Getting Corbyn

Written By: - Date published: 7:36 am, June 11th, 2017 - 30 comments
Categories: election 2017, uk politics - Tags:

Which NZ politician said this about Jeremy Corbyn in 2015?

As of my writing this, approximately 15,000 people have joined the British Labour Party since Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader yesterday – about a dozen a minute. That’s on top of the roughly 350,000 people who joined in the lead-up to the leadership election. To say that Corbyn is a political phenomenon would be understating the facts.

He has been in Parliament since I was ten (1983), but the bearded, slightly dishevelled, 66 year old seems the antithesis of a professional politician. And that is the point. An extremely large portion of the British people, particularly the young, are utterly disenchanted by the sclerotic and self-perpetuating political class that governs them. They’re fed up with a First-Past-The-Post electoral system that delivers grossly unfair results such as the Scottish National Party winning 56 seats on 4.7% of the vote while UKIP won merely one seat on almost three times as many votes; the same seat count as the Greens’ who won only marginally fewer votes than the SNP.

The British and New Zealand political situations are very different right now, so I’m hesitant to draw too many parallels. But if there’s one that I do see, it would be this: Jeremy Corbyn won the UK Labour leadership because people have a real desire for politics that mean something. They are looking for vision instead of slick political managerialism. It shows that people are looking for politicians who actually believe in something – and who want to use government to meet the great challenges of our time, like climate change and inequality. They’re rejecting those politicians who want to be in government for its own sake, and whose approach to the great challenges of our time is to do the absolute minimum possible to be seen to be doing something, rather than doing what’s necessary.

I am unconvinced that the generally accepted wisdom – that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is unelectable – will hold out in reality. The Obama ’08 campaign, Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain and others, show that many people are desperate for hope and change in the face of growing inequality and a sense that their own and their children’s futures are being sold down the river. At the same time, I think the odds are certainly stacked against a Corbyn Labour victory. He will have to appeal to a much broader coalition of voters than those Labour members and supporters who elected him to the leadership. And he will have to do so in the face of the most brutal and unrelenting media campaign the British Establishment can throw at him.

Corbyn’s win and the General Election that preceded it show that British politics are in the greatest state of flux in at least a generation. It will take years, I think, to find a new equilibrium; and it will only do so if there is meaningful reform – a rare thing in Britain (there’s a joke that runs, “What do we want?! Gradual Change! When do we want it?! In good time!”). Whether Corbyn leads that reform or someone else does remains to be seen. But people – in Britain, in New Zealand, and everywhere else – want and deserve authentic, visionary political leadership that stands for hope and change and they will keep looking until they get it.

Don’t cheat and if you already know please don’t spoil it for others.


30 comments on “Getting Corbyn”

  1. Tony Veitch (not the partner-bashing 3rd rate broadcaster 1

    Playing the same game – and from the same source: what sitting Labour party politician said this?

    Understandable but unelectable

    To be honest, I am both surprised – and not – at the election of Jeremy Corbyn. Surprised, because I don’t think Corbyn is electable in an era where to win power means appealing to, and connecting with, a broad cross section of the electorate with progressive and realistic alternatives to the current government policy. Corbyn has obvious appeal to the hard and soft left, but I don’t think this appeal is nearly broad enough to win treasury benches.

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    Don’t cheat and if you already know please don’t spoil it for others.

    That link does show up the paucity of vision in Labour. Most of them just came out with the RWNJ talking point of Corbyn not being electable.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1

      “Most of them”

      Not exactly an accurate take on it: who has more clout in the party? Nash and Davis or Ardern and Robertson?

      • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1

        What’s clout got to do with how they each, personally, reacted to the election of Corbyn?

  3. One Anonymous Bloke 3

    Oh well, I got it completely wrong. Good for the author.

  4. Anne 4

    Well, I know who it sounds like… and if I’m right there is a difference between that person and other NZ politicians.

    Edit: Nope. I’ve got wrong.

  5. Anne 5

    Very interesting exercise. The style of writing is similar to Bryan Gould and that’s a compliment.

  6. Sanctuary 6

    Of course, the thick as pigshit local Blairites are not for turning on twitter:

    Joe Pagani‏ @JosephPagani

    Watching the NZ left act like Corbyn didn’t lose the election by 50 seats is a joke.

    Expect Josie to be doing her best for the local right with Jom Mora and Colin Espiner by trying to laugh off this collision with reality as some sort of defeat for the left.

    And in the UK, the remnant Blairites are smoothly transitioning from “Corbyn is the greatest catastrophe everr to befall the world” to “Corbyn prevented us winning the election” –

    An astonishing display of arrogance and hubris from a leading member of a group in the UK PLP that doesn’t seem to EVER grasp they’ve had it, Blairism and “new Labour” (or as Jonathan Pie put it so beautifully, the “Tory tribute act”) is buried, with a stake through it’s heart. Anyone who doesn’t line up behind Corbyn will now be de-selected.

  7. rhinocrates 7

    Just a reminder what utter bastards write for The Guardian:

    • weka 7.1

      That’s good.

      “Labour has a chance if it replaces Corbyn. Look at Australia in 1983”

      lol. How long did it take her to dig up that example?

    • RedLogix 7.2

      I read the comment thread under a Polly Toynbee article yesterday … the scathing was palpable. Almost without exception people were ripping into her blatant hypocrisy:

      Yeah totally agree. I think it’s time the Guardian:

      First, publishes an editorial, publicly apologising to Corbyn and his supporters, for sub standard political comment and slander.

      Second, has a staff review, like any other organisation, because their journalists are seriously out of step with public opinion, have failed to be either watchdogs of democracy, offer useful insight and, seriously against the thinking of it’s own readership – apart from Paul Mason.

      And as for Polly Toynbee, words cannot express my utter disgust with this absolute hypocrite, I’ve said time and time again on these pages that she is wrong, has no balls, or will to support change, and now will not offer an unreserved apology nor show any humility. Shame on you Polly, shame on you …

      She’s a busted flush Guardian, get rid!

      • weka 7.2.1

        Guardian Pick

        “I suppose Corbyn wasn’t as unelectable as you thought.”

        Heh. I’ll be interested to see how much the Guardian is able to mend its ways. The commenter is write, they need to apologise and review.

      • rhinocrates 7.2.2


        Free to dream, I’d be left of Jeremy Corbyn. But we can’t gamble the future on him
        Many of us share the Labour leadership frontrunner’s core beliefs, but tactically the best chance…

        Epitomises the condescending fairweather friendship of the Guardian to real progressivism.

  8. Sanctuary 8

    I have been thinking about the impact of Corbynism, if any, on left-wing politics in NZ.

    1/ Compared to UK Labour, the New Zealand Labour party is an intellectual husk. It has neither the wit, inclination or the mental firepower within it’s ranks and membership to build a proper, well thought out radical social-democratic policy program and if it did, it is so riddled with reflexive neo-liberalism it wouldn’t have the balls to defend it. The difference of course lies in membership and specifically in the kick start Momentum gave social democracy in the British Labour party. At over 500,000 members and with Momentum giving it some backbone UK Labour is full of vitality, ideas, belief and hope. The contrast with NZ Labour, a cadre party dominated by tired identity politics factionalism and wedded to managerialism with a sterile membership base that anyway has practically ceased to exist across huge swaths of the country couldn’t be starker. The Labour carrerists of course, like it that way – just as the UK PLP liked it that way as well. Still, if any sort of revolt against managerialism is to be constructed within the NZ Labour party – still the best institution for a radical takeover – a Momentum type organisation to kick start the membership drive is essential.

    2/ It is almost impossible for new Zealanders to grasp how badly Europe was hit by the GFC, and the decade plus of zero growth and austerity that followed. We were protected by Michael Cullen’s surpluses that left plenty of room for borrowing, and China, whose appetite for Australian and NZ produce hardly diminished. The Europeans were devastated in a way that, as i said, we just find it hard to grasp. So the necessary forces of anger at decades of austerity, massive drops in standard of living, etc etc are not necessarily present here to allow a Corbyn type message.

    3/ None the less, Corbyn and his labour party showed that a well thought out policy of scientific socialism/social democracy that BY ITS VERY NATURE offers a message of hope for a better future is an intoxicating message to our version of the UK non-voters, our “missing million”. Give the young a reason to hope, and they’ll vote all right.

    • weka 8.1

      thanks for that.

      While I do think NZ Labour are still struggling with the 80s hangover, I don’t think #1 is as bad as that and there have been small but significant changes. I’d still like to see an analysis of the whole Labour caucus. It’s easy enough to pick out a few remnant Rogernomes, but many have also left. What I’m interested in is not how many dedicated neoliberals there are but how many others who might be interested in change and where the balance of power is.

    • Tony Veitch (not the partner-bashing 3rd rate broadcaster 8.2

      Absolutely right, Sanctuary! Can we hope the message gets through to NZ Labour party . . .? No, probably not! A great pity – perhaps a change of government in September, but still the same old neoliberal shit – just with a smily face!

    • RedLogix 8.3

      Chris Trotter is rarely too far off the mark:

      Cunliffe’s other, even more unforgiveable, defect – at least in the eyes of his colleagues – was being seized of the need for Labour to reposition itself ideologically. He understood that, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, social-democracy must either have a rebirth of radicalism or fade into irrelevance. It was not a message that his colleagues – beset as so many of them were with moral and intellectual lethargy – wanted to hear. When Cunliffe, despairing of rousing Labour’s parliamentary wing, reached out to the party membership, he sealed his fate.

      In this aspect, also, the parallels with Corbyn are striking. Neoliberalism, it would seem, has no stronger defenders than the legatees of Tony Blair and Roger Douglas. Having defanged their respective labour parties so ruthlessly in the 1980s and 90s, the prospect of social-democracy growing a new set of teeth is one which these children of the neoliberal revolution will do almost anything to prevent.

    • Bill 8.4

      A Momentum type of organisation would have no palpable impact on NZ Labour.

      The caucus has the membership and its aspirations or demands contained courtesy of that 40% mechanism. Marry that to the 20% that goes to the affiliates, many of which are working with the caucus on a day to day or week to week basis, and the sad reality is that the membership is a hopeless minority regardless of raw numbers.

    • Craig H 8.5

      Re your first point – there are plenty of members who have all of those attributes. However, policy is agreed to democratically, and different areas of policy come up for renewal triennially, so it’s not just a matter of coming up with the policies, they also have to be sold to the members at regional and national conferences.

      • KJT 8.5.1

        And get the vote of Parliamentary Labour, which has a 40% say.

        Undemocratic in itself. But Neo -liberals have never liked the inconvenience of us having a say in our future.

        • Craig H

          Caucus has 5 representatives on the Policy Council out of 22 minimum – hardly 40%.

  9. Bill 9

    I’m going for a particular politician who I associate with with the deepest levels of sincere insincerity. And that person is… heh – I didn’t read the post properly 🙂

    But sure, I wouldn’t have picked that.

  10. Ed 10

    The commentariat have now got 4 things wrong.

    The Scottish referendum

    Yet they continue to listen to their own echo chamber and continue to spout nonsense.
    On Radio Live, this morning, I heard Ryan Bridge’s Panel saying that Labour’s 41% was nothing to do with Corbyn.

    Utter nonsense.

  11. UncookedSelachimorpha 11

    Socialism is cool again!!

    I have been wondering if any Blairites from UK Labour have admitted their error, apologised or changed their tune? Anyone know?

  12. Brendan 12

    Make Socialism Great Again!

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