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I have to state a fact.
That is, most of my best friends are ‘left leaning’ and can’t bring themselves to support Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party.
This finding is not surprising, nor is it shocking. In the polls, however reliable they are, Labour is consistently massively behind the Conservatives. But we know that the polls cannot be telling absolutely the truth, in that they were deceptive about the 2015 general election and 2016 EU referendum. Ed Miliband MP in the last parliamentary term had a healthy poll lead, and then went on to lose the 2015 general election. And we all know about Donald Trump.
The problem is that, with the Labour Party brand (of the Labour Party led by Corbyn and McDonnell) having been so comprehensively rubbished, it is very hard for any of the Labour Party in parliament to go out and act as advocates for it. It turns out that many of the proposed policies in private polling have turned to be very popular. And yet the Labour Party in parliament have shot themselves in the foot. And, having declared war so publicly on the membership in the last leadership election, the Labour Party find themselves with ground troops who do not feel supported. The same footsoldiers get a sick taste in their mouth when they receive an email from Ian McNicol asking for money for the party, when they themselves have been denied a vote in the leadership election. Yes, the second one where Jeremy Corbyn won again.
It’s worth deconstructing the term ‘sneering liberal Élite’ for the moment. Just look at how a closet cabal of box office journalists from the Guardian reacted to an article from one of their own, Decca Aitkenhead, about Steve Hilton, psychedelic pant wearing guru of David Cameron in a former life. I agree that it was a well written article containing an abrupt ‘killer question’, in the same elegant way the kill was delivered by Sam Coates and Rachel Sylvester – the kill in question which put to bed Andrea Leadsom’s leadership chances. But one is left wondering what the point of the article was, apart from to belittle Steve Hilton in some way. I don’t suppose Steve Hilton with his lavish lifestyle particularly cares, though my advice to anyone “dishing out” group sneering is to never underestimate the problems people never talk about. Did it produce any valuable insights on how globalisation had brought about inequality, and that both were being rejected in a populist way despite purported advantages? Hell no.
The word ‘sneering’ is, in my opinion, very well deserved. Under the general uber defence of the declining print circulation figures, there has been easy attack that all political bloggers are illiterate and have no formal journalistic qualifications – and so they can be easily dismissed. They haven’t ‘done their trade’ working for Paul Dacre at the Mail or for Jason Cowley at the New Statesmen. I have to say, however, the tone is very much of “sneering”. Rather than engage with any of the ideas you write about, the general approach of the ‘mainstream media’ is generally to ignore political opinion from elsewhere. The definition of ‘sneer’ in the Oxford English Dictionary is “a contemptuous or mocking smile, remark, or tone argument, contemptuous in tone”; the sneer is that most people supporting Jeremy Corbyn don’t want a Labour government or are completely incompetent Momentum T-shirt wearing types. The term ‘liberal Élite’ is, of course, a contradiction in terms. The ethos of ‘live and let live’ is of course not alive and well amongst the majority of journalists who, quite frankly, want to crush Jeremy Corbyn and the current Labour Party. The Élite word though represents faithfully the authoritarianism twang of this type of liberalism – which saw Tony Blair convert NHS hospitals into debt laden PFI poodles of the private sector for years to come, or Gordon Brown to detain suspects without trial.
Unsurprisingly, I have now been blocked by many liberal left-leaning journalists, or Labour supporters. I have always voted Labour for all of my adult life, and this includes at every general election since 1992 after the nadir of disgust at years of Margaret Thatcher. I was, as it happens, living in London at the time. Since about 2010, I had been a paying member of the Fabian Society, but I relinquished my subscription last month. The stunt where one leaflet written by Andrew Harrop, meant to be a free-thinking, independent and not necessarily representative pamphlet, was plastered all over the media designed to be the Fabian Society criticising Jeremy Corbyn was the final straw. I can handle all the conspiracy theories about Bretton Woods, and ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’, on the other hand.
I could have written a public letter to Andrew Harrop, like you see from failed Labour MPs to Jeremy Corbyn in the blogosphere, but quite frankly I couldn’t be bothered to write it, and he certainly could not have been bothered to read it. The Fabian Society for me was not the hotbed of egalitarian, democratic, intelligent debate it could have been, but a group of people where inadvertently the tone had been one of aggrandisement and self-entitlement. I didn’t want to be a member of a finishing school for entrants to the Labour Party, though good for people who have successfully followed that route.
Jeremy Corbyn is not the first person to have ideological problems with the European Union. Lord David Owen himself set out articulately the traditional arguments against the European Union ahead of the Brexit vote. Tony Benn’s views, often running in parallel with Enoch Powell’s, were well intended and clearly set out (for example, wanting to have the power to get rid of officials). There are, inevitably, problems if there are operational difficulties in activating state aid monies in an economy for a steel industry failing partly due to Chinese ‘dumping’ of steel in international markets. Hugh Gaitskell famously warned that to join the “Common Market” would mean the end of 1,000 years of history. The lack of ‘opposition’ to Theresa May is a collective failure of the majority of Labour MPs, and the ‘sneering Liberal Elite’ who are unable to articulate the arguments for building a better future for the UK. I think this vacuum in direction can be seen prior the formation of the Coalition government in 2010 where David Cameron became heir to Blair. It can be seen in the lack of substantial policy contributions from either the Fabian Society or Progress following the decline of Blair. And for all the talk of the toothless Corbyn opposition, I don’t need to remind you of the mass abstention on the welfare cuts, do I? Or the ‘jump? how high?’ response to the savagery and cruelty of the NHS ‘efficiency savings’?
The lack of intellectual drive within Labour means it’s become easy ‘copy’ to sneer at suboptimal local election results with a ‘told you so’, never mentioning the months of relentless rubbishing of the Labour Party brand. It means that well meaning tweeters can remind you of the meme why you should not vote Liberal Democrat, as they gave you Conservative policies in coalition. This completely ignores the fact that some Labour and non-UKIP oriented Conservative voters will want actively to vote Liberal Democrat to prop up a Lib Dem-Conservative coalition. It’s an open secret Tim Farron MP loathes the Corbyn arm of the Labour Party, and would like bosom up to followers of Tony Blair while being scathing of the Iraq War simultaneously.
Personally, I am finding the lack of support amongst some in the Labour Party totally demoralising. Whilst I support Jeremy Corbyn as leader, as indeed I have supported all leaders since 1992, I find it completely dispiriting how so many find themselves unable to offer constructive solutions on burning issues such as disability quality of life, social housing, the NHS, social care, the ‘gig economy’, tax avoidance, school and university education, cost of living, and so on. There are still millions of people who need a Labour government, and the sneering simply cannot go on. To attack people like me who support Jeremy Corbyn without being Corbynite will achieve nothing.
There are some ‘rules’ of politics which generally go unchallenged – to some extent. “Everyone likes choice” – and the “yeah but…”, you have to be given the correct resources to exercise this choice. Some people have more choice than others.
That Jeremy Corbyn has produced such powerful resentment in certain groups of people is of interest, in that people who dislike Corbyn might be expected to let choice to run its course. But even before he had won his second leadership election, voices in the mainstream media and the parliamentary Labour Party had already drafted his obituary. I can’t pretend to agree with all of what Jeremy Corbyn says, but I feel there is a disgust by some Labour voters at Corbyn which would be better directed at themselves.
Not everyone agrees on Israel. Not everyone agrees on Northern Ireland. Not everyone thankfully agrees on Ken Livingstone. But it is rather that some of the strongest advocates of a liberal voice have made it their wish to shut down debate on important issues. I am loath to say that Jeremy Corbyn is an analogue politician living in a digital age, as I feel that gives power to the elbow of ageism which definitely runs as an undercurrent to some of the personal attacks on Jeremy Corbyn. But as Margaret Thatcher herself said, when you resort to personal attacks you have lost the argument.
Once you peel away the misreporting of the domestic policies, which is substantial, the policies are themselves pretty sound and reasonable for anyone ‘left leaning’. It is a genuine phenomenon that the media by and large do not give the Labour Party leadership or membership a fair hearing, preferring to give a dispropotionate voice to critics within the parliamentary Labour Party.
It has long been conceded that the Labour Party represents a diversity of views. As Tony Benn famously said, “People attending Church include some Christians. Labour is not a socialist party, although there are some socialists in it.” Much of the current media talk is inevitably about Brexit, but, for most MPs, what brings the legislation, policies and regulations to life is the caseload of the weekly constituency surgery. I expect that the number of complaints about lack of social housing, delays in A&E, or working in a ‘gig economy’ far outweigh whether UK citizens travelling abroad will be given free health insurance following Article 50.
It has become sexy to talk of an existential crisis within Labour about its identity, but it is my contention that – if you believe in choice – it is unfair for Jeremy Corbyn to be criticised for wanting to implement his view of socialism. The first thing that has to be acknowledged is that Jeremy Corbyn won overwhelmingly the leadership elections of his party nationally twice. The second thing to be emphasised is that Jeremy Corbyn has held robustly the same principles since 1983 when he was elected under the famous ‘longest suicide note in history’ from Oxford first-class honours holder Michael Foot. As the famous Marx brother said, “if you don’t like my principles, that’s OK – I have others.”
If it is inappropriate to say Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t “do digital”, I think it’s fine to say he doesn’t do binary. On the face of it, both Tim Farron MP (who I hear you ask? He is the current leader of the Liberal Democrats) and Jeremy Corbyn MP hold the same views on Brexit, in agreement on free goods and services and free movement of people. But the analogue argument is important, I feel. If you assume that Jeremy Corbyn holds roughly the same views as Tony Benn, Jeremy Corbyn would’ve voted to remain in the European Union but only just. Tony Benn believed that it was only possible to believe in free movement of capital if you believed in free movement of persons – as Benn put it, “if money can have passports, why can’t people?” Benn objected to a multinational corporatocracy, which is consistent with Corbyn’s support of the EU Posted Workers Directive, preventing undercutting of wages by multinationals. Gordon Brown in 2010 had proposed the migration transformation fund to provide financial support to areas of the UK which had experienced high levels of migration, but this was rejected by the electorate in favour of the coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. That the EU referendum was held to keep together the Conservative Party, with the consequence of splitting the country down the middle, is pure and simple. For example, Jeremy Corbyn has himself reported that in his constituency non-EU families often remain split due to the current legislation which is often perceived as being discriminatory in favour of EU migration?
Where Corbyn, Tony Benn and Farage (and UKIP) are in agreement possibly is the idea that you should not give power to those you ultimately can’t take the power away from. Benn in his diaries talks about all the pain he had in the 1970s being unable to amend EU legislation even as a Minister of the Crown. Where Corbyn and Farage (and UKIP) are possibly not in agreement is that Corbyn believes that the State should be able to intervene in ‘failing industries’. To take as an example, because national policy had led NHS Foundation Trusts to become increasingly within the ambit of EU competition law, like the steel industries, the scope for ‘state aid’ became more controversial. The irony for the NHS is that the biggest threat to its existence has come internally from decades of underfunding – i.e. a deliberate ‘choice’ from a domestic government “taking back control”. Anyway – my point is that Jeremy Corbyn does not benefit from the need to portray these arguments as binary. The media wants to do binary for everything, like “Do you hate Jeremy Corbyn? Does Jeremy Corbyn bow properly? Does Jeremy Corbyn support Ken Livingstone? Does Jeremy Corbyn want to shut down your nuclear power plant?” But where we all have different views, i.e. we live in a democratic society, such an approach is in sheer defiance of democratic socialism.
Jeremy Corbyn has held views of democratic socialism, as indeed many within the Labour Party have, for years before Jeremy Corbyn became leader or before Owen Jones was interviewed for GQ magazine. I would find it impossible to believe that Jeremy Corbyn believes in any other system for the National Health Service other than where we pool risk equally, and where money cannot buy you undue influence. This is going to be of critical importance when we get into an age of personal genomics where the inheritance of certain medical diseases can be accurately predicted at birth. Tony Benn believed that the democratic vote bought you influence not money. I am quite sure that if Jeremy Corbyn is defeated at the ballot box, as so many people within the Labour Party appear to be actively looking forward to, Jeremy Corbyn will too live with that.
Jeremy Corbyn is for me the only constant in this particular scenario, which means that Jeremy Corbyn is not the one experiencing the ‘existential’ crisis. Quite the reverse. The crisis is being experienced by many of those MPs who expected to be serving in a Ed Miliband government (and who abstained on the welfare benefits cuts) and of course the all powerful Westminster lobby of journos.
Jeremy Corbyn was my first choice for leader of the Labour Party twice. I’ve always voted Labour, and I’m currently 42. I don’t consider myself a Euro-fanatic, but I voted ‘remain’ in Brexit. But I must admit when Corbyn said ‘Now the real fight begins’, I got genuinely scared – it had for me, as Emma Burnell opined, all the overtones of someone who doesn’t really believe in parliamentary democracy.
There are some people who believe that Jeremy Corbyn can do ‘no good’. I am not one of them. I have previously supported Corbyn to the hilt, and I think most of his principles in domestic policy are reasonably sound. We are both socialists. For example, I agree with Corbyn on cracking down on aggressive corporate tax a aoidance, and wishing to tackle head-on the crisis in social care and social housing. I agree that fundamentally the situation Labour finds itself is not as such Labour’s fault. I am not a ‘Blairite’ – there were some successes in the Tony Blair governments, and some failures. The history for me personally is that, in the last leadership election shortly after the referendum of June 23rd 2016, I found myself disagreeing with the views of Owen Smith MP and his supporters. I felt that that particular time was not the best time to having yet another leadership election when Corbyn had only just been democratically elected leader – and I felt that the behaviour of much of the Labour Party was pretty unconscionable. In fact, I blocked several Labour MPs on Twitter.
There was an unsaid deal that the parliamentary Labour Party would try to be more professional in experience, such as not briefing the media about offices which they should have vacated after publicly resigning, if the leadership machine communicated better with the PLP. There was an unsaid agreement that there would be at some stage much more useful detail about policies. Whilst not violently anti-Blairite, the spectacle of Anna Soubry MP and Alastair Campbell ganging up on John McDonnell (like Clive Lewis, a follower of mine on Twitter) beyond the pale.
Let’s be clear. Reversing corporation tax to fund the NHS and social care is not a policy in itself – nor is renegotiating the private finance initiative, important though that is. There is, however, an honest conversation to be had about how GPs feel themselves totally overwhelmed by the demand (and so do Accident and Emergency Departments), and, on the whole, people are living for longer with complex co-morbidities such as dementia. GPs will be the first to tell you that ‘ten minute appointments’ do not do their patients justice, and certainly insufficient for a frank discussion about psychological therapies for dementia compared to reaching for the prescription pad. The whole debate about integration has become engulfed in criticism about the sustainability and transformation plans; that there is insufficient money in both the NHS and social care is not in any dispute. On the other hand, for many long term conditions, the decision between ‘health’ and ‘social care’ is totally arbitrary and yet this has a profound impact for individuals in terms of their funding arrangements. The reality of ‘care at home’ is far from the rhetoric and yet the Department of Health is fighting its own battles such as with the junior doctors over their contract – whilst Jeremy Hunt is touring the world boasting about patient safety (neglecting to mention 20 hour trolley waits in England), and seeing if he can aggressively pimp NHS services to a New Trump US. We are all left exasperated wondering what it is that the UK is so desperate to sell to any country, dictatorship or otherwise, far flung or not.
Jeremy Corbyn’s stance is indeed ‘principled’ in that one half of the party faces one way (constituencies wishing to remain in European Union, such as Islington), and one half facing the polar opposite (constituencies wishing to leave the European Union, which as Hayes). But back to Nye Bevan’s old adage, ‘if you stand in the middle of the road, you are bound to get run over’. Corbyn’s political stance means inevitably he will end up annoying many on both sides, especially some in the 48% who oppose a ‘hard Brexit’. Whilst Keir Starmer and pals do not want to soil their lips with the words “hard” and “Brexit”, there is no other term for not being included in the single market, or giving up on the free movement of people. The ‘taking back control’ meme has become rampant, and it seems that every MP is entitled to justify voting like a robot even more on grounds of the fact that ‘this referendum result was delivered by the people’. The case against leaving the EU won’t go away, however, including the 40-60 Euro divorce fee, or the hit the economy will take when the City is not allowed to do EU passporting. But it is said that many Brexiters are prepared to take this hit. Indeed, many Corbyn voters who voted Brexit seem intensely relaxed about Jeremy Corbyn’s performance.
You’d be forgiven for thinking Britain has a bright future, despite the import inflation and problems in finding workers for certain sectors of the economy. For now, Scotland, which voted to remain in the EU largely, has been muzzled, but it will not be long before they ‘take back control’ again and ‘roar again’ as Alex Salmond put it. The Brexit vote has given fuel to Nigel Farage’s rantings on his radio show, having extra rocket fuel from the election of a bigot, sexist, and racist elsewhere. The LBC phone lines are choc-a-bloc with racist and xenophobic rantings about how the ills of the world can be placed at the feet of immigrants. But such criticisms would be to shoot the messenger of this xenophobic racist rubbish rather than the message itself. A major ‘miss’ was there not being implemented a Migration Impact Fund, or Posted Workers Directive, to give areas of high migrant population additional financial support, or legislation to stop the undercutting of workers. But the solution to all this is not Amber Rudd MP, in the same way the immigration levels sky rocketed under Theresa May MP. Without any attempt to limit proportionately migrant numbers, and without funding public services, leaving the European Union is simply a smoke-and-mirrors exercise, and you can bet Nigel Farage will have long gone by then.
I do agree very much that it’s not all Jeremy Corbyn’s fault. There are many head winds in the opposite direction to Jeremy Corbyn. For example, Corbyn daily has to deal with a vicious media and there are rarely any positive noises coming out of the Guardian or Laura Kuenssberg about him. And also, there has been a relentless focus on the ‘Labour rebels’, and the three-line-whip from Corbyn (presumably because Corbyn does not want to be blamed for obstructing Brexit), but one really has to wonder what on earth has happened to those Tory MPs who reperesnt ‘remain’ consittuencies. It is entirely possible, of course, that the Liberal Democrats will take these seats, and then the critical question for 2020 will be who is the largest party. I have a hunch this will be the Conservatives, wishing to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, rather than Labour and the SNP forming a coalition (assuming that there is no sign of a turnaround in Scotland’s fortunes from Jeremy Corbyn and Kezia Dugdale).
Quite frankly, these are desperately stressful times for some people who want to vote Labour. There are some people who think that Jeremy Corbyn is utterly brilliant – and all power to their elbow. But there are also different people who believe Corbyn is overseeing the suicide of the UK Labour Party. Irrespective of your views on EURATOM or the ERASMUS scheme, what are we tell close friends of ours who are EU nationals and remain as ‘bargaining chips’ in the negotiation about to happen? The reality is that we do not know what the attitude of the European Union will be – but guaranteed the hyperbolic importance of England by Nigel Farage over Brexit is not matched by the column inches devoted to Brexit in the continental newspapers. I have a declining faith in Jeremy Corbyn, but my ‘faith’ is being put to the test. I don’t see any other saviour on the horizon, and a third leadership election might make him bullet-proof as far as the membership is concerned. I would feel a lot more reassured if we had more detail on domestic policy, but I understand the problems in predicting the state of the macroeconomy particularly with Brexit and Donald Trump looming on the horizon.
And of course the 2020 general election might be a very good one to lose, if you take away the possibility of Jeremy Hunt negotiating a UK-US trade deal which would kill off the NHS entirely.
There are key differences between Theresa May and Bridget Jones.
For a start, Jones was single for a long time. And Bridget Jones always tended to look desperate.
The Labour Party is divided on Brexit – but they’re not the only ones, and it’s not Jeremy Corbyn’s fault. My late father used to tell me that there are some people who will love you whatever you do, some people who will hate you whatever you do, and some people who will always remain indifferent. Many parliamentary Labour MPs have criticised Jeremy Corbyn so much, that further criticisms of Corbyn now over Brexit would be completely hollow. To use an analogy, they have already ‘used up their lives’.
Let me pin my nails to the mast. I am in my early 40s, and was opposed to Brexit for the purposes of the June 23rd 2016 referendum. I don’t think this makes me a ‘remoaner’. I was always a bit concerned about the domestic abuse of the UK governments in state aid rules, and this is clearly of concern with the pre-meditated drastic, severe and chronic under-funding of the National Health Service and social care. I was similarly concerned about whether the EU en bloc with the US would become embroiled in TTIP, a transatlantic trade agreement, which would make it much easier for ‘free movement of capital’ ownership of ‘our NHS’. But I am told by various loud voices that what concerned many, stereotypically outside Scotland and London, was a free movement of workers, many unskilled, undercutting ‘home grown produce’. Unfortunately, some of this genuine concern got transformed into outright racism and abuse, as can be clearly seen in some of the vitriol aimed at Gina Miller.
I get the fact that there are some Labour MPs who represent constituencies representing populations who wanted to remain in the European Union. I also get the argument that you wouldn’t want, ideally, to sell your house, and make yourself homeless, and have nowhere to go to. But the idea that we will know much of the detail of the negotiations this early on is pie in the sky on the whole. Clearly, if it were the case that the European Union demanded forced repatriation of British citizens living in Europe, there would be a strong case not to start the chain of events culminating in us leaving the European Union; but this is quite unlikely, if only we don’t have a clear idea of which EU citizens are living in the UK for a start. It is pretty likely that, in the absence of strong free trade agreements elsewhere, our domestic economy would take a big hit if the UK was not included in the EU single market, but at this point this is a prophecy, and coud be right or wrong like every single other economic prediction.
I understand the need for Labour MPs to make it public that they cannot comply with a 3-line whip set by Corbyn, when their ‘conscience’ will not allow it (and nor will their local membership). We are where we are, however. The referendum, we all know by now, was only legally advisory according to the relevant Act of parliament, but unfortunately it is also the case that the non-binding yet forceful words dropped into every letterbox in the land: “that the Government will implement whatever you decide.” The case for re-running the referendum in some form of other on account of the outright lies is weakened by the fact that every single UK election has had a big degree of lying (remember ‘no top reorganisation of the NHS’ by Cameron prior to the 2010 general election?) Whilst a referendum is not the same as an election, it was David Cameron’s decision to put the issue to a referendum in his famous Bloomberg speech to defuse grumblings in his own party. What this inevitably has done has exposed a split opinion in the country at large, and it would be nonsense to believe that the splitting of opinion is simply confined to the Labour Party.
Whatever you dislike about Jeremy Corbyn MP, for example his famous terrorist ‘friends’ remark, his arguably somewhat patronising tone in giving interviews, his dress sense, his purported lack of patriotism when singing the national anthem, Jeremy Corbyn is in no way responsible for the split within the Labour Party on Brexit. Many of his MPs represent constituencies who do not see the ‘benefits’ of immigration. Many of his MPs represent the polar opposite viewpoint. In as much as the only certainties are ‘death’ and ‘taxes’, one thing is pretty certain in that Jeremy Corbyn MP as leader of the Labour Party would be unlikely to make everyone happy on Brexit. This is not the same as the Labour Party appearing ‘confused’ on Brexit, as constantly levelled at Emily Thornberry MP in media interviews. Quite the reverse, the ‘three line whip’, if anything, is Jeremy Corbyn showing the ‘strong leadership’ or ‘real leadership’ demanded of him by Angela Eagle MP and Owen Smith MP in their failed leadership bids.
Now that the Supreme Court had decided that there is insufficient mileage in the argument that the Royal Prerogative is sufficient to trigger Article 50, a Bill predictably has been laid before parliament, longer than the Bill giving women the vote. Labour and the Conservatives, unlike the SNP and Liberal Democrats, have taken national party lines of triggering exiting from the European Union. I feel that the need for MPs to comply with national policy comes less from the convoluted arguments of Edmund Burke on delegates versus representatives, often misquoted inaccurately, but the issue that otherwise MPs would be acting as independents. There are clearly massive problems down the line, if the US Congress decide to do a trade deal with the UK massively to the detriment of the UK for the political convenience of the governing parties of the UK and US. Or, there are issues if, to gain competitive advantage, the UK feels it must lower corporation tax rates even further to stop capital migrating, say, to Ireland, turning the UK effectively into a ‘bargain basement tax haven’ was warned in unison by Keir Starmer QC MP and Jeremy Corbyn MP. It is not immediately obvious what the UK has to sell in a trade deal to the US apart from its genius – but the rich pickings that would made of the NHS is not “scaremongering” but a genuine issue which lies in the national interest.
Exiting the European Union per se is the starting gun. The current Government has previously talked about repealing the Human Rights Act (ideologically consistent with leaving the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice). There’s no guarantee that xenophobia in some parts of the UK ‘heavily hit by immigration’ will be alleviated short of mass deportation of citizens awaiting guarantees of permanent residence, or by a ‘migration transformation fund’ promised by Labour back in 2010. There’s no guarantee that total immigration levels will fall drastically. We do, however, already know that Indian and Australian Doctors do not feel it is their duty to plug the ‘skills gap’ in the NHS, given the torrential negative perception of the NHS given by its longest serving Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt. But it would be political suicide if Labour unilaterally came out on the side of the 52% or the 48%. We know that countries of the European Union do not see the four freedoms, in people, capital, goods, and services, as anything other than an unitary package. It’s pretty unlikely that London, even if achieved outright devolution imminently, would be allowed to gain EU passporting rights maintaining a sectoral lifeline for the City.
It’s also pretty unlikely that a small number of revolting Labour MPs, SNP MPs and Liberal Democrat MPs (#seewhatIdidthere) will be sufficient to stop the triggering of Art. 50. Jeremy Corbyn MP, meanwhile, will have to do the best with the deck of cards he’s been handed. Keir Starmer QC MP is right not to get worked up about the semantics of the hard versus soft Brexit. The approach taken by Theresa May MP is substantially one of pragmatism, even if the rhetoric and mood music are more akin sometimes to euphoric Nigel Farage. Many of us reasonably minded like-minded people (or liberal snowflakes) want to reach for the sick bag as soon as we hear about the personal relationship or special chemistry between Theresa May and Donald Trump. Likewise, Jeremy Corbyn can only try to make the best of a bad deal, but, if he is held as being downright obstructive to Brexit, all hell will break loose. I think with import inflation, the skills gap in the UK, and societal discord, Brexit will pan out to be an unmitigated disaster. But it would be wrong to blame Jeremy Corbyn for that too.
And by the way… we know what happened to Bridget Jones in the end.
Whoever is ultimately responsible for the definite purge which is going on within Labour, it is clear that the purge has backfired on a number of levels. As Paul Mason identified, Bristol has now lost control of the council due to centrally-driven suspensions. Secondly, many longstanding campaigners for Labour who have given decades of their time have been ‘purged’ and lost the democratic right to vote. Thirdly, it has been a PR disaster of enormous proportions, of a centrally driven Labour NEC appearing to be incredibly vindictive against their own members, many of whom are not financially well off. Fourthly, its actual basis was very dubious, when it is known that the number of extremist ‘entryists’ are in fact very small, whereas the usual people (e.g. Old Holborn) have claimed it’s the best £3 they ever spent.
Whichever way you look at it, Labour is a joke. And it is telling of the state of Labour as it is that this is held as default as an abusive comment, rather than freedom of expression. When a mature Asian Labour voter told Owen Smith MP that he as a MP was wrong, Smith called it out as abuse. Channel 4 presented last night a documentary based on undercover filming, a textbook hatchet job on Labour, featuring a family relative of Alastair Campbell providing legal opinions. And the number of migogynist, antisemite and bullying events shown was nil.
BBC1’s Panorama fared better. Jon Pienaar did what he could to present an establishment view of ‘we’re stuck with Jeremy Corbyn with a landslide – but now what?’ Cumulatively, BBC1 and Channel 4 added to a long list including the Guardian notably of totally distorted mainstream media. The Guardian’s reporting does not even make the grade of toilet paper when printed out, though Suzanne Moore did a brilliant balanced piece on Momentum Kids only yesterday. BBC’s Panorama uncomfortably yo-yoed between Lisa Nandy MP and Peter Kyle MP, before referring to Owen Smith MP for an opinion.
By any reckoning, Owen Smith MP’s campaign was an unmitigated wholesome disaster. In a leadership bid which was in part supposed to have been precipitated by sexism and misogyny, Smith is reputed to have made a laddy joke about his 28″ inside leg measurement. The descriptions of his long term debt financing of infrastructure were so far fetched that ‘no economist disagreed with him’ (an achievement in itself) and, more’s the point, nobody in the mainstream media including the Financial Times, Mail or Times bothered to opine about it.
For all the criticisms of Corbyn and team, and there are many, the orchestrated hourly appearances of MPs in TV studios was vile. Episodes such as the staff of Seema Malhotra MP not leaving her office in a timely effect spun in such a way as to discredit a longstanding member of John McDonnell MP’s staff, were vile too. Alastair Campbell siding with Anna Soubry in her attack on John McDonnell, despite Campbell appearing to not make up his mind on which policies he actually disagreed with, was pretty ubiquitously reacted to on Twitter as vile; with many of the Twitterari commenting on how a Labour grandee got away with using the ‘twat’ so often on Twitter, when ordinary party members, maybe who had campaigned for the Green Party but who had now re-joined the Labour Party, had been ‘suspended’ according to the NEC’s ‘make it up as you go along’ rules for retweeting Caroline Lucas a few years ago, perhaps on taking back the railways into state control (now a Labour Party policy aspiration).
Ed Miliband MP himself in his resignation speech had asked for ‘people to disagree without disagreeable’ – and yet this is precisely what he and Neil Kinnock then did par excellence. They laid into the currently democratically leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn MP, as if he had no mandate at all, completely ignoring the fact that they themselves had between them had lost more general elections than most of us have hot dinners.
Secondly, their remarkable achievement was completely to ignore the implications of the Brexit vote. There are some very basic level interpretations of how Brexit came about, including being ‘lied to’ (although lies are not a novel idea in election campaigns, if one remembers Nick Clegg’s ‘I’m sorry’ for example), the impact of immigration on local services, the notion of ‘taking back control’, and so forth. I voted as a Labour voter of 26 years for #Remain, being a ‘reluctant remainer’.
For me, a willingness to be part of the European Union goes way beyond the single market, but goes towards a feeling of genuine solidarity with our European neighbours in fighting on public policy issues, such as public health, data protection, employment rights, etc. But there are aspects of being in the EU which I do find difficult – such as the impact it has on state aid of public sector industries in stress, the way in which Greece had been forced down a path of austerity to the detriment of its citizens, the possibility of the EU-US free trade treaty which would have given a carte blanche to multinational takeover of parts of the NHS, the undercutting of wages happening during free movement of labour, and so on. So for me, it can’t be 10/10 for being in the EU. And Article 50 will probably have to be invoked sooner rather than later, if only because our European neighbours won’t want us to delay on this. It was not Jeremy Corbyn’s direct wish to have a referendum; he did not even stand on a manifesto pledge to have one.
Neil Coyle MP at the weekend was asked how he might win given the summer of discontent of Labour. Bear in mind, I went down one morning, with no expenses paid, to support his bid to become a MP in Bermondsey and Southwark. I was disgusted to hear that people like me who support Jeremy Corbyn are merely part of a ‘fan club’. He then had the gall to say he would be re-elected because of the ‘strong Labour brand’, given the monumental efforts he had made to rubbish the Labour brand, such as our leadership and teamwork, all summer. Good riddance.
I had never heard of Peter Kyle MP until he started TV studios slagging off Jeremy Corbyn MP – in other words, he had made absolutely no impact on me on the national stage in terms of policy.
Not everyone who disagrees with Jeremy Corbyn is though ‘disagreeable’. I differ with Karl Turner MP’s views on some things, but I feel he is fundamentally a very bright and pleasant man (having also briefly met him). I’ve met Tom Watson MP – I don’t think calling Momentum a ‘rabble’ as he allegedly did is crime of the century, and he probably was distressed at this summer’s events too. But I think strong arm tactics for the Labour PLP to ‘get their way’ are a mistake, Tom.
In a completely different category though are Margaret Hodge MP and Margaret Beckett MP who did not offer a coherent narrative on where Jeremy’s policies were ‘wrong’, why millions voted ‘Brexit’ and launched into highly personal attacks on Corbyn.
I don’t think people who disagree with Labour’s policies or dislike the leader intensely should be forced to be members of parliament for Labour. It should never be forgotten that the party is totally dependent on the grassroots activists who go round delivering leaflets, manning phone banks, door knocking, and so on. Momentum has never asked for deselections. I think, however, it would be very healthy for a democracy for our Labour CLPs to look at reselections. MPs who are unable to oppose tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance, PFI, the lack of social housing, or the market failure of rail should not be ‘forced’ to MPs under duress, particularly this is in asynchrony with our membership’s views.
And John McDonnell MP is right, though he didn’t phrase it this way. Too many of our Labour MPs love themselves. There are a few who’ve done brilliant work such as Andy Burnham MP on Oregreave, or Debbie Abrahams MP on disability welfare, or Grahame Morris MP on local communities; and there is patently room for improvement in the operations of the top team.
We are where we are. Some of the 170 MPs who have previously had ‘no confidence’ in Jeremy Corbyn will want to campaign on behalf of saving their own seats, despite the mess they caused this summer. It is not far right to oppose that the NHS is now being destroyed at accelerated pace. It is not far right to oppose the savage cuts in social care. The only way forward I feel is for there to be a ‘hybrid’ shadow cabinet, with members put forward by both the Party and membership.
Members of the Labour PLP over criticise the ‘delegate’ argument of the membership I feel. I think what is rotten to the core is the rotten spectacle of Labour MPs behaving like independents not representing their party’s membership. It is not true that all of the Labour Party membership, for example, supports Trident as a weapon of mass destruction.
Jeremy Corbyn is likely to be re-elected this week as the leader of the Labour Party.
As Corbyn says, “Things have to change – and they will.”
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?
It’s totally clear to me now having spoken to several MPs who had not voted for Jeremy Corbyn originally, who then said, “Believe me we wanted to make it work!”, those MPs had no intention of ‘making it work’ whatsoever. They invariably incite the most petty and vindictive examples of where it is ‘impossible’ to work with Corbyn’s office, such as not picking up the phone over lunchtime. We got a whiff of this over the entirely over the top way Seema Malhotra reacted to somebody from estates using a keycard to inspect an office one would customarily have vacated weeks before on resignation. We also got a whiff of this with the way Wes Streeting attacked Shami Chakrabarti for become a member of the House of Lords, together with full innuendo of the ‘apparent bias’ without explaining the full test given by the Porter v Magill case (i.e. how it would look to a reasonable observer KNOWING ALL THE FACTS.)
The smear was even more excruciating to watch on BBC News 24 as it implied that somebody of Chakrabarti’s standing in the legal profession (wiki education and training here) would not have been aware of what the ‘apparent bias’ test isbut somebody with minimal legal training like Wes Streeting would (wiki education and training here). Instead of focusing on why heads of publicity in David Cameron’s office had received high honours for doing their job, including stylist work for SamCam, Streeting went on a tirade against a lawyer held in extremely high esteem for her impartiality, professionalism and legalistic advocacy. The proper arena for these smears for Streeting is the Bar Standards Board, if he really feels there is a case to answer.
If there is a genuine complaint over the independence and impartiality of the work done by Chakrabarti, it has to be done through the correct channels not by smear on TV news (which is exactly the same means of communication used to discredit Corbyn.) The most relevant clause in the current code of conduct for barristers from their code of conduct is 301.
Overall, it’s dreadfully easy to pick up a picture of the sheer degree of nonsense with which John McDonnell MP and Jeremy Corbyn MP have had to deal with. These #Labour171 are not professional MPs, but the majority of Labour MPs are nasty, vindictive idiots who need the publicity of TV studios to make their vacuous post corporate life publicity work.
But this TV interview from the HardTalk series with Lord Mandelson from 3 November 2015 is very revealing. Bear in mind that the leadership election result had only been disclosed publicly on Saturday 12 September 2015.
And the disarray of Mandelson’s answers explain fully why Owen Smith MP’s campaign is in utter disarray, even if you discount complete own goals like standing up for female lib while claiming simultaneously, albeit in a half-jokey way (according to him), to “‘smash’ Theresa May back on her heels”. Owen Smith MP came later to defend the need for promoting gender equality within Labour, having deprived the only female candidate in the leadership contest from going in competition with Jeremy Corbyn MP.
You see, I can’t find anyone at all – and I’ve searched pretty comprehensively – any Owen Smith MP supporter who can explain at all how Owen and Jeremy materially and substantially diverge on policy. Apart from Trident, which could be offered as a legitimate answer (but bear in mind Corbyn got a huge applause for arguing that Trident was not the most appropriate defence spend given current problems), there are no massive policy differences. Jeremy Corbyn MP has maintained that he is a reluctant Remainer in the European Union, seeing a strong case for certain legislative protection from EU laws including human rights and a good working relationship with people in Europe. Corbyn managed to get about 10% more of his party members to vote Remain than Cameron – Corbyn did more media appearances rallying for remain than the rest of the shadow cabinet put together. But it is worth noting that there is a substantial number of members of the party, who completely unlike the parliamentary party, wanted ‘out’ on Europe, and like Frank Field MP think a second #Brexit vote would serve no utility. I lost count of the number of times Owen said, “I agree with Jeremy“, in the hustings from Cardiff.
In the HardTalk interview, Lord Mandelson trots a complete argument for why the current leadership bid by Owen Smith is a complete nonsense, and a waste of everybody’s time, when Labour MPs could and should have been concentrating on the Conservatives. Mandelson talks about “my party”, when in fact it is “our party”, and then describes Jeremy Corbyn as “far left” when his policies, which apply to a world of 2016 not 1983, on getting rid of PFI, tackling the lack of social housing, tackling aggressive tax avoidance, stopping rampant privatisation of the NHS, producing a national investment bank to build up infrastructure in harmony with many European countries, re-nationalising the rail industry, are policies which are hard to disagree with. These are in fact policies which successors to New Labour could have produced themselves between 2010-2016 if they were so desperate to produce their own successor. Even Blairites concede that they need to win in the world of 2016 not 1997 now. Mandelson says critically of the Blairites “but in fairness to Corbyn, the modernisers had failed to modernise themselves.”
So Mandelson refers to poor poll ratings of Jeremy Corbyn MP – but without any reference to the general unreliability of polls (take for example their uselessness in the EU referendum or the 2015 general election). Or, for that matter, he does not refer to the pretty dreadful poll ratings of Gordon Brown or Ed Miliband. Mandelson views Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership chances entirely through the prism of a ‘beauty contest’, when it is clear that Mandelson is ‘no oil painting’ himself. Mandelson trots out the need for electability, the Hilary Benn ‘winning’ argument, when Labour were annihilated in Scotland in 2015 (down from 41 MPs to 1 MP), disasters in 2010 and 2015, and a declining % of the vote for Labour from 2005 roughly onwards. Mandelson appears to resent that “the doors were thrown open to new members”, all of whom were vetted, and did contain many people returning from Labour having been totally pissed off with Labour during the Blair years. Mandelson refers to the other three candidates in the 2015 leadership election as “business as usual”, when that is precisely what Owen Smith MP appears like. Owen Smith MP flip flops from one position to the next, whether it’s on PFI or 100% state ownership, and there is absolutely no consistency in his policies from week to week.
Mandelson said of Corbyn in September 2015:
“Nobody will replace him, though, until he demonstrates to the party his unelectability at the polls. In this sense, the public will decide Labour’s future and it would be wrong to try and force this issue from within before the public have moved to a clear verdict.”
Mandelson then describes Corbyn as “not the election winning person he presents himself as he pretends to be” – but there’s the rub. Corbyn critics were desperate for Corbyn to put a foot wrong, but this opportunity did not present itself in the Labour or Bristol mayoralty elections or in 4 by-elections (which Labour all won including increasing its share of the vote in three). Mandelson continues “we have to be ready..with serious new fresh policy ideas to win support from in the party and then in the country“. But there has been no alternative vision from Corbyn critics – if they really want to be ‘electable’, is it, for example, their plan not to do something about the rip-off PFI, just ignore aggressive tax avoidance, think the debacle in Southern Rail is ok, do nothing about rip off energy bills, do nothing about the disaster in social housing, or to promote yet further privatisation of NHS and social care? Would that do it for Mandelson and his ideological-terrorist sympathisers?
Without a hint of irony, Mandelson continues:
“We’re not going to win this time with brilliant public relations. We need a renewal of policies”.
“We need to organise not only in our grassroots but also in communities where we want to win”.
So – let’s get this straight – Corbyn has done what he’s been done, i.e. produced a ‘national debate’, and mobilised new supporters and members of Labour, and he’s being criticised for this?
Mandelson then goes onto sneer at “quantitative easing”, in the context of a wacko Corbynomics policy, when the Bank of England announced a further boost of quantitative easing only this week as described in the Guardian:
“Plans to pump an additional £60bn in electronic cash into the economy to buy government bonds, extending the existing quantitative easing (QE) programme to £435bn in total”
Mandelson admits, “we ceased to be exciting”.
I think it’s worse than that – despite early successes such as the Human Rights Act and the national minimum wage – and especially after Chilcot – New Labour has become a very toxic brand, so much so Ed Miliband MP couldn’t wait to wash his hands clean of it (whilst signing up to ‘austerity lite’ and having few exciting visionary policies of himself.)
And months and months of a time period where Mandelson and colleagues could’ve planned for ‘their moment’, it is quite incredible that no credible candidates have been stumped up at this point in time. It could be that good candidates like Lisa Nandy MP or Sir Keir Starmer MP, if we believe the Labour PLP at face value, would rather Labour MPs to succumb to their fate as per the Battle of the Somme, rather than put themselves forward and genuinely ‘save Labour’. Mandelson continues with the meme, ‘we have to decide as to whether we want to be a party of government rather than a party of protest‘, when it is perfectly clear Mandelson and his merry band of ideological-terrrorist sympathisers are getting off on the high of being a Blairite party of protest within the Labour Party.
So Owen Smith MP is likely to lose – badly.
A pity really – despite being a Pfizer ex-lobbyist etc. I think he’s quite a fun and pleasant person. But there were always two stalking horses in this particular contest.
And will the Labour MPs then unify under Corbyn?
Will they hell…
Whilst literally a derivative of metals, ‘vitriol’ according to the Oxford Dictionary, means bitter criticism or malice.
I quite enjoyed the pantomime of yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions, the last appearance in that context from David Cameron. The body language on the front row was somewhat tense between Theresa May MP, about to be invited by the Queen to form a new government later that afternoon, and George Osborne MP, about to be sacked by the new Prime Minister.
Osborne, the Chancellor or ‘Chancer’ as he affectionately came to be known, had an atrocious record in government. This included at various points downgrading of the national credit rating, missing of all his self-set targets, and a ballooning national debt which in a few years of his tenure had even superseded the total which Labour had amassed in thirteen years.
Craig Oliver, close to the Cameron government, called Cameron the ‘quiet revolutionary’. It was a genuine belief, it appears, of that incoming Government in 2010, that they were coming together in the national interest to deal with a large financial deficit left by Labour. Much of the Ed Miliband time in government was spent in critics of Labour drawing attention to this deficit, without Ed Balls doing much to address how it came about, arguably leading to his personal defeat and the Labour Party’s defeat in 2010.
And yet the economic performance of Osborne was bad. He was personally blamed in the sense that he was boo-ed at the Olympics. David Cameron, as it happens, was boo-ed twice this week, first with his mother at the Wimbledon final on Sunday, and second yesterday with Sam and children as they left Downing Street.
However, approval ratings of Cameron ‘as a leader’ have been consistently high. Even there was no putsch to get rid of Osborne, despite his atrocious performance. Cameron could always point to other aspects of the macroeconomy, but mainly a record level of employment. The qualification to this routinely trotted out by Labour was that this was mainly due to zero-hour contracts, but the Conservatives were able to combat this criticism with various statistics. Not once was it ever conceded that a record level of employment might have been due to a free movement of persons, something which you could credit the EU for.
Nobody openly asked for Osborne to be sacked. There was no coup against Osborne. Osborne and Cameron, despite the reality of the situation, were keen not to portray any psychodrama as had dogged the days of Brown with accusations of throwing Nokia phones. Such a schism would have done much to destabilise a Government, now with a wafer-thin majority. Any destabilisation might have set in process events which could cause a motion of no-confidence in the Prime Minister leaving due to the Fixed Term Parliaments Act (although this statutory instrument was first devised to stop the LibDems from leaving the coalition.)
The contemporary meaning of vitriol these days is ‘bitter criticism’ or ‘malice’. Through the way that the defamation law works in England, you can’t sue me if I say something that’s true, or fair comment; or said perhaps in a court of law or parliament (even if the accusation is a strong one like being a ringleader of a pornography ring). But defamation is defeated by malice.
For supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, which includes non-exclusively ‘Corbynistas’, it has always been difficult to tell how much of the criticism is motivated by malice. People who haven’t experienced first hand the working style of Jeremy Corbyn will find it difficult to opine on his team building ability. However, when you get criticisms like ‘the leader’s office won’t even pick up the phone’, one is forced to wonder how much experience such critics have of the real world. I, for example, normally find it impossible to get hold of anyone in a large organisation. I don’t think I’d even know where to start in finding someone at the BBC or the NHS , let alone parliament.
Therefore, it has become easy to approach criticism of Jeremy Corbyn, even if valid roots, with much cynicism. For example, when you have Lucy Powell on the airwaves talking about how Corbyn doesn’t leave the bunker, or Angela Eagle saying he is shut behind ‘closed doors’, this produces massive cognitive dissonance with the numerous images of Corbyn addressing confidently large rallies in public.
Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership hustings appearances are available for all to see on You Tube. In fact, I recommend you watching them with the benefit of hindsight of who actually won. It’s obvious how the presenters undermine his existence at these debates by “begging up” the three other candidates (Kendall, Burnham and Cooper), of good New Labour stock compared to him, in both unspoken ways and spoken ways (“Jeremy Corbyn sneaked onto the ballot and had the fewest nominations by far“).
Corbyn has never been popular in the parliamentary party. In his heyday, he amassed 36 nominations, and this included Dame Margaret Beckett who was later to yield a verbal machete to him saying she had been a ‘moron’ a term widely used by John McTernan. McTernan mysteriously had become the self-selected expert of campaigns despite his heavy recent defeats in Scotland and in Australia. McTernan’s mission was to make Jim Murphy the Scottish heir to Blair, but of course that went belly up. The number of people who did not vote ‘no confidence’ (who logically do not necessarily hold confidence) was 40 the other week.
The late not so great Margaret Thatcher used to have a phrase ‘oh he’s one of us’. Corbyn is clearly not one of them, not having graduated through Fabian Women (joke), or Progress. He did not go to Oxford or Cambridge.
Corbyn has voted for what he has perceived as ‘good law’, and in fact these tend to be the same examples Blairites use to describe their successes. such as the Equality Act or the national minimum wage. He has, however, voted on principle against the whip on matters he disagrees with, including the Iraq War. Tony Blair somehow managed to give an hour’s speech the other day in response to Chilcot without proferring an apology for the hundreds of thousands of innocent deaths, or the argued lack of due process in going to war including rigid observance of international law.
Corbyn was attacked for his perceived lack lustre performance in the EU referendum campaigning, even though he says he toured flat out to argue for the benefits of staying in a reformed Europe. This was exactly the same pitch as the Prime Minister’s, knowing that most of the country were fundamentally 50/50 or by a smidgeon ‘reluctant Brexiteers’. Cameron achieved 10% less than Corbyn “remainers” in their parties. Margaret Hodge MP representing a constituency profoundly Brexit blamed Corbyn and launched the no-confidence motion in him. But everyone knows that there were unresolved local issues in Barking and Dagenham, due to community disquiet about immigration.
All of this narrative is to frame Corbyn as a ‘failure’, and personally responsible for 52/48 vote in the EU Ref. But there were many other actors in the EU Ref, such as Alan Johnson MP whose own campaigning really was dismal. And the ‘failure’ narrative is catalysed by the idea that somehow voters are gullible or stupid, and it’s Corbyn’s fault not to have put his heart into setting out the case. Or even worse, many of his own voters are actually closet racists, and wanted to leave the EU, but Corbyn’s relative silence had somehow tipped them over the edge. It could be possible, for example, for all the best will in the world that many Labour voters consider themselves internationalist rather than attached to the EU – for example, Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper specifically referred to themselves as ‘internationalist’ as regards the UK’s place in the world in the Labour Leadership hustings last year.
This is not only profoundly insulting to Corbyn but also to the voters in the UK who voted for Brexit. Worryingly, it seems to be phenotypic of an arrogance, or at least out-of-touchness, of a part of Labour political class which does not really understand the immigration issue. Labour MPs are either intensely stupid or highly fraudulent to ‘blame’ Corbyn for that. Hilary Benn also might like to ‘react’ to the fact that the Conservative Party have just appointed two SoS Dr Liam Fox and David Davis MP as International Trade and Brexit ministers respectively – are the Tory Party getting chummy with UKIP voters because they think this holds the key to winning?
The reality is, nonetheless, that there have been moves afoot to undermine Corbyn and to get rid of him from day one. This is not paranoia. This is evidenced fact. Yesterday, John Mann had stated openly that he had been approached by a member of Owen Smith MP’s team about a possible leadership challenge six months ago. There has apparently been a Gmail list so people can co-ordinate action against Corbyn. All the media papers have taken a strong line against Corbyn, even though he has met all his local election challenges and has had a number of high publicity policy successes (e.g. on working tax credits).
We know that the Corbyn team has been undermined from day 1, and even before the actual announcement of the result of the election. As Tony McNulty MP correctly pointed out the other day there is a difference between ‘lack of solidarity’ and ‘people who simply disagree with you’. But it has to be remembered that potential key players has refused to work with Corbyn even pre-dating the result including Cooper, Reeves and Umunna. This of course has been incredibly frustrating for the Corbyn team.
The premise for the rejection of Jeremy Corbyn’s positioning is that his policies are radical, dangerous or plain weird. The outstanding problem is they are hugely popular with vast swathes of the current blossoming membership of Labour – for example improving the quantity and quality of social housing, doing something about the unconscionable poor value for money PFI contracts in the NHS, tackling at long last the failure of numerous success governments in tackling aggressive tax avoidance, not using austerity as an excuse to impose policy damaging the most vulnerable in society (such as welfare benefits for citizens who are physically disabled).
There is little real appetite to airbrush genuine serious inclusion problems in Labour which pre-date Corbyn. Unfortunately, some of the accusations of anti-semitism have been confused with genuine criticisms of the Netanyu government. It has been deeply unpleasant for people like me on Twitter, who are not anti-semitic at all, to be accused of being immoral for appearing to support Jeremy Corbyn.
Another “guilt by association” is the conflation of being a supporter of Corbyn with being a member of Momentum – and the meme that all members of Momentum are violent and aggressive Trots. Such high standards of guilt by association are not held, for example, for Thatcher and Pinochet, or certain people in Saudi Arabia Tony Blair has been photographed with with less than great records on human rights.
The ‘not one of us’ legitimises a reluctance to integrate with Jeremy Corbyn, meaning that there is little outward motivation it seems for the Labour parliamentary party to work with their leader. This is of course incredibly demoralising for people who have legitimately voted for Corbyn. Not all ‘entyists’ are people who know nothing about politics – many are indeed ‘returnists’ who have finally found a political philosophy they can agree with, from which they had felt disenfranchised.
For all the talk of Hilary Benn of winning, who has a vested interest in protecting the reputation of the policy of New Labour, there were serious flaws in policy in the New Labour era. One clear example is a target-driven culture, together with a rush to regulation and imposed financial constraints, which led to problems such as Mid Staffs, arguably. But there were others, such as disabled citizens feeling Rachel Reeves MP had very little interest in standing up for their interests. The decline of social care had become legitimised under New Labour, which is a massive problem as the NHS and social care operate in one ecosystem. This is all objectively captured in Labour progressively losing shares of the vote, even while ‘winning’. And the implosion in Scotland is undeniable.
The ‘not one of us’ narrative is incredibly pervasive. One of the attacks of Cameron, one of his more popular ones, was the report of his mum saying Corbyn’s choice of suit in #pmqs was unprofessional.
Corbyn yesterday was wearing a much more expensive suit, and Cameron was happy. It is uncertain what other personal sacrifices Corbyn has had to make to placate the mass media, like brushing the Queen’s hand when he became a Privy Councillor, nodding at a respectable inclination to the Queen, singing with gusto the National Anthem, and so on. These are not reasons to hate Corbyn – merely bully-boy excuses.
Margaret Hodge has repeatedly referred to the culture of ‘intimidation and bullying’ under Corbyn, and yet it is precisely a culture of intimidation and bullying demonstrated by Labour MPs touring TV studios trying to humiliate publicly Corbyn. They could spend more time doing their actual work.
All of this is a far cry from the murder of Jo Cox only recently. But for Hilary Benn ringing round collecting signatures of people who couldn’t work with Corbyn to relay to Corbyn in his face, Benn probably would not have been sacked. And the ludicrous situation would not have occurred where the NEC by only four votes allowed Corbyn to go automatically onto the ballot paper. It is pretty certain Corbyn will now win, with 171 parliamentary MPs having declared ‘no confidence’ in him. It is even more likely that he will win if the Eagle and Smith votes split the opposition. Owen Smith MP is not naturally attractive to core Labour voters because of his stance on NHS privatisation. Much core support for Labour has been lost of late in their lack of perceived defence of public services.
“The member of Parliament for Pontypridd, Owen Smith, has been outed as a supporter of greater private involvement in the NHS, only hours before his wife Liz Smith asks for the support of the people of Llantrisant in voting for her.”
“Prior to standing for election Owen Smith worked as a lobbyist for drugs firm Pfizer. During that time, Owen Smith called for more involvement of such private firms in the NHS. “We believe that choice is a good thing and that patients and healthcare professionals should be at the heart of developing the agenda,” he said on behalf of the firm.”
“Asked to explain why he sought public office whilst earning a six-figure sum from Pfizer, Owen Smith said Pfizer were “extremely supportive” of him seeking to enter Parliament. Speaking about the early-day motion to reduce the involvement of Pfizer in the NHS, Owen Smith added: “We (he and Pfizer) feel that their (other wholesalers’) campaign to mobilise opposition to our proposals is entirely motivated by commercial self-interest.“”
On PFI, Smith declares, “I’m not someone, frankly, who gets terribly wound up about some of the ideological nuances.” These ‘ideological nuances’ have instead caused much taxpayers’ money to leach out into the private sector at an unconscionable rate, stripping the NHS bare of money for frontline staff.
If it quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck.
So – if the party is intensely relaxed about City-friendly policies, and the culture of the parliamentary party is fundamentally different to the membership, the logical conclusion is that the leaders for the overall party and the parliamentary party are not necessarily the same. But in a case of ‘who gets to keep the china’ in divorce proceedings, there is a legitimate question of whether Unions should sponsor MPs who are perceived to undermine the leadership.
“Representatives from the CWU Bristol branch, which has 3,000 members, voted unanimously to halt payments to all three MPs last Wednesday and the decision was ratified this week. Their plans were announced at a pro-Corbyn rally on June 29.
Wotherspoon said: “If someone wishes to stand against the leader there is a process for that – and there will be an election, which is entirely fair. We would expect Jeremy to be returned with an increased mandate.
“These MPs did not bother to meet with their local parties or supporting trade unions before getting involved in this failed coup, who would have overwhelmingly opposed such action.””
Be in no doubt – Corbyn is the victim of real toxic leadership from other Labour MPs and ‘media friends’ of theirs.
Whereas his critics are making much noise, Corbyn looks set to a peaceful ‘quiet revolutionary’.
But he will need to neutralise at least the vitriol of others aimed at others, like the very dangerous levels of nastiness at female MPs – from a class of misogynist terrorists. The very least is that he should expel them after due process from the Labour Party if at all connected. The stand on this has not been strong at all, giving the impression that Corbyn does not actually care (which is presumably not the case). Also, there has been very little in the way of detail for Corbyn’s policies as opposed to grandstanding on pretty unobjectionable socialist (but moderate) policies. Much of the fear that these policies are extremist I feel could be mitigated against if Corbyn had a crack team of intelligent policy people who could work out how to operationalise his strategy, for example on negotiating PFI or tackling aggressive tax avoidance. This does mean a universe more substantial than the leaders’ office, and possibly substantially more resourcing unless there has been a boom in Paul Mason post capitalism. Corbyn and McDonnell have made huge inroads in economic policy, despite some casualties, but health and social care would be a one to target next. Furthermore, it will be necessary to draw on existent work, including the anticipated work on #Brexit from May’s government and the civil service. If #Brexit is going to be the big issue in the next four years, there might NOT be much time, money or inclination to turn the UK into a socialist superstate nirvana anyway.
The situation is rather tragic actually, but, as someone who has voted Labour for the last 26 years for all of my adult life, I can say confidently it is all of the parliamentary Labour Party’s making. Just look to see the humiliation Corbyn had to go through with the NEC, when the rules were perfectly clear that he would be entitled automatically to be on the ballot.