Labourcoup, latest, UK
Comments 22

Road to Destruction

by W Stephen Gilbert

Jeremy-Corbyn

The Labour party is on a perilous path. That it may end in an irrevocable split is the least of our worries. Of greater concern is the prospect of fighting in the streets. The party conference – scheduled for next month in the fissiparous city of Liverpool, but in some doubt because no security has yet been secured – will attract protesters, probably thousands of them. If it goes ahead, it could turn into the notorious Democratic Convention of 1968 in Chicago, a pitched battle outside the amphitheatre in which police used mace, tear gas and batons, and dozens were hurt including reporters and an observing British MP. Not surprisingly, the subsequent election was won by a Republican, Richard Nixon.

Whence this anger, this prospect of civil disobedience? First, consider a proposition: Jeremy Corbyn is the most popular politician in Britain. That the government and the media and the parliamentary Labour party are all in denial about it does not stop it being so. No leader has ever received a mandate comparable to Corbyn’s a year ago. No leader’s election has ever swelled the membership of any party like Corbyn’s has. No politician draws crowds like Corbyn does. No politician has so many groupings supporting him and promoting him on social media and through traditional word-spreading methods. Ignore the discredited opinion polls – Labour has done better than predicted in every actual electoral test since Corbyn became leader and is frequently gaining more than half the votes in this summer’s local by-elections. The support for Corbyn is unprecedented in modern British politics. Labour should be so lucky to have such a revered leader. Unelectable? Puh-lease.

Now consider the last eighteen months from the viewpoint, not of those in the Westminster bubble whose daily priority is gossiping and plotting, but of the Labour grassroots out in the sticks, where they want nothing more than a government that brings them relief from austerity and PR language and cronyism.

From the get-go, the media has sought to bring down Corbyn. Several academic studies of the coverage have demonstrated that the bias against him is unparalleled. The BBC’s charter-enshrined impartiality has been so lacking that unprecedented petitions were launched against the Corporation and its political editor. Corbyn’s supporters expected this, ruefully predicting headlines of the “Corbyn Punched My Granny” kind.

Less predictable was how comprehensively the parliamentary party would reject the democratic mandate of the membership. A swathe of frontbenchers declined to serve; many of them made the pharisaic gesture of boycotting Corbyn’s address at last year’s conference. Though Corbyn sought to embrace all shades of opinion in his shadow cabinet, the MPs reciprocated only fitfully. Incidentally, despite each of his (to date) three front bench teams being put together in the face of widespread opposition, non-cooperation and blank refusal, Corbyn is the only political leader in British history all of whose teams have featured a majority of women. Yet he is accused of privileging men.

The MPs and the party hierarchy stop at nothing to undermine his authority. Mass resignations and an overwhelming vote of no confidence proved futile because he has more mettle than they had imagined. Constant denigration dents neither his serenity nor his support in the party. Absurdly, he is held uniquely responsible for the failure of the campaign to remain in the EU. Yet he delivered 65 percent of Labour voters as against 39 percent of Tory voters secured by Cameron (Theresa May was largely silent) and 64 percent of the SNP’s voters (Nicola Sturgeon is hailed as a hero). Though the media favoured the Tories over Labour at a rate of 2:1 in the referendum coverage, Corbyn managed 123 media appearances on behalf of Remain, compared with 19 by Alan Johnson, the nominal leader of Labour’s campaign. Johnson could only deliver 33 percent of his own voters to the Remain vote and Owen Smith 47 percent of his. 75 percent of Corbyn’s constituents supported the stay side, the seventh highest rate in Britain. Lukewarm?

A Labour donor went to law to try to get Corbyn as the incumbent struck off the ballot paper in this year’s leadership re-election. The party’s National Executive Committee, flouting the universal understanding of the notion of “any other business” in meetings, hustled through an arbitrary restriction on those who could vote in that re-election. This was challenged in court by representatives of those excluded and found to be a breach of contract, but the appeal court reversed the judgment. Then it emerged that one of the appellate judges is a long-standing professional colleague of Tony Blair.

Such attempts to manipulate the rules strike the unconsulted membership as dishonest, shabby and against natural justice. But at the same time, that membership is insulted and patronised as though its views are somehow illegitimate and certainly not as reliable or significant as those of MPs. The members were dismissed first as naïve youngsters who don’t know the (rewritten) history of the party in the 1980’s, then as bullies and trolls, now as Trotskyite entryists, streaming back from years in the political wilderness and given “the oxygen of publicity” by Tom Watson. Those who left the party in the Blair years – about a quarter-million of them and not only over Iraq – are justly aggrieved to be blackguarded as the “enemy within” in the post-Chilcot party. They remember that Labour under Blair declined by 4 million in the popular vote and that the rot in Scotland began in those years.

Labour toppling Corbyn would create a perfect storm. The party membership has doubled on his watch. If he goes, that support will know that socialism in the Labour party is dead for generations. They won’t take it quietly. Owen Smith presents himself as a man of the left but everyone knows that he is a mere stalking horse for the New Labour programme that Margaret Thatcher herself named as her own greatest achievement. If the fallout is ugly, the parliamentary party will be unable to claim that they have not been warned.

W Stephen Gilbert is the author of ‘Jeremy Corbyn – Accidental Hero’. He lives in Wiltshire.

22 Comments

  1. John says

    Ed “Loser” Balls could not even keep his own parliamentary seat in the 2015 general election.
    Why should anyone take the slightest notice of anything he has to say?
    This is just “puff” and “spin” from him to sell his crap book.
    Save your money – don’t buy his rubbish book.

    Like

  2. Bay Whitaker says

    Since Corbyn’s election, the Labour Party has been going through the painful stages of change. The well known Kubler Ross model – often applied to grief – is being worked through: we have gone through shock and denial.

    The next stages, anger and bargaining, are still being worked through. (The whole Owen campaign, offering everything the new members want, just a different face, is effectively an institutional manifestation of the bargaining phase – only by now I think everyone has realised it’s not going to work).

    Although anger will no doubt continue for a long time, the next stage – depression – is starting to appear, with despairing predictions about the end of the party. Eventually we will reach the final stage, which is acceptance.

    Like

  3. michaelk says

    It’s difficult to see how Labour can survive or even function in its present form for much longer. The chasm between the party machine, the MPs and the activists and Labour voters is simply too big to bridge. A split of some kind is coming, but how and when? The right appear to favour a war of attrition against Corbyn, weakening the party until a successful coup can be arranged and the demoralized left pushed aside and there’s a return to normality and electability, or ‘reality’ as they call it.

    Ed Balls has just published his biography. He scathing in his condemnation of Corbyn. According to Balls, how apt his name really is, Corbyn mistakes the adoration of cheering crowds of activists for wide electoral support among the voters. Corbyn represents an extreme leftist fantasy world, a left utopianism that’s devorced from the real world of practical realistic politics. His policies and presentation are a shambles and with Corbyn in power in Labour the Tories are not just the ‘natural’ party of government, but the only party of government.

    In Balls’s world Westminster and parliamentarism are the key to power. One has to appeal to the comfortable middle class to stand a chance of winining elections. Then there’s the role of the unelected ‘Media Hose of Lords’ which, seemingly, has something close to a veto power. If one loses the confidence of the Media Lords and their minions, one is in deep political trouble. One has to play the game by the rules as they exist, whether one like it or not. That is ‘reality.’ It’s no good demanding another game or new rules, because that’s ‘Utopianism.’

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Neil Paxman says

    I see no way to avoid a split in the party either in September, when the conference erupts, or just afterwards, when the reconvened NEC starts to organise deselection for those serially inept plotters. I suspect Thatcher/May is biding her time, waiting to trigger an election she thinks she’ll win by a street (personally I think she might be a bit optimistic). The Labour MP’s determined to destroy Corbyn will have only one choice left…form a new party (How about the Serially Disloyal Party?) then the voters can decide.

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    • Nogginthenog says

      She cannot trigger an election.

      She has 3 options, initiate a vote of no confidence in her own government
      Try to get a two thirds majority vote in parliament for an election
      Rescind the fixed parliament act and then call a general election.

      With boundary changes coming in within 18 months, she will do nothing of the kind. d.

      Liked by 1 person

      • someone else who gets ALL their ideas from someone else. Try ‘thinking’ for a change. Its really underrated these days. Try going just a few centimetres deeper for each borrowed idea and you might come up with a different conclusion!

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  5. Mick McNulty says

    I think the numbers supporting Jeremy are just too big to be rigged, but the anti-democratic machinations of the PLP show they may just be desperate enough to shamelessly hand it to Owen Smith and not care about condemnations. If Jeremy wins he needs to rein in the excesses of the right of the party until they can be democratically deselected by their CLP’s, and if he’s removed he needs to take his massive support base and form a new party of the left. Either way he can ensure the plotters are unlikely to retain their seats at the next GE, whichever party they claim to stand for.

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    • TechinBris says

      Depends on how the Party is structured and who “owns” the Labour Party.
      If the Party is an entity/organisation of the members of the organisation, but the Executive are there only to administer to the best interests of those who are the body of the organisation, then the Members in majority will be fine.
      Should the body which consists of those who are the organisation decide they would be able and should be able to dissolve the Executive in a vote of no confidence, there would be a mechanism to do so and they would choose to hold the organisation if they so choose.
      The executive would be the one’s having to create a new organisation, but then, who knows what legal land-mines they’ve been inserting through the organisation whilst they diverted the members attention over the years.
      I guess soon enough we will see how low some people will go.

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  6. John says

    We may see a new phase of creative destruction after September 24th. If we do, “So what?”
    The malcontents in the PLP have the example of the former SDP to chew over – and to give them indigestion!
    If they choose to leave the Labour Party after September 24th, then “good riddance”.
    The vast majority of members of the Labour Party are tired of their petulant stupidity.
    The Labour Party can and will do far far far better without them.
    Their “stuck-up” snotty privileged attitude has no place in a party of the workers.
    By clearing away this “dead wood”, the party will restore and reinvigorate itself.
    The Establishment will howl vituperatively. Let it!

    Like

  7. labrebisgalloise says

    I’m sorry Mr. Gilbert but this a poor piece of writing, meandering from one thought to another, half picking up bits of arguments before dropping them inconsequentially and trying to cover far too much ground in too peremptory a fashion. I’m not even sure what your thesis is or whether the title is yours or an editor’s and how it relates to your conclusion, insofar as I can discern what your conclusion is. As for the European Union of Monopoly Capital, had the vote not been for Brexit, Corbyn would arguably be in a much worse position now. The atlanticist anglo-zionists and apologists for neoliberal capitalism who populate the Labour parliamentary party would be in the ascendancy and the coup, which they would have been launched regardless, might have had more chance of success. The Brexit vote has provided fertile ground for radical change and the very real opportunity to win back the working class support lost by Blair, Brown & co to UKIP. As Mao once said: “There is great disorder under heaven: the situation is excellent.”

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    • You presume that I supported Remain. I didn’t. I voted Leave. I too incline to the view that being out of Europe offers Corbyn a much better prospect in government. I don’t think he had much choice but to support Remain publicly. I warned before the vote that Lynton Crosby would attempt to cast Corbyn as the fall guy if Leave won. But the PLP and the media did Crosby’s job for him. As usual.

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  8. chrisb says

    Is really Corbyn really to be praised for delivering the vote for an organisation that has already overthrown two democratically elected governments (Italy and Greece in 2011), humiliated the Greek people last year for the purposes of political spectacle, supported the coup in the Ukraine, proposes to impose TTIP on its citizens and has now admitted to planning a EU army?

    Liked by 1 person

    • chrisb says

      Oops, sorry, I forgot economics …. and an organisation that imposes stagnation and high employment on the south of the EU in order to protect the banks in the north?

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Quote ” …pharisaic gesture”.
    Thank you. At least a hint at who is behind the war against Corbyn.
    Is the fact that most people find speaking the truth directly a very telling one?
    Can we admit our fears? Face them? Ask the important questions out loud?
    Until we do, we’re *ucked.
    Truly.
    Name-calling (and the money that backs it up) rules.

    Liked by 2 people

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