Winner of the New Statesman SPERI Prize in Political Economy 2016

Monday, 1 August 2016

What Owen Smith needs to do

The betting odds suggest Jeremy Corbyn is a clear favourite to beat Owen Smith, even if those are based on thin information. But if comments on my last two posts, and personal conversations, are anything to go by Corbyn will be very hard to beat. People are always reluctant to hear that their preferred strategy is not working. After all it happened to Labour MPs when they believed they had to triangulate to the right to win elections, even after the 2015 defeat. Now it is happening to Labour party members who still believe they can create a mass social democratic party without the support of Labour MPs. Just as hope will not win out against reality for Labour under Corbyn after the no confidence vote, nor will it do so for Owen Smith’s campaign if he does not address the concerns of Labour members. [1]

The first thing Owen Smith can do to change this is to acknowledge Corbyn’s greatest achievement: building an enthusiastic activist base for the party. This achievement was only possible because of Labour’s previous failure to do so. To read some you would think that Corbyn’s support is largely made up of ex Trots or SWP members, but this is nonsense. It is similar to the support that the socialist Bernie Sanders received, and the rise of new left movements elsewhere. It is the activist base that Labour desperately needs to help counteract the influence of the media.

One very real reason why this base does not want to let Corbyn go is their fear that without him they will lose all influence. Corbyn’s nomination in 2015 was an act of generosity by some MPs, and members fear with justification that this will not be repeated. As a result, they believe any prospective candidate from the left will never be on the ballot. When I wrote earlier that the left within Labour would be in a better position after a poor general election loss in 2020 if that loss occurred under Smith rather than Corbyn, this point was quite justifiably made. Owen Smith could counter this fear by pledging to lower the number of MPs required to nominate a candidate for leader, or by some equivalent means to ensure that members can always vote for a candidate from the left.

Many of those opposed to Corbyn will be horrified at this suggestion, which is precisely why it would be a strong move for Smith to make. My impression is that most Corbyn supporters regard all the 172 MPs as essentially tainted by the antics of the original anti-Corbynistas. In that sense, my warning that the tactics of this group of overtly anti-Corbyn MPs would completely backfire has proved correct. Many members also see all those MPs as deeply sold on New Labour triangulation, and are reluctant to believe that only a year after the 2015 defeat and Corbyn’s victory, and because of recent events, that election strategy has become history. Smith should disown this election strategy explicitly, but by making it easier for a Corbyn successor to become leader again Smith will effectively be saying to members that they can always be in a position to prevent any future backsliding. If Smith wants Labour members to trust him, he has to show that he also trusts them in the future.

The other area where Smith needs to clarify his views is on immigration. At the moment he seems to be living in the same land as some leading Brexit campaigners: saying we need to stay in the EU single market but also that immigration in some areas is too high (although he has also condemned Conservative type controls). There is a real debate on whether Labour needs to advocate controls on unskilled migration to preserve its working class vote (see my short dialog with Martin Wolf here). As I suspect most Labour party members care a lot more about staying in the single market than they do about controlling immigration, it is important for Smith to signal where his priorities lie.

Smith has already outlined a series of measures on economic policy. There is a lot to discuss and a lot to like here, and I suspect it is not very different from what policy might have been under a Corbyn leadership. Which suggests an obvious move, which is for him to say that he would offer John McDonnell to continue as Shadow Chancellor. (See his newsnight comments on any offer to Corbyn.) If that position has already been promised to Angela Eagle in exchange for her stepping aside, then some equivalent offer should be made.

There is a common theme to the first and last points. To defeat the Conservatives, Labour needs to be a broad church. It has to have a strong, effective and largely united set of MPs, but also a vigorous activist base. (Labour membership rose substantially around 1997.) It needs to develop policies that can appeal to both left and right in the party, which has to mean both left and right being involved in policymaking. Smith needs to convince party members that he believes in that and can implement that to have chance of winning in September.


[1] Just to be clear, I think Labour members should vote for Smith whether he takes up these suggestions or not, because under Corbyn after the no confidence vote Labour are heading for at best a disastrous defeat in 2020 and at worst a split party.

106 comments:

  1. Add to that a compelling vision on the broader constitutional issues and where next for the devolved assemblies (and whether there is a case for more federalism, e.g. regional assemblies with real power), because it's hard to see how Labour could ever win a majority again in the HoC without some MPs in Scotland. This would also address the crisis of English identity, as distinct from Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish identity.

    I hear nothing in this vein from Corbyn, so Smith has the chance to differentiate himself too (helpful perhaps that he is Welsh?).

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  2. I must say I'm enjoying how definitive you are, Simon. Let us wait and see.

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  3. 'Corbyn's nomination in 2015 was an act of generosity' - really? - surely it was a move by the labour right to split the left vote, a move that backfired, just like every other strategem they have tried. The real question is not how is labour to win without the PLP, but how is the PLP to win without any real base at all. Smith cannot square that circle until the Overton window shifts further left, at which point the whole issue is academic.

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    1. Who would the other left candidate be, since the other three went along with austerity? There was no way of splitting the anti-austerity vote and it was said they nominated him to broaden the debate. Let's take them at their word.

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    2. The Labour leadership is a preference vote. It can't be split in that way.

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  4. Much as I admire your optimism, Simon, I fear it is not within Smith's gift or outlook to carry through your perfectly sensible suggestions.
    What we fear, more, and what you must acknowledge, given the machinations of the NEC, is that the new members will be purged: Labour don't think they need us and have the Blair years as evidence for such a position. The Progress* wing of the party has it's own source of finance, it's own ideology and it's own brand: why would it kowtow to those it holds in contempt?

    *Pfizer through Smith donated £53,000 to Progress. Max Moseley has recently sponsored Tom Watson to the tune of £200,000. PwC and the big four have sponsored Smith, Jarvis, Umunna et al.

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  5. It matters little what Owen Smith does at this point. He has already lost. The behaviour of a lot of Labour's MPs to get us to this point has been terrible. Few people will reward this behaviour with a vote for Smith, regardless of what they think of Corbyn.

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    1. Quite. And it is disingenuous to assign any split to Corbyn, McDonnell or the members. If there is to be a split (and I don't think there will be - MP's value the Labour brand and their careers) it will be as a result of years of Progress entryism and the appalling behaviour of so many MP's, not Corbyn or his supporters.

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    2. So you will punish MPs by voting for Corbyn and condemn Labour to years in the wilderness. And if the left splits you will say they started it. And to all those who could have been helped by a united Labour party but will not be because of your vote you can say 'but that would have been help from a party that was ideological compromised'. And for all that you will be condemned to the decades of obscurity that the left enjoyed after the 1980s. Its your choice.

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  6. Much of what you say is correct but Smith voting record is appalling & seems more willing to split the party than unite it!i also think if Smith wins the party will lose hundreds of thousands of members and votes making them unelectable anyway!
    The damage is done and neither can unite the party but maybe Corbyn has the best chance of uniting the nation and forcing May to move the Conservatives to the left and Corbyn being leader is the best chance of that happening! unless they do that the Tories will find that the angst against what is happening isn't going to go away,and boundary changes or not,more and more are becoming disillusioned with what is happening and will demand change!

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    1. Intrigued by your comment about Smith's voting record, I went and checked it at https://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/24797/owen_smith/pontypridd/votes

      It seems pretty ok to me. What precisely were you referring to as "appalling" in this?

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    2. his voting record supporting a system that is protectionist is amazing if you want me to put it another way,very poor for free markets,no!one can claim to be a true free marketeer and not want strong unions to counterbalance price fixing particularly of labour!

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  7. Thanks for this. Excellent thinking about the political realities.
    The deep irony for me is always how the PLP rambles on about need to address concerns of electorate and yet can't seem to think through the logic of what that means for how to win the leadership election. I hope this piece can help them do that.

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  8. Sensible points; as I've said before I think Smith has a better than expected chance of winning, albeit I worry he may have blown it by playing to the media gallery for the first few days rather than engaging with the membership (policy announcements should have come first).

    That said having the question be 'do you want the single market, or immigration?' is a dangerous route to start down - particularly in this climate. Anecdotally (and yes, plural is not data etc.) I am aware that a number of Labour members are worried that if Corbyn goes (whatever his faults he is one of the few senior politicians who is willing to unambiguously defend migration) Labour will step back into that terrain of 'we're going to be tougher than the Tories'.

    That I think is key for the membership; it's that sort of triangulating stuff that lost them the 2015 General Election and the leadership election.

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  9. I agree that some conciliation from the right Is necessary..I think it is highly unlikely that either Smith or Corbyn will lead the party into the 2020 election. If Corbin wins he'll be 71 in 2020 - and I reckon that the determination of the right to split the party will mean that he probably won't last 4 years. If Smith wins the big beasts for whom he is the placeholder will begin jostling for position. Smith is a disposable lightweight- which is why he was chosen to run. I reckon Miliband D, Benn Jarvis and Cooper at the very least. And may even be left candidate too.

    But it's been the refusal of negotiation from the very start which is characterised this Parliamrntary Labour Party. I see no reason why they should start now. If they have been prepared to grant any concessions on policy then I think some kind of negotiation may have been possible handing the reins of power over to the next generation and agreeing on some of the anti-austerity policies that you and your colleagues were creating

    But as far as I can see they didn't want to play they consider the Labour Party their property. They see Half a million Engaged and active members are interlopers Who are blocking up their escalator to power.

    They also seem to be the most charmless and unimaginative lot perhaps because the personal qualities that were required to flourish under Tony Blair and Gordon Browninvolve being devious obsequious and unthreatening to those whose blessing they required in order to prosper.

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    1. I've heard this about Smith being deposed by the right many times, but no one ever says how this happens, given that party members vote for the leader.

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    2. The membership can be worn down and persuaded to vote for the 'electable' candidate - a Smith victory, if it happened, would be proof of that. Suppose it's 2018, the election's looming up, Labour's poll ratings are looking worse than ever; say we've lost a by-election we should have won (partly owing to lack of enthusiasm among the membership). A group of women Labour MPs sign a statement critiquing Smith as a misogynist; Yvette Cooper resigns from Smith's Shadow Cabinet and gives a speech denouncing Smith's return to the 'old, failed, tax-and-spend model'; polls suggest that more Tory and UKIP voters would vote for Cooper than for Smith...

      I think it could happen, only too easily. If Cooper won, even by a whisker, it would be taken as a final rejection of the Corbyn period - and we'd be back in the post-Brown swamp, deficit fetishism, very real concerns about immigration and all. The only things that would definitely stop it happening would be Smith standing up to the Right (which he's shown no sign of doing) or Corbyn being re-elected.

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    3. Smith has said that Corbyn should have resigned in the face of Blairite threats to split the party, that Corbyn's refusal to bow to those threats is his reason for challenging. If he's sincere in the policies he's promising (I don't believe he is, but for the sake of argument), those on the right of the PLP won't be any happier with him than with Corbyn. So how is Smith going to resist if, after a year or two, those same Blairites say they'll split if he himself doesn't resign? And then all it needs is for the PLP to unite behind a Blairite to deny the members a vote (assuming the membership isn't down to just Blairites by that point anyway), which seems highly likely to me. Whilst most of the PLP may not be Blairite, they have shown (both under Blair and over the past 9 months) that their comfort zone is a Blairite leadership telling them what to do, that they are cowed into believing that's what they and the party and the country need.

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    4. That would be rather easy i he steps down upon being challenged by whoever,ii a more popular candidate is deemed having a better chance of winning,since that is all there bothered about! making sure a business friendly anti people leader continues too hold office! but bad for business and poor economics in reality!

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    5. Why would he step down? He wants to be leader. Or do you imagine some giant conspiracy going on here?

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    6. Mutiny yes! and i see the real protagonist having seen the timing and manor to have been suicide,but they couldn't back down either,so a sacrificial lamb was offered.
      Mr Wren-Lewis their are things that you obviously don't know,nothing wrong in that,in fact it only adds to your integrity not diminishs it!but it doesn't mean people are imagining conspiracies,but that they know their is much much more behind the actions of some in the plp

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    7. Do you see Smith as leader standing against the coordinated disloyalty, bullying, appeals to sacrifice himself for a supposed greater good, and other tactics that the PLP has inflicted on Corbyn? If they want him to go, he will go.

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  10. I agree with all of this except the footnote. If Smith did:

    1. welcomed the growth in membership (which includes welcoming Momentum)
    2. ensure the economic rethinking would continue by offering McDonnell the Shadow Chancellor post
    3. block any future coup by making some proposal to ensure the Left has a candidate in future leadership elections

    then it would just be a matter of personal style: do you want a committed and honourable politician who genuinely doesn't believe in personal attacks, but doesn't see the need to unite the parliamentary party and wouldn't know the news cycle if it bit him, or would you prefer a well-liked and media-savvy performer whose style is heavy on smear and innuendo and has a nasty sexist streak? (I haven't mentioned Smith's 'style' issues before, because I think the three points above are far more important - but there are issues.)

    However, I don't think any of these things is going to happen - although I'd be glad if they did, and if all three happened I'd genuinely have to consider switching my vote. On the first point, Smith's not from a 'social movement' background; I don't believe he actually has much time for the membership, or for any kind of membership-led approach to party-building and campaigning. Momentum in particular is very strongly associated with Corbyn at the moment, and I genuinely think Smith's instincts will be telling him to shut it down (which would be disastrous).

    As for the second and third points, I believe that there's a significant minority of MPs (and, as I keep saying, an independently-funded and well-connected minority) who see Smith as a stepping-stone to a second challenge, which would be won by one of the rising stars of the centre-Right and make it possible to take Labour back to Progress's comfort zone. If Smith's his own man he'll take them on - and those second and third suggestions (the third especially) would be just the way to do it. But if he doesn't, voting for him would be too much of a risk - because he'd have left himself vulnerable to being undermined and ultimately deposed in his turn. I know there are many MPs who are genuinely on the Left and have only abandoned Corbyn on 'competence' grounds - my own is one of them. But how loyal will they be to an unknown like Smith - particularly if Labour have a couple of bad results, the media start picking at his weak spots (the sexism, the CV-padding, Pfizer), and Cooper or Benn or Umunna or Jarvis starts getting press profiles again?

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  11. You don't seem to get it. It's quite simple. Owen Smith represents a return to business as usual with some concessions but essentially the same New Labour core back in control. Corbyn was elected as a means of killing off New Labour and he stays at least until that has verifiably been achieved. MPs can like it or lump it.

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    1. This. Has he criticised any of the NEC's recent machinations? Have any of you seen the footage of him removing a microphone from one of the few who chose to speak at his poorly attended meeting in Liverpool? He's the TINA candidate.

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    2. So your MPs who you despise so much will lump it off to a new party and condemn Labour to a decade+ in the wilderness. Last time the left were not forgiven for doing this for a generation.

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    3. Again, curious. The right split from the left rather than fight for what they believed in. One can just as easily argue that the right condemned Labour to years in the wilderness.

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    4. Where does this 'despise' business come from? Oh yeah, I forgot I must suddenly have become an irrational hate-filled cultist because I'm backing Corbyn.

      I admit I would probably find it a rather entertaining spectacle if the 50 or so hardcore NuLab types tried to set up a party rather than just getting out of politics. Out in the real world there is no constituency, no appetite and no political or ideological space for an SDP mk II that has anything like the damaging effect on Labour that the Gang of Four had. I don't know where you're getting your political insight from but I'd advise casting the net a bit wider.

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    5. How many times? They won't. They've confirmed as much to George Eaton today. I cannot believe you are falling for such low farce.

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  12. Another wise post, S W-L. How "Left' does Owen Smith have to be to satisfy Corbyn's supporters? His credentials in this seem perfectly fine to me. As someone once said, many of them would not vote for Marx if he were on the ballot. Owen Smith will probably lose - because he is not Jeremy Corbyn. The suggestion by many that the alternative to Jeremy is a return to business as usual/90s Blairist politics shows that many are not aware of how thinking in the PLP has developed over the last year or so. There are a lot of very serious, concerned MPs amongst the !72. They acknowledge Corbyn's contribution, and want to move forward. To continually characterise them all as self-serving and untrustworthy adds nothing to the debate.

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    1. A more emphatic acknowledgement of Corbyn's contribution might help.

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  13. "Add to that a compelling vision on the broader constitutional issues
    I hear nothing in this vein from Corbyn"

    Apart from the voting and constitutional review currently underway you mean?

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  14. This is political naivety at best - the way to win over long-suffering LP members like me is to make promises not matched by empirical evidence, namely, Smith's antecedents like voting records and previous employments and statements?! Stick to economics, mate :)

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  15. ... and you wonder why people are cynical about 'experts'. by seeking to use your economic expertise to advance a half-baked political analysis you degrade your expertise. I will vote for Corbyn purely on the political ground that the PLP must not be allowed to take over the reins of power. economic policy is secondary. there are solutions to a recalcitrant PLP including re-selections.

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  16. If the 172 (or 171 now) really wanted to get a leader other than Corbyn they need to do something to show the NuLabour wing will not benefit at all from Corbyn being replaced. Your suggestion for changing the nomination rules is something, but probably not enough. Can't the NEC change the rules again at any time? Somehow the PLP needs to remove or disassociate themselves from NuLabour or the membership will still view this whole Smith "I'm a more electable radical" thing as some mask that will be shed as soon as possible. Maybe an agreement to deselect certain NuLabour MPs who were parachuted into very safe Labour seats and replace them with people the Corbyn wing finds agreeable? I don't know if that is possible. But it has to be something, and something that can't be easily changed the minute Corbyn is gone.

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  17. Again, good points. But there are many now who think neolibralism is real (which it is), that it has failed (and is pernicious) and who don't want it any more. And then there are those who just act as if they believe this as a result of feeling left behind. The broad church you are reaching for does not provide an alternative.

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  18. "an obvious move, which is for him to say that he would offer John McDonnell to continue as Shadow Chancellor"

    Sometimes I think that perhaps you know something about the internal politics of the Labour party.

    Other times, not so much.

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    1. I appreciate the sometimes. Please describe the 'not so much'.

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    2. The removal of McDonnell from his position as shadow Chancellor is at least as important for the 80% of the PLP who voted no confidence as the removal of Corbyn. McDonnell has been deeply unpopular in the PLP for 20 years in a way that Corbyn is not.

      Keeping McDonnell in post would defeat the entire purpose of the exercise.

      So, "not so much".

      Not that it matters much, as the evidence we have points to a comfortable Corbyn win, and a quite different game being played out. The agenda of Corbyn and McDonnell should be transparently clear from Corbyn's refusal to resign.

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    3. But again you are reacting rather than thinking this through. I know all that, and furthermore that it has been 'uncompromising' McDonnell that has helped ensure Corbyn did not resign. Yet Smith's economics proposals look very like what McDonnell will have ended up with, because McDonnell has been better at compromising on policy than Corbyn.

      For that reason, Smith could live with this Chancellor McDonnell. But if Chancellor McDonnell reverted to uncompromising McDonnell, he can always dismiss him - something the party could do nothing about.

      So it seems like clever politics to me. Furthermore because many on the right like yourself would react the way you did, it would look better still. And I know the offer would impress some Corbyn supporters for these and other reasons.

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    4. Nah. McDonnell is just better at playing the game than Corbyn is: because he is cleverer. He is also more determined.

      Corbyn and McDonnell have little interest in winning in 2020. They want to transform the Labour party. You may not have believed that before the vote of no confidence: it should be blindingly obvious now.

      For that purpose it matters not a damn what the short term fiscal policy stance of the Labour party when interest rates are at the zlb may or may not be. It just doesn't matter for the ends in view. The here and now policy is just irrelevant

      So considering the actual game being played, it makes no sense whatsoever for Smith to offer McDonnell such a post, or for him to accept it if he did.

      And I know it is unpleasant to be told that the work you did on Labour's fiscal policy was and is of no use, but I am afraid it was. The dispute here is not between those who favoured the current fiscal policy stance and that of Ed Balls before the 2015 election. Frankly, you have to examine the detail pretty closely to work out what it is, and even then it only shows up if (implausibly) stuck to over a lengthy timespan. I know there is a (subtle) difference, but I don't think I'd be able to afford to live on it.

      You were used.

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    5. You seem to imagine I'm suggesting this to somehow validate my role on EAC. That thought did not enter my head. Think about the political game here. Smith is going to lose unless he does something quite unexpected: something that might convince some Corbyn voters that he is not a Blairite. He has got nothing to lose.

      As you say, McDonnell would probably refuse so it would be costless, but as I said it is pretty costless even if he does not. Why does no one on the left or right or anywhere in the Labour party know how to be smart?!

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    6. 'Why does no one on the left or right or anywhere in the Labour party know how to be smart?!'

      A very good question, though I suspect McDonnell's smarter than one imagines. Strategic too. Others might not appreciate the long-term goal which is transformation, but it's a once in a generation shot.

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  19. Having read Owen Jones' piece, I remain perplexed. His strategy was a sound one, but I do wonder if you and he aren't underestimating the task at hand. As I've posted previously, this was never going to be an easy project. I know his initials are JC but he isn't the messiah nor is he a naughty boy, he's an unassuming chap cast into the spotlight by his party and the members. He was asked to do a job, a martyr's job at that, and has done remarkably well, despite the brickbats and malevolent hostility of some of his colleagues and the media. Could he have done better? Yes, of course. Can he improve? Sure. If he hasn't turned the polling around by 2018 should he stand down? Yes. But if Owen Smith is the answer, I really do wonder what the question is. Those of us who supported Corbyn in 2015 need to remain steadfast. The historians among us might want to review the hostility Margaret Thatcher faced in her first few years as party leader.

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  20. Bryan Gould's piece is worth reading btw:

    http://www.bryangould.com/putting-labour-together-again/

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    1. I did. It imagines MPs will happily return to supporting someone they do not think is fit to be a leader, let alone a PM. I'm reminded of the joke about 3 people on a desert island trying to open a can of beans. The economist says 'imagine we had a can opener'.

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    2. Well Bryan does have experience of similar scenarios what with him having been a Labour MP in the 80s and 90s.

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    3. Lack of confidence in Corbyn as leader (so far as it is not just a pretext) is, for the vast majority of the PLP, a lack of confidence in his ability to lead the party - given that he is implacably opposed by a powerful and intransigent group within it. If that group is removed, as it will have to be one way or another, the basis for this 'lack of confidence' falls away.

      Corbyn is indeed not 'fit' to be leader of a party that continues to be dominated by the New Labour faction. But as any evolutionary biologist will tell you, when the environment changes, so do the criteria for adjudging fitness.

      The cop plotters having disgraced themselves so throroughly and flagrantly during this process, it will be time after the leadership election to 'put a bit of stick about'. MPs will get back in line, or (in a rather small number of cases) get out.

      New Labour diehards brought this (inevitable) showdown to a head and have gone all in. If, as appears most probable, they lose by a significant margin, they will be totally exposed and the Labour party will at last, after twenty long and very damaging years, be in a position to bury New Labour for good.

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    4. I do not understand. If this New Labour group is so powerful in the PLP, what changes with Corbyn's victory? Why don't they keep trying? In what sense are they exposed? You'll just go on playing this game together until the party is run into the ground.

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    5. This is a very good question. I think the available positions on this one reduce to

      1a There is a powerful and well-connected 'New Labour' group; Corbyn's re-election, expressing the will of the party as a whole, will rout them.
      1b There is a powerful and well-connected 'New Labour' group; Corbyn's re-election will not rout them, and we'll have to go through this awful process again.
      1c There is a powerful and well-connected 'New Labour' group; Owen Smith's election, uniting the party, will make them irrelevant.
      1d There is a powerful and well-connected 'New Labour' group; Owen Smith's election will not make them irrelevant, and we'll have to go through this awful process again, starting from a worse position.

      2a 'New Labour' MPs and their backers are not a significant force; Corbyn's victory will simply demonstrate his indifference to his discontented centre-left colleagues and his unfitness to be a leader.
      2b 'New Labour' MPs and their backers are not a significant force; Smith's victory will give the discontented centre left the leader they deserve.

      Positions 2a and 2b are more or less what you'll get from the New Statesman these days, but I don't think they're significant apart from that; I certainly don't think they're credible. Tim (ISTM) is putting forward 1a and 1d, Simon 1b and 1c. My worry is that 1c is just as optimistic as 1a; the true position may be closer to 1b and 1d. (In which case, we clearly need to vote for 1b - but without illusions.)

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    6. They will keep trying, indeed they've admitted as much, but, as you constantly remind us, they are not the whole of the PLP. If Corbyn wins he and McDonnell have to convince the Sarah Champion's of this world. It will be hard work, but should be possible. If, and I'll admit, it's a big if, they can achieve that (getting Owen Smith back on board in a more strategic role would, for example, be a smart move), they can isolate the Blairites and let the boundary changes do the rest.

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    7. Three problems, any one of which is fatal to this plan.

      1) Corbyn has failed once with this middle group of MPs, because of his inability to do the job. This story is particularly grim

      http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/aug/02/thangam-debbonaire-had-jeremy-corbyn-rung?CMP=share_btn_tw

      but I suspect every MP (and for that matter economic advisor) has similar stories of incompetence. After a time the 'give us time' or 'its because of all these attacks' excuses no longer wash.

      2) Even if they could get this group of MPs back on board, what are voters to make of MPs who vote no confidence in their leader and then 'change their mind' because the membership gave them no choice. It is just not credible.

      3) "and let the boundary changes do the rest". Labour can only win as a broad church, which includes those you call Blairites. If you do not have them as a minority in the tent you will find they erect their own tent.

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    8. Let's leave aside for the moment the appalling behaviour in terms of manufactured smears and their autocratic misuse to suspend debate, individuals and indeed whole local parties - which are already the source of enormous disquiet and resentment among the Labour membership and will certainly not stand up to scrutiny when the aftermath of this frenzy comes to be surveyed in the cold light of day.

      Consider instead this: "You'll just go on playing this game together until the party is run into the ground."

      If this has become clear to you, imagine how clear it is to those such as the Labour membership who have been watching recent events far more closely.

      There are two aspects to it:

      first, that the reality of permanent intra-party war is becoming apparent. It clearly has to end (which is why the bulk of the PLP were so easily prevailed upon to back this attempt to depose the elected leader 9 months into his term of office). It's good that is has come to a head so soon, and it is possible to determine whether we are looking at an unstoppable force in the shape of the establishment backlash, or an immovable object in the shape of the party's democratically expressed will.

      second, though the Mandelson/McTernan crew have been holding out this threat of permanent sabotage and attritional deadlock from day one, they have wisely tried to keep it implicit or ambiguous and to disclaim responsibility. They can't do so any longer.

      Put those two aspects together, and consider whether decent Labour members (from Corbyn down) who want a united and effective party will continue to bend over backwards to be 'inclusive' of the coup plotters. The answer is no.

      So far as what needs to be - and is at last now likely to be - done after the leadership election (assuming Corbyn's election is re-affirmed) Paul Mason has it about right in the section entitled 'Renewing the Parliamentary Labour Party' about halfway down this article: https://medium.com/mosquito-ridge/labour-the-way-ahead-78d49d513a9f#.wz0719nly

      Unless the right keeps a grip on the NEC and manages to further abuse its power by delaying or refusing to issue a reselection timetable, we will see a lot of deselections by local parties before the next GE. And electoral boundary changes should mean de facto deselection in many cases anyway. At this point, having been parachuted into a safe seat becomes a liability rather than a benefit.

      These people, even were they minded to try following through on the threat of spoiler tactics, i.e. standing against the Labour candidate and splitting the left vote, would not succeed. (As this is not an iterated game, it would of course not be rational to bear costs simply to retrospectively validate past threats. But these people have hardly exhibited perfect strategic rationality thus far.)

      There may a handful of MPs who have a significant personal vote, but for most of them that is a narcissistic delusion. Similarly, the idea that a New New Labour party is going to attract Labour voters in any numbers is pure fantasy. Thus in safe Labour seats the threat of spoiler tactics is not only empty but obviously so.

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    9. However, even if we get an effective and actually committed whips team together, we can't afford to wait until the election to get rid of the hardline New Labourites. Some at least will probably end up having to be expelled from the party or where possible persuaded or forced to resign from Parliament.

      The latter means bringing forward the introduction of various unobjectionable measures which will reduce the incentive for New Labour's careerists to continue as MPs.

      Examples would be: greater scrutiny of and restrictions on expenses, including mandatory reporting of criminal fraud (the scandal's concrete effects were after all muted by party machines closing ranks); and introducing heavy restrictions on the ability of Labour MPs to profit from corporate sinecures (or other jobs that create a conflict of interest with Labour's key policies and values) during, or for a considerable period of time after, their period of office. A suitable delay to commencement of such rules might be an idea, giving a self-selecting group of undesirables the chance to pass through the revolving door before it is locked.

      There is also the prospect of some quite far-reaching disciplinary action after the past ten months' antics. There has been a lot of leaking, false-leaking, smearing, fabrication of smears, public vituperation, and so on, which has undoubtedly brought the party into disrepute. The need for some detailed and pretty forensic scrutiny of these actions will now make itself felt in a way it didn't during the necessary and honourable but always doomed attempt to accommodate the New Labour diehards.

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    10. This is veering towards 2b - the "plotters? what plotters?" position. I still think the Right going for Smith in a year or so (1d) is just as big a danger as a second attempt to depose Corbyn (1b); and the party - particularly the party members - would be in a much worse position to combat it. Tristram Hunt and Ben Bradshaw aren't supporting Smith because they've had a sudden conversion to left-wing economic policies.

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    11. 1. Ignore the fact that this has rather exploitatively been hung on a peg labelled 'cancer' and you have some heavily-spun whingeing composed to further the aim of ousting Corbyn. By any objective measure it is of no consequence.

      2. This is known as a 'U-turn' and is one of the most well-practised of all political manoeuvres. Given that this was a private ballot and a binary choice - go along with the vote or not - there should be no problem with peiople changing their mind when the facts - the plotters no longer being in a position to sabotage the leadership - change. They got cold feet but then he showed his mettle by beating the coup. It is just not a big issue in the real world.

      3. They have no tent. They are welcome to take their PPE degrees and their dubious talents off to compete for space in some other tent. The Labour party will be fine without a quasi-conservative wing (as Blissex reminds us Mandelson conceived of the now-failed New Labour experiment).

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    12. 1) I'm afraid I didn't find that story particularly convincing having seen how Lillian Greenwood and others' stories have unravelled under scrutiny. Maybe I've become immune to shrill accounts of his failings and am doing her a disservice, but that's how many of us feel thanks to the frankly maniacal smear campaign waged by the media in cahoots with elements of the PLP.
      You may have been privy to more incidents and confidences than myself, of course. He will need to up his game and get some new people on board, but as previously stated, he's had to learn on the job so MP's and critics will have to put the ADHD which seems to come with the territory (and the media scrutiny) on the back burner for now.

      2) As previously stated voters are unlikely to confronted by that choice and, frankly, I'm not so sure they'll care. 2020 is a lifetime away in modern politics. It's all about creating a powerful narrative and hammering it home. Jeremy Corbyn is 68 years old, I'd be very surprised if he plans to remain in power until 2020. He will, however, want to transform the party and that means taking over the machinery and grooming successors, just as Blair and Brown did.

      3) Well, you will insist that the Blairites are a minority. In that case, let them.
      I'd be very surprised were they to do so: they do like the Labour brand.

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  21. I wonder if there is another piece of the jigsaw: advocacy skills and debate preparation. This is something with which all leaders since Blair have struggled: partly how to speak in public, but primarily how to anticipate and deflate arguments against to Labour policy with humour and authority. Torsten Bell's failure to counter the "Labour broke the economy" argument is at the root of the current problem. (I always imagine leaders preparing for PMQs and TV debates by being interrogated by well-prepared their Labour team posing as Tories. But I fear such activity is only likely on TV dramas.) Whoever wins would do well to develop a long term group within Labour whose sole role is to develop and teach advocacy skills. Maybe headed up by Heidi Alexander who has no problems with authority and clarity - and who really should be a leadership candidate in the future.

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    1. «failure to counter the "Labour broke the economy" argument»

      But that argument is entirely correct: New Labour did break the UK economy, in at least three important different senses:

      * As far as most southern property owning voters are concerned, New Labour made property prices fall a lot in 2008. That for them is the true meaning of "breaking the economy".

      * As far as for northern voters are concerned, New Labour not only caused a massive lasting drop in house prices outside the south-east, but also caused a massive rise in eastern european immigration and house rents in the south-east, making it much harder for northeners to find good jobs in the south east, where the government subsidizes them massively. That for northern (and scottish) voters means "breaking the economy".

      * More substantively, while New Labour (as SimonWL demonstrated) did not break the state budget, thanks to a reasonable fiscal policy, their policies included wild deregulation of finance, pushing ever higher levels of private debt leverage, zooming ever higher house prices as debt collateral; thus New Labour directly made much worse in the UK of the Great Financial Crisis. All countries that followed the "privatized keynesianism" policies that New Labour implemented since 1997 have had particularly severe financial crisises (Ireland, USA, Spain, Latvia, ...).

      As to "breaking the economy" as understood by property owners, look at the usual map:

      http://loveincstatic.blob.core.windows.net/lovemoney/House_prices_real_terms_lovemoney.jpg

      from this article:

      https://www.lovemoney.com/news/53528/property-house-price-value-real-terms-2005-2015-uk-regions

      which has the detailed numbers.

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  22. The stakes are high with at least a decade of Conservative hegemony and the rise of a hard right UKIP as the second biggest party in British politics to look forward to. As for Labour having an activist base I think Owen Jones lamented recently how little the likes of Momentum actually do for the broader party in terms of helping to make it an organisation that is deeply rooted in the communities of this country.
    Ironically for someone who claims to be a socialist, Jeremy Corbyn is one of the most individualistic politicians. He has never shown any loyalty to the Labour party leadership nor made any effort to work with his parliamentary colleagues. Why he should then expect loyalty in return is a little perplexing. No doubt he would reply that he was elected democratically by the members of the Labour party. Except that this was only a subset of those who support and vote for the party and not a very representative one at that. Nonetheless Jeremy Corbyn will probably win again (and continue to win until Theresa May calls a general election).
    Challenging Jeremy Corbyn in leadership elections is clearly not an option since he thrives on preaching to the converted. Instead the parliamentary Labour party should attempt to corral 200 or more members against Corbyn so that his position becomes untenable. It should then head off the UKIP threat by acknowledging that immigration has to be managed properly and that there are problems with cultural integration which need addressing as well as the economic pressures. As mentioned above, the alternative is not a happy one.

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  23. Far be it from me to advise Owen Smith, but you’re missing a big issue. He would also have to endorse, without reservation, Corbyn’s apology for the Iraq war, not just say he thinks it was wrong. This is still a touchstone issue for many in the party. Corbyn’s willingness to follow through on his promise on this confirmed for many of us that he has the critical leadership qualities of integrity, judgement and trust. Better someone without a tie who makes the right decisions than somebody in a shiny suit who gets it wrong on war and peace.

    The tragedy is that Smith is someone who could have helped to pull the party together in the aftermath of Brexit. At that point, he still had enough credibility on the left for Welsh Labour Grassroots (Momentum in Wales) to have invited him to speak to us on 9 July, although we pulled the invitation after the no confidence vote. If he’d backed Corbyn at that time and avoided the leadership temptation, then many members would have listened to his criticisms, but he flunked it and now the trust has gone, whatever he says.

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    1. You would base the future of your party on whether someone apologises for Iraq rather than just saying it was wrong. These are the kind of games the media plays.

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    2. Not a game. Endorsing the apology would draw a line against the Blairites in the party. I'm a little surprised he hasn't done it now he has disposed of Eagle. It tells me he is still more dependent on them than he would like the membership to realise.

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  24. The problem here is while you could rightly consider yourself an expert on economic issues, your views on politics are worth as much or as little as anyone's. Your next post could be about what Chelsea need to do to win the league and it would carry just as much weight. A stray post here and there is fine but if this is the shape of things to come people will stop reading your blog, and rightly so.

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    1. Its pretty easy to just read the straight economics ones by looking at the title. But there is little point in economic research if one side ignores it and the other side just fights itself.

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  25. Why he should then expect loyalty in return is a little perplexing.

    I have to address this argument; I've heard it many times, including once from Jacqui Smith (on Twitter), and always advanced with the confidence of one slamming down a trump card.

    But it dissolves on a moment's inspection. Let's say that loyalty isn't a virtue: we agree that MPs should speak their minds and vote as their consciences tell them, irrespective of what their colleagues, the party leader or the Whips' office is telling them. If that's the case, Corbyn certainly can't demand loyalty from Labour MPs, but neither can any other leader. Moreover, whatever loyalty is, we've established that it isn't a virtue, so the chances are that somebody who isn't constrained by it is more likely to exercise other virtues (principle, intelligence, independence of mind) than those who are. So if loyalty isn't a virtue, Corbyn's a model MP. I don't think this is where the people advancing this argument want to end up.

    So let's start from the other side and assume that loyalty is a virtue: whoever you are, whichever party you're in and whoever your leader is, it's a good thing to follow the party line, follow the route plotted by the leadership and vote Aye when the Whips say to vote Aye. But if this is the case, Corbyn absolutely does have the right to expect loyalty - because he's the leader, and (in the immortal words of Private Eye) er, that's it. If loyalty is a virtue, it's loyalty to the office of the leader, irrespective of who occupies it.

    Loyalty to the leader if you happen to agree with him or her isn't loyalty at all. And the attitude that says "I don't see why I need to be loyal to you" - which is effectively what we're hearing from some MPs - is fit for the playground, not the Palace of Westminster.

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    1. Indeed, but there's a far more concise argument: back benchers aren't bound by collective cabinet responsibility and Corbyn rarely spoke out on domestic issues. He belonged in the long and honourable tradition of conscientious back benchers.

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  26. «The first thing Owen Smith can do to change this is to acknowledge Corbyn’s greatest achievement: building an enthusiastic activist base for the party. This achievement was only possible because of Labour’s previous failure to do so.»

    That is not at all J Corbyn's achievement! It is the achievement of the the prospect of switching from neoliberal right wing to socialdemocratic centrist policy positions.

    As the saying goes in politics "personnel is policy". By voting for J Corbyn and joining the membership the choice has been for the policies of the man, more than the man. The man is not that charismatic :-).

    Similarly and contrarywise for the New Labour "one of ours" people.

    As many other commenters have said, A Eagle or O Smith stand for different policies from those you are pretty sure to get by voting for J Corbyn.

    Even if O Smith has triangulated to the center recently, to broaden his appeal, but party member understand well where he is coming from and where he is likely going to.

    And if he were serious about being a person-replacement for J Corbyn, but with the same economic policies, then he would not last long. But admittedly he has a better chance of lasting though because his foreign policy positions are more aligned with Likud, though, and that may matter.

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  27. «After all it happened to Labour MPs when they believed they had to triangulate to the right to win elections, even after the 2015 defeat.»

    New Labour lost the 2010 election, and then did not regain anything in 2015. Conversely UKIP's appeal in core Labour areas is that on "economics" they are perceived (wrongly I think) as being to the left of New Labour.

    «members fear with justification that this will not be repeated. As a result, they believe any prospective candidate from the left will never be on the ballot.»

    The one centrist socialdemocratic candidate on the ballot has been undermined since day 1, because he was the "wrong choice" by members.

    Consider also the example set by the Conservatives: there the rule is that the local conservative registered supporters elect one of two candidates nominated by the parliamentary party. The Conservative membership is tiny, they almost all over 65, and are mostly "hang-and-flog" old ladies who *adore* B Johnson.

    To prevent them from choosing the "wrong" one of two, the parliamentary party managed to shoot in the back all candidates except one, which was then not put to the vote of the supporters, but "acclaimed" leader.

    Note: the curious wording I use above for the Conservatives is because they have a rather different setup from labour: technically only MPs can be members of the Conservative and Unionist party, the ordinary folk are technically not members of the party, but of local clubs of supporters of that party, and the "members' party" is actually the central association of those clubs (a bit like the TUC is the central association of trade unions). The *only* person that has an effective role in both the party and the association of local clubs is the leader.

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  28. It's sad to see Corbynist delusion infiltrate here because its ideological purity blocks intelligent debate. The critical problem of Corbynism is its goals are not compatible with power and election gains as Martin Robbins so brilliantly analysed in the best New Statesman article of this Summer , "Jeremy Corbyn and the paranoid style" :

    "Those who expect him to step down after a general election defeat ...have completely
    failed to understand what they're dealing with...there is no compromise only purity a Red Labour Party of 50 MPs ...is better than a centrist party of 400...That is the reality of the movement that Labour and the Left are facing and it is catastrophic"

    The coming split is based on this core problem as many Labour members will not collude with the worst defeat for Labour ever known. The media annihilation of Corbyn as a CND rebel and candidate for PM will lose millions of Labour voters from working people who would otherwise want to vote Labour on many other grounds.

    But Chris Michael's comments here are close on leadership skills and so much of this is so basic to western democracy and it pervades why Sturgeon, Trudeau, Cameron, Blair win. They look, speak and debate like leaders. The far
    left are lost in purist ideology which denies the media and post modernism which on Election Day reflects how millions feel on a leader' s full appeal.

    For the vast majority of voters in the UK bathed in Right Wing headlines a left candidate would have to be extraordinary special. Politics is now non tribal as it was last year when white van driver and skilled working class and the elderly massively rejected Miliband and who will reject Corbyn too. Politics is communication and in one outing Ms May finished off Corbyn and so it will be.

    I welcome the opportunity that a new centre left party could offer the 16 million Remain voters and all progressives eager to preach a message which would reach middle England which we won under Tony 3 times and even under Gordon Brown another centre win (almost with Lib Dems) .

    Theresa May now gives UK Conservatism its final triumph since the1990s a smart leader quickly elected so the Conservatives can get on with running Britain while Corbynism becomes a bunker mentality rejecting the post modernity of our politics now. Indeed Corbynism now paradoxically legitimates the Conservatives as the natural UK ruling party as it shows in contrast how seriously and quite shockingly the Labour Movement has betrayed the electorate. Putting forward a political leader for Prime Minister with the lowest ratings ever recorded in British history. The public will correctly punish Labour for such a misdeed.

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    1. Hello? Hello? Can you hear me back there in 1996? It's hilarious hearing people say "look how they only care about ideological purity. Not me. But we can only win if Labour uses the policy positions I like!"

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    2. Lost me at "sad to see Corbynist delusion infiltrate"

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  29. There are a lot of good responses to Owen's piece out there for those interested in the counterargument. I'd argue that Bryan Gould's is the best because it starts from the same proposition as Simon - the coup has happened, so what to do next - but reaches a very different conclusion. Given his history, you'd expect Mr Gould knows a thing or two about Labour Party politics.

    This is good too:
    https://medium.com/@DarrellChaloner/an-open-letter-to-owen-jones-fb6b86476562#.7vg5i68ey

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  30. The lessons from the 1980s are very clear btw and they have far less to do with electable or unelectable leaders and far more to do with not splitting the left vote. Militant weren't responsible for Labour's failures during the period, the SDP were. They should have showed some gumption and stayed in the party, but like so many of today's PLP, they shared in common the avaricious desire to lead rather than serve, never more obvious than when David Owen refused to join the Lib Dems.

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    1. This typifies why I have got so depressed by what is currently going on. Its morality not politics. The political consequence of Foot and deselection was the SDP. Who cares about whose fault it was. What is more its one-sided morality: you expect MPs to argue in public for a prime minister when they have no confidence in his leadership ability. These people have a morality too.

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    2. «The political consequence of Foot and deselection was the SDP.»

      But J Corbyn's policies are far to the right of those of M Foot, and indeed they are a belated resurrection of the SDP policies (it is indeed strange to see J Corbyn transformed unexpectedly in the last standing member of the Labour SD/centre wing, and I wonder how bemused he is by that).

      As even P Mandelson has realized, the turning point was the failure of New Labour to vote against the benefit cuts in 2015. I am pretty sure that all of the SDP people would have voted against; even the SNP voted against, and they are a moderate centre-right party; even ID Smith resigned over those cuts eventually.

      How are New Labour going to get back Scotland and northern UKIP voters by supporting benefits cuts opposed by the SNP and supporting globalization and offshoring? From my usual quote: «Peter [Mandelson] thinks that we are a quasi-Conservative Party but that we should stick our necks out on Europe»

      BTW from this article:

      http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/sep/24/mandelson-corbyns-critics-wait-public-negative-view-force-out

      a very funny quote from P Mandelson, and a summary of some of his observations on the past leadership election:

      "We cannot be elected with Corbyn as leader. Nobody will replace him, though, until he demonstrates to the party his unelectability at the polls. In this sense, the public will decide Labour’s future and it would be wrong to try and force this issue from within before the public have moved to a clear verdict."

      The problem the recent "coup" has been trying to fix is that so far the public have delivered better support for Labour at the polls.

      «* Cooper warned interim leader Harriet Harman that her decision not to oppose the welfare bill was handing Jeremy Corbyn victory and she threatened to quit the shadow cabinet if Harman refused to let Labour MPs vote against the welfare bill.
      * Supporters of Burnham believe he could have won the contest if he had quit the shadow cabinet over the welfare issue and say the episode was the turning point in his defeat.
      * The Kendall team commissioned private YouGov polling as early as late June which showed the party membership opposed austerity and further spending cuts, making the Kendall team realise they were out of the running.»

      That shows how clearly that far-left Trotskytes like SimonWL were trying to take over the party! :-)

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    3. It has nothing to do with morality and everything to do with learning the right lessons from history for goodness sake!

      Delete
    4. I'm afraid this smacks of double standards, Simon.

      In times of a swing to the right, the left are told to hunker down and put up with it. While there are no deselections by the membership, there is plenty of parachuting in to safe seats of "establishment" candidates, often overriding the will of the local membership.

      In time of a swing to the left, the right threaten to take the ball away - and in the case of the SDP split the party. Don't forget who are the actors here - it is the right splitting the party.

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    5. Didn't the SDP people leave rather than be kicked out (deselected)? You kind of act as if human choices were like physics, equal and opposite reaction and all that, rather than conscious choices. If it was a choice then fault matters a little bit. The SPDers choose to do something and their choice caused bad results. The bulk of the PLP chose to do something and their choice is causing bad results.

      As Chris Dillow wrote, so much of this is demonstrative. Corbyn is a bad leader because they all say he is a bad leader. Corbyn is unelectable because they keep saying he is unelectable. It's the chicken or the egg. Some see the coupsters actions causing Corbyn's problems and the coupsters see Corbyn's problems as causing their actions. That's a little bit where the morality comes in. If it is the case the continual actions against Corbyn have been the reason it has come to this is it not important to reaffirm moral principles like blackmail and sabotage should not be rewarded?

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    6. But as in most wars the other side have their morals and principles too. They have to argue in public in favour of a leader they actually think is not up to the job (see Owen Jones). Most do not see it as trying to usurp members rights, but as telling members Corbyn is not up to the job. It seems reasonable, to them at least, that they should be able to do that. The 'blackmail and sabotage' comes from just talking to your own side.

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    7. No, it's history. And about the lessons one learns from it. Why on earth do you keep referring to morality? You remove all agency from those who left to join the SDP. Jenkins, Owen and Williams were big beasts and very capable politicians. Choices were made. Poor choices. Poor political choices under FPTP. As a result Labour was in the wilderness for a decade. You say it's not about fault then seem to assign blame to Foot! The key words are politics, choice and agency: not morality.

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    8. Then they should have collected the 51 nominations and expressed their opposition constructively. They've just made themselves and the party look craven,underhand, bullying and deceitful. I have to tell you, it's not a good look. They've made the worst outcome (from their perspective) all but inevitable subject to the NEC not completely rigging the election and thus discrediting the party further. Now the talk is of Corbyn winning and the PLP mounting annual leadership challenges out of pique.

      I can see a world in which one can reasonably argue that if voters elected Smith that we could put this all behind us, that voters would quickly forget about Corbyn and the new members would slink away, but I have to ask you, what sort of party do you think we'd be left with?

      A serious question for you: do you have absolutely no faith in the possibility of a new politics being generated by the Corbyn movement? Or do you just want politics to return to business as usual? (A valid position btw, but not especially progressive) Because I cannot see any way in which a Smith victory maintains the democratic momentum generated by Corbyn*

      *And yes, you can call me a utopian fool, but I look to wider movements across Europe and the US.

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    9. Re the SDP: they should have stayed in the party because they might have done some good. Labour had run out of intellectual steam by the late 1970s (indeed I'm minded to agree with Stuart Hall's assertion that they'd run out steam by 1958, but that's another matter). Much as I admire Benn the man, his policies weren't appropriate for the time.

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    10. My reference to "blackmail and sabotage" comes from the numerous stories in the media that claim some in the PLP are threatening to split if Corbyn wins. What other words would you use to describe "do what I want or the Labour Party gets it!"? It would be one thing to tell the members they don't think Corbyn is up to the job. It's another to destroy the party because the members don't agree with you.

      What moral principles are the PLP defending? The primacy of MPs over party members? The right to decide who leads them in Commons? It couldn't be that because the party already has a method of selecting its leader and Corbyn won using that method. The right to only argue to in public for things they believe? It couldn't be that either because why be a member of a political party in a parliamentary system. If one only wants to argue in public for things the believe in then become an independent and do whatever you want.

      The only moral and principle I can see is there is a large group that is morally against Corbyn's policy positions. That I can understand, but it doesn't square with support for Smith who is running as the electable Corbyn. It is also the reason why people have a hard time believing MPs who are morally opposed to Corbyn's policy positions will become not morally opposed to them if held by Smith instead. That's where the belief that Smith will be replaced by someone not holding Corbyn's positions comes from.


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    11. pewartstoat2 August 2016 at 11:56. Oh I couldn't agree more, but that is exactly what Corbyn supporters are not doing. That is why I mention morality - because its what I'm hearing all the time. Political choice is being viewed as if it was part of a morality play. We cannot allow the PLP to do this, we must protect democracy, the PLP are plotters, they are engaging in sabotage, blackmail etc etc. If they split that is their fault, they are responsible, not our fault.

      So the PLP cannot work with Corbyn and vote no confidence. The membership say the must work with him to uphold democracy. If Corbyn wins, this could happen again and again. Those outside will think this party is just fighting itself and vote for someone else or no one. If I suggest thinking about the political consequences of what you are doing I get told that is for the other side, its their fault. Its like being in the middle of a divorce!

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    12. Well yes, it is emotional, why deny it? The Labour left has waited a long time for it's moment in the sun. The frustration has, I think, to do with power, language and politics.
      We have a two party parliamentary system and an arcane electoral system. As a result Labour is the only game in town, for those of us interested in government. Consequently, Labour has traditionally been a broad church dominated by what I would call the macho, tribal right, a grouping that refuses all talk of electoral reform or progressive alliances in favour of the status quo. The left is accommodated in the party, no more, no less, but constantly assured that the party is an alliance of the progressive left, and, moreover, it's a democratic party. The left must buckle under and compromise to win.

      Yet the history of the party is littered with purges and subterfuge; the left constantly humiliated by the behaviour of the right, from Ramsey MacDonald to Harriet Harman. If we aren't humiliated we (not me) are purged: consider the Livingstone London Mayor fiasco. All of which, makes if very hard to support the Labour Party for those of us on the progressive left, particularly given the sharp move away from social democracy from the 1990s on.

      With all the above in mind, the party's behaviour should not come as a surprise, but it is bitterly disappointing. For all that the tribal right has a long history of unsavoury or aggressive characters, I can't quite imagine, say, Dennis Healey, actively undermining his leader in the way that the likes of Wes Streeting, Michael Dugher, John Mann, John Woodcock, Jess Phillips have. This has little to do with personality or competence and everything to do with the politics of the Labour Party.

      So yes, it is emotional, and yes, it was predictable, Owen Jones was very prescient in 2015. Nonetheless, it is worth fighting for, because, with the best will in the world, there won't be another chance for a long time. If Owen Smith was on side, as you seem to imagine, we could support him. But he clearly isn't.
      Corbyn might not be the most competent leader in the world, but he's the right leader for this particular, and very, very peculiar conjuncture (no other conjuncture could have thrown up a leader like him). He's the right man for the time, precisely because his authenticity chimes in these very odd and fractured times, when so many people have never felt more disdain for the political class. But he needs to up his game, and he needs to win over the non-Blairite MPs. Otherwise the left will simply leave the Labour Party in droves, leaving a Blairite rump of a party (which is what I predicted should Scotland have left the Union last year). And who could blame them given that they've been taken for granted for what seems to be forever? It's the same pattern we saw in Scotland and are now seeing in the north of England: a long suicide note.

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    13. But the PLP can work with Corbyn. They choose not to. As with your SDP argument you are removing agency and accepting one side of what is undoubtedly a complicated argument without challenging the premise of said argument.

      Delete
  31. 'If Smith wants Labour members to trust him, he has to show that he also trusts them in the future.'

    I see the point here, but I think there are all sorts of issues thrown up when we starting thinking about the members 'in the future.'

    The Labour party has undergone – and is undergoing – rapid change in its membership. Not just growth in numbers, but change in viewpoints. We know (as close we can) that the membership pre September 12th would not now back Corbyn, but that the membership post September 12th would. That is a serious change and it has happened in a very short time frame.

    The ease of joining, combined with the supporter scheme (significant cost variations aside) means the Labour party is extremely fluid. There is no distinction between someone who has been a member for forty years and someone who has been one for five minutes: one person, one vote. Obviously in a democratic sense that's fine but when we start thinking about what the Labour party is, I think it becomes more troublesome. The obvious answer to the question of 'what is the Labour party?' is that the Labour party is however it constitutionally defines itself. Currently, the members are king. But that configuration itself is very new – has that Labour party then only existed for four years? What about the MPs and members who predate that Labour party and joined an older one? Are they still members (or products?) of the Labour party? If constitutionally it's clear what the Labour party is, then I would argue that intuitively it doesn't feel so clear. This is mostly because the Labour party also has a parliamentary wing – so we have a sense that the MPs are the party too.

    If we just say 'and to the members in the future' then I believe, perhaps stupidly, that we risk raising anchor and letting the winds of passing fancy drive us wherever they wish. There needs to be some ballast, some deadening effect to rapid shifts of opinion (which, obviously, do not always move in the 'right' way).

    This is rather beside the point of your post, sorry! But obviously the question is at the heart of current struggles and I'm sceptical of the current structure and its susceptibility to the heat of the moment – and therefore sceptical of 'and to the members in the future.'

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    1. Yet ironically, one member, one vote was sop to the Labour right, who thought by reducing the power of the union vote they'd all but guarantee permanent New Labour rule!

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    2. "We know (as close we can) that the membership pre September 12th would not now back Corbyn, but that the membership post September 12th would"

      Do you have any evidence?

      To find a cohort who (perhaps, and if so only very narrowly) failed to vote for Corbyn last time, you had to go back to pre-Miliband members.

      (I'm an example of someone who joined in 2012 under Miliband after having sat out the New Labour years, and after a good deal of deliberation decided to commit to backing Corbyn - and following through on that decision through the inevitable backlash that we're seeing played out now.)

      My impression is that there has been far more movement toward Corbyn than away, due in large part to the desperate and deeply unedifying behaviour of anti-Corbyn MPs and officials.

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  32. Indeed, GG, the right have a long history of purging members of the left. There is no equivalent history of the reverse process (mandatory de/re-selection is a red herring: it's democratic). There was even discussion of 'show trials' (yes that was the language used) for 'disloyal' MP's in 2004. Astonishing given the majority Blair enjoyed at the time, such was the desire for absolute control. But the right's intolerant past is always elided, while mandatory selection is held up as a monstrous symbol of Stalinist intolerance: the horror....Labour has, sadly, always had a problem with democracy.

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  33. 'Smith has already outlined a series of measures on economic policy. There is a lot to discuss and a lot to like here, and I suspect it is not very different from what policy might have been under a Corbyn leadership' . Most appear just a things thrown into wish-list to me in order to court the member vote. Most obvious one is the 'pledge' to build 300,000 homes year. Such claims suggest dishonesty rather than commitment: how would this be achieved? Also quite a lot of the other 'pledges'- always beware of men making pledges - would involve substantial claims on the current budget: where is the money coming from?

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    1. Yep, it's not policy, it's back of a fag packet stuff. The very accusation he (Smith) levels at Corbyn and McDonnell.

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    2. Indeed, the elephant in the room, which the PLP are desperate not to talk about, is policy. I'm surprised that Simon gives so much credibility to a couple of nice sounding speeches by Smith - which are obviously a craven attempt to appeal to the membership for the election.

      Given that the current situation is driven by a desire to break with the policies of the past, in particular the misjudged Harman abstention on welfare cuts, and given that there is a good case that the Brexit vote by "lost Labour voters" was as a result of those same policies - isn't it remarkable that the PLP rebels have been notable for *not* repudiating those policies?

      As has been mentioned may times. If Corbyn were to lose, and the PLP rebels regain control of the party, what policies would they stand on? Because we've seen nothing (apart from Smith's couple of speeches) that shows any change from the past policies - a lighter neo-liberalism, a bit of back handed racism, more toughness on welfare.

      Do they really think this is the way for ward for the LP? Or the same dead end that the Lib Dems found?

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  34. I suspect that the most diehard supporters of corbyn
    believe
    that he speaks truth to power, and that they see how the
    right wing in america have divested working class and middle income families,of the means to improve their propects.
    The right wing of the labour party
    seem guite happy to win small concessions from the tories ,but people like me fear for our families future.So voting for and supporting corbyn is not a cult ,or a game.We have nothing to lose by standing by him.


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    1. "We have nothing to lose by standing by him." This is what Brexit voters said - "it cannot get any worse". And it is now getting worse after the vote.

      A Labour government makes people's lives better in so many ways, so throwing that chance away almost certainly harms your families. I have no axe to grind, no self interest to protect, in saying you will not get a Labour government under Corbyn - its just what all the evidence says and I've spent my life following evidence.

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    2. Read Luke Akehurst's piece in today's Guardian and shiver. These are the type of people an Owen Smith victory will facilitate:
      https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/03/new-labour-brought-hope-jeremy-corbyn-has-brought-despair

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  35. For an excellent analysis of the current conjuncture:

    http://averypublicsociologist.blogspot.fi/2016/08/is-corbynism-social-movement.html

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  36. This is no doubt going to sound patronising, but I'll go ahead anyway.

    These arguments between the Corbynistas on the one hand, and socialist, Corbyn-sceptic, willing-cautiously-to-give-Smith-the-benefit-of-the-doubters on the other brings to a mind a number of parallels. Between climate-deniers and scientists; between politically-motivated city types and professional economists (maybe? - not my field); between the religious and the non-religious.

    In the first group we have those who simply know they are right. Evidence, in the final analysis, is irrelevant. Indeed, evidence against them can always be dismissed (Owen Smith is offering a left-wing programme? He's lying! (Obviously)). Opponents have ulterior motives.

    In the second group we have those who have reached their present position after a degree of mental soul-searching. Believing that on balance they've got it right - but probably only on balance. Willing to accept that the other side may have a point. Etc etc - I've made my patronising point.

    A depressing thing is that the two sides may hold their views, in some sense, with equal strength - but somehow the certitude of the first can often seem to give their arguments a frightening power over the cautiousness of the second - even when they're wrong.

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    1. Mike - would that it were so simple. I can assure you that there are plenty of thoughtful soul-searchers on Corbyn's side and plenty of closed-minded conspiracists opposing him.

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    2. Jeez. Why not make a comparison between evil, stupid idiots and intelligent, thoughtful, good people. It doesn't just "sound patronising".

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    3. Is this patronising? Yes. Is it right? No.

      I support Jeremy Corbyn on hard evidence of where he stands. For 40 years he has campaigned for causes I believe in, marched on the same demonstrations, stood on the same picket lines. Owen Smith has not. Many other supporters would say the same, or recognise Corbyn's integrity. He said he would apologise on behalf of Labour for Iraq, and he did. This counts for more than all the Westminster tittle-tattle. Smith has not earned the same trust.

      When we vote for Corbyn, we are not just voting for a leader, we are voting for ourselves.

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    4. There's nothing cautious about giving Smith the benefit of the doubt

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  37. On Marr show, Smith said 'austerity is right.' A slip, doubtless, but would someone serious about opposing austerity have made this slip? Can you imagine Corbyn of McDonnel making this slip? It sounds very like the slip an actor might make if he is still struggling to remember his lines.

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  38. In reply to Mike Begon,Ithink it is a little simplistic to put that augument,To me its all about the money and its use in politics on both sides of the pond .the koch brothers have whole departments churning out laws to give politians on their payroll.we have here,lobbyists for the rich and powerful and a revolving door of directorships after, and somtimes before, leaving public office.what I would like to see is a gathering of experts in every walk of life coming together,to discuss some forward planning for this nation.It is so counterprodutive to be shouting against tory policy it feels like we are firefighting all the time .the torys are now talking about the opertunities of leaving behind the common arg policy and fisheries.Is this being talked about ,do we want this ? I dont know,but I think we have come together to plan fo the future.not be led by the nose by big money.

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