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.
Labour’s ruling elite are stoking up fears of ‘entryism’ as an excuse to shut Jeremy Corbyn out of the leadership contest and preserve their hegemony.
For every day that Jeremy Corbyn’s star stubbornly refuses to fade in the Labour leadership race, another Labour Party grandee seems to come crawling out of the woodwork blaming the sinister forces of ‘entryism’ for dragging the party unelectably to the left.
Commentators of every political stripe are now spitting out the term ‘entryism’ like it is a dirty word, and we are expected to hear the word and share the elite’s outrage that a political party is in danger of actually representing the people enthusiastic enough to play a part in its governance. But in fact, all the fuss about Jeremy Corbyn’s increasingly plausible leadership candidacy really proves is the absolute terror felt by the political elites when people with vibrant, non-centrist political views seek to make their voices heard.
(The formal definition of ‘entryism’ is: “a political strategy in which an organisation or state encourages its members or supporters to join another, usually larger organisation in an attempt to expand influence and expand their ideas and program.”)
So worried are the people most responsible for driving British politics into its current centrist malaise that some of them are now openly calling for the Labour leadership contest to be scrapped or deferred, until the ‘menace’ of people exercising their democratic right to vote for the leadership they want can be properly suppressed.
From The Times today:
Anyone hoping that Labour Party’s haemorrhaging of northern votes to UKIP or the EU’s sacrifice of Greece to preserve the Euro might lead to a reconsideration of Labour’s reflexive, metropolitan pro-Europeanism must be sorely disappointed with the four candidates jostling for the honour of leading the party to defeat in 2020.
Although there is a groundswell of euroscepticism building across the country – and even though many prominent left-wingers are now calling for “Lexit”, including the ubiquitous Owen Jones – those who aspire to lead the Labour Party remain wedded to their desperate belief that the EU is somehow good for Britain.
Even as the contrary evidence mounts and public pressure for a left-wing eurosceptic political outlet grows, the Labour Leadership candidates prefer to stick to their increasingly hollow-sounding scripts, proclaiming the dubious virtues of political union and the supposed horrors that would befall Britain if we were to regain our independence.
This much became clear during the LBC radio Labour Leadership hustings, when a certain “Nigel from Kent” (yes, that one) phoned in with a question, asking the candidates whether there were any scenarios in which they could envisage campaigning for Britain to leave the EU and voting “no” in the Brexit referendum.
The responses were predictably depressing.
TRIGGER WARNING: This article is a polemic. If you are a Labour supporter who likes accusing the Tories of cruelty and moral deficiency but can’t take criticism in return; if you ostentatiously signal your own virtue by policing the public discourse for “unacceptable” words and ideas while turning a blind eye to appalling real-world actions; if you think that welfare reform is “divisive” but railing against “the bankers” (meaning anyone who works to earn a good salary) is A-OK; if you think Ed Miliband was a visionary leader, ahead of his time and ultimately just too good for this unworthy country – then read on at your own risk.
PRINCIPAL TRIGGERS: Unapologetic conservatism; belief in a higher power other than the state; schadenfreude; gloating; mockery; sarcasm; deliberate overstatement; forceful language; general failure to provide a safe and non-judgmental space for processing the 2015 general election result and the scale of Labour’s defeat.
And so, not with a bang but a self-righteous whimper, Labour is collapsing from within, the party of Kier Hardie and Ramsay MacDonald publicly reducing itself to a smouldering heap of dark recrimination, bitter contempt for the electorate and tiresome more-compassionate-than-thou moral posturing.
This slow-motion, socialist car crash is utterly transfixing, especially because the man who led Labour to ruin, Ed Miliband – and many others – seriously believed he would now be prime minister of the United Kingdom, right up to the moment the exit polls dealt a deadly dose of reality. Now, it is not even certain that the party will survive to fight the 2020 election without having first splintered into warring People’s Front of Judea / Judean People’s Front factions.
As their uninspiring leadership contest rumbles on, the Labour Party is in the process of missing a massive opportunity, an existential moment which could very well determine whether the party of Keir Hardie exists at all in fifty years time.
Tristram Hunt – one of the real intellectual and political heavyweights who realised that Labour’s renewal could not be completed in time for the 2020 election, and decided to keep their powder dry for the next leadership contest – admits as much in a revealing interview with the Guardian today.
From the piece, entitled “Labour needs a summer of hard truths“:
Rather than developing detailed policy on childcare, housing, or education, Labour’s debate should be about how government can help people to tackle massive economic, technological and social change.
“The party should be arguing for a progressive and interventionist state to support citizens and communities in confronting the challenges of globalisation. What are we for? We are for giving people the capacity to deal with a period of incredible socio-economic change and the advent of digital technology, migration flows, global capital flows.”
As the Tories trim back the state, they fail to address such questions. “Representing Stoke-on-Trent, you see the seismic change of the last 30 years. It is almost anthropological in terms of the taking away of traditional systems. The role of a Labour party and social democratic parties is to help communities get through that and thrive on the back of it.”
Here, in a nutshell, is the leadership contest which the Labour Party should be having, but is not. Watch any of the hustings or listen to the bickering between the candidates and their badly behaved proxies and you will soon see that (with the partial exceptions of Liz Kendall and Jeremy Corbyn respectively), and you will be struck by two facts about the conversation taking place in the party: