There’s lots of talk of Corbyn winning the leadership battle for the Labour Party. There’s talk of his bid constituting some form of social movement too. I think folk might want to calm down a bit. The win isn’t assured and there’s no evidence that this silly season summer consititutes a major change at the grassroots yet. What we do know is that the right wing of the Labour Party has very little to say on policy but lots on general negativity.
The right’s response to Corbyn has been similar to the response to the threat of Scottish independence. It’s all doom and gloom. All the Blairites have to say is that Labour won’t be able to win under a Corbyn led party. His success might work as a protest but it won’t win support at constituency levels. This is a rather odd statement on two fronts. The first is that it ignores the results of the general election from an entire nation within the United Kingdom. We know that Labour lost many seats to the Scottish Nationalist Party because of their drift from the centre to the right. Are the Blairites really saying those voters can’t be won back? The second front is that idea set more generally. The right wing of the Labour Party seem to treat the electorate like some passive, bland block of people who have already made up their minds. If that’s true then why bother spending millions of pounds trying to persuade people at election time?
It isn’t true and it’s not what they mean. What they mean is that they want power within the party and they want to fight the Tories on a narrow agenda of some form of softer edged neoliberalism. Unfortunately they’ve run out of policy ideas for that. The problem Labour now has is that the right wing has moved so far it fails to connect with the membership at large who are to the left. That’s why the talk of splits if Corbyn wins is not unrealistic.
While Corbyn has spoken to packed halls, Kendall, Burnahm and Cooper have spoken to the press; it’s hard to imagine crowds turning up to listen to any of them isn’t it? They’ve put out their youtube vids though. Kendall spends hers talking mainly about “our country”.
She’s mentioned it a lot in her interviews too. It smacks of this framing within politics whereby the nation is seen as a company within a globalised economy and all policy flows from that. It’s basically a neoliberal agenda. Burnham isn’t much better.
What of these packed halls? Who are they packed with? Labour movement activists. It’s trade unionists. I think a large proportion of those involved with all this Corbyn-mania are already people active to some extent in left wing politics. The key for those wanting to shift the party to the left will be to ensure afterwards (regardless of the result) people stay active at a grassroots level. It isn’t obvious that they will. More importantly, we need to worry about what these people have stopped being active in to join up to all this. We need to worry about the things not being done now and the things that could potentially be achieved if people stopped idolising the idea of leaders and started to believe in themselves instead.
It’s understandable after the election that the mainstream left want to feel positive and successful but you can do that on the streets as much as listening to leaders making speeches. Is this just the need for some instant gratification?
The right wing of the Labour Party has always been powerful. It’s been especially so over the last 30 years. This attempt to wrestle power back for the left is fascinating. It might just look like a blip in a few weeks time and be quickly forgotten. Or it could win through. Whichever way it goes it will leave a profound effect on left wing activism in the UK and unfortunately has the power to stifle it.