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How to save the Labour Party - a contribution to the debate we should be having

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Please note this blog originally appear on 7th August at http://tomdlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/how-to-save-labour-party.html?spref=tw

It seems very likely that Jeremy Corbyn will be re-elected as leader of the Labour Party on Saturday 24 September. It is unlikely, however, that his re-election will end the crisis in the party. It is quite possible that his opponents will not accept the result. This may mean they set up a new party or a new parliamentary group or they undermine and challenge Corbyn until they finally get their way. 

The country urgently needs a functioning Labour Party. It seems obvious that if Labour is to prosper it needs both Corbyn and Owen Smith, his opponent for the leadership, together with the other MPs who oppose Corbyn. The choice should not be either/or. 

Corbyn can do things that Smith and the other MPs cannot. He has, for example, engaged 100s of 1,000s of people into politics, so that the Labour Party is now the largest political party in Europe. It would be stupid for Labour to jeopardise this achievement.

However, many of Corbyn’s supporters overlook the importance of Smith and the MPs. They have their mandates, achievements, abilities and experience. For many, they also have a credibility that Corbyn does not.

Why is the argument within Labour so bitter?

I am a left-leaning middle-aged member of the solid middle-class and naturally I know plenty of others in the same demographic. In my experience, the overwhelming majority of this group cannot abide Corbyn; they either loathe him or damn him by patronising.

I have met, through supporting Corbyn, plenty of others who tend to be further down the social scale (I doubt there are many home owners among them) and are quite often younger. This group find Corbyn inspiring. 

At a meeting I heard a middle-aged woman who said she struggled to make ends meet and she felt that Corbyn was the first politician for a long time who really cared about people like her. She said he gave her hope. (Hope is a word you often hear from Corbyn supporters. Those who are comfortable tend to underestimate the political importance of hope for others less fortunate.)

The debate between the Corbynites and the anti-Corbynites resembles a bitter marital row. Lots of shouting. No real listening. No one caring who overhears. Nobody caring about the truth any longer - both sides just wanting victory at whatever cost.

Perhaps the party is gripped by “the narcissism of small differences”. This term was coined by Sigmund Freud in 1917. It was his term for his observation that people with minor differences between them can be more combative and hateful than those with major differences. 

The differences between the two camps are relatively small. Corbyn and Smith substantially agree on all policies, except one; Smith has effectively adopted Corbyn’s platform. The exception, replacing Trident, is important but has nothing like the salience now that it did during the Cold War. In any event, Labour MPs were allowed a free vote on this.

This leadership contest has been triggered not because of disagreement over policy but fundamentally because Labour MPs do not like Corbyn’s leadership. Smith’s pitch is that he can deliver Corbyn’s policies better than Corbyn because he would be a better leader than Corbyn.

Compare this to the division in the Tory party only some weeks ago. Ministers lied over the most serious issue to face the country for decades. Ministers accused each other of lying. And now with the discipline that has made the Tory Party the most electorally successful party anywhere in the world, the Tories are, seemingly, united again.

Those who cannot see beyond their opposition to Corbyn should reflect. If Corbyn is re-elected, breaking the party would be an act of political madness. Under First-Past-the-Post divided parties cannot prosper. Challenging Corbyn again would be another act of wilful self-harm. The members will go on re-electing him as long as they see the MPs - and the media - as having undermined him.

So, this is how to save the Labour Party.

  1. Corbyn to show magnanimity in victory

  2. Smith to announce that he will now pursue his desire for a Labour Government by serving under Corbyn and to make it clear that he fully accepts the result

  3. All those who left the Shadow Team to do the same as Smith 

  4. Everyone in the Labour Party up and down the country to seek out the common ground with those who opposed them 

  5. Everyone to stop the insults (each side thinks the other side is worse and this applies to mainstream media as well as social media and elsewhere)

  6. Target the Tories morning, noon and night. 

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commented 2016-08-14 11:52:54 +0100
Pre scripted hockhum, there will be an equally scripted one with Owen soon. No real feet to the flames here as there won’t be in the Owen one. He recognises his and the party’s lack of popularity since he was elected but refuses to take responsibility as it is the MP’s fault even though lots of them where in his cabinet while the polls sagged. There was much more anti briefing in the Conservatives most of the time, popycock. A man who will not take responsibility cannot be trusted to fix the problem.

This is much more interesting in the same paper, there is no conclusion as it is a debate but both sides put their views eloquently and avoid sound bytes. Again it is a battle between idealism and pragmatism. You end up respecting both of them.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/13/labour-leadership-jeremy-corbyn-owen-smith?CMP=share_btn_link
commented 2016-08-14 09:20:49 +0100
Amazing! The Observer coming out with front page and more inside of straightforward Corbyn stuff!! No mealy mouthed digs and snide comments!! Could this be a turning point? Are they making a pitch for student readers? It certainly feels like the start of a new term! Good luck to them.
Everybody should read this, and more inside the paper:
http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/aug/13/jeremy-corbyn-tom-watson-talking-nonsense?CMP=share_btn_tw
commented 2016-08-13 18:42:50 +0100
“I do not think we have 4 years to sort out the mess, bookies are giving 2:1 on next year.”

But we can’t have major political issues, the democratic process itself, deferring to bookmakers odds on the timing or the outcome.
Politicians are supposed to be leaders – not just timidly following every will o the wisp, least of all Ladbrokes!

“Of course we know that when the PLP took the no confidence vote they believed it could well be this October against Boris.”

And they were wrong. Guesswork. They made a big mistake – another will o the wisp, or did they do their research in the Racing Times?
Trying to impose Owen Smith on us doesn’t make it any better – it could be four years of Smith leading us nowhere! Or more likely round in circles as he tries to position himself according to the odds offered at the bookies.

Once again – I don’t hold Corbyn responsible for Brexit – why pick on him out of the huge array of campaigners both for and against? Even Angela Eagle said he worked his socks off for remain.

The PLP needs to get itself solidly behind Corbyn, as have the members, and turn its back on the current fiasco.
commented 2016-08-13 17:15:54 +0100
Rob/Jacob,

I do not think we have 4 years to sort out the mess, bookies are giving 2:1 on next year. Of course we know that when the PLP took the no confidence vote they believed it could well be this October against Boris. That’s what influenced it not Andy’s stated view on Thursday about the Blairite clique, an accusation that like most spin has a kernel of truth but is way off the whole truth. There is little doubt on the poll predictions a lot of them would have lost their seats. Add to that Jeremy’s poor campaigning on the referendum (I think we all have finally accepted that after Will Straws clear evidence) and their well publicised collective disappointment in his performance then it was the right thing to do. They clearly had the democratic mandate to do it as they were elected by nearly half of the total labour vote. Jeremy should have resigned but showed his focus on his interests which has been the hallmark of his career. Voting not to achieve anything but just to express his view, no team sense.

Now it is a 50:50 chance it will be next year against Theresa and the statistical evidence remains against Jeremy. The flat graph of his approval rating gives no hint of actions or events that can change it (a graph that does not change has huge significance). I think 69 of the 72 polls since his election show the party is static in a losing position.

I am a supporter of the fact that in a democracy everyone’s vote should have the same weight as everyone else’s and clearly the challenge in that is ensuring everyone gets the opportunity to participate. The referendum on that basis was probably the greatest success since universal sufferage was achieved. However that does not mean I have to agree the result was right for the country and I do not and under the UK’s democracy I am entitled to continue to try to get my case across. If Jeremy wins this leadership contest as the bookies and the limited polling shows then I will do the same and continue to campaign to get him replaced.

I knew my 4 day enfranchisement to be at the CLP was a piece of luck for me but an expensive debacle for the party. Had they lost the appeal it would have been 20 times more expensive so the right thing to raise the appeal. A democratically elected NEC democraticall chose a cut off date but people wanted to challenge that. Nobody seems to be undemocratic in this, the NEC followed their procedures (now fully confirmed as legal), the individuals had the right to challenge under our constitution.

It does seem sad that the meeting to provide a CLP nomination for leader had only 10% of the eligible voters. I found Andy’s hectoring style unfortunate but I guess he was nervous and chose a style more relevant to younger audience than that which turned up. I always prefer presentations to be fact based than emotion based. Liz did an excellent job but, as in Brexit, facts do not seem to change opinions even with such a civilised audience. What a really nice group of people even though I seemed to disagree with so many of them, the gentleman next to me voted for Jeremy and then lent me his pen knowing I was using it to vote for Owen.
commented 2016-08-13 08:29:01 +0100
The issue in my opinion is one of trust , as I have commented before here on the blog I , and I suspect many others, find it difficult to trust any of the PLP having witnessed their actions over the past months in undermining the democratic choice of the membership.
We are unnecessarily here again wasting time and our resources fighting each other over a majority decision reached democratically ( twice in all likely hood ) rather than fighting Tory policies.
Further more in respect to Owen Smith the author states that " Smith’s pitch is that he can deliver Corbyn’s policies better than Corbyn because he would be a better leader than Corbyn."

It is this very fact that OS has so quickly plagiarised those policies from JC , that he did not vote against the Tory welfare bill ,was one of the very MPs to resign , leads me to the conclusion he may well not have the resolve to stand his ground on other vital issues / policy , and thus has not built a convincing case for trust to be placed in him as a leader.

JC on the other hand has, over the last 30 years of his parliamentary experience, shown time and again that he stands by his principles , does what he says and means what he says .Like it or not his track record over that very long period is tried and tested and there for all to see and evaluate . I certainly don’t think the sun shines out of his you know what, that he has all the answers or that I agree with some of his stances , but in choosing a leader with a clearly visible trustworthy history I know what I am getting .
I can’t say that nor feel that with Owen Smith , I will remain in the party to vote for a leader who will take this party in a more socialist direction , back to it’s roots which it has strayed too far from and has lost the last 2 elections because of it.

It may well be worth while pointing out that thanks to our own members taking our own Labour party NEC to court and initially winning , new members had the right to attend the CLP nomination meeting and vote . Had that CLP meeting been held a few days later or postponed as one of our members demanded, then that opportunity to vote would have been denied , as it now transpires this is the case for 130,000 . This is what I mean by TRUST !
commented 2016-08-13 08:10:09 +0100
“I oppose Jeremy being leader”

Ok that’s your privilege, but he was elected by a majority of the party – and it looks like he will be again. Are you opposed to the democratic process?

“The core objection to Jeremy is fact based, his polls are very poor and that goes well prior to the referendum and it looks unlikely on those that he can lead the party to electoral victory. …”

The coup itself has reduced our standing to a very low point.
If we make decisions on the basis of polls, guesswork and other forecasts then we don’t need to vote at all.
But polls and forecasts have a very variable record and we are continually surprised by them.
Your “core objection to Jeremy” is utterly speculative and short term. It’s much too soon for the knife in the back – we have four years in which to get our act together.
The point is; if we can get around this current diversion into squabbling and see clear water ahead, then with solidarity and good will there is every chance that we might actually CHANGE peoples voting intentions.
This seems to be ignored by the pessimists. In fact we have the power to CHANGE people’s points of view, if we are not distracted by this coup nonsense and instead concentrate on getting across our message.
We have four years in which to do it.
The good news is that everybody seems to support the broad direction of Corbyn’s policies – even Smith, so there is a lot of agreement on that front.

The task ahead is to CHANGE people’s voting intentions. Think “CHANGE” in capital letters!!!

Blaming Corbyn for Brexit is ludicrous. He bears as much responsibility as everybody else in the PLP. He was out there campaigning but he didn’t have a magic solution up his sleeve.
The real culprits are Cameron, Gove, Farage, Johnson, and the right wing idiot press. They didn’t expect to win, their forecasts were wrong, as is often the case. Why aren’t we attacking them and their legacy instead of fighting amongst ourselves?

Forecasts about the electability of Corbyn could also be wrong. I’m pretty sure they are. The massive rise in membership is not an invasion of Trotskyists; these are ordinary members of the general public and represent the tip of an iceberg of potential labour voters – just waiting for us to get our act together.
commented 2016-08-12 11:12:27 +0100
This blog touches on the chasm between the different sides of what is the Corbyn debate. I was lucky, due to the vagaries of the current court battle, to be allowed to attend the CLP meeting to discuss the candidates last night. At no point did I hear anybody express a dislike or loathing for Jeremy (or Owen). The opposition to Jeremy was all factually based with no animosity at all and it was the support for Jeremy that had a significant emotional base with some animosity to the PLP but that was from the speaker not the audience.

I oppose Jeremy being leader but I neither loathe him nor dislike him. I have not seen any recorded evidence that the members of PLP dislike him and their reason for their lack of support is driven by electoral concerns not animosity as far as I can see.. Those people I have discussed him with also do not feel he is capable of leading the party but expressed no animosity to him as a person, the only emotive comment was “useless”. The core objection to Jeremy is fact based, his polls are very poor and that goes well prior to the referendum and it looks unlikely on those that he can lead the party to electoral victory. This week YouGov shows him on his usual 18% rating which puts him behind Tony Blair.

There are not 22 parliamentary victories he is responsible for (even the figure is a spin), there is no increase in labour councillors he is responsible for. He was kept out of the London mayoral election to avoid him dragging it down. His performance in the referendum was inadequate by my assessment and those in the Remain team (Will Straw was quite clear about it). Perhaps we should hear what people say not what we think they mean. Against that I am asked to believe and give my support despite the fact I can see Jeremy is an electoral liability. So the answer, I am afraid, is no, if Jeremy wins I will stay a member to vote him out next time as I have learnt my lesson about not engaging.

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