Winner of the New Statesman SPERI Prize in Political Economy 2016

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Is this really social democracy versus socialism?

One of the more depressing reads over the past week is this from Colin Talbot. It ends with
We may yet end up with a more ‘continental’ configuration of the left in Britain: two parties, one social democratic and the other reformist socialist with maybe a revolutionary wing.
But is there currently a civil war in the Labour party between social democracy and reformist socialism?

In a sense it would be nice if that was what current debates were about, but it does not seem like that. The main debating point in the election was austerity, where the dividing line was between those prepared to follow the economics and those that thought doing so was electoral suicide. The latest fracas was about bombing Syria. Both seem to have more to do with an agenda set by the Conservatives and the media rather than any fundamental divide on the left.

Here is an alternative interpretation. There are these two traditions among MPs, but perhaps the majority of the (far more numerous) social democratic tradition are trying to work with the socialist leadership to formulate a policy platform that both sides can live with. This majority accept the reality demonstrated by the Labour leadership election, which was essentially a vote against the platform and perhaps more importantly the strategy that the other candidates at least appeared to represent. Obtaining this compromise means struggle for sure, but not open civil war.

Within both traditions, there are those who are less prepared to compromise. In particular, there are a significant group of MPs among the social democrats that believe a civil war might be to their advantage. They reason that the quicker it becomes clear that the current leadership are failing in the polls, the sooner party members will see the folly of their previous decision and they can win back the leadership. A civil war can hasten that day. Perhaps they might even be able to stage a coup before then.

A coup would surely split the party. Given the leadership election result, those on the right would lose in any battle to control the party. If that happened, the lessons of the past (which this group draw freely upon when arguing that the current situation is doomed to fail at the polls) suggest that a split would be disastrous in the short term, and those that split to the right would eventually fail. However attempting to openly sabotage the current leadership is also in danger of being counterproductive, as it allows the leadership to use this as an excellent excuse for any failure at the polls. Party members will be rightly appalled that at a time when the mistakes of the current government were becoming increasing apparent others seemed more concerned with overturning their leadership vote.

I think here Colin Talbot is wrong when he writes
History may well judge that [social democrats] missed their opportunity to seize their party back when they had the chance and by the time they did try it was too late.
The chances of replacing Corbyn before the election and still winning it appear incredibly slim.  A successor to Corbyn has to emerge who can both appear to share the spirit and strategy that led Corbyn to victory, but at the same time is capable of uniting the parliamentary party behind them. They need to have time to establish a personality and media acumen that can enable them to get away with standing against a Labour leader and still win over enough of his original supporters to win a leadership contest. All this, and still have time to unite the party enough to win the next election.

The harsh reality, which some Labour MPs seem unable to accept, is that if their pessimism about Corbyn's chances in the polls is correct, the next election is almost certainly lost. But Talbot implies an urgency beyond this: that somehow as time goes on the position of the social democrats will become too weak. This I just do not see. The programme that will be hammered out between the leadership and its MPs over the next year or so will be pretty social democratic. There is little in John McDonnell's latest speech that is socialist rather than social democratic. For the great majority of Labour MPs, their best strategy for winning back the party is to be patient and let Corbyn fail on his own terms without their help.


37 comments:

  1. I do like invocations of 'History', the pathetic fallacy of wanting one's own way.

    Those of us watching a Labour Party over the last five years not knowing what the fiscal multiplier is, not wanting to go after repetitiously those in the banking community who have funded the Tories in 2010 and 2015 to cover their egregious mistakes, and who been craven in the face of Tories effectively saying the welfare state created the 2008 crisis do not want Labour Party civil war.

    At the moment, the House of Lords looks better than the Commons, which is not how things should be at all.

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  2. "The latest fracas was about bombing Syria. Both seem to have more to do with an agenda set by the Conservatives and the media rather than any fundamental divide on the left."

    This is profoundly wrong.

    There has always been a deep divide within the left between the pacifist left, which opposes military intervention abroad, and the left which favours military means to make the world better. Within Labour pre-war it was reflected in the divide between Bevin and Lansbury. Post war the Bevin strain of Labour has been the dominant one.

    In more modern times we have had Blair opposed by the Stop the War Coalition. Today Labour is led, for the first time in many decades, by someone outside the tradition of Bevin: Jeremy Corbyn the chair of the Stop the War (sic) coalition.

    To say that the divide about whether to back military intervention against Daesh doesn't reflect a (deep, profound and loingstanding) divide on the left is astonishing. I am afraid it points to your not knowing very much about the politics and background of Corbyn and McDonnell.

    "perhaps the majority of the (far more numerous) social democratic tradition are trying to work with the socialist leadership to formulate a policy platform that both sides can live with"

    I very much doubt it. The majority know full well that the Corbyn strategy is utterly doomed. We have the evidence before us on a daily basis. No doubt you'll want to blame the media for this. Again, this is deeply wrong. See the FT

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/b9a2306e-8f84-11e5-a549-b89a1dfede9b.html#axzz3sEQulRJz

    It was Corbyn who

    -expressed doubts about shooting to kill terrorists
    -refused to condemn Stop the Wars attribution of blame for the Paris atrocities to western foreign police
    -responded to the killing of 'Jihadi John' by doubting its illegality
    -appointed Ken Livingstone to chair the defence review

    None of this is the media's fault.

    The vast majority of the PLP don't want Corbyn, and certainly don't want McDonnell (who is personally unpopular, not just politically isolated). but they know that the membership would just return Corbyn if there were an election now. So, keep your heads down, wait for it to fail (as all the evidence indicates it will).

    The problem with this strategy is, as Talbot points out, the long term damage to Labour long term. Day after day, week after week, Labour is losing for good the center gorund voters it will need, if not in 2020 then in 2025. However bad things get, Labour will never get a vote much lower than the 28% in 1983, but the softer center is being driven away permanently.

    As for McDonnell's centerist speech, it does of course make a striking contrast with the class war, smash the capitalist system, nationalise the banks, end Bank of England independence, squeeze the rich stuff he was coming out with before he became shadow Chancellor.

    Has Mr McDonnell gone through a startling Damascene conversion, urged on perhaps by his panel of economic luminaries, so that he now sees the merits of economic orthodoxy?

    Of course not. For Corbyn and McDonnell the entire game is to transform the Labour party. This will be done through the usual Bennite route of greater democracy (ie giving the members control over policy and not the PLP). What the policies are here and now doesn't matter very mcuh.

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/nov/20/jeremy-corbyn-to-give-greater-decision-making-powers-to-labour-grassroots

    That is why all the controversy now within the party has moved on to foreign affairs. Economic policy can be changed in a second. Bombing Da'esh in Syria cannot be undone. That is why Corbyn and McDonnell are able to put to one side their longstanding economic policy views, when they cannot do the same with foreign issues.

    the Talbot piece is very good indeed, and I am glad to see you highlight it.

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    1. @SH: great post. A couple of questions:

      IT looks to me like the PLP is trying to make Corbyn's life so miserable that he chooses to go of his own accord. He's never had to deal with people he doesn't agree with before, and having to manage a mutinous party must be exhausting. Given his popularity among Labour's (new) membership I think this is the only feasible way that moderates can defenestrate him. Would you agree?

      Second, do you think that there's a possibility (even if small) that UKIP overtake Labour as the principal party of opposition if Corbyn sticks it out? I think that this is unlikely, as it requires UKIP sort themselves out, and Labour to remain in the grip of the hard left for at least two elections, but it is something that I am starting to worry about.

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    2. The real division in the Labour Party has not been between pacifism and belligerence but between socialism in one country and European social democracy. Lansbury's pacfism was part of a wider internationalist strain during the interwar years that actively pursued multilateral solutions, notably through the League of Nations. In other words, "pacifism" was associated with social democracy and gradualism (it's worth remembering that Lansbury's greatest modern admirer is John Cruddas, who considers him to be in the tradition of Blue Labour).

      This affinity flipped after WW2 as multilateralism (in the form of NATO) became associated with a more belligerent policy, including a revival of liberal interventionism. The socialist left responded by adopting unilateralism with a strong dose of British exceptionalism (e.g. Tony Benn eulogising Diggers and Levellers). The attraction of unilateral nuclear disarmament for many socialists was the unilateralism, not the disarmament (remember that Michael Foot, despite being a supporter of CND, was a vocal advocate of war with Argentina).

      The core criticism of Tony Blair was not that he went to war in Iraq but that he did so as an American sidekick. His twisting of the evidence of WMD was an affront to sovereignty - i.e. our ability to unilaterally decide what was in the country's best interests. Recall that his sole unilateral intervention, in Sierra Leone, did not generate significant criticism, either on the left or elsewhere.

      The position that Corbyn is now advancing is unilateral, but it would be simplistic to equate this with pacifism, whatever his personal preferences. Saying "we shouldn't automatically shoot" doesn't mean we won't shoot, merely that we reserve the right to decide for ourselves when and if we shoot. What Laura Kuennsberg of the BBC was asking him to do was give up his power to decide - to cede this control to others. He may not have handled the exchange adroitly, but his instinct to resist was right.

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    3. Blenheim

      1) I don't think there is any prospect of Corbyn quitting. His agenda is to change the Labour party. To give up would be to betray 40 years of political life, and all his (long beleaguered) colleagues on the far left. McDonnell and Corbyn have been waiting all their lives for this opportunity. They won't give in.

      Lots on the soft left, horrified by what has happened, keep on saying he will go. I think that is to misunderstand the man.

      2) No, I don't think Ukip will replace Labour, although I do think it will do it even greater damage in the north of Englland. (It is really lucky that Oldham West is almost unwinnable for Ukip because of the profile of the constituency).

      If you want me to tell you a plausible story about how the UK left returns to power, I can't at the moment. Something will turn up eventually, it always does,

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    4. SH: The fracas is about whether to extend bombing into Syria, which many Conservatives agree is just pointless gesture politics. Of course this issue is a red flag to the bulls on either side that want to relate it to real divisions of substance, which I am sure Cameron appreciates, but the issue itself does not go to the heart of divisions between social democracy and socialism.

      Other than that, you do not appear to be saying anything that contradicts what I say. You also avoid the issue I address which is whether it is good tactics to conduct and open civil war to hasten Corbyn's demise, which Talbot implies might be necessary.

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    5. 1. I don't think it is 'pointless gesture politics'.

      (i) destroying Da'esh targets is a good thing in itself

      and

      (ii) it is important (and not just a gesture) that the UK shows solidarity with France, the US and others who oppose Da'esh.

      I would agree that bombing is not enough, and that some kind of plan is needed to remove Da'esh. That will have to employ military means as well.

      I do understand the arguments against, and don't think this is an easy question to answer.

      2. Nor do I agree "many" Conservatives agree with you. In the vote to bomb Assad there were 30 Tory rebels. But bombing Assad was not lawful under international law, bombing Da'esh is.

      https://spinninghugo.wordpress.com/2015/09/10/drone-strikes-in-syria/



      3. Nor do I think pacifism is synonymous with socialism. Perfectly possible to be a pacifist social democrat (or a war mongering socialist),.

      4. I am not sure you read to the end of what I wrote. I agree with Talbot. The reason is that there won't be a party left if this carries on much longer. they need to act soon. There is a frighteningly short window available to the PLP to remove Corbyn where both

      i. Corbyn has been shown to fail and the membership accept his replacement

      and

      ii. Damage to the party from his leadership is not irrevocable.

      I understand why MPs are choosing to keep their heads down and wait for Corbyn to fail. It might be that they get lucky and Oldham west is so disastrous that it provides the opportunity to get rid of him. I don't think that likely though. It may be that there is no window at all.

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    6. From (3) it is clear that you misread what I meant when I talked about fundamental divide. The article was about the divide of social democracy and socialism, as was Talbot's post. Sure there are other divides, and whether the divide that exists on Trident in particular can be overcome is an important issue, but that was not what I intended to talk about.

      On (4), given that view, do you want to engage with the arguments about feasibility that I make. Do you really think that the Labour electorate will get rid of a leader they elected just a year before?

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    7. I am just back from Jordan where I had long discussions with experts on Syria, so here are a few informed comments

      (i) destroying Da'esh targets is a good thing in itself

      It is not as easy as you might think to identify Da'esh targets, so very often innocents are killed or maimed and their houses destroyed by airstrikes. If the people did not already hate the West for our past actions (many do), they will after that has happened.

      (ii) it is important (and not just a gesture) that the UK shows solidarity with France, the US and others who oppose Da'esh.

      The UK has already shown solidarity. It has said so in so many words and is bombing Da'esh in Iraq, so is already in line for blowback by Da'esh if they can get themselves organised to deliver.

      Syria is now hell on earth,with ten million forced from their homes,mostly by the bombing, with people starving to death, babies freezing to death in the cold night air. It is already being bombed by twelve countries. It is far worse than people are being told. What is needed is not extra countries joining in the bombing but deescalation of the violence.

      Yes some of Da'esh's actions are dreadful, but, seen from the Middle East, the West look to be bad people also, as much because of past as current actions. We have very little realisation that we too are part of the problem.

      If you misread this and think I am insufficiently upset about Paris, know that I have French family (who thankfully are OK) so know how distressing recent events have been.

      But we need wisdom in finding the way forward and that has been sadly lacking in Western policy in the ME, for decades.

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    8. Jeremy Corbyn stated to the Labour Party NEC: “Of course I support the use of whatever proportionate and strictly necessary force is required to save life in response to attacks of the kind we saw in Paris.” You should acknowledge that. But he is right to warn of the risks in a general shoot-to-kill policy. Such a policy has nothing to do with an armed response to an incident such as Bataclan. The police already have authority to deal with such a case and nobody is proposing that should be removed.

      'Shoot-to-kill' is a deliberate policy to kill out of choice when other options are available. We know that can go wrong, as it did for Jean Charles de Menezes. We are still working through the consequences of excessive force on Bloody Sunday. Not only were 14 civilians killed but the Provisional IRA gained a huge surge in recruitment and the prospects of peace were put back by 20 years. Think through the risks to anti-terrorist policy of an incident in which some young Muslims were wrongly killed.

      Perhaps even worse, 'shoot-to-kill' implies intentionally hunting down and killing those alleged to be terrorists. The key word here is 'alleged'. No proof, no judicial process. Instead, it's seen as good enough that – to quote your own article – “there was said to be evidence”. Do we really want to live in a country in which citizens can be assassinated on the say-so of the Prime Minister? Or do we still believe in the rule of law?

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    9. @SH

      Thanks. Given you think he won't quit, do you think there's a prospect of the PLP removing him? My understanding is that he'd go onto the ballot automatically if he was challenged. In that scenario, it seems likely that he'd win any subsequent leadership election given the results of two months (!) ago. Or do you think losing a couple of by-elections and (a lot) of councillors will convince the members to vote for a challenger?

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    10. "Do you really think that the Labour electorate will get rid of a leader they elected just a year before?"

      We don't know yet. Wait first until 3 December, and then 5 May next year.

      By then it will be clear whether Corbyn's proposed strategy of winning back Scotland, appealing to non-voters, fighting off Ukip, and putting out a strong anti-austerity message can possibly work.

      Maybe the daily disasters will come to an end. Maybe Seumas Milne, George Galloway's best friend, will discover hitherto hidden talents as the Head of Policy and Communications. Maybe you are right and if we just explain macro-economics loudly enough people will stop voting for the Tories.

      Maybe.

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    11. William C: thanks for adding some wisdom. It is sad when sensible people say we must drop more bombs to show solidarity.

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  3. If people want to use 'social democracy' to refer to whatever the centre and Right of the Labour Party are advocating at any given time, and 'socialism' to refer to whatever the Left of the party is advocating, I guess I can't stop them. I'm also mindful of A.J.P. Taylor's reply to a round-robin inquiry in the early 80s about whether the Labour Party or the SDP better represented 'social democracy'; he said that as far as he was concerned the Social Democratic Party was the party led by Lenin.

    But if we're going to use words at all consistently socialism surely has to refer to the common ownership, mediated through the state if necessary, of the means of production, distribution and exchange, in which case John McDonnell falls some way short. As for social democracy, the best definition I know derives from Tawney, who (as I understand it) used it to refer to a system in which public provision of essential services takes precedence over everything else: the state assures the universal provision of healthcare, social security and education, and *then* we talk about what 'the economy' needs. In which case the Labour Party is currently being led by a social democrat for the first time in 30 years. You'd think the 'social democrats' would be pleased.

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  4. The social democrats (old right) and socialist reformists (soft left) are for the most part either making the best of it or holding their peace. The really vocal malcontents are the ones who barely even rise to the level of social democracy, if at all (the Blairite rump). It should be remembered that the later part of the Blairite project was severely criticised by many of the big names of the old social democratic wing of the party.

    Roy Hattersley:

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2001/jun/24/labour2001to2005.news

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/aug/24/old-labour-better-new-britain-roy-hattersley-tony-blair

    The late Denis Healey:

    http://www.theguardian.com/business/2006/dec/03/past.interviews

    "Unlike the next Labour chancellor [Gordon Brown], 'I never wanted to be leader of the party...'. Then came what was for me a remarkable admission: '...though now I wish I had been. And I could have been if I had wanted. At the time I said I would prefer to do anything rather than be leader.'

    What had changed? 'In fact the prime minister can do anything if he wants to, as Tony Blair has shown.'

    Then came the rub. 'Unfortunately it was nearly all wrong: the Iraq war, foundation hospitals, university top-up fees - and now cash for peerages.'

    Were there no saving graces? 'He did quite well in his first year. Since the invasion of Iraq everything he's done has been wrong. And, almost certainly, he agreed at Granita [the restaurant where he and Gordon Brown are believed to have struck a deal] to go after two years [of the second term]. But he's still hanging on, and no one can be certain he'll go. Yet the sooner he goes the better.'"

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/features/3633888/I-never-fought-hard-enough-to-be-PM-says-Denis-Healey.html

    "Healey is energised by the arrival of Gordon Brown. Blair's famed skills as a communicator cut no ice with him. "He has enormous personal charm but I wouldn't call him a communicator. He's a bullshitter, and very good at it. Almost everything he did after 2002 has been a disaster. He has left Brown all the problems to sort out.""

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/denis-healey-tony-is-making-more-and-more-mistakes-6106126.html

    His adviser Richard Heller:

    http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/debate/columnists/richard-heller-the-battle-we-won-and-the-future-we-lost-1-3800752

    Shirley Williams:

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2006/jul/04/comment.policy

    David Owen has basically called him mentally ill:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/features/3636287/David-Owen-Tony-Blair-and-John-F-Kennedy-may-have-been-power-crazy.html

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2006/jul/04/comment.policy

    I disagree that Corbyn can't be replaced before the election. I think there's a significant chance he can be persuaded to step aside in a consensual way, but it would have to be after a respectable period of time perhaps a year or two. And his successor would have to command the support of the party membership, PLP and take that message to the country. The best case scenario is that he steps aside with dignity on whatever pretext and makes way for a soft left successor. He'd be foolish not to be devising an exit strategy and the bulk of the PLP would be foolish not to be discreetly formulating a succession plan. It's "the 4.5%", of hangovers from the Blair era, that are pursuing a strategy of revolutionary destruction because they recognise their weakening grip on the party, comprehensive defeat in the leadership election and see the only way back for themselves as either for Corbyn to go down in a ball of flames or to mount a coup as suggested by John McTernan:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/Jeremy_Corbyn/11931162/How-Labour-can-get-rid-of-Jeremy-Corbyn-and-John-McDonnell-in-one-easy-step.html

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    1. Agreed: the real problem is the Blairites, who are so far right that they don't even qualify as Whigs; they're "smart Tories", basically, in the tradition of Disraeli, rather than ultra-Tories. And they really, really don't belong in the Labour Party. They're very anti-democratic and they're willing to smash everything to prevent anyone who isn't in their club from getting control again!

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  5. "But is there currently a civil war in the Labour party between social democracy and reformist socialism? ... The latest fracas was about bombing Syria. Both seem to have more to do with an agenda set by the Conservatives and the media rather than any fundamental divide on the left."

    Do you really think that the need to respond to events in Syria has been manufactured by the Conservatives and "the media"?

    Either way, do you really think that Corbyn and the PLP can come to an accommodation on this, or Trident, or the appropriate response to terrorism (e.g. "shoot to kill" in the context of a Paris-style attack, the drone strike on Emwazi)? It seems that most of the PLP are rather closer to Mr Cameron than Mr Corbyn on these issues. If that's not a fundamental divide on the left, I don't know what would be.

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  6. It is quite staggering that for some in the party it almost appears as if losing is considered preferable to winning for the 'wrong' reasons.

    Particularly galling as I keep seeing calls from the right of the party (well, Tristram Hunt) for them to come up with ideas and put them forward, but despite months of this I'm still yet to see any.

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  7. What business is this of macroeconomics?

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  8. Wait, is this describing the *right* wing of the Labour party as social democrats? I don't think you can really be a social democrat if you embrace austerity. They're pretty opposite.

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  9. "The chances of replacing Corbyn before the election and still winning it appear incredibly slim. A successor to Corbyn has to emerge who can both appear to share the spirit and strategy that led Corbyn to victory, but at the same time is capable of uniting the parliamentary party behind them."

    Cameron is going to be replaced. Corbyn to call a snap election at the same time?

    I think Corbyn has no intention of standing in 2020. He'll be 71.

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    1. You see this a lot. I think it is desperate over-optimism from people who know this is all a terrible error, but for whom loyalty to the party trumps their reason.

      Of course Corbyn intends to stay. To do otherwise would be to betray 40+ years of political life, and all the far left allies he has around him.

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  10. My perspective is American. (I know...) It interesting that Bernie Sanders is doing well as a self-described socialist as anyone since Eugene Debs. But it does seem like "socialist" has been toned down. He's just advocating single payer health care, free public (government funded) universities, and a crack down on the financial sector. They all seem social democratic to me. And more taxes on the rich, basically identical to Corbynomics. (There was a favorable story on People's QE at Sanders' website.)

    To me this is all basic Social Democracy. Increasing living standards and financial security for the majority. We saw this in the post-war years. It's doable. Children do better than their parents. Poverty reduction. Increased literacy. Good stuff.

    Socialism to me is a little more radical even though the French Socialists like Mitterand weren't that radical. I envision it as a more ambitious confrontation with the prerogatives of capital and big money. Public ownership of utilities and public banking. Really high taxes and capital controls. Publicly financed elections. More social democracy than what we see in the Scandinavian countries.

    But given the shift to the right over the past 40 years, Sanders's and Corbyn's "socialism" does seem kind of radical. It's a turn in the socialist direction.

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    1. I do not know why Bernie Sanders calls himself a socialist; he is not; he is merely a social democrat.

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    2. Bernie Sanders is a social democrat and not a socialist. Mitterand was a soft core socialist who recommended public ownership of some of the private sector. A true socialist would like the state to own the means of production.

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    3. Bernie Sanders calls himself a "Democratic Socialist". How different is that from a Social Democrat anyway?

      Nobody has ever given a proper definition of what "socialism" means, not in 200 years, so anyone can call themselves socialist. Ownership of the means of production is *communist*, not socialist specifically.

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  11. @Spinning Hugo

    The whole "shoot to kill" controversy is manifestly a total canard. Everyone knows that the phrase was, until earlier this week, used to refer to:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoot-to-kill_policy_in_Northern_Ireland

    and related incidents, like the death of Jean-Charles Menezes, or all the random killings of black Americans that have inspired the blacklivesmatter campaign.

    People are pretending otherwise out of sheer dishonesty.

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    1. "I can't speak for Jeremy."


      http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/nov/17/hilary-benn-jeremy-corbyn-shoot-to-kill

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    2. The Guardian article you give a link to does nothing to support your position. It makes clear that Corbyn accepts that there are situations in which it is right for the police to shoot terrorists dead. What he opposes is the policy of "shoot to kill" which is a policy under which the security services set out to kill suspected terrorists even when it would be possible to arrest them. It is, moreover, perfectly reasonable to question the legality of the assassination of "Jihadi John". What is the legal basis for assassinating someone in a foreign country with which we are not at war? To point out that there appears to be none does not entail the absurd proposition that we could somehow arrest him while the so-called Islamic State remains in existence.

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  12. «The main debating point in the election was austerity, where the dividing line was between those prepared to follow the economics and those that thought doing so was electoral suicide.»

    That's not how I read the labour leadership election debate or the national election one either: the dominant divide was "aspiration" by southern voters, that is whether to deliver bigger house prices, which is what "aspiration" actually means.

    www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/lord-mandelson-tells-ed-miliband-to-stop-bashing-the-rich-9911400.html
    «Ed Miliband should abandon his “them versus us” strategy pitching the poor against the rich, so he can extend Labour’s appeal beyond the party’s core vote, Lord Mandelson has said.
    The former Cabinet minister voiced in public the private fears among Blairites that Mr Miliband’s criticism of the rich and big business risks alienating “aspirational” middle class voters.»


    BTW J Corbyn is a very mild social democrat, german-style; his main opponents are "wet tories" at best, as P Mandelson remarked, and indeed things have changed very little from this usual quote from Lance Price, 1999-10-19:

    «Philip Gould analysed our problem very clearly. We don’t know what we are. Gordon wants us to be a radical progressive, movement, but wants us to keep our heads down on Europe. Peter [Mandelson] thinks that we are a quasi-Conservative Party but that we should stick our necks out on Europe. Philip didn’t say this, but I think TB either can’t make up his mind or wants to be both at the same time.»

    The main opposition to Corbyn does not care about austerity, but about delivering bungs to "aspirational" voters in competition with the Conservatives:

    «Flint, the shadow energy secretary, also holds a position as the party’s champion for the south-east. She writes: “We have to win votes from the Tories as well as from the Liberal Democrats. The collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote alone will not be enough to win in 2015. We have to continue to focus on those voters who supported Labour in 1997 but voted Conservative in 2010.”
    She adds: “We went into the last general election promising a ‘future fair for all’, but too often, when we thought we were talking about fairness, we were actually talking about need.” She claims that for many swing voters in the south-east “fairness is as much about exchange – taking out once you have put in – as it is about need. They want ‘fairness for my family as well.’»

    And on Philip Gould:

    «He sometimes delivered stark warnings rather than carefully balanced appraisals. And no matter how dire his forebodings, he always believed the situation was retrievable, so long as Labour showed itself to be in touch with the concerns of ordinary families.
    His critics, and he had many, believed his strategy amounted to little more than telling the voters what they wanted to hear. Some questioned how much he knew or cared about the concerns of Labour’s traditional voters, rather than the precious “switchers” who could swing elections.»

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  13. In the immortal words of James Carville, "it's the economy stupid". It always has been about the economy. When Miliband and Balls allowed the Tories to sieze hold of the Economic narrative and establish a Deficit fetishism via a policy of Austerity they set in train their own demise and that of the Labour right who were correctly perceived by the membership as "Tory lite".
    It is good to see that the new Labour leadership are consulting professionals such as the good professor rather than the usual City economists who pedal neo liberal mythology.

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  14. The Labour Party lacks a touchstone and will writhe in policy debates until it does which may be never. Green - sustainability, Conservative - inequality, SNP - Scotland first. As a result it lacks independent purpose, has not adapted to economic, social and technological change and has been dragged into shadowing Conservative policies. It has hope that Conservative Governments will deplete public services until the electorate say enough is enough.

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  15. I thought Corbyn would be quietly impressive when he came to leadership of Labour, but he is failing as badly as everyone thought. He is no leader. John McDonnell is also making a fool of himself.

    It's a shame Labour doesn't have somebody with the stature of John Smith around.

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    1. Isn't it a bit premature to make these judgments? Most of the supposed failues of Corbyn and McDonnell arise from misrepresentations of what they have said in the media.

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  16. The simple answer to any question about bombing Syria is "Libya".

    @SH "destroying Da'esh targets is a good thing in itself"

    That would only be correct if you accept the military/media myth about "surgical strikes" (c.f. Afghanistan).

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  17. Is there a danger that demand raising fiscal stimulus in the UK be like a national climate change policy - fairly useless unless most other countries do it too?

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    1. Why? Because consumers' predliction for purchasing imported goods means that the benefits of stimulus will be largely felt elsewhere, and may even be so diffuse as to be insignificant? I've wondered about this. Even in a globalised economy, though, the effects of stimulus will surely still be largely local. Even imported goods sustain a domestic retail operation.

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