Archive | July, 2016

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.