Corbyn’s Critics: Time to Come Round

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Yves here. In addition to the state of the Labour Party being of interest to our UK reader, the struggle over its direction is also instructive for bona fide progressives who are seeking to wrest control of the Democratic party from the Clintonistas and other corporate interests.

Perhaps I’m missing something, but the UK press appears to be trying to turn solid gains by Labour in local elections by spinning it as a failure against more optimistic expectations. When I read criticism that Labour didn’t win in Chelsea and Kensington, it was hard for me to take the standard set for success seriously. Even if that was a target, having lived near that area when it was less posh than now, that strikes me as nuts.

This tweet is a bit unclear: this was the best result for Labour in London since 1971:


But as Lambert said, “Fair argument, assuming the surge script wasn’t ginned up too.”

By Paul Rogers, professor in the department of peace studiesat Bradford University, northern England. He is openDemocracy’ sinternational security adviser, and has been writing a weekly column on global security since 28 September 2001; he also writes a monthly briefing for the Oxford Research Group. His latest book is Irregular War: ISIS and the New Threat from the Margins(IB Tauris, 2016), which follows Why We’re Losing the War on Terror( Polity, 2007), and Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century(Pluto Press, 3rd edition, 2010). He is on Twitter at: @ProfPRogers Originally published at openDemocracy

Owen Smith leaves the floor following the announcement of the winner in the Labour leadership contest between him and Jeremy Corbyn at the ACC in Liverpool, September, 2016. Joe Giddens/Press Association. All rights reserved

In spite of the remarkable and thoroughly unexpected success of the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party in the 2017 general election, there remains bitter opposition to him and what he stands for within the parliamentary party. It comes out whenever he is under pressure, as with the Salisbury poisoning, the bombing of Syria and the anti-semitism controversy, so much so that among ordinary Labour members there is considerable anger as they see backbenchers latching on to such issues primarily for attacking Corbyn and his team.

What adds to this in their minds is that it comes on top of the relentless pressure from right-wing media outlets, one more reason in their view why he deserves support – not interminable attacks from some of his own backbenchers.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the whole topic, there is still a question that has not been adequately answered – why is there this deep and almost visceral opposition to a leader who remains massively popular in his own party away from Westminster and which, under his leadership, has nearly tripled in size?

Much of the reason lies not with a deep ideological divide, though that might play a part, but with the personal circumstances of many Labour MPs who have found the political rug pulled from under them. Previous certainties have disappeared and have been replaced by a political climate that makes little sense.

For them, in short, this can’t be happening or at least shouldn’t be happening. They have faced not a double whammy but six shocks, all in the space of less than three years, half of them in a single devastating three-month period in the summer of 2015. Appreciating this more fully may make for a better understanding of what has happened in the parliamentary party and also provide a pointer to the future.

The origins of the current mood go back to the election of Ed Miliband after Labour’s 2010 election failure. For most centrist Labour MPs (the great majority at the time) this was too much of a shift to the left, especially as their obvious candidate, his brother David, had been blocked by trade-union voting power. The subsequent five-year coalition government was not a happy period for them, but with the start of 2015 general election campaign there seemed a prospect of happier times with polls pointing to a narrow Labour victory or at least a hung parliament with Labour the largest party.

Labour MPs come in all shapes and sizes of politics, motivation and ambition, but embedded in the great majority of them is the hope of personal advancement. This should come as no surprise since it goes with the territory and may well be combined with a strong sense of justice and a genuine commitment to wider society. Indeed these apparent opposites are readily joined in a reasonable belief that change can only come with access to the levers of power.

When the 2015 election was called there was not so much a hope as an actual expectation that Labour would be in power in some form. For inexperienced but ambitious MPs, the prospect would be a first step on the ladder of advancement, for more senior members it might be a cabinet seat or even one of the great offices of state, and for some the prospect of an eventual tilt at the top job. True it would be under the worryingly if mildly leftist Ed Miliband, but that tendency could always experience progressive moderation as realities expressed themselves.

The first shock was the dashing of these hopes as David Cameron’s Conservative Party exceeded expectations and won an overall majority. This was a real a punch in the gut, but there was at least one saving grace in that with Miliband resigning immediately after the election Labour might now get an acceptable social democrat to lead it out of the quasi-leftist wilderness. For many Labour MPs it might therefore turn out to be a matter of ambition postponed rather than dashed.

The second shock was the subsequent leadership election in which a rapidly growing party membership turned the world upside down and elected Jeremy Corbyn, of all people, as the new leader. He was a decent enough man in the view of most Labour MPs but definitely part of a way-out fringe of leftist radicals that in no way represented the party as these MPs knew it, and would surely be an electoral disaster.

Behind this lay the third shock – not just being out of office but being in a party with a membership greatly supportive of the new leader who offered centrists little chance of personal advancement. In particular, for mid-career Labour MPs it was no longer ambition postponed but ambition hopelessly dashed. So resentful and oppositional was the mood in Westminster in autumn 2015 that people close to Corbyn had reason to believe that plenty of Labour MPs would much prefer to lose a general election than win it under Corbyn.

What made it even more difficult for such MPs to take was that the very nature of the Labour Party was changing beneath them. Just about all of the central control of the Blair era was disappearing and it could simply not be put down to a coterie of militant infiltrators, however comforting that explanation seemed. There simply weren’t several hundred thousand hard leftists in the country coming suddenly from nowhere. Something else was happening which could not readily be understood.

Worse was to come later on with two more shocks. The fourth in the series was the failed 2016 Labour party coup attempt after the Brexit referendum, followed by Jeremy Corbyn’s even more dominant performance in the subsequent Labour leadership election. This made it absolutely clear that he had a deeply embedded popularity that would take an utter political earthquake to shake (see “Jeremy Corbyn: the future not the past“, 28 April 2016).

That provided the fifth shock – the extraordinary general-election campaign in 2017, starting with Labour up to fifteen points behind and with Theresa May expecting to win by one of the largest landslides in history. That outlook held in the early weeks of the campaign and was boosted by the Conservative successes in local-government elections a month before polling day. Then, and against all expectations, things began to change and a few commentators began to suspect something happening below the surface (see “The Corbyn crowd, and its message“, 18 May 2017; and “Corbyn, and an election surprise“, 26 May 2017).

By the final week of the polls Labour was on a roll, boosted by a popular election manifesto, a weak Conservative performance and, above all, the ability of Jeremy Corbyn to attract a level of popular support shown by crowded campaign meetings wherever he went. After all, when was the last time that a potential prime minister in Britain had people climbing trees, lampposts and on to roofs at a political meeting, obliging the police hurriedly to close roads?

So look at it from the position of your suspicious Labour members of parliament. For them the real significance of last year’s election was that it was the final nail in the coffin of opposition to Corbyn – against all the odds he had turned out to be electable!

Where does this leave the party now, and how does it relate to the persistent criticism that Jeremy Corbyn has experienced from his back-benchers over the past two months, moderated only in the short-term by the current Conservative disarray over the Windrush scandal and Brexit disarray?

The early signs are that many Labour MPs still cannot come to terms with the changing nature of the party but, far more important, they cannot face up to the admittedly difficult prospect that they are no longer in tune with a wider mood in the country. If this is moving anywhere it is in the direction of Corbyn’s vision rather than that of Blair. For many Labour MPs that is the sixth and biggest shock of them all.

Will they come round and accept the new political landscape? Many will, if grudgingly, but others will not. This leaves a problem for the Corbyn team because if Labour does get into power, the opprobrium heaped on Corbyn by dominant right-wing media interests will be hugely intensified. He will need all the help he can get and this will require a much more united parliamentary party.

That is primarily the responsibility of those MPs who still won’t support him, but it may be aided if the Corbynistas seek a little more understanding of the attitudes and feelings of those MPs.

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  1. makedoanmend

    “The early signs are that many Labour MPs still cannot come to terms with the changing nature of the party but, far more important, they cannot face up to the admittedly difficult prospect that they are no longer in tune with a wider mood in the country.”

    Will the milquetoast thatcherites do the honourable thing and resign from a party whose ethos they disagree and do not support?

    Hahahahah….I love a good laugh on a Saturday morning…honourable..heh heh…

    Of course if they think they could hurt Corbyn, working people and prop up the neoliberal agenda for the benefit of their own purses, they’d go in a New York minute.

  2. martbev

    Or — horror of horrors — the party membership could get fed up with the behavior of these MPs and insist on replacing them with new candidates for the next election. Compulsory “reselection” as it is called. Or in the US, primaries.

    1. Oregoncharles

      Yeah, that was my question: How hard is that? The article proceeds as if Labour MP is some sort of life post, as long as they don’t lose the election. But Corbyn and his supporters supposedly control the levers of power in the party; can they primary all those MPs, or enough to restore party discipline?

      1. Clive

        Not hard at all. My Constituancy Labour Party can hold a “trigger ballot” to force deselection for a sitting MP. However, the ruling executive (the National Executive Committee or NEC — very much like the Democrats DNC) can waive this if they choose. As a compromise prior to the 2017 General Election Corbyn decided to have this sore opened

        He may not be quite so obliging again.

  3. PlutoniumKun

    I haven’t had time to look in detail at the local elections, but I do get the impression that its not spin to describe it as a bit disappointing for Corbyn. In these circumstances – slow growth, deep uncertainty, a chaotic and divided government, you would genuinely expect much better. You can blame the relentless attacks on Corbyn, or you can blame Corbyn for not taking advantage of the Tories incompetence, but the reality is that in a mid term local election you would expect very big gains. The gains are pretty modest, although its certainly not a bad election for them.

    Its also noticeable that the Lib Dems and Greens did moderately well. While again, you would expect gains for them, that does indicate that the next election will not be a straight Labour-Conservative fight. On those figures, the next government will be another coalition. Corbyn is a deep labour tribalist, his refusal to do an electoral deal with the Greens (or others, such as PC or SNP) could cost him and the progressive movement dear – in quite a few key constituencies only the Greens can win against Conservatives or LibDems.

    On the point of the article, I think its spot on – back in the 1990’s I briefly found myself in a social group including several aspiring young Labour politicians, all keen Blairites, before that term became an insult. I was struck by how ambitious they were and how little they actually knew about the people they wanted to represent. They were certainly idealistic and wanted to do things for people, but they had a very different comprehension about what Labour was – or at least my understanding from having dealt with Labour Councillors in the Midlands in previous years.

    1. makedoanmend

      There is ample room for a more nuanced discussion on the UK local elections to be sought but I don’t think the dynamic of Labour vs. Tory is necessarily the most enlightening a the moment.

      The biggest affected party has been UKIP in this election. They were given more than ample PR oxygen for years in the run up to Brexit and then the oxygen supply was cut off with the attendant results in this election. (Seems to be a pattern in modern UK politics.)

      I also think within the Brexit atmosphere that permeates everything in the UK now, one cannot discount the profound changes being wrought by a decade of austerity “discipline” mixed with a subtle resurgence of nationalism on the middle cohort of the UK. There seems to be a struggle within this cohort, including many casual working people, of what their priorities should be: pure survival in contrived but nevertheless real straightened economic circumstances versus a secret satisfaction by some that foreign elements who are perceived to receive more benefits than the natives are getting their comeuppance. The strong nationalist Tory party seem to hoover up a significant marginal cohort who are struggling with competing interests.

      The greatest Tory political strides leaving aside surveillance state or MSM manipulation has been to instil fear into the substantial portions of the population, one the one hand, but hold out succour that if these same people obey the Tories, the Tories may deliver some respite from their woes in the future – always in the future.

      And the never ending circus of threatening events coupled with the ceaseless attacks on Corbyn on the flimsiest of pretexts certainly help the neoliberal cause.

      (I also think it would be worthwhile for the political student/analyst to dig into the “experimental” rules of identification regulation on the constituencies selected – especially as some in the MSM report that people refused to vote under these circumstances – how Tory friendly is that!)

    2. windsock

      The Greens are only viable in Brighton.

      The Lib Dems will take back some of the seats they lost to the Tories in 2015 following their disastrous coalition partnership, but are unlikely to win any off Labour.

      No party (except the minnows) will enter a pre-election pact with any party because it would be electorally poisonous. But the partnerships will be more obvious and maybe more attractive post election when the seats are counted.

    3. Christopher Dale Rogers

      Not only have I had time to digest the UK English Local Election results, but I’ve also had the opportunity to discuss these results with leading Corbyn supporting MP’s, and former Greens we are expecting big things from.

      A few salient facts, first and foremost, lest anyone forget, Jeremy Corby has been the victim of the most concerted attacks ever launched against a leader of the Opposition – this onslaught against Corbyn by the MSM and Rightist forces within the Parliamentary Labour Party began in earnest in late February and has been unremitting. Indeed as I post this on late Saturday evening UK timeline the assaults continue and will continue on Sunday via the Sunday Newspapers and usual diet of politics shows, none of which have any sympathy for JC.

      As for failing to meet raised expectations, well, this is a good one, because it was the Mayor of London, the Blairite Mayor Khan who did most of the cheerleading, whilst Corbyn’s office and those running strategy failed to correctly talk down such expectations, based in part on the knowledge of the volatile environment we found ourselves in, namely the implosion of UKIP, much of which seems to have cleaved off to the Tories, hence denting quite significant gains in actual votes cast by Labour.

      Further, readers would need to turn their clocks back four years and read the headlines from the 2014 English Elections, whereby Labour under Ed Miliband had made massive gains, which were lauded by the BBC, Independent and Guardian to name but a few news outlets – so, the reality is it was always labour defending gains, not Labour making many more further gains, which actually did come, as the final tally on the BBC Polling shows.

      At the time of typing this, the full turnout and actual number of votes cast is still patchy, but in Wandsworth, Labour actually polled more than the Tories. Alas, under our FPTP system, this did not turn into actual seats. That said, Labour’s performance and number of council seats is on par with its massive gains in 1971 – so hardly a disaster I’m afraid, more a consolidation of the vote.

      Anyhow, and having chatted with a few of those actually in the know, its certainly not doom and gloom. Actually, its the reverse, many desire a General Election ASAP, apart from a number of Labour PLP malcontents, who, unwilling to take the Centrist £50 million coin on offer to start a new Party, seem determined to inflict as much damage as possible, before finally moving on.

      Expect the full re-introduction of mandatory re-selection after the next Party Conference as the newbies and leftist oldies have actually had enough, and Corbyn is acutely aware of this fact.

  4. The Rev Kev

    It has become blatantly clear over the past year or more the substandard performance of the UK government as they try to deal with the ramifications of Brexit. At this stage Sir Humphrey Appleby would be a godsend but he retired decades ago. As Yves pointed out, they couldn’t even formulate decent questions to ask of that TSB bank director when they had the chance and it was expected of them to do so.
    There will always be those who choose to climb the greasy pole but to do so, one has to at least have a nodding acquaintance with reality. These Labour MPs know that the old days of good-old-Tony are gone but are refusing to adapt to what Mark Blyth calls Trumpism. That is, a general wide spread revolt of the policies that impoverished a majority to enrich continuously a well-connected minority. American commentators may have heard of this.
    In short, these critics will never come around and the most that you can do is replace them and hopefully from people that do not come from the shallow end of the talent pool. Why should they stop attacking Corbyn? The media is definitely on their side and is cheering them on. It may have not occurred to them that this is because over the past generation UK journalist are now recruited from the elite. No! Like the die-hard Clintonites in the US democrat party they have to be replaced as you can never trust them to betray you on behalf of interest outside their respective parties.

    1. HotFlash

      Thank you Mattski, good read and sharp analysis. For instance Seymour notes

      “the Democrats aren’t really a party in any meaningful sense. You can’t join a branch and pass a motion, or organize local members in a protest or an occupation. ”

      Oh my!

      1. DJG

        Mattski and HotFlash: Insightful. I think that Seymour is more or less correct on Syria–but he has no plan of action because Syria has become a swamp of imperial genocides. A good analysis, nonetheless. But it still doesn’t tell us leftists what course of action there is. Somehow detaching Erdogan, Assad, and the various fundamentalist militias at a time of lying and manipulation of facts by all involved is a difficult labor. The U S of A should be trying to end the suffering, having stirred up the revolution and abandoned the Syrians, but then the Israelis wouldn’t have us doing their mischief of them–and we wouldn’t want to hurt the Israelis and their imperial project, now would we?

        The concept of environmental melancholia as the end of the interview is also insightful and may be productive.

        The description of the U.S. Democratic Party as a non-functioning non-party is worth repeating here at NC daily.

        Thanks for posting.

        1. Lambert Strether

          > U S of A should be trying to end the suffering

          I don’t think so. Even assuming the responsibility-to-protect people are speaking in good faith, the United States does not have the operational capacity to end their suffering. All our interventions in the Middle East have left the locals suffering more after our involvement than before. I think we should end all our involvements, overt and covert (including support for Israel).

  5. Emorej a Hong Kong

    This distinction:

    Much of the reason lies not with a deep ideological divide, though that might play a part, but with the personal circumstances

    … deserves less weight than the article gives it.

    A politician implementing ideologies friendly to the “haves” reliably results in that politician personally “having” more during and after politicking in party, elections and/or government. In contrast, politicians and activists supporting Corbynism presumably understand that very few of them will thereby succeed in “having” a disproportionate share of economic benefits.

    While it is unpredictable how many Corbynistas may evolve towards seeking such a share, it is very hard to imagine any substantial number of Blairites evolving in the opposite direction.

    Luckily, many MPs’ sabotaging of Corbyn is becoming so obvious that deselecting them will be unavoidable. The longer May’s government survives, the more obvious this becomes — and of course the harder it becomes to disguise the Tory’s ownership of all the Brexit disasters.

    1. Eustache De Saint Pierre

      I read with some amusement a few months back, an article from one of the champagne Socialists, who was having an attack of the vapours in response to a rumour that a list of fifty of her kind, had been put on a deselection list…….Blah, blah, blah we all have to work together etc. I don’t think anything came of it as with the Blair, Mandelson talk on the construction of a brand ( Blairites love that word ) new centre Left party which would provide a happy clappy, now all inclusive globalisation by following the apparently inspirational Macron getting elected model.

      As for the ambitious careerists – I suppose that a prepared spiel on how concerned they are at the plight of the eviscerated masses, would be essential, as after all they are part of a party that is supposed to work in their interest.

      There are many hurting badly out there & I hope that Corbyn can eventually bring them some relief, as it is pretty obvious that nobody else gives a damn.

      I am very disappointed with the Greens whose presentation appears to have descended to a daytime TV level. No apparent economic plan, Identity politics & jumping straight in to support the claims of Syrian chemical attacks & the Skripal farce.

  6. Altandmain

    Basically what happened in the Labour Party in the UK is that a bunch of neoliberal careerists who only care about their own personal career advancement and nothing about actually being a good representative for their citizens have found that Cobryn is the genuine article.

    They are frustrated that they cannot follow the career path of Tony Blair and similarly corrupt politicians so they are throwing a temper tantrum. That is what is really going on here.

    Also, the media is owned by the rich so that is why it is out to get Cobryn. Their job is to persuade the public of their owners’ viewpoints.

    Cobryn isn’t perfect, but it is delicious watching the neoliberal types in the Labour Party in the UK fall in prestige. I can only hope that in America, the Democratic Establishment will see a similar left wing takeover. Considering how both parties are depending on Generation Y which has overwhelmingly favored leftist over neoliberal candidates, there may be some room for long term optimism.

  7. windsock

    Also, Dan Hodges is an idiot who is constantly trying to define himself against his mother and lives in fear of never escaping her shadow. She, in interviews, delicately avoids talking about her son. Poor old Dan had a column in the Daily Telegrph but his Blairite foaming got too much even for them and now he has to do it from the pages of the Mail on Sunday, which is obviously preaching to the converted. Here’s a sample of his recent pile of poo:

  8. Perry525

    Key! Labour won 1,000 more seats than Conservatives.
    What we need is a Labour party with members who remember the Unions created Labour to defend the workers in Parliament. We need a Labour party who can remind the people what Labour have done to improve their lives.
    We need a Labour party who understand Modern Monetary Theory and who will explain that we do have a Money Tree and that a Sovereign Government can create money on whim.

  9. marku52

    Here’s the US version:
    “All our wonk managers, our expert stewards of the world, have lost their way. They wander desert highways in a daze, wondering why the brakes locked up, why the steering wheel came off, how the engine caught on fire. Their charts lie abandoned by the roadside. It was all going so well just a moment ago. History was over. The technocratic order was globalizing the world; people were becoming accustomed to the permanent triumph of a slightly kinder exploitation. What happened? All they can recall is a loud thump in the undercarriage, an abrupt loss of control. Was it Brexit? Trump? Suddenly the tires were bursting and smoke was pouring into the vehicle, then a flash. The next thing they could remember, our liberals were standing beside a smoldering ruin, blinking in the hot sun, their power stolen, their world collapsing, their predictions all proven wrong.”

    SS Different Country.!

  10. kj1313

    The bias and fear about Corbyn from the elites/media is evident. I do think there is and lot of trepidation from his supporters on the issue of Brexit and the fact that he is not staunch supporter of Remain and the EU. Fact is for Corbyn’s plans to occur is that they would have to leave the EU.

  11. Pinhead

    How can anyone pretend to draw conclusions about the future of British politics on the basis of local election results that were, to put it mildly, inconclusive. There are better indicators.
    1. Parliament is very unlikely to accept withdrawal from a customs union with the EU.
    2. This should provoke a vote of confidence which Mrs May is unlikely to win. She will have to go.
    3. A Conservative party split down the middle on Brexit issues, and on Brexit itself, will have a hard time choosing a leader. Not to speak of what the voters will do to them. Austerity has not been a success.
    4. Corbyn’s 26% approval rating hardly suggests a Labour majority if an election is held. There is scant evidence that his Labour membership majority truly represents the voters they claim to speak for.
    5. The Brexit deadline is approaching and the likelihood of an agreement keeps diminishing.
    6. It will be very difficult, perhaps impossible, to hold another referendum unless the deadline is postponed.
    7. In other words, the best indicators are contradictory. There is every reason to expect the unexpected.

  12. bruce wilder

    I know nothing first-hand — just a long-time spectator from a great distance, so probably should keep quiet but won’t.

    This peroration struck me as contradicting the whole rest of the analysis: if the Corbynistas seek a little more understanding of the attitudes and feelings of those MPs

    It seems to me that the core problem is that Blair’s greatest political achievement was creating a PLP of careerists, which he did by paving a very well-marked career path thus attracting ambitious middle-class people to taking a stint as an apparatchik with excellent prospects within and without Parliament. He traded off the Party’s policy commitments to its working class constituencies, substituting some symbolic moves pleasing to the professional classes who might otherwise drift toward the liberals; ignoring war, one could say Blair’s electoral politics was mostly electoral shading and rationally adaptive to the precipitous decline in employment in coal and steel, but it exposed the Party to corruption by business interests and a policy stance that, at the end, could not oppose the Tories on anything with credibility. Ed was a bad joke policy-wise.

    Seeking sympathy and understanding is only going to expose the essential problem: the PLP is never going to forgive Corbyn for taking away the career that was their primary motive for seeking a seat in the first place.

  13. Larry Coffield

    The only ideology is neoliberalism. The people know transnational capital is waging class warfare against populations via nation-state destruction. Even a high-functioning monkey would react to the pain of austerity that creates debt under the guise of reducing it

    Why would any critical thinker countenance shareholder governance via some suite thugs imposing structural adjustments for privatizations? Monopoly parasites are perpetrating a global heist via extreme protectionism .I’m not even concerned with the inevitable demise of neoliberalism, but fear that milquetoast socialism is no match for aggressive fascists.

    We can’t forget that Hitler scaffolded his political ascendency on an anti-austerity platform. Accordingly, the populace confuses cause and effect when viewing Trump as a harbinger of fascism. Neoliberalism is the incubator of fascism and Trump is a culturally raw manifestation. The status-quo was quite content with a government that is a criminal enterprise, but they wanted another Good Fellow such as De Niro and they got a Joe Pesci.

  14. Tim Smyth

    The problem is Corbyn has no more a plan than May to deal with Brexit something that is discussed here quite frequently. Brexit is the story not May or Corbyn.

  15. Lambert Strether

    Can somebody with a good knowledge of British politics straighten out the assault on Labour as anti-semitic? I’m inclined to dismiss it out of hand based on who’s pushing the narrative, but in pure logic, that’s a fallacy. Is it all smoke? Or is there any fire, no matter how small? (And are we looking at the typical “Anything not 200% pro-Israel is anti-semitic!” line so familiar in the United States?

    1. windsock

      Corbyn in this situation is supposed to police the thoughts and writings of all his followers.

      There have been anti-semtic tweets, Facebook posts and some, but very few, public incidents, by those who are Labour Party members or, worse, Momentum members. (Worse in the respect that Momentum was formed explicitly to support Corbyn.) The basis of the charges is that these random events and writings (some dug up from more than five years ago, many by the website Guido Fawkes) represent the feelings of those at the top of the Labour Party. This is obviously bollocks. There is also the crossover of anti-Israel/Zionist criticism being interpreted as anti-Semitism, as are Corbyn’s lack of condemnation for Hamas or Hezbollah.

      The problem is that where anti-semitic behaviour has been manifested, the Labour Party has been slow to address it, and its process of doing so is cumbersome. Add to this the relentless rehashing of the past by the press to present the Labour Party as a cesspit of anti-Jewish feeling and you have a situation which, in truth, Corbyn has been too slow and too lacklustre to address until now.

      Let’s hope he now does so properly, without throwing the baby out with the bathwater, although if he ushered former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone who is, frankly, an embarrassment, out of the party, I would not shed any tears.

  16. Andrew Dodds

    One of the less-mentioned problems with UK politics is the demographic problem. We have a large number of over-60s, and they not only turn out in large numbers, but vote overwhelmingly conservative. They are the reason behind the 2015 conservative majority, 2016 Brexit vote, and outside of that group, Corbyn would have won in 2017 with a substantial majority.

    Which puts us in the position where we have a hard-right government put in power by people who on average don’t work, and derive a large amount of their income from the state.

    Again on average, these people are informed by the print media in the form of the Daily Mail et. al. To call their attacks on Corbyn hysterical would not be exaggerating. The BBC doesn’t seem to like Corbyn either.

    So the current stalemate. To get a Labour majority, some of those pensioners need to change vote, but how to reach them?

  17. vlade

    A few comments:
    Yes, Labour “won” the LE. A gentle reminder – 2017 _also_ had a local elections. *gasp* And, you know, Tories had the BEST LE result in a DECADE! But come GE, the result wasn’t nearly as spectacular, despite Tories winning half again the Labour vote (38% vs 27%).

    This year, Labour was running against Tories who:
    – had six ministers to resign from the cabine in the last six months
    – had a massive scandal just before the LE (Windrush), that genuinely a lot of people in the UK to my knowledge got upset about. This was a much larger scandal than the Labour anti-semitism, which gets dragged out now and then (Red Ken is a good example here).
    – are deeply divided as a party
    – have a leader who’s not even judged “the least worst”, but “no one wants her job (now, ask me in a year’s time)”
    – and I’ve known rocks with more charisma that Ms. May

    Corbyn is still not liked by media – although Guardian is now much more onboard than it was before, but the attacks are still way less vicious than they were a year or two ago (and if Corbyn thinks that the likes of Mail or Torygraph will ever give up the most nasty stuff they can, he’s deluded) – and one could argue that May is now getting attacked even by Tories too, so I’d not claim that Corbyn is now in so much worse position as he was a year or two back.

    The anti-semitism stuff is, IMO, overblown – on both sides. The extended Jewish population in the UK is less than 400k, and that includes non-voting age children. I’m sorry, but if Labour’s future hangs on 200k votes (and I know some Jews in the UK who could care less about the state of Israel…), then Labour has a problem regardless of whether it’s just a PR or a real problem (and I can’t say).

    The “if the pattern prevailed Labour would be the largest party ” is also bollocks, for a few reasons:
    – Labour would still hold no majority. SNP could step-up in place of DUP, but I can’t see SNP voting for Brexit w/o getting a very independent Scotland in exchange
    – LE are cyclic. That is, not all the seats are contended at all the times, so it’s extremely hard to project anything nationwide.
    – And this is also a reason why the gains could be much smaller, as with First-Past-Post, LibDem could eat into Labour English results.

    All in all, LE means zilch.

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