WHAT MAKES A LEADER?
by Rhys Jolley previously published here
“Jeremy Corbyn is not a leader”, the cry goes out, “he’ll destroy the Labour Party. Replace him!” Media pundits and plants repeat this mantra daily. Even the left leaning Mirror blasted out its front page demand “for the sake of your party and for the sake of your country, Go now!” It is one thing to have to face up to your opposition, but another level of challenge altogether when your supposed friends turn on you so viciously.
There are many qualities a leader needs: intelligence, toughness, determination, clear objectives and vision. But a leader with responsibility for the lives and welfare of an entire nation must also demonstrate exceptional moral fibre, standing up for clearly stated principles, even when under sustained attack from opponents, with dignity. That rather sounds like Jeremy to me.
Owen Smith, says all the things expected of a challenger, but little is new. An end to austerity and the Tory nationalisation of private debt. “That’s the kind of revolution I’ll deliver,“ he passionately declares. Fine words, but will he have the guts to do what is necessary to achieve it should he be given the chance? Such courage doesn’t come easily.
The great leaders of the past had to go through decades of preparation. Mahatma Ghandi underwent an extended initiation in South Africa where he first employed nonviolent civil disobedience as an expatriate lawyer involved in the resident Indian community’s struggle for civil rights. He was imprisoned many times. On returning home, he was called to stand up to the full force of the British Raj. He and his small army of ordinary people were able to face them down because he had honed the necessary moral stature and did not budge from his objective.
The Labour Party faces an enemy with an incredible determination to destroy what is left of the socialist structure in this country for its own ends. Already the multi-national corporate agenda has reached deeply into the fabric of our society with its network of CEO’s quietly strengthening their hold on the levers of power by employing devious and complex tactics while claiming the best of intentions. They enable the notorious 1% to profit from these hard times, promoting austerity, though not for themselves, of course, while herding the sick and the disabled to their deaths from neglect. Over 50% of the wealth of this country is seemingly not enough for them. They want it all and are willing to engineer the destruction of the much loved NHS and bring the profit motive into our education system by economic sleight of hand. The Tory party and many of its elected politicians are firmly in their pocket.
David Cameron’s “Big Society” followed Tony Blair’s “Third Way” into oblivion. The country is more unequal then when they began. Theresa May recently said that she will bring about “a fairer society”, but unless she is willing to stand up to this hidden enemy, her efforts will be largely cosmetic. Equal rights for women is certainly a passion of hers, but there will be no fundamental change to the other basic inequalities. Her corporate paymasters won’t allow it.
The right wing press did direct some moral outrage at the bankers, but it was short-lived and little changed. They are still raking in their millions. The current scapegoat, Philip Green, is only one very visible and especially greedy example of his ilk. He broke no laws, so why have the laws not been changed? Something very easy to do, I would have thought. Many big multi-nationals pay little tax. Is Mrs May racing to close the loopholes. I don’t see it.
So, it is up to Labour to push for the changes that will bring about Owen Smith’s equally lofty vision of a ‘more equal society’. But does he actually know what it will require? A cleansing of the corporate lobbyists who have such a hold behind the scenes on the philosophy and actions of so many in Westminster, for one thing.
Donnachadh McCarthy’s excellent book, “The Prostitute State” clearly shows the extent to which many in the Labour Party have also been corrupted, through their directorships and other links to the companies they are there to regulate, gradually watering down the principles that Labour was set up to promote.
A true leader cannot be bought. That’s Jeremy Corbyn again. His earnest challenger has not yet shown any resilience and courageous action in exposing the mechanisms behind the corruption embedded deep within our political and financial systems. You can’t change what you don’t entirely understand.
To become a true leader, Owen needs to go through his personal baptism of fire, requiring him to withstand ridicule and the inevitable personal attacks that will start when the establishment bigwigs see that he is a serious threat to their power base. Until then, he will cave in to the very first challenge from those ruthless corporates and water down his resolve in crucial ways.
So, Owen, I implore you, ‘for the sake of your party and for the sake of your country, withdraw now!’ and do your advanced moral endurance training. Generalities are not enough. Ideas are two a penny. Go onto the front line of the revolution you say you want to lead, and forensically expose the neoliberal agenda with redistributive policies that will be gunned down by the right wing press. Show them that you cannot be swayed by their threats or their bribery. Earn your stripes and then we may embrace you as our leader.
Jeremy has already proven he has what it takes to shepherd the Labour party into the next phase of its mission to achieve a much more balanced and integrated society. He should be wholeheartedly supported.
THE NAIVE CORRESPONDENTS
Labour legend, Dennis Skinner MP (Bolsover) speaks to Richard Burgon MP about the current Leadership contest. He urges that everyone to vote for Jeremy Corbyn, giving him an even stronger mandate. Dennis predits that Jeremy Corbyn will win with an even greater majority, and will be ready to lead Labour into government.
The PLP must listen to the membership, which now stands at over half a million people, with more members than all other parties put together. And it is growing.
Clearly the message for the PLP is to return in the autumn , and get back to work, fighting the Tory Party.
As a child I learned of honestly, fairness and justice, and I learned about socialism. These philosophies go hand-in-hand. But in my lifetime, The Labour Party I loved has become fearful of the truth, and has lost the trust of the electorate. For the second consecutive summer, we are facing a Labour leadership election, a protracted civil war in a party which no longer represents those it purports to exist for.
The summer of 2015 took the establishment by surprise as alongside carbon-copied neoliberals, someone talking honestly, among people, listening to them, ignited the disaffected with hope and optimism. Jeremy Corbyn, with anti-austerity policies was elected leader of the Labour Party with a huge mandate on 12th September 2015.
The summer of 2016 took many by surprise because the referendum on EU narrowly resulted in a “Leave” majority. Examination of those results clearly shows the EU was rejected by those who had nothing. If you have nothing to lose, why would you want to keep everything the same? While there were some on the Left, advocated a break from the corporate stranglehold of EU, the Labour Party and leadership campaigned to remain in the EU, to make changes with other socialist groups to bring about change.
There were a number of reasons why the message was not heard.
The main culprit is the collective bias of the mainstream media. The leader of the opposition was given hardly any coverage (4%) , despite country wide meetings, while Nigel Farage, not an MP was shown repeatedly. Labour’s remain campaign (after the effect of a shared platform at Scottish referendum), quite rightly did not share a platform with David Cameron despite Harriet Harman doing so. Corbyn campaigned extensively but the media did not show it.
The sad and tragic death of Jo Cox may not have resulted from the vile, divisive, and racist reports of the right wing press, but there was certainly a lack of responsibility, and a biased presentation can indeed incite anyone with extreme views or mental illness to behave in a certain way. It was unforgivable.
What this amounts to is a total lack of understanding of the feeling of many people in society, who feel abandoned, neglected, who feel despair, hopelessness, and in some cases hatred.
And in order to begin to repair our divided nation, and indeed world, we have to understand how this has come about. It results from the flawed economics of neoliberalism. It results from the erosion of democracy, which has become a sham.
In recent years, regardless of whichever party becomes the government, no elections have achieved the great change as Labour did in 1945 because of the establishment’s stranglehold. There are immense riches for some and yet the state’s responsibility to its ordinary citizens has been eroded.
Solidarity, socialism, and neighbourliness, are words from the past which we are told was some far-left extremism and has no place in the future. That fear of being destitute, of being alone and helpless is a direct result of neoliberalism. Austerity, created by the IMF and described in the Zombie Economy was hatched seventy years ago in New Hampshire, has been pursued around the world ever since.
They have overseen the transfer of power from the State to the private institutions and corporations.
Ordinary people in the UK, as around the world know that austerity has failed, yet increasingly they feel that their votes will achieve nothing. What do they say to politicians who ask for their votes on the doorstep?
“There is no point in voting; they’re all the same.”
“They’re all in it for themselves.”
“They are all liars!”
“They only want to know at election time.”
“I like Labour, but we can’t trust you with the Economy.
“Too many immigrants taking our jobs.”
“Foreigners are flooding into Britain”
“I’m not interested in Politics.”
That may be a fair assessment of the situation from their view but I am filled with despair. The Labour Party’s recent abstentions on the Welfare Bill resulted in it being carried. 47 Labour MPs did oppose the vote on Trident renewal. Please refer to this list.
The vote to spend masses on Trident when finances and resources would be so much more wisely spent on jobs, houses, NHS and infrastructure, was supported by many Labour MPs who should be ashamed. Why is this happening? Nothing will change until Austerity is challenged and the truth is out. There are people challenging the neoliberal consensus, and one of these is Jeremy Corbyn. He is immensely popular, and has support of 80% of CLPs.
Such is the fear of the establishment of real democracy and change that the press and majority of the PLP have bullied, orchestrated a coup and attempted to push out our democratically elected leader. The NEC and Iain McNicol has blocked democracy by cancelling political meetings, suspending CLPs and even encouraged a challenge to automatically putting the incumbent Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, on the ballot paper, and agreeing to a date which was post nomination time and which could have led to the sole remaining challenger, Owen Smith being automatically made Labour leader.
This in itself was questioned by the judge, and it has been ruled that Jeremy Corbyn should be the defendant, rather than Iain McNicol.
This is a real threat to democracy of the Labour Party, and of our parliament. It must be challenged.
One claim from the right of the Labour Party is that a Corbyn-led party would be unelectable, because of “extreme” left-wing policies, and that was why Labour failed to gain power in 1983 under Michael Foot.
Labour’s 1983 Manifesto was not extremely Left Wing. Some examples include:
- In 1983 Labour promised to invest in homes, transport, new technologies and industry.
- It promised to work for equality, for women – equal pay, maternity pay and assistance for child care
- Planned for Investment in Education, and Provision for under-fives
- It proposed to improve the environment, to tackle pollution and to conserve energy.
- It planned initiatives to promote peace and development around the world, and to cancel Trident and not to co-operate with Cruise Missile deployment,
- Labour would have expanded services for social care and to reverse Tory cuts in the maternity grant.
- Begin a Strategy to Eliminate Low Pay.
- Open immediate negotiations with our EEC partners, and introduce the necessary legislation, to prepare for Britain’s withdrawal from the EEC, to be completed well within the lifetime of the Labour government.
- Rebuild British industry , and up these steps with a new National Investment Bank, new industrial powers, and a new Department for Economic and Industrial Planning.
These are immensely popular policies, and so are those of Jeremy Corbyn. Expanding on the details here show refreshing, positive policies describing a world I wished we could have seen. It was not this manifesto that led to Labour’s defeat in 1983. They called it the greatest suicide note in political history. It looks more like a survival note for a thriving society. Neil Clark in the Guardian, describes how that defeat determined how the resistance to neoliberalism crumbled.
“That moment in 1983 was the last great opportunity to derail the neoliberal bandwagon before it did lasting damage to the UK’s economic and social fabric. Labour’s emergency programme of action would have halted the de-industrialisation of Britain and removed the spectre of mass unemployment from the land. The re-imposition of exchange controls would have put a brake on the growing power of international finance; thanks to Thatcher’s deregulatory measures – money power was soon to rule the roost.”
The yawning wealth gap, already starting to develop in 1983, would have been reversed by Labour’s staunchly progressive tax policies.
In 1981 and 1982, the Tory cuts were very unpopular, and Michael Foot’s Labour Party was well ahead of the Tories in 1982. But Margaret Thatcher’s gamble to send a task force to the Falklands ignited a false patriotism where flag-waving citizens cheered the task force on its way. Thatcher’s gamble paid off. In times of austerity, it was like some kind of hysterical party. It was a close thing, but without victory in the Falklands it is unlikely she would have remained in power.
‘The nation drank deep of an experience it had not enjoyed since 1945: a clear military triumph. The victory dragged Thatcher’s leadership from the brink of collapse. She won global celebrity, in both the United States and the Soviet Union, and 10 points were added to her poll rating. She was at last in the lead over Labour. The emergent Social Democrats never recovered. Thatcher wrapped herself in the flag, denouncing all sceptics and crudely boasting the renaissance of the British people as a world power against dictatorship.’
We have witnessed a greater gap between rich and poor, more deprivation and a disturbing rise in right-wing nationalism. The recent vote on Trident was unnecessary, but served to position Theresa May as Thatcher-like and reinforce the current divisions among the PLP. Austerity has failed, and it is opposition to austerity and neoliberalism which is behind the surge in political activity and a rise in Labour Party membership to over half a million people. Let us build, not divide. Let us oppose neoliberalism, together.
It is a cliché, but true that as a Labour movement , we are strong when we have a common aim which is cohesive. United we stand, divided we fall. It was the split in Labour which cost us victory over Thatcher in 1983. The divisions in Labour at the moment has cost us the lead we had just built over the Tories. It seems there are some in the PLP who do not share the aims of the Labour Party. As representatives of their democratic socialist party, many Labour MPs are behaving in a destructive way again. They look to neoliberalism and not socialism. There is no place for neoliberalism within the Labour Party. There is no room for disunity and disloyalty either. The membership is overwhelmingly supportive of Jeremy Corbyn and there is an incongruence between the membership and the PLP, which must be overcome in some way. As John Prescott, so succinctly put it recently in the Daily Mirror, The Labour Party is its own worst enemy scoring own goals like the England football team.
In 1983, the British electoral system was very much a two-party affair, and as we have seen recently, in a first-past-the-post electoral system, a divided opposition inevitably leads to defeat. In 1981, four former Labour cabinet ministers Bill Rogers, Shirley Williams, David Owen and Roy Jenkins had crossed the floor and formed the SDP. In 1983, ten days before the General Election, an SDP-Liberal Alliance was formed. Their agreement not to oppose seats resulted in Thatcher’s biggest ever electoral landslide. The lesson of the need for Party unity, I hope was learned. In this betrayal, we have all paid dearly.
The Falklands war and the SDP-Alliance splitting the vote, swung it for Mrs Thatcher not the Labour manifesto whatever the press and Blairites say. I remember it as clear as it was day, what a shock it was. The press was wicked. That is what started fear of the truth.
As we know the victors write the history. The massive privatisation policies of the Thatcher years, which continued under Blairism, is still continuing today, though we have little left to sell off, would have been averted. Despite claims, there is evidence that Corbyn’s challenger this summer, Owen Smith, believes in neoliberalism, and many have observed that “he is more Blairite than Blair”.
What resulted from these divisions was neoliberalism for 30 years , a parasitic, out-of-control capitalism which grew exponentially. Manufacturing declined further, unemployment soared, employment rights eroded, and what we have been left with is a growing inequality where fear of being trampled on has led to social divisions and isolationism. Divisions in the Labour Movement today will not bring people together. Many in the PLP have behaved irresponsibly, undemocratically, and unprofessionally, and should unite behind the leader and membership to fight the Tories. Others have been loyal and present the foundation of the New politics. Jeremy Corbyn wishes to see a reunited party fighting injustice, together. Let’s do that.
Listen to Jeremy Corbyn, and you will hear he talks sensible, pragmatic, socially desirable policies which are supported by the electorate. His approach is courageous and honest, and that is why is was elected in 2015 as Labour leader, and why it is likely that he will be elected again in 2016, and why he is very likely to be elected as Prime Minister. After the EU referendum, and prior to the coup, under Corbyn’s leadership, the Labour Party was edging ahead of the Tories in the polls. A cynical, and orchestrated attempted coup is an attempt to hold back democracy as people sense a once -in-a lifetime opportunity to make a difference to their own lives by political action.
The fable of the Emperor’s new clothes is well-known. Everyone could see the emperor was naked , but too fearful to challenge so they admired his new clothes. Everyone knows that the very, very rich, are the real scroungers – representing a hidden welfare state while millions depend on food banks in this country alone. If everyone knows this, then why is our Labour Party still supporting Tory cuts and austerity? It is time to call the Emperor’s bluff.
Truth is always the way. Remember the lines of Tony Benn? “Say what you mean and mean what you say!” Wise words. Jeremy speaks honestly. He speaks the truth. He has integrity, a quality rarely seen among politicians, but one which the electorate respects. He has been proven correct many times, and has remained always true to his principles.
But Jeremy Corbyn has not attempted undermining coups and exhibited bullying behaviour as we have seen this summer. He is popular, principled, and he is very electable. He believes in socialism, and in democracy. He welcomes a reunited party. We aim for government and to change politics.
Jeremy Corbyn has my vote, yet again, and very my best wishes and hopes.