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ABC: The Lexicon of Labour

Written By: - Date published: 9:10 am, July 23rd, 2015 - 63 comments
Categories: crosby textor, elections, International, Politics, uk politics - Tags: , ,

A second curious similarity has emerged from the wreckage of the UK Labour party’s disastrous General Election defeat.

The first was the Tory’s successful re-running of the informal Crosby/Textor dog-whistling during the NZ election that Labour  could only win with the help of Hone Harawira and Kim Dotcom. This scare tactic was converted into a formal campaign position in the UK, with the Tories using advertising that blatantly said Vote Miliband, get Salmond.


Now, and rather weirdly, the campaign to replace Ed Miliband as leader has thrown up a term Standard readers will have hoped was consigned to the dustbin of history: the ABC club. Rather than Anyone But Cunliffe, the Blairite wing of Labour are proposing the formation of an Anyone But Corbyn club as the firebrand socialist Jeremy Corbyn is on course to win the 4 way contest. A YouGov poll on Tuesday shows Corbyn comfortably  leading the vaguely left candidate Andy Burnham.

This result has caused no end of panic from the centrists and Blairites in the Labour Party. Nothing shows this better than the pitiful whining of John McTernan, a former special adviser to Tony Blair who told the BBC’s Newsnight programme a couple of the contenders should consider dropping out in order to pool centrist support and block Corbyn.

These figures are disastrous for the Labour party, disastrous. The fact is the other candidates need to decide who is the ABC candidate; the Anyone but Corbyn candidate,”.

McTernan complained that party activists were “suicidally inclined” and condemned MPs who gave their nominations to Corbyn in order broaden the debate, even though they did not actually want him as leader.

“They need their heads felt,” he said. “They are morons.”

Charming stuff!

And Tony Blair has weighed in, as well. Speaking at a function organised by Progress, a conservative Labour party think tank, Blair opined that Labour members should not seek to wrap themselves in a Jeremy Corbyn comfort blanket, saying that members whose heart was with the leftwing candidate should “get a transplant”.

And well, … nah, actually. The result north of Hadrian’s wall suggests that there is an appetite for genuine left wing policies in Britain. If Labour is to have a future in Scotland, and the rest of the UK, then somethings gotta change. Another  middling, unconvincing leader is not going to improve their chances of toppling the Tories in 5 years time.

At the moment there is a battle for the soul of the UK Labour Party. It’s got that bad that on Monday night, 48 MP’s defied a three line whip and refused to abstain on the government’s bill lowering the household welfare benefit cap. The 48 joined the SNP and the Greens in voting against the measure that limits the total income a household on benefits can receive. It was the largest revolt against the Parliamentary Labour Party leadership in years.

A veteran MP and lifelong activist, Corbyn’s platform is firmly anti-austerity and he can point to his own result in the General Election as a reason for optimism about the depth of his support. Almost alone amongst Labour MP’s he actually lifted his majority in his seat of Islington North.

Corbyn is close to both the SNP and Ireland’s Sinn Fein. He wants to use policies from those parties and implement some legislation already in place in Scotland, including free higher education. I can’t think of any reason why his ideas shouldn’t be tried. The alternative is a consensus of the bland.



In one bizarre twist, the establishment right are pretty keen to see Corbyn win as well; the Daily Telegraph has a handy 3 point guide to rorting the electoral system in the hope that Corbyn will doom Labour to permanent opposition. What larks!

The other candidates are:

  • Andy Burnham, Shadow Health Secretary, former Secretary of State for Health, candidate for leader in 2010 and MP for Leigh.
  • Yvette Cooper, Shadow Home Secretary, former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford.
  • Liz Kendall, Shadow Minister for Care and Older People and MP for Leicester West.

The election is carried out under a ‘One Member, One Vote’ system. The result will be announced at a special conference on September the 12th.

In the two national conferences before our next General Election the NZ Labour Party  can set policy that clearly sets them apart from the other contenders. Have no fear, the middle ground can be won from the left. It’s not a given that only policies that appeal to floating voters matter. But policies that genuinely reflect the broad church that is Labour require the kind of belief and courage that UK Labour members are showing in their leadership contest.

The days where the ABCers held the NZ Labour Party back are over. If we want it. If we work for it.


Last word to the Guardian’s always wonderful cartoonist Steve Bell:





63 comments on “ABC: The Lexicon of Labour”

  1. Sanctuary 1

    Well, if Jeremy Corbyn wins then the general proposition of the Blairites and machine politicians of the establishment left that ‘pragmatic realism’ dictates accepting the constraints and values of globalised corporate neo-liberalism as the only practical path to power will be put to the test. If the Blairites and the establishment left are proved correct, then political “choice” is reduced to a one party state and democracy is dead.

    This actually has serious implications, because it is generally held by a large body of legal and ethical opinion that where democracy is abrogated, resistance to the state and it’s established organs by other means up to and including violence can then become not just legitimate, but a moral obligation for those who love freedom.

    • Olwyn 1.1

      If the Blairites and the establishment left are proved correct, then political “choice” is reduced to a one party state and democracy is dead.

      I agree. The Blairites want to treat the neo-liberal consensus in the same way as the post-war Keynesian consensus was treated. But the problem with that idea is that the neo-liberals have not respected the bargain themselves, and have used the GFC to double down on their advantage. This leaves a market-approved Blairite LP with nothing to offer beyond a career trajectory for a small number of people. A Blairite might be a safe pair of hands as far as the market is concerned, but Corbyn is a safer pair of hands if one wants to see democracy survive, and he would get my vote if I were English.

      • The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell 1.1.1

        This actually has serious implications, because it is generally held by a large body of legal and ethical opinion that where democracy is abrogated, resistance to the state and it’s established organs by other means up to and including violence can then become not just legitimate, but a moral obligation for those who love freedom.

        Translated: if I don’t get what I want, I am entitled to be violent.

        Nasty prick.

        • Mike S

          Perhaps you could try reading before spouting. In particular this extract – “…it is generally held by a large body of legal and ethical opinion…..”

          So assuming you’re calling Sanctuary a “nasty prick” as opposed to “a large body of legal and ethical opinion”, you may want to rethink, or even just try thinking in the first place.

        • Sanctuary

          “…Translated: if I don’t get what I want, I am entitled to be violent.

          Nasty prick…”

          Clearly someone from District 2 is still intent on currying favour with the Capitol.

          • The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell

            People haven’t voted the way I have wanted since 1987. Fundamental failure of democracy? Entitling other people (not me, you understand) to violently overthrow the government? Entirely reasonable.

    • weka 1.2

      That’s a very interesting comment, thanks Sanctuary.

  2. John McTernan – the Chief of Staff to Jim Murphy, ignominiously defeated leader of the Scottish Labour Party, and special adviser to Tony Blair. Enough said.

  3. Les 3

    I would put my money on Cooper.

  4. Save NZ 4

    Extremely interesting. It is a pity we don’t have decent media in NZ that can actually have an intelligent debate, so that politicians like Corbyn can actually voice their views.

    I would vote for Corbyn if I lived in the UK, because at least he has him own views and not afraid to be outside mainstream. Like with the IRA issue he was proved right. To have peace you have to talk and collaborate and resolve issues. While mainstream view might be to fight it out, talk is cheaper, not resulting in massive poverty and war, and ultimately more successful. For that alone I would vote for him. One of my biggest concerns with NZ Labour is that they can’t stand up to the US and any other government for what is right and what is best for our country. In effect a trade off for principals for some sort of protection or trade.

    This is probably not so much of an issue in the UK Labour but in NZ post Nuclear Free it is still an important issue and in particular being used to spy for the US in this country. Also our country being sold out from under us, is not a UK issue but clearly a NZ one.

    The UK message for Labour was not clear to voters and too confusing (like NZ Labour). They fought so much internally ultimately it damaged their chances.

    In NZ to put up taxes will be a disaster though as wages are already so low. Labour and Greens needs to go through the books and work out how to create wealth and jobs without putting up taxes. Or to have some sort of transition approach – will put up taxes next election.

    They need to analyse how basic necessities like power has gone up due to asset sales and where the money has gone from the asset sales. Publicise what a pathetic job of the economy bill english has done with budget deficit after deficit – a record!

    An important point was made as well, do we want the rich to get wealthier in the next 5 years while the poor get poorer, or do we want to have a fair society for all?

    If the answer is a fairer society, how do we achieve that economically?

    • Liberal Realist 4.1

      “If the answer is a fairer society, how do we achieve that economically?”

      To name a few, often repeated, ideas:

      – Take control of money supply away from private banks
      – Separate private banks retail and investment arms
      – Tax wealth over income (FTT, stamp duty, capital gains etc)
      – Introduce UBI for 100% of the adult population 18+
      – Support private sector exporters with innovation grants, R&D subsidies and tax credits, increasing value added exports.
      – Introduce a minimum wage living wage, remove youth rates
      – Ban all foreign ownership of all land + commercial & residential property (lease not sell)
      – Support a massive expansion of the digital economy via tax credits and generous R&D subsidies
      – Introduce a 21st century technology/scientific/engineering centric curriculum to primary, secondary and tertiary education
      – Reintroduce free tertiary education
      – Appropriately regulate / tax / legislate to ‘decommodify’ residential property market
      – Engage in an ‘Apollo’ like social housing build programme in Auckland and other areas of need.
      – Renationalize electricity generation & network, regulate pricing
      – …

      The ideas are out there. We lack leadership, integrity, empathy, honesty and just about every other positive human attribute in (most of) our politicians.

    • Smilin 4.2

      Our aim is to end Socialism and Communism

  5. Chooky 5

    +100 TRP…great report …maybe the tide is finally turning….and this from RT

    ‘Corbyn strikes back: ‘Tony Blair’s big problem is the long-overdue Iraq War report’


    ….”Ex-PM Blair urged the Labour Party to reject Corbyn’s “traditional leftist position” in a speech on Wednesday, warning the veteran MP would take the party back to the 1980s.

    The long-delayed Chilcot Inquiry into the controversial Iraq war began in July 2009, but its conclusions remain unpublished as the investigation is mired in a legal process known as Maxwellization.

    The report is expected to be highly critical of senior Labour ministers in the run up to the war.

    Senior Labour figures have expressed shock as Corbyn emerged as the surprise frontrunner in the Labour leadership contest after a YouGov poll put him 17 points ahead of his nearest rival Andy Burnham….

    Speaking at a closed seminar with economists and trade unionists on Wednesday, Corbyn promised to raise taxes for the rich, clampdown on corporate tax avoidance and invest in the nation’s infrastructure if he is elected prime minister.
    The Labour MP for Islington North said the deficit should not be cut on the backs of the poor, but by the wealthiest in society…

  6. AmaKiwi 6

    Further proof that in an elected dictatorship the so-called “representatives” are about power for themselves, not about representing the wishes of the people.

  7. adam 7

    I enjoyed reading your post TE REO PUTAKE , wonderfully written. I liked the video link – again with a journalist trying to be the centre of attentions with all that theatrics. I thought Mr Corbyn handled him really well, and got across his message.

    You know he (Corbyn) is doing something good, when the whole establishment come after him.

    You know some of this debate is around the broad church analysis. And you know where I stand on that – a broad church is good for religion, bad for politics.

    Maybe I’m a bit colour blind by this because of some of the arguments I have with other Christians about a broad church. I butt heads regularly with fundamentalist, and others inside the broad Christian faith. Indeed I’m critical of many groups who take the name Christian, when they are something else. I’m especially critical when they hide behind our tolerance of religion belief, and use the respect for the name and ideas of Christianity to cover for their obviously nefarious activity. Lets not forget, the fundamentalist nut bag wing who seem to think they can talk for all Christians – they can’t by the way.

    In the realm of politics I always like the big tent analogy better. In that you have labour staking out what it stands for/will do, and people coming in under the tent or not. The problem with the broad church analogy is where do you stop? Here like Christianity, the scoop and range of what is a “Christian belief” can be quite wide indeed. Let’s use Catholicism, you have the Pope and then you have Bill English – now I know they both believe in the same God, and go to church on Sundays, but there the similarities end – OK not that extreme – but you get my point?

    Broad church is just that broad – because of the nature of faith. Religion is not ideology.

    Politics is not religion, it’s generally not based on faith – although faith can give political belief some foundations or strength of conviction. But religion should not replace politics, nor politics replace religion.

    We learnt the hard way to separate church and state. I think we should keep it that way, even in the terms we use.

    OK sorry long rant – I just think the idea of broad church in a political sense is fraught with problems. A great term for religion – terrible terminology for politics.

    • Thanks for you kind words, Adam (and Chooky, above). I agree with your analysis of the political and religious meanings of broad church. While it’s long been used to describe labour and social democratic parties around the world, I think I’ll switch to ‘big tent’ in future posts.

    • Anne 7.2

      You know he (Corbyn) is doing something good, when the whole establishment come after him.


  8. Gosman 8

    It is only anti-Austerity if he is going to fund additional spending via borrowing. Do you think borrowing to fund Government spending on items such as increased welfare is a wise idea long term?

    • weka 8.1

      Do you think borrowing to fund anything is a wise idea?

      • AmaKiwi 8.1.1

        @ Grosman

        As usual, the bizarre idea of taxing the rich has never entered Grosman’s mind.

        • Gosman

          Increasing taxes to fund current spending is still a form of austerity. It tends to reduce the amount of money available for investment rather than spending. The only way you avoid the austerity trap is if you spend more than you earn for a short period of time.

          • vaughan little

            you’re shifting investment from speculation to consumption in that scenario. there’s no reduction of investment, just redirection.

      • Gosman 8.1.2

        Borrowing is a good idea if it is used for investment purposes or to allow a person/nation to cover a short fall in revenue for a short period of time. Deficit spending to stimulate the economy on a long term basis is not generally a good idea.

        • AmaKiwi

          @ Grosman

          Blah, blah, blah.

          • Gosman

            I was asked a question and responded. If you disagree care to point out how my expressed views on this are wrong?

            • dukeofurl

              All the best ideas from our high school economics teacher Gosman.

              How long did you teach for ? Up to late 90s.

              • Gosman

                Except the ideas I express are what informs most of the World’s governments. Whereas I suspect the views you hold are only supported by a few regimes around the world whose economies are tanking like Venezuela.

                • half crown

                  How’s the economy going in the Ukraine?

                • Colonial Viper

                  Except the ideas I express are what informs most of the World’s governments.

                  LOL what a joke

                  Governments have top participate and co-operate in the bankster/debt funding system or they will be crushed (like Venezuela, like Greece, like Argentina).

                  But that era is slowly ending now, with alternative (non-US non-European controlled) financial and transaction systems gradually coming online.

    • half crown 8.2

      Gosman @ 12.39
      “Do you think borrowing to fund Government spending on items such as increased welfare is a wise idea long term?”

      Do you think borrowing to fund Government tax breaks for the higher tax bracket is a wise move in the long run?
      Please do tell me again, what is our debt now created by double dipping dickhead from Dipton.

      • Colonial Viper 8.2.1

        Gossie is backing a system where the world’s money supply is controlled by a few key banking organisations, and “sovereign” countries have to take on debt from that financial system in order to access that money.

        • Gosman

          Until an alternative comes online there is no effective alternative.

          • Colonial Viper

            Step by step mate; it often takes 20-30 years for a reserve currency changeover to fully occur.

          • adam

            Goodness me we got a tina from Gossman – who would have funked it

        • AmaKiwi

          Gossie is also backing a system where “investment” is the golden key to unlock prosperity for all.

          Gosman, show me ONE publicly traded company whose primary goal is ANY of the following:

          reduce war
          reduce environmental destruction
          reduce poverty, inequality, and/or injustice
          improve health for everyone.

          Answer: There is no such company because BY LAW the ONLY goal of every publicly traded company MUST BE to increase shareholder value. The best way to be a really profitable company is to promote war, destroy the environment, increase poverty, or damage our health.

          Gossie, can you propose another Golden Calf besides “investment”?

  9. Puckish Rogue 9

    So UK Labour don’t want to ever be in power?

  10. weka 10

    What’s a three line whip?

    • Puckish Rogue 10.1

      Sounds like the beginning of a good night out at the UK conservatives party

    • Good question, weka! When legislation comes up, the parliamentary whips (senior MP’s) advise MP’s of their party’s line on each matter and the expectations of them, usually in writing.

      A one line whip would usually be in the form of a letter underlined once saying they could be excused voting as it wasn’t that important an issue. A two line whip would be that letter underlined twice and the member would be expected to vote, unless given permission to be away.

      A three line whip is an absolute requirement to turn up and vote the way we want you too, or else, chummy! Given that the whips often dole out the goodies in Parliament (chairmanships of committees, overseas trips, advancement up the ranks etc.) it’s hugely risky to an MP’s career to ignore the whip.

  11. Karen 11

    Corbyn sounds great. So does this guy.
    From The Independent.

    ‘Labour backbencher John McDonnell made his distaste for the Government’s proposed welfare bill clear when he told MPs that he would “swim through vomit” to oppose it.
    Amid the five-hour debate over the bill, which is designed to cut welfare spending by £12 billion, the MP for Hayes and Harlington announced:
    “I would swim through vomit to vote against this bill. And listening to some of the nauseating speeches in support of it, I might have to.”‘

  12. odysseus 12

    Unfortunately Mr Corbyn believes in supporting homeopathy. Strikes himself off my Xmas card list.

    • Colonial Viper 12.1

      Corbyn believes in socialism. Which is your actual problem with him I suspect.

  13. Wayne 13

    I saw Jeremy Corbyn in an extended TV interview. A 21st century version of Michael Foot.

    Of course if that is who UK Labour wants as their leader, that is their free choice. Just don’t expect to win general elections.

    • Clean_power 13.1

      By selecting Corbyn, UK Labour is condemning itself to another two terms of toothless opposition while the Tories govern. Its choice, its destiny.

  14. emergency mike 14

    The way that the UK election so closely paralleled ours really is fascinating. Crosby-Textor is the commonality imo.

    And now an ABC club in UK Labour. Over here Labour was prepared to sabotage their own campaign rather than let Cunliffe be PM, surely that’s even more of a stupid road to go down when elections are every five years instead of three.

    UK Labour needs to decide if they will really be a party for the people, or carry on being tory-lite. Same story in NZ. Apparently what sociopathic war monger Tony Blair thinks is important. Liberal he ain’t.

    • Colonial Viper 14.1

      UK Labour needs to decide if they will really be a party for the people, or carry on being tory-lite.

      Unfortunately I think the decision has already been made, irreversibly.

      • Sanctuary 14.1.1

        “…Unfortunately I think the decision has already been made, irreversibly…”

        Corbyn represents a existential threat to a key component of all our Anglosphere Labour parties – their comfortable institutionalisation. As Yanis Varoufakis acutely observed, it is easy to become infected with a sense of entitlement that enervates radicalism with the warm embrace of comfy limousines, investment properties, private schools and six figure MP salaries.

        This is the real reason most modern Labour parliamentary parties want to go along with neoliberalism. Why risk the police baton, why abandon the post-parliamentary sinecure, the knighthood (arise Sir Michael Cullen, socialist defender! Hah! What a joke!) in exchange for potential penury, or the bowel emptying fear of confronting the monied bullies of corporate power?

        Corbyn may or may not be the best leader to return the UK Labour party to power. But the question arises – here as in the UK – as to the purpose of a “Labour” party if it now merely aspires to power as the occasionally kissed battered girlfriend of capitalists who anyway have a much better and willing mistress in the Tories? In a sense, Corbyn’s popularity has something in common with UKIP – he offers the chance for those ignored and forgotten to get a message across to the establishment and to stick one up the sleek institutional political elites – and my, how they are squawking! But they had also better start paying attention. You can’t have a tiny Eton and Oxbridge educated political class running a country on behalf of banksters and hold for long without a breaking.

      • Smilin 14.1.2

        Strange isnt that the MO of UK politics hasnt deviated much from the Thatcherite confrontational destruction of the left even within its own Labour party self destructing and the simple twist of fate that allows the tories to bullshit false confidence in a system of archaic Austerity as the panacea for all thats wrong with the system that has failed the whole world since the 1987 financial crash which gave license to the said right wing to continue to maintain their divine belief that they will always be proved the better way even to the eventual destruction of the basic principles of democracy degenerating into some form of fascism to ensure their way will be done.

  15. Binders full of women 15

    41 years since the uk has had a labour PM not called Blair…. I respect his opinion on all things not Iraq

  16. millsy 16

    As I said before, Tony Blair is further to right than John Key. Tory left and Labour right overlap.

    Corbyn’s position would have been mainsteam 40 years ago. People who call for Labour to do the whole centre ground forget that Cameron and Osborne want to shrink the state to pre war levels. By that I mean Crimean War.

  17. Wayne 17

    I was living in the UK during the 80’s and Corbyn sounds pretty much like Michael Foot, and definitely not like any Labour PM going back to Wilson. He even looks a bit like Michael Foot and in the age of telegenic looks won’t have a chance against Cameron or for that matter Osborne. He is simply out of step with the times, and with UK voters in the middle (who actually decide elections).

    • Colonial Viper 17.1

      Wayne, I suggest you encourage the ruling class in the UK to give the bottom 50% of the population a bit of a break. Else next time they might have to actually deploy those brand new water cannon in London.

    • millsy 17.2

      So Mapp — do you really think that slashing the level of public spending and shrinking down the state to levels never seen before the Napoleonic Wars, or at least heading that way is some how ‘middle’?

      This Tory government is to the right of your paramour, Maggie T — she never contemplated privatising roads, railways and the f*ing postal service, let alone cutting welfare benefits.

      Jeremy seems like the only leadership contender who doesnt want to go along with the conservative agenda.

  18. Colonial Viper 18

    Jeremy Corbyn: Oxford Union debate – Socialism DOES work

    Some riled up Tories listening to him…

  19. Peter Bradley 19

    There’s a similar and very interesting thing happening in the US around Bernie Sanders who is running to be the Democratic parties presidential candidate.
    Is socialism making a come back in Western countries?

    • Colonial Viper 19.1

      Also with Syriza and Podemos

      Wait and see

      Very many people have realised that this current economic system with all its promises has not and will not deliver for them

      Discontent is rising

  20. Stuart Munro 20

    The utter (and shameful) failure of the current government to achieve any of their economic promises practically guarantees their departure – if Corbyn informs the views of our Labour party so much the better.

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  • Subsequent children legislation to change
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  • Funding to expand mental health support for Pacific peoples
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  • Trans-Tasman cooperation in a COVID-19 world
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