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?

one for all

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.

FOOTjeremy house of commons BLAIR

 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.

Six Reasons why Jeremy Corbyn could win next General Election

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Six Reasons why Jeremy Corbyn could win the next General Election By James Meadway , previously published by Novara Media

Jeremy Corbyn, on current polling, is on course to win Labour’s leadership campaign. Conventional wisdom, as recycled by Britain’s political class, has put this down to a kind of post-election sulk by Labour’s members and supporters. Elect Corbyn now, they insist at increasing volume, and Labour can kiss goodbye to powerJeremy c192x108 for a generation or more.
The Westminster bubble was wrong about Corbyn’s candidacy, and it’s wrong about how the left might win the next general election. It’s the left in the party, not the right, that can show a path to Labour’s return to power. Supporting Corbyn is not just about principle or ‘self-indulgence’. It’s about strategy. Here’s how it could work:

1. It’s the stupid economy.

The chances of the UK avoiding a financial crisis and recession over the next few years diminish with every day that passes. The only real question is whether the house of cards collapses before, or after, the next general election. With austerity dragging down demand, it’s private sector borrowing that is increasingly keeping the show on the road. Borrowing by households, excluding mortgages, is now rising at the fastest level since 2007. The government’s own forecasters expect household debt to reach record levels before the end of the decade. Throw in the productivity slump, a yawning current account deficit, and rumblings from Greece to China and you’re looking at crash in waiting. If the opposition is organised when it happens, it can win.

2. Austerity will begin to hit those it previously left alone.

George Osborne set out a dangerous political manoeuvre in the summer budget. He is attempting to break the attachment of British society to its welfare state. He’s been very clear he’s seeking to create a new political consensus around a ‘low tax, low welfare’ economy. But until that consensus exists, the cuts he needs to make will hurt and will be seen to hurt. Projections from the budget suggest 13m people will lose an average of £260 a year. 3m households will lose £1k. These are serious cuts across broad swathes of the population. An opposition prepared to actually oppose those cuts would pick up support. The Blairites can’t do it.

3. Scotland.

The SNP won’t go away. 56 MPs won’t vanish overnight – not with the party currently polling at an extraordinary 56%. Either Labour cuts a deal with the SNP or, this side of independence, it will not return to power. Ed Miliband’s posturing against the SNP before this year’s election fooled precisely no one, and the Tories gleefully exploited the disingenuousness. Better to get over residual unionism and be honest about the situation. The anti-austerity, anti-Trident Labour left is in a far better position to talk to the anti-austerity, anti-Trident SNP than the pro-austerity, pro-Trident Labour right.

4. Where do the Tories go next?

There was no grand swing to the Conservatives in this election. Labour’s vote rose by more, despite the loss of Scotland. But the Tories were far sharper in exploiting the collapse of the Lib Dems. That’s not a trick that can be repeated twice. So where do they go next? Labour to Tory switchers at the last election were tiny in number, just 2% of voters, and, in a creaking economy with austerity grinding onwards, the Tories will seriously have their work cut out to win over many more. A better bet for them are Ukip supporters. But Ukip’s ambiguities – as the pro-Establishment anti-Establishment party – can, in practice, play left or right. ‘Red Ukip’ is a curious thing, but it exists. And the Tories have scarcely settled their own issues on Europe. A Labour party not obviously tied to the Establishment, and able to take a robust line against the neoliberal EU, could win these voters over. The right can’t do that.

5. Labour has a generation to win back.

Tony Blair’s greatest achievement was not the landslide of 1997. The proverbial donkey in a red rosette could at least have got a majority then, such was the depth of real hatred for the Conservatives. Blair’s real achievement was to lose Labour 4m votes in subsequent elections. He won fewer votes in 2001 and 2005 than Neil Kinnock lost the 1992 election with. It was a failure by disenchanted Labour supporters to vote that explains the gap between Labour’s opinion poll support and its actual vote this time round. Although more prevalent in Labour’s heartlands, those disenchanted former voters and fed-up supporters are spread throughout the country. It won’t be Liz Kendall or Andy Burnham that can win them back.

6. Left policies are popular.

On issue after issue after issue, the majority of voters are far to the left of the mainstream, from taxing the rich to renationalising the railways and utilities. Of course, it’s a long way from single policies being widely supported to an entire programme of the left being popular. There’s no straight line from one to the other. But it’s the left who can start to pull such a programme together – not burned-out Blairites. – None of this is guarantee. Could win is a very long way from will win. The uncertainties are enormous. There is the small matter of the leadership election itself. But we’re already seeing the limits of Blair-style ‘triangulation’ in Labour’s disarray over what ought to be the simple issue of opposing Conservative welfare cuts. There’s no reason to assume some election-winning magic attaches itself to the right and centre. Reheated Blairism, as now being offered by the Labour right, is an unpalatable mess. Its ‘realism’ looks increasingly unreal to anyone outside the whirligig of Westminster. And its failures have opened an extraordinary political opportunity for the left. It’s there for the taking.

This work by Novara Wire is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Published 7th July 2015