Tag Archives: Labour party

Corbyn – What next?

Congratulations to Jeremy Corbyn and his team for their stunning and overwhelming victory in the Labour leadership election. The size of his victory was greater than expected. This makes it all the more pleasing that Corbyn won such a big victory on an anti-austerity and anti Trident platform. But how much can Corbyn achieve?

Winning the leadership election may turn out to have been the easiest part  of his challenges. Some of these face any non Tory leader. A uniformly hostile media, a nasty majority Tory government and the mass ranks of big business and finance. Still these can be overcome, just look at the success of the SNP here in Scotland. Performance in the Commons, especially at PMQs, will generate lots of media noise. However, outside the Westminster bubble, this will not count for much. To put it in boxing terms, Corbyn just needs to remain standing to achieve a victory of sorts.

The main challenges to a successful Corbyn leadership will come from within the party he now leads. He faces two substantial challenges and he needs to win both of them, if his project to transform the Labour party is to succeed. The first is perhaps the most difficult. This is what to do about his fellow MPs, almost all of them hostile to him as leader?. Most of the current front bench team have already resigned or made it clear they will not serve under Corbyn. This leaves Corbyn with an apparently insurmountable problem – how to form a credible Shadow team?

For even if some of his opponents do agree to enter the Shadow cabinet, what line will they take? Who among Corbyn’s opponents can now credibly front an anti-austerity economic programme? Or to fundamentally oppose the government’s whole approach to welfare? And what about Trident? If they are to now adopt a fundamentally different policy they will need to come up with some pretty convincing reasons for doing so, and soon. Otherwise we could find ourselves with the ridiculous prospect of senior members of the Shadow cabinet advocating a different set of policies from the leader.

A further difficulty may well come from the actions of those who continue to refuse to work with Corbyn.  Will they just retire gracefully into full time constituency work and keep their mouths shut when it comes to commenting on Corbyn’s leadership? Or will they be constantly sniping and attacking from the sidelines. There will be plenty of outlets in the media all too delighted at the prospect of the likes of Burnham, Cooper, Kendall et al trying to destroy Corbyn from within.

The biggest challenge facing Corbyn though will come from the general membership of the party. This is also his greatest chance of success. The hundreds of thousands of people who voted for him are his only route to long term success. Are they up to it? How many of the 180,000 people who paid their £3.00 to vote for Corbyn, will now become full members of the party and put in the work to make Corbyn’s victory the beginning of a process of fundamentally changing the party?

Without their continuing support Corbyn has no chance of changing Labour, let alone winning in 2020. But this is the really difficult part. It requires dozens and dozens of people in constituencies up and down England to become activists, attending branch meetings and standing for election for branch offices. Corbyn needs these people on the ground in every constituency reminding their Labour MPs or prospective MPs that the party has changed. In particular these new members and the old ones who voted for Corbyn need to be prepared to challenge and hassle and question those MPs who did not vote for Corbyn. They are after all the minority now. The clear majority of the party has spoken loudly and clearly in favour of major changes in policies. The membership now needs to make sure that the party’s current MPs respect this majority.

If Corbyn can persuade the majority of those who voted for him to become themselves activists in branches and constituencies, then he has a real chance of winning, not just within the Labour party, but in 2020. For all the talk about only winning from the centre ground is a bit of nonsense. It clearly ignores what has happened in Scotland and to a lesser extent in Wales.

More importantly it ignores what has happened in England. There the Tories have become about as nasty and right wing as it is possible to go. Yet the media somehow present them as representing the centre ground of opinion. In this of course they have been supported by a weak and supine Labour party which seems to have forgotten what it was about. Offering the public a Tory lite platform was never likely to win over disgruntled Tories, nor to enthuse potential Labour voters. Which is exactly what happened in England in the recent general election.

It is also worth noting that according to most surveys of opinion, on most economic issues Corbyn’s policies are more in touch with the general public than the Tory party. I wish Jeremy Corbyn all the best in his challenges. There is only a little that he can do himself, the rest depends on all those who voted for him in impressive numbers. Can they go the extra mile and begin the daunting task of transforming the Labour party?

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General Election 2015 – Groundhog Day!

The closer the election gets the more the debate gets stuck in a seemingly immoveable groove. It’s getting to be a bit like the film Groundhog Day, only this time every morning we get to hear the same tired old patronising insults. At least as far as Scotland is concerned. All the Unionist parties are at it. They seem to be collectively unable or unwilling to get beyond their Project Fear mode of operating.

Labour for example is still churning out the lie that only the largest party gets to form the government at Westminster. That Jim Murphy & Co are stuck repeating this lie is further evidence that Labour treats us as if we are a bunch of idiots. We need more journalists to challenge the likes of Ed Miliband to confirm that if Labour has less MPs than the Tories, but could form a government with the support of other parties, he would just stand aside and let David Cameron continue as Prime Minister.

Then we have Labour MP Rachel Reeves boasting that the Labour party is not the party of people on benefits.  She went out of her way in an interview to stress that, “We don’t want to be seen, and we’re not, the party to represent those who are out of work.” Now the really, really sad thing about this is that Rachel is probably telling the truth here.  Labour no longer wants to represent the poor and disadvantaged it seems. Much better to just insult lots and lots of people. Not to mention insulting the memory of countless thousands of Labour party stalwarts who did think it was their job to represent all working people, including those who became unemployed and had to rely on the welfare state.  Seems the Labour party has decided that the only way to get elected in England is to insult and cast off as the new untouchables the millions of people who continue to suffer the ravages inflicted on them by our nasty coalition. Does this mean that Labour is now just as nasty?

Unionists and it seems most of the media in London are equally happy to indulge in a bit of repetitive insulting. Only this time it is Scots who have to bear the brunt of their ire. How dare we presume to have any kind of influence over the next UK government. Or even worse, God forbid, actually become part of the next UK government. While the Tory party is the most vocal in this almost daily repetition of anti-Scottish bile, neither Labour nor the LibDems are immune from this. All three Unionist parties are determined to rule out any kind of post election co-operation with the SNP at Westminster.

It is all so depressing and shows just how hollow were all those protestations of love coming from the Unionist parties before the referendum. The truly unexpected follow-up from the referendum campaign is that it is the Unionists who are stuck in referendum mode. The Yes campaigners have accepted the result and want to move on. To move on to reforming the UK, if that is possible, and to building a progressive UK wide alliance to bring an end to all this unnecessary austerity, which has caused so much damage to the economy.

One would have thought that the Labour party would want to be at least part of this, if not actually leading. What would be more natural than for the Labour party to be trying to build a progressive coalition with the support of other parties across the UK? But no, it seems that Labour remains trapped in its very own Groundhog Day. The SNP must be opposed and derided at every opportunity and at all cost. Even if the cost includes more Tory rule and more suffering for the poor and disadvantaged. Yet again, if the likes of Rachel Reeves represent Labour thinking, the party hardly deserves to be part of any king of progressive alliance.

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