What Should Jeremy Do Next?

by Ray_North on January 13, 2016

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There are some who may answer this with a single word. There are others who may accuse me of being some kind of Tory to even deigning to offer some advice for the Leader of the Labour Party.

They are both wrong – Jeremy Corbyn is whether you like it or not, the Leader of the Labour Party; Labour is whether you like it or not, coming across like a shower of eejits, and currently stands about as much chance of forming the next government as I do of being invited to star in the next James Bond film.

From my own personal point of view, I am not a member of the Labour Party, and therefore didn’t vote in the Leadership election (for the record I voted Green in May, which is relevant). Initially, I, like many others, didn’t take Corbyn’s candidacy seriously – then, something odd happened, his message, which essentially was anti-austerity, anti-Westminster, pro-social and economic fairness started to take off. It was a message that resonated with me, and clearly resonated with many others, people actually joined the Labour Party to vote for him and many, particularly young people, were enthused about a politician of the left, in a way that they had clearly not been by Blair (after 2002), Brown and Miliband. Corbyn was duly elected, not as the most likely candidate to take on the Tories, or the candidate most likely to enthuse the voters of ‘middle England’, but on the wave of a positive feeling that he was someone who could honestly articulate the feelings of frustration felt by many.

And, his large mandate is important for two reasons, it does, as his supporters are constantly reminding everyone, give him a strong position within his party – it must do; but, it is not a straightforward mandate – Corbyn is an old-fashioned Marxist and pacifist, his world view is determined by a distrust of ‘the imperialist West’ and an aversion to war. He has spent all his political life surrounding himself with people who are driven by a similar belief in his ideology.

I have not seen any research on this, but, I would put my mortgage on the fact that a great majority of those who voted for Corbyn have not spent a similar lifetime immersed in left-wing politics, and do not have an emotional attachment to orthodox Marxist views. They are more likely to be people like me, who are pissed off with austerity, underwhelmed by Westminster and seek something different.

I joined the Labour Party in September 1988, I then spent the next three years absorbed in Student Politics – I was treated with suspicion (and derision) by those on the left, because my politics were deemed to be of the ‘middle class social liberal’ type rather than ‘proper working class Marxism.’I look back now and remember that everything was black and white, you were either ‘sound’ or you were a Tory. There was little room for ideas, there was little room for a broad debate, there was no room for disagreement and, perhaps crucially, there was no real leadership.

In many ways New Labour was the same, only with New Labour, it was an adherence to ‘the project’ rather than ideological socialism the was the cause – you were either ‘New Labour’ or you were a ‘Trot.’

It is this type of politics and political thinking that is utterly redundant. People do want fairness, people do want an alternative to austerity, people are suspicious about war, but, most people do not wake up every day and think how best to bring about an end to globalisation and the imperialist capitalist West. What has disappointed me most about Jeremy Corbyn has been his inability to realise that for him to continue his project, for him to be able to bring about even a tiny part of the agenda he set for himself forty years ago, he must take a massive step back from insular doctrinal politics and genuinely attempt to understand the reasons why, for a few weeks last summer, he suddenly seemed the saviour we were all looking for.

And that must start with a genuine attempt to reunite his Party. Sure, he isn’t going to enthuse everyone; ok, there are those who are never going to agree with him, and, yes, I don’t doubt that there are forces at large who are desperately trying to oust him. But, at the moment he is making it very easy for them – every time, someone from his group, goes around banding around insults or briefing against a colleague, he is making himself isolated and weak.

He must re-iterate what he believes in, and go back to core values and the pragmatic policies and politics that may enable the Labour Party to establish those core values. He must also show himself capable to finding ways to distance himself from some of the policies that he must realise are going to be unpopular with the electorate at large.

My fear is that the Jeremy Corbyn is incapable of doing this, my fear is that he has not grasped the limitations of his mandate, but instead is now (perhaps not assisted by others) hell-bent on creating the Labour Party that existed in the 1980s where ideological purity became more important than a duty to actual help the lives of others.

My other fear is that those who oppose Corbyn are still immersed in the New Labour philosophy where the desire to win over the electorate supersedes the duty to do what is right – a tendency that led to the anodyne and uninspiring leadership that has prevailed for the last ten years.

At the moment Labour is heading towards a disastrous precipice, but, the reality is, that when it falls off the edge, it will not be the likes of Jeremy Corbyn or John McDonnell, Peter Mandelson or Tony Blair who will really feel its absence.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Charlie East-Wedt January 13, 2016 at 1:11 pm

Ray – you would make a great James Bond.

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Mike Killingworth January 13, 2016 at 6:24 pm

There are two separate issues here: why Labour’s membership voted for JC and what JC wants to do with the job of leading the Party.

The first is simple – the Party’s members have had the experience of 13 years of office, and the longer it went on, the more the Government became a kind of “pink Toryism” for which few people outside Parliament had the slightest enthusiasm. It’s noteworthy that the likes of Seamus Milne spend half a lifetime denouncing the inherent contradictions of “Parliamentary socialism” before suddenly performing, or so it would appear, the greatest political volte face since the Hitler-Stalin pact and deciding that it’s doable after all. For the ordinary member, the problem is that they’re a socialist one minute and an anarchist the next. The compromises and prioritising that inevitably accompany office hold no attraction.

JC says he wants to be Prime Minister. Well, he would, wouldn’t he? Perhaps he could explain why he allowed Bernie Grant to lead Haringey Council whilst remaining a squeaky clean backbencher himself. And why he stood back to allow almost every other member of the Campaign Group (as was) to stand for the Parliamentary Leadership before he did.

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