The leader, the party, the country.
We are living in momentous times. For me, the future of the country is at stake – our children, grandchildren, ourselves. Much hangs on the retention of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party.
The Leader and the Party
The present Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) coup attempt is, at the sharp end, for control of the party. Party rules introduced under Miliband to keep the left out backfired and are hastily and undemocratically reversed. Their final shots sought to keep the elected leader of the party off the ballot paper, then to undermine the capacity and enthusiasm of the membership. They wanted a resignation for control. Corbyn, under the most immense pressure, stands strong. If the left loses, as the PLP plans, then the Labour Party is finished, going down the Scotland road but with fewer escape routes
The electorate has given notice, as verified by the haemorrhaging of votes for over a decade, to the SNP in Scotland, to UKIP in England, to UKIP as much as Plaid in Wales, to abstention, and to total dissatisfaction with the political élites. Increasingly, we will move towards US voter turnouts, fluffed up by the media but, in reality, way down in the low 50s percentage range.
A Party split will be a disaster whatever way it goes, keeping Labour out of office for the foreseeable future. A right spilt sets up a new party to take votes from Labour. A right coup pursues the self-destruction of the party by following the road of Labour in Scotland. Knowing this, the left would drop out, some faster than others. Building a new left party that might carry real weight in the electoral system will take many years, as the Greens, Scottish Socialists and Rise demonstrate from a much sounder base. An extra-parliamentary formation à la Podemos or Syriza may be possible but a Corbyn Labour left unity looks most likely to be the British version, our best bet.
A broad anti-austerity unity.
The future is in unity. The other class’s project, to break up Labour, encouraged by many within our own party, looks likely to succeed whether they split or remain. If Jeremy holds the bulk of the party together, it will be anti-austerity unity that holds sway, and is Labour’s only hope of survival.
The Progress rump may split but many will not, their jobs being more important than their principles. Those that go will leave welcome gaps for a new layer of socialist candidates in Labour’s name.
As for unity, the SNP and Greens are already talking the talk. Plaid in Wales has begun sweet-talk after years of stagnation under reciprocated tribalism. These days must be behind us. At last, we will be ‘better together’ against austerity. Boundary changes, rigged to lose Labour seats, a hostile media, splitters like the 1980’s SDLP rats thinking they would sink the ship, and the two-party electoral system will make Westminster achievable only for the Tories.
Labour in Wales has some way to go to match the SNP in Scotland, let alone Corbyn. They are in ‘jury still out’ mode with Carwyn Jones tending towards the coup camp and unwilling to rock the establishment boat. Welsh Labour is hanging on by its fingertips. It will be further distorted by Owen Smith, from his Welsh comfort zone in Pontypridd, entering the leadership race to provide a second choice backstop for the coup attempt. It is best Jeremy wins on the first round.
The future is hard for Labour, impossible under the old guard that has lost our traditional base with their neo-liberalism and worthless pandering to Tory voters. Policies are emerging from Corbyn’s Labour. We will need a stronger line on Brexit. (Smith has begun to pick that up. Don’t trust him – but that is another story.) Another look at proportional representation and younger voting age will also be necessary to allow any form of substantial opposition to take power via the ballot box.
Our hope is in unity and the sooner we face up to it the better.
The country and the global future.
As millions of families are displaced in Syria and Iraq, their homes destroyed by bombs, destruction and plundering, the lives of children damaged forever; as the US and NATO up the stakes for war against Russia, including talk of nuclear attacks; as Britain sends 500 troops to Estonia to bolster defences against Russia; as much of Europe is in turmoil, it’s right wing on the march, not least as a result of Britain’s EU ‘leave’ vote; as increasing atrocities are met with calls for more ‘intelligence’, security and armed police rather than investing in water, electricity, homes and food to Syria, Iraq and Palestine, ravaged for their oil and land; as the Tory party’s own festering divisions are swiftly papered over with a further turn to the right, threatening the country, their precious Union and setting out deeper attacks on welfare and the NHS, the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) chooses this moment to attack its own leader, threatens to split the party, deliberately orchestrates media coverage to further its cause, and provides a golden egg with which to thoroughly undermine opposition to the right wing bus that is driving Britain to deeper inequality, untold poverty, racism and perhaps even war.
It is only Corbyn’s Labour that has the answer to these terrible dangers.
Disdain from within the party has been disgraceful: “Our membership is so far removed from the British people.”; of the shadow cabinet, “this rag bag team he has surrounded himself with”; “The smearing of Laura Keunnsberg (sic) has been violent, misogynist and unfounded.” It is tragic to hear this coming from the party establishment.
If anything demonstrates the political élite’s, Labour élite’s, disconnect with popular sentiment, that’s it. Already, Jeremy is ahead of the game on both popular votes where they have occurred and on policy development. You may not have heard but he has met the Socialist Group in the EU. John McDonnell is already promoting an alternative economic policy, including housebuilding, nationalisation of steel and rail, refunding the NHS. Jeremy, of course, has been consistent in his opposition to the warmongers, and is Labour’s only chance, still slim, in Scotland..
The word on the doorstep, we are told, is anti-Corbyn. Is that any surprise given the virtually unanimous and overwhelmingly contrived media campaign against him, and the fawning MP’s who nod their heads and stab in the back rather than offer a word of support? It’s time to be out on the doorstep supporting our party, not bowing to the right wing media. Promote our emergent policies from Corbyn and McDonnell rather than endorse the media blackout.
The leadership challenge is disguised under unverifiable allegations of ‘leadership’, ‘unelectability’, and, much worse, ‘threats and intimidation’. There is no place for that in the party but it’s a bit rich coming from an orchestrated campaign of bureaucratic bullying, vile half-truths and distortions, laden with intimidation and propaganda, reeking of Stalinism – cancelling democracy, excluding members, denouncing new and existing members as trots and intimidators, suspending whole constituencies.
Corbyn and Unity
Despite these vile diversions, behind everything is policy and the Corbyn leadership has developed a new framework more akin to that which built the party, brought many of us to it and keeps many of us in it.
On poverty, austerity, the economy, equality, tuition fees, Trident, war, Europe, climate change, public transport, and more, Corbyn’s Labour is gaining a refound resonance amongst the millions of our people lost to populists, opportunists, racists, nationalists, and no-voters, people often led by the voices of the capitalist press, accepting that immigrants are the cause of poverty, that Labour was responsible for the recession.
After decades of the popular media and politicians charging Europe with misdemeanours, fantasies, and ‘’politically correct” human and workers’ rights and protections, giving voice to Farage’s bile, Britain has given birth to a deeper, highly dangerous xenophobic culture that, like masons and fascists, stands in servitude to its richer, wiser, authoritarian dominance. Corbyn had the closest feel for the temperature of the country when he argued 7 out of 10 for the EU – Remain and Reform. Johnstone, Eagle and Benn sought a free rein to peddle unequivocal support and unity with the Tories
Locally, our MP regurgitates the Westminster bubble ‘facts’ as gospel, adding his own extraordinary two-pence worth, only to prove the worthlessness of his diatribe. “The Labour Party in its failure to maintain our EU membership has allowed another hammer blow to be inflicted on the Welsh economy, Welsh jobs, and our way of life in Welsh communities.” Failure to maintain EU membership; hammer blow to Welsh economy, Welsh jobs, our way of life. The Labour Party!!!! What an utter disgrace. Just pile all the blame on ourselves! Our man even blames votes in Scotland on Jeremy!
The future is in anti-austerity, anti-war unity, both live and pressing dangers to our social condition and beliefs. The stakes are high indeed. New policies, new alliances, new leaderships are the order of the day. The old, and not so old, ways of distortion, half-truths and downright lies as used by Blair over the Iraq war, have been embraced and pursued by both Tories and Labour. Horrid allegations, more often than not, reflect on the accusers more than their Labour and left recipients. Votes in Scotland, in the Referendum, and for UKIP have expressed alienation and disaffection with these politics of the élite.
Our people, the bearers of the burdens of austerity, our class, seek alternatives. For now, the Corbyn leadership of the Labour Party is the focus of the fightback. That is why he is under such pressure. And that is why the fight for the soul of the Labour Party, distasteful as it may have become to many, is vital, why calls to join Labour, to support Momentum, to stand up and be counted, to unify, are at the top of our agenda.
Organise, fight back, build the alternative!
Gordon Gibson, July 2016
Gordon is a long time Labour member, active at various levels inside and outside the party. He is an initiator of and activist in Swansea Bay Momentum/ WLG (see and ‘like’ that Facebook page) and convenor and occasional writer to this blog, originally conceived to bring together the Labour, Plaid, Green and independent left in Wales, and to which articles and comments in support of its unifying ‘green, red and spiky’ ethos are welcome.