It’s Time For Jeremy Corbyn Detractors To Put Up Or Shut Up

Assailing the veteran left-winger for being “unelectable” is the coward’s way out. Jeremy Corbyn opponents should spell out to the Labour Party membership exactly which of his policies they disagree with, and why.

The three candidates running against Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour Party leadership are willing to talk about almost anything, it seems, other than why Jeremy Corbyn’s policies would be bad for Britain.

Don’t misunderstand – they are more than happy to talk about why a Jeremy Corbyn victory would harm the Labour Party. But pinning them down to any specific criticism of Jeremy Corbyn’s policies is close to impossible. In fact, for every one specific criticism of a Corbyn policy coming from within the Labour Party, there are at least ten other generic complaints that he is “divisive”, or that he will “split the party”.

Why is this so?

The 2015 general election result proved that there are still just enough votes in David Cameron’s wishy-washy, watered down conservatism for the Tories to win an outright majority in Parliament. The margin was not comfortable, but the Tories were able to haemorrhage right wing votes to UKIP and still carry the day.

But Labour no longer have this luxury. Following their wipeout in Scotland, and with the Green Party nibbling at their heels in England, Labour need all the centrist votes they can muster to ever win again – barring some major external shock or unforeseen realignment of British politics.

The Labour Party must be united to win, but a united Labour Party means a party where the socialist Left sit quietly at the back of the bus, letting the centrists run the show and take all the glory. Both sides have upheld this arrangement since 1997, but consecutive defeats at the hands of Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband have brought the entente to a sudden end. And now that Jeremy Corbyn has a real shot at becoming leader, Labour’s left flank are no longer willing to play the smiling, decorative 1950s housewife.

The obvious alternative would therefore be for the right wing of the Labour Party, the Blue Labour types, to take their turn on the back seat and let the Corbynites drive for awhile. But unsurprisingly, they have absolutely no intention of doing so. Already the centrists and the SpAdocracy, accustomed to getting their way, are throwing their toys out of the pram and vowing never to serve in a Jeremy Corbyn cabinet. Some of them are already plotting a pre-emptive coup, so determined are they to maintain their grip on the Labour Party’s future direction. It is their way or the highway, they shout petulantly.

That is why the Labour Party establishment is in meltdown. The party’s centrist chiefs are used to taking their left-wing support base for granted, ignoring the old fashioned socialists completely while they pander instead to the centrist swing vote. But now that comfortable, familiar option is being taken away.

Now the Labour elite is being forced to choose – they can keep pandering to the centrist swing vote if they wish, but Jeremy Corbyn’s army of supporters will simply desert and undermine the party’s left flank. Or they can come out and say that they agree with Jeremy Corbyn, and then face the huge uphill battle of convincing the broader British electorate that red-blooded socialism is the way forward – which is what they would do if they had the courage of their supposed convictions.

But rather than committing one way or another, the Labour Party establishment wants to have it both ways. They want people who believe in the nationalisation of industry and unilateral nuclear disarmament to remain within the party to shore up the left flank, but they want them to do so while accepting that their strongly held views can never become official party policy.

But why should Jeremy Corbyn supporters continue to accept this unsatisfactory deal, especially when the party leadership is tantalisingly within their grasp? Why should they grin and bear it, giving their support to Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper so that one of those two bland nonentities can fight and lose the 2020 general election on a platform of being slightly to the left of the Tories?

The Labour Party big beasts and columnists lining up to denounce Jeremy Corbyn are desperate to postpone this reckoning indefinitely. They want the party’s left flank to continue voting against their conscience so that the centrists can continue to run the show.

And that’s why they won’t explicitly criticise any of Corbyn’s policies; they already seek the Left’s vote while offering nothing in return, and so they are desperate to avoid causing additional offence by admitting the truth – that they no longer believe what the Corbynites believe.

David Green’s analysis in CapX is spot on:

Above all, [Corbyn’s rivals] have not offered a fundamental challenge to his programme. He seems to lack the political guile of a Blair or a Mandelson, while his rivals seem only to be saying that the voters are not ready yet. They could easily agree with his ultimate ends but feel that it is too soon to spill the beans to the voters. Liz Kendall finds Mr Corbyn unrealistic and insists that, if Labour is to help the most vulnerable in society, they must win power first. It all seems to be about tactics. Don’t frighten the voters by telling them what Labour really wants to do.

Alastair Campbell has taken the same line in the Telegraph, warning that Mr Corbyn’s  policies will not be acceptable to voters in many constituencies. The implication is that he may have sound convictions but the voters are rather backward and so it’s best not to say too much at this stage. Corbyn is wrong but only because he is blurting it all out.

But the Labour Party establishment now believes that Corbyn is flat out wrong in principle as well as in strategy – it’s just that they will never say so in public.

The connection between the Labour Party and its socialist base has decayed like a long, stale, sexless marriage. In the beginning, passion burned bright and the love was all-consuming, but decades later all that’s left are the chill bonds of custom, familiarity and duty.

The Labour Party of Burnham, Cooper, Kendall, Umunna and Hunt tolerated the likes of Jeremy Corbyn because they were used to his quiet, unobtrusive presence on the backbenches. But just as the overbearing old husband gets angry if his usually placid wife dares to contradict him, so the leading lights of the Labour Party are quietly livid that Jeremy Corbyn has actually dared to influence the direction of the political party he calls home.

Does Yvette Cooper think that British Telecom should be renationalised, with the state becoming monopoly provider of telecommunications once again?

Does Andy Burnham believe that Britain should unilaterally decommission our nuclear weapons, invite in UN inspectors to confirm that we are not playing tricks, and then resign our seat on the UN Security Council?

Does Liz Kendall believe that imposing confiscatory rates of tax on successful individuals is a good way to attract and retain the world’s best talent?

Does Chuka Umunna, with all his friends in finance and industry, really look like the sort of person who is itching to crack down on the City of London?

Of course not – to all of the above. None of the people who currently pass for Labour Party heavyweights believe in any of these things. But they all rely on the votes of people who do sincerely believe in them.

And so, when seeking to tear down Jeremy Corbyn, they have to tiptoe around the real reason for their opposition. They can’t admit the truth – that they violently disagree with Corbyn and everything that he stands for – because although the party elite have nothing left in common with the activist base, they still need them to turn up and vote in local and general elections.

Is this a profile in political courage? Absolutely not. Is it understandable from a short-termist tactical standpoint? Yes, it is. Will it be enough to help the Anyone But Corbyn brigade avoid defeat on 12 September? No – by most reckonings, Corbyn now has the Labour leadership in the bag.

All that’s left now is for the Labour Party’s centrists to go down fighting, to prove to the world (and crowing Jeremy Corbyn supporters) that they do have sincerely held political views after all. Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall should come out swinging and declare that they oppose everything that Corbyn stands for – not because of narrow concerns over his electability, but because he is an unapologetic socialist. And they are not.

With nothing left to lose, it’s finally time for Jeremy Corbyn’s opponents to put up or shut up.

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11 thoughts on “It’s Time For Jeremy Corbyn Detractors To Put Up Or Shut Up

  1. Clive Lord August 19, 2015 / 11:46 AM

    First, let’s dispel a myth. The Labour Party did not do badly in the election. Despite having become a zombie Party, as shown by the bizarre Corbyn phenomenon, and despite Scotland, and having almost certainly lost more votes to UKIP than the Tories did, the gained three quarters of a million votes MORE than in 2010 – 110,000 more than the Tory vote rose. They should have had more seats than in 2010, but that’s FPTP for you.
    But you are right. the Labour Party had this crisis coming. Although I am admittedly speaking with hindsight, I have, so far with zero success, been trying to tell the Green Party that it should NOT be a left wing party. Drastic redistribution through the Basic Income yes, and if that means we are socialist then we are and always will be, but the Basic Income allows market forces to make sense, it will facilitate entrepreneurial start- ups, and it is a damn sight FAIRER than either what IDS is doing, or the benefits system he is rightly trying but failing to reform.
    None of the four Labour aspirants will touch this with a barge pole, and the Green Party doesn’t look like doing so – yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Samuel Hooper August 20, 2015 / 11:00 PM

      I have to disagree with your contention that the Labour Party did not perform badly in the 2015 general election. So they managed to increase their number of votes in comparison with 2010, when they were at the end of a tired and unpopular three terms in government? I should hope so – the only way was up. But they were annihilated in the south east of England, and they managed to lose Scotland entirely. That’s what happens when you campaign bitterly against so-called “austerity” while failing to promote a radically different vision of your own, and the Labour Party deserved to suffer for their ideological bankruptcy.

      I do agree with you that if the Green Party is to taste greater electoral success, it must renounce the things which keep it constrained as a party of the Left. It needs to move in a more pragmatically libertarian direction, one of which steps should certainly be the enthusiastic championing of Basic Income. This policy is a great fit for the party, if only they could find a more able spokesperson than Natalie Bennett to take it forward.

      What disappoints me about Jeremy Corbyn the most is his reluctance to articulate a different position on the EU, adopting the same reflexive pro-Europeanism of the other candidates, and the fact that beyond criticising the Tory “cuts”, he has nothing significant to say about welfare reform. And on that latter point, I fully share your frustration.


      • Clive Lord August 23, 2015 / 5:25 PM

        I have only just spotted your reply. Despite the facts you bring to bear, Labour should have gained seats somewhere. My theory is UKIP managed to worry enough people in a few key seats. But you are right about anti-austerity. 10 million watching Mhairi Black’s maiden speech leaves 50 million who think benefit cuts are the right answer. But I don’t share your wish for small government. Government should ideally be by and for the community, which I see as more important in a (world) community trying not to abuse the biosphere. Transport, utilities and care of the elderly are examples of areas where a communal responsibility is appropriate.
        Natalie is able enough on things she thinks are important, but like Corbyn, she represents the current Green Party by being old-style left wing. EU? important to stay in and bring it back round to Green ideas. If you read some other of my posts, you will see how important I think a Europe-wide Basic Income is, both as first aid and the start of a culture shift.


  2. chrisyonge August 18, 2015 / 11:56 PM

    Excellent work. But in para 9 do you really mean “That is why we the Labour Party establishment “? From a distant viewpoint, admittedly, this blog does not seem like part of the LP establishment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Samuel Hooper August 19, 2015 / 12:00 AM

      Many thanks for pointing out the error, now corrected – you’re quite right, it was a typo. It’s hard to imagine anything further from the Labour Party establishment than this blog!


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