Corbyn: blowback at the not-OK Corral

by Philip Roddis, July 26, 2016

Millionaire Labour donor Michael Foster wants to reverse the NEC decision and seeks a [high court] declaration that, under Labour party rules, Corbyn must obtain the requisite number of nominations before his name can appear on the ballot. Guardian, July 26.

I’m no fan of taking it to the wire – on my sixty-fourth spin round the sun I’ve the old ticker to think about – but here’s my fantasy: Mr Justice Foskett does rule against Corbyn and the world cries foul but he gets the fifty-one nominations and wins by a bigger margin than in September.  Sweet or what?  OK, I did say fantasy.  For the sake of my six hours a night I want to see Foskett kick that suit into the Mariana Trench but there’s nowt surer to put a smile on the lips of simple Yorkshire folk like me than a spot of schadenfreude.  All the better when pratfall takes the form of blowback.
Hoist by one’s own petard, the bard would say, but now we speak of blowbacktruly a term for our times.  Like spin doctor, I first happened on it in the context of a Campbell machine so successful it was taken as read, even before Iraq, that if info came by way of No.Ten or Camp Campbell you took it with ladles of salt and a peppering of grudging admiration.
But that was then and now is now.  Blair-Campbell blowback came from success, while that felt by today’s PLP rebels and party grandees is a boomerang propelled by panic. Let’s take stock. With hindsight, and neat work from the Canary, we know the coup against Corbyn was long in the making. What at the time seemed cynical opportunism – like the merging of Get Corbyn with Bomb Syria, and then with Gag anti-Zionists – now looks not only to have been more planned than first met the eye, but precursor to that chain of shadow cabinet resignations timed to the minute for media impact and maximum psychological pressure on a man whose mettle the plotters had sorely misread. And coups, as Turks will tell you, must not fail or stall lest they generate gale strength blowback. Did Labour ever look less dignified, rebels less attractive – even to their natural sympathisers?
Enter the hapless Angela Eagle, hat thrown into ring on the firm understanding the NEC would rule that an incumbent leader facing challenge must, like the challengers, secure nominations from twenty percent of the PLP. It didn’t, and she never recovered. But before she folded we had the tears (and not just hers: you could smell the onions up in Bridlington) … the sexing up of bricks hurled and meetings cancelled ‘due to bullying’ (a lie that might have stuck had the venue owners not promptly contradicted it) … not to forget the shameless playing on gender, social class and even (what – you thought pink was an aesthetic choice?) sexual orientation. Upshot?  One kingsize turn off for Joe and Judy Public.
Meanwhile the grandees were doing their bit.  Blair confided to the Graun last August that he “does not fully understand the forces stoking Corbynmania” – which says it all but, to be fair, neither does the Graun*.  Lord Seriously Relaxed’s interventions fared no better, ditto those of Jack Get-You-Influence Straw. Then on Saturday my fellow Sheffielder David Blunkett, who twice had to leave Blair’s cabinet for malfeasance (that’s abuse of office to me and thee), chose the day Corbyn opened his campaign to rail against the man’s “fanatical supporters”.  It’s a testament to Blunkett’s zeal on this front that for once he was penning not for the Mail, his organ of preference, but the rather less munificent Observer.
And let’s not forget the passive-aggressive antics of an NEC which giveth and which taketh away. Having shrunk back – in an act of rare aggregate wisdom Michael Foster is now doing his deep pocketed best to overturn – from an interpetation of the rules that would make Corbyn a challenger to his own leadership, it compensated in a way that in any other context would be amusing for its comic book villainy. After Jez and two supporters left that NEC meeting, those remaining voted on an item not on the agenda: the already infamous six months or pony up rule. Should the human race survive that long – a prognosis helped neither by Trident nor the precarity of US warheads at İncirlik as Turkey re-evaluates its friend and foes – diligent history undergraduates a hundred years hence may earn brownies by working this titbit into essays on “Factors contributing to the Labour Party Split, 2015-17”.

(But with a little help from crowdfunding friends, two can play the litigation game. Foster’s not the only one taking a grievance to court this week. 6 months or £25 may itself be unlawful.)
Have I missed anything? Undoubtedly. Do fill in the gaps with your own instantiations of dirty stunts pulled by and for “New” Labour in its war on Jeremy Corbyn. But my point is that such tricks are, for those who stooped to use them, dangerous as well as dirty. Blowback is real and anecdotal evidence on social media suggests they are proving double edged – disgusting people well beyond Corbyn’s or even Labour’s natural support base. So why use them? In the end, and for all the smokescreening and smart-arsing, the answer to such a question is always simple: desperation; the panic tinged recognition that all other options are closed.

* The ferocious media bias against Corbyn has itself generated a degree of blowback, in particular for a Guardian with many readers dismayed by its coverage. Media bias is not the subject of this post but for those interested I recommend a recent LSE report whose foreword contains this:
Our analysis shows that Corbyn was thoroughly delegitimised as a political actor from the moment he became a prominent candidate and even more so after he was elected as party leader, with a strong mandate. This process of delegitimisation occurred in several ways: 1) through lack of or distortion of voice; 2) through ridicule, scorn and personal attacks; and 3) through association, mainly with terrorism.
All this raises, in our view, a number of pressing ethical questions regarding the role of the media in a democracy. Certainly, democracies need media to challenge power and offer robust debate, but when this transgresses into an antagonism that undermines legitimate political voices that dare to contest the current status quo, then it is not democracy that is served.
LSE study: Journalistic Representations of Jeremy Corbyn in the British Press. Available here.



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Chris Foot
Chris Foot
Aug 3, 2016 3:01 PM

Hi Intelligent comments so far.
I’ll admit to supporting JC to the hilt, but do I think he can be elected, well no.
What decides who governs our country? Rupert Murdoch and Paul Dacre.
I’m 66 and spent the last 25 years of my working life in a factory here in the West Midlands and I can tell you that looking around the canteen during breaks two papers dominate, the Mail and the Sun and peoples views reflected their reading.
After BREXIT, great journalists, like Glenn Greenwald and Chris Hedges alongside economists such as Richard Wolff declared that this was the beginning of a revolt of the working class against the status quo. In my opinion nothing could be further from the truth. Most people read the Mail and the Sun (and here in the WM our local Express & Star), both of whom were passionately in favour of a BREXIT. Add to this the fact that Sun and Mail’s specialty is encouraging hatred of “the other”, be they immigrants, or whoever aND MOST OF THE BROADCAST MEDIA

Chris Foot
Chris Foot
Aug 3, 2016 3:19 PM
Reply to  Chris Foot

Sorry about this, I’m crap at computers. I have tried to correct these capitals and it posted. I then tried to complete my comments only to have them dissapear into the either.
Sorry, I’ll not bother you again

Aug 3, 2016 1:56 AM

The thing I always try to keep at the front of my mind when reading anything about Jeremy Corbyn, is ‘what is at stake’?
What is at stake here, IMHO, is not just a leadership battle, or a battle for Labour to get back to its roots. What is at stake here is, through the election of a Jeremy Corbyn lead government, the entire neo-liberal political and monetary system.
The UK is now ground zero in that battle which is why it will get dirtier and uglier before this is over.
The election of a Jeremy Corbyn lead government is the first shot against the incumbent political/moneary system that predominates western civilisation currently. A return to a system with government intervention, removing the power of banks to create money out of thin air and a considerably less aggressive foreign policy scares the shit out of those who makes billions from the status quo.
This election is being watched very keenly all over the world and if Corbyn is successful, the ball will be well and truly rolling.

Aug 3, 2016 7:52 AM
Reply to  Kevin

I agree. So far the ruling class, media excepted, has held fire. We’ve not seen runs on sterling, legal bias nor army involvement. (Though we did have a senior general declare, early in JC’s leadership, that he’d face a mutiny if he downgraded arms-spend, e.g. by scrapping Trident.)
So far the war on Corbyn has been conducted by PLP and Labour Party grandees, by orgs like Portland Comms and by the media, including Guardian and Beeb. Labour ‘moderates’ would far rather see the party lose elections than have it win them under Corbyn. There’s ample evidence of this aspect of the party’s history, such as when Frank Field urged Wallasey in the 1987 general election to vote Tory against left Labour candidate Lol Duffy: as it happens this was an early link in a chain that led to Angela Eagle winning the seat in 1992. So, yes, the stakes are indeed high.

Aug 3, 2016 7:53 AM
Reply to  writerroddis

Posted prematurely. What I meant to add was that this non involvement by the ruling class would change were JC to gain real ascendancy in the PLP, and even more so should he win a GE.

Aug 3, 2016 9:43 AM
Reply to  writerroddis

There is next to no chance of Corbyn gaining ‘real ascendancy in the PLP’ ahead of the next election assuming that it is held in 2020. The daggers have been drawn and there is no going back. The power struggle within Labour will only be resolved by sitting MPs being deselected. This will probably not occur until 2018. Potentially the situation will only get worse with an SDP Mark II splitting off, only this time using courts to lay claim to Labour’s name and assets and presumably not their liabilities.
The public are unlikely to vote a divided party into power and Labour’s current state of division is unprecedented. Baring a crisis in the financial markets, Labour’s chances of winning the next election, whether in 2020 or earlier, is extremely slim.
The ‘good’ news is that a financial crisis worse than that of 2008 is probable. Corbyn needs to be prepared if he is to grasp his opportunity. He needs to be able to say what he would do with the banks and to talk coherently about the details of monetary policy. Just saying ‘nationalise them’ will be shot down by the mass of economists, politicians and journalists arguing that there is no alternative to another taxpayer bailout. Corbyn will certainly have to perform better than his pathetic effort during the EU referendum, when the best he could manage was to repeat ‘Remain but reform’, Tsipras’ last words before he surrendered to the ECB, EU and the German Government.

Philip Roddis
Philip Roddis
Aug 3, 2016 3:39 PM
Reply to  chrisb

I agree. Mine was the narrower point that to date the ruling class hasn’t needed to deploy the big guns. It may, as you suggest, never so need.
There are vaiid and vital left criticisms of Corbyn’s leadership. Three came this week: from Owen Jones, John “StW” Rees and Paul Mason. I’ll be assessing them on my blog-site in the next day or so. Meanwhile I’ll make a small point. You come close to calling Corbyn ‘pathetic’. OK, you don’t say it directly but IMO come close Words like that are (a) unhelpful, unduly emotive, (b) unnecessarily off-putting to people who may have been open to their substance, and (c) unfair. Whatever his limtations, the man has been tested personally as few are. Certainly not me. How about you?

Aug 3, 2016 8:32 PM
Reply to  Philip Roddis

I didn’t call Corbyn ‘pathetic’. I called his efforts to make a distinctive contribution to the EU debate ‘pathetic’. I’m sure you appreciate the distinction.
In my opinion, the path ahead for Corbyn is only going to get more difficult, whatever his scale of victory in the Labour leadership election. Baring a financial crisis, the 2020 election can be written off and Corbyn’s realistic aim is to win the 2025 election. That is 9 years away. If Labour are to return to power before then, Corbyn will need to make the most of any opportunity that arises.
With the Tories split over the EU, Corbyn was presented with open goal after open goal in the run-up to the referendum. He declined to shoot. He should have made his support for the EU conditional on reform of the EU. He should have demanded the EU Commission being appointed by the EU Parliament, a commitment that any trade treaty would have to be ratified by all national governments, a change to the terms of the bailout of Greece, a reduction in the salaries and benefits enjoyed by MEPs and Eurocrats, the ECB board being appointed by the European Parliament, no European army. Had Corbyn done so, he would have inspired not just the left in the UK but the left throughout the EU.
I suspect Corbyn thought that supporting ‘Remain’ would be seen as extending an olive branch to his critics within the PLP. Remember that late last year, Hilary Benn demanded that Corbyn supported the Remain campaign. If so, Corbyn’s offer of peace backfired on him. I hope he has learnt his lesson. He needs to pick his battles carefully and to prepare himself for them. As I said that probably means that he needs to be well versed in the minutiae of monetary policy.

Aug 3, 2016 9:39 AM
Reply to  Kevin

I wonder if he were successful, would he meet with an accident?

Aug 3, 2016 5:48 PM
Reply to  flybow

Yes. Highly likely.

Beth D
Beth D
Aug 2, 2016 11:38 PM

Great article. Also while so much negative focus is spotlighted on Jerry C, Theresa Mayhem (or MayDay or Maybe Not-take your pick) who was not supported by the UK public to be hold the office of Prime Minister–at all–is pushing policies through that make Corbyn’s supposed transgressions look like a box of choclates by comparrison. I shudder to think what a world where Mayhem and Hilarity rule, but I think we had a hint when we saw Christopher Lloyd in Roger Rabbit.

Aug 2, 2016 11:34 PM

Reblogged this on TheFlippinTruth.

Aug 2, 2016 8:02 PM

Perhaps the most ridiculous current article on ‘Jez’, for want of a better term for Her Majesty’s Leader of the Opposition, is a headline attributed to ‘Tom Foster’, one so ridiculous in its absurdity as to place insuperable burdens on the English language in attempting to contend that that journalist be of sound mind:
‘Jeremy Corbyn does not wish Britain to be a Superpower’….
Err, yes.
Now let’s ask ourselves for one moment what ‘being a superpower means’.
Does it mean ‘Having a Seat on the UN Security Council’? Well, I would say yes and no. In order to be a superpower, it is probably likely that such a seat is something one is in possession of, but merely strutting one’s stuff in front of bad boy Vladi and the Yellow Submariner may not quite accord one that term.
Does it mean: ‘capable of engaging in independent military action in a conflict of significance well away from one’s own shores’? Now that one would appear to be a more rigorous test as it might require:
i. A significant modern navy.
ii. Sufficient airpower to deliver ordnance and parachutists to the region in question.
iii. Sufficient power in the unmanned drone/satellite technology arena to bomb the relevant area without manpower.
iv. Sufficient financial firepower to bully a good sized foe into submission.
v. An independent nuclear arsenal capable of being used to bully a good sized military power into submission.
Well now: I think we can all agree that we hide behind the US’ firepower on points i – iii and given what happened in the City of London when Britain decided to go rogue on 23rd June, it can be said with a degree of certitude that, whatever else Britain may or may not be, we aren’t a financial powerhouse capable of toppling Washington, Beijing, Delhi, Berlin or Moscow in the near future. Finally, although we have decided to hand over £200bn or whatever in menaces money to the US MIC, I would have thought that a superpower would have faced down the US Godfathers with impunity, rather than meekly submitting to our Gauleiters over the pond, since the chances of us ever using our weapons independently are rather less than zero in my opinion……
Does it mean: ‘stepping into the moral vacuum that allows Bashar-al-Assad to starve his own people’? Another of the ridiculous headlines that the DT has come up with today. Well: in that case, it might be a good thing if we had not ever been starving other country’s children to death in the past. I think Dennis Halliday will testify in court, if he is still alive, that that is precisely what the UK did to Iraq in the 1990s, so we are uniquely incapable of moralising about starving people on moral grounds…….just a minor little trifle to consider when our gormless newspapers, journalists, politicians and spooks come out with drivel which can be thrown out of court with the greatest of ease……..
Here are my definitions for Britain being a ‘superpower’:
Financial solvency.
Prosperity for the majority of citizens, not a small elite ruling over a populace in near-poverty.
A track record of not invading countries, organising coups and generally causing mayhem to secure profits for tax-avoiding corporations, with the cost of that behaviour being borne by the taxpaying public.
A track record of solving 90%+ of disputes through diplomacy.
An independence in foreign policy from Brussels, Washington, Moscow and Beijing.
A moral authority not asserted by the UK but agreed upon by the majority of nations in the UN.
How do we think Britain is stacking up on those six criteria??

Beth D
Beth D
Aug 2, 2016 11:40 PM
Reply to  rtj1211

Well said!

Aug 3, 2016 8:45 AM
Reply to  rtj1211

Nicely put, and I agree with most of it. I’d like to see JC come out with guns blazing on Trident, not least as a credible way of funding anti-recessionary policies. Incidentally, one huge thing neither side of the T-debate is picking up on is the fact big money, including Barclay’s and HSBC, is backing Trident and Russia’s nuke-spend.
My one demurral is that I’m inclined to be easier than you on Assad. We who recognise the lies on Corbyn do well to ask whether those lies are even more a feature of the demonising of Assad (you were kind enough to comment on my July 25 piece in OffG on this) and Putin.