Reply to a “Reluctant Corbynist”

This is a reply  to a blog I read earlier this morning from a “Reluctant Corbynist”

http://averypublicsociologist.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/reluctant-corbynism.html?m=1

Be glad of heart. You support someone of whom even his enemies admit is as straight as an arrow, as kind and generous as it is possible to be. This is but one of the reasons why very many of us support him with great enthusiasm.

Electorally, the prospects for Corbyn-led Labour are as unknown as they would be under a leader from another part of the party. But as a “trainee academic” I make judgements carefully and on the basis of evidence. So…

Since Jeremy became leader, Labour has not had a bad election result. Amazingly folk are still citing the local elections in May as proof of Jeremy being “unelectable” – yet they were almost level with Labour under Ed Miliband in 2012 when Labour was doing extremely well in opinion polls in the wake of the Omnishambles budget. Also, the idea that the spectacular victory in London was a big personal vote for Sadiq Khan and nothing to do with the new direction of the party under Jeremy just do not get off the ground for me. At all. True, it’s impossible to prove, not least because even the best academics can only guess at people’s voting intention, but this means that the “victory in spite of Corbyn” view is also just a claim. Personally, I don’t see how Labour can have won so easily with an unpopular leader.

I’d also point you towards the Oldham West by-election result in December. Here UKIP was given a chance by journalists of taking the seat but were smashed by, I believe, a ground campaign by re-enthused Labour members and supporters after the election of Corbyn. We know their numbers were much larger than normal and we know the Tories are claiming that this – superior ground campaigning – was the decisive factor in winning marginal seats in GE2015.

Thus, there is no evidence apart the notoriously unreliable opinion polls of Jeremy’s unpopularity across England and Wales. And yet even here during 9 months where its leader was under constant attack from his own PLP and where the mainstream media was carrying out an unprecedented intense campaign against its leader, on several occasions Labour has polled above the Tories. And on at least one occasion, Jeremy Corbyn’s trust ratings were higher than the Tory Prime Minister.

Another reason to re-think your basic position on Jeremy Corbyn in terms both of electability and one with his values and policy positions is this: anyone who seriously believes that the huge increase in party membership because of the direction in which he wants to take the party has no great significance are for me – coming off the academic-style – barking bonkers. If the anti-JC side were right, then Corbynism (to use a clunky but handy term) would be a brand of politics that appealed only to a singularly definable, distinct group of voters where those not actually a part of that group were all hostile to it. In my experience of humanity (I was born in the 50s), people just aren’t like that. There are always shades of enthusiasm, or lack of it, across a large group of people (and here we’re talking about 40 million people). There will be people who will always be resolutely hostile, as I am, for example, to the Conservatives and their values, but those less hostile, and unsure of their position, and these are people who can be won over. One thing that makes individuals not immediately attractive to an idea begin to re-think their position is the example of a large mass of (other) people supporting it. They think, some reluctantly, “If so many people are for the idea and that idea is growing, perhaps I should find out why they’re supporting it.” And so begins the process of a more open-minded approach. The simple version of this is a very old joke slogan: “Eat shit; 4 billions flies can’t be wrong”.

My next to final point concerns an explanation for much hostility or lack of support for Corbyn and a real problem for the Corbyn Project: the hostility of the mainstream media and the exercise of bias against it and, of course, Jeremy personally. On the first point: the thing that I think has shocked me most in watching Labour politics since last June is the astonishingly fierce objection to him It was first visible through New Labourites like Blunkett, Johnson and Blair himself, of course. The visceral hatred of Labour people to a fellow Labour politician AND – crucially – his supporters who were immediately portrayed as usually all-three of mad, bad and dim – had my eyes out on stalks. I simply could not believe this. Immediately egged on by all mainstream media outlets perhaps save Channel 4 news, a very considerable monolith of aggressive, malignant hostility has dogged Corbyn Labour ever since, and has materially damaged it too, obviously. Two things are worth saying at this point: in the face of this, how have Labour’s election results not been much worse? Secondly, I believe it to be amazing, and significant, that Jeremy’s support has not only stuck by him, but has actually significantly grown. Reluctant Corbynists and remaining enemies within Labour ought to have a think about both things. In terms of the latter, it tells them the following: that the hunger for transforming Britain into a just and humane society cannot be destroyed; that these values cannot be worn away by media attacks, PLP attacks; that Jeremy Corbyn himself is an extraordinary resilient individual; courageous, tough, patient, calm under pressure. These are qualities which, I want to suggest to you very forcefully, make a great Prime Minister. The idea that you can only be a Prime Minister if you are under 50, tall, broad-shouldered, clean-shaven and supremely well-dressed in a depressingly conventional way is a lie the British Establishment, the forces of conservatism and big business and finance want you to believe. And oh how the lie has been swallowed by many, many Labour people. Fortunately, several hundred thousand Labour members haven’t bought it. They understand or simply believe that politics is much more than window dressing and cynical calculation. With perhaps a bloody mind, though I’d prefer an adult sense of responsibility and wisdom, their support for Jeremy and his socialistic vision of hope has held fast. And look now at the fruits of this: superb organization to win six NEC seats for the project, massive crowds on the streets and squares of Britain, the bringing of a successful court case against a morally bent coup. And all the while, perhaps especially during this period of the coup, more and more and more British voters have come forward to join the party.

But while the media onslaught has brought some positive energy to light, this hostility is still an electoral problem. As well as trying to portray the movement and its leader in a dismal light, it prevents the message of the movement from reaching the voters we want to win for Labour – the floating voter in the marginal constituency. Is the problem insurmountable? No, and it may take a vast effort of a great many individuals pressurising through letter writing and petition making and much more besides before we can make headway. But that said, if, and it is a huge “if”, the PLP rebel movement can be destroyed, through deselections or whatever, and their hiving off to form a rebel group within parliament or their founding a new party which may drain General Election votes, a single united Labour Party with a membership of about half a million at his back may force the BBC to back off. With a fair deal from the BBC alone – and this is the key media organisation, make no mistake about it – the terms of political engagement between Labour and Conservative would be very different. And with the Conservative Party under May facing – in my seriously considered view – vast problems, not least their far right agenda and proclivity for dropping huge clangers (see her cabinet choices, slow reaction to Brexit and Grammar School plan), the prospects for Corbyn Labour winning GE2020 may be totally different to that envisaged by his enemies and reluctant supporters.

The spanner in these works would be Theresa May calling an election for the autumn before the electorate get wind of what a mad and vicious kind of Conservative she is and, more pertinently, what an incompetent Prime Minister she is going to prove to be. I think this is what she is going to do – she’d be stupid not to. And this gives us, the Labour Party, almost no time to make itself a united force to be reckoned with.

I hope, my reluctant Corbynite, you will have read my thoughts through to this end. To sum up: don’t be fooled by the haters of Jeremy who would tell you he is useless, the electorate is now right-wing and we face a grim future: he’s not, it isn’t and we don’t.

Go put a Beatles album on and cheer up.

Vote Labour!

GB

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One thought on “Reply to a “Reluctant Corbynist”

  1. The trouble with this analysis on the electability of Corbynism is it ignores the electoral system, I think you may be right about Sadiq relieving a Corbyn bounce and similar effect in other Mayoral elections. But the balance of evidence suggests that while Jeremy is extremely popular with young voters and in metropolitan areas (London, Bristol, Norwich et al) he is extremely unpopular in rural, suburban and post industrial areas.

    The trouble with Fist Past the Post is that it penalises you heavily if your support is thin and spread out. My fear and I think this is born out by the numbers is that Labour under Corbyn will stack votes in safe seats and shed them in area’s that we’ll need to win.

    All of this is somewhat immaterial as without a huge turnaround in Scotland it is nie on impossible to see a Labour government possibly ever again.

    One of the things I get most angry about as an admittedly consistent critic of Corbyn is his claim that by shifting the party left (which has actually only happened during this leadership election, previously stated policy positions were very Brownite) we could win back Scotland. This did not happen and is where the “Corbyn hasn’t done badly in an election” narrative falls flat. He has, we lost 13 seats in the Scottish elections, most of them to the Tory party who gained 16.

    Make no mistake, the situation is grave. I think there will be a snap election in the next 6 months and, given Corbyn’s immanent re-election, I would put good money on Labour losing a lot of seats and recovery in a First past the post system is not easy.

    Political parties have died in Britain before, I fear it may happen again before the decades out.

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