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The Dangers Behind “Electability”

by Natasha Scott

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They say Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable. The same was said about Bernie Sanders.

Sanders launched his campaign for the Democratic nomination with minimum name recognition. In the early weeks, he was polling at just two per cent against Hillary Clinton. By April this year he was neck and neck with her and talk about Bernie being unelectable became silenced as Sanders was ahead of her by about 10% in the polls when compared directly to Trump. As time went by the party machinery proved to be quite successful in disenfranchising the Sanders voters in ways not too dissimilar from what the NEC has used to disenfranchise Corbyn supporters. The corporate (establishment) media largely failed to cover it and when they did it was mostly skewed to work in Clinton’s favour. However, they did often talk about his campaign in regard to misogyny, they tried anti-Semitism but with Sanders being Jewish it was very difficult despite the fact that he highlighted the plight of Palestinians. Where Tens of thousands would turn up to Sanders rallies a small percentage of those numbers would turn up to listen to Clinton, which were often sandwiched between the times she wasn’t courting the big donors at high priced fancy dinners.

Clinton and most of the Democratic senators don’t understand what is happening in working people’s lives the same as the PLP doesn’t here. Power is their Mantra and it has been the only thing that has mattered to them. Making a difference to people’s lives is a by-product to winning power which is partly why Clinton and so many other politicians are not trusted by the people. Clinton was always the party’s choice to run for president before any nominations were even declared, the emails have shown us all that. The arrogance of the people working the machinery is unbound at times because they genuinely believe they know what is best and that people should just fall in line. If Clinton was so electable why is Trump of all people so worryingly close to leading and even winning this election. Establishment politicians have failed people badly in this last decade and they are looking for change to improve their lives or in Trumps case to punish those they have been told by the corporate media have made things so bad, the migrants and jobless, sound familiar?

In the summer of 2015, at the start of the first Labour leadership election, the Conservatives were ahead of Labour by just 9% (UK Political Info). By March of this year, the parties were neck and neck. But months of orchestrated attacks began to take their toll, and when the anti-Semitism accusations started to surface, Labour slipped back five percentage points. Ground was regained in May to within 2%, but Brexit on June 23rd, was followed almost immediately by a no confidence vote in the Labour leader and mass resignations from the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP).

According to Labour Party Grandees , PLP rebels and leadership challenger, Owen Smith, Corbyn is the reason Labour has sunk in recent polls. But that is remarkably disingenuous of them. History shows that when political parties are divided they slump in the polls. But it was not Jeremy Corbyn who let Labour down, it was the PLP. It was they who let the membership down and it was they who let the country down by continue to chase after their own self-interest instead of trying to understand how to represent the people who they need and want to elect them.

Corbyn has declared he wants to bring people together. But he does not use soundbites such as “ We are in it together” while at the same time raising Politicians salaries and cutting welfare benefits for the disabled. Cameron’s government did that.

Electability is not about presentation. It is not about Armani suits either. It is not about the ability to deliver speeches written by others promising headline grabbing policies without any intention of trying to deliver them. Jeremy Corbyn never went on any Mandelson inspired PR seminar or grooming course which so many ‘selected’ imposed prospective parliamentary candidates (PPCs) for Labour did under ‘New Labour’. When he speaks of renationalising the railways he talks about it in meaningful terms that makes sense. He understands the issues in rail because he talks to those on the front line who work in it. He does not promise to renationalise our railways tomorrow or being ‘radical’. Such phrases are nothing but foolish rhetoric and a dishonest sales pitch. People are tired of mere rhetoric designed to feed ridiculous meaningless headlines, in order to grab attention for a moment in a packed news schedule. It is no coincidence that politicians are currently below estate agents on the list of trustworthy professionals and have been there for decades.

Owen Smith and most of the other politicians are nothing more than political salesmen. For this type of politician, polls do matter. However, once they have your vote and they are in power, the voters do not matter so much anymore. For these politicians they know they have to manage voter expectations. They do this by diverting your attention away from the policy that they have failed to deliver, (usually because it would cost too much money or they have not thought it through) that you voted them into power for. They duly announce another meaningless policy with a headline grabbing soundbite which they also they have no intention of delivering.

Now Corbyn and Sanders have arrived, people are waking up to a new politics and new possibilities and real genuine alternative outside of the confines of the political discourse of the last decade or so. What they promise is involvement in policy making. Corbyn and Sanders want party’s that are bottom up not top down so they can heal the broken society’s we live in today. Neither believe in meaningless consultations but genuine creative, collective responsibility to help create policies that are achievable, sensible, fair and inclusive, so that no one loses out.

But are we surprised the polls read badly for Labour right now? Polls are really little more than a gauge of how well the corporate media is doing in formulating public opinion rather than reporting it. Media bias against Corbyn has been vicious, relentless and deceitful. It is now, at last, being analysed, publicised and found wanting. (There is of course mass denial among editors and their journalists about this). But it has been proven by LSE and Birkbeck studies that endemic bias runs throughout their political commentaries. Many journalists obtained their jobs because their overt political views fit with the views of the establishment. Many of them can boast a professional lineage scattered with stints on Murdoch or Rothschild owned publications or at the apex of Murdoch’s broadcast empire. If you want a job and want to get on, collusion with power elites becomes part of the journalists’ DNA.

Corbyn is a type of politician who is entirely unknown to them. They think they know him because they know the others and because they have enough good food on the table, a house, well paid jobs national media hacks tend not to see what is going on in vast swathes of the country. Poverty and deprivation becomes another country. For London journalists, their world is an echo of the world portrayed in the film ‘Notting Hill’ – a safe’ world of the like-minded, brought about by social cleansing through housing redevelopment. They are secure in the fortress of London that protects them from realities elsewhere.

Then what exactly does television news actually cover in-depth these days? The collapse of Top Gear’s ratings or the loss of Great British Bake Off to ITV? Meanwhile, who is looking at the lives of the workers who make the world go around? Who reports the truth around the pressures of trying to afford to survive in today’s society and it causing the current mental health crisis? It has been many years since newspapers or television employed industrial correspondents to cover trade unions issues and employment. There never has been a poverty correspondent or homelessness correspondent. But all have business correspondents to report on how well the Fat Cats are doing, who put all their profits in offshore tax havens after pillaging the land and paying minimum wages or less on zero hour contracts.

The media itself is now part of the corporate market. The fourth estate, once the watchdog of democracy has been taken over by big business and corrupted by a failing neo-liberalist ideology trying to cling on to power.

This is what makes Corbyn such a threat (just as it did with Sanders). He’s not just talking for many of the people who have been disenfranchised and then forgotten about under a money obsessed neo liberalist ideology but he’s trying to talk to everyone else who isn’t part of the top 1%. In 1950 almost 84% of the country turned out to vote and in 2001 it was less than 60%. The 90’s saw a huge downturn in people voting mainly because selling off all the infrastructure and the credit boom saw a very affluent time in western democracies and political differences were based upon equality and civil liberties. The most fundamental form of inequality any society can have is income inequality and right now we are getting closer to the levels where historically revolutions have taken place. Sanders called for a political revolution and maybe Corbyn should echo those words himself.

2003 saw the beginning of the neo liberalist economic strategy failing and it started to affect working people’s lives and since then there has been a slow upward trend in voter participation up to the last election in 2015 where just over 66% of the country turned out to vote. The problem is up to now there has been little choice in relation to the economic policies of either the conservative or Labour party. Even though both sides of the Brexit campaign ran negative campaigns based primarily on fear there was still a 72% voter turnout. When people sense hope in a political campaign then voter turnout increases and despite what most of the media might have people believe, Corbyn, just as Sanders did, is basing his campaign on hope and building a better future for everyone.

He isn’t just trying to win your vote, this isn’t a popularity contest for him, because as he has done in the past and as he is doing now he is trying to make a difference and trying to make a society that benefits everyone and not just the privileged few. Authenticity shows us he is genuine in what he does say unlike so many others.

What makes Jeremy Corbyn so electable is that he isn’t offering soundbites but real change to improve lives. What makes him a danger to the top one percenters, who have so much control over the media and political parties, is because they will be made to contribute towards society and we may then see the end of corporate welfare.

Should the the party establishment regain control of the Labour party, through their attempts to overthrow Corbyn, they will go back to representing self-interest instead of the people. A Labour government led by the political establishment and elites would be a real danger to us all should they ever find themselves back in power. Why? Because we have seen what kind of candidate the Republican party has ended up with in seeking the popular vote and most worryingly how well he is fairing against the establishment candidate. We should all dread the type of candidate the Conservative party would offer should they find themselves trying to win the popular vote and regain power, that really would be a threat to national security.

Electability should never be about the perception of popularity as all it does is serve to mask the political intent of a candidate. For journalists and politicians, in particular, to talk of it in this context is not just misleading but a failure to do their jobs either representing people or in holding political power to account. Electability should only ever be about what politicians can do to make the world we live in a better place because that is what people will want to vote for.

Natasha Scott is a political and social analyst, LGBT columnist, Transgender Rights campaigner, Entertainment Director of Hastings Pride and a Transgender woman.

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15 Comments

  1. chrisb says

    ‘Electability should only ever be about what politicians can do to make the world we live in a better place because that is what people will want to vote for.’ Has it occurred to Ms Scott that people want different things? That their definition of a ‘better world’ varies? Electability means getting enough votes to win elections. Pure and simple.

    I’m not saying that Corbyn is unelectable. I am also suspicious of Owen Smith’s motives behind his leadership challenge. Smith did however expose Corbyn for having no plan to win the next general election. I suspect Corbyn’s aim is to lose the next election on the most left-wing manifesto possible.

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    • As you now know, Corbyn was re-elected Leader with an increased majority, despite McNicol and the other back stabbers’ attempts to deny him victory.
      Corbyn and other leading members of the Labour Party want power all right.
      You don’t go through what they have gone through over the last year if you don’t want power.
      Corbyn has probably got one good final general election in him and another five years as Prime Minister.
      After that, he will probably be happy to let go the levers of power.

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  2. Seamus Padraig says

    Even if they disagree with him on some issues here and there, many people respect Trump precisely because he seems unafraid of controversy, and because he fights back. Up until now at least, Corbyn has been immensely reluctant to fight back. He seems to think–rather naïvely–that his enemies are just good-faith opponents who can be reasoned with. But they aren’t, so giving them a veto over Labour policy is foolish. Jeremy Corbyn is in no position to unilaterally engineer some consensus, because consensus can, by definition, never be unilateral. All the other side has to do is continue to obstruct, and there goes your precious consensus.

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    • Jerome Fryer says

      Do you not think it probable that Corbyn is trying to flush the Blairites out? Force them to show their hand, publicly?

      Labour can never get much done if it stays crippled by the ‘Tory-lite’ elements embedded in it. Few people care about a policy debate, for example, about how much additional wealth is enough for the super-wealthy: a lot more, or a little less than that?

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  3. Good piece. Not really much more to add apart from the slow decay of what Christopher Hedges calls the Liberal Class. In his book ”Death of the Liberal Class”, he notes the movement of the political/ideological centre-left liberal stratum across to the other side of the class divide. This deep-going change was a function of the historical Thatcher/Regan counter-revolution which carried all before it in the 1980s. The ideological paradigm shift was consolidated by the Clinton/Blair revisionist movement during the1990s. From this date on the Clinton/Blair axis became the Talleyrand to the D’Anton of the Thatcher/Reagan axis. A centrist, neo-liberal, neo-conservative dispensation was now the order of the day; primarily in the arena of politics and ideology, and in cultural terms, appended to the now fashionable post-modernism. The official centre-left establishment underwent a complete metamorphosis not only on both sides of the pond but in also in continental Europe. Fuddy-duddy notions like public ownership, geo-political detente, social solidarity, free grants for higher education, full-employment, the elimination of poverty, social protection were now considered hopelessly passe. The Liberal Class now became champions of the new order in practice as well as theory; Clinton’s ‘achievements’ included the destruction of the Democratic Party with “free trade” agreements, deregulation of the financial system, launching Washington’s ongoing policy of “regime change” with illegal military attacks on Yugoslavia and expanding NATO up to Russia’s western frontier. His regime also used deadly force without cause against American civilians and covered up the murders with fake investigations. These were four big changes that set the on its downward spiral into a militarized police state with massive income and wealth inequality.

    In the UK the Blair-Brown-Balls troika faithfully trailed along behind the US imperial juggernaut as it has regularly done ever since 1956 and the Suez fiasco. This included Blair’s debacle in Iraq and Cameron’s blundering intervention, along with Sarkozy in Libya. The UK had now also become ‘modernised’ – i.e., a newly deindustrialised, financialised economy with a penchant for structural trade deficits, austerity (after 2007) and imperial intervention in places where the country had no objective interests. With the Parliamentary Labour Party in the bag, the extra-parliamentary wing of the Liberal class in the media, also quickly fell into line, with considerable alacrity one might add. This is particularly evident in the good old Guran which became the unofficial mouthpiece of New Labour with hack zionist op-ed writers like Cohen and Freedland calling the shots. It is also interesting that the two more radical journalists, Seamus Milne and Jonathan Steele, don’t seem to write articles anymore.

    It is argued that we in the west have a free press. Sure we do, with the proviso that only one narrative gets a hearing. Censorship is either 1. implied, or 2. is a form of self-censorship predicated on an ideological groupthink. Western journalists don’t have to be told what to write, they simply regurgitate the party line without even thinking. They cannot do otherwise, which is why the got the job in the first place. As Leon Trotsky once observed. ”Every bourgeois journalist has a gendarme in his head so that the external one is unnecessary.” (”Writings on Britain”)

    Of course all of these changes were thought of a good, necessary and indeed inevitable. Little wonder that when someone like Corbyn comes along talking about peoples’ QE, renationalisation of the railways, a policy of public works, the media and PLP have an apoplectic fit. The man is not only completely wrong, he is actually dangerous. Like the character in Henryk Ibsen’s play, ”An Enemy of the People”, Dr.Stockmann, who had the temerity to write an article suggesting that the local baths’ water supply might be contaminated. This brings down the wrath of the local business community on his head and those in political positions who serve the business community particularly since there is the question of the local tannery which is the source of the contamination.

    It seems that Corbyn is a modern-day Stockmann finding himself under attack from a venal media who should be serving the people, but who are in fact serving the powerful. The political and media elites are attempting to impose a rigid authoritarian orthodoxy on society. A neo-totalitarianism is taking shape.

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    • James Carless says

      Spot on.The only thing I would like to add to these excellent post is the similarity of character between Corbyn and Sanders.Despite the numerous character assassination attempts by the media,they are both popularity perceived to be trustworthy,with honestly held convictions regardless of if one agrees with all their policies or not,unlike the majority of careerist,self serving politicians that are packaged as ‘middle ground,moderates with (fantasy spin) appeal to all.
      Still ‘feel the Bern’ even if it has turned into heart burn following Sanders in explicable capitulation and unconvincing endorsement of Killary.

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      • Jerome Fryer says

        Remember that Sanders is playing the long game.

        He doesn’t want easy, meaningless, small ‘victories’ — little sand-castles that wash away with the political tide. Sanders wants deep, systemic, changes in the US body politic.

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  4. michaelk says

    One also has to remember, or properly understand, that one shouldn’t put too much emphasis on opinion polls and percentages. Often because of the built in statistical margin of error which is around plus/minus 2.5% for the polls, which means something when the parties are close. Then there’s the bigger problem of the electoral system itself, which isn’t proportional, and doesn’t accurately and properly reflect the number of votes the parties actually receive in elections. The electoral system is designed to ‘filter out’ certain types of voting patterns and opinions. For example UKIP that received millions of votes, which under a ‘representative’ system would have given them about 60 seats, but they only end up with 1, one seat. So, here, as elsewhere, the votes are counted differently and all votes don’t have the same weight or value under the current first-past-the-post system located in contituencies which are not equal. All this alone makes detailed statistical analysis concentrating on polls and percentages of the vote, extremely problematic and very complex. Under the UK system massive electoral support isn’t automatically translated into bums on seats in Westminster, where traditionally a party with minority electoral support, just 34% of the votes, can be magically turned into a government with an overall majority and a mandate. What matters is where and how the votes are counted, not the actual number of votes a party recieves.

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  5. michaelk says

    The leadership of the PLP and the Democrats in the US are not unaware of the effects of their policies on the lives of ordinary people, that’s why, after all, they implemented them in the first place. They just don’t care what happens to groups lower down the social scale. Punish the poor to make them work harder, reward the rich and they’ll work harder, seems to be how they believe the world should work, put in simple language.

    Corbyn represents, probably, the last gasp of old-style, social democracy, before the creation of what looks increasingly like a one-party state as the ‘centre parties’ merge around the moderate, electable, middle ground, which will push any and all opposition to the neo-liberal agenda out of Westminster politics and into the political margins. For this to be achieved it’s vital that Corbyn’s ideas are crushed decisively. A massive defeat for Labour at the next election, showing that old-style social demoracy is impossible anymore and obvioulsy unpopular and unelectable, would put a semi-permanent lid on the left for a long time, at least as far a parliamentary politics is concerned. What would happen outside Westminster and London, is another story. It’ vital for the ruling elite not just to defeat Corbyn, but be seen to defeat him massively and crush the movement that he’s surfing on, the wave underneath him. It has to be politically crushed, electorally crushed, ideologically crushed, morally crushed and perhaps most of all the idea that resistance is possible, that one can challenge the system at all, has to be crushed. A new generation has to be forced to learn this harsh lesson once again, then we can get back to business as usual.

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    • Ultraviolet says

      Traingate is very interesting in that respect. Having often walked through a crowded train, seen what looks like an empty seat, only to find there is someone in it after all, I know full well that THAT photo does not show Corbyn walking past empty seats. But the desperation of the establishment to claim that Corbyn lied was palpable.

      They obviously recognise that his integrity is one of his most powerful weapons, and are desperate to damage it. But their very desperation is their own biggest weakness. Too many people now know they are lying, and they have sacrificed the ability to influence us. It worked on the Scottish referendum. It worked in the general election. But it broke down with Corbyn’s initial election as leader, and collapsed completely with Brexit.

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  6. I agree with much that has been said in this article but one thing I take exception with is the cited polls.
    Examine the following poll data:-
    2016 Voting Intention in Great Britain: Recent Trends Figures based on all those absolutely certain to vote.
    (T) = Telephone polls Con Lab Lib Dem SNP/Plaid Cymru Green UKIP Other Lab lead
    % % % % % % % %
    23-25 January 2016 (T) 40 31 7 5 4 11 1 -9
    13-16 February 2016 (T) 39 33 6 7 3 12 1 -6
    19-22 March 2016 (T) 36 34 10 6 3 11 1 -2
    16-18 April 2016 (T) 38 35 6 7 3 11 * -3
    14th – 16th May 2016 (T) 36 34 8 6 5 10 1 -2
    11th – 14th June 2016 (T) 35 34 9 7 4 10 1 -1
    9th – 11th July 2016 (T) 36 35 11 6 4 8 * -1
    3th – 15th August 2016 (T) 45 34 7 4 4 6 1 -11
    Source: https://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/107/Voting-Intention-in-Great-Britain-Recent-Trends.aspx#2016.

    The one thing that stands out is how consistent popular support for Labour has been over the last year.
    Support for Labour in the polls increased from 31 per cent in January to 34 per cent in August 2016.
    Where the real difference has been noticeable is in increased support for the Conservative Party.
    This has been achieved not at the expense of Labour but at the expense of UKIP, the Liberal Democrat and Scots & Welsh nationalist parties. There may also be a temporary May “bounce” factor in operation too.
    If Corbyn is re-elected Leader of the Labour Party on Saturday and if all but the most extreme diehard and blowhard MPs rejoin the PLP backing Corbyn, then he too may experience a “bounce” effect, thus boosting Labour’s chances of winning the next general election, whenever it comes.

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    • chrisb says

      It is not surprising that Labour’s vote is consistent under Corbyn. He was always going to get the left-wing vote out. The problem is getting an extra 10% or so of the electorate to swing towards him.

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      • Now that Corbyn has been re-elected Leader with an increased majority – despite the best efforts of McNicol and the other back stabbers to frustrate him – this enhances his moral authority to lead the party.
        The mass media don’t tell you Labour have won electoral contests in England and Scotland (at the expense of the SNP), do they?
        No one knows when the next general election will take place other than it has to be between now and 2020.
        I think Corbyn and Labour will use the intervening time to build up what is already Europe’s largest and most successful opposition party into a real party of government.
        Their problem will not be other political parties but the mass media, who are totally rubbish.
        In the US, confidence in the mass media is plumbing new depths, especially among Republicans.
        If the UK mass media continues along the same track, they too will lose the confidence of the public.
        Most major newspapers are losing readerships and the BBC and others are losing viewers and listeners.
        If Labour builds up its local parties and invests in voter-relations systems they can cut out the mass media.
        They must also invest in attractive and enticing local publications for the electorate to read
        If they do this and harness the energy and enthusiasm of their many new and younger members – they can win.

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