The Left Needs to Get This Right

I joined the Labour Party when I was at university in the days of Neil Kinnock. I even, briefly, flirted with student politics proper and stood for election to the Student Union Executive (my political career being short lived, involving addressing a hustings to which only one person came and coming a distant third in the actual election). I attended a few CLP meetings in the 90s and stopped being a member in the late 90s when I became appalled at what Blair, Straw, Irvine and others were doing to the criminal justice system and legal aid. 

Since my university days I have voted, and continue to vote, almost exclusively for Labour. I say almost exclusively because I cannot rule out having voted for an independent in a council election here or there but every time I am faced with a ballot paper my eye goes immediately to Labour. In doing so my eye is only following what my heart and my head tells me is the right thing. Since my university days I am simply unable to vote Conservative. I cannot imagine ever voting Conservative in the future. 

Why am I telling you this potted history of my political and voting life? I hope to establish that I am not a “Red Tory” or a Blairite. I hope that this tells the reader that I believe in a social democracy where we assist those who need it. I am on the Left. Firmly. I am not a Marxist, a communist or a member of the Socialist Worker Party. But I am on the Left nevertheless and I believe that the nation is better off being run by people with the same inherent tendencies that I have. The tendencies that make me “of the Left”. 

And that is why I do not support Jeremy Corbyn. 

I wanted him to do well, because his succeeding would see the Labour Party succeeding. But it isn’t. It is failing. It is failing not because there has been a coup of MPs but because Jeremy Corbyn has not worked out. 

There has not been a singe moment since he was elected when I have thought to myself “Jeremy aced that”. Not one. There is not one policy, not one announcement, not one proposal that has made me think he is going to speak to the nation with sufficient appeal that he will play his vital role in a General Election success. 

I liked some of his ideas. I liked the idea of a gentler way of doing politics. I just have not noticed much evidence of him making a success of this ideal. I liked the idea of asking for the concerns of the public for the purpose of Prime Minister’s Questions. But my toes curl at the execution of his plan. 

He is undoubtedly sincere with his anti-austerity agenda but he is a master at preaching to the converted rather than converting the ideal into policies and a vision which brings people to him. 

It is undoubtedly the case that the mainstream media have been against him from the outset. He has managed to do nothing to turn that tide and gives the appearance (often sartorially) of being someone who simply does not learn from his mistakes.  

I am not a Red Tory. I am not a Blairite. But I am afraid I am not a Corbynista. I cannot see him leading the Party to a General Election victory. And that is what counts. That is why I registered to have my vote in the Leadership contest. If Jeremy Corbyn wins again we are looking at 8 more years of Tory rule. Tory rule at a time when the need for compassion, social democracy and tolerance is going to be at its highest. 

4 thoughts on “The Left Needs to Get This Right

  1. Pingback: The Left Needs to Get This Right – S. Merlin Chesters

  2. R Smith

    The shining example of this was at PMQ’s last week. He asked the PM an important and cutting question regarding Boris Johnson’s suitability as Foreign Secretary, in light of his (BoJo’s) recorded casual racism. The PM completely failed to answer the question. Corbyn was pushing at an open goal. He could have pressed her on it and really nailed the point. Instead he asked another question about a point so innocuous I can’t remember it. You can’t be an effective opposition when the impact of your scrutiny of the government amounts to them being dabbed gently with a warm sponge. It comes to something when David Cameron was bemoaning the lack of an effective opposition. He must go.

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  3. Blissex

    Guys your argument is based on the unfounded arguments that in UK election leaders matter a lot. Actually they matter very little; even policies matter not much. Leaders and policies matter after elections though.

    In UK elections voters are cautious, the tend to give a majority to incumbent government parties, unless they screw up big, and then they “throw the bums out”. The leader or even the policies of the opposition party, or even of the government party, make little difference. UK voters don’t look at the leaders and policies of both parties and think “sure the government has done ok, but the leader and policies of the opposition look even better, so let’s fire a proven government that has done ok because I like better the promises of the opposition leader”. The opposition won the elections in 1979, 1997, 2010 only because the incumbent government had screwed up massively. The incumbent party won all other elections because they had not.

    In particular for the past voters “throw the bums out” when they screw up for a very specific reason: when southern house prices fall, or even fail to rise. Like in 1997 and in 2010. And when southern house prices fall, the party of the incumbent government does not get forgiven for that for at least ten years. That the Conservatives did not manage to win outright in 2010 despite a huge fall in southern house prices was almost a miracle (not due to voters liking New Labour better of course).

    For additional proof look at “magical leader” T Blair: he was elected with a slightly smaller number of votes that his predecessor, J Smith, who was not charismatic, had; then he lost 3 million votes by 2002, and lost another 1-2 million by 2007. Most of those lost votes did not go to the Tories, they went in small part to the SNP, and in large part to abstentions. A leftie author who has nonetheless written a balanced, cynical book about corbynism, notes:

    «As Labour approached the 2001 general election, Blair was in a characteristically strident mood. Everywhere, opinion polls told him that his major policy of public sector reform, the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), was deeply unpopular. Analyses suggested that such policies were costly boondoggles giving favoured private enterprises access to grotesque amounts of public money for new hospitals and schools or renovations that were far more cheaply done in the public sector.
    Worse, they resulted in poorer services, as PFI hospitals tended to have fewer staff and fewer beds. In every conceivable respect, the policy was a disaster. Labour was no longer just running against itself and its own social democratic instincts. It was also running against the British public, to the extent that they shared those instincts. Blair decided that PFIs were not just another policy, but was the flagship policy for this election, and dared the electorate to oppose him.
    Of course, given that PFI was originally a Conservative policy, there was little to choose between the big two parties on this issue. Only in one constitueycy, the marginal Kidderminster seat of Wyre Forest, was a candidate for the makeshift party Health Concern able to capitalise on opposition to PFI and take the seat from Labour. But elsewhere, much of the electorate simply abstained. Turnout plunged to below 60 per cent for the first time since 1918. The biggest drop was in the Labour vote, which fell by just short of 3 million, while the Tory vote dropped by just over a million.»

    Such was his leadership! 🙂 It could be argued that it was his leadership enabled him to win even with very unpopular policies. But actually Labour continued to be elected because southern house prices were going up, as credit was booming, and the millions of votes lost to lower turnouts were mostly in non-marginal seats.

    Now the current situation is that this Conservative government has been able to keep pushing southern house prices up, but that is already faltering (pushing up just London house prices is not enough), and they are likely to stop being able to do so all the way to 2020, plus they have already screwed up big on Brexit (or on Ian Duncan Smith resigning because benefit plans are too nasty!), and given the very good chances they will continue to screw up

    So there is a good chance that Labour wins in 2020 and Corbyn becomes PM just because UK voters want to “throw the bums out” and the Labour MPs want to prevent that at all costs.
    Because if Labour wins in 2020 and Corbyn is still leader most of them have zero chances of getting government jobs that lead to very well paid directorships and consultancies when they switch to the private sector. So for these people a Labour win in 2020 is a very bad thing because they would be shut out of government in the same way as by a Conservative win. For them it is much better to gamble that by losing the 2020 election they get rid of Corbyn, and then they have a chance of a job in government in 2025. So for them screwing up Corbyn now is a win-win: if they fail to screw him now their attacks are likely to cost the 2020 election that they *would* not win, and if they succeed and elect one of their mates as leader, there is chance that *they* win the 2020 election. Because the goal of mandelsonian MPs is indeed, as they say, to get in government, more precisely for *them* to get in government. Whether *Labour* gets in government is something they are not much interested in, or they are very much against as it reduces the chances of them getting in government.

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