Late Election Special: Jeremy Corbyn

How the fuck did he do it, eh? How did Jeremy Corbyn lose the election so well? Labour went to war a listless, dejected outfit, pitied by the media (and Alan Sugar). The debate will rage on about whether the contempt of the commentariat shaped public distrust of the party or vice versa, the political equivalent of the nature/nurture argument, but everyone who saw the polling data and examined the recent local election results agreed – Jeremy Corbyn was going to be butchered at the ballot box. It would be like Murder on the Orient Express with each member of the public taking their turn to plunge in the knife.

Yet, with a final tally of 262 seats (that’s 30 gains), Jeremy Corbyn looks like a rock solid loser, the new Neil Kinnock. Accept, whereas the Welsh colossus had to compromise everything he believed in to end up further behind the Tories than Corbyn is today, Jeremy, leader for less than two years, wiped out the government’s majority on his general election debut, estranged from the party’s so-called modernisers.

The assumptions of the last 30 years were hit hard – perhaps harder than Clint Eastwood’s right hook to Jessica Walter’s face in Play Misty for Me. 13 million people turned out for Labour, motivated by noble causes like improving society and giving the Tories a good kicking. And the bedrock of this new support? Hitherto indifferent youngsters – fresh faced victims of government policy who’d grown up knowing nothing but Thatcherite continuity. Not old enough to have internalised propaganda about the insanity of the alternative, and largely ignorant of the 1980s, the kids liked the cut of his jib and intuited he had a slim chance of winning. Sure, he was an ideological Brexiteer who’d barely engaged in the referendum campaign, consigning Remain to defeat, but a helpful Theresa May neutralised the issue by triggering the Article 50 process. What a useful ally she was.

It was oft noted that Jeremy, by every measurable yardstick, was the opposite of Theresa May – ideologically, educationally, sartorially. He only had one pair of shoes. There was also a gulf in confidence, though Corbyn felt more comfortable sparring with May than Cameron, her lack of patrician self-belief and plastic charm going a long way to diffusing his inferiority complex. But who knew, as the Tories geared up for suicide, that Jezza, as he was known in the pubs around Belfast, was also the psychological antithesis of the Conservative leader and this factor, above all else, would prove decisive?

May went into the election expecting to win but, I suggest, daring herself to lose in the dark nook of the brain that knows the unspun self; the “me” plagued by doubt and an honest appraisal of one’s own limitations. Corbyn, by contrast, expected to lose but dared himself to win. His impetus? Not a belief in himself but in the message he carried; an unapologetically left wing programme based on the wholesale repudiation of Thatcherism and its attendant assumptions about markets, public services and the role of the state.

It wasn’t a hard sell for the Labour leader, he’d never wavered on the fundamentals, so already knew his lines backwards. His manifesto, only slightly watered down by the party machine, had existed in his head for 30 years, a copy and paste of Tony Benn’s speeches. Transposing it to paper was a mere formality. There’s an advantage to being the enemy of a tired consensus – everything you say reads as radical and fresh.

The problem with being the Tories is that a stupid amount of electoral success means the country runs and works according to your design; you’ve achieved everything you wanted, for the people you care about, and have disadvantaged the rest as planned. Consequently, all that’s left to do is undo any socially progressive measure that slipped onto the statute book during freak periods of Labour government. Corbyn’s switchbacks were plenty, but after 30 years of reversals there was more than enough to fill a manifesto – one no Labour leader had dared propose in modern times from fear of alienating the beneficiaries of Tory policies.

So-called moderate Labour MPs, “moderate” really being a euphemism for conditioned by Thatcherism, withdrew from the campaign completely, intent that Corbyn should own the disaster to come. The leader’s strategy was entirely predicated on galvanising millions of people to embrace an alternative to the politics of the past 30 years. As there was no proof enough sympathetic voters existed, this was a leap of faith – a mark of how socialism, at its most pure, functions like religion. Corbyn’s millions didn’t register in local elections, didn’t answer the phone to pollsters, and never appeared on television. They were, quite understandably, thought by political scientists to be fictitious. But Jeremy’s brain, covered in a thick membrane constituted from utopian (but most definitely not terrorist) cells, didn’t worry.

In parliament, in opposition, Corbyn had been mostly dreadful – a dispirited and miserable beta male flanked by two hundred bitter colleagues. By the time it came to fight the election, abysmal opinion polls reflected accurate reports of disunity and intellectual incoherence. Labour’s talent pool was so dry that only loyal lieutenants like Diane Abbot and Emily Thornberry could be ultilised in the campaign, spokespeople who despite John McDonnell’s post-election label of a constituting “a winning team”, were box office disasters – charmless, badly prepared, sanctimonious in the extreme and dogged by a long record of bare-faced hypocrisy. In short, they were the kind of social democrats Conservatives studied to feel good about themselves.

Corbyn, with extensive media training to smooth down any rough edges, had better human credentials and could simulate speaking from the heart. He single-handedly won over those who couldn’t cope with the spectre of a landslide Tory victory, giving them a positive reason to vote for something else. May lost the election but Corbyn lost it better. Climbing 12 points to cut a Tory poll lead of 20 to just 2 on the final count, was exclusively the achievement of him and his cabal. May launched the election hoping to build a nationwide personality cult. It was her only success.

So what next for Jeremy Corbyn? Is he really modest and unassuming as his spin doctors tell us, or, like most intellectually insecure men held together by an idealised sense of self, likely to be monstered by adulation? Assuming they’re amenable, will he now invite Labour’s old guard to professionalise the operation on the strict understanding that the core tenets of the programme aren’t up for negotiation? And can he win an election without first finding a way to convert soft Tories whose self-interest makes winning the 65 seats that separate him from the winning post a potential bridge too far?

There, Corbyn may finally have found an answer to a hitherto unanswerable question: what are moderate Labour voices for? But the 2017 campaign was based on the idea of no compromise and courting new voters. Doubling down next time against a better Tory leader, disinclined to repeat the party’s mistakes, will make the fight that much tougher. Voters, taking the prospect of a Corbyn government seriously, will expect a much stronger front bench. Jeremy knows how to galvanise the public but he’s never reached out to a single Labour MP. If he can do it and acknowledge there’s only so far you can travel without your parliamentary party, then the 2017 result may yet be a staging post rather than a peak.

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Duck and Cover, Jeremy Corbyn’s about to embrace Donald Trump’s Populism

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How ironic that at the very moment Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party reflects the working man’s experiences, it’s about to embark on a policy of disinformation and fantasy.

Labour’s relevant right now. The majority of the population understand a dysfunctional, listless organisation, riven by confusion and internal contradictions, led by a cabal of cocksure fools promoted beyond their abilities, who absorbed by self-interest, refuse to submit to evidence that points to their inefficacy.

Today’s Labour is Britain’s councils, large companies and universities. It’s never been more representative. But the public want heroes not sad reflections of their own miserable lives, and consequently, Corbyn, the man who trumped meritocracy, thanks to the political illiteracy of the man and woman in the street (“cunts” according to Sid Vicious, who claimed to have met them), has turned to Trump to trump the meritocratic principle once again.

Last week we learned that Corbyn’s echo chamber have planned a re-launch under the banner, “Let Corbyn be Corbyn”. This will reposition Corbyn as a populist champion, using the same tactics successfully employed by condescending prole scoop, Donald Trump – “a relaxed approach to message discipline“.

Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign, that did to politics what Katie Price did to literature, has been watched closely by desolate Labour tacticians. Support for the Corbyn revolution remains stubbornly static, below 30%. Psephologists have crunched the numbers and prophesised doom. The old Labour left, that reads an empty glass as an intent to fill, has read these runes and concluded, as they must, that it’s a hostile mind controlling media, not them, that’s to blame.

Donald Trump may represent the opposite of what Corbyn says he believes in, but on the media they are one. Both believe that mainstream outlets (or as we used to think of them, legitimate news gathering organisations), are a cancer that’s eating them alive. If the public trust journalists, with their irritating propensity to ask questions, corroborate stories, report on matters deemed to be in the public interest, like hypocrisy and intellectual incoherence, constructing a narrative that runs counter to party propaganda or individual spin, then they’re sunk.

Trump and Corbyn don’t want to be interrogated or scrutinised, because it makes them look like a couple of preening amateurs. But whereas Jeremy has yet to find a formula that will free him from this tyranny of inquiry, America’s President-elect found a temporary workaround, and with it, hope for Labour’s current leader – an animate boil on Tony Benn’s putrefied dick.

Trump’s braintrust realised the trap for their village idiot with an inheritance, was engaging with the media on its own terms, because that gave their methodology and analysis legitimacy. Whereas previous political leaders in Western Democracies took it as red that journalistic inquiry was a necessary evil and feature of public life, and that mediating one’s message was a test of skill, as one could expect to have one’s pronouncements examined in detail and challenged, Team Trump saw the rise of fanatic-led alt-right websites as a model for capitalising on convenient strands of received wisdom; the cab driver and pub chat school of thought that’s kept Sid Vicious’s cunts happy in their ignorance for generations. The truism of choice? That you can’t trust the press, and that its agenda is to misinform and manipulate, rather than inform and educate.

You see, because some journalism is lazy, prurient and reactionary, it follows that all long-standing, well-funded media organisations are corrupt and self-serving. Just as it’s impossible to imagine a non-racist police officer or a grounded Hollywood actor, there’s really no such thing as professional journalism. Indeed, now the Internet’s democratised writing, with idiots free to unaccountably ramble on about any subject they like as I’m doing now, unburdened by old fashioned nonsense like checking facts, it can’t be of any value, can it?

The tenets of professional journalism – speaking truth to power, informed opinion, the public interest – these are but affectations, proffered by the privileged few; an elite who can’t believe their fucking luck at earning a crust doing this instead of real work, so must always maintain the illusion of utility and importance. The oldest lie after God.

Trump’s retinue understood there was a whole media underclass out there; millions of Americans who didn’t care for quality journalism or its presumed values, but nevertheless felt it patronised them, despite not consuming any of it. These people didn’t trust reporters. Hacks had an orthodoxy, whatever that is, that threatened age old assumptions about community, work and class. By disavowing the outlets that had alienated society’s discontents, and impugning their honesty and integrity, Trump played to a prejudice that made him immune from the media’s informed hostility.

By positioning himself as an honest Don, swimming against disinformation’s tide, he created a parallel reality. Grab ‘em by the pussy? No problem. Just frivolous talk. Allegations he’s Putin’s stooge? Mischief making by warmongers. Caught in a hotel, drenched in urine, kneeling over the dead body of a slain prostitute? Looking for the bathroom. Though there’s a dead girl in there too.

But as effective a strategy as it’s been, it’s not enough for Trump to allege media corruption and bias. To embed the idea, it’s necessary to sloganize it for the intended audience of deep thinkers, who, despite subjecting everything they see and hear to forensic analysis, nevertheless have a thing for catch-all terms that neatly summarise the phenomena they’ve carefully considered. Thus DJT has appropriated the buzz phrase of the moment, employed by journalists to describe their unaccountable and ill-informed opposite, “fake news”.

Labelling any story you don’t like as fake news is a great wheeze because it disobliges you from having to account for your actions. What a let off just to cry “fake news” in a crowded press gallery, and walk out, swigging an escort’s piss as you go.

Jeremy Corbyn must have spent his quiet autumn of 2016 watching Trump, while recalling the horrors of the anti-Semitism row, questions about his leadership, rumours of a deselection purge, and his alleged attempts at sabotaging Labour’s EU remain campaign, and felt nothing but envy. He loathed the media, the inquisitive shits, yet he lived in a political culture where he was expected to engage with it and acknowledge its role as a legitimate scrutineer. Trump, arguably a true outsider, as he’d never been a politician, just an establishment mainstay, simply brushed it off and met the press pack’s questions with belligerence. His supporters lapped it up. Like fresh piss.

So “Let Corbyn be Corbyn” will experiment with Jeremy doing the same thing, with the result that a terrible opposition will become a fantasy one. Worse, a fantasy opposition with a contempt for the inquiring minds of the electorate.

Corbyn began his career as the people’s politician by trying to bypass the media altogether; refusing to talk to them on the move, cancelling interviews. It was so successful that it was reversed within months when Seamus Milne, Corbyn’s weasel-in-chief, realised that the wider public saw this as a form of incompetence. Labour’s next Prime Minister, in a parallel universe where the government’s been outed as a paedophile ring with slave owning interests in third world countries, looked to Joe and Jacinda Public like a sneering, self-important arsehole, who was too good to answer the questions put to him on the people’s behalf.

Times have changed since attempts to refashion a Labour Leader to meet Middle England’s expectations resulted in disaster. Not least the assumption that what Middle England thinks matters. Corbyn isn’t in the same boat as David Hare’s Kinnock proxy in The Absence of War. He’s tried being unaffected (within certain professionalising media managed limits) and the result’s been a damaging consensus that he’s a student politician in a pensioner’s body; both detached from and disinterested in economic reality. This is why Trump’s methodology is so attractive. By crying “fake news” whenever unhelpful facts come to light, prompting uncomfortable questions, Corbyn can help Britain to become what Trump’s piloting in the US – a country where half the population see its media as a psychological abuser, tethered to special interests, attempting to destabilise the people’s chosen one.

All political parties spin. They have to. Policy formation and implementation is complicated; there are winners and losers from every proposed reform. The problem with making Trump the inspiration for his revival, aside from proving that Corbyn is no different from any other Atlanticist at Westminster, eager to copy the socially divisive mistakes of our American cousins, is that it’s a tacit acknowledgement that Labour’s thinking is intellectually wanting.

Any opposition that doesn’t trust the electorate to immerse itself in the debate on its policies and reach a favourable conclusion is not to be trusted. “Trumping” the operation means bypassing journalists to appeal directly to voters who have neither the time, political education or curiosity to coherently critique the populist promises that are about to be sprayed into their eyes. This gerrymandering of opinion; untested opposition; is an act of cynical desperation that has the potential to retard the political discourse for a generation.

A divided government of intellectual lightweights will press on with Brexit, one of the most complicated, far-reaching changes in Britain’s status for decades, while the official opposition embarks on a three-year daydream, hoping the politically ignorant will choose escapism over ugly reality. For “Make American Great Again” substitute “Straight Talking Honest Politics”. For hope substitute emigration. Norway, anyone?

“Have you seen the Brian De Palma film, Sisters?”: Opinionoid sits down with Jeremy Corbyn

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In the wake of his decisive victory, I sat down with the Labour leader to discuss where he and the party go from here.

Ed: Jeremy, congratulations on your victory.

JC: Thank you.

Ed: But it was a pyrrhic victory, wasn’t it?

JC: I don’t know what you mean.

Ed: Oh, come on.

JC: No, I mean, I don’t know the word, what are you asking?

Ed: I’m suggesting that the 172 MPs who voted against you in the no confidence motion still don’t want you. You’ve essentially used the members to delegitimise both them and clause one of your own constitution, the party’s obligation to be a fighting force in parliament, gunning for government.

JC: But what does legitimacy mean in this context?

Ed: Que?

JC: Well, the current intake were elected on a prospectus which, as I’m sure is now obvious, no longer has any real relevance within the party. They’re products of an era of ideological infirmity within the Labour family, a time when we said, ‘Thatcherism’s the fashion and one has to wear the clothes to be accepted in polite society’. It’s not unlike when you’re a teenager and you feel you have to like a certain band or support a rugby team to fit in. But you grow out of it. We all grow out of it. I think we gave the PLP their head for a long time, and we were right to do so, because you have to give people their freedom to go out into the world and make their own mistakes, but rightly we’ve now taken a look at things and realised that mental discipline is more important. The party’s reasserting itself.

Ed: What did you wear when you were a teenager?

JC: Pretty much what I’m wearing now.

Ed: Are you saying your MPs are aberrations, then?

JC: No, that’s reductive journalism on your part, what I’m arguing, in fact saying, is that between say, 1983 and 2015, the Labour Party was subject to a period of faddism and silliness, which resulted in many people being brought up through the party who, through no fault of their own, simply weren’t up to it. They’d been conditioned to believe that the party had to reflect society as it was, and was becoming, rather than being clear that society must be rethought and remodelled, so it works for the party intellectually.

Ed: Rethought using old and flawed models like Maoism, that sort of thing?

JC: I see what you’re trying to do, I’ve read your blog, but collectivism is an evolving ideology, it’s not just a snapshot of late 19th, early 20th century political philosophy that dogmatically tunes out the experience of real people. It’s a lot more than that.

Ed: Right. So your MPs, then – you’re not going to deselect them?

JC: You’re obsessed with deselection, but I think you have to remember that the real question is about whether they’d want to continue, once their stabilisers are removed. Right now, many of them, and I do feel sorry for them because it’s not their fault, are going through that difficult period where they come to understand that every naïve and half-baked idea they’ve ever had is not reality. It was wrong of Ed Miliband to let them run on the basis that this would be the party’s programme going forward, because that was clearly a sort of waking dream on his part. So I’m saying to them now, ‘get on board, forget the past, understand that you’re a Labour MP and this is what we stand for’. Some will be able to internalise that and support the party and its members, and some won’t. But those who won’t should consider giving way to one of the new and enthused members of the party, the disciplined body that’s coming through, who understand our philosophy. Staying will only make them confused and unhappy.

Ed: But you’ve been an MP for the entire period you’re now saying has been a sort of child-like catatonic period. How is it that you and people like Diane Abbot and John McDonnell were immune from this infantilising?

JC: Have you seen the Brian De Palma film, “Sisters”?

Ed: No.

JC: It’s very good. Basically, it’s about twins who grow up together, one normal, one psychotic. So it makes the point that differences in people’s makeup can cause them to veer off on dangerous tangents. For every me, there’s a Tony Blair. For every Diane, there’s a Harriet Harman. Not everyone’s mentally robust; some are well intentioned but intellectually wanting. There are men and women, and there are sheep. I like sheep, I have to say; there’s a place for them in the party, because Labour’s always been a broad church; but you can’t have them telling the farmer how to run his business. We got timid in the ‘80s, and we didn’t slaughter them, or shear them – we just let them get ridiculously puffed out and old.

Ed: Right, so they have to fall into line or lose their seats?

JC: Well many of them will lose their seats next time anyway. You know, there’s going to be a recalibration of British politics as the electorate adjusts to the breadth and depth of our policies. I’d expect some to stand down, because I don’t think they’d take themselves seriously in an ideologically rich climate – they’ve been reared on platitudes and nebulous notions of compassion, etc. And they’ll be boundary changes of course, and some of those new seats we’ll want contested by serious candidates who believe in a comprehensive re-landscaping of British culture, with affordable ideas built on top.

Ed: So you wouldn’t interpret a wipeout of MPs as failure, then?

JC: Heavens, no.

Ed: What, even if you were reduced to a ton?

JC: A ton of what?

Ed: MPs. A hundred MPs.

JC: Oh – no, because it’d be the right one hundred.

Ed: What about fifty?

JC: Yes, fine.

Ed: Wait, so there’s no number of MPs that would stop and make you think, ‘perhaps the country’s not going for this’?

JC: Ed, listen – the party is a mass membership movement – all the Ms. It doesn’t exist simply to bolster parliamentary representation. We’ll get there, but we first have to find the human distillate of our philosophy and offer it up for the people to taste and study. Scrutiny follows, then enlightenment, then government.

Ed: So if the Labour Party was just you, Diane and John, you’d be okay with that?

JC: It was for thirty years; it could be again. Change takes time.

Ed: Okay, just quickly then – could we discuss some of the issues with your leadership?

JC: The myths, you mean?

Ed: If you like.

JC: Well, it’s terribly tedious, but fine, ask your questions.

Ed: Were you a friend of the IRA?

JC: I believe in a United Ireland.

Ed: Brought about by terrorism?

JC: No, not terrorism. But I support armed revolutionary struggle; I think freedom fighters must use whatever means necessary to overcome armies of occupation.

Ed: Thanks, that’s clear. Israel, do you support it?

JC: I support it in the abstract, naturally.

Ed: What about in reality?

JC: Well it doesn’t exist at the moment.

Ed: Huh?

JC: What exists now is the footprint of occupation; a gangster state. So when there’s a legitimate country there, backed by consent and democracy, of course it’ll have our support.

Ed: I think that’s what the Israelis already believe to exist.

JC: I know, tragic isn’t it?

Ed: Okay, what about the idea that you’re a hypocrite, because you’ve agitated to remove every Labour leader since Kinnock but now expect loyalty from people whose trust and respect you haven’t earned in parliament, whose entire political careers you’ve worked to undermine?

JC: Move on to your next question.

Ed: Many say you helped condemn Britain to Brexit by being deliberately low key and ambiguous during the campaign. They say you saw the EU as a capitalist cabal, that you’re secretly thrilled we’re leaving, and that the only thing you like about it – free movement of people – is antithetical to the values of the people you’re supposed to represent, namely the UK’s working classes, but you like it because it chimes with the metropolitan, café culture liberalism that you actually represent; a sort of left-wing middle class sect that doesn’t understand how ordinary people live. Any truth to that?

JC: Well, I don’t drink in cafés.

Ed: What about the more substantive points?

JC: I campaigned for Remain, I made it clear that I superficially understood the hopes and aspirations of young people who wanted to be a part of it. I understand it’s been fashionable for 40 years.

Ed: Fashionable? What, like, the movement to the right within the PLP? That kind of fashionable? Something that needs to be corrected?

JC: I’m very sorry, but your time is up. I have a rally to go to.

Ed: Fine. Jeremy Corbyn, thank you for your time.

JC: Thank you for filling it.

Jeremy Corbyn is represented by John McDonnell Management Ltd.

Published in: on September 25, 2016 at 19:01  Leave a Comment  
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Why you can have Jeremy Corbyn or the Labour Party but not both

British Labour party leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn poses for pictures with a tie that he was given by a charity worker as he arrives to address a public rally in Glasgow, Scotland, on August 14, 2015. Voting began Friday to elect the new leader of Britain's main opposition Labour party, with Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran socialist who would move the party significantly to the left, favourite to win. AFP PHOTO / LESLEY MARTIN (Photo credit should read LESLEY MARTIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Welcome to my inaugural post from Brexit Britain – a country broken just as David Cameron promised (assuming I interpreted his 2010 election sloganeering correctly). Leave voters should note that in line with the now universally accepted notion that you’re thick as wet concrete, a single syllable version of this blog will be published tomorrow in Warm Glow magazine – still just half a crown.

Last September we all got together and agreed that the test for Jeremy Corbyn’s then presumed leadership would be cultivating the dormant radical instincts of the millions he, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott, daughter of Newton, imagined to exist. These were the discontents, the victims of capitalism and decades of laissez-faire dogma, who didn’t vote and weren’t served by neoliberalism. Surely they’d show themselves once JC became their cheerleader?

We laughed about it and concluded that their existence was currently a matter of intense speculation, like dark matter and the God Particle once were. Because they didn’t turn out on election day, or register their support in opinion polls, their existence was theoretical, or a matter of faith for non-Marxists. But like the aforementioned dark matter, that’s thought to signal its presence by the difference between the gravity required to form a spiral galaxy and the potential of the visible bodies therein to generate it, young activists, who joined the party or paid an affiliate fee to guarantee the Corbyn succession, were thought to be the planets and gaseous swirls that proved a greater movement existed.

These kids – who’d devoted many weeks of their lives to politics, indifferent to its archaic mechanics and attendant complications, were vouchsafed by JC and his retinue as the first trickle from a cracked dam. They only numbered in their hundreds of thousands, and were to typical voters what the Eurasian Lynx is to the domestic cat, but when they filled a town hall or student union, it must have felt the world had finally woken up to the Bennite project. Soon, went the thinking, their peers would reverse decades of political disengagement and revive mass membership. Soon, inspired by JC’s rambling rhetoric, the millions who’d voted New Labour following Thatcher’s recalibration of British society would be comprehensively re-educated. But weirdly, this hasn’t happened.

Perhaps it could have, but as soon as Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader it was apparent that beating the system was harder than even Twitter realised. By winning the way he did, from the bottom up, JC broke all the laws of political advancement. His supporters’ code for this was “anti-establishment”; the idea that Corbyn, unlike the Blairite quislings in parliament, wasn’t part of the system, just an MP and part of Westminster’s closed shop since 1983. For anti-establishment read non-conformist and for non-conformist read campaigning socialist; a man with no ambition to advance his cause using the machinery of government, rather content to be a martyr to the same. Say what you like about Tony Blair, and I hope you will, but it took him 6 years as Prime Minister to hit that mark.

Because JC’s never had the tenacity and strength of character required to take on colleagues with different views and win them over, he’s not been subject to the usual shaping forces that prepare most would-be leaders for the tortuous slog that accompanies the top job. Parliament isn’t just a chamber for MPs to congregate. It’s a finishing school for debaters, orators and opinion formers. The word careerist has now become derogatory, but a political career is not simply a power trip for the unprincipled, though that’s one of its many attractions. It’s a test of will and character, a battle that can and does last many years. And in the midst of it all, with all the compromises, frustrations and media exposure that comes as standard, politicians are forged; politicians who impress their colleagues and the country with their presence in the bear pit and their ability to cut through and mediate their message to you, the barely cognisant horde.

When JC leapfrogged all the stages between lowly backbench rebel and party leader, he also skipped the trials that make MPs contenders; tests of mettle like the ability to communicate and build alliances. And whereas no one would argue the deserving always make it – William Hague, IDS and Ed Miliband being examples of how preferment, or not being someone else can inadvertently push the wrong person across the line – they’ve usually impressed enough of their colleagues to be given a fair shake. Corbyn circumvented that process, and curiously for a Labour politician, the principle of meritocracy. In so doing, he presumed to lead a party he’d never worked with.

Standing as the anti-politics candidate was an extraordinary idea; a conscious appropriation of the myth that you can institute meaningful change without first engaging with the system. Imagine applying to be an engineer on an anti-maths ticket, or applying to medical school singing homeopathy’s praises. But politics is a strange fish, because it’s a cerebral pursuit often conditioned by anti-intellectual forces. The public’s lack of nuanced understanding is breathtaking, which suits our rulers fine. Anyone who mischievously pretends that the game’s simple, or stacked against the righteous, is deemed to be a man or woman of the people – fatuous and meaningless a title though that is.

The kind thing to do would be to tell Joe and Jacinda Public to sod off and study politics, or perhaps watch the parliament channel all day, every day for a year, so they understood what the fuck was going on. But Jeremy Corbyn, the anti-politics candidate, gave newbies permission to know dick sizzle because he promised to change all the rules. He sold the dream of a new politics, one apparently divorced from the imperatives that shape the thing. It was the idea you could mount a parliamentary offensive without the hard won consent of your parliamentary colleagues. Incredibly, his supporters thought mystified MPs should give him that chance, which is a little like parents voting to let Brian Meek, the quiet school porter, become headmaster. Why won’t the teaching staff just let him try? Why are they so determined he should stand down? Why won’t the bloody establishment respect democracy and let Brian have a go, despite him being profoundly underqualified?

In office Corbyn wasted no time confirming the worst fears of well wishers. He was obstinate and uncooperative with the media, who he saw as propagandists rather than a mirror to people’s values and preoccupations; he was stuttering, long-winded and incoherent at the dispatch box; he was slow to react to events and hopeless at capitalising on them. And in an unprecedented situation for a new leader, his long standing opposition to the mainstream of party opinion made unity impossible; unity being, yawn, the prerequisite for strong opposition.

The party’s policy was to retain nuclear weapons, though Corbyn was unequivocal in saying that as Prime Minister he’d never use them. The party supported military action to tip the Syrian civil war in favour of the dispossessed but the leader did not, as all such action is a symptom of Western imperialist aggression. The party was overwhelmingly pro-European but JC saw the EU as an insidious capitalist club and affront to democracy. Arguments about whether he gave his all in the referendum are ludicrous, given his arguments for Remain came with a dozen caveats. Supporters liked Diane Abbott called it “nuanced” but desirable though that is in general debate, in a referendum where the choice is binary and the aim is to galvanise and maximise you support there can be no half measures. JC told interviewers he was “7.5 out of 10” in favour of Remain – overstating his support by a factor of 7. Subsequently, only 6.4 out of every 10 Labour voters turned out for the cause (the same number that March, pre-campaign polling for Remain said would do so anyway), though this may not have made any difference to the final result.

If there was any doubt, his passion for retaining his stranglehold on the leadership has been far greater than any exhibited during the EU campaign. That shouldn’t surprise anyone; JC’s finally fighting for something he believes in. Having waited all his adult life to have some influence on the direction of the Labour Party, he and his retinue are not going to give it up, just because 81% of his MPs think Tim Farron would make a better leader of the opposition. Nor will you hear him tell miserable and confused young fans why he didn’t wholeheartedly defend something they saw as integral to their future. He could try telling them they don’t get it; that the EU is ideologically impure; but when you’ve counted on the ignorance and historical illiteracy of your natural supporters to protect your position, you dare not draw attention to it.

If you try and explain this to “the movement”, as it’s sometimes known, and groups like Momentum – the cult’s campaigning wing, you’re told that any attempt to dislodge Corbyn is illegitimate, that the members are sovereign, that feckless and self-serving MPs, who only care about forming a government and implementing Labour policies, exist in a bubble divorced from political reality, if you can imagine such a thing.

Diane Abbott went on the Today programme and witheringly denounced talk of winning elections as “Westminster-centric”. Billy Bragg told Facebook that the coup against Corbyn, that now includes famous Blarites like Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband, was based on a fallacy, because JC had won three safe seats in by-elections – proof that a 2020 landslide was a mere formality. Paul Mason, furious at Labour MPs’ disloyalty to a man imposed on them against their will, argued that the referendum result was just a pretext for removing JC, and this despite 64% of the party’s supporters voting Remain. Sure, there was no evidence Corbyn’s lukewarm endorsement informed that figure, and Nigel Farage, who’d barely shut up on behalf of Leave and had made himself ubiquitous on TV and radio, managed to deliver 93% of his supporters, but so the fuck what?

Then, last night on the BBC’s This Week, journalist and Corbyn cultist, Rachel Shabi, told a dumbfounded Michael Portillo that he was a fantasist for suggesting Corbyn would doom the Labour Party to the worst defeat in its history. JC’s supporters didn’t care about party unity or his MPs endorsements, she said; his popularity, in as far as one could measure it accurately, came from the country. A smirking Portillo replied, “you’ve just made my day”. Here was the Labour schism laid bare; those who believed Corbyn would win because their faith was indicative of those hitherto untapped and formerly voiceless millions, versus commentators – some at Westminster, some old enemies like Portillo, who looked at the sweep of electoral history, and the most up to date indications of how people vote, and saw a disaster unfolding in slow motion.

The masses, whoever the fuck you think you are, typically don’t vote for weak leaders or divided parties, or indeed a party that appears to be disinterested in the type of voter you imagine yourself to be – say white, working class and angry. Corbyn’s supporters see disunity as a symptom of treachery and media scrutiny as propaganda, but party discord’s inevitable if the parliamentary wing has not fully endorsed the candidates that finally get offered up to the membership. The Tories may be bastards but they understand this, hence their system that only lets card carrying Conservatives vote once MPs have whittled down candidates to two. Ed Miliband’s reform of the system for choosing the Labour leader dissolved the distinction between MP and member, and in doing so delegitimised the role of parliament in a system where having command of the parliamentary party and the chamber is a copper bottomed necessity.

So Labour’s PLP, directly elected by the general population, stands on the precipice, forced to contemplate either an ugly leadership contest or the nuclear option, unilateral independence and the search for a new base and party machine. Faced with his refusal to resign, they must contemplate the awful possibility that you can have Jeremy Corbyn or the Labour Party but not both.

History, it’s over to you.

Let’s face it, the Corbynistas have an extra chromosome: Tony Blair writes exclusively for Opinionoid

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Look, politics is comprehensively botched right now, and it’s pretty clear which cult’s responsible: the Corbynistas. I don’t understand what drives them, because I’m a normal person of sound mind, but at a friend’s request (President al-Assad), and in part motivated by the same morbid curiosity one succumbs to when watching video footage of a disgruntled ex-employee murdering his former journalist colleagues during a live transmission, I read Rosie Fletcher’s impassioned defence of these half-wits in last week’s Observer. Well, she wrote eloquently, but I’d barely got half way through the piece when I realised she too was nuts.

Let’s not mince words, because we’re way beyond that now. If you support Jeremy Corbyn to be the next leader of the Labour movement then you’re defective. I can see you now. You’re terribly superior, aren’t you? Sickeningly pious in every argument you escalate and moral to a fault, your equally sanctimonious friends, cut from the same cloth woven of received wisdom and historical ignorance, love you for it. How wonderful to be a legend in your own mind, a font of pure intellect that stands tall amongst the obtuse masses. Good for you, putting the world to rights at your favourite gastropub, a product of the very aspiration and commodification of lifestyle you profess to despise, attending your silly discussion groups, and watching The Trews with Russell Brand (thankfully now defunct) and feeling clever for having all your half-informed views fed back to you like baby food on a plastic spoon.

From the window in my bullet and bomb proof Mercedes I watch you. I see you every day, walking the streets with your identikit partner, a testament to the narcissism that informs each and every relationship you’ve ever had. I hate your designer glasses and your arty t-shirt. I hate that you’ve spent a fortune to make yourself look dishevelled. And I despise you for marking everything you do with a pin on that oversized lapel of yours, because apparently believing in a cause or visiting an institution isn’t enough, you have to advertise it, else who’d know what a cultivated and intellectual curious paragon of cool you were? It must be wonderful being a walking set of clichés.

But politics is a serious business, not an interesting little conversation filler for the barely conscious, and frankly, if you can’t take it seriously, you should keep quiet and leave participation to those who know something about it. Why not stick to the subjects you can talk about with authority, like your idealised self and the fantasy world you imagine you’re living in?

Across the world, from the United States to Scotland, politics is being hijacked by the mentally-ill and barely functional. When you have the audacity to tell these idiots that they’re challenging an orthodoxy that works pretty well from where I’m sitting, then they plug their ears and start playing with themselves…somehow. ‘For Christ’s sake,’ I’ve told them, ‘we’ve been through all this before. Don’t you idiots ever learn? There will never be a viable alternative to the way we live now. All other models are broken, and I should know because I played my part in breaking them.’ Yet still the degenerates don’t listen, and now we’re looking at the prospect of unreconstructed opposition to Thatcherism at precisely the time my earnings are set to top £80m.

So that’s it then. The Labour Party is finished. Corbyn will become leader, not because he deserves it, but due to the machinations of a student cabal that’s determined to condemn us to long term irrelevance. Defeat in 2020 is certain and you can probably kiss 2025 goodbye too. It saddens me, it really does, that Labour will have to go through the lengthy and debilitating process of crushing idealism and lofty notions of equality for a second time, the experience of two cycles of eradication the only way to comprehensively defeat these high-minded ideas, insensitive to the needs of Middle England, once and for all.

How fucking depressing that we’ll have to watch the Tories restore the country to the highly stratified and offensively unequal country we inherited in 1997, in order to realise that the only way to win is to say we’ll follow the same trajectory. If we’re lucky enough to go on and re-take power, and are seen to do little, bar minor changes like the minimum wage, then the promise of New Labour will be restored. I pray for that day, a time when the drooling fadinoids with an extra chromosome return to obscurity and the senseless preoccupation with their empty lives.

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Published in: on August 30, 2015 at 13:28  Leave a Comment  
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Corbyn’s Millions

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Tony Benn once said that every generation has to re-fight the same battles. Yet even he might have been surprised by the Corbyn insurgency, the commanding lead of the Great Beard, that’s torn the scar tissue from Labour’s early ’80s schism and reignited the battle of ideas that Tony Blair thought he’d settled with his answer to the Nagasaki bomb, New Labour. The project, as it was sometimes known, was supposed to be a decisive blow against the very idealists, the kind of members that Denis Healey witheringly called ‘innocents’, that had lived under the party’s nails since the days of Michael Foot. Blair offered the prospect of power but in exchange demanded an acceptance of the Thatcherite consensus. A desperate Labour Party played along, content that it was better to live on your knees than die standing, arms linked, singing the Red Flag.

Blair inherited a Labour Party which was desperate for acceptance following a decade and a half of rejection. Like a human left on the shelf for all that time, it was prepared to make compromises with itself in order to feel the intimate, warm embrace of the people. But sadly the similarities with a broken person, lacking self-esteem and validation, didn’t end there. Labour closed its eyes to the worst excesses of the Mandleson, Brown and Blair project; it took the beatings and told itself it was loved. In time the party machine took it for granted that the idealism that characterised the Bennite wing of the party had been crushed, that it had gone the way of the Whigs and Cyril Smith’s diet book, but the so-called modernisers had forgotten something.

For many, socialism, or the ideas loosely associated with it, was not a fluid concept. One couldn’t adapt it to fit monetarism like updating an old TV show for the big screen. New Labour’s founding assumption was there weren’t enough left wingers in a First Past the Post election to win a majority in parliament; that deeply ingrained vested interests in society, cultivated by Mrs Thatcher, had to be managed, rather than reversed, and the beneficiaries courted to maximise the vote. Such an approach locked the Bennites in a windowless basement cell, told them their views were a destructive fantasy, and that subsequently there was no place for them in modern politics.

The truth about what happened next may just determine the future of the Labour Party.

The Corbyn view of history goes something like this. In the early ’80s, the Bennite wing of the Party, committed to power from below – opposed to nuclear weapons, rejecting Europe, suspicious of market forces, was marginalised following Benn’s defeat in the deputy leadership contest by a group of turncoats; careerist hijackers who moved the party to the right to win power rather than make the intellectual case for socialism. The country, noting the shift, gave up their principles, took Maggie’s shilling and accepted the new orthodoxy as natural.

The idea that Conservatism had to be courted to win became a self-fulfilling prophesy.

The electorate, hitherto galvanised by a choice of futures, found themselves offered variations on a theme. Many lost interest in politics as a result. The denial of choice inevitably left millions, mainly saplings that naturally questioned old orthodoxies, voiceless in an ostensive democracy. When Jeremy Corbyn’s unpolished, unaffected, old school socialism stood naked next to three guileless by-products of Post-Blair compromise and confusion; the cherry pick candidates, eying a menu of bland social democratic options; the children of Benn, long denied a champion for social justice and a world built on egalitarianism, not profit and economic utility, rallied to their saviour. Finally, socialism would have its chance. There would be a second coming. This, says camp Corbyn, is indicated by the surge in Labour membership and proves the existence of Corbyn’s missing millions; the once apathetic masses long removed from the franchise, now returning to the fold, ready to get involved at the ballot box.

The Blairites, not surprisingly, have a somewhat different interpretation. They say that ’80’s in-fighting, rather than being an important battle of ideas, was a self-indulgent civil war that alienated the electorate and ignored real world problems in favour of intellectual naval gazing. They say that Benn’s ideas were naïve and never had any prospect of winning mass support. They say that Labour’s move to the right saved the movement from irrelevance in an age that embraced individualism rather than collectivism, family rather than community, tangible self-interest over abstract social responsibility and choice (or the market) over utilitarianism. New Labour didn’t destroy Labour, it rejuvenated its appeal by positioning itself as a cuddly alternative to a hard hearted Tory Party; a movement that would make Thatcherism work for everyone.

Yes, millions of votes were lost in the New Labour era but this was a symptom of content amongst the populous. The government was competent and the opposition shambolic, so why bother voting? New Labour’s declining vote share wasn’t a sign of failure but success; they’d given the electorate less to worry about, less to be angry about – all the important battles had been fought and won. No one was interested in a re-match. A country that’s stable and prosperous and broadly satisfied with the opportunities on offer doesn’t get excited at election time. Turnout was down but the millions who stayed away weren’t disillusioned, they were products of a post-ideological age. They were politically ignorant, assuming they thought about politics at all, and didn’t feel existentially threatened or materially impoverished like their parents. The struggle, in whatever form it had once taken, was over. Sure, there were social problems, but everyone agreed on the model that would address it. You didn’t need to vote to consent to something as natural as flatulence.

In the Blairite view of history Corbyn’s supporters are a naïve few – Neo-Bennites too young to remember the old battles, who’ve only known Thatcherism and lament its many victims, unaware that the alternative has already been comprehensively discredited. Yes, some say it was stamped on and never tried, but most political historians accept that there was never a majority for socialism, parliamentary or otherwise, and there never will be. Even Clement Atlee, say Blair’s baerns, wanted a planned economy, not the wholesale dismantling of capitalism.

For the Blairites the millions that Corbyn imagines are out there, waiting to be converted, don’t exist. A few hundred thousand idealists, they say, should not be confused with the millions of people who don’t vote and probably never will, because they know nothing of the arguments and care even less. To win, says Tone’s Drones, you must work with the people we know about – the 30 million or so box crossers who remain engaged throughout an electoral cycle and are minded to register their views when the time comes: grounded, pragmatic voters who are fad proof and don’t have Twitter accounts.

So who’s right? Is there a giant constituency of voters to be mined if Jeremy Corbyn becomes (and can remain) Labour leader, perhaps enough to circumvent the monetarist mass that’s thought to determine elections, or are they a myth; a psychic crutch for a small group of politicians who can’t accept that Britain’s a small c Conservative country that likes evolution not revolution and policies they can associate with their liberal conscience, making them feel better about themselves, but will not support any erosion of social advantage for the sake of the less fortunate? After all if you’re a socialist you have to sleep at night, right?

Those voting in the Labour Leadership election best be sure they know the answer to this question before making their choice. The consequence of getting it wrong could be severe. If Corbyn’s right, Benn’s time has come, sadly a year too late for him to notice. The path to power, in that instance, is courting the disaffected and awakening the slumbering socialist masses from their squats. If Corbyn’s wrong, and the ’80s are back, as some believe, then Labour are set to endure another spell in the wilderness, sans the map showing the way out. It feels like too great a risk, with too many incessant warnings from history banging on the door like a pilot locked out of his cockpit by a suicidal madman, yet the choice has been complicated by the alternative. No Labour member wants to play roulette with the Labour Party, but they’re not wild about turning it over to the featherlight, vapid, vacillating, and just occasionally obnoxious trio that stand in Corbyn’s way either. Little wonder, with just weeks remaining, that the gun remains firmly pressed to the temple.

The Corbynite Manoeuvre

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There’s been an awakening in the Labour Party. Have you felt it? Jeremy Corbyn, the Bennite leadership candidate who only made the ballot thanks to condescension from modernists in the PLP, convinced a token showing for what used to be an intellectually vibrant wing of the party would placate the dinosaurs who still believe in guff like social mobility, redistribution and peace, is now the surprise frontrunner.

What does this mean? For the Blairite commentariat, pretend centrists like John Rentoul, it shows Labour have lost their minds. If the Wilderness years of the ‘80s and ‘90s taught politicos anything, which is debatable, then surely it was that Thatcherite monetarism, economic self-interest and the free market was as natural as your mother’s teat. It’s remained the consensus, surviving 13 years of New Labour, because everyone agrees that Thatcher won the argument on everything. Sure, the country’s divided, social mobility’s in reverse, social justice – however you care to measure it, whether it’s the availability of cheap housing, low rents, well-paid jobs or access to higher education – is a joke, but other than those fundamental aspects of British life, everything’s worked out rather well.

When seasoned so-called moderates on the backbenches were signing Corbyn’s nomination papers, wiping tears of laughter from their eyes, they were convinced this last gasp showing for the old orthodoxy would persuade its advocates that it was time to pawn their CND badges. It was just a bit of fun and a crushing defeat for the benign beard would send a clear signal to the electorate that Labour had shed its ideological baggage. No sir, no one in the Labour Party believed in social equality anymore and you could can take that to the deregulated bank.

It didn’t occur to the Blarites, or indeed those admirers of Ed Miliband’s ultra-soft socialism, the kind you could taste, if not see, that Labour members who joined the party because they didn’t accept the Thatcherite consensus (and whisper it quietly, found it an affront to society), may be bored of the politics of triangulation. Hell, they may even hate that proxy for the status quo – the hallowed centre ground.

Spoon fed vapidity and platitudinous bullshit for twenty years while the durable unegalitarian infrastructure erected throughout the ‘80s remained largely untouched, these anarchists – we’ll call them ideologues – actually expected a real debate about whether the party should change direction. That’s right, not a token version like 2010, when the old firm was represented by alienator-in-chief Diane Abbot (whose redistributed votes cost David Miliband the leadership; a warning from history), but a journey into Labour’s tattered soul. What does being a member of the Labour Party mean in 2015? Who do you speak for? Does it matter if most of the population see themselves as middle class these days? Post-Thatcher, is self-interest and God the same thing and if so, how do you sell killing God?

Granted the last question can be worded a number of ways.

Tony Blair understood that triangulation wins elections but only because you start from the position that the status-quo is natural. You create a little political space by erecting a roomy big tent; large enough for soft Tories and social democrats to share cocktails and canapés. Everyone else is pushed outside and labelled an extremist or hard liner. It’s a formula for continuity. Sadly, it’s also a recipe for political stagnation.

Jeremy Corbyn’s excited Labour’s grassroots because he refuses to position himself to reassure Middle England voters. He doesn’t care for their beliefs and he’s not inclined to pretend otherwise. His positions on some issues, Irish reunification for example, lack nuance (it’s a policy born of anti-imperialism that ignores realpolitik), but Labour members are listening to him. Why? Because as a backbencher who’s refused to take the New Labour shilling he’s been free to speak his mind for the last thirty years; he’s a man who’s doggedly refused to compromise his Bennite beliefs.

His opponents, by contrast, are machine ministers who’ve been media managed in clinical white rooms. They’re victims of the professional politician career trajectory they’ve openly embraced. If they sound weak, like three middle managers who have no strong views on anything, bar the necessity of their own candidacy, then that reflects a truth about Labour’s mainstream in the post-Blair era. Corbyn’s an unlikely prime minister-in-waiting, but by virtue of having something to talk about – anything – and having clarity of purpose, conducive to the kind of passion you can’t fake, he’s left his straw opponents looking very fragile indeed.

The tragedy for the electorate, whatever the outcome (which may include a Corbyn victory and a prompt coup to remove him) is that we’re left with a disunited opposition with no clear path to power. The Conservatives have a tiny majority, a bastard’s dozen, but until Labour rediscover their courage and radicalism, and find a leader who can galvanise and inspire the millions who aren’t satisfied with the status quo – those who know the centre ground is shaped like a lemon, it may as well be 120.