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Home » Uncategorized » The Labour PLP have realised politics is not simply about marketing – and that’s why it’s ugly

The Labour PLP have realised politics is not simply about marketing – and that’s why it’s ugly

This is Jeremy Corbyn MP in the Leeds Rally.




This is Owen Smith MP elsewhere.











I’m actually an academic in dementia, and the structure and function of social movements is in reality a very large part of my work. What I have read in tweets from certain Guardian journalists beggars belief, and identifies for me that they don’t know anything about social movements.

Without going into what a social movement is these days, which would be quite turgid and potentially hugely boring, it’s perhaps worth nothng what it isn’t. I’ve seen the term misapplied to a group of people buying the same product or engaging in the same project, and mass tweets about it. That’s not actually a genuine social movement – that’s “groupthink”, where much of the hard work of the marketing is done by the self-explanatory ‘bandwagon effect’.

Genuine social movements, such as the response to Dr Martin Luther King Jnr’s iconic ‘I have a dream’ speech, occur when a group of people are able to click with a certain set of issues, communicate with one another a strong sense of bonding and motivation to action on those issues, and then want to do something about those issues.

Whatever you think of ‘Momentum’, and bear in mind I’m not a member of Momentum nor even been asked to join, for the parliamentary Labour Party this ability to mobilise and organise is terrifying. You only have to look at the pictures of empty pews for sermons by Owen Smith to witness quite how embarrassing the Owen Smith campaign has become. One person to me said ‘it must be humiliating for him’.

Owen Smith MP strikes me as a hugely pleasant man, stripping away his involvement in recent events. I think to glorify the present leadership election as a ‘contest’ is hyperbolic – it is more like a wimpish dare from Owen.

I get Owen’s belief that he is following in the footsteps of Nye Bevan. But bear in mind that Nye Bevan himself got expelled from the Labour Party;

I find it quite humbling that he perceives himself as a socialist. I have often fessed up straight away about my total lack of definition about what socialism is, but I recognise it when I see it. Owen makes the right noises, such as “100% public ownership” of the NHS, but it’s what he doesn’t say which probably raises alarm bells for me the most – such as the rôle of private finance in “the new deal”, or what he would feel about free trade, multinationals and the NHS.

Yesterday I took to YouTube to watch the initial reactions to the general election victory by the Conservatives in May 2015. Labour MPs, one after another, appear shell-shocked. They genuinely believed that they could and would win with Ed Miliband?

But remember – this was also the election where the Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls, lost his seat, and Scotland went down from 41 Labour MPs to 1.

I knew Labour wouldn’t win. I have voted Labour for 26 years. I even accidentally went to Margaret Thatcher’s last ever Question Time, a stone’s throw away from my school in London.

I am physically disabled. I felt a real disconnect with how the Labour Party in parliament went about their business – they wanted to send out the signal that they could be trusted with the economy, despite never wishing to discuss how even national debt had ballooned under Osborne 2010-5. And they appeared prepared to support the Conservatives for their plans for belt tightening, even if that meant hundreds of thousands of disabled citizens like me would lose their benefits on ‘reassessment’ or it meant that the NHS could continue with its idiotic ‘efficiency savings’.

I watched one interview given by Chuka Umunna MP where he identified the main issue as the failure of ‘aspiration’. And this was a theme which was to be used again and again by the failed Leadership candidates in 2015. You see, Labour failed to pledge to reverse the annihilation of law centres and legal aid following the Legal Aid and Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, meaning access to justice being strangled at the neck. This is not just failure of aspiration for me – it is a real poverty of ambition from the parliamentary Labour Party, as then was, which appeared to wish to be able to continue seamlessly with Conservative policies.

Lord Mandelson whilst coming to praise Ed Miliband also came to blame him on the Sunday Marr show after the thursday general election. He laid the blame directly at the foot of Ed Miliband rejecting New Labour. Mandelson said that this was a mistake, and Miliband should have ‘reinvigorated’ New Labour. Aside from whether you wish to do CPR on a dead corpse, I think this shows complete lack of insight and political acumen.

One thing Diane Abbott MP and Chuka Umunna MP did agree on, however, in their interviews for the BBC that week was a need for a ‘wider debate’ and for Labour now to grow as a ‘social movement’.

And whatever you think of Jeremy Corbyn – and I’m aware that some of you think he’s a misogynist, anti-Semitic, pro-terrorist bastard – he has produced a wider debate, whether that is on national infrastructure and the urgent need to build social housing, a publicly owned NHS, getting rid of PFI, cracking down at long last on aggressive tax avoidance, tackling the deep rooted problems in social care, and so on.

This could be interpreted as the Labour moving left-wards, and if imitation is the best form of flattery, Corbyn must be extremely flattered by the wholesale plagiarisation of the policies by Owen Smith MP.

The thing is – what Lord Mandelson and Blair wanted was a centre-left ‘middle of the road’ candidate who could make their type of policies, supposedly pro-growth, pro-wealth creation, pro-aspiration blah blah blah, palatable. They were not expecting Owen to wholesale copy policies which could be incontrovertibly called left wing (such as 100% public ownership of the NHS). The argument is that Labour Party will trick and dupe the country into voting for Owen, as he is the ‘acceptable face of Corbynism’, but I think this is yet another example of the Labour Party PLP treating the general public like idiots.

Did Seema Malhotra MP really expect nobody to question why she had been sat squatting in her office for two weeks having resigned? Instead nasty vindictive smears emerged against a widower with a single job who happened to work in John McDonnell MP’s office. Or does Jess Phillips MP really think she is the best advocate for a ‘kinder form of politics’, when she once boasted of stabbing Corbyn in the front not the back? Or does Jamie Reed MP think he can get away with a question in PMQs, widely interpreted in the mainstream media as trying to humiliate the leadership of Labour, just minutes before Andy Burnham MP, Shadow Home Secretary, gives a serious statement on Oregreave?

The Labour Party PLP and Owen Smith MP have tried to market their way to success – and have failed.

The vast majority of the Labour MPs are clearly deluded if they thought, all 171 of them, that they could ‘force’ Corbyn to resign, against the rules.

In fact, if you read the judgment against the Labour donor last week, it states specifically that the reason that the rules are unambiguously interpreted in Corbyn’s favour is due to the simple fact that Corbyn did not resign.

And it will play out again in the courts next week.

Will the Court view the sudden rule change by the NEC regarding membership and voting to be lawful? I think a fair legalistic appraisal of the situation can find there’s been a breach of contract. Fresh Labour members sign up to clearly identifiable terms and conditions on the website, which makes reference to the Rule Book and the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 20000. Voting is clearly a membership activity.

Is there a contract of membership with Labour as a political party? Yes, according to clause 2 of the High Court’s own judgment last week delivered in the Strand, making reference to a case of Chaudhry and Ors v Treisman, which made interesting reading for me at 3 am.

The question though is what the High Court will then do about it. The remedy in contract law tends to be damages – so one assumes the NEC will simply be asked to reinstitute voting rights or to give these new members a refund. Restitution in English law is relatively rare, however (though do see the Spycatcher case.)

It’s suddenly got very ugly, as the Labour Party PLP will now finally realise they can’t bully the membership into getting their own way. The final throw of the dice and die is to threaten a split and for the failed Labour Party MPs to get the name of ‘Labour’ – but this is desperate stuff. Ugly stuff – and entirely to be predicted when social movements defeat marketing.






  • Jules

    Genuinely enjoyed reading this. Thank you so much.

  • Jules

    I further think that when the case is won and the LP have to return the funds it would be good to ask the electorate if they would vote in favour of the ,only going into the food banks in the uk to help our brothers and sisters whilst still suffering under the blight of austerity

    • JeopardyLeyton

      That is a great idea

  • Vistaril


  • Merlin Norbury

    Fantastic piece, shared.

  • The greenmantle

    Well said . I find the whole thing just baffling . How can the PLP not realise that the Labour Party is a movement and they are out of touch with “the man or woman in the street” . Its like they are living in the Westminster bubble and are afraid to get out of it some of them are looking at loosing their jobs come reselection time .because of boundry changes

  • Robot_Boogie

    A big hole in this argument – despite the party more than doubling in size, there are consistent reports from across the country that numbers of committed CLP activists are not rising by anything like the same proportion. People willing to deliver leaflets or knock on doors remain thin on the ground. This social movement is one that actually exists almost entirely online, among people who simply want to pay their £3 or £25 and wear a “Straight talking, honest politics” badge. You might get some of these people to a rally but genuine political action on the ground? Only in the tiniest numbers.

    Shibley, you might work in social movements but I work in marketing, and Corbyn/Momentum’s success has been almost entirely based in this area, as far as I can see. Their social media work is excellent and they have built a wave of virtual self-righteousness among people who contribute little more to the Labour movement than a few quid and tweeting their support for Jeremy. The whole thing lacks substance. Ed Miliband might have lost the election badly but at least he had a consistent, thought-through policy platform where Corbyn largely has little more than a few slogans.

    If this is a social movement, it is one where the social is based entirely on the smartphone and the movement is little more than moving your fingers to use it. For ordinary people looking for a social democratic/socialist electoral option, it is next to useless.

    • JeopardyLeyton

      The main reason there is not much activity at the moment is because they have banned us all from meeting!! I’m desperate to go out knocking on doors and meeting people delivering leaflets etc, but I can’t because there’s no meetings until September. Just the rallies. And from social media I know a lot of other people feel the same around the country. People are also not keen on trying to arrange things in case we lose our vote in the leadership election – its been very opaque and it seems the PLP will stop at nothing to try and get rid of pro-Corbyn voters, so people are loathe to have unofficial meetings in case suddenly that results in a ban, as has happened in a few places (only pro-Corbyn meetings though) or vote being taken away.

      You’re wrong about it just being a social media thing where people just tweet support and spend a couple of quid. People desperately care about this and at the moment while people can’t meet physically, they are sharing ideas for how to overcome the huge media bias, sharing strategies, campaign ideas, talking about policies etc. You just have to see how with just over a day’s notice, Corbyn can get 10,000 people out on a rainy Monday to hear him talk to know that people are genuinely, physically mobilised and ready to go.

  • Silvia Vousden

    We do have a social movement, but do we have a clear message that appeals to the wider electorate? I want to see a consistent message that everyone in the Labour party can get behind and drum into the public consciousness. They won’t do that until they can agree to support the democratically elected leader of the party. We want a fairer Britain, a socialist Britain, and for too many of the PLP, that prospect is terrifying. But it doesn’t need to be, Corbyn is advocating and proposing many of the policies that had already been proposed by Ed Miliband and endorsed by the wider party. What is so bad about wanting to invest in the young with the abolition of tuition fees, protecting the incomes of the old by opposing the proposed cuts to pensions, restoring the dignity of the disabled by abolishing the reforms of the Conservatives and restoring the Independent Living Fund, raising the standard of living for everyone, by raising the minimum wage to a living wage, ensuring that one job is enough by abolishing zero hours contracts, and calling those responsible to account, the bankers and failed economic and austerity policies for the mess we are in?

  • Eric Jarvis

    Good article. I think one of the big problems that many in the PLP have is that they simply haven’t caught up with the 21st century. They are using obsolete PR approaches that no longer work and are so locked into their mindset that any attempt to explain their problem is simply ridiculed.

    We are in the new media era. Not everyone is using the Internet, but almost everyone knows somebody who is. So when an NEC member tearfully complains that somebody released her private email and mobile phone number on the Internet it took less than an hour for a screenshot of her Facebook page from the day before showing that she had put her contact details there and requested Labour Party members to send her their thoughts on the following day’s NEC meeting. That sort of stunt doesn’t work anymore. The debunking of the falsehood goes viral within hours and within days many of those who have seen it have taken the message off the Internet and out to the wider world.

    The mass mainstream media are no longer the only game in town. It IS possible for the Labour Party to oppose the demonisation of disabled benefit claimants, it is no longer necessary to simply accept that the Sun and the Mail have set an agenda that everybody must follow.

  • andrew craig nicol

    Aspiration takes two main forms : 1. In form of packages / products/ sevices that you can buy, well supplied by neoliberalism and particularly suited to automation, and automaton-like behaviour from both workers and consumers 2. In the form of aspiration for a kinder , fairer, freer , more collaborative and humane culture. Tony Blair’s vision of aspiration apparently came from seeing a man polishing his Ford Mondeo on a Sunday ; we’ve had plenty of that now – it seems time to try a different version of aspiration.

  • terryec

    It worries me where it all ends up, will Angela Eagle survive lying about and insulting her CLP? what does the PLP do if Smith is beaten? the answers will all come out in October when the votes are counted and the CLPs are allowed to once again have meetings something Shibley never mentioned, We have been silenced and I’m afraid there will be recriminations and repercussions at CLP level, The PLP have lost the faith of the Party, they still think their actions are the correct one but as with all MPs they will talk over people and not correct their wrongs, they will go over the cliff before they will back down, I think the party as a whole will rather they go over than go back to what went before. Labour have lost 168 MPs in 3 elections, Lost Scotland and 5m voters and they feel they are electable and Corbyn isn’t, well it was’t Corbyn that had the bad results, Labour is and was offering no solutions to poverty which is wrecking so many lives they just offered more Workfare although I think that is now illegal, they offered no improvement in the NHS which is desperately needed, nor did they say they would put money into the economy to fix the infrastructure, build houses and create the jobs the country is screaming out for. That bubble they live in that blinkers them from what is happening in the rest of the country where they see only the successful parts of London is the shame of all of them, they have not been doing their job which is to ensure our people live in suitable homes, are not hungry and have the opportunity to work, Not fighting for these basics the Labour Party is no use to anyone.

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