The Origins of Labour's Civil War

by W Stephen Gilbert

As the poisonous and potentially irrevocable conflict inside the Labour Party gathers pace, it seems a useful exercise to try to plot the origins of the animus. This analysis is written from the perspective of an unashamed supporter of Jeremy Corbyn; nonetheless, it is intended to be as factual and objective as possible and to avoid assumptions, speculations and accusations. Much of the heat in the present conflict is undoubtedly generated by the deployment of propaganda. The deconstruction of some of the myths that inform the anger is one of the aims of this essay.
What conventional wisdom would characterise as “a battle for the soul of the party” is nothing new; that it is not new is readily iterated. At its very inception, there was contention about the nature and direction of the Labour movement. To reduce the contention to convenient shorthand, the division may be said to be between Socialism and Social Democracy. The Independent Labour Party and the Labour Party squared up to each other along such lines. Arthur Henderson and Ramsay MacDonald took divergent views as to the means by which power might be taken and held. In living memory, Aneurin Bevan and Hugh Gaitskell, Harold Wilson and George Brown, Michael Foot and Denis Healey found more ground on which to divide than to unite.
Foot’s defeat of Healey for the party leadership in 1980 represented an unprecedented post-war ascent for that part of the Labour movement whose roots lay in the traditions of non-conformism and dissent: the Levellers, the Owenites, the Chartists, Tom Paine, Robert Tressell and, in that overlapping ground between politics and religious observance, the Presbyterians, the Unitarians and the Baptists. Foot espoused Socialism. Healey, like many in retreat from a more radical youth (Communism in his case), was a Social Democrat.
The history of Labour’s electoral fortunes under Foot’s leadership has been extensively rewritten and requires correction. Until the Falklands War of April 1982, Margaret Thatcher’s government was deeply unpopular. Despite Thatcher being propelled onto the international stage as a war leader and despite a palpable split in the party, Labour was able to take a seat from the Tories at the by-election in Birmingham Northfield six months after the war and eight months before the 1983 general election. What reduced Labour’s appeal to the electorate as the election became imminent was a systematic campaign by the Tory propaganda machine, the media and the Social Democrats within and outside the Labour Party to undermine Foot as – to use a term that has been revived under Corbyn’s leadership – “unelectable”. It’s the archetypal self-fulfilling prophecy.
The split in the party had come two years before. In March 1981, the Limehouse Declaration heralded the departure from Labour of a number of Labour MPs. Of the so-called Gang of Four who fronted the rebellion, only the least familiar, William Rodgers, was in the shadow cabinet. Shirley Williams and Roy Jenkins were both out of the Commons, the former having been defeated in the 1979 general election, the latter having left parliament in 1976 and subsequently been elected (by the European Parliament) President of the European Commission. David Owen, a serial resigner, had declined to serve under Foot because of the latter’s espousal of unilateral nuclear disarmament, a fault line between Socialists and Social Democrats for the last 75 years. But what united those who left the party was the issue of what was then called the European Economic Community. The Gang of Four were convinced “Europeans”, but Owen had changed again to advocacy of leaving the EU by the time of the 2016 referendum.
As for the Conservative Party, so for Labour, membership of the European Union has ever been a divisive issue. In 1975, Harold Wilson instigated a referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the EEC and permitted a free vote among his MPs, a shrewd move that preserved peace in the parliamentary Labour Party. Under Foot, Labour’s policy changed to unilateral withdrawal from Europe, while Thatcher, despite subsequent confrontations with Brussels, was communautaire. Sentiment in both major parties has substantially changed. By and large, though, parliamentarians are more enthusiastic about the EU than is the membership of their respective parties outside Westminster.
Given the kind of support in the media that most Labour leaders can only dream of, the new party launched by the Gang of Four, the Social Democratic Party, was initially very successful, in voting booths as well as in terms of media interest. Forming an electoral alliance with the Liberals, the SDP rode the crest of a wave into the 1983 general election and, had it not been for the first-past-the-post system of vote-counting that still obtains in elections to parliament (despite a referendum on the matter in 2011), they would have won a great many more than six seats. The Liberals took 17; before merging, the combined parties fought the 1987 election under the joint leadership of Owen and David Steele, making a net loss of one seat in the process. Later, Owen led a further SDP breakaway from the Liberal Democrats (successors to the Liberal-SDP Alliance) and presently sits in the Lords as a crossbencher. None of the Gang of Four ever again held government office in Britain.
Foot’s successor as leader, Neil Kinnock, positioned himself as a figure of the left, but he found himself at odds with more radical individuals such as Arthur Scargill, the mineworkers’ leader, and Derek Hatton, a City councillor in Liverpool, who had come to Labour from the Revolutionary Socialist League (known to the press as the Militant Tendency). Kinnock was targeting Hatton in one of the most widely quoted speeches of the modern era, made at the party conference in Bournemouth in 1985, when he cited:

…the grotesque chaos of a Labour council – a Labour council – hiring taxis to scuttle around a city handing out redundancy notices to its own workers” [1]

It says so much about routine media coverage, about the shaping of history and about the inward-looking nature of Westminster politicians and commentators alike that this passage, from a speech largely devoted to eviscerating the record of the Conservative government, is the one preserved as a sound bite. Politicians need to exercise the discipline of eschewing memorable imagery bestowed on secondary matters in their orations.
Elsewhere, the then Labour leadership accused Hatton and his allies of entryism, a technique used by followers of Leon Trotsky to sway opinion in the Workers’ International of the 1930s in France. Though entryism is certainly an actual strategy, it also becomes an aspersion employed to discredit and bring obloquy upon those who cleave to a different view of the host party. Legitimate recruitment shades into entryism and generates the contradictory stance for a party of wanting to expand its membership but only if it can vet (some of) the recruits. Such is the present embarrassment of the Labour Party. Those it now sees as entryists are followers of the very Socialist ideals that first animated the Labour movement. How can this have happened? It is really quite simple. The Social Democrats have taken over the parliamentary party.
Recording the traffic of the Kinnock years, Tony Benn described the leader’s “plan”, which “enjoyed the support of the overwhelming majority of the shadow cabinet, the National Executive and the trade union leaders”, as being to “

…eliminate Socialism as a force in British politics – and they set out to persuade the Party that it was the only way to make it electable. The Party leadership carefully distanced itself from many of the important grassroots campaigns that were mounted against government policy, especially the campaign by miners against pit closures [though Kinnock represented Islwyn, a mining seat], the campaign by the print unions against unfair dismissal and the hugely successful campaign against the Poll Tax which led to its repeal … The NEC [National Executive Committee] also embarked upon an internal disciplinary programme, expelling a number of good Socialists and imposing election candidates on constituencies and suspending local parties that took an independent view” [2]

This of course resonates powerfully against the current angry apprehension felt – whether with any discernible justification or not – among recalcitrant MPs who, some Corbyn supporters have mooted, should be deselected as candidates. But there are many ironies as the wheels of history turn. Neil Kinnock, now in the House of Lords along with his wife, is determined that Corbyn shall be replaced and he unabashedly turns to whatever weapons are to hand. He told The Guardian:

All Labour people”should therefore immediately join in order to vote. I urge everyone who wants to strengthen Labour to do that.” [3]

So there you have it: the grotesque chaos of a former Labour leader – a former Labour leader – scuttling about recruiting entryists to undermine one of his elected successors. Is he even aware of the absurdity of the irony?
Had John Smith not died suddenly – his tenure as leader in succession to Kinnock lasted less than two years – some accommodation might have been made between Labour’s Socialists and Social Democrats. Smith had changed the rules for leadership elections to “one member, one vote” (which empowered grassroots membership and ended block voting by trades unions); the Socialists’ standard-bearer, Tony Benn, regarded him with great respect and affection. Smith’s successor, Tony Blair, went much further in driving Socialism (a word he never uttered) off the Party’s agenda. The rebranding of the party as “New Labour” and the public relations talk of a “third way” was just the surface glitter. Much more fundamental was the burial of Clause IV.
At its 1918 Conference, the Labour Party set out a mission statement that contained a clear expression of Socialism. Called ‘Party Objects’, it made up the Party’s constitution, a seven-part code in plain, unambiguous language. Six of the clauses were general and unexceptionable pieties about organisation and cooperation. The Socialist red meat appeared in the fourth clause.
This declared that the Party intended:

…to secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service”.

The clause was drafted by Sidney Webb, one of the most formidable intellectuals ever recruited to the Socialist cause. Though Hugh Gaitskell tried unsuccessfully to ditch Clause IV in the early 1960s, it stood as Labour’s dictum for nearly eighty years. And then along came Blair to abolish it.
The 1995 rewrite made the party’s new intent:

…a dynamic economy, serving the public interest, in which the enterprise of the market and the rigour of competition are joined with the forces of partnership and cooperation to produce the wealth the nation needs”

What this signalled was a wholesale capitulation to the revolution that Margaret Thatcher had initiated and, in practice, a willingness to follow that revolution’s logic. Not for nothing did Thatcher reply, when asked to name her greatest achievement, “Tony Blair and New Labour”. She knew her ideology was safe.
Thus, the beginnings of the dismantling of an NHS free to all at the point of use – the so-called Public-Private Partnership – began under Blair. It was the then Prime Minister who unveiled the Cumberland Infirmary, the flagship for a new generation of privately financed hospitals. The catastrophic failure, not only of the Infirmary but of subsequently launched additions to the fleet, was catalogued by George Monbiot[4].
Nonetheless, private interest in public health care expanded apace, in indiscernible, back-office ways if not in big public gestures. Now former Labour ministers look to retire into the lucrative world of private medicine. Alan Milburn, one of Blair’s Secretaries of State for Health, holds seven-figure-earning directorships in Lloyds Pharmacy and Bridgepoint Capital, both private health care companies, and leads the incursion of the accounting and auditing giant PricewaterhouseCoopers into the health sector. For many Labour parliamentarians, the most particular and compelling threat that Corbyn represents is to their plans to make money from their connections once they have left the Commons.
The Blair-Brown embrace of aggressive capitalism extended to the deregulation of markets and the handing of power over interest rates to the Bank of England. In another baleful development, the Blair government introduced the tuition fees that have plunged a generation of high-achievers into debt.
And then there is Iraq. Having voted Labour with high hopes in 1997, I switched to the Liberal Democrats in 2001 because I already thought Blair had taken us into too many theatres of war, before the Afghan conflagration and the second Iraqi invasion. With the 1998 assault on Iraq and the participation in Kosovo and Sierra Leone, Blair became the most bellicose leader – monarch or prime minister – we had ever had, waging more wars in more different theatres than any other. I didn’t help put him into office for that.
Many forgive Blair his trespasses on the grounds that he is – the argument goes – “the most successful leader Labour ever had”. But even an apologist like historian Anthony Seldon tempers the claim: “No other Labour leader in history ever won three elections and lost none”[5]. That’s because Harold Wilson won four but lost one. But there are aspects of election victories that deserve comment.
In the first place, changes of government habitually come about because the governing party has become exhausted or bereft of ideas, or is widely perceived to be shambolic, out of touch, corrupt, incompetent or some combination of those things. Both Wilson and Blair first came to power (in 1964 and 1997 respectively) in such circumstances, as did Wilson again in 1974, Thatcher in 1979 and David Cameron in 2010. To succeed, the party of opposition ordinarily has to clear a fairly low hurdle of appearing to be passably able and representative of a change in direction.
Staying in office is more challenging. Blair’s three-times-a-winner record is less impressive the more you study the numbers. By the time of his third election victory in 2005, Blair’s government had lost nearly four million of the votes that had been won in 1997 and 63 seats. The long and profound decline in support for Labour in Scotland, a millstone round the necks of his successors, began under Blair. Moreover, Labour Party membership, which was at an 18-year high of 405,000 when Blair became PM, fell by more than 60 percent under Blair, largely but not only because of the Iraq war. The purging of those not considered to be “New Labour” also eroded membership (which, under Corbyn, stands at more than half a million, the highest since the 1970s). Blair made up the income shortfall by seeking wealthy donors and thereby brought upon himself a corruption scandal; he is the only prime minister in history to have been interviewed under caution by the police. The columnist for The Independent and Blair biographer, John Rentoul, professes to be “baffled” by the animadversion aimed at Blair[6]. I hope that I have unbaffled him a little.
The propaganda war within the Labour Party has ratchetted up ever since Jeremy Corbyn’s touch-and-go nomination for the leadership. Several studies have established beyond question that the media bias against him is palpable, sustained and unprecedented. Most of the material used to condemn him is either fictional or subjective or a mixture of the two and the media’s main sources for such material are the office of Lynton Crosby, propaganda chief for the Tories, and members of his own party. In the House, Labour MPs have openly attacked their leader in a manner not seen in two centuries. The ad hominem nature of the attacks is striking and sustained, the contempt heedless of the comfort it proffers to Labour’s rivals. Nobody mentions the word Socialism.
What has been as shocking even to some who doubt Corbyn’s worth to the Party as to the uncommitted, let alone those who support him, has been the naked manipulation of the party regulations by the Labour machine as it sought first to prevent the leader in post from being included on a ballot paper that represented a challenge to his leadership (imagine the Tories trying that when Sir Anthony Meyer challenged Thatcher’s position or even when John Redwood attempted to topple John Major); and then sought to disenfranchise large swathes of Corbyn supporters.
The assault on democracy represented by the NEC’s decision to deny retrospectively a vote in the ballot to any member of fewer than six months’ standing and to limit the permit to vote as a registered supporter to those who (re-)registered during the course of two days in July, raising the fee for this privilege from £3 to £25, was unparalleled in British political history. Worse still, this unprincipled moving of the goalposts was not ordered by the full NEC. The meeting had formally ended and Corbyn and his allies had left when the chair, Paddy Lillis, reopened the meeting to discuss matter that had not been included in Any Other Business, namely the decisions itemised above. Anyone who has ever attended a formal meeting will recognise that this is illicit, irregular, iniquitous and against natural justice.
Nevertheless, the media were not exercised by this astonishing behaviour. Much more to the taste of the Corbyn decriers at the BBC was the unchallenged testimony of NEC member Johanna Baxter, whose evidently emotional account of the meeting was used to attack Corbyn again. “There were a number of threats made,” she alleged, though this turned out to be the presentation of a solicitor’s letter setting out the case for Corbyn’s name to be on the leadership ballot (which argument the NEC accepted). There was discussion as to whether the votes of NEC members should be cast secretly. Baxter’s position was that an open vote made her and others – other women members, presumably – vulnerable to online abuse. She said that her contact details had been published online and that another NEC member who had been stalked had “begged” the meeting to allow a secret vote. Baxter averred that Corbyn opposed a secret vote, which would hardly surprise anyone familiar with his career-long espousal of open democracy and accountable power. Baxter somewhat sabotaged her own argument by declaring that she would herself publish her voting record accumulated at the six-hour meeting[7].
The parliamentary Labour Party has ever been riven with groupings, some separated from others by somewhat subtle shadings or accidents of history. Those that plot against Corbyn’s leadership are apt to keep themselves out of the public eye; they include Progress, Labour First, Save Labour, Labour Together, Blue Labour and – this one known around Westminster as “The Resistance” – Labour for the Common Good (which one wag has dubbed The Gang of 4.5, referencing the percentage of the leadership vote secured last September by its heroine Liz Kendall).
A lightning rod for Corbyn’s enemies has been Momentum, the pressure group nominally led by Jon Lansman, which was founded to support Corbyn’s leadership campaign and has continued to defend his position. Momentum has well-honed skills in recruitment and making use of social media. Launching a phone app that Momentum members had devised, the group registered in just the permitted 48 hours more than 180,000 new supporters willing to pay the £25 penance imposed by the NEC on those who were not already party members six months ago, but who wanted to vote in the 2016 leadership contest. That is a staggering number, more than the entire membership of the Tory Party.
Those in the Labour Party who do not share the Socialist principles of Momentum routinely accuse it of bullying, of abuse and of orchestrating disruption in local party meetings. Evidence for such accusations is not offered, for such behaviour does not customarily identify itself with Corbyn or Momentum. For instance, a brick was notoriously thrown through the window of the local office of Angela Eagle who, for a few days, was expected to run against Corbyn for the leadership. No individual was ever identified as the perpetrator. And what was even more pertinent was that the window was not of Eagle’s office but of a politically neutral staircase on the other side of the building[8]. Nonetheless, it was widely taken as read that this act illustrated the villainy of Momentum.
The media, which played up the incident, took it at face value. However, a moment’s reflection registers that the loser from the publicity was Corbyn, suggesting that the brick was very conveniently timed to offer Eagle a certain sympathy. I repeat that nobody knows who threw the brick. The Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner Jane Kennedy made public statements that assumed a Corbyn supporter was responsible, thereby showing herself to be extremely irresponsible.
The calumny that Momentum is a bunch of bully boys who mean Labour harm has gained traction as the press have taken up this characterisation from those Labour MPs who certainly mean Corbyn harm. Anyone who attends a meeting of a branch of Momentum habitually mingles with a group of friendly, courteous and thoughtful people, most of them over 50, who would hesitate to say boo to a goose. Propaganda frequently distorts reality extremely.
Everyone who uses social media knows that abuse and even menaces are a constant part of the landscape, and no single political position is peculiarly affected by it. A number of women MPs launched an investigation of so-called trolling under the title ‘Reclaim the Internet’ (referencing the feminist campaign of the 1970s, ‘Reclaim the Night’). Anyone can support such an enterprise, until it is used as a stick with which to beat Corbyn. Then it becomes a partisan exercise and is mere propaganda. So Corbyn is told he should have started the campaign himself – though he rarely mentions the death threats he receives – and the implication is spread that Corbyn somehow encourages the trolling through Momentum.
Carole Malone in The Mirror[9] accused “thugs acting in Corbyn’s name” of making death threats to Angela Eagle and to her fellow MP Luciana Berger. Berger promptly responded in a tweet that “the man who sent me those messages has nothing to do with @uklabour”, but Malone issued no correction or apology. The hate that columnists like Malone loudly deplore instead fuels their own carelessly damaging prose.
This all makes for further unbridgeable enmity. Jess Phillips MP flourished 96 pages of abuse, which evidently indicate nothing as to its source, but her senior colleague Yvette Cooper declared that where there is “serious abuse, intimidation or harassment online, members face expulsion from the Party”, so there you have the unsupported presumption that Corbyn-supporting members are responsible[10]. When Phillips then “threatens” to stand down as an MP if Corbyn is re-elected, the pincer movement is complete[11].
And yet no Labour MP finds it in herself to complain at the headline over another assault on Corbyn by Dan Hodges in The Mail on Sunday: ‘Labour MUST kill vampire Jezza’, this just ten days after the horrific murder of the Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox, marking a new low in tabloid propriety[12].
No distortion perpetrated about Corbyn is off limits. Angela Eagle, as a challenger to Corbyn’s leadership, wrote of:

…the tepid words and lip service he paid to the Remain campaign” [13]

Just over a month earlier, during the course of the campaign, she told another paper:

Jeremy is up and down the country, pursuing an itinerary that would make a 25 year-old tired, he has not stopped. We are doing our best, but if we are not reported, it is very difficult.” [14]

Which Eagle should one trust?
The myth that Corbyn somehow did not pull his weight in the referendum campaign has taken root just as surely as did the notion that Labour “crashed the economy” under Gordon Brown. Even as distinguished a commentator as the novelist Ian McEwan declares that:

The Jeremy Corbyn Labour party was shamefully, or shamelessly, absent until it was too late” [15]

According to monitoring conducted by the Loughborough University Centre for Research in Communication and Culture, Corbyn made 123 media appearances during the campaign, as against 19 by Alan Johnson (the nominal leader of Labour’s “In” campaign) and 15 by Angela Eagle. This was despite the fact that the media covered shades of opinion within the Tory Party at a rate of 2:1 compared to the coverage of the Labour Party. In the press alone, the Leave campaign enjoyed an 80/20 percent advantage over the Remain campaign[16].
Immediately following the referendum, it was the action triggered by Eagle and Hilary Benn that precipitated the rapid unravelling of the fragile show of party unity. The action came to be known as the Chicken Coup. The soubriquet was earned largely because, having chosen the weekend of greatest disarray within the government to precipitate even greater disarray in Her Majesty’s opposition, the plotters seemed not to have a plan. The first rule of regicide, Hilary Benn’s father Tony could have told him, is only to act when you are sure of success (within a week or two, the rule was again ignored in Turkey).
Evidently, the plotters imagined that Corbyn would crumble at the first sign of multiple departures from his shadow cabinet. Instead, he deftly promoted all those backbenchers whom he knew to share his political philosophy, even managing to do so while preserving the slight numerical advantage for women that he had established in his first shadow cabinet. Angela Eagle’s progressively postponed challenge was supposedly predicated on the wish to allow Corbyn to step down “with dignity”. Instead, it made her look increasingly indecisive until the moment when she showed an unimagined naïveté by announcing on a Saturday that she would declare her candidacy on the Monday, leaving everyone to wonder how this was not in fact a declaration on the Saturday.
The notice allowed the Tories to negotiate the withdrawal of Andrea Leadsom from the contest for the Tory leadership and time it to upstage Eagle’s formal announcement, leaving her wanly seeking journalists to ask questions: “BBC anyone? … Robert Peston? … Michael Crick? …” – all of them gone to the bigger story. Owen Smith, who decided to put himself forward too, repeated the error, having to postpone his own launch as a result of the more newsworthy massacre in Nice. Of course, no one can control events elsewhere, but flagging up your launch ahead of time does risk a humiliating retreat.
At a party hustings, Smith won the position of challenger to Corbyn. The fact that he is hardly known outside Westminster deprives him of the other of the two great advantages that Eagle could claim over him. He tactlessly described his family arrangements as “normal” (Eagle is in a civil partnership). But his campaign quickly hit choppy water, with social media disclosures that he had worked as a private health care lobbyist (that embarrassment again); that he got a job as a BBC Wales radio producer when, happily for him, his father Dai Smith was Head of Broadcast in Cardiff; and that he set up a fake Facebook account on which to post fictional compliments about himself. His self-description as “an ordinary man of the people” began to look threadbare.
Smith positions himself on the left of the Party, rather in the manner of Neil Kinnock. But he does not deploy the word Socialist. He says he intends to write another version of Clause IV. He strikes a conciliatory tone: as he told Andrew Marr, “If Jeremy wins the leadership, I’ll happily serve under him” [17]. He has made what he imagines is a magnanimous offer to create for Corbyn the post of Party President, clearly a ceremonial sinecure. How innocent he is.
What the mutinous MPs do not “get” – at least, not publicly – is that Corbyn is not defying them for his own sake. In describing him as “vain”[18], Neil Kinnock judges Corbyn by his own lights. It is plain from the whole of his history in politics that Corbyn is utterly untouched by personal ambition. In no sense has he pursued any issue for any kind of personal gain. He only ran for the party leadership in 2015 because Diane Abbott and John McDonnell had previously done so and it was “his turn” among the Socialist group in the party. In almost every one of his 33 years in parliament, he has claimed less recompense under the cloak of expenses than any other member.
He has risked his life – never mind censure – in meeting terrorists of many persuasions in an attempt to find a means of preparing the ground for some kind of accommodation, of demilitarisation in the future. Without what he and John McDonnell were able to establish with Sinn Féin and the IRA, Tony Blair would never have been able to claim as a high point of his “legacy” the Northern Ireland peace process. For their pains, McDonnell and Corbyn are blackguarded as “friends of the enemies of this country”.
Much is made of the tradition of “service” in politics. Many politicians interpret that notion as “self-service”. Jeremy Corbyn embodies like few others the highest ideals of service, but that service is not primarily on behalf of the Labour Party as an institution. It is on behalf of Socialism. So the present confrontation in Labour, though presented by his foes as about the man, the leader, the manager of the parliamentary party, the performer in the Commons, is in reality about his politics, his policies. The membership in the country are not interested in his person-management skills or lack of them.
And Corbyn knows only too well that if he, as the present embodiment of Socialism within the Labour party, is defeated, then Socialism will be dead as a force in Labour for generations to come and perhaps for ever. Tom Watson has called the present confrontation “an existential crisis for the Labour Party” but he, like so many, is putting the means before the end in privileging the crusade “to save the party we love”. Rather, this is an existential crisis for Socialism, which is precisely why any notion that Corbyn will back down or negotiate some manner of dignified exit is wholly fanciful.
So how will all this pan out? If Corbyn were to be deposed, one way or another, I have no doubt that the Labour Party would haemorrhage members in unimagined numbers. I hope that he and his 40-odd supporting MPs would immediately resign the Labour whip, set themselves up as a new party – the Democratic Socialists, perhaps – and call 40-odd simultaneous by-elections under the new colours. The remaining Labour party would be hard pressed to meet the challenge of finding suitable candidates for all those contests while simultaneously regrouping; as it happens, most of the Corbynite MPs have majorities above 10,000. A new grouping of 35-40 Socialist MPs, five times larger than the Liberal Democrats, would be a useful base from which to fight the general election.
If Corbyn trounces Smith, he will surely again attempt to embrace all wings of the party in forming a shadow team. Whether the mutineers will play is for them. That they are Social Democrats who have no regard for democracy will be a difficult hand to continue to play. Mass defections to the Liberal Democrats or the Tories may well follow, especially if they believe that local parties will start to move against them.
Reselection will anyway affect dozens of MPs before the next election because of the changes that will be announced by the Boundaries Commission in September. More than 40 seats will be abolished altogether in England and Wales. Among those whose seats will disappear or be altered in such a way as to change their complexion radically are Benn, Watson, Chris Leslie, Chuka Umunna, Stella Creasey, Lillian Greenwood, Liam Byrne, Emma Reynolds, Frank Field, Tristram Hunt, Vernon Coaker, Mike Gapes and Alison McGovern, chair of the Blairite pressure group Progress. Anyone seeking either to protect or avenge Corbyn on such critics as these will have an opportunity without trying to contrive one.
But perhaps the most bewildering conundrum for the mutineers will be if Corbyn continues to defy the conventional wisdom that he is “unelectable”. Labour MPs and the media continually cite opinion polls to support their case, heedless that opinion polling has been found so unreliable in the recent past. What they fail to note is that Labour’s record under Corbyn’s leadership has been spectacularly good, always confounding prediction. The Oldham West and Royton by-election, which was supposed to be won by UKIP, was held by more than 10,000 votes with an increased share. The local elections, at which Labour were expected to lose 150 seats, confined the losses to 18 from a very high base, whereas the Tories, from a very low base, shed another 49. Labour picked up all the mayoral seats it contested too. The Tooting by-election, thought to be safe but by a much-reduced margin, saw a doubling of the majority on a low turnout, with a 14.5 percent swing. And just the other day at a council by-election in Wibsey. Bradford, Labour increased its share by nine per cent to take more than half the votes in a four-way field.
The greatest difficulty that the anti-Corbyn MPs, the media and the Tories all share is a fact that they simply cannot stomach: Jeremy Corbyn is the most popular politician in Britain.
Tony Benn wrote:

“Perhaps the hardest thing for politicians to understand, is that government no longer rotates entirely around parliament and the old cycle of inner-party policy formulation – intense electoral propaganda, voters’ mandate and legislative implementation – important as they are. Winning an election without winning the argument may well frustrate at least a part of your purpose; and conversely winning an argument may be sufficient to solve certain problems by creating an atmosphere favourable to the achievement of your objectives. This is because most democratic countries, including Britain, are what they are because of the structure of values of those who live in them and are not just monuments to the skill of the statesmen who have governed them, or the legislation that has been enacted. Anyone aspiring to political leadership who really wishes to shape the society in which he lives has now got to devote a part, and probably a majority, of his time and skill and effort to persuading people, and listening in return to what is said to him.”


  • [1] – For an analysis of the whole speech, see the British Political Speech website
  • [2] – The End of an Era: Diaries 1980-1990 by Tony Benn: Foreword [Arrow 1994]
  • [3] – Saturday Interview, The Guardian July 9th 2016
  • [4] – ‘Private Affluence, Public Rip-Off’ by George Monbiot [The Spectator March 10th 2002]
  • [5] – ‘Why is Tony Blair So Unpopular?’ by Sir Anthony Seldon [BBC News website August 11th 2015]
  • [6] – Tom Swarbrick [LBC Radio July 17th 2016]
  • [7] – The World at One [BBC Radio 4, July 13th 2016]
  • [8] – YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppnKHmuVA1s
  • [9] – July 16th 2016
  • [10] – ‘Jess Phillips Submitted 96 Pages of Abuse to Labour Investigation’ by Martha Gill [Huffington Post July 18th 2016]
  • [11] – Channel 4 News [July 20th 2016]
  • [12] – The Mail on Sunday [June 26th 2016]. Somebody at the paper must have had second thoughts about the headline, for the online version changed the word “kill” to “dump”
  • [13] – ‘Opinion’ by Angela Eagle [The i July 17th 2016]
  • [14] – The Guardian [June 13th 2016]
  • [15] – Opinion, The Guardian [July 9th 2016]
  • [16] – The CRCC monitored weekday coverage on the five television channels that carry regular news bulletins and in ten national newspapers from May 3rd to Referendum Day
  • [17] – As a meme pithily pointed out: “Jeremy did win. In 2015”
  • [18] – op cit
  • [19] – Arguments for Socialism by Tony Benn [p 111 Penguin edition 1980]
W Stephen Gilbert is the author of Jeremy Corbyn – Accidental Hero, published by Eyewear


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Aug 11, 2016 2:48 AM

I don’t think the current factional Labour Party disputes relate to disputes going back 100 years. Most Labour Party members have no connection to historic factions of the labour movement. People are angry about economic devastation of the UK. Economic sabotage by mainstream politicians can be traced back to Healey and Thatcher’s monetarism followed by Blair and Brown’s neoclassical monetary regime. As a Bennite, Corbyn’s economic policies can be traced substantially to Keynes. The old Keynesian’s and New Cambridge School were Labour Party economic residents until Healey and Callaghan began the monetarist experiment (the facts are available in declassified cabinet papers).
Of course the general public support nationalisation but Corbyn and the public view only currently go so far as to advocate sensible nationalisation of natural monopolies and national infrastructure. This is not a GA Feldman style economic plan. It’s not a radical platform of public ownership. Corbyn’s plans for nationalisation are merely a recognition that production for profit is not a sensible option for the really important national priorities (nobody in the UK argues for a privatised army).
Corbyn’s policies are moderate. They aren’t the radical egalitarian policies that the people who fought World War II desperately wanted. Corbyn is trying to restore some democracy. By coincidence or causality; the views of politicians, the mainstream media and the economic orthodoxy all happen to mirror a new class of robber barons (see “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens” by Gilens and Page). The most likely explanation for Western social and economic collapse is that we are governed by a rich oligarchy who are not willing to cultivate a society that is fit for human habitation. Now that public trust in elites is collapsing, the public want their democracy back. This is not radical by the standards of history. Corbyn is leading a democratic platform.

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Aug 1, 2016 6:14 AM

The road to a serfdom freed from The Illuminati?
Does caring compassionate capitalism actually exist or have you lot forgotten your Engels?

Jul 31, 2016 2:20 AM

I think you will find that it was the Tories who first introduced higher education fees.
Where Blair and the New Labour entryists were remiss was in not rolling this unwelcome development back.
You only mentioned Democratic Socialism once but I believe the “new” Labour Party membership card begins with the words ‘The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party.’ Is that not correct?
This suggests a goal of socialism but underpinned by democracy and not violent revolutionary or authoritarian means.
It is the principles and values of democratic socialism – many of which have to be worked out – that need developing.
For example, what is the answer to the question “Who owns the state?”
Is it the place where common power and property are located?
Is it right that governments like the current one can privatize public assets – like the Land Registry Office – simply in order to provide the cash they then award to the rich, powerful and wealthy?
Labour needs to be addressing important questions like these if they are to develop credible and attractive policies which self-evidently operate for the benefit of everyone in our society and do not solely benefit the already rich.
The so-called “trickle-down” American Dream has not worked in the USA and it will never work here either.
We need to fashion a new future for ourselves based on the ideas, values and principles of Democratic Socialism.
Only a party led by someone like Jeremy Corbyn can possibly achieve that kind of outcome.

Jul 31, 2016 3:15 PM
Reply to  John

“‘The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party.’ Is that not correct?”
Of course. Socialism means a society controlled by its members which must mean ‘democracy.’
The only confusion that has ever arisen has been connected to societies under siege, where wartime exigencies make democratic decision making impractical.
As to representative democracy it is most unsatisfactory, again, except as a temporary short term measure. The model to which socialists ought to look is the ancient aboriginal one of consensus, preceded by full discussion of all members. The Iroquoian societies are good examples of how this works. And there is no reason why it could not be up-dated for modern purposes given the enormous resources in communications which we have developed.

Jul 31, 2016 9:32 PM
Reply to  bevin

Interesting ideas.
I imagine the total UK electorate must be somewhere in the range of 30 to 40 million.
How to consult with all of them on important matters?
I believe Obama – during his re-election campaign – held town hall meetings, both real and virtual.
We have similar numbers voting on-line for contestants in so-called “reality” TV shows.
Why should not a Labour Government hold consultative programmes on important policy matters and ask people to vote on-line for and against such policy proposals – a sort of “instant” referendum, though without the costs involved.

Jul 31, 2016 12:53 AM

Bevin- I so completely agree. Wanted urgently – mandatory political education classes, delivered by excellent knowledgeable communicators . The interest is there, so build on it. How can socialist policies be delivered in a UK subject to globalisation, with no manufacturing base and corrupt institutions? Compare 2016 with 1945, 1964 1982/3 , 1997, and 2005? The problems of transition, compromise and the raising of expectations . Can we deliver? The economics of socialist policies.
Our playwright supporter/members such as W Stephen Gilbert himself to produce a play about the factionalism that divided the left of the 70s & 80s – that’d be a lesson to young newbies about petty power struggles, ego and navel gazing that can drain the energies and very life force from a would be socialist.

Mike Parr
Mike Parr
Jul 30, 2016 7:53 PM

Superb, best article I have read on the subject – bravo to the writer.

Jul 30, 2016 2:00 PM

Nice one.
This smells like Norway this days, 25 years after the mother of crony capitalisms manifestation into this reality, The Gro-thing, an mirror reflection of Thatcherism is running our country to day, reganomics once again, jesus.
WE never learn do we, Norway is like an kindergarden witch is packed to the brim with spoiled children, whining and screams about been offended, by something, but weirdly anouf about 25 years of warfare in 7 different countrys witch are all “islamic”. And the latest doping revelations of systematic abuse of medics to enhance their preformances in winter sports, for decades, hehe, Im laughing my ….. of this days.
I love it, the sheer level of hypocrasy is, hehe, eforic to read.
In this, all Russians are doped days, and despecable witch hunt.
WE are drowning in manure 24/7, and propaganda, some so lame it hurts, other so far out even I wounder, whom have tripped where on earth have They been, and on top of it, demands us to belive everything They say, witch is basicly just babbeling.
How many years took it before One man was able to tell the truth about whats going on in the British isles.
About Banking and Monetary policy.
That is what ruins Britan, as we speak,
That is whats draining Gov. state, aka tax recoursess,
That is whats creating this massive infaltion.
That is what happends when some have sould out YOUR countrys recoursess, and the wurst part is loosing controll of it.
Fix this, and the rest will follow.
The fishing ind. is the batlefield where YOU have to total control over and take it.
And the entrie region of the isles wi have something to put food on their table, for eons to come if used with care aka sustainability is the key word and that need control, and torped anyone, refusing to stop.
WE are indeed back to the old days of class warfare, anyone not seeing it is blind, why, I dont bother anymore to even know it, its beyound glearingly obvious anyway, just listen to the scammers them selfs, the IMF, the moust powerful wepond of mass destruction the world have ever seen.
Its an millenium old pyramid sceem.
And Austeretys witch is plain flat-out theft of public welth and money.
Socialising private corps debt, is theft, period.
Privatising is an dead end scoundrels tale about eCONomy, and should be wacked out of existence before it ruins the economy completely.
And the solutions are there, why they arent implemented is because of corruption of everything, incl the so called “expertise” witch are those that I despice moust, and the echochamber, aka the MSM, no oposition what so ever to all the nonsense we are spoon feed constantly.
Italy and so on, can infact solve their problems to morrow, yup, they can, but why they dont do that, you have to ask Them, not me.
That Labor people, is our problem, its NOT about party politics, that train left the station eons ago, its about Bottom-Top.
Once you see it, you dont need to be agreeing with your nabor in everything, but the union should stick to what it was intended to be, social equality and social justice, democracy and peace.
The Brexit, Brits is the first step to freedom, kick ass is the next, then you have an saying.
Any real Brit should know that by now, because its for the benefit of the land, and that means everybody.
Things may be even better.
Why is That an problem.

Guiseppe B
Guiseppe B
Jul 31, 2016 9:25 PM
Reply to  mikael

“kick ass” as opposed to “kiss ass”. That’s what we’re missing. And having lived in Oslo, I found Norwegians a lot more enlightened than the average Brit.
I now live in Switzerland and see how democracy can really work: 4 referendums per year, pay the people who actually do real work a real wage, “trickle up” as opposed to (not) “trickle down”…

Jul 30, 2016 12:57 PM

Labour under Corbyn has not done poorly in elections. However, nor has it done well. Before claiming that Corbyn is an electoral asset, we need to see Labour winning other parties’ by-elections. Corbyn may well be respected as a man of integrity. That though need not translate into votes. Tony Benn likewise was highly respected by many Conservatives, especially when his clout within the Labour Party had diminished.
The challenge for Corbyn is that he needs to articulate his policies in terms that attract people who are not Labour’s core vote. He has yet to show any sign that he is capable of doing this. His performance at PMQs indicates that he does not understand how his words sound to people outside his base. Nor does he anticipate how they can be manipulated by his opponents.
Corbyn’s performance in the EU referendum was also poor. He had the chance to place himself in the vanguard of a movement calling for fundamental reform of the EU. Instead he ended up supporting an EU prepared to tolerate high unemployment rates in southern Europe as a price worth paying in order to protect the banks in the north.

Jul 30, 2016 10:36 PM
Reply to  chrisb

“Corbyn’s performance in the EU referendum was also poor. ”
How do you know? Where do you get your information on his speeches and their reception?

Richard Le Sarcophage
Richard Le Sarcophage
Jul 31, 2016 5:39 AM
Reply to  bevin

From the ‘Guardian’ sewer, plainly.

Anthony Baldwin
Anthony Baldwin
Jul 31, 2016 1:41 AM
Reply to  chrisb

Difficult to start in order to catch the most important hare you have set running and to question the reasons for your letting them loose.
Corbyn has articulated his policies at the dispatch box in such a way that some 300,000 thousand people have joined/rejoined the Party. In doing so he and John McDonnell in particular have forced the Tories onto their back feet, time and time again when others on the Labour Party benches have given their tacit agreement to austerity cuts by abstaining on the votes for such actions.
Could you give an example of the extension of unelectability accusation that we have heard ever since he was, well, elected? The only place he hasn’t been able to reach at the moment is to repair the situation which New Labour created within the Scottish Labour Party and that was so poisonous that it will probably take at least a generation to repair even though the likes of Mhairi Black are so obviously carrying the flame of socialism which, in her case, was lit by Tony Benn. Elsewhere we have maintained voting rates and the total of votes for Labour in the last Local Elections was greater than that in 2011. Every time we are told that this will be the litmus test on which his electability will be judged we win.
The obvious exception to that has been Europe but then why should he carry the can when he made it very clear that he would not stand on the same campaign stage as the Tories and the cause of the problem, David Cameron. The record described in the article says it all and for Angela eagle to go from complete support to complete condemnation is just unbelievable except in the light of the then soon to be published Chilcot Report. That you say he is supporting the banks position in Europe is ridiculous when he said that his final reason for supporting Remain was the continued ability to work with others within the Union to mitigate the situation that the workers and unemployed in countries like Greece and Spain found themselves in as a result of the same austerity cult that he was fighting in the UK.
There is a reason for much of the opposition to Corbyn from those who have thrown themselves at the feet of Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson, Alistair Campbell, and their Central Office fixers of Iain McNicol, John McTernan and in this last Election fiasco Peter Lillis. That reason was the fact that they couldn’t stomach the criticism of Blair which was bound to come form their leader at the Dispatch Box and so they did everything in their power to make him resign. That he didn’t and that he is now preparing for the next General Election by having the most successful round UK trip that any politician has experienced, since the days of politicians like Lloyd George or perhaps Gladstone could command before the Mass Media and technology made world events possible to watch where ever you wanted to see them is a tribute in its self.
Voter Registration changes was seen by the Tories as another jolly jape to keep their heels well and truly on the neck of the population but the Referendum scuppered their hopes as campaigns made sure that more people would vote than in any other election for a long time. The fact that many are now registered to vote who have previously not bothered because all the Parties were the same and the politicians were only in it for themselves is over. There is now a clear distinction between May’s tepid support for the people the Government, of which she was a key member, had chosen to forget, except as a source of making savings in order to offset the sins of the banks and those policies put forward by Jeremy and John McDonnell.
In fact we are raring to go and if the Police finally agree with what is so obvious that the Tories rigged elections through undeclared over spending then we may not have too long to wait.

Jul 31, 2016 2:03 AM
Reply to  chrisb

Corbyn’s basic stance was Remain But Reform – not high unemployment in Southern Europe.
What ridiculous ideas you have!

Anthony Baldwin
Anthony Baldwin
Aug 1, 2016 9:56 AM
Reply to  John

That is what I said. His belief was that out of Europe we cutting these people adrift and could do nothing for them and yet those who thought the Left should vote to leave wanted to do nothing for the Greeks but bemoan their situation as if it were our future.
And your ideas?

Aug 1, 2016 10:11 AM

Clearly, a project designed to reform the EU in any meaningful way would have taken years, if not decades.
The problem of Greece – which you identify – is specifically linked to the euro monetary zone.
Britain is not currently part of that zone and – now – never will be, in all likelihood.
The truth is that the overall level of Brexit analysis presented on all sides was woefully inadequate.
Severing Britain from the EU will almost certainly require a Gordian Knot approach in all probability.
This will leave an ongoing legacy of tetchy relationships with most other European countries.
Still, no change there, eh?

Mark Gobell
Mark Gobell
Jul 30, 2016 10:58 AM

The Kabbalistic elephant in the room …
Which, by your “analysis methods”, you are all condemned to miss …
“New Labour” : Princess Bliar and the Labour Party anti-Corbyn Coup
It’s easy-peasy when you know how …
No endless “media analysis” or quasi political navel-gazing required …
At all.

Jul 30, 2016 9:36 AM

Very useful – thanks W S Gilbert. Do you have a pal named Arthur Sullivan to set it to a catchy tune?
On the history, Ralph Milliband’s Parliamentary Socialism is a classic of depth and thoroughness. Though its publication (1961) predates even the Wilson cabinets it abounds with insights – in particular on the existential tensions within that “broad church” – that remain highly relevant. His two boys should have paid closer attention to it.
Two things I’d add are (a) differences between the ‘deep entryism’ of Militant and the Corbynistas; (b) demographic, class and national shifts which now make it unlikely any Labour leader, left or right, could win a general election.
On the first, stance re the Labour Party was one of three defining features of the far left sections and splinterettes of the seventies and eighties, the other two being the USSR and Ireland. An outsider sufficiently motivated could by these three points orient herself through a bewildering maze mocked exquisitely in the Life of Brian scene on the Judean People’s Front. Few of course were sufficently motivated but I was in one such sect that rejected both the refusalism of the SWP, and the deep entryism of a Militant thinking to take over the party to deliver a parliamentary road to socialism. But if you added all these sects and splinters together, I doubt you’d have topped a few hundred self defined Trotskists. That’s a far cry from the mass movement Corbyn has given hope and focus to. The reason is the neoliberal induced anger that has produced or boosted Podemos, Syriza and the hapless Bernie Sanders (as well as rightwing populism in the forms of Golden Dawn, Trump and Ukip). For all the misery of the eighties in the Thatcher-Reagan years, there was no comparably focused grassroots anger, outside single issues like poll tax, nukes (coming together with feminism at Greenham) and to lesser degree unemployment.
On the second point, which follows on, we have to get our heads round the fact neither Corbyn nor ‘moderates’ can win a general election. Blair pulled it off in ’97 not just because he had ‘moderate’ policies, JFK appeal and an electorate sick of the tories. He won because now discredited trickledown economics made a “3rd Way” seem plausible and allowed the C1/C2 vote to be tapped without alienating D/Es. His subsequent wins were, as WS Gilbert notes, on shrinking majorities despite a Conservative Party in disarray under leaders chosen not for electoral appeal but stance on Europe. (Ken Clarke would have posed a more credible challenge to New Labour than Howard, IDS or Hague could ever do.) New Labour ‘realists’ dream fondly of a charismatic leader with centrist policies to woo Middle England and return the party to the glory days. Not possible. Britain’s fault lines have deepened and hardened. In an increasingly Disunited Kingdom a party may appeal to Middle England or burgeoning underclass but not both; not in sufficient numbers to win elections. The C1/C2s have the option of voting Tory or Lib-Dem while D/Es, long deemed to have no alternative to Labour, now have SNP, Ukip and (we can predict) parties further to the right. That Corbyn has such huge grass roots support, and near zero PLP backing, is more a reflection of our fragmented society than of a uniquely Labour problem, or even a uniquely British problem. Western democracy was always premised on sufficient prosperity to give most citizens a stake. Such prosperity was itself premised on global economic realities that have shifted irreversibly.

Jul 31, 2016 1:19 AM
Reply to  writerroddis

You are arguing, correctly, that deep shifts in the world economy have produced the possibility of great changes socially and politically. But then you revert to the static argument that socialism cannot appeal both to a growing underclass and an increasingly embattled middle England.
The reality is that people will be looking for answers because they will need them. And any party which provides answers in the form of realistic policies and an appealing vision of society can win office. Whether it will be able to translate an electoral mandate into power over institutions which are increasingly insulated from democratic influence is another matter. It’s a bridge worth planning to cross well before we reach it.

Jul 31, 2016 9:39 AM
Reply to  bevin

I must not have expressed myself clearly. We are not so far apart as you suppose. I do not “revert to the static argument that socialism cannot appeal both to a growing underclass and an increasingly embattled middle England” – I fear you’ve inserted an implicit ever between my ‘cannot’ and ‘appeal’ My comments are in the here and now: to those who within the current paradigm speak of which policies and leadership can or cannot win a general election as things stand. The point I’m trying to make is that a question that’s dominated Labour thinking since its beginnings – do we win elections by being more left/less left? – is for the present a false opposition. I do not believe any Labour leadership can win a general election, not least because of Scotland, and would love to be proved wrong.
Tomorrow’s another day and on this I think we agree. The consequences and possibilities opened up by those shifts of globalisation are up in the air. Meantime, and I meant to say this but forgot, Corbyn gets my backing on moral grounds.

Lee Francis
Lee Francis
Jul 30, 2016 8:10 AM

Let us start with the formation of the Labour Representation Committee first formed in the early 20th century and which became the Labour party in 1906. Key actors in this midwifing were the Independent Labour party, the TUC and the Fabian Society. The Fabians were the intellectual powerhouse of the party and had their own imperial divisions over the UK’s war in South Africa 1899-1902; Shaw (good government is better than self-government) and the Webbs on one side and Olivier, Besant and Wallas on the other. Prior to this the Society had been having discussions with the German social-democrat, Eduard Bernstein, who was to persuade them of the necessity of evolutionary socialism. Then came the publication of ”Fabian Essays in Socialism” 1883, followed by numerous Fabian tracts the first being, ”Why are the many poor”. At the time the dominant socialist group in the UK was the Social Democratic Federation, and openly revolutionary leftist grouping. From the outset therefore the Labour party was social-democratic, socialism by the ballot box.
The first Labour administration came about in 1923, but was short lived, and did little to achieve its putative aims of establishing ballot box socialism, the next in 1931 represented a complete debacle and led to its leader, Ramsay MacDonald forming a coalition with the Tories in 1935 calling itself the National Government. The nearest Labour ever came to establishing socialism was the 1945 government of Clement Attlee. From the 1950s until 1964 the Tories were in power. But the key political moment was the publication of a book by Anthony Crosland ‘The Future of Socialism’ which was essentially a repudiation of socialism; even parliamentary socialism.
In practice and after Crosland’s revisionism Labour’s leadership has never been committed to a social-democratic road to socialism. It became a centre-left party comparable to the US democrats.

Jul 30, 2016 2:01 PM
Reply to  Lee Francis

“The first Labour administration came about in 1923, but was short lived…”
One interesting aspect of the first Labour gpvernment was the Press campaigning against it, which was red baiting. The Zinoviev Letter, the Campbell (?) case…. The pattern became quickly established and is repeated throughout Labour’s history. So is the inability of the Party to deal with the attacks. It is an inability due, in a large part, to the existence of an anti-socialist Fifth Column within the party. The sort of people who fell over themselves to hail Crosland’s shallow, ahistorical analysis. They were and always have been careerists who welcome any excuse to ditch principles which might prevent them from selling all to promote their own interests.
Labour has to learn to repudiate its links with the Capitalist Press, to refuse to co-operate with it and to promote the development of socialist publishing..to follow the example of the old SDP and build a parallel world of Socialist schools, unions, universities, social clubs, media and communities.

Lee Francis
Lee Francis
Aug 2, 2016 10:29 AM
Reply to  bevin

Yes, in the old days there was the Daily Herald and the Daily Worker (now revisioned to Morning Star). But there were other lesser known publications such as ”The Clarion” founded by Robert Peel Glanville Blatchford (17 March 1851 – 17 December 1943) a socialist campaigner, journalist and author in the United Kingdom. Blatchford set up The Clarion newspaper, in 1890 it still sold 40,000 or more copies due to the sales to ILP members. It continued to sell this amount and much more during the following years. By 1910 the paper was selling about 80,000 copies for each issue.
There was also the Manchester Guardian of course under the tutelage of C.P.Scott. (You know, ‘comment is free, but facts are sacred’. That C.P.Scott. Talking of the South African war, Scott was vehemently opposed to what he considered to be – correctly – abject imperialism. For his pains jingoistic mobs attacked both his house and the Guardian building in Manchester. A little different from the modern Guardian, perhaps.
But the left cannot continue to rely on CIF comments and various internet sites as well as the social media. We need something more substantial than that. Given the technology at our disposal this should not be impossible. If the pioneers of socialism could do it, why not us?

Aug 2, 2016 1:31 PM
Reply to  Lee Francis

The reason why the Labour Party is, almost uniquely, without any media aligned with it, is that the leadership wants it that way.
Being dependent on the good graces of The Guardian and the Mirror, and the grudging ‘respect’ of the Tory press is great for Blairism (and was very convenient for the long series of right wing predecessors to Blair). It means that the anti-socialist media defines just how far Labour may go before it becomes certifiably ‘loony.’
It also means that the debate is invariably defined in terms favourable to the anti-socialists. And that the first task of any ambitious Labour MP is to make herself acceptable to the media.
I used to believe that Labour had given up on having its own media because it lacked imagination and resources. Then I realised, what should have been clear all along: it doesn’t have media because it enjoys the bracing discipline of the ‘mainstream’s pundits.

Aug 2, 2016 11:34 PM
Reply to  bevin

You make a very interesting point – which is that there is no mass circulation left-oriented media in this country and conclude people on the left don’t want it.
That may well be true of those in leading positions on the left, as the existing situation is apparently OK for them.
However, large numbers of ordinary members and supporters of left-wing parties would – I am sure – love to see a media that reflects their reality.
The one actor that possesses the resources to bring out a mass newspaper and have mass broadcast TV and radio media is the trades’ unions.
So, the question really is “Why don’t they collectively do something about it?”
I have just been watching Max Keiser. One of his guests pointed to the fact that around 70 families now own as much wealth as half of the world’s population.
He describes this new situation as neo-feudalism, especially with the growth of “gig” low-paying jobs and the growth of robotisation replacing human workers.
That is the future younger generations face unless they – and we – confront it.

Jul 29, 2016 4:03 PM

Reblogged this on dainagregory.

Jul 29, 2016 3:45 PM

Very good, but I’m as reluctant to cede the term ‘Social Democrat’ to those who are manifestly neither democratic nor interested in making society democratic. The split is between Socialists and unprincipled careerists whose ideology consists of conforming to the ruling ideas and aligning themselves with the powerful.
It is a split which has been a long time coming and the only reason that it is coming now is that Mandelson and Blair were so idiotic that they forgot that while, historically, Labour has always governed on the basis of its acceptance of both capitalism and imperialism, its support has always come from a working class which sees in socialism and anti-imperialism its own ingrained values of solidarity, community and fairness allied with an intelligentsia committed to socialism in principle.
New Labour had so much contempt for the working class that it calculated that it could continue to count on its support while treating it like shit.
What Corbyn represents is Labour’s last chance to pursue the Parliamentary Road which even Marx believed was a possibility in Britain. He also represents democracy’s last hope, for if he is defeated, it will only be by the employment of tactics which are so shabby and dishonest that they can only be tolerated by those who oppose the idea of universal suffrage itself.
The right wing predecessors of New Labour were much more subtle: under their dispensation the CLPs and the individual members were always over ridden by Union bloc votes, wielded by bosses like Deakin and Bevin. And after every defeat the left re-dedicated itself to the business of converting the Unions, member by member, branch by branch. It was a job that Sysyphus would have turned down as obviously impossible this side of a revolution.

Richard Le Sarcophage
Richard Le Sarcophage
Jul 29, 2016 11:53 PM
Reply to  bevin

The forty year reign of Rightwing psychopaths over the West has produced resistance at last. After the ceaseless lying, still continuing, that neo-liberalism would benefit everyone, (a foul lie from the beginning as neo-liberalism is based in Rightwing misanthropy and greed)the serfs can see from their own experience that they were conned. The future, if scum like the Blairites and the US Democrats (let alone the Tories or Republicans)continue their policies, is neo-feudalism, with ever increasing debt, inequality and poverty. And the ferocious reaction of the Bosses and their servants like the Blairite Quislings to manifestations like Corbyn shows not just their hatred of the rabble, but their fear. Once Corbyn wins again he must allow the membership to cleanse the constituencies of the Augean filth, or they will be back, over and over again, until they wear Corbyn down. And like their principal pay-masters they will be prepared to opt for the Samson Option, and destroy the Labour Temple if they cannot control it.

Jul 30, 2016 2:37 AM

I’m inclined to agree. There was always resistance though; among the problems were: Trade Unionism dominated by sellout careerists and a complete neglect of political education in the Labour Movement, together with a touching faith in the Capitalist media.
Socialists need not only to build their own institutions but to give up the luxury of fratricidal sectarianism.

Tish Farrell
Tish Farrell
Jul 29, 2016 2:48 PM

Thank you for this well written analysis. The fact that Jeremy Corbyn has been in Parliament for so very long, has stood by his principles, and does not play silly people-smearing games should tell detractors something very important about themselves. Sadly for us, the party and everyone, they do not appear to ‘get it’. Oh, for an age of grown-up politics – the sort we need to wisely and humanely address the crises that face the planet – solutions that are not dictated by crass party posturing and divisive mass media mongering, but by actual circumstances that we all need to address and take some responsibility for.

Richard Le Sarcophage
Richard Le Sarcophage
Jul 30, 2016 12:01 AM
Reply to  Tish Farrell

To become a Blairite, ie a greedy, amoral, opportunist without principles and happy to shed rivers of blood to ingratiate yourself with the Yankee Reich, you need to be of low character. This type are always with us, and mature civilizations of the past tried hard to find some way to keep them from power, often fruitlessly. Under Free Market capitalism, in contrast, this type, basically psychopaths, are in total control of the economy, politics and the brainwashing apparatuses of the MSM, entertainment, PR and advertising. Using the advantages thus conferred they have imposed their psychopathology onto societies, and we have become, like them greedy, compassionless, untrustworthy, unscrupulous and violently destructive. Corbyn et al stand virtually NO chance of reversing this process, but it is a noble endeavour against evil swine. Perhaps if some sort of Gadarene Solution could be found, and the Blairites would all rush into the sea, taking their demon financer-patrons with them, we might stand a hope.

Jul 30, 2016 7:11 AM

Entirely agreed.
However, the existence of this website, and the reasons it came into being, illustrate how very little chance there is of stopping the Blairite filth.

Tish Farrell
Tish Farrell
Jul 31, 2016 10:39 AM

I think you nailed it, though it’s a bleak picture. In his somewhat surprising conclusion to the BBC prog on Magna Carta, David Starkey suggested we were sleep-walking to totalitarianism. Corbyn, and the like-minded, are offering a ‘wake-up’ solution, a very scary prospect for the pick-pocketing snake-oil peddlers.

Jul 29, 2016 2:02 PM

I think corbyn should either force the plotters to leave labour and set up a separate party, or do as the article suggests and start a new party himself. I would definitely become a member of his new party and resign from labour in such circumstances. There needs to be clear water between the backstabbers and the genuine membership both in terms of policy and media attention.

Jul 29, 2016 12:45 PM

But perhaps the most bewildering conundrum for the mutineers will be if Corbyn continues to defy the conventional wisdom that he is “unelectable”

Britain was taken into an illegal war in Iraq by Labour leader Tony Blair.
Until the day that Jeremy Corbyn grows a pair – and throws Blair, Prescott, Brown, Browne, Straw, Hoon, Short, and Mandelson out of the Labour Party for life – the British public will never forgive or trust Labour again, on any issue.
Voters want action. Corbyn offers them fudge.
You left the Labour Party yourself over this issue. Can’t you see why no-one will trust Labour now, or ever again? Or shall we just wait until Corbyn suffers the worst election drubbing ever dished out to a Labour leader, and resigns in ignimony?

Chris Rogers
Chris Rogers
Jul 29, 2016 12:38 PM

Call me a Luddite, but as far as the Labour Party is concerned, I just desire to turn the clock back to John Smith, who I actually voted for at the time of his elevation to leader after Kinnock.
After Kinnock, and with Smith in place I actually supported much is desired to do, including being friendly towards SME business, so, if we can turn the clock back to this timeline and then build-up it with new policies befitting this century I’m happy – and its Corbyn, rather than Smith who I believe can accomplish this move – whether he ever becomes PM does not worry me, Labour Party needed change worries me, and that means democratising and building electoral alliances, preferably with full PR as the carrot.

Jul 29, 2016 1:15 PM
Reply to  Chris Rogers

I agree, but then again, I would have happily supported Robin Cook, another who met an untimely end, as did Crosland in the 1970s. I do wonder whether Corbyn will drop dead suddenly were he to be on the cusp of power in a year or two. Seems to be a convenient pattern.

Jul 29, 2016 2:51 PM
Reply to  JJA

Robin Cook? Ah yes, the brainbox who claimed that Slobodan Milosevic was operating ‘rape factories’.

Jul 29, 2016 4:18 PM
Reply to  reinertorheit

I was thinking of the Robin Cook who wrote in The Guardian (when it still had credibility) shortly before his death:
‘Bin Laden was, though, a product of a monumental miscalculation by Western security agencies. Throughout the 80s he was armed by the CIA and funded by the Saudis to wage jihad against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. Al-Qaida, literally “the database”, was originally the computer file of the thousands of mujahideen who were recruited and trained with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians.’

Anthony Baldwin
Anthony Baldwin
Aug 6, 2016 11:52 AM
Reply to  reinertorheit

So you don’t think that the winter holiday resort hotels changed to forced brothels couldn’t be described as rape factories then?
Surely you couldn’t have missed this extended report which is bound to be on You Tube somewhere.
The programme has some of the abused going back to explain who did what in which room and which friend of theirs couldn’t face this any longer so threw herself out of a window to commit suicide.
Probably just a nightmare and not a real life experience then.