If you believe in conspiracy theories, Tom Watson’s offering yesterday of a #TrotskyiteTwist was merely a polite way of him chucking in the towel. Like me, Tom has started resorting to posting cute cat pics on Twitter, but #InternationalCatDay might be something to do with that one.
Whatever your views about #Brexit, it’s worth catching Laura Kuenssberg’s documentary on it from earlier this week. And whatever your views about Laura’s reports, I think this documentary was fascinating, and as balanced as could have been given the circumstances. I remember being somewhat surprised at Laura Kuenssberg asking Jeremy Corbyn at the campaign launch himself whether the launch had been rather ‘lack lustre’, and there were clearly grievances about the degree of commitment from the leaders’ office. But taking the shooting match as a whole, Jeremy Corbyn never struck me more than a 7 out of 10. For him to have pitched it at 10/10 would have been ludicrous. Funnily enough, I don’t think being a lifelong friend of Tony Benn had determined the view of the official Leader of the Opposition. Benn’s views on the 1975 referendum are extremely well known, much in keeping with the contemporaneous Brexit campaign of ‘take back control’. Tony Benn himself apportioned credit to himself for having come up with the idea of giving people a chance to take part in the referendum back in 1968. I think there were two defining factors for Corbyn in his dislike of the European Union (mitigated by his support of protective laws and sense of solidarity). These factors were the pretty awful way in which the European Union had treated Greece, imposing a draconian austerity budget. The other issue Corbyn I think resents is the rôle of EU state aid rules in stopping supporting British industries (say the steel industry which can’t compete with the Chinese dumping of coal.)
The #Brexit decision can of course be interpreted at very many different levels, but the ‘Sunderland roar’ firmly pitches a strand of voters in Labour heartlands who felt a strong disconnect with the views of Westminster. Unlike the Labour PLP, Labour membership contains many people who wanted ‘out’. No matter what reassurances were given about potentially providing extra funding to areas with high flow of immigration (a 2010 manifesto Labour pledge, benefit to the economy), there is a perception amongst some that politicians were in it for themselves. Doncaster, where are MPs including Ed Miliband, voted in favour of #Brexit (69% leave), so Ed Miliband in endorsing a second ‘review’ referendum vicariously in his support for Owen Smith is effectively signing the political suicide note on his own seat.
I shared somebody else’s graphic on Twitter on August 7th.
The issue is firmly: Labour needs to come up with a coherent response to globalisation and immigration. Simply shouting at Jeremy Corbyn, or lambasting him over Article 50, is not actually the response desired by many members of Labour. For many, voting ‘out’ was a last resort – and it would be no surprise to people who have zero faith in the parliamentary Labour Party for the response from Westminster to want to assassinate Corbyn politically; quite ironic given that Corbyn might possibly be more in touch with potential Labour voters than the members of his PLP are.
Yesterday, therefore, Owen Smith MP probably needed the news he had just received a glowing endorsement from Ed Miliband MP, as much as he would have needed the news that he has a fresh diagnosis of genital herpes. But herpes he does not have, and Ed Miliband’s endorsement he has. That Ed Miliband feels that his recommendation is in any persuasive is curious, if not frankly delusional. Ed Miliband, Neil Kinnock and Tony Blair all seem to have they have vast influence on the Labour Party, when they haven’t. If you remember Ed Milliband MP’s actual resignation speech on the day after the election on 8 May 2016, you’ll remember a rather childish quip about the launching of the ‘most unexpected cult of Milifandom’. Actually, I don’t care for Abi Tomlinson’s politics in much the same way as I don’t give a stuff about Russell Brand’s youtube video with Owen Jones, but many people felt a profound sense of shock of losing in 2015. It was not just the defeat, but the scale of it. We went down from 41 MPs in Scotland to one – and England’s vote was awful, irrespective of Scotland. So the idea of Miliband lecturing the membership on which way to vote is doubly insensitive, given that he had himself nearly taken the party to destruction.
Ed Miliband MP has of course got a long and distinguished tradition of making terrible YouTube videos, but this was ironically one of his better ones. Ralph Miliband of course might be turning in his grave at Ed’s recommendation – but blood runs thicker than water. Ask Hilary Benn.
In the context of the YouTube video, I replayed to myself his resignation speech. Ed’s tone was generally much more humble in that one, talking about the need for a wide ranging debate within the party to look at what went wrong despite the best efforts of activists. I remember defending Ed to the hilt despite his terrible performances in the TV debate (including tripping over physically), eating that bacon butty, a refusal to reverse the legal aid cuts, and not a peep about PFI. In the video above it is claimed that Owen Smith MP was always having a ‘word in his shell’ about being more radical, but it is well known from the Guardian hustings that Andy Burnham MP’s radical plan for a “national care service” was strangled to death by Miliband and Balls. Burnham said at the time, “I became disillusioned. This party had no vision. This was not the party of Bevan.” Burnham’s reasoning was members of the public, not just Labour voters, did not want to be terrified about future burgeoning social care costs, parallel to how the Clem Attlee government had introduced the NHS to drive out the inequity of having to pay for your own health.
Ed Miliband’s insignificant video also precipitated me to watch the original Jeremy Corbyn leadership videos (from 2015) on YouTube. There’s quite a lot of them. If you get round any irrational hatred of public meetings or rallies, which some happily say should be encouraged as democratising politics, the content of Corbyn’s speeches are interesting. Even if you strongly dislike him, it is hard to disagree with how the Labour Party had lost its way. There’s one phrase that strikes fear even now: “People like me on the doorstep ended up saying we were going to offer cuts like the Conservatives, but nicer cuts.” The fundamental proposition that the Conservatives had presented deficit reduction as a necessary book-keeping procedure, rather than call it what it is which is rapid shrinking of the public services, is as true now as it was then. The irony of the continuation of New Labour under Ed Miliband in that the drive to present the opposition as ‘fiscally credible’, they completely failed to address how various factors under Labour’s watch had made the economy less resilient (e.g. under regulation of financial markets, high personal debt, housing boom). And not just this – they allowed the Conservatives to dominate the narrative, when Ed Miliband could have merely rammed home the message that debt under five years of the Tories had far outstripped 13 years of debt under Labour.
But the issue is that it is clearly a lie that the Ed Miliband opposition was simply merely incompetent on economics. Whilst it is now widely accepted as a result of John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn that austerity is a political choice not economics-driven decision, austerity was used to drive (it is alleged) disabled citizens to premature deaths, libraries shutting, cuts in the NHS and social care, and so on. Do you remember how Labour also promised to end the ‘something for nothing culture’? The Ed Miliband opposition were incompetent across the board – whether on addressing aggressive tax avoidance, the crisis in lack of social housing, the unconscionable debts of the private finance initiative bankrupting the NHS, the internal market of the NHS crippling the NHS, the abstaining on welfare reforms, and so on. Epitomising this disconnect was Rachel Reeves MP declaring, in an interview in the Guardian, Reeves said: “We don’t want to be seen, and we’re not, [as]the party to represent those who are out of work.”
I have no idea whether Seema Malhotra MP has finally moved out out of her office which she was meant to vacate on her resignation, but I have no intention, despite being a member of the Fabian Society, of attending their fringe events this year in conference. The events list is here. In fact, I’d rather stick hot needles in my eyes, or have my teeth taken out without general anaesthetic. Hopefully Seema Malhotra and the other Fabians will swim happily around their goldfish bowl plotting how next to oust Corbyn. If you think Twitter is an echo chamber, I strongly suggest you dip your toes into the worlds of the Fabians or the Socialist Health Association. Despite my experience in dementia policy, the Socialist Health Association insist on asking a select few old male stale crusties to present ‘their view’, not the view of their membership, to ‘speak to power’ at places such as the National Policy Forum. I unsurprisingly agree with Jeremy Corbyn that the decision making of policy within Labour currently stinks, and is for wont of a better word totally corrupt and ‘jobs for the boys’. Needless to say I resigned in disgust from the Central Council of the Socialist Health Association who are about as socialist as Ayn Rand or Frederick Hayek.
On some happy news, well done to Andy Burnham MP for being voted in as Labour’s candidate for Central Manchester mayor elections next May – and well done to Kevin Lee, Dr Kailash Chand and Debbie Abrahams too.
Andy has always been supportive of my work, whatever you think of his politics?