What makes a Leader?

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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.

From

THE NAIVE CORRESPONDENTS

info@naivecorrespondent.org.uk

 

We’ll Stop the Red Flag Turning Blue!!

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Stop the Red Flag Turning Blue!

 (loved this from 2015, so sharing it again)

It’s Time for A Change!

Dave W Mac

It is time for change. The pendulum has been swinging to the right since 1979 and  it has not worked. it is not going to work and the only people who are paying the price are the working and middle classes, the poor, the sick, the homeless and all those who will be made homeless intentionally by the ruling classes and the bankers.

This time “more Blair than Blair” Owen Smith is challenging for Labour Leadership.
They are all running scared of Jeremy Corbyn. Don’t listen to the propaganda, the allegations. Ignore the plotting. The future is socialism, not  flawed neoliberalism.

 

Labour Legend Dennis Skinner has a message for the PLP

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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.

Dennis Edward Skinner is a British Labour politician who has been Member of Parliament for Bolsover since 1970. He was Chairman of the Labour Party from 1988–1989 and served as a member of its National Executive Committee. Wikipedia 
Richard Burgon   is currently Labour MP for Leeds East, elected in 2015.

A Tale of Two Summers and the Electable Jeremy Corbyn

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The Electable Jeremy CORBYN

momentumpic

1. A TALE OF TWO SUMMERS

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.

judge

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.

2. 1983 Manifesto was too left-wing – a myth to 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.

See Capitalism, Neoliberalism and Plutonomy and Neo-feudalism

“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.

3. Popularity Of Austerity policies and Thatcherism

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.

4. DIVIDED LABOUR in 1981 and 2016

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.

5. DEMOCRACY, TRUTH and electability

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.

Is Momentum a mob? No – this is what democracy looks like

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A Daring Prediction: New Labour is Finished

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 A Daring Prediction “New Labour is Finished”

By Martin Odoni:

Previously Published here:  The Great Critique

I am reminded of Genady Yenaev.

If that name is unfamiliar to you, twenty-five years ago, during the dying months of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics, President Mikhail Gorbachev was briefly overthrown in a coup, or ‘putsch’, by hardline Communists. Yenaev was their leader, and he was unhappy with Gorbachev’s ‘Perestroika/Glasnost‘ reform programs. The putsch lasted days, but eventually, when the Red Army refused to attack its own citizens, Yenaev and his colleagues backed down and Gorbachev was restored to the Presidency. It was one of the most foolish, ill-judged attempts to topple a political leader since the brief restoration of Henry VI of England at the expense of Edward IV in 1470. Yenaev’s failed attempt to maintain the Soviet Union pre-dated its demise by all of four months; the Hammer & Sickle flag was lowered for the final time on Christmas Day that year, and the coup was what started the countdown to the empire unravelling.

This week, the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party have attempted their own putsch against their leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and it has proven as foolish and self-destructive. The whole fiasco has been a speculative ‘hail-mary‘, chiefly because it has been almost entirely reliant on that most undependable of weapons – hope. Yes, their attack has included all the classic dirty tricks and intricate co-ordination with overly-helpful media who are gasping to curtail any resurgence of the real Left. But in the end, the whole strategy of the coup has hinged almost completely on the hope that Corbyn would simply be the first to blink. For the ‘Red Tories’, the hope was that because Corbyn is an honourable, decent, unaggressive man, that must mean he is a wimp. If he is a wimp, they could simply bully him into resigning. Right?

But decency and being a wimp are two very different traits. Given all the character assassination Corbyn has had to endure throughout a career in the House of Commons for thirty-three years, and especially over the last twelve months, this assumption about him seems laughably simple-minded. Having soaked up relentless, uncivilised pressure for half a lifetime, and still come out of it the same person, Corbyn has become as tough a politician as they come. He has shrugged off so many insults, so many blatant lies about his character, so much intimidation, and still he maintains an air of cool, patient dignity, honesty, graciousness and down-to-Earth good manners. To resist so much unfair provocation and hardly ever lose his temper is a quality that I can only envy. Having been in politics for so long, Corbyn will also have seen every dirty trick ever played, and he was always going to be ready and waiting for them. Sure enough, he had contingencies in place against the coup, including having a new Shadow Cabinet assembled before the stream of resignations was even halfway through. He was never just going to crumble and submit.

The ‘strategy’ of the coup throughout has been feeble and basic, relying on bullying and then hoping everything responds and pans out in a particular way. The minds behind the coup have given so little thought to the ‘what-ifs’ that there were no contingencies in place for anything. No one asked, for instance, “What if the national support sticks with Corbyn?” or “What if Corbyn refuses to blink?” And in behaving so deceitfully and treacherously, they have damaged, perhaps permanently, their own reputations, and to an extent that of their party. Such is the damage that, even if by some Excalibur-like miracle they succeed in dislodging Corbyn,they will still be in a helpless position afterwards. They have sacrificed everything, including their own futures, for the sake of controlling the future. That they did not see the impossible contradiction in that gamble says little for their intelligence.

The Red Tories’ only apparent chance since their failure to yell Corbyn into resigning on Monday has been more blind hope; they hoped to find a way of interpreting the rules so that Corbyn could be barred from standing in a leadership contest. With fewer than fifty MP’s backing him, they hoped they could argue that he did not have enough support to be nominated. But he does not need to be nominated; that rule quite explicitly applies only to challengers, not to the incumbent. The idea of the leader being nominated would make no sense on various levels; if Corbyn is being challenged for the leadership, by definition he has to be given an opportunity to meet that challenge, with or without nominations. Otherwise he is not being challenged but usurped, ergo the challenge cannot proceed. Indeed, his election to the leadership itself is his nomination, in a sense, and if he is no longer wanted, he will simply be voted out anyway.

Of course that is not going to happen, because Corbyn is still wanted by the great majority of Labour members nationwide. It is therefore right that Corbyn should stand. Corbyn will stand. And he will win. All signs are that his support in the Labour Party nationwide is, if anything, even greater than it was in September last year. The ten biggest Trade Unions in the country have all reaffirmed their support for Corbyn, which may even be enough to give him an unassailable lead even before the wider membership have their say.

Angela Eagle seems poised to be the ‘sacrificial lamb’ who will be sent to challenge Corbyn, but that is another self-destructive move; not only is she almost certain to lose to Corbyn, but she could also be put in danger of losing her seat in Parliament. This is because  her own constituency party has come out very publicly in support of Corbyn, explicitly protesting against the coup. It seems that, if Diane Abbott’s insights are the truth, this pattern of MP vs. constituents could have been replicated in Labour seats up and down the country, had the coup not been carried out with such indecent haste that there was no time allowed for discussion.

This speaks of the superiority complex of ‘Blue Labour’, the contempt in which it holds the public. It therefore also speaks of exactly why Tony Blair’s vision of the Labour Party has to die. Its refusal to respect the right of the party’s grassroots to be heard will be mirrored in the wider public, and that constitutes a threat to democracy. Blairism will die too if the Red Tories continue on their present course, for if the constituency parties are alienated from their own candidates, the basic foundation of an MP’s election-to-Parliament will crumble.

There is no way out now. The Parliamentary Labour Party has trapped itself by its refusal to respect its leader’s mandate, and its unwillingness to give him a genuine, fully-supported chance to prove himself. Even Ed Miliband got more of a chance than Corbyn, and most of the party regarded Miliband with professional contempt. They have now presented Corbyn potentially with the authority to purge the party of the neoliberal elite, and to restructure the party so that its MP’s can no longer trigger leadership contests without the approval of the grassroots. The party will probably split into two once more, like it did in the early-1980’s.

 

What that means for the future is not necessarily the return of a genuine left-wing Government; the breakaway of the Social Democratic Party in 1981 not only split the Labour Party but also split its support, and there is bound to be at least some measure of lost support during the split ahead. The hope is that the rapid groundswell of support Corbyn has drawn can offset that, if it continues to grow, while the Conservative Party are dragged backwards by the equal chaos in their own ranks – a chaos that was not duplicated in the 1980’s. Also, future generations of Labour MPs will doubtless include once more many from the political ‘centre’, or from even further right. Yes, they will have to be watched closely to make sure they do not resurrect the parasite of ‘watered-down Toryism’.

But for now, the back of the current incarnation of ‘watered-down Toryism’ has been broken. With the Chilcot Report just days away, and likely to associate the Blairite philosophy permanently with the spectre of war crimes, the whole brand of neoliberalism-with-a-queasier-conscience will be irredeemably tarnished, as will all current politicians who subscribe to it.

I may regret making this prediction, but I shall say it anyway. New Labour is finished.

See also Think Left: What the Labour Leadership didn’t want us to know

The Labour Purge? A Step too Far?

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YES England's photo.

THE LABOUR PURGE
By Michael Chessum

Labour is rejecting reams of legitimate membership and supporter applications. Is this a desperate purge aimed at tipping the leadership result?

It sounds like a murder mystery. Everyone had a reason for promoting the idea that the Labour leadership ballot was being undermined by Tory infiltrators and ‘entryists’. Anything that could destabilise the ballot and make it look like a mess is good news for the right and much of the press. It suits some groups on the hard left to seem bigger than they are. Once it became clear that Corbyn might win, anything that de-legitimised his victory was music to the ears of the Labour Right. And some knew, deep down, that if enough of a storm was created about infiltration, this would provide cover for the party apparatus to deny more leftwing activists a vote, and that this could, just about, influence a close result.

Now, after a lot of noise about weeding out infiltrators, and one batch of more obvious candidates for expulsion which included Ken Loach and other prominent figures from other parties, there is a clear drip-drip of new rejections. Many are young left wing activists from the student movement and other social movements who joined Labour, enthused by the Corbyn campaign, and had every intention of remaining in the Party. The reasoning behind these new rejections looks, at least at first sight, murky.

Hattie Craig is a recent graduate from the University of Birmingham, and a relatively prominent activist the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts – the biggest organisation on the student left. “I was inspired by the Jeremy Corbyn campaign,” she says “and the possibility that Labour could truly represent and fight for those most oppressed in society.” Like many others, she has received an email stating that she was rejected because “we have reason to believe that you do not support the aims and values of the Labour Party or you are a supporter of an organisation opposed to the Labour Party.” But, Craig tells me, she has never been a member of any other electoral project – or indeed any other party at all.

A large number of the rejections appear to be students. Rachel O’Brien is also a student activist and a current student in Birmingham. She describes herself as “heavily critical of the Labour Party and their current policies – but not opposed to the party as a whole”, and has, like Craig, never been a member of another party. “I think they are missing a nuance there.”

Marienna Pope-Wiedemann, another rejectee, is a freelance writer and producer who was also politically active as a student and has continued activities outside Labour. But she is no longer in anything else and, as she points out, being active outside Labour is rather inevitable: “most people are active through organisations other than Labour because the Labour Party has been so long disconnected from community struggle and afraid of taking on the big issues,” she says. “This is the first time my generation has seen Labour stand up and fight for ideals most of them are too afraid even to speak of anymore.”

Bernard Goyder’s example looks even stranger. Now a financial journalist, Goyder was a student activist in 2010, and then involved in Occupy and a number of housing campaigns. “I was involved in Young Labour as a sixth former, and joined properly in 2010, days after the election. I rang the party to notify them of my new address, and found that it had lapsed a few years ago.” Now his application to re-join has been rejected.

In the past, Goyder voted for a mix of parties – including the Lib Dems and the Greens – but he campaigned and voted for Labour in 2015. “In 2010, the NUS and the parliamentary system failed young people so we had to make our own politics. I’m proud to have been involved in the 2010 student movement and the 2011 occupy protests, but see no contradiction between this activity and ‘the aims and values of the Labour party’”.

Quite apart from how this all looks, Goyder’s cases raise another rather glaring issue: people changing their minds. Labour at high school, fighting on the outside at uni, and then back into Labour – it’s a well-trodden path. By definition, everyone now joining Labour is, to an extent, changing their mind; many are being swayed by the real possibility of an anti-austerity alternative in the form of Corbyn. Across the course of the campaign, many thousands have changed their minds about Labour – giving Labour hordes of new members and supporters, and a good deal more credibility in places where it previously had none. This was, after all, the entire point of having a supporter sign-up system – and many will have joined, as the system’s architects hoped, from Labour’s right as well as its left.

Large swathes of the PLP and Labour establishment were once in, or voted for, other parties. John Reid and Peter Mandelson were once members of the Young Communist League, and Shaun Woodward, current Shadow Cabinet member, was a Tory MP until he crossed the floor of the House in 1999. Hell, some Labour MPs have campaigned for other candidates while in office: when Lol Duffy, a member of the now-proscribed Socialist Organiser platform, won the Labour selection in Wallesey in 1987, neighbouring MP Frank Field openly refused to support Duffy as the Labour candidate.

But for a large chunk of those who have had their membership or supporter applications rejected, it doesn’t even get that far. For Craig and O’Brien, who have never been supporters or members of other parties, the implications of being rejected seem clear: “I had already voted when I got the email, and it is also very clear from my Facebook that I support Corbyn,” says Craig. “I do not think this is unconnected.”

Of course many, if not all, of those who have been rejected have been critical of Labour policy and the Labour leadership – often in the public domain and on social media, where Labour staff are reportedly trawling for evidence. But then, within Labour’s broad church, so have most members. In fact, so has every candidate for leadership. Those of us on Labour’s left flank, many of whom have door-stepped for the party, held minor office and never voted for anyone else, could be forgiven for nervously refreshing their email inboxes.

None of this is helped by the vigilante attitude that seems to have gripped some on the Labour Right. One post currently doing the rounds on Facebook states: “If you know that someone who has recently signed up as a member, supporter or affiliate, who is not in fact a supporter of the Labour party, you should email their name to leadership2015@labour.org.uk with proof.” The post concludes: “Please do report anyone you suspect should be ineligible – and you too could be called a star by the Compliance Unit”.

There is no way to verify whether or not Labour’s Compliance Unit have in fact called informants ‘stars’, but adverts to report your neighbour like this one, posted in relation to a university labour club, are breeding an atmosphere of McCarthyite fervour.

If, as the post says, “any written expression of support for a party or group other than Labour, or opposed to Labour” is enough proof to have you expelled, then we had all better be careful about praising so much as the individual policies of another party. That could go for Liz Kendall’s supporters just as much as Jeremy Corbyn’s