Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Corbyn Clings To Power — Why Does His Own Party Have It In For Him?

Jeremy Corbyn cartoon, by Wendy Cockcroft
The Establishment hates him, the right wing press find fault with everything about him including his bike-riding ways, but the people love him. If that's true, why does Jeremy Corbyn's own party flippin' well hate the man? I've done a bit of digging and I think I know why.

He's an outsider

When Jeremy Corbyn won the party leadership contest his supporters were ecstatic. At last, the change they craved was coming. However, his own parliamentary party saw it differently. To understand what's happening today you need to look back at what was happening behind the scenes when Corbyn was elected leader of the party.

But there was no surprise when Corbyn was announced as the winner at special Labour conference in London on 12 September – only gasps at the scale of his landslide, with large margins among all three categories of voters. Some Labour officials wore black to register their concern, leading to frosty scenes when Corbyn and his team headed to the “green room” after the declaration.

The moment Corbyn became Labour leader
“When we went into the green room, it wasn’t like ‘Well done’, it was like turning up to a wake,” one member of Corbyn’s team remembered. “People weren’t particularly happy. There were a lot of people with their hands in their pockets fiddling with their change and looking at the shine on their shoes. The atmosphere in the hall was like someone booking a wedding in the same hotel as a funeral.”

The Corbyn team were also surprised to find that the Labour party had not managed to arrange transport for the new leader. “They didn’t even provide a car for him on the day,” a campaign source said. “Jeremy had to provide his own driver.” - The Corbyn earthquake – how Labour was shaken to its foundations, by  Patrick Wintour and Nicholas Watt for The Guardian

They're afraid of "the Trots"

For a party supposedly built on Socialist ideals, it's hilarious to see how terrified the Labour party officials are of the far left faction of their party. It really is a boogeyman. Back in the Eighties, they had a very good go at wresting control of the party from its members. I remember watching the drama unfolding on the news. Remember, this was at the height of the Cold War, the Soviets were the enemy and this lot were BFFs with them. Labour, eager to prove their patriotic credentials, booted them out. Journalist Tom Harris, writing for the Guardian, is still caught up in the "T'wasn't me, guv!" attitude that led to the formation of New Labour in the Nineties, loudly denouncing Jeremy Corbyn as the spawn of Satan and decrying him as unelectable. Well if that's true would someone please explain why a) he's so insanely popular and b) people keep joining the Labour party because he's the leader? Take your time.

They've forgotten what they're supposed to be

Established in Bradford in 1893, the Independent Labour Party was formed to advance a progressive socialist agenda. The Parliamentary Labour Party was formally created in 1906 to bind together the disparate groups that had caucused under the Labour banner following electoral success. Labour was formed to represent the interests of the newly enfranchised low-income workers, not to catapult self-interested hacks into high office.

New Labour, new direction

Once New Labour was established, it was developed as a brand, portrayed as a departure from 'Old Labour', the party of pre-1994, which had been criticised for regularly betraying its election promises and was linked with trade unionism, the state, and benefit claimants. The previous two party leaders, Neil Kinnock and John Smith, had begun efforts to modernise the party as a strategy for electoral success, before Smith died in 1994. However, Smith's approach, which was dubbed (sometimes pejoratively) "one more heave" was perceived as too timid by modernisers like Blair, Brown and Mandelson. They felt that his cautious approach, which sought to avoid controversy and win the next election by capitalising on the unpopularity of the Conservative government, was not sufficient. - New Labour, Wikipedia

While I was growing up in the Eighties, there was a popular satirical puppet show called Spitting Image. I flippin' loved it because it made fun of the powers that be. No one was exempt and it went after Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock with a vengeance second only to the opprobrium heaped on then-PM Margaret Thatcher. Let's take a look at a clip:

This is what Tony Blair wanted to move away from: a bumbling prat who couldn't win a raffle, forget an election. This is how we all saw Kinnock:

I know, it's The Sun, but this was the general image we had of the man. The greatest of our leaders aren't idealogues, they're pragmatic and reasonable. Kinnock might possibly have been able to organise a booze-up in a brewery but take us through a war? Not a chance. We needed someone who could win one and it wasn't him.

The will to win

This is what the current crop of party officials are afraid of. Here's the fun part: they're so afraid of the "Trots" they're lumping everyone who disagrees with them into that camp, alienating them as they go. They don't want to hear about anything that might frighten the dwinding middle-income voters they think they can call away from the Tories. Caught up in the sepia-toned nostalgia of the glory days when Tony Blair first took office, the party officials have focused themselves so much on "being electable" they're casting off from their roots and setting up shop on Tory Island, shifting the actual Tories further to the right in an effort to differentiate themselves.

Corbyn's popularity scares them

The parliamentary party is divided; some were in favour of Brexit and others weren't. Jeremy Corbyn was the golden boy for many until Brexit happened; people on the Remain side (many of them Blairites) believed he hadn't campaigned hard enough to keep us in the EU. The truth is, the right wingers have been trying to winkle him out of office since he took it; Brexit is just an excuse. The amusing part from my point of view is that the Parliamentary party is so intent on winning elections it has lost touch with its base. Now as long as there were plenty of neoliberal-ish candidates to field, that wasn't a problem; most people vote for their party out of blind loyalty and habit. Now that a man has arisen who is very much in touch with the base, people are likely to be more engaged and more selective about whom they vote for. If you're a hack who simply wants to be in power, the idea that you might be called to account is terrifying. No wonder they want him out, they can't get back to business as usual until he's gone.

Party V the people

So it is that with the howls of indignation over Brexit and the Chilcott report still echoing around Westminster, Angela Eagle has decided that the time is right to make her bid to oust the most popular leader Labour has had to date. And by popular I mean "the people love him." And by "people" I mean "the thousands who keep signing up to join the Labour party every day." She's getting an absolute roasting in the press, to my vast amusement, and she is discovering exactly what it's like to face a vote of no confidence from her own local party. The other MPs might like her but the public aren't impressed. In any case she's got no coherent agenda beyond getting that insurgent upstart Corbyn out of the leader's chair.

Labour needs to unite and fight

Our Parliament and government requires a strong opposition party to rein in the excesses of the incumbent party. That is the way it has always worked. By being so intent on winning elections, the Labour party forgot what it was supposed to be doing and now they're wondering why the moderate Ed Milliband failed to win the last election. It's not because they weren't neoliberal enough, it's that they were too neoliberal, not much different from the Tories. If they want to win the next election they don't have to swing too far to the left, they simply have to figure out a way to actually deliver on the promises our new prime minister Theresa May has made. May has made a grab for Labour territory; they need to defend and hold it. Until they decide to reconnect with the electorate again, we can look forward to successive Tory governments while Labour disappears up its own fundament blathering on about the importance of winning elections — entirely forgetting what elections are and what they are for.

Jeremy Corbyn needs to win his party over

That the far left has fastened their hopes on Jeremy Corbyn is causing concern; the smart thing to do would be to find a way to accommodate their most reasonable requests instead of freaking out over them as if they are evil terrorists. No, for the most part they're just fed up with the status quo. While the Parliamentary party needs to change from within, it's still up to Corbyn to win them over to heal the hurts. This means addressing their fears of a Militant takeover and working with them to lay the groundwork for a Labour victory in the next election. This will need a lot of crooning, rocking, and stroking of heads pressed to chests but he'll have to do it if he wants to move the party forward. The Establishment isn't going to go away, and the far left faction isn't either. Like it or not they'll have to learn to work together in a democratic fashion and stop trying to boot their democratically elected leader out of his position. If the new election confirms his appointment as party leader, they need to shut up and accept it.

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