Are “Realistic” Labour Leaders Best Placed to Win An Election? :Bryan Gould

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Are “Realistic” Labour Leaders Best Placed to Win An Election?

BryanGould

By Bryan Gould  previously published on bryangould.com

Conventional wisdom has it that the outcome of the Labour leadership contest most feared by the Tories would be the election of the candidate perceived to be nearest to the middle ground. Conversely, it is suggested that a candidate who espouses policies seen to be further to the left, (which seems to mean simply offering something different from the Tory programme), would gravely prejudice Labour’s chances of winning the next election.

There are, of course, many criteria that might be relevant in deciding which candidate to support – age, gender, personal accomplishments, and so on – and a candidate’s electoral appeal, based on such criteria, might well be important in determining which candidate would be most helpful to Labour’s election chances. But the suggestion, constantly made even by Labour’s friends, that the willingness to offer a clear alternative to Tory austerity, Tory attacks on the public services and Tory victimisation of the vulnerable is somehow a disqualification is surely to be resisted.

The advice to Labour members that they should eschew potential leaders who do not “move forward” (or, to put it more starkly, do not acknowledge the inevitability if not actual desirability of Tory policy) is based surely on a damaging failure of political analysis. It can be justified only on the unstated but mistaken premise that the Tories always occupy the centre ground and that any departure from that centre ground is quite literally eccentric and a mistake, and is doomed to fail.

Yet it is the acceptance of this premise that leads most of the candidates for the Labour leadership to vie with each other in demonstrating how “realistic” they are, how thoroughly they accept that resistance to each new Tory initiative is pointless, how little interest they have in the supposedly hopeless task of developing a credible alternative to Tory orthodoxy.

The paradox is that opinion in the world beyond the Labour leadership contest has moved on – not backwards or leftwards, as the conventional wisdom has it, but forwards to a growing recognition that Tory neo-liberal orthodoxy has had its day. There is now a substantial body of opinion that understands that austerity is not the correct response to recession, that markets are not self-correcting, that running the country is not the same as running a business, that growing inequality is the mark of a failed society and a failing economy.

Among the many who share these understandings, we can now count hard-headed bodies like the IMF and the OECD – hardly raging revolutionaries. What the Labour Party now needs is a leader who can articulate these understandings persuasively. It would not be too difficult. All that is needed is an awareness of how the debate on these issues has progressed and a modicum of competence and courage in putting that to the voters.

It is, in other words, not the left but the Tories, with their determination to press on with a discredited orthodoxy, who now occupy the far reaches of ideology. It is a complete misapprehension to position them in the centre ground, when their policies so clearly represent a distorted and prejudicial view of how real societies and economies work.

It is not just in the context of the leadership contest that this error of analysis is likely to cost Labour dear. If the advice tendered to Labour is followed, and a “realist” is elected to the leadership, the Tories – contrary to the conventional wisdom – will heave a sigh of relief. They will enjoy discrediting a rival who complains about outcomes but is at a loss to explain how things could be done differently. They will know that their task has been made easier, because they will face an opponent who has already conceded the greater part of their policy stance.

They will not have to defend the fundamental assumptions on which that stance is based. Their principal rivals for power will, by failing to engage them in a real debate, provide in effect the most persuasive evidence that there really is “no alternative”.

By positioning the Labour party as a sort of cordon sanitaire around an incumbent Tory government, a so-called “realistic” Labour leadership would insulate their opponents from any truly effective critique of their policies and actions. The contention that it need not be like this would easily be dismissed by pointing to Labour silence and timidity as proof that the Tories had got it right.

The “realism” urged on Labour and the advice that they should not “fight the electorate” would not, in other words, improve Labour’s chances at the next election. On the contrary, a Labour leadership that – inadvertently perhaps – acted as a sort of praetorian guard for Tory extremism so that they were protected from outside criticism could only increase the chances of that extremism doing yet more damage.

And, if by some chance the voters tired of the Tories and elected a Labour government, a “realistic” leader of that government could then no doubt be relied on not to veer too far away from Tory orthodoxy and would thereby disappoint its supporters all over again. Haven’t we been there before?

Bryan Gould

Is Westminster now ready for the Jeremy Corbyn Effect?

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Is Westminster ready for the Jeremy Corbyn Effect?

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The Jeremy Corbyn effect is happening all around the country. This candidate  for the Labour Leadership is being welcomed around the country. MPs do not seem to be in touch with the ordinary people. Why has it been so difficult for anyone challenging the austerity, neoliberal agenda which Thatcher and Reagan initiated, and which has been inflicted on people ever since to achieve a nomination to lead the Labour Party? It is not as if the nation has no appetite for the Jeremy Corbyn Effect.

Our parliament is not a career option.  MPs are elected to serve the people in the interests of the people, and that seems to have been forgotten. Dennis Skinner knows this, and it is because he attends parliament every day, works tirelessly for the working class that he is respected and admired by people of all political persuasions.

Recently elected new Labour MPs are now questioning the status quo. Richard Burgon, Clive Lewis and many other new MPs oppose austerity. Jess Phillips’ maiden speech for women’s equality was passionate and spoke for many ordinary women. Her claim that Nicky Morgan’s lack of support is a  “disgrace” was welcomed as the privileged Morgan went through the “No” lobby. SNP’s Mhairi Black’s maiden speech went viral, a 20 year old woman speaking confidently and challenging the Establishment.

What is left-wing? The term is used by the press to scare people into believing a horror scenario, that Britain is being transformed into some kind of totalitarian state. What is the truth about this current government if it is not extreme?

Let us be clear; Jeremy Corbyn’s politics are not extreme. He is a democratic socialist, with an increasing majority and has represented his constituents in North Islington since 1983 – thirty two years of electability. He claims the lowest expenses of any other politician. He is not in politics for a career, it is because he believes in equality, fairness and justice. He stresses that it is not about one person – but about building a team, working together with people in parliament and around the country, listening to their problems and their needs, and finding a way to help one another.

But of course, the Tory press will say he is a communist extremist. They will cite the 80s socialist Michael Foot, who in 1982 was well placed for election in 1983, and would have been but for the Falklands war and the SDP/Liberal Alliance hatched 10 days before an election, as discussed in “Opening Pandora’s Box“. Take time to read that excellent manifesto, and consider what the world would have been like had Thatcher not been re-elected, leading to mass privatisation, unemployment and manufacturing decline.

In fact, there is a great similarity with the Labour’s leader in 1945, Attlee, whose government achieved  a great deal for working people, and hope for many. The opportunities for those born in the 50s and 60s were an NHS, comprehensive schools, full employment and university grants. Other generations deserve those same chances in life, but the Tory government is destroying hope.

To redress the imbalance  between Labour grassroots, and the Westminster bubble of MPs, we need to:

  • Overcome the fear of exposing the truth of the destructive and flawed neoliberal politics

  • Open up the Labour Party democracy to real discussions with ordinary people

  • Stop lobbying of governments by rich global companies and their hold on them by treaties such as TTIP

  • Expose the myth of Labour overspending – address the truth that greedy, privatised   unregulated banks and a sub-prime mortgage crisis in the US led to a tsunami of economic problems all around the world.

  • Make economy work for people, money is just a tool for distribution of assets. Unfortunately, privatised banks have been creating  virtual money at will – the forever-in-debt scenario where ordinary people can never escape from, because the very nature of such an economy is to keep power with the rich.

  • Address Tax Avoidance

  • Democratise the money system, and ensure  Modern Monetary Theory (MMT)  is adopted which can be controlled to invest in people, building homes, schools, hospitals, and investing in green, and technological industry.

  • Bring back full employment for everyone who can work.

  • Ensure we retain a safety net of security  for all of us, when crisis hits our lives , whether in health, or old age, not private insurance companies who gamble with our lives. Let’s call it social security or protection, not benefits, because that is what welfare was intended for, for all of us.

If we can overcome the fear, open up politics and parliament for the millions who have not voted, then, I believe that Westminster is ready for the Jeremy Corbyn Effect. He is just the beginning. For Team Labour it is a rebirth of a Labour movement, and in that we should rejoice. There is no right, no left – our watchword is Unity, and Forward.

Corbyn’s Calling us Home

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Corbyn’s Calling us Home 

From Chelley Ryan

Contact Chelley here on Twitter: @chelleryn99

This was the tweet that broke the camel’s back. After reading it I was faced with two options – either write an article on why it wound me up, or scream long and hard into a cushion – I opted for the former. So here goes.

‘Jeremy Corbyn might represent our views, but if we want Labour to return to power he isn’t the right man.’    

CORBYN’S CALLING US HOME

The argument against the selection of Jeremy Corbyn as labour leader can often be summed up in three words, ‘Remember Michael Foot.’ So let us remember Foot.

After Michael Foot’s election as leader in November 1980, Labour enjoyed significat poll leads of between 9 and 15%. Understandably, the departure of Roy Jenkins et. al. in March 1981, knocked public confidence in the party, and poll leads dropped to a four or five point average – but labour kept a steady lead, under Foots leadership, until the Falklands war in the spring of 1982.

The patriotic fervour unleashed by the Falkands’ conflict gave a huge boost to both Thatcher and her party. Riding on the crest of a nationalist wave, Thatcher won a landslide in June 1983.

So what does all this mean for the comparison between Corbyn and Foot? It means there were factors afoot – pardon the pun – in 1983, unique to that time, that meant whether on the right, left or centre of the party, 1983 was not Foot’s year.

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 What the establishment have cleverly done, is blame Foot’s defeat on his left wing manifesto, in the same way they have falsely but cleverly blamed the financial crash on Labour’s profligacy. With the help of their friends in the media, Tory lies quickly embed themselves in the public consciousness, rather like a splinter that is never removed, and as a result, the public have brought into the myth that left wing equals electoral defeat. What an ingenious Tory strategy this is. What better way to keep socialists out of power than to convince the socialists to ditch socialism. That way whether Labour or Tories are at the helm, the good ship Brittania always roughly heads in the same direction. Any minor detours along the way can be quickly corrected when the ship is safely returned to Tory hands. No wonder Thatcher claimed new labour was her greatest achievement, an unusual moment of candidacy.

The Tories are well aware what might happen if a real socialist, like Corbyn, wins power. They only have to look back at ’45 and their blood must run cold. And no doubt they’ve had a long hard look at Foot’s 1983 manifesto and breathed a sigh of relief they’d had such a lucky escape. They know full well, had Foot won in 1983, progressive tax policies would have reversed, and staunched, the growth in inequality. Homelessness, and housing bubbles, would have been avoided. Utilities and railways would have stayed in state hands, and North Sea oil revenues wouldn’t have been squandered on tax cuts for the rich. The so called ‘longest suicide note in History’ was in fact a prescription that would have spared ‘the many’ a lot of pain.

Should I ever meet the tweeter behind the tweet, he or she would likely warn me against voting Corbyn, not just because Foot lost, but because Blair won. Like many other Corbyn supporters, I’ve heard this argument time and time again. Blair won three elections, is the general gist of this argument, so that’s the model we need to adopt to win. Well I don’t agree, and here’s why.

Blair was of his time – just as Foot was of his – a unique time when Britain was bouncing along happily inside a credit and housing bubble, a bubble none of us could imagine would burst in the spectacular way that it did a decade later, a bubble that made people feel falsely well off. As a result aspiration was the buzz word of the time. Then there was the relatively recent demise of the Soviet Union, which had damaged the confidence of the left, and the fact Labour was opposing a stale tory government, 18 years long. And there you have it, the perfect recipe for Blair’s stunning electoral success in 97. What Blairites/centrists are less keen to explore is the aftermath of that victory.

Between 1997 and 2010 Labour lost five million core voters, and general election turn-outs fell off a cliff. People didn’t just stop voting Labour, they stopped voting full stop – a collapse in support that ultimately lost us Scotland, and put a rocket booster under UKIP, the new political home for so many ex labour voters.

one for allUnder Blair the flame of socialism was all but snuffed out, but with Jeremy Corbyn in the race, the flame is burning brightly again, and like moths to a flame, it is calling us home.

Thinking of Joining Labour? Join us!

Thinking of Joining Labour? Then Join us!

Many people have been surprised at the support shown for Jeremy Corbyn as a candidate for leader of the Labour Party. The truth is, he is different and refreshingly so.

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Now this new-found optimism, – this spark – is igniting the hopes, and yes aspirations of thousands of caring, people around the country. Hard Left?  This is the language of the Tory press, and we need to use our own vocabulary. Jeremy Corbyn is not hard, he is compassionate. He is not extreme left – his policies are  moderate, pragmatic, sensible, socially desirable and formulated to bring justice, fairness, equality and opportunity to the people of this country. (policy link). He offers security to the disabled, sick and elderly. He gives hope to the young with policies such as building housing, protecting the NHS, of a national education system, life-long learning free at the point of use, of equality and of taking on the neoliberal exploitative banking system and tax avoiders.

We have been so used to listening Labour Party entrenched in fear. We need to challenge that fear. It has been a struggle to fight from within but the tide is turning, and Blairites are  in the minority. The Tory press are petrified of Jeremy Corbyn – a good sign! He speaks honestly and truthfully. The Tories cannot cope! Heaven forbid the people might discover what has been going on. But ordinary people do know, and understand and that is why fewer and fewer people have supported Labour at the ballot box.

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This is not about one man, Jeremy Corbyn speaks of a team – it is about “we”, a Labour movement, where people matter and people will be listened to. So please join us, we need people just like you. And welcome! The future is ours.

Either by:

1. Becoming a full member (check out discounted rates for students and others):

http://join.labour.org.uk/

2. Becoming a ‘supporter’ by texting ‘support’ to 78555 (texts costs £3) or online here:

http://support.labour.org.uk/ (this is also the case if you are a member of a union which is not affiliated to the Labour Party)

3. Registering as a member of an affiliated union (free if a member of an affiliated union – see list here: http://www.labour.org.uk/…/trade-union-and-labour-party-lia…):

http://support.labour.org.uk/ (choose member of affiliated organisation option)

Please note, for all types of membership, you will need to agree to the statement:

“I support the aims and values of the Labour Party, and I am not a supporter of any organisation opposed to it.”

The deadline to register:

August 12th (but do it now!)