‘I don’t care who does the electing as long as I get to choose the candidates’

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The actual quote is ‘‘I don’t care who does the electing as long as I get to do the nominating’ (Boss Tweed) … which is actually more to the point in the LP.

Think about it and it’s obvious – there is never just one election. There’s the one that we all know about and can vote in … and the one before where the candidates are chosen. The small numbers of people who determine the candidates are the gatekeepers and it doesn’t matter how good the franchise in the total electorate if the candidates are all out of the same box.

This isn’t a new problem. The rioting in Hong Kong 2014 (and since) was because the people were only offered a ‘democratic choice’ between those candidates chosen by the Chinese government.

In the US, they have primaries to choose the Democratic and Republican candidates who will contest the presidential election… but in reality only those candidates who are fantastically rich like Trump or funded by a small number of the mega-rich will make it as far as the primaries (hence Boss Tweeds’ quote). Bernie Sanders was the notable exception in not being beholden to large donors or Wall Street … and not coming from the 0.01%.

With legal limits on donations, there is nothing like the same big money problem in the UK… although there is much to be written about donors making it into the Lords and doubtless a great deal more, shrouded in secrecy. We also know that there are corporate and wealthy individual donors* from outside of the LP who are funding anti-Corbyn groups…

However, the Labour Party has a much more immediate, home grown, internal problem with gatekeepers, which has really come to the fore with the unexpected election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader.

Currently, the LP is a bit like a toasted sandwich. The top and the bottom are on the same page… democratic socialists. But the squidgy layers in the middle are the branch/constituency officers, councilors, LP staffers, MEPs and MPs who largely pre-date the Corbyn surge and are various shades of social democrats … the so-called soft left, Labour First and Progress aka the ABCs (the anyone but Corbyn brigade).

But significantly, it is the squidgy bits (and not the grassroots) that constitute the gatekeepers as to who can stand as a candidate.

Unsurprisingly, the ABCs choose candidates who share their social democrat politics and are invariably anti-Corbyn (eg Stoke Central, Oldham, Copeland and so-on)…

In other words, they choose candidates who do not represent the 61% of grassroots members who voted for Jeremy Corbyn… and the result is that the social democratic squidgies maintain their presence in positions of power.

Clearly by so doing, they put the majority of the grassroots in a hugely difficult position. Do they actively campaign for a right wing candidate, unrepresentative of the leadership or the grassroots, because ‘anyone from Labour is better than a Tory’**? Or do they reject the squidgies’ choice and lose a Labour seat? (The election of Sadiq Khan as London Mayor is a perfect example of the conundrum).

Given this state of affairs, anger is mounting to new heights as the ABC gatekeepers try to block democratic socialists from becoming branch/CLP officers or from standing as parliamentary or council candidates.

For many, this is the final straw on top of the last 22 months of coups, expulsions, suspensions, false allegations, tricks and sleights of hand by the ABCs. The stories are legion from packing selection meetings, excluding the full membership from voting, suspensions on spurious grounds and other techniques from the playlist provided by ‘The Hammer of the Left” (John Goulding’s book about ridding the LP of militant and excluding Tony Benn supporters).

It’s no surprise then that formal challenges are beginning to be mounted, and given the lack of support from the squidgy regional and national bodies, these are including legal ones.

For example, last month, eighteen pro-Corbyn members in Ealing LP were given unconvincing reasons as to why they were not considered as suitable to stand in selections for next year’s borough elections. This scale of rejection at this stage in the election cycle is unprecedented. And as a result, left wingers in Ealing CLP have decided to take legal action. (Donations gratefully received).

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/jeremy-corbyn-supporters-crowdfund-legal-battle-to-challenge-labour-party-selections-a3514421.html

 

In Newham, there is an appeal to the national LP and their MPs to investigate the 2016 Mayoral ballot and the suspension of dissenting members. This is backed up by a 38 degrees petition. https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/justice-for-newham-s-left?bucket&source=facebook-share-button&time=1492379140

Now, it needs to understood that these are not isolated examples of the squidgy bit blocking toasty Corbyn supporters. These are just Corbyn-supporting members (like the majority of the membership) not feeling that they have any other choice. The grassroots left can’t even appeal to the regional or national bodies because those bodies are also overwhelmingly dominated and controlled by the squidgy layer.

Of course, this internal mismatch all started with the unexpected election of Jeremy Corbyn.

Cast your mind back to June 2015. The Left were in despair because there was a choice of three pretty much identikit and non-descript candidates. It was so uniform and uninspiring that non-Corbyn supporting MPs were persuaded to make up the numbers to nominate Jeremy in an attempt to make the whole process look a bit more democratic.

In other words by default, the PLP gatekeeping process broke down… and to the ABC’s horror, Jeremy was elected by an overwhelming majority of the grassroots. (The Right has done nothing but try and depose him ever since – using not so much fair as foul means).

The issue boils down to whether the LP is a democratic organization representing its grassroots membership or whether the LP is actually its elected representatives… and of course, taking note that the LP’s elected MPs and councilors have all been successful in being passed by the gatekeepers.

Why is this particularly relevant now?

It’s because we are in a bit of an impasse. The ABCs say that Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable in 2020. However, this view is hardly convincing when it is clear that they will fight tooth and nail to make it impossible for another more ‘plausible’ but similarly leftwing candidate to replace Corbyn. The most obvious way out of the impasse is for the number of nominations required from sitting MPs to be lowered (although in my view, nominations should be abolished completely)

This is the purpose of the so-called McDonnell proposal scheduled for LP conference in September. The argument is that by lowering the ‘gate’ to 5% of MPs, left wing MPs would not be excluded from standing for the leadership of the LP.

How are they ‘fighting tooth and nail’?

One is by proposing an amendment to reverse the leadership voting away from OMOV and back to the old system in which the MPs, the Trade Unions and the membership each have a third of the vote.

Another is by trying to pack the conference with anti-Corbyn delegates to vote against the McDonnell amendment …

And yet another is to try and make sure that their candidates re-elected onto the Conference Arrangements Committee and the National Constitutional Committee.

So this is but another version of the gatekeeping… by engineering to pack conference with anti-Corbyn delegates, the ABCs hope to ensure that amendments contrary to the views of the Corbyn-supporting majority of the membership are carried.  This can well happen because this is exactly what occurred at last year’s conference.

To be clear these tricks have been used over and over again, reaching their zenith, under the command and control tactics of New Labour. They are profoundly undemocratic in both spirit and structure and the very future of the LP is at stake unless it can be reformed and reconstituted. Needless to say, they also underpin the parachuting of candidates***, like Tristram Hunt, into safe Labour parliamentary seats but that’s a topic for another day.

For now, the imperative is to make sure that we send representative delegates to conference, preferably mandated to vote for the McDonnell resolution and to vote for these grassroots candidates to the CAC and NCC.

Unfortunately, we seem to be fighting for a Labour Party against a core of people such as Blair and Mandelson, who would rather that the LP was dead than red.  In fact, Tony Blair is said to be intending to create a new ‘centre’ SDP2 party and announce it just before the 2020 GE.  I think that says it all.

The LP needs to be less of a toasted sandwich and for the whole membership to gain a proper respect for democracy and fair play.

 

* Gossip is that Lord Sainsbury is transferring his thousands away from Progress to Tony Blair’s new party.

**New Labour managed to lose 5m voters by 2005 but were still returned to gov’t because the blairites relied on there being nowhere else for the Left to go.

***In fact, with Constituency by-elections, there are two sets of gate-keepers, and arguably three. Three members of the NEC draw up a short-list, from which the CLP can choose a PPC (Prospective Parliamentary Candidate) .. So, whoever chooses which NEC members will vet the short-list has a tremendous impact on the final choice of PPC. This is the mechanism by which Blairite candidates like Tristam Hunt were parachuted into safe seats like Stoke Central, regardless of their lack of local roots.

How Blairites rigging 2017 conference delegates – are they doing it to YOUR CLP?

 

How to get rid of a democratically elected leader

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How to get rid of a democratically elected leader – advice for rebel MPs

First and most importantly, play the long game. Don’t jump in with some half-baked scheme like a mass resignation… and particularly don’t do it if you haven’t a plan as to what to do if the leader refuses to step down.

Why not?

One, the membership is going to know that you have absolutely no respect for them … or for democracy.

Two, you will look very silly when you find yourself trying to justify your behaviour.

Three, you are dependent on the goodwill of your activists to get re-elected.

However, if you unfortunately do find yourselves forced into another leadership contest, whatever you do, don’t try to stop the leader being on the ballot paper by legal or any other means! And don’t expel or exclude members from voting on spurious grounds.   These are a total godsend for baking in and increasing your unwanted leader’s mandate.

Of course, it is all to the good if you succeed in disgusting some members into resigning from the party but there is also the danger that more will be disgusted into backing the leader.

Over and above all this, there are two predictable consequences.

The first is who is going to be stupid enough to put themselves up against the leader in these circumstances? It is bound to be a second rate candidate who will be an embarrassment and will justifiably entrench the view of the leader as the best choice.

Secondly, resigning from the shadow cabinet leaves the space for the leader to appoint his supporters, and allow the ‘wrong’ sort of new-intake MPs to gain valuable experience of ministerial office for the future.

 

Finally, don’t choose a moment when the government is on its knees. You really don’t want anyone to be able to accuse you of putting your own interests before the good of the country.   Even worse, you don’t want to be accused of trying to destroy the party rather than let the democratically leader lead.

 

So if that’s the wrong way, what is a more successful strategy?

 

First of all, if you stand back and analyse the problem dispassionately, you will see that there are only two routes to deposing the leader.

One is to induce him to stand down by bullying, misrepresenting, maligning, vilifying, denigrating, disparaging and smearing him and his team. You need to pick on everything and anything… be outraged, constantly outraged … magnify and blame the leader however ludicrous the suggestion.   All the isms are good… sexism, racism, being anti-Jewish people … and don’t forget to smear his supporters with the same. Accuse the leader of having created a personality cult, a mob that frightens women MPs with their threats of violence or worse. Meanwhile, keep on antagonizing the membership – if they object (however passively) you can get them expelled or suspended. Ditto CLPs who vote in officers who are supportive of the leader. These can be shut down for any number of reasons with the help of existing councilors and MPs.

By the way, don’t forget to smear the membership as being looney-entryists who don’t do any work and are deviously trying to make the party unelectable.

Brilliant if you can use all your contacts with sympathetic members of the mainstream media to get them to jump on the bandwagon.   This will of course be made all the easier by the natural inclination of the government’s supporters. The real humdinger is to get previously loyal supporters to turn on the leader.

However, there is a most important caveat. Do not let your chosen successor or his/her potential shadow cabinet members get pulled into this attack programme. They must keep their hands clean.

It is imperative to triangulate the ‘attack’ team with the ‘future leaders’ team.  The first team should be the shock troops who will create the space in which the leader is wounded, undermined and discredited.

The second team must be more consensual and tonally emollient.  As conflict flares, this group should move incrementally into the space opened up by the first group’s assault. They need to be pained about the disunity and the abrasive nature of the debate, but will acknowledge the need for it.

If asked about the leader, the ‘future leaders’ need to say how much they like and respect the leader but with great sadness, they cannot believe that he is up to the job. Again, this has greatest impact when it comes from well-known previous supporters of the leader.

But I said that there are two routes. The second is a real headache in terms of deposing a leader who won’t resign… and that is what to do about the majority of party members who support the leader.

You need to acknowledge that you are not going to convince them overnight that they were wrong. Be patient because over time, with the national campaign you are mounting, the atmosphere in the party will become increasingly acrimonious at branch and constituency levels.

Above all remember that the members are unlikely to accept a replacement for the leader, until it is demonstrated to the party members that he is unelectable.

But you can surely arrange that. Your press briefings and outrage will have made it clear to the electorate that it is not a party worth voting for, so numbers should plummet in the Opinion polling… and it should be little problem to utilise those local party members and constituency officers who backed the ‘mainstream’ candidate in the leadership contest. They are frequently those in positions of power, know their way around the rule book and procedure and can run rings around the new naïve membership.

Make sure that for local elections and (most importantly) by-elections, the candidates that are adopted, are as anti to the leadership and his policies as possible. Doubly humiliate the membership by getting them to work for the election of candidates who will do their best to bring down the leadership.

Either which way, this is a great strategy. If the election is won, it is in spite of the leader and if it’s lost, it’s the leader’s fault. It will be even better, if the successful new Mayor, MP etc can publicly snub the leader… superb anti-leader publicity and inviting the membership to feel really stupid for having backed the candidate.

So in summary, the job is to undermine and discredit the leader at all times, regardless of how mindless and unjustified the attacks but remember to keep the chosen successor away from the fray. On no account, acknowledge any successes that the leader may have. In fact, ignore him. Talk in public as if he does not exist, deny that he has any policies and suggest that the party is not opposing the government.

With regard to the membership… well they really don’t matter apart from turning them off voting for the leader. The more disillusioned, the angrier and the more disempowered they feel, the better. You want them to either turn against the leadership or leave.

Then as soon as you’ve got the party back, make sure that such a situation can never, ever, ever happen again.

A final warning, consider how you feel about the deputy leader. If the leader steps down, the deputy leader could argue that they are the legitimate leader. It’s what happens in the US when the President is assassinated and you don’t want to jump out of the frying pan into the fire.

 

Interesting links:

Oliver Tickell wrote way back in November 2015:

To understand is to resist

The first thing is for us all to understand what is going on. The rush to attack and denounce Corbyn is not based on anything he said. After all, what’s to disagree with?

It is not a sign that a debate is taking place in the Labour Party. The ferocity and intensity of the attacks is, on the contrary, intended precisely to prevent rational debate and forestall any reasonable discussion of the issues.

The purpose is simple. It is to brand Corbyn a softie, a cissy, an ex-hippy peacenik, unfit to rule, weak on defence, a risk to national security, a left-wing corduroy-jacketed beardie scarcely fit to serve as a humanities lecturer in third rate ex-Polytechnic University.

It is above all to present him as, and render him, unelectable – a man who can only lead Labour to abject failure in any future general election. And so convince the great mass of the Labour Party to turn against their failed left-wing champion and elect in his place an ‘heir to Blair’. Someone more like … David Cameron?

So first, understand. Second, don’t fall for it. Third, resist.

http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/2986318/shooting_to_kill_corbyn_the_coup_is_on.html

 

 

(Personal disclaimer: The blogger is a Jeremy Corbyn supporter and will continue to support him and his policies until such time as he freely decides to step down.)

A Tale of Two Deaths – NHS and Private Health Care

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Some years ago, two good friends died within a few months of each other … M (female aged 63) in the plush surroundings of the private wing of a London Hospital…. the other, P (male aged 56) in a NHS hospital in the Wirral.   Their personal circumstances could not have been more different.   M had a very comfortable, successful professional life whereas P was one of Thatcher’s casualties, consigned to the benefits scrap heap and unemployed since the 1980s.

I’m write now, because the manner of each of their deaths offer such a vivid picture of why we need to fight for the reinstatement of the NHS and a National Care Service… why privatization and financialisation of our health needs lead to the two tier contradiction of too much for those who can pay and too little for those who can’t.

M became increasingly ill with ‘a mystery’ illness only a few months before her death.   Eventually, she was admitted onto the private wing of a vast NHS hospital, in one of the wealthiest areas in central London. When I visited, I waited on leather bound settees, in a plush carpeted area decorated with original art works on the wall and filtered coffee on tap.

I have no doubt that M received state of the art medical treatment in her palatial room, with magnificent views over the London skyline.   However, when I last saw her, she was desperately phoning her husband to get onto the private health insurer because they had refused to fund the treatment that her consultant wanted to prescribe.

This was only two weeks before her death. She lay prone in her bed, with oxygen feeding into her nose. Her skin colour perfectly matched that of her white sheets. But, nevertheless, she was forced into worrying about the funding for her treatment because it was above that which the private insurer could authorize and ‘their special committee would not be able to consider the claim until after the weekend’.

I watched on, as she tried to explain over the phone to her husband that he needed to make the health insurer understand the urgency of the situation. Her desperate husband asked if they couldn’t just pay for the treatment outright. ‘No’ explained M. ‘The consultant says that any additional payments would invalidate the insurance plan and the insurers would then withdraw all payments for the hospital room and her care’.

I cannot describe my horror at the situation.

 

In contrast, P received the most extraordinary surgery and expert care in his NHS hospital without any financial limitation.   Through a freak accident, he had managed to dislocate his shoulder and somehow ruptured his oesophagus… I never got a very clear picture of how. Nevertheless, many weeks after 3 hours of surgery and a 3’ long incision spiraling around his torso, he had ‘recovered’ sufficiently to be sent home.

P lived alone, had had major surgery and yet there was no aftercare… no follow up. An extremely elderly neighbour (without a car) did a bit of shopping for him and that seemed to be it.

P was a highly intelligent, well-read socialist… a friend, made online.   We never actually met… so I cannot give the details as to why he did not receive help from social services or health checks from his GP… but I know that I made him contact the doctor after a few weeks when he confessed that he couldn’t eat and whenever he drank anything, it burned his whole insides!  That was the first time that he’d seen a doctor since leaving hospital.

Unfortunately, his oesphagus had split again and he was re-admitted to hospital for more expensive surgery. He lingered on for a few weeks before finally succumbing to a lung infection from which he eventually died.

I am not for a moment suggesting that either of these two deaths resulted from medical negligence.

But sumptuous surroundings are no compensation for the additional nightmare of exceeding your insurance policy’s spending limits…

And, there is little point in state of the art surgery if there is no aftercare in the community.

Under the Tories (with the help of the LDs in coalition) we are inexorably moving towards the two tier system of the US even though they spend more per capita on health and have worse outcomes.

The truth is that when there is a profit motive, the rich are over-investigated, and the poor are under-treated.

Stuart Hall despaired, in 2012:

“How can millions of people have benefited from the NHS and not be on the streets to defend it? Come on. The NHS is one of the most humanitarian acts that has ever been undertaken in peace time. The principle that someone shouldn’t profit from someone else’s ill health has been lost. If someone says an American health company will run the NHS efficiently, nobody can think of the principle to refute that. The guiding principles have been lost.”  https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2012/feb/11/saturday-interview-stuart-hall

 

Today’s demonstration may be later than he wanted but the many thousands turning out to march today must have pleased Stuart Hall.

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The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn pledges:

‘We will end health service privatisation and bring services into a secure, publicly-provided NHS. We will integrate the NHS and social care for older and disabled people, funding dignity across the board and ensure parity for mental health services.’

http://www.jeremyforlabour.com/pledges

The only question is what sort of health service will we be left with after 10y of Tory asset-stripping?

 

Why the hell doesn’t Corbyn put the bell around the cat’s neck?

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‘Why the hell doesn’t Corbyn put the bell around the cat’s neck?’

Cryptic?

No. It’s the Aesop’s fable that springs to mind when I read the various Princess and Princeling (elected or not) posturings and complaints about Corbyn and Copeland:

The mice call a conference to try to decide on how to stop the cat catching and eating them. One ‘princeling’, or it might have been a ‘princess’, got up and announced that the solution was to put a bell on the cat. At first, the other mice were all pleased and excited to have a solution. Then someone asked ‘How are we going to put a bell on the cat?’ ‘Oh’ said the prince/essy mouse ‘If you’re not going to listen to my advice, I’m off’. And with that, she/he flounced off.

Like all the rest of the mice, I’m left wondering if I’ve missed something … but no. That really is the sum of it.

In fact, there is another fairy story which fits … The Emperor’s New Clothes.

 There are two fraudsters who manage to persuade the Emperor that they have tailored him a magnificent set of clothes which only the intelligent can see.

The Emperor doesn’t want to admit that he can’t see a thing. So he pays the men a huge amount of gold and wears his new ‘clothes’ in a procession down the High Street. The people, suitably primed that they must be stupid if they can’t see the wonderful clothes, ‘ooo’ and ‘argh’ about the magnificent appearance of their King.

All that is except for one little boy who shouts out that the King is as naked as the day he was born.

No-one ever says what happened to the little boy. I guess that he was pilloried by the combined weight of the press and BBC… and by right wing MPs of all political parties. The entire weight of the establishment would have come down on the little boy’s head.

And the people in the crowd?  Well, I imagine that like all groups of people, they won’t all have thought the same thing.

Some will have persuaded themselves that they really could see the non-existent robes. Others will be more cautious and want to give the fraudsters the benefit of the doubt.  Another group will have seen exactly what is happening but won’t want to be pilloried like the little boy and decide that it’s better just to play along with the fraud because it’s too difficult to go against the establishment.

 Then there will be those who see the fraud as good thing… good for them that is.

However, there is a final group. These will be those brave and honourable souls who will gather around the little boy, standing up against the fraudsters regardless of the jeers of the press and public.  Those who realise that it is better to see the world as it really is rather than as they fear or want it to be… because it is only by recognizing the lies, the frauds and the sleights of hand that they will be able to fashion a better world which works for ordinary people and not the vested interests of the establishment and global finance.

It speaks volumes that there is more reality to be found in the words of Conservative journalists like Peter Oborne or in the comment threads on ConHome than there is from a majority of the PLP.

I will finish with an except from a Danny Finkelstein article about Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters:

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