The Unelectability of Corbyn

By Rob Francis

This is a cross post from the author’s Medium blog, reproduced with kind permission. This post is Part 2 of a series by the author.

Last week, I wrote about how the “Jeremy Corbyn is a decent guy” trope does not bear any real scrutiny, and that in fact his actions and beliefs should disqualify him from being Labour leader.

I’m going to put all of that to one side today, and instead try and answer a different question. Could Labour, under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, win a General Election?

To get an idea, we can start by looking at electoral performance over Corbyn’s ten months in charge to date. I will consider two examples; Labour’s performance in May’s local elections, and also the results of four parliamentary by-elections.

There has been much debate as to whether this year’s local elections represented a good or bad result for Labour. A lot of this comes from the fact that people are not using proper benchmarks by which to judge.

For example, following May’s results, both Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell claimed it as a positive that Labour had achieved a swing in the vote compared with the General Election a year previously.

It sounds reasonable. Labour lost by 6.5% in 2015, and the projected vote share at the local elections showed Labour beating the Tories by a point. So, a movement of 7.5%! Surely that’s good?

Let’s set our benchmarks properly. Oppositions always perform well in local elections. We can compare this movement of 7.5% to other outcomes of local elections held one year after a General:1-QSz1X0hEkO4wdwZhYsF14A

Oh dear. So the movement of 7.5% from Tory to Labour that was claimed as positive actually represents the second-worst performance by any opposition since the 1980’s. Only William Hague fared worse, a year into thirteen years of Labour government.

Claims that Corbyn “embarrassed his critics” by losing council seats are facile, even on their own terms; there was a 3% swing towards the Tories compared with when the seats were last fought, in 2012. Just because some pundits thought Labour might lose 200 seats, it doesn’t mean that “only” losing eighteen becomes a good result.

But what can we take from this? Can local election results tell us anything about General Election prospects? Well, yes they can, actually. Matt Singh has demonstrated the following relationship:1-naLS_cp1KFbSFp1MuUIZlA

That 1% Labour lead in May’s elections translates to the Conservatives having a 10–12% advantage at the next General Election.

May’s results were desperately poor. They point to an increased Conservative majority.

Away from the local elections, here’s Liam Young boasting that Corbyn’s Labour has won every parliamentary by-election. It’s true. Labour increased its share of the vote by 8.7% in Tooting, 7.5% in Oldham West and Royton, 5.9% in Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough, and saw its share fall by 0.3% in Ogmore.

Obviously this is better than losing elections, but is this set of results good enough? Oppositions usually improve their vote share, after all. Again, let’s apply appropriate benchmarks at this point. We can compare these results with similar seats Ed Miliband’s Labour fought.

Between 2010 and 2015, under Miliband, Labour increased its vote share in Labour-held seats at by-elections by 16.4% (Manchester Central), 14.6% (Middlesbrough), 13.5% (Barnsley Central), 12.2% (Leicester South), 11.2% (Wythenshawe), 10.8% (Feltham & Heston), and 10.2% (Oldham East).

All of these easily outstrip Labour’s best performance in this parliament to date.

Overall, Corbyn’s performance is to increase Labour vote share in Labour held seats by an average of 5.4%. The comparable number for Miliband? 8.7%. And we all know how Ed’s reign ended.

We are clearly performing worse than under Ed Miliband.

Finally, before we move away from numbers, some recent polling from ICM showed the Tories with a ten point lead over Labour, which increased to fifteen points when people were asked how they would vote in a future General Election, assuming the same party leaders as now. The Independent found that a third of Labour voters think Theresa May would be a better Prime Minister than Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn’s personal ratings have dropped to -41%.

Every light on the electoral dashboard is flashing.

If you continue to support Jeremy Corbyn, you therefore have to believe that, should he win the election, he will be able to improve significantly, head the party strongly and effectively, get the 81% of MP’s who voted no confidence back onside, and drive Labour to victory.

I don’t understand how anybody could possibly think that.

Stories abound of Corbyn’s incompetence, his lack of direction, lack of leadership ability, and his habit of undermining colleagues.

Richard Murphy, an economist who was initially very well disposed to the Corbyn project, has recently written a blog where he outlines his frustrations at not being able to make a difference; he criticises the leadership team’s lack of conviction, inclination to offer nothing more than vague words, inability to offer direction, and lack of vision. His piece is an extraordinary indictment of the leadership’s failings.

He’s not alone. Lilian Greenwood gave a speech about how Corbyn undermined her by discussing his inclination to drop support for HS2 in an interview, without asking or informing her, after she had put huge amounts of effort into working on that project. And he did this more than once.

Heidi Alexander, the former shadow health secretary, was cut out of secret NHS meetings set up by John McDonnell, and only found out by chance. She also had to stage a sit-in outside Corbyn’s office in order to get a steer from him in terms of the party’s health policy.

Whilst undergoing cancer treatment, Thangam Debonnaire was promoted to shadow arts and culture minister by Corbyn, before he sacked her a day later, without telling her on either occasion. Later, Debonnaire was reinstated, only to find it extremely difficult to get any time with him, nor decisions from him.

Danny Blanchflower, another former economics adviser, now complains thatCorbyn offers no policies, only empty words like “let’s stop austerity & lower inequality”. Easy to say the words, far harder to construct a set of policies to make that a reality.

These are all people who have tried hard to contribute to Corbyn’s Labour, and are now at the end of their tether.

It goes on. Sources in Corbyn’s office complain his team is good at nothing except paranoia. A Vice documentary showed Corbyn being unwilling to attack Cameron about Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation. Corbyn’s EU campaign was so lacklustre that many Labour voters did not even know which side he was on.

Even if you strip away his terrible views on foreign policy, even if you ignore the polling and the election results, he is clearly a poor, chaotic, disorganised, disinterested, demotivating, incompetent leader, who has upset many of his colleagues.

And if you’re at this point and still think Corbyn is the right choice for Labour, consider this.

I wrote last time about Corbyn’s Stop The War Coalition calling on jihadists to kill British soldiers in Iraq. If Jeremy Corbyn leads Labour into a General Election, you can guarantee that this will be brought up. Even if you regard this as a “smear” against Corbyn (it isn’t), he will be asked to defend his position on this. He will be asked to explain why he supported an organisation that made such a statement. And Labour will lose in a landslide.

Labour faces a struggle, whoever the leader is. Hugely difficult questions confront the party. How can we square the need to support the poorest with the need to convince the electorate that we can be fiscally responsible? How can we reconcile support for immigration in most of the party with a traditional support base that is significantly less in favour? What should we do in a post-Brexit world? How can we win back Scotland, and avoid losing Wales? Can we rebuild our “big tent”?

None of this is easy. But Corbyn hasn’t even tried. His anti-austerity politics is little more than rhetoric. He surrounds himself only with people who agree with him, running from rally to rally, rather than attempting to take his message to people that have turned away from our party. He is a protest politician, trapped in the body of a frontbencher.

He has been dealt a tough hand, and he has responded by simply chucking his cards in the bin.

This matters. A Labour government matters. And we are currently led by someone who is just not capable or willing to put in the hard work to get us into power.

I understand that many Labour members appreciate his vocal, uncompromising opposition to austerity.

But if the cost of that is a deeply immoral foreign policy, catastrophic leadership, and a massive Conservative majority, honestly, is it really worth it?

 

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The Immorality of Corbynism

By Rob Francis

This is a cross post from the author’s Medium blog, reproduced with kind permission. This post is Part 1 of a series by the author.

In May 1987, eight members of the Provisional IRA launched an attack on the police station in Loughgall, County Armagh. Three men drove a digger through the perimeter fence with a Semtex bomb in the bucket, while the rest arrived in a van and opened fire. However, the British Army had received a tip-off about the plans, and ambushed the IRA unit, killing all eight men.

In London, a short while later, Jeremy Corbyn joined others in a minute’s silence for those killed whilst trying to murder police officers. He explained that he was “happy to commemorate all those who died fighting for an independent Ireland”.

The next couple of months will see a Labour leadership election which will test Jeremy Corbyn’s support in the party. My expectation is that he will win in September and remain in post; however, I very much hope for him to be defeated.

As I write, the news is covering Owen Smith, one of the potential candidates. Smith is discussing Corbyn in terms familiar to anyone who follows Labour politics; that Jeremy is a decent man, but he is not meeting expectations as leader and so must be replaced.

I suspect that it ultimately will be his performance that denies him his leadership of the party, either via the members deciding he isn’t up to taking the fight to the Tories, or by a crushing general election defeat. And in the second part of this piece, I will set out why I believe Corbyn will not be electorally successful.

But to focus on electability, as Smith does, is to sidestep a very serious conversation that Labour and the left need to be having. In this blog I will argue that it is his politics that should preclude him from leading the Labour movement. That Corbynism is an immoral politics, which the left should wholly reject. That Jeremy Corbyn is not the “decent man” he is often professed to be.

As with almost everything in contemporary Labour politics, it goes back to the Iraq war. Part of Jeremy Corbyn’s rise is undoubtedly due to his uncompromising opposition to the invasion, and already, his supporters are making much capital out of comparing Corbyn’s supposedly prescient stance against the war with Angela Eagle’s support.

I opposed the war. Yet I also recognise that the decision facing Blair and Bush in 2003 was a choice between two terrible scenarios. The brutal crimes of Saddam Hussein’s regime are well documented. To not go to war was to acquiesce in leaving Iraq in the hands of a monstrous tyrant.

None of this seems to trouble Corbyn or his acolytes; for them, the war was wrong and that’s it. Jeremy Corbyn has no answer as to what the world should do about future Saddam Husseins, nor does he seem to care.

Still, any decent person who opposed the Iraq war should, at the least, have hoped for a quick end to the fighting, a rapid overthrow of Saddam, minimal casualties, and a successful transition to a stable, democratic Iraq. Regardless of your position, you should surely hope for the best possible outcome to the situation, the least bloodshed.

But in 2004, the Stop The War Coalition, of which Jeremy Corbyn was a founder and one of its leading members, said

“The StWC reaffirms its call for an end to the occupation, the return of all British troops in Iraq to this country and recognises once more the legitimacy of the struggle of Iraqis, by whatever means they find necessary, to secure such ends”

Jeremy Corbyn in 1987 held a minute’s silence for people whose aim was to slaughter police officers. Jeremy Corbyn in 2004 was part of an organisation which urged jihadists to kill British soldiers. Why?

To unpick Corbynism, it needs to be understood that everything is viewed through an anti-western prism. The “West”, typically America, Britain and Israel, are seen to be at fault for all that goes wrong in the world, the source of all problems. Everything else is subservient to this premise.

This explains why Corbyn so often forms alliances with toxic people. For him, anti-western politics is the focus of his energies; the character, words or actions of any allies he makes in the struggle become secondary or unimportant.

This is why, despite professing to be a staunch defender of human rights, he can be paid to appear on Iranian state television, on a channel that filmed the torture of an Iranian journalist, and which acts as a mouthpiece for a regime that executes gay people.

This is why he speaks at Cuba Solidarity events, in support of a regime that has an appalling human rights record, one with a long history of jailing gay people and trade unionists.

This is why he finds friends amongst people such as Raed Salah (jailed for inciting anti-Jewish violence in Israel, and found by a British judge to have used the blood libel), Stephen Sizer (a vicar who shared an article on social media entitled “9/11: Israel Did It”), Paul Eisen (Holocaust denier), and of course, Hamas and Hezbollah.

Is it any wonder that the Israeli Labour Party is extremely concerned? Do we not owe our solidarity to them, as our sister party? Do we not owe our solidarity to gay people facing persecution in Iran, or trade unionists in Cuba? Why would anyone on the left seek to side with their oppressors instead? These alliances are made because Corbyn places anti-western ideology above all else. His enemy’s enemy has become his friend.

So, is Jeremy Corbyn a decent man?

One way out of the above could be to argue that he is not bad, but instead hopelessly naive; a foolish man who romanticises revolutionaries. That should in itself be enough to prevent him holding any real authority, but let’s take some recent examples to test the decency claim.

Following the launch of Shami Chakrabarti’s report into Labour antisemitism, Marc Wadsworth, a Momentum activist, stood up and accused Ruth Smeeth, a Jewish Labour MP, of colluding with the media. Wadsworth says he didn’t know Smeeth was Jewish. Perhaps not. But Jeremy Corbyn did. And accusing Jewish people of controlling the media is a classic antisemitic trope. So, confronted with this, what did Jeremy Corbyn do? He stood there and said nothing.

Except it was worse than saying nothing. Because later, Corbyn was caught on camera apologising to Wadsworth, and saying that he’d sent him a text message. Smeeth now understandably believes Corbyn has made Labour an unsafe place for Jews.

As a further example, consider his actions at the recent NEC meeting, which was to decide whether Corbyn needed MPs’ nominations in order to stand in the leadership election. Some committee members pleaded for the vote to be conducted in secret. One member was in tears as she explained her fears of intimidation, bullying and worse. Ignoring the distress of members, Corbyn voted against a secret ballot. He was not prepared to intervene to protect his colleagues.

After the NEC decision, Jeremy Corbyn went to a rally, and shared a stage with people who referred to senior members of the party as “fucking useless”, a “disgrace to Wales”, and told Labour MPs to leave the party. Corbyn said nothing, save for some laughable platitudes about being against abuse.

Every time, Corbyn puts himself and his ideology above people that he owed a duty of care to. Wadsworth was a comrade, an ally, so Corbyn had texted him before he’d even left the building. No such treatment for Ruth Smeeth. On the NEC, Corbyn’s priority was getting on the ballot, and he was happy to put other committee members in harm’s way to get there. Jeremy Corbyn saw no need to defend his MPs from the abuse at the rally. It was enough for him to disown abuse in general terms. His hands were clean.

Is he a decent man? Is this how decent people behave?

The problem of placing abstract ideology above real people is a facet of not just Corbyn but Corbynism. Witness Diane Abbott explaining how Chairman Mao is revered because “on balance, he did more good than harm”. Or George Galloway’s consistent support for tyrants. Or John McDonnell supporting theIRA bombing campaign. So committed was McDonnell, in fact, that during the negotiations leading to the Good Friday Agreement, Sinn Fein had to ask Tony Blair to keep him quiet, as he was discouraging hardliners from accepting a deal.

The Labour Party Rule Book is explicit; we are committed to deliver people from the tyranny of prejudice, and to work with international bodies to secure peace and freedom for all.

If your allies execute homosexuals, or imprison trade unionists, or bomb shopping centres, or murder people who dissent, or hold deeply antisemitic conspiracy theories, I don’t see how you can claim to be upholding these aims. If you say nothing whilst members of the party you lead are insulted in public, are you living by the Labour values of solidarity, tolerance and respect?

None of this is a left I want to be a part of.

The left now needs to decide what it stands for. An anti-western, anti-American, self-righteous strand of thinking, nurtured by the Iraq war, is gripping the party ever tighter. We cannot let the Labour Party fall prey to people who believe that every brutal dictator who opposes America is to be venerated. We cannot let the terrible errors of Iraq turn us away from supporting those who suffer at the hands of tyrants; this road leads to Srebrenica and Nyarubuye.

There is an internationalist left, which does not rely on knee-jerk anti-westernism. Which believes in alliances with other liberal democracies and showing solidarity with those being persecuted rather than their oppressors. There is also a left which genuinely believes in those values of solidarity, tolerance and respect; not just in the abstract or in platitude, but in how we conduct ourselves, and the examples we set for others.

The Labour leadership election isn’t just about whether Jeremy Corbyn can beat the Tories. It’s about salvaging a morality that has gone desperately missing.

 

Dear Jeremy…

By Leo Gibbons (aka Layo)

This is a cross post from the author’s blog, reproduced by kind permission.

Dear Jeremy Corbyn,

In 2004, the Stop the War Coalition released this statement:

“The Stop the War Coalition (StWC) reaffirms its call for an end to the occupation, the return of all British troops in Iraq to this country and recognises once more the legitimacy of the struggle of Iraqis, by whatever means they find necessary, to secure such ends”. Statement issued by the officers of the Stop the War Coalition, signed by Lindsey German, Convenor, and Andrew Murray, Chair of the StWC.

You were an officer of the Stop the War Coalition in 2005 and later became its Chairman in 2011. I hope when you read this letter, you read that statement again and understand the meaning of those words. Have in your mind our British troops as your finger follows the words ‘by whatever means they find necessary’.

The Iraqi ‘resistance’ was predominantly made up of Ba’athist fascists and Jihadists militants. This ‘resistance’ executed and tortured Iraqi trade unionists, aid workers and election supervisors. They planted bombs in election booths. Stop the War’s statement was a tacit approval of this reign of terror.

While many of those on the Left in this country and abroad opposed this war. The international Left spoke in one united voice when it condemned the murders of Iraqi Trade Unionists, socialists and democrats — who with great courage and dignity — fought for a civil society and a democratic Iraq free from tyranny.

As someone often exalted as a man of high principle and clear integrity, I must ask why did you chose to support this statement by the Stop the War Coalition?

Last week I sat and watched you apologise to our country for the war in Iraq on behalf of the Labour Party. I watched as you were applauded by some of the families and loved ones of British service personnel killed in Iraq. I wondered if they knew about your links with an organisation that willed on the Iraqi resistance ‘by whatever means necessary’. A ‘resistance’ that killed and maimed British soldiers.

I think if they knew this fact, there would have been no applause.

I like many, deeply admired the bravery and courage of our troops who fought fascism and fought to build a democratic Iraq. I urge you to apologise to the families of British service men and women who died in the Iraq War for your tacit support of those who fought them.

I believe the Iraq War was an error of the gravest magnitude and today we are still reaping the consequences. You were right to stand against the decision to go to war and your principled stand has now been vindicated. However the longer you stand by these words and alongside the Stop the War Coalition, the longer your legacy as a man of peace and integrity will be tarnished.

Yours sincerely,

Leo Gibbons

All Lives Matter, apparently

By James Dowthwaite

“All Lives Matter”: how could anyone take issue with that statement? When people, outraged by disproportionate violence against black people in the United States, set up the ‘Black Lives Matter’ hashtag and campaign, this was the inevitable right wing and alt-right reply. What a grotesque, outrageous response to what is very clearly violence committed specifically against black people. Its general truth in this case takes away from the specific truth of the issue at hand. It dismisses the glaring necessity of exploring the manifold issues which lead to the disproportionate accosting, investigating, and even shooting, of African-American people within American society. It suggests that this is a problem that can be easily solved by saying ‘all lives matter’. Yes, yes, your wife’s death is sad, but then so is any death. How callous. By abusing the general truth of this statement in order to cover up gaps in its validity, it so dangerously equates the deaths of actual African-Americans with fictional non-African Americans, thus avoiding dealing with the issue. One asks why, of course, anyone would think ‘all lives matter’ is an appropriate response to a campaign which highlights real demographic discrepancies and one concludes that such callousness is an indication that the proponents, at best, do not care and, at worst, are seeking to disrupt the investigation.

The similarities between the Far Left and the Far Right have often been conceived on the basis of the results of their political systems. Hitler and Mussolini had systems of government-sponsored terror keeping the population in check, killed and imprisoned political opponents, and promoted ideology as a thing worth dying for: so too Stalin, Pol Pot, or the Kim family in North Korea. As Hannah Arendt argued over half a century ago, if one strips away the niceties of their ideologies, one is left with gangsterism on all sides. Even in its theoretical forms, extremism has a misanthropic effect on its proponents: ideologies are seen as complex and people as simple; ideologies are the great course of history, and people are merely their conduits. People are therefore considered more expendable than ideologies. We all fall victim to such disturbing thinking at times: the key thing is to work to destroy this baser instinct within us and root it out of our politics.

These days, however, there is considerably more for us to ponder. Twitter is a very useful tool for gaining insight into the way that different people treat their MPs. From Corbynism to Britain First, we are seeing what is clearly a rise in abuse, attacks and, most concerning of all, death threats against our MPs. One of our MPs was recently murdered on the streets, meaning that we cannot simply dismiss such behaviour as the fantasies of “keyboard warriors” as we may well have done a few years ago. Strip away the niceties of their causes, and the death threats against Labour MPs from neo-fascists or from deranged far left conspiracy theorists (forget, as it were, the colour of the ink in which the note was written) and the threat is the same.

This is not to equate the far left with the far right, they are, of course, very different animals. Similarly, politics may simply be the chosen vehicle for psychopathic, pre-existing, non-political violence looking for a home – it often is. What I am trying to suggest is that politics of the extremes, so often governed by extremities of emotion, lends itself to the same kinds of dangerous and spurious claims and actions regardless of the particular side taken. As Nick Cohen has pointed out repeatedly and painstakingly for over a decade, not only is the left mistaken in thinking it always constitutes virtuousness and goodness, but it is mistaken in seeing itself as the natural opponent of the right. Left-wing support for totalitarian regimes, Labour MPs appearing on Russian and Iranian State TV, and the appropriation of neo-Nazi terminology for Israelis demonstrate that the left has much work to do to make its distances from the far right clear.

In fact, as those very few of you who have endured my thoughts on this know, anti-Semitism is one of the key links between the far right and the far left. I would have said conspiratorial thinking in general was the larger link, but that particular malaise dominates all of our political discussion nowadays. We live in an age of cynicism, conspiracy theory and paranoia. And such conditions are ripe for the imagining of shady groups arbitrating over all of us from behind the scenes, actively taking our wealth, freedom, or power from us. And as usual with conspiratorial thinking, Jewishness becomes an index of all that imagined evil.

Labour’s problem with anti-Semitism is widely documented, and I do not wish to repeat my arguments about this. However, Jeremy Corbyn’s defence against accusations linking him to anti-Semitism requires a little bit of scrutiny as it will be in the news again in the coming weeks. His defence, as many of you will know (perhaps some of you endorse it), is that he ‘is against all racism’. This is a noble thing, and as a statement on its own, how can one have a problem with it? Well, context. This was his response to David Cameron asking him to condemn anti-Semitism on its own terms. It smacks of the same abstract avoidance applied by his supposed political opponents on the right. What is it about anti-Semitism that means Corbyn cannot condemn it without adding what, effectively, feels like a caveat? ‘I condemn all racism’ seems to cover anti-Semitism, as it is a subset of all racism. For a man steeped in the excesses of identity politics, it is a curious response, though. In a way, it avoids taking on the actual issue, not least because Corbyn seems deeply unsure that the issues under discussion actually constitute anti-Semitism. Rather than nail his colours to the ‘it is not anti-Semitism’ mast, he chooses to make a generalised statement. Is anti-Semitism bad? Of course – but then all racism is bad. This seems to be acceptable to many of his supporters. And yet its logical counterpart on the right, ‘All Lives Matter’, would, I hope, be dismissed as what it is: a reprehensible attempt to avoid a necessary discussion.

So why should this be any different with anti-Semitism? Corbyn would, I suspect, wholeheartedly agree with me that ‘all lives matter’ is a sinister and spurious response. I suggest he applies that attitude to himself the next time he thinks that simply denouncing ‘all racism’ on the end of a specific question about anti-Semitism will suffice.

And Jeremy Is An Honourable Man

By Jayne Mortimer

This a cross post from Jayne’s own blog, reproduced by kind permission.

I’ve been umming and ahhing about this since Friday evening. And with a hangover caused by the events of Friday night, that’s not been easy. I have no doubt that a few people will tell the another. All I can say is that the following is what happened. If others disagree, well, I guess you’ll have to choose to take their word for it or mine. And here’s mine.

I went to my CLP, delivered a speech, was shouted down half way through with the tacit approval of the Chair who jabbed his finger at me, was ruled out of order, called a traitor, and heard sexist and misogynistic remarks throughout. The End.

Oh, you want more details? All right, then.

Friday night, 8th  July, I attended my CLP meeting. I’d submitted – as have others in many CLPs around the country, and indeed the Parliamentary Labour Party, a motion of ‘No Confidence in Jeremy Corbyn’. I won’t lie, I was pretty nervous. It’s fair to say it wasn’t greeted by the CLP with unalloyed joy, and two other members had submitted one of confidence in Jeremy’s leadership.

This was going to be… interesting.

Just before going in to the meeting, the Chair of the CLP walked over, thrust a copy of Chapter 15 of the Labour Party Rulebook into my hands and strode off without a word. Ok… He’d indicated with large X’s the paragraphs in relation to submitting motions. Due to timings, neither of the motions had been submitted via a branch and I guess he figured this was the most convenient way out of it for him. I grabbed one of the few seats remaining (the room rapidly became standing room only) and yes, it was great to have so many people there.

And then the Chair decided that as neither motion had been submitted via a branch, there would be a debate on whether  Jeremy Corbyn should remain leader of the party, after other CLP matters had been dealt with. He incorrectly identified only some of the CLP delegates supporting one or other of the motions but that could have been a genuine error, I guess.

Oh, that chapter I was handed; specifically said the motions could be submitted as Emergency Motions; it wasn’t allowed.

Jo Cox was remembered and the usual CLP matters dealt with: membership, reports, etc.

Then the debate.

A very passionate speech from our MP which paid tribute to Jo Cox and went on to explain why we so desperately need a strong leadership to get back in power and to help those who need a Labour government.

The Chair then said he would make a list of people who wished to speak, and announced that due to the amount of people  this would be limited to 2 minutes per speaker. This didn’t thrill me as I’d already prepared a speech of about five minutes. With a little help, I condensed it down to two minutes on my phone and read it from there.

And that’s when an already tense meeting turned… unpleasant.

Here’s the full 5 minute speech; I’ll put the the condensed version – or at least as I got before I was shouted down and instructed to sit down – immediately afterwards…

Let me say upfront that every person in this room who voted, less than a year ago, for the leader of our party, did so from the best of motives; I have no doubt about that. The election was fair and the result was decisive. Jeremy Corbyn had a huge mandate, both personally and for the policies he espoused.

Had.

He had a mandate. As did every other leader this party elected, some with bigger mandates than Jeremy, some with smaller. Neil Kinnock was elected by a higher percentage of the vote, Tony Blair with more absolute votes. Whilst I did not vote for Jeremy Corbyn as leader I of course respected the result as I hoped that any concerns I had about his potential leadership would lessen over time, as he put the Tories on the run, and inspired the membership, the PLP and the country. You know, what his supporters promised would happen. And as he said he would. And Jeremy is an honourable man.

Everything I’ve seen from Mr Corbyn, and his acolytes, since he was elected has confirmed again and again what I thought during the leadership campaign: that he does not possess the qualities, personal nor political, to lead this party to electoral success.

Any personal mandate he won in 2015 has been betrayed time and time again by his actions, behaviour and lack of political nous while in office. If any of us here had shown his incompetence doing our first 10 months in the job we would’ve been sacked or at least have to explain ourselves with more than “you never wanted me in the job anyway so yah boo sucks to you”. If the Executive Committee of a CLP voted by 4:1 they had no confidence in the Chair, there’s not a CLP chair in the land who wouldn’t resign as the honourable thing to do. And Jeremy, as we all know, is an honourable man.

A man who fought apartheid at a time when our current Prime Minister’s biggest struggle was getting the Bullingdon Club menu completed on time. (Pork, obviously.) A man whose fight against racism is matter of record… Apart, oddly, from any word of criticism against anti-semitism before 2015. A decent honourable man who apparently didn’t know until last Monday’s select committee appearance that wanting to kill Jews is anti-Semitic. An honourable man who repeatedly lied to the Select Committee.

An honourable leader who didn’t contact Ruth Smeeth MP for four days after she left a meeting in tears, the same meeting in which, moments after Jeremy decried the anti-Semitic trope of Jews controlling the media, Miss Smith was subject to that very attack yards away from him. In a room hardly any bigger than this one, Jeremy Corbyn did nothing. And continued doing nothing for four days.

We have been told by all sides of the labour movement that we should focus on attacking The Tories. Great idea; it’s a pity that our leader doesn’t share it. The architect of the most brutal hammering of the welfare system since Thatcher resigns; With a level of audacity that’s breathtaking, he hypocritically says he’s done it because the crackdown is too harsh. And Jeremy decides “it’s not really up to him” to say anything about it… Maybe he thought it would be dishonourable to kick a man when he’s down. And as we know… Jeremy is an honourable man.

Here’s a hypothetical for those of you who maintain that, whatever else his arguable faults, whatever else he hasn’t got exactly right, “But… Tories…”… Take a right wing MP, say, proud to be on the rock hard right of the Tory party. This man – let’s face it, it’s usually men – never makes a racist statement himself, but platform shares with overt racists, hosts them in parliament, says it’s his “pleasure” and his “honour” to host his friends and he thinks it’s a pity the government banned the other white pride racists he invited (he thinks that’ll be seen as a big mistake). He gives television interviews to affiliates of white power organisations, and defends white pride people as “honoured citizens” “dedicated to peace and justice”.

This man on the hard right of the Tory party makes statements against racism, but only ever in the abstract, condemning lynchings but never criticising those who carry them out; the closest he ever comes is saying in interviews that he doesn’t always agree with them. This right wing Tory MP says a man who wrote that “blacks are racially inferior and want to take over the white race” is an honourable man and he looks forward to having him for tea at the Commons.

What would you say of this right wing Tory? Racist or no?

Hamas and Hezbollah are overtly anti-Semitic organisations who want to kill all Jews around the world. But Jeremy calls them ‘dedicated to peace’, and Jeremy is an honourable man.

Jeremy attended events commemorating those in the IRA who died killing British citizens, but Jeremy says he never actively supported the IRA. And Jeremy is an honourable man.

After appearing on Russia Today and taking £20,000 from Iran to appear on Press TV, but Jeremy criticises others who take money from sources he considers abhorrent. And he should know what is abhorrent, for Jeremy is an honourable man.

Jeremy calls for loyalty from the Parliamentary Labour Party, despite showing no loyalty to any previous party leader during his time in Parliament, and voting against the party whip over 500 times. An honourable position, surely, for as we know, Jeremy is an honourable man.

This party cannot achieve government while Jeremy Corbyn is leader. But Jeremy says he always puts the party first, and Jeremy is an honourable man.

This party needs a leader of genuine honour, a leader of political skill, and a leader who can convince people who voted for other parties in the past to vote us into government. Jeremy Corbyn is none of those. I have no confidence in him as leader, and I ask you to show that you have none either.

And this is the condensed two minute version, at least as far as I got. You’ll see where I was shouted down and told to retract what I had said. Which I would not.

Every person in this room who voted for the leader of our party, did so from the best of motives in a fair election; I have no doubt about that. Jeremy Corbyn had a huge mandate, both personally and for the policies he espoused.

Had.

He had a mandate. As did every other leader this party elected, some with bigger mandates than Jeremy; Kinnock won with higher percentage, Blair with more votes.

And though I did not vote for Jeremy Corbyn as leader I respected the result, hoping any concerns I had about his leadership would lessen over time, as he put the Tories on the run, and inspired the membership, the PLP and the country. You know, what his supporters promised would happen. And as he said he would. And Jeremy is an honourable man.

But since the election, Jeremy has repeatedly shown that he does not possess the qualities, personal or political, to lead this party to electoral success.

He has betrayed any mandate he received by his actions, behaviour and lack of political nous and justified criticisms are met by “you never wanted me in the job anyway so yah boo sucks to you”. If the Executive Committee of a CLP voted by 4:1 they had no confidence in the Chair, there’s not a CLP chair in the land who wouldn’t resign as the honourable thing to do. And Jeremy, as we all know, is an honourable man.

A man whose fight against racism is matter of record… Apart any word of criticism of anti-semitism before 2015. An honourable man who apparently didn’t know until last Monday that wanting to kill Jews is anti-Semitic and who repeatedly lied to the Select…

———–AND JUST HERE IS WHERE I WAS SHOUTED DOWN, WITH THE APPROVAL OF THE CHAIR WHO TOLD ME I COULD NOT CONTINUE —————–

Yes, of course I knew what I was saying was controversial. Unfortunately, it was nothing but the truth, unlike Jeremy Corbyn’s testimony to the Select Committee.

He lied. The Leader of our Party, the Leader of the Labour Party… lied.

Jeremy said – as has said on other occasions – that after Paul Eisen came out as a holocaust denier [in 2007] he never attended any more of his events. There’s photo evidence of him there in 2013. That’s a lie. He said Paul Flynn’s ‘dual loyalty’ slur on a Jew as a British ambassador was about politics. That’s a lie. Everyone said at the time it was about the ambassador being a Jew and besides, the dual loyalty thing is an anti-semitic trope going back centuries.

Here’s the full transcript of his testimony, courtesy of Parliament’s website.

Had I been a new member I would have been disgusted at the way the Chair stood up, pointed his finger at me and told me to take it back. Interesting sense of priorities, our Chair has; wants the truth left unspoken and, five minutes earlier, chose to allow a sexist comment about our MP.

And that’s what happened.

One final point: one thing identified and condemned in the Chakrabarti Report was that people  who raised concerns about anti-semitism in the party are often shouted down and also that any seasoned activist who says they have never witnessed anti-Semitic discourse within the Labour Party”must be wholly insensitive or completely in denial”. I’ll let that sink in and leave you to judge which applies.

Anyway, how was your Friday?

The right side of history

This is a cross post, by kind permission, from Twlldun’s Medium blog
There is an online meme. I’m unsure whether you are aware of it. One of the most debased versions of it is a pairing of two photos, the first being the infamous Bullingdon Club photo showing a youthful David Cameron and his drinking club at college, the second showing the below photo, and asking us to compare and contrast:jezza-aparted

I’ve always thought the comparison somewhat unfair. Cameron at the point his photo was taken (1987) was a 21 year old student. Corbyn, in comparison, in his photo (1984) was a 35 year old politician who had been an MP for a year and was first elected to office (as a councillor) a decade before.

I’m pretty politically minded myself, but if you are going to ask me what I was doing at 21, the main answer would be “getting drunk and having fun”. The fact I never chose to dress up in quite frankly archaic looking gear, or that my drinking companions weren’t particularly posh doesn’t negate the fact that Cameron was pictured doing something pretty normal for people of his age.

As I say, that’s a debased version of the meme. I’ve seen more debased variants that compare Corbyn to Cameron “who at the time was wearing ‘Hang Nelson Mandela’ t-shirts”, ignoring the fact that it was, generally agreed, mainly a small group of individuals who wore badges rather than t-shirts with the slogan, and that Cameron was not one of them. No evidence exists for the claim, but it inhabits that peculiar area of modern folk tale amplified by the Internet. The country we could call Memeland.

But I digress from my main purpose.

The least debased summation of the meme was made by Hugh Lovatt in the IB times in September 2015.

“Looking back over the past 30 years, Corbyn has proved to be remarkably prescient. He was a staunch supporter of the ANC’s struggle at a time when the British government was still largely supportive of the Apartheid government”

What’s illustrative about this quote is that there is only one element of it that is undeniably true – that Corbyn was a supporter of the struggle. The rest is hazy misremembering and myth making flattening out history.

To begin at the beginning – the precursor of the British anti-apartheid movement was set up in 1960 by a number of luminaries, one of which was the then Labour Party leader, Hugh Gaitskell.

In 1961, the then Tory Prime Minister Harold MacMillan gave his famous “winds of change” speech in Cape Town, telling the South Africans directly that their policies were against the tide of history.

In 1969 and 1970, the stop the 70 campaign, chaired by future Labour Party minister Peter Hain aimed to disrupt the Springbok rugby tour of the U.K.

By the early 80s partial bans were in place regarding sport, and partial economic sanctions were due to come. The Special Aka had a top 10 hit with Free Nelson Mandela in 1984. In Bill Forsyth’s surprise hit of 1983, Local Hero, there is a scene where Denis Lawson finds washed up on the beach an orange and swears, because it is South African. Globally, the movement was huge. It had UN backing. It dominated campus life in the west, and had done since the mid-70s.

The younger me proudly had an Anti-apartheid badge, which I would wear daily. It’s estimated around 90% of Trade Union at the time supported the anti-apartheid movement, and the vast majority of Labour MPs. One could go on at length but the point is, however staunch Mr Corbyn’s opposition to apartheid was, it was neither prescient nor remarkable.

What was remarkable about it was it remains one of the most mainstream opinions he’s ever had.

The third element of the quote, too, is wrong. The idea that the British government supported South Africa was given credence at this point from their opposition to complete sanctions. Indeed, David Cameron has gone on record to criticise Thatcher’s policy of “positive engagement”, so it’s obviously an idea that has sunk into political culture. The only thing is, it’s not quite the whole picture.

When Thatcher met PW Botha at Chequers in 1984, the South African foreign minister’s notes of the meeting highlight that she “very firmly” told him that Mandela should be released, apartheid dismantled, and the forcible removal of urban blacks had to stop. At a statement to the House of Commons regarding the meeting she reiterated those points. This was welcomed by Archbishop Trevor Huddlestone, one of the leading lights of the anti-apartheid movement, President of the AAM at the time.

Whilst the mythology of Thatcher as an unabashed supporter of apartheid has taken hold, even when the diplomatic history shows the story to be far more nuanced, I don’t want to over-egg the pudding. Undoubtedly, Thatcher could have done more. Also, undoubtedly, perfidious Albion could well have been motivated just as much by economic (or geo-political – this was still the height of the Cold War and the ANC was still formally communist) considerations with respect opposition to complete sanctions as it could have been motivated by a different idea of how to resolve the situation (however, to give a little more context, it was under Thatcher that the ongoing Zimbabwe/Rhodesia struggle was resolved, and her government played a major part in the negotiations that led to black majority rule. So the idea that she was motivated by some atavistic sympathy for racist colonialist states is not quite the whole ticket).

However, the above caveats caveated, it’s pretty clear that the image of Jeremy, the prescient rebel against the system, is a distortion of the truth to almost heroic degrees.

Which brings us to the photo.

In 1984, ahead of Botha’s visit to the UK (the very same visit, you will recall, during which Mrs Thatcher “very firmly” set out her position), the Metropolitan Police moved to deal with a non-stop picket of the South African embassy that the City of London branch of the Anti-Apartheid movement had set up.

Said London branch was dominated at this point by members of the Revolutionary Communist Group, a Leninist group whose name does exactly what it says on the tin (amongst their many charming positions was a fondness for the Pan Africanist Congress slogan “one settler, one bullet”, a slogan that even the PAC never adopted formally and has since apologised for. The PAC were, by the way, always a fringe organisation in the struggle against apartheid and held little relevance to its end), and The Workers Revolutionary Party (the grubbiest of all the British far left parties, led as it was by Gerry Healey, a serial rapist who took money from Gadaffi and Saddam Hussein to spy on London based dissidents).

The Anti-Apartheid movement as a whole – the group that had both the blessing of and took their lead from the ANC, the dominant political organisation of black South Africans, the actually existing people who were suffering under apartheid – attempted to challenge this through the courts and also entered into negotiations with the police to try and resolve the situation.

The City of London branch, on the other hand, called a demo, ignoring the AAM’s wishes, during which Corbyn was one of three MPs arrested.

This ongoing conflict between the AAM and the City of London branch, by the way, eventually led to the expulsion of the City of London branch from the movement in 1985 (the same year, incidentally, that Gerry Healy’s reign as Dictator of the WRP fell apart over the allegations of sexual abuse and complicity with dictatorships mentioned above. He died in 1989. In 1994, Ken Livingstone claimed all the allegations against him were a secret service frame-up. Just so you understand the milieu).

So, what actually emerges from our brief potted history of a picture of Jeremy on a demo is not a lone man, prescient in his opposition to the evil apartheid regime.

Instead, it is a man who – when an idea is already mainstream and backed by the vast majority of the left – finds himself drawn to a demonstration organised by those on the wildest shores of it, a demo the utility of which – centred entirely around the right to keep a non-stop picket outside an embassy – to the wider cause of the movement is debatable, to say the least.

Staunch opponent of apartheid Jeremy may very well have been (and I don’t for one moment doubt his sincerity), but he deserves no special plaudits for holding such a mainstream left position, and his choice of allies and associates yet again gets shown up to be, well, questionable to say the least.

But sure. Keep sharing that picture. Right side of history. Prescient.

(Thanks to James Undy for inspiration and first hand reminiscence of the period)

Why I am re-joining the Labour Party

By Jake Wilde

I left the Labour Party on 1 January this year. I deliberately didn’t make a big deal out of it. Why would anyone be interested after all? Today I will complete my application to re-join the party. And the reason for this post is to declare that I know what I am doing. Like the precursor to any Last Will & Testament if you like…

I don’t want there to be any misunderstanding about my reasons for re-joining. I know that the current leadership of the Labour Party consists of the very worst people in this country’s political society. They hold views that are racist, dehumanising and abhorrent to the vast majority of decent people. They have no interest in improving the lives of the majority of their fellow man, and only interest in the punishment and degradation of those they hate. Some of the people they have attracted to the party have no place in public discourse and should be returned to the misogynistic, antisemitic, conspiracy-laden corner of the internet from whence they came.

When I originally joined the Labour Party it was as a show of support for their commitment to the removal of Saddam Hussein. While so-called socialists were leaving a party that was seeking to liberate people suffering under fascism I joined. I was, and remain, relatively ambivalent about the individual domestic policies of the party of that era. The general overarching desire to improve the wealth, health, education and opportunities of everybody is inherently a Labour Party principle. New Labour delivered on that principle so, even if individual policies left me underwhelmed, that was all that mattered. That is what the Labour Party should be; not dogmatically fixed to policies but guided by principles. The Labour Party were running the country in broadly the right way, sufficiently enough for me to continue to vote for them, but not enthusing me enough to join. Until Iraq.

Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice showed the world that you couldn’t murder your own people by the thousands without consequence. That you couldn’t threaten to annihilate democratic states without consequence. That you couldn’t be a fascist dictator without consequence.

Without doubt enabling the transformation of Iraq into a democratic country is one the United Kingdom’s greatest achievements since World War Two. I say that to be clear about my position. I deliberately say it ahead of the publication of the Chilcot Report. I have no doubts that mistakes were made but I know that the guiding principle was right, and fundamentally in keeping with the principles of both the Labour Party and what guides us as citizens of a western liberal democracy.

Although it is pure coincidence I am also conscious that I am re-joining on the United States’ Independence Day. The United States path to freedom should be the inspiration for the left, yet it is not. The documents that Americans hold dear – the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights – these should be our aspiration.

The current leadership of the Labour Party prefer to look to a different revolution and to different sacred texts. They prefer to celebrate executions of children and a philosophy that turns man into nothing more than a worker ant. In a democracy there is nothing to celebrate about the 1917 Russian Revolution.

My decision to re-join is based upon my belief that the Labour Party has it within itself to govern this country again, to manage both the political discourse and economy of the UK, so that neither collapse into disaster. I know that in order to get from where we are now to where we need to be that I have to help and remove this repellent group of people from both the leadership and the membership of the Labour Party.

And finally I know that Gloria De Piero is right, inspirationally so, when she says:

By signing up you can help choose a leader who recognises that the Labour Party was founded to be a Party of Government and implement policies to improve the lives of working people. A party of protest doesn’t help a single person.

Labour will win again when we get back in touch with voters and are true to Labour’s timeless values. At the heart of those values is that people, from whatever background, have a fair crack at getting on in life. Helping people from ordinary backgrounds get on in life is at the heart of my Labour Party.

I think it’s what you want the Labour Party to be too.

Please help us to get back to those values.

Don’t delay, Become a Labour member today.