Labour: From Hope To Despair

by Ray_North on November 19, 2015

I was never massively optimistic about Jeremy Corbyn, but, nor was antagonistic – indeed, unlike many others, being the naive young boy from the seaside that I am, I wanted to (and still do) give him a fair crack of the whip.

I hoped that from the rubble of the general election, there would come forth a truly inspiring and coherent force in our politics which would be able to articulate the feelings held by many that the world had become too greedy, too uncaring and that our socio-economic policies should reflect an aim of egalitarianism and opportunity rather than simply being tuned to add more ‘0’s onto the end of salaries of big businessmen. I also believed (and still do), that for this to come around, there must be a change in our political culture, with an end to the deeply partisan, deeply entrenched warfare between two parties who are actually very similar in terms of their views on public policy, because it’s a war which has become extremely unattractive to much of the electorate – there is nothing more depressing than the braying of the House of Commons and the inane prattling of so many Party Spokesmen who cares more about blaming the other lot and saying nothing that will endanger his own voters or career as he does about the problem at hand. Indeed, it’s got so bad that much so that much of the good work done by many politicians is overlooked.

Corbyn promised to be different, and, to be fair to him, has tried. Indeed, what excited me about the election of Corbyn was that he was a man who seemed prepared to step away from the Westminster bubble, something which I hoped would give him and his party the chance to look at policy afresh and to engage some of those who previously felt disaffected with the traditional system and were either estranged from the process or becoming attracted towards the fringes of UKIP, the SNP, Greens and elsewhere (before I get slated, when I use the term fringe to describe SNP, I mean no disrespect to their achievements, simply that they are a Scottish Party who cannot, by definition, form a UK government).

And, judging from those who supported Corbyn, and the numbers of them who were genuinely enthused by what he had to say, my excitement was well founded – because there is a genuine hunger for something different.

Obviously, Corbyn had and has inherent problems – he has a record of disloyalty, which does not endear him to many of the mainstream members of his party; he is ideologically on the hard left of the party, which, again, makes those of the centre and soft left suspicious; and, he has a history of associating with some who would not make particularly easy bedfellows with someone putting themselves forward as a potential Prime Minister.

Ok, all of that is troubling, but it is not insurmountable if the Labour Movement as a whole were moving forward together in a coherent fashion.

Because, if a Corbyn Labour Party is to work, then Labour has to go through a process of truth and reconciliation (and forgive me if I appear to be belittling that phrase and its connotations, I’m not, it just works) – and I don’t necessarily mean an exercise in public blood letting, but a process in which those on the right of the party, put aside their natural antipathy towards those they deem to be ‘Trots’, and ignore the, understandable, but unhelpful, conclusion that Corbyn is unelectable, whilst, at the same time, Corbyn has to properly engage with the right – I’m not suggesting that he must suddenly become transformed into Tristam Hunt’s Dad, I’m suggesting that he must allow an intellectual engagement with others which will challenge all his preconceived deeply held beliefs – because this is the only way in which he will be able to reach a position where his principles are either strengthened or improved to an extent when they can be safely and effectively transported from the cosiness of the dinner table and SWP meeting and into the mainstream.

And it shouldn’t be beyond the wit of Labour to do so.

I mean if you sat, say, Liz Kendall and John McDonnell together and said, what do you see as the aim of education? or Health? or industrial policy? I bet their answers wouldn’t be dissimilar, and if they can’t then forge a policy that encompasses the different ways in which they see themselves achieving that aim, then they shouldn’t be in politics, let alone the same party.

Sadly, there are no signs of that happening.

Corbyn has, I believe, not been as bad as many would believe, but, alas, for Corbyn that’s not good enough – for him to stand any chance of mounting a decent challenge for office in 2020, he has to be absolutely outstanding, he has to become a leader of almost Ghandi-like proportions and there is no sign of that.

But, the Labour Party has to be outstanding as well – the Labour Party must embrace the dynamism of Syriza, the integrity of Uruguay’s Broad Front, the coherence of Aung San Suu Kyi’s Party in Myanmar, the intelligence of the SNP. It must enthuse, it must lead, it must challenge – but, sigh, what do we get? We get Ken Livingstone calling another MP offensive names, we get MPs briefing about the ‘farce’ of the PLP, we get committees formed where no one is quite sure who is on them and what they’re trying to achieve, we get unnecessary U-turns, divisions and all the intellectual clarity of a bunch of toddlers trying to organise their own nativity play.

I’m afraid that it is not a case of Jeremy Corbyn being shite, it is now a case of Britain’s party of the left being incapable of effectively representing those who voted for it, who support it, and who need it to exist.

As I say…. despair.

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