Some thoughts on Corbyn, the Labour right and those packed halls of people


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.

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3 thoughts on “Some thoughts on Corbyn, the Labour right and those packed halls of people

  1. the right wing of the labour party should resign and go and join the tories – for that’s what they are – maybe then labour will gain clarity with itself and the people – alternatively, it will die and we will continue to be a one party nation

  2. There’s a general zeitgeist across the Western world that capitalism is failing. The Corbyn phenomenon is Britain’s response to this, (as was the SNP’s victory in Scotland). In the USA, Bernie Sanders is attracting large crowds wherever he speaks, as is Elizbeth Warren. We have Podemos and Syriza in Spain and Greece respectively. We also have the far right gaining support acrosss Europe. Political activism is becoming the new ‘democracy’ as more and more people engage with demonstrations, online petitions, protests and social media ‘storms’. Whichever side of the political spectrum people align themselves, the corporates are losing control. People are feeling threatened by the creeping, insidious power of corporates over sovereign governments and the effects on their lives that this is having. They no longer have any trust or faith in their ‘leaders’ to support them. Up to now, most have totally disengaged in the political (pseudo-democratic) process and either vote out of habit, or just not bother. But the austerity lie has impinged on the lives of people who, to date, have been able to “manage their finances” (see Gove) and live reasonably well. As more people are forced into destitution and foodbank use, others, further up the payscale, are seeing their young offspring being forced into lifelong debt for an education which no longer guarantees a ‘future’, unable to secure a mortgage, or any kind of housing support, the NHS slipping away and corporate plundering of public assets, they are being forced to take some kind of stand. Some lurch to the right, but most are viewing the left more favourably. Recent polls have shown that the vast majority of respondents across all parties are further to the left of the Tories. A line is being drawn and people are noticing. ‘Corbynmania’ has arisen because his centre-left narrative is resonating with hundreds of thousands (millions?) of people who, to date, have felt ignored by Westminster since 1979. Whether he wins the leadership, or not is irrelevent. The evidence for neoliberal capitalism is in and it has failed! Changes are afoot and we need to be prepared to stand together as the corporates throw their weight into an affray that they initially won in 1983/4. What we don’t want is another Kinnock, or unsupportive TUC!

  3. THE CORBYN QUESTION : https://vimeo.com/135962898 ;
    The Labour Party is choosing a new leader; the ballots go out this week. In case you missed it, MP Jeremy Corbyn is in the lead to win.
    What should be the response of progressives and socialists?
    “If Corbyn wins, it will change the dynamics of our movement…we shouldn’t give up the Labour Party without a fight.”
    OR
    “A colossal distraction…changing the Labour Party is like trying to get a rugby club to play cricket.”
    A debate from wellredfilms (wellredfilms@gmail.com)

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