Tag Archives: Labour

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Labour’s right is in an intractable bind.

They believe – profoundly – that Corbyn is unelectable.  They say that his policies and character don’t chime with the voting public.  They believe that he does not occupy the centre ground which is prerequisite to winning a general election.

This bucks the general trend in the Labour party – in a recent Yougov poll, Labour party members support for Corbyn has risen to the extent that a majority of party members – 53% – now believe that he could lead the party to victory.  This, Labour’s right argues (with some justice), is a consequence of the influx of left wing members, attracted (or attracted back) to the party by Corbyn’s policies and agenda.

On a personal level, I can understand that influx.  I used to be a Labour party member, but left in despair at what I saw as the party’s misconceived adoption of the Tories’ austerity narrative under Ed Miliband.  Now, I find Corbyn’s policies – more closely aligned to my own than other party leader of recent times – attracting me back towards Labour.

But I am a political outlier, and what attracts me does not necessarily attract sufficient of the electorate to win power.  To that extent, I have a degree of sympathy with those who wonder whether Corbyn has the capacity to win for Labour.

And there’s the bind.  If, as Labour’s right believes, Corbyn is not currently capable of winning a general election, then there are two strategies open to them.  The first is to get rid of him; the second, to get behind him, to influence him and to make him and the party electable.

The first option seems unfeasible for the time being: as the Yougov poll demonstrates, support for Corbyn within the party is strong, with no alternative potential leadership candidate even coming close.  Besides which, Labour has a lousy history of leadership change, clogged up with prevarication and fudge.  The Tories’ ruthlessly efficient knife-skills put them to shame.

The second option is viable in theory, but seems impossible in practice.  The profound dislike of Corbyn’s politics by Labour’s right and their distrust in his capacity to lead the party to power has grown to the point of hatred; perhaps best illustrated by the increasingly ad hominem nature of their attacks upon him.  And this is by no means one-sided: the Corbynites’ loathing of  the party’s right is just as bitter and as intractable.  From my perspective, both positions seem to have ossified way beyond any basis in rational thought.

The one approach that offers no strategic benefit or tactical advantage is to leave Corbyn in his position as leader, but to continually criticise and brief against him.  It is the worst of both worlds for a party to undermine its own leader and to promote the impression that it is deeply divided.  All parties are deeply divided, of course; but parties perceived as divided don’t win elections.

That last, idiot approach is the one that Labour’s right has currently adopted.  Silly buggers.

Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth

In the agony of an unexpected Tory majority government being returned in the general election and the rout of Labour and LibDems, resulting in the resignation of the leaders of both, the columnists, pundits and blogsters have been provoked into a roil of activity.

The corpse of yesterday’s progressive political offer is being dissected in a thousand different ways.  The countless analyses of why Labour’s offer was rejected so emphatically fall broadly into two camps: those that believe Labour under Ed Miliband was too left wing for a risk-averse public, and those that think it wasn’t left wing enough.  That’s a tricky reconciliation for the next Labour leader to negotiate.

Many ask why the pre-election polls got it so dreadfully wrong.  The only answer being proferred so far seems to be that, at least in the last few days, the data didn’t lie, but the pollsters did – the results they were getting in were at such stark variance to the previous polling that they were dismissed as rogue.  If so many people did change their voting intentions at the last minute, it would be interesting to find out why: incumbency effect; something in the Tory approach that struck a particular chord; or a tactical mistake by Labour?

There’s a good deal of comment regarding how we allow social media to construct a protective shell of like-minded opinion around ourselves.  I’ve written about this before, elsewhere.  There’s nothing wrong or artifical about it – it is, after all, only what we do with our circles of real-world friends – but it is slightly different to those analogue friendships.  Social media encourages us to comment immediately on those events that either enrage or delight us; and furthermore, gives us a platform from which we can rant uninterrupted.  We offer our opinions on politics and current affairs far more freely through social media than we do over a coffee or down the pub.

But what I wanted to offer my two penn’orth on is the explosion of comment, written in understandable anger and chagrin, telling voters how wrong they were.  They are mostly variations on three approaches.  Some kindly (if patronisingly) explain the web of Tory lies and flummery that took them in.  The angriest rants attack them for their moral evil, often suggesting that they have been hypocritically concealing their turpitude under the guise of looking like ordinary, decent humans.  Others set out the prospectus of disaster and societal ruination that their selfishness has brought down upon our collective heads.

But explaining to people that they voted incorrectly (or yelling at them for having done so) misunderstands what elections are about.  There isn’t a right or a wrong answer; you can’t vote ‘wrong’.  Before the election, we all knew that; we posted that it didn’t matter who you voted for, the important thing was that you put that X on the paper.  Well, people did: and I and countless others didn’t get the result we hoped for.  But others did.  That’s elections for you.

Yes, we can argue (and I do) that the first past the post system is a piss-poor mechanism for democratic representation; the catch 22 is that any party which achieves, through FPTP, the power to change it, loses the inclination to do so.  You don’t cut the ladder out from under your feet.  But notwithstanding the inadequacies of the electoral system, those of us who are seeking moral and political change for the UK have to recognise that the left’s offer has been firmly rejected by the electorate.  Whilst hurling blame around is a natural response to a shocking disappointment, it is entirely unproductive.  The business in hand is to examine what went wrong, learn from it and set about creating a compelling case that progressive politics is better for everyone.