Some Advice for Left-Wing Delegates to the Labour Party Conference

23 Sep

The motion to create two new members of the NEC, to be ‘directly’ appointed by the leaders of the Scottish and Welsh parties, apparently needs to be approved by Conference in order to stand.

If you are a left-wing / Corbynite / etc conference delegate you therefore need to make sure you identify that motion and vote against it. Simple as that.

Or not.

First obstacle.  Here’s a link to the way that one supporter of the change has tried to sell it, and it’s how the right as a whole will try to sell it.  The aim will be to make it look like ‘devolution’ of powers, and to make anybody arguing against it look like they reject devolution.  After all, nobody wants to argue with something that looks like devolution, right?

It’s not, as is made clear by the fact that no new representation was agreed for local Labour Parties or councils, and by the fact that the new NEC voting members are automatically to be ‘frontbench members of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly’.  More invidiously, the same motion has the Scottish and Welsh party leaders automatically to attend ‘Clause Five’ meetings.  Clause Five is that governing Labour Party policy formation.  Interestingly, the first part of clause five specifies that:

“At all levels the Party will ensure that members, elected representatives, affiliated organisations and, where practicable, the wider community are able to participate in the process of policy consideration and formulation.”

By automatically making the attendee at Clause Five meetings the Scottish or Welsh leader, I think that the NEC is breaching the first part of Clause Five.  Note that it states it ‘will ensure’ that members can participate – whether it’s practical or not.


Second Obstacle The way that the Right has normally dominated conferences is by making it difficult, tedious or impossible for ordinary members even to work out where they’re supposed to be.  Failing that, officials and staff will be ‘helpful’ in explaining how motions work and what is being voted on.  They will often be misleading or flagrantly lying.    As for the motions themselves, there’ll be lots of nice-sounding things bundled up with the nasty stuff.  Certainly the safest thing in the vote on the expansion of the NEC (probably advertised as a change in status from ‘advisory’ to ‘voting’ members of the NEC) is simply to reject it wholesale, no matter what subtleties start to appear.

And, not least, there will be a vast number of ‘fringe’ events that directly conflict with the times of the key debates, and there will be votes called at moments when many delegates have left the room, debates appear to be over etc.

The Campaign for Labour Party Democracy say that they’ll be handing out a ‘yellow pages’ outside conference each morning.  I expect Momentum will also be out in force, and should be able to give some similar guidance – although they are running a large fringe event themselves, which may have the unfortunate effect of distracting left-wing delegates who should be in the main conference hall.

Stamina and just being present, not conviction or articulacy or ideas, are the prime ways to win in Labour Party policymaking.

If you can get to speak against it, or are aiming to persuade other delegates, here are some other points you may wish to put:


1. The Labour Party in Scotland has only one MP, and it has performed beyond disastrously in recent years.


It is, at least with its current leadership, unelectable.  (On a strictly definitional basis, btw, it doesn’t have anyone on a ‘front bench’, as it is the third placed party in Scotland).


  1.  The NEC’s motion, by failing to offer the party in Northern Ireland equal status to those in Scotland and Wales, is directly discriminatory against the Irish.  That’s not good.


Neither does the NEC’s motion give a voice on the NEC to either England or its regions.  Given that (after Scotland) the area where Labour is under greatest threat is in England, that’s a bit silly too.


  1.  The obvious one.  The current NEC has presided over wholesale, and unjustified, expulsions without right of appeal.  They are not in a position to advise anyone on how to ‘devolve’ decision-making. And an NEC that includes Kezia Dugdale and Carwyn Jones on the policy committee will be actively hostile to any real devolution or membership input in the future.


Hope this helps. Good luck.


If you’d like to expand on or correct any of my points, leave a comment. If it’s useful, accurate and clearly phrased, I’ll display it. If it’s the first two, but not the last, I’ll edit it and send it back for your approval. If you’re a right-winger seeking a shout at someone, you’ll be wasting your type and time. Oh, and I’m not a Labour member, so don’t bother trying to get me expelled.




On Meaning and Labour

21 Jul

Blair is not ‘centrist’ or ‘moderate’.  He’s a right wing war criminal with a pathological and craven desperation for the approval of the rich and powerful.  He’s a George Bush fanboy.

Owen Smith abstained on a vote that cut benefits, and supported the Iraq War before he was even an MP.  For most sane people, that would prevent him being called a ‘left-winger’.  He also worked as a lobbyist for Pfizer International.  For most sane people, that would be incompatible with the behaviour of a sincere ‘left-winger’, and the very epitome of the political establishment.  The only way you could be more of the political establishment is to have a dad who led the Labour Party to defeat twice and then to attend the College of Europe, marry a future Danish Prime Minister, be parachuted into Ramsay MacDonald’s old constituency, and then claim the commute doesn’t get in the way of your work.

But, since the English and Welsh left have kept Corbyn in place in the Labour Party against the wishes of the party’s right-wing, being perceived to be of the Left is suddenly a useful political quality.  Since Brexit, and the way it has brought ‘ordinary people’ to the forefront of politics, appearing ordinary is suddenly desirable.

For the next few weeks and months, then, expect an epidemic of deliberate left-right confusion from Owen Smith’s supporters.  And a vast pile of – unprovable – stories about how wonderfully ordinary the Pfizer lobbyist warmonger always was; alongside allegorical and unreferenced recollections of how “ordinary people” on “the doorstep” don’t think of Corbyn as a natural leader.

I will, of course, remind you later that I told you so.



Does Jeremy Corbyn Have A Strategy?

20 Jul

In my last post I pointed out that Jeremy Corbyn does have leadership qualities, contrary to what most of the right within the Labour Party has claimed since the coup attempt started to roll out.  And I then said that what his detractors mean by accusations of a lack of leadership qualities is actually that he doesn’t ‘play tactics’.

To put it another way, he doesn’t ‘play the game’.

He doesn’t hide what he believes out of fear of what the mainstream media will say about it.  He doesn’t abstain on benefit cuts and then justify himself by quoting arcane and misleading subtleties of parliamentary procedure, for instance.  He doesn’t attempt to ‘take the centre ground’ by competing with the Tories to blame immigrants, the unemployed, the working-class and the poor for their situation.  He doesn’t dig dirt on his opponents, even when they are mired in dirt.  He doesn’t act like it’s tactically sound to jeopardise the future of humanity with nuclear missiles, and then claim that it’s all about jobs.  He doesn’t shrink from addressing guilt over the wars and devastation that have resulted from other politicians within the Labour Party playing tactics.

For the Right in the Labour Party – and for those who have swallowed their arguments – these qualities translates into a lack of capacity to ‘win’.  That’s what they call ‘electability’, which to them is interchangeable with ‘leadership’.  Because these qualities are also ones that most people would find morally admirable (even if they disagree with them) the sole criticism that appears to realistically unite them is that this makes Jeremy Corbyn ‘nice’.

Apparently, for those working to change leader, it’s just not nice to be nice.  Or, to put it in the way that you’d put it if you were a venal Evening Standard journalist who doesn’t think Tony Blair was a war criminal and thinks her own daughter’s common decency deserves to be ridiculed in a London-wide newspaper, principles are no good without power.

But here’s the strategic irony.  Power is only the capacity to act.  If you have already sacrificed what you wanted to act for then you have not actually achieved power – you have only achieved position.  

You might get the job – but you’ll never be the boss.

This is an inconvenient point for the Right within the Labour Party, especially those who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of position under the false impression that they were pursuing power.

That would be, for instance, most MPs who were willing to follow the New Labour line over the Iraq War.  That would be those who spent the 1980s hammering the left at every opportunity instead of doing effective opposition – and then taught their kids to do the same.  That would be those who built, and bought, the astonishing lie that it was an advertising-led political makeover that won the 1997 election.

So, what is Corbyn’s strategy for power?

It’s so simple it’s incredible – and so simple the Right cannot understand it.  The strategy is you and me, the common people, and our moral outrage that mere parliamentarians, elected to be our servants, have sought to exclude us from deciding who represents us. When Neil Kinnock spoke to the Parliamentary Labour Party to urge kicking Corbyn out, he talked about the Labour Party constitution of 1906 as a great thing – but didn’t mention that it was Labour MPs who decided in 1906 to stop being a Committee to represent the people, and to start being a political party just like the others.  After a century, the tide has turned, and Corbyn is enough of a strategist to ride it.





Leadership, Logic and Labour

10 Jul

Jeremy Corbyn has regularly been accused of lacking leadership qualities.

It’s an odd – and stupidly illogical – thing to say about a man who has refused to stand down in the face of a concerted, treacherous and overwhelming attempt by his own MPs to unseat him.

In fact, he has led a popular movement that has massively boosted his party’s membership in response to the threats against him.  He has led by repeatedly condemning those on his own side who would like to reduce his campaign to personal abuse of his opponents. And he has led, most of all, by taking the opportunity the challenge has presented to restate his principles in clear and stark terms.

Like at the Durham Miners’ Gala, when he recounted being asked how he was coping with the pressure on him.  His answer, delivered with an actor’s relaxed pause, a slow build, and the immaculate timing of a angry comedian, cuts like a sword through the illusions of the political and media classes:

Real pressure, real pressure, is when you don’t have money to feed your kids.

But when the challengers and the mainstream media talk about ‘leadership’, what they are really claiming is that he doesn’t play ‘tactics’.  They are wrong there too, as I’ll show in my next post.


Rebutting False Claims About Corbyn

28 Jun

The Blairites did get one thing right during their ascendency.  That was the need to tackle head-on media spin against the Labour Party.  Until a membership vote on the Labour leadership happens, the left both outside and inside the Labour Party can be very useful in confronting bad media representation of stories relating to Corbyn.

I suggest, unless you have direct links to such media organisations, using routes such as pointing out typographical errors and errors of fact.

On that note, here’s the text of my message via the ‘typos and corrections’ area of, in reply to this story:

Your picture caption on the story “British Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn loses non-confidence vote” states that the Labour Party had voted against Corbyn. This is inaccurate – the membership have not yet voted, as is made clear later in the article.

The article also states that 1000 people attended a pro-Corbyn rally. There is a zero missing from this number.

I trust, in the pursuit of journalistic excellence, that these errors will be corrected.

Some Options for Corbyn

26 Jun

The BBC – and probably most of the rest of the British media – are now doing their best to push the Labour Party into crisis. But, as I just pointed out, the apparent crisis is an opportunity for the Left within Labour, as well as the Left more broadly – and the correct response is to use it to give Blairism the boot. To that end, here’s some initial thoughts on things that are now possible which were not possible two days ago.

Giving the Scottish Labour Party Independence

Labour in Scotland lost its hegemony because it was willing to campaign against the independence vote alongside the Tories and the Liberals.  Since then having a Scottish Labour Party formally tied to the ‘British’ Labour Party has become an embarrassment.

Corbyn was savvy enough not to repeat that mistake over the Brexit vote.  It’s probably thanks to his decision to campaign independently over exit that the vote to Leave was as narrow as it actually was.  It certainly avoided the Labour Party going into meltdown prior to the vote.

With the resignation of Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray, it is now possible to neuter Scottish Blairism.  Corbyn should not replace Murrary quickly or permanently.  Instead – as quickly as possible – he should announce a Labour membership consultation on Scottish Labour gaining formal independence from (or perhaps ‘fraternal status with’) the Labour Party as currently constituted.  And he should suggest a permanent joint working committee drawn from the Westminster and Holyrood Parliaments to take over the responsibilities of the Scottish Secretary.

The Labour right in Scotland could respond by either leaving in protest (as the right is already threatening) or desperately argue for its rightful place in a working-class party (meaning reversing the attitudes and complacency of the entire Blairite era).  Or they could try to stay in and cause trouble, whilst being relentlessly mocked, undermined and ignored by all sides north of the border.

Forestalling New Trade Deals & Big Business Privilege

The big problem with the EU for those on the Left has been the way that it has embedded privatisation and neoliberal economic policies.  That no longer applies.  Labour – or those elements of it with the courage – can now promise to nationalise failing and unaccountable industries.

The most immediate candidates for that are the incredibly unpopular rail companies. Others include steel plants at risk of closure – including the TATA plant in Stephen Kinnock’s constituency.

It also has the potential to undercut the US-centred trade deals Boris & Co will seek by simply saying it will refer membership of contentious international Treaties such as TTIP to referenda.

A New Tax Settlement

With Britain opting out of the EU, we are seeing the sad demise of free movement of people.  This is going to lead to brutal and nasty outcomes, with the graffiti attack on a Polish cultural centre only an early taste.  Much of the defence that can be given to refugees and foreign nationals in the near future will need to come from outside the established parties – from ordinary people.

But the flipside of this negative is that it will not be possible for the international rich to simply leave – or even realistically threaten to do so.  As the borders go back up, so taxes on the richest can rise.  Especially as there is no requirement for the free movement of capital to be maintained either.

Corbyn, and the left more generally, can take advantage of the superficial appearance of unelectability furnished by the attempted Blairite coup to rush out announcements that Labour will react to Brexit by raising taxes on the highest earners and – especially – on unearned income.










A Perfect Opportunity to Destroy Blairism

26 Jun

So the Blairites have decided to use the Brexit vote to attempt to oust Corbyn and return the Labour Party to a position slightly to the right of Thatcher.

There’s a slim chance it’ll work for them.

But with a 38 degrees petition against the coup having already gained around two hundred thousand signatures at the time of writing, it’s pretty unlikely.

More likely is that the Blairites will achieve their secondary aim of making the Labour Party unelectable with a left-wing leader – and thus buttressing the lie that has sustained neoliberalism in Britain for the last twenty years.

Should left-wingers react with panic? Despair?

Not at all.

On the contrary, there is now every chance – and justification – for the left in Labour to purge the Blairites from every significant position within their party. And for the left outside the Labour Party to lend a hand. This time, unquestionably, it is the Right that has chosen to damage Labour at its moment of greatest opportunity. The Left’s counterattack against the coup must be merciless.