity.
The Israeli government is a political entity not a faith or religion and by no means representative of the views of ALL of its electorate, so WHO is offended by its critics?

Blissex said...

«"how he rose to the position of Director of Public Prosecutions suggests something about him"
How generous of you! The trouble with some on the Left is they can't stand the working-class striver.»

The DPP is a delicate political role, where loyalty to the ruling elites is absolute requirement.
Starmer can only have got it after careful political loyalty vetting, which is pretty common for posts of some influence: even BBC journalists "used to" be (less carefully) vetted for political loyalty.

Anonymous said...

For someone whose 'clueless', he seems to be doing okay in the polls.

There's a basic disconnect here between being 'right' and not winning, and being 'wrong' and winning.

It has always been a fundamental problem for the Left - how to get elected on a left-leaning manifesto in a right-leaning country, within a hostile media environment.

The answer is: with extreme difficulty, which is why the Tories keep winning. The Left, therefore, has to ask itself whether it prefers a gradualist approach or honourable loser status. It seems it prefers the latter every time, almost perfectly embodied by Jeremy.

Meanwhile the decades roll on, the discourse shifts further to the right, leaving the Left further to travel. You would be quite correct to say Labour's last election manifesto would have seemed right-wing to Michael Foot et al.

That's evidence. You can choose to ignore it, as is your want, or get behind a candidate who stands a chance of turning the tanker back.

Karl Greenall said...

So first of all, find a candidate who will try to turn the tanker back.
The left needs to get itself properly organised and be as ruthless in it's direction of political travel for the benefit of general society as the right are for their own selfish ends.

Ian Gibson said...

"For someone whose 'clueless', he seems to be doing okay in the polls."

On what planet is he, or Labour, doing well in the polls? And this is still with the press holding their fire, for goodness' sakes!

Anonymous said...

Starmer's Labour is not doing as well as some would like or wish, that is true. But he has generally maintained a positive poll rating despite recent controversies, compare that to Corbyn's minus 60 last year.

If nothing else, it is still amusing to see leftists use the "20 points ahead" meme seriously rather than (as originally intended) ironically.

Blissex said...

«But he has generally maintained a positive poll rating despite recent controversies, compare that to Corbyn's minus 60 last year.»

Keir Starmer has a much lower absolute positive and difference between negative and positive rating than Boris Johson, a clownish performer.

In any case the "leader" usually has a small impact on the party's polling, especially at election time, as voting depends on "vote moving issues" of which the leader is almost never part (except in the case of electorally toxic Tony Blair, who lost New Labour a large chunk of votes, saved only by the Conservatives managing to be even more electorally toxic).

As to voting intentions (which again are not necessarily indicative), Labour during Corbyn's tenure maintained for years better ones than New, New Labour during Starmer's, despite being opposed by a much better Conservative cabinet and the ferocious opposition of the press, and obviously "something" (wreckers...) around in April 2019:


In particular Labour's voting intentions rose immediately after the resignation of Corbyn, up to 2019-12-16, but they have hardly improved ever since, so the Keir Starmer effect has been negligible:


The tory press currently gives Starmer respect as a fellow thatcherite (even if whig and not tory), and the whig press (The Guardian, Independent, FT, Economist) praise him to heavens for being a fellow whig thatcherite.

9% Positive opinion; 15% Negative opinion; 18% Neutral opinion; 42% Have heard of

28% Positive opinion; 28% Negative opinion; 26% Neutral opinion; 83% Have heard of

40% Positive opinion; 35% Negative opinion; 24% Neutral opinion; 99% Have heard of

Now one can say that Keir Starmer is so unpopular compared to Boris Johnson because he is less known, but let's look at newcomer Rishi Sunak, unknown until recently:

48% Positive opinion; 17% Negative opinion; 23% Neutral opinionl; 88% Have heard of

What about replacing Keir Starmer with Rishi Sunak as leader of New. New Labour? He has got it all to be a second Tony Blair: thatcherite whig, "atlanticist", Likud supporter, wide smile, and he is way less electorally toxic.

Ian Gibson said...

"he has generally maintained a positive poll rating despite recent controversies, compare that to Corbyn's minus 60 last year." Given the alternate universes in which they were/are operating, any argument which relies on comparison with Corbyn only emphasises how poorly Starmer is doing. If Corbyn had enjoyed the environment and favour that Starmer currently does, it's entirely possible he would have been 60 points ahead. When the monster turns its poison breath on Starmer - and my belief is it will, because I don't see him ever coming up with a compelling enough political vision to persuade it not to, no matter how appalling the incumbent government - then see how he compares. As things stand at present, I find it entirely plausible that Labour will win fewer seats in the next general election, even before boundary changes.