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UK Labour now what?

Written By: - Date published: 9:16 am, July 2nd, 2016 - 73 comments
Categories: Europe, International, spin, uk politics, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: , , , , , , ,

get corbyn

The past week has seen some of the most inept political manoeuvring I have ever seen from a left wing party, and believe me I have seen a lot …

Following the Brexit vote the Conservatives and David Cameron should have been pilloried by the forces that be for even risking a vote on such a subject when the stakes were so high. With Cameron falling on his sword, Boris Johnson faltering and a bunch of no name potential successors lining up and with Nigel Farage approaching peak dickhead status things looked good for Labour to impress voters and stake out a position for being an alternative Government.

Instead most of the caucus went rabid.  As Mike Smith has pointed out it seems clear that the plan was premeditated and pre-planned.  Clearly some are willing to sacrifice the government benches for the more important goal of stopping a genuine left winger from being Prime Minister.  Solidarity forever.

Some of the best analysis has come from the blogs.  The Canary in the UK has become for me a must read and if you want a local passionate dissection of what is happening then you cannot go past John Palethorpe’s Shinbone Star.

John summarises events leading up to the mass resignation of Labour MPs from the Shadow Cabinet as follows:

Over the next 48 hours a succession of Shadow Cabinet members, junior ministers and secretaries tendered their resignations. Andy Burnham, notably, refused to resign on the grounds that he never shown disloyalty to a leader and he was not about to start. When questioned, the resigning MPs insisted that there was no coordination and it was a matter of personal choice. This clashed starkly with reports from a fortnight before about the plan to remove Corbyn regardless of the result of the EU Referendum.

The reasons for resignation were curiously similar. Corbyn’s lacklustre campaigning, his leadership style, his ability to connect with voters and, in one case, his lack of experience regarding the upcoming Brexit negotiations. It would be fascinating to know who has that experience, given all parties appear to be panic stricken at the prospect. All of them called for him to resign, to step down. For the good of the party.

Along with Enzo Giordani he also blogs superbly about soccer.  Both sites deserve bookmarking.

It appears to me there are two basic justifications being offered for why Corbyn should not be Labour’s leader.  Strip out the nice superficial language that English MPs use publicly and there are two basic claims:

  1. Corbyn is unelectable.
  2. Corbyn is incompetent.

As to one well every recent opportunity that the British Electorate has had to express its views of Labour have been actually quite positive for Labour, despite the unrelenting negative media narrative that Labour is doomed under Corbyn’s leadership.  For instance (thanks Canary):

  • Labour has won 4 by-elections. Oldham West, Sheffield Brightside, Ogmore & Tooting with three resulting in an increased majority.
  • Labour won 4 mayoral elections under Corbyn – London, Bristol, Salford and Liverpool.
  • Membership of the party has surged, from 193,000 to over 380,000.
  • Labour’s 2016 local election results were not the predicted disaster with all previously Labour controlled councils being retained and Labour losing 1% of its Councillors compared to the Conservative’s 6% and the loss of control of one council.
  • And Corbyn did not fail in the remain vote with the proportion of labour voters voting remain matching the vote of SNP voters.

As to the second justification clearly Corbyn fails the being a member of the in crowd of the political media bubble and being able to play political games test.  Such failure should not rule him out of contention however.  Being a successful bubble game player should not guarantee anything.

The media, including the Guardian, has been especially negative.  But maybe they should review their membership of the bubble.

Jim Parker describes the political media bubble phenomenon as the cult of the savvy.

This is the practice of journalists reporting from inside the system to others like them. The viewpoint and mindset are that of political operatives, judging each day’s developments in terms of who won and who lost the news cycle.

“Promoting journalists as insiders in front of the outsiders, the viewers, the electorate…. this is a clue to what’s broken about political coverage in the US and Australia,” Rosen has written. “Things are out of alignment. Journalists are identifying with the wrong people. Therefore the kind of work they are doing is not as useful as we need it to be.”

Journalists have become inward looking and disconnected from the electorate for a few reasons. One is economic. Thanks to newsroom cutbacks due to declining media revenues, there are few specialists anymore. Where formerly there might have been a health reporter, whose job it was to track health policy, or a technology reporter, who was across broadband issues, there are now only generalists. Few newsrooms have the resources to look at issues as they might affect voters, so the focus becomes the race itself, politics as a process.

The second reason, and one well canvassed, is the rise of social media, the continuous news cycle and the appropriation of new communication technologies by politicians and their staffers. Stories that might formerly have developed over two or three days now can be born, live and die within two or three hours. Journalists try to keep up, but the more they chase the noise, the less time they have to find the signal.

If you want to think about local examples then Paddy Gower is clearly a member of the insider club, connecting with the social elites and trying to be the news.  By comparison John Campbell with his practice of reaching out to ordinary people and his habit of letting them tell their story is the total antithesis of the usual approach.  We need more reporters like John Campbell.

Parker then describes clearly the superficiality of media analysis of public opinion.

Everyone talks condescendingly about what the “ordinary voters” are thinking, or worse, “the punters”. No-one ever asks them directly. We hear constantly about how political parties have become scientific about picking up phrases uttered in focus groups and then cynically layering them into their communication as if this is somehow admirable.

It’s this insider mentality, this culture of a narrow group of elite opinion makers talking among themselves, that was so dramatically given the middle finger by Britons in their recent referendum on whether to stay in the European Union, irrespective of the rights and wrongs of the Brexit.

If you recall, the late polls in that case were suggesting a reasonably comfortable victory for the remain camp. Indeed, even as the counting began, the exit camp was ready to concede defeat. Then, as the trend reversed, the talking heads had to change their prepared scripts.

John Palethorpe addresses Corbyn’s competency in these terms:

I am not advancing the case that Corbyn has been a fantastic leader. He does lack the modern skills of messaging that have become essential in politics. His demeanour can appear reserved, unenthusiastic even. But he’s the leader elected by the Labour party membership to lead the Labour part. And with less than twelve months as leader the attempt to remove him now, by those who possess a vague Toryish born-to-rule attitude towards Labour, seems cynically opportunistic and has inadvertently threatened the very integrity of the British Labour Party.

But back to the heading of this post.  UK Labour needs to sort its stuff out.  It looks likely that it will split, wIthaca Corbyn, some loyal MPs like Dennis Skinner, the activists and the trade unions on one side and the careerists on the other side.  Given that the UK has a FPP system some sort of armageddon for the left appears to be very likely should Labour fracture.

Maybe Labour should start again and seek out future MPs like this person who will be driven by a desire to improve things for all UK residents and not by a desire to be part of the bubble.

73 comments on “UK Labour now what? ”

  1. lprent 1

    It is pretty clear that the parliamentary wing of UK Labour haven’t realised that the world has moved on without them. And they certainly haven’t been.listening it their supporters and members. The members operate on family and friend contacts, these days often enhanced by social media. They don’t listen to talking heads in media with any thing like the respect those narcissistic fools think that they deserve.

    Same thing happened here a election cycle back and is still proceeding. The PLPs can do what they like. But it is likely that in the UK we will see a parliamentary rump party form – one that eventually dies without a party base.

    • Jenny 1.1

      “The PLPs can do what they like. But it is likely that in the UK we will see a parliamentary rump party form – one that eventually dies without a party base.”
      lprent

      Or alternatively the Labour Party caucus could succeed in ousting Corbyn. And the British Labour Party will continue to limp on into an unedifying future in its present form, dominated by a by a conservative caucus, and conservative leader.

      • Jenny 1.1.1

        As Hone Harawira said at the last election, in a statement that could easily apply to the whole Left. “We are trying to change a system, that resists change.”

        • Draco T Bastard 1.1.1.1

          Systems always resist change because those who work in the system don’t see anything wrong with it and they feel under threat because it’s their jobs and livelihoods being threatened.

    • AmaKiwi 1.2

      It is the era of fragmentation.

      Provinces are breaking away to form new countries. Political parties are splintering apart. The center cannot hold.

      To me the similarity between the battles fought by Corbyn and Cunliffe with their respective parliamentary parties is obvious.

      In politics, friends may come and friends may go, but enemies accumulate. The NZL caucus has made a lot of enemies, including me.

      • Chooky 1.2.1

        + 100

      • Jenny 1.2.2

        +100

      • Jenny 1.2.3

        “Provinces are breaking away to form new countries. Political parties are splintering apart. The center cannot hold.”
        amakiwis

        ‘Independence’, especially from central authority, has often been depicted as a bad thing.

        I like to think of it as ‘devolvement’, where more democracy is being returned to a local, (and more accountable) level.

        And this accountability is made stronger by social media which also has a democratising influence.

        Where more remote authority can ride above social media criticism more easily, those closer to the people they represent find it a lot harder to escape the ‘democratisation’ created in the electronic commons.

        Scottish independence is a good thing and Brexit is a good thing. The centralisation of power has seen that power becoming concentrated in fewer and fewer hands and those hands becoming more and more remote and unaccountable.

  2. newsense 2

    Chilchot Chilchot Chilchot

  3. invisiphilia 3

    An excellent round up on the state of things Micky. It’s an interesting phenomenon that’s emerging with the MSM vs the potential of people power on social media.
    Crucially, as you point out “Journalists try to keep up, but the more they chase the noise, the less time they have to find the signal.” This seems like a double edged sword in terms of getting the truth out there and also, to the extent that social media remains dependent on conventional media it imports some of its structural imbalances.

    I’m just waiting for this chapter to be compared to the Arab Spring as the process continues…British Summer doesn’t have the same ring to it. How about Bummer :)?

  4. Jenny 4

    It appears to me there are two basic justifications being offered for why Corbyn should not be Labour’s leader. Strip out the nice superficial language that English MPs use publicly and there are two basic claims:

    1. Corbyn is unelectable.
    2. Corbyn is incompetent.

    And unstated:

    3. Corbyn is too Left Wing

    • Jenny 4.1

      Whoever thought leadership isn’t important, does not understand politics.

      The British Labour Party Caucus want their man or woman at the helm.

      A lot of this hysteric reaction has been fuelled by the very real possibility that the political chaos as result of fallout from the Brexit vote, could lead to a snap election and the very real possibility of a Corbyn led government.

      http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/will-there-be-a-snap-brexit-election/

      As Chris Trotter likes to say about the similarly conservative dominated NZ Labour Party caucus, “They would rather keep control of the losing side, than lose control of the winning side.”

    • Pat 4.2

      the main reason is he is not a neoliberal…..the only game in (their) town

  5. jcuknz 5

    I think it is a necessary change for the Labour Party and lprent has it right that the timid half way MPs will die a natural death come election time.

  6. Colonial Viper 6

    The more Corbyn tries to appease the 100+ hard core blairites and right wingers in his Caucus, the more he will sound like every other compromised Labour Leader and as swordfish has pointed out, his support amongst the ordinary members will drop.

    This was part of Cunliffe’s failing as well. Trying to appease the careerists and the right wing with praise and position, when all they are aiming to do is stab you in the back at the first turn.

    Corbyn needs to stay strong with his principles, and with the messages that gave him the leadership by a landslide. Or he will be gone.

    • Jenny 6.1

      +100

    • Anne 6.2

      Spot on CV.

      I did read somewhere that Corbyn is hanging out for the Chilcot report to be released (Thursday NZ time?) and after that he may well resign. Don’t know if that’s speculation or not, but it’s possible he will do so provided they come up with the candidate of his choice to succeed him.

      http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/chilcot-inquiry-report-published-what-11548292

    • Draco T Bastard 6.3

      This was part of Cunliffe’s failing as well. Trying to appease the careerists and the right wing with praise and position, when all they are aiming to do is stab you in the back at the first turn.

      QFT

    • Chooky 6.4

      +100 CV

      • Jenny 6.4.1

        +100

        A lesson for Andrew Little if his Right Wing try to pressure him. Especially over his new relationship with the Green Party.

        Deep sea oil drilling is the Keystone XL of New Zealand politics.

        For the new rapprochement between Labour and the Green Party to succeed will require the Labour Party to join the Green Party in opposing deep sea oil drilling in our waters.

        At the last election the Green Party said that they would drop all “bottom lines” to get cabinet seats in a Labour led government.

        According to Russell Norman this included the Greens ditching their opposition to deep sea oil to get a coalition agreement.

        https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/archive/russel-norman-on-deep-sea-oil-drilling-6073831.html

        Without getting any their bottom lines agreed to, what would they achieve?

        The answer is ; Nothing. And this is because once in cabinet the Green Cabinet members would have been outvoted on every issue. But worse than this they would be bound by cabinet collective responsibility, to discipline the rest of the party to go along with what ever Labour decided.

        This position is no longer tenable. (If it ever was).

        To go into coalition with Labour, the Green Party will need to get some of their bottom lines agreed to first.

        The first of these is no deep sea oil drilling.

        No doubt the screams of outrage from the neoliberal right of the LP if Little makes any concession to the Greens on this issue will be heard to the heavens.

        Little needs to tell his right wing caucus colleagues just as Corbyn has, “Get lost.”

  7. swordfish 7

    Latest YouGov Poll of UK Labour Party Members

    Open mike 02/07/2016

    Although the majority doubt that Corbyn can win the next Election (35% Likely / 57% Unlikely), the majority have precisely the same doubts about the viability of any New Leader as well (38% Likely / 50% Unlikely).

    Anti-Corbynites in the UK media often “forget” (deliberately ignore) the fact that Polls taken during the leadership campaign last year usually found far more Labour Members and Labour voters saying the Brownite candidate Yvette Cooper and the arch-Blairite candidate Liz Kendall were ‘Unelectable’ (ie would be very unlikely to win the next General Election) than was the case for Corbyn. (Soft Left candidate, Andy Burnham, was sometimes seen as a little more electable than Corbyn and sometimes not, depending on the particular poll).

    Instead, we get this nonsense in the MSM that last year Labour members self-indulgently opted for a principled but totally unelectable leader instead of 3 highly electable alternatives. The reality is that not only Labour people but also voters in general didn’t see it that way at all.

  8. BM 8

    UKIP party is up around 20%, I reckon they’re going to be a big mover in the coming months.

    Interesting if you end up with three parties all around 30%, or if Labour splits, 2 parties at 30% and two at 15%.

    All the stars seem to be aligning for Farage to become England next PM.

    http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/voting-intention-2

    • Jenny 8.1

      Echoes of pre-war Germany.

      • BM 8.1.1

        Not wanting to Godwin the thread, but yes, you can sort of see similarities.

        With Hitler he managed to convince the Germans that the Jewish bankers were the reason that the German economy had crashed and why the German people were suffering.

        if the economy starts to go pear shaped because of Brexit, it would be quite easy for a talented orator such as Farage to harness that same sort of anger and discontent, then use it in a way to catapult himself into the top spot.

        Instead of the Jews it will be the EU, the multinationals etc.

        • Colonial Viper 8.1.1.1

          The National Socialists rose to power for a very simple reason: the political establishment of Germany stopped listening and acting on the concerns of 90% of the citizens.

          • Tory 8.1.1.1.1

            Corbyns personality cult Momentum is doing the same as the National Solicisits, it’s just from the other side of the political spectrum and its Marxism. The vitriol spewing forth from those supporters is interesting to say the least.

            • Colonial Viper 8.1.1.1.1.1

              Sorry mate, but that’s a total mis-characterisation.

              Corbyn for starters is a grumpy grand father type, not a charismatic orator cult figure.

              • Tory

                If you read through the vitriol that Momentum are spewing out it’s clear they are advocating a “cleansing” from the Labour ranks and the only person capable of leading this “left wing revolution” is Corbyn (according to them). Of course it’s a movement based on a person (Corbyn). This is the cult of Marxism and I bet the plans for gulags are well advanced.

                • Colonial Viper

                  Uh, it’s the Blairite turncoat MPs who have planned and launched a “cleansing” of the Labour Party, against the General Membership.

                  Or are the facts alluding you even harder than usual?

                  As I said – Corbyn is a grumpy old grandfather type. He’s no charismatic orator.

      • AmaKiwi 8.1.2

        @ Jenny

        “Echoes of pre-war Germany” and USA and UK and NZ, Australia, France, Italy, Russia . . .

        The age of empire is ending. That collapse did not lead to dictatorship everywhere. That is our challenge. Can we change the system without dictatorship?

        • Colonial Viper 8.1.2.1

          Unless you look at Sheldon Wolin’s model of inverted totalitarianism.

          Which differs from the typical tyranny of a single, charismatic dictator figure.

          Instead it is the tyranny of a tiny faceless elite through an institutionalised dictatorship, operating through a highly managed and increasing illiberal democracy.

          In this form of tyranny, pushing a figure head John Key or US President out of power does nothing to change the tyranny that the population is subjected to.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inverted_totalitarianism

          • KJT 8.1.2.1.1

            The “patsy” model is well known in Business.

            Use a figurehead “hatchet man” to close down the plant, reduce wages, sack workers or make other unpopular changes.

            Then they are blamed, and usually sacked themselves, while the real power behind the scenes keeps their teflon coating.

            Hence “Patsies” like Bennet, Brownlee, Joyce, Parata, etc are used to front the more evil policies. (Douglas? Goff, Shearer?).

            Key will be dumped as well, once the groundswell of public opinion makes him unpalatable.

            There is a never ending supply of “Patsys” among those who will give up their conscience to be part of the “big boys” in group” for money, status or the illusion of power.

            • Colonial Viper 8.1.2.1.1.1

              it seems the public is tired of voting for Patsy after Patsy.

        • D'Esterre 8.1.2.2

          AmaKiwi: ” Echoes of pre-war Germany” and USA and UK and NZ, Australia, France, Italy, Russia . . ”

          Russia? I don’t think so. Best not to take at face value Western propaganda regarding that part of the world. See this:

          http://thesaker.is/counter-propaganda-russian-style/

      • Jenny 8.1.3

        What I meant in my comment is that like prewar Germany, though never getting a majority vote, a minor Extreme Right Party was able to gain control through the political unclarity and vacillation on the Left.

        Which is what we are seeing repeated in the UK.

        http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/16/nigel-farage-defends-ukip-breaking-point-poster-queue-of-migrants

    • swordfish 8.2

      Then again … split between Ukip’s Farage and Carswell over last couple of days … not to mention leading Ukip donor, Arron Banks, to start new Party, possibly minus Farrage …

      UK politics imploding all over the place … shit’s hit the fan … every man, woman and child for themselves … reminds me of the Panic scene where passengers start fighting and strangling each other in Flying High once they realise there’s no pilot.

      • BM 8.2.1

        Wow, it really is insanity over there.

        Going to be interesting to see who comes out on top.

        • AmaKiwi 8.2.1.1

          @ BM

          “Wow, it really is insanity over there” AND here.

          Jonathan Pie (3.2 above) is also describing New Zealand.

        • Colonial Viper 8.2.1.2

          I hear that UK applications for Irish passports have gone through the roof.

          • Peter Swift 8.2.1.2.1

            As Ireland citizens have been assured free passage in to the UK independent of any EU directive or movement of trade clauses in the brexit negotiations, it’s probably all the euro residents and illegals fearing the deportation axe, checking out how they can remain on British soil and carry on enjoying the way of life and benefits they have become accustom to.

    • McGrath 8.3

      I wouldn’t rule out a Tory split given the grief in their party as well. Brexit has smashed a hammer into UK politics

  9. save nz 9

    Really well thought out post and good links. +1000

  10. RedLogix 10

    I have nothing but admiration for Corbyn’s courage under such withering circumstances. Who knows what next week holds, but his refusal to buckle under the weight of such self-interested betrayal is a remarkable thing.

    Often it is that the introverted, reserved personality hides a hidden resiliency.

  11. Ad 11

    Just freaking sad.

    Should the Labour Party split there, the broader UK electorate will at next elections have the option of an even more unstable coalition, or a post-Brexit re-stabilised Conservative Party.

    We could give them lessons on losing.

  12. mikesh 12

    J M Greer (aka The Archdruid) has, in his latest blog, suggested that one of the reasons for the Tories’ success in 2015 was Cameron’s promise of a referendum. In other words many voters, who might otherwise have voted Labour or LibDem, and who were desperate to bring about an egress, would have voted Conservative to ensure that the referendum went ahead.

    If a snap election is held and Labour decides to make EU membership the defining issue by promising to “remain” in the event of their being elected, as some have suggested, it could turn out to be the stupidest move they have ever made. This seems unlikely if Corbyn continues as leader as he seems lukewarm on EU membership anyway, but it would seem eminently possible if Corbyn is dumped.

    • Colonial Viper 12.1

      if it’s a stupid move for UK Labour, you can bet that its on the cards somewhere.

  13. mosa 13

    Corbyn is on a hiding to nothing and what i would do is sit tight and wait for the inevitable vote to sack him or not.
    If they take him out but there is still massive grassroots support there he should take that support and form a new Labour party with like minded people who believe there is a place for what Corbyn has been articulating and seek funding and present that alternative to the british people and ask for support.
    Or if he prevails reform the current party driving out all those who want to be MPs for Labour but dont believe it should return to its founding principles and dont have the courage or the peoples respect to articulate those principals.
    Its been split before as right leaning Labour MPs left in 1981 and formed the SDP and merged with the old Liberal party which ironically was too the left of the then Labour party and formed the Alliance which contested the 1983 general election and polled poorly and are now the Liberal Democrats and are still a party of the left that Corbyn could work with.
    He has options and this current realignment has a long way too go and a future proportional system could be on the cards but will be a hard fight but not impossible.

  14. Bill Drees 14

    The Suicide Squad

    http://wingsoverscotland.com/the-suicide-squad/#more-86234

    13. At some point during this mayhem – next week, to be precise – the Chilcot Report will be released, setting off a fresh bout of internecine warfare within the party.

    Read all 14 well thought out point of The Rev on Wings over Scotland.

  15. johnm 15

    Corbyn is the Labour leader. He was elected by the majority of the Labour membership. Basically the parliamentary shower can f@ck off there are always fresh replacements. Go Corbyn stick it up the traitorous bastards!

    • Tory 15.1

      I totally agree, the sooner that “Momemtum”, “Socialist Workers Party” and Affiliated Unions take over the UK Labour Party the sooner we see the Left fracture and Conservatives can look forward to a long period of government. Perhaps you could send KDC to offer some advice to Corbyn to speed up the process?

  16. OneTrack 16

    ” Following the Brexit vote the Conservatives and David Cameron should have been pilloried by the forces that be for even risking a vote on such a subject when the stakes were so high”

    Of course we can’t risk real people on the street having their say, can we? Then where would we be?

  17. peterlepaysan 17

    If Corbyn loses there is no british /english (whatever ) labour party.
    Our own labour party went down the gurgler post 1984/87.
    The clark years came in on a centrist micromanagement strategy
    Over reliance on focus groups and prodding sleeping dogs can have unwanted results.
    Like being voted out of office.
    One has to be rather egotistic to want to become an mp, let alone a pm.
    Egotism has its place but can lead to not relating very much to other people in any meaningful way.
    The british plp have an almighty attack of hubris. The gods will destroy them.
    The party could survive and probably will under some banner.
    There are nzlp caucus members still extant in the house who remember the glory days when they could pull stunts like the english plp and win.
    At the end of the day, who is paying the bills?

  18. Jenny 18

    Now we are getting somewhere, and it is the key to how the Left should view the EU (negatively), and the Brexit, (positively). And take back the Brexit from the Nigel Farage racists.

    Corbyn Vows to Veto TTIP

  19. Jenny 19

    Corbyn “unelectable”?

    Only because the main stream media silence him while giving the right wing detractors in his caucus inflated headlines.

    http://gmmuk.com/why-wasnt-this-speech-shown-on-mainstream-media/

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  • Progress towards simpler process for changing sex on birth certificates
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