Saturday, August 13, 2016

Labour's Love Lost

Politics and Doctor Who should not mix.

And yet today I can’t help thinking about the latest developments in the Labour Party in light of the 1970s Jon Pertwee story Day Of The Daleks.

In that story, you see, a bunch of time guerrillas travel back to assassinate a diplomat they believe started a war and landed them in their present mess, but ultimately their destructive efforts end up causing the catastrophe they hoped to avert. And elements of the Labour party, without the benefit of having come from the future, are achieving something very similar.

Armed with no foreknowledge whatsoever, they have convinced themselves that Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable and so they are attempting to blow up the party in order to avert disaster, and in so doing have brought about the exact result they were so desperate to prevent.

Well done. Give those men an ice cream.

They are more delusional than the time guerrillas, however, in that they point to Labour’s woeful slippage in the polls as evidence to support their actions. Look, they say, at how disastrously Labour is doing against the Tories, expecting us to overlook the correlation between the party’s death throes and the point at which they hit the detonator.

They are not ignorant of their own responsibility. This is intentional, utterly deliberate. Their delusion lies in perhaps forgetting that they shed some 5 million Labour supporters during the course of their previous time in government, because so few of us could tell the difference any more between them and the Tories. Their delusion further lies in their apparent conviction that we are stupid.

We aren’t. Far from it.

Neither are we Trots. Or thugs.

Don’t know about you, but I’ve not personally been dubbed a Trot yet, but surely it must only be a matter of time. I have, though, been accused of having my fingers in my ears; I’ve seen more intelligent and articulate people than me being accused of being blinkered; I’ve seen other intelligent people declare all Corbyn supporters to be stupid, to be somehow fooling themselves. And there have been even more ridiculous labels thrown this way.

It’s very sad. What’s especially sad about it is that, you end up arguing with people who, in theory, ought to share some of the same socialist values as yourself. As I said to someone the other week, I miss the days when I just used to argue with Tories.
It’s much harder work and much more draining arguing around in circles with fellow Labour supporters. And most of the time it’s not even that we support different Labour parties. And the accusations sting all the greater because they are coming from people I generally respect and admire.

Hence this blog post, really. Because I’m unwilling to engage in that debate online any further. It’s a pointless spiral that does nobody any good. And since I’ve been unfairly accused of sticking my fingers in my ears, well, that is what I am doing as of now. Unreasonable? Perhaps. But this is the fruit of persistent assumptions and accusations etc.

Besides which, my mind is made up and I may as well don those blinkers. What’s to be gained from further discussion? What’s to be gained from reading further smears of a man’s character? It’s not as if the opposing side has anything to say much beyond ‘We don’t like Jeremy Corbyn.’

See, it’s not even about Jeremy Corbyn versus Owen Smith.

It’s about Corbyn or Not-Corbyn. That’s what this Labour Party leadership election boils down to in the end.

Because I’ve not seen any of my most ardent anti-Corbyn friends actually champion Smith. And why would they? What is there to actually champion? Surely if Jeremy Corbyn is all the things his opponents claim, then the alternative put forward should be a candidate possessed of all the qualities they maintain that Corbyn lacks.

Jeremy is unelectable. Sorry, I’m not detecting some superior electability in Smith. Maybe you see it, I don’t. Jeremy’s leadership is characterised by incompetence. All I’ve seen from the opposing campaign camp are staggering levels of incompetence and farce. Jeremy doesn’t wear a suit and tie. At the outset, Smith was seen tieless, in his shirtsleeves, trying to look cool. Rallies of ten thousand people don’t win elections, he says, while addressing crowds of a hundred. Then asking to speak at Corbyn’s rallies of thousands.

Practically the first words out of Owen Smith’s mouth as he launched his campaign were, “I’m normal.” What kind of statement is that? Is that intended to persuade me to sit up and take notice? That this, perhaps, is a man who is so much more electable than Jeremy Corbyn. Owen is normal. Okay. Not sure what I’m meant to do with that. You should be declaring yourself to be exceptional, mate. Or, better yet, demonstrating it rather than telling us.

Owen Smith has also stated, “I’m as radical as Jeremy Corbyn.” But it’s no use just adopting policy promises and paying lip service to socialism if nobody believes you’ll actually deliver on them. Sorry, but we live in an age where much of what you said is on record and freely distributed around the internet, along with your actual voting record. We can compare and contrast your statements with your intentions. In the past, politicians enjoyed far greater freedom, I imagine, to tell us one thing and do another. Now, not so much. Even if memories are short, Google has a long reach.

Jeremy Corbyn is a personality cult. Well, we can’t accuse Owen Smith of that. But the impression I get is that the anti-Corbyn crowd is in essence an anti-personality cult. They simply do not want Corbyn. Which is fair enough, but I’m not seeing a dislike of the man as any better than or in some way a superior stance to take than liking the man.

And I’m told that other potential leaders might be waiting in the wings, but they dare not put themselves forward for fear of the flak and abuse they might have to endure. Well, come on in, the water’s toxic. Jeremy Corbyn has been swimming those waters for nigh-on a year. And he’s withstood more abuse and smears than anyone. Honestly, if you’re a better leader than him, if you’re more prime-ministerial than Owen Smith, why aren’t you out on the battlefield standing up for what you believe and enduring whatever gets thrown at you like an actual leader would be? Where are you? Because it’s beginning to look like Owen Smith isn’t intended to be leader at all. It’s beginning to look like he’s just some stand-in, some decoy to take the flak before the intended successor takes over. Which kind of paints the mysterious intended successor as a bit of a coward and not much of a leader in the scheme of things.

This, unfortunately for all the chicken-coup crowd, makes Corbyn look even better in comparison.

But for my part, it’s not even just about being pro-Corbyn. This is about so much more. It is, for one, about what he stands for.

These, for example, are the ten pledges Jeremy has set out in his leadership bid:

Ten Pledges

An economy that works for all

Secure homes for all

Security at work

Secure our NHS and social care

Free national education service

Democracy in our economy

Cut income and wealth inequality

Act to end prejudice and injustice

Peace and justice abroad.

He’s also talked about parity for mental health alongside physical health, and that’s an issue close to my heart. As well as – at the rally – issues specific to our region. All of which will be part of the message we will need to convey across the country once this leadership election is resolved.

Anyway, that’s the kind of politics he stands for. There’s not much I can see in there to which reasonable people could object. And I happen to believe Corbyn can deliver them. I trust him. I happen to believe he is eminently electable. I want a PM who believes in a fairer, more equal society, where we actually care about the poor and socially disadvantaged, those less fortunate than ourselves, whatever position we’re in. Those are the values I stand for and those are the values I would like to see represented in government.

Of course, I’ve been told that 29% of Labour supporters would rather see Theresa May than Jeremy Corbyn as PM. Nobody has said how Owen Smith stacks up against our anti Human Rights, Snoopers Charter PM. But in any case that statistic speaks far greater volumes about the kind of Labour supporters they must be than anything it purports to say about Jeremy Corbyn. They appear not to take into account what May stands for – which is everything the Labour Party should oppose, heart and soul and tooth and nail.

Beyond that, it has come to be about more even than Corbyn and his values. It has also come to be about the values apparently held by his opponents within the PLP (Parliamentary Labour Party) and the NEC (National Executive Committee). The tactics that have been employed have been a disgrace, offensive to members and damaging to both the public perceptions of the party and to the core democratic principles on which the party was founded.

While I respect the right of the NEC to set the rules for its own internal elections, you cannot take membership monies on the written understanding – as advertised on the website – of their right to take part in leadership elections and then withdraw that right. That is false advertising, taking money under false pretences.

If the move was to guard against entryism, well, nobody between Jan 12th and June 24th knew there was a leadership election pending – nobody except the coup plotters anyway, who may have been planning the move for some time. A fair cut-off would have been the date at which the leadership election was announced, but for starters the website should have been amended promptly to reflect that.

As for the £25 registered supporter fee, that remains an outrage, utterly at odds with the principles of fairness the party is supposed to uphold. That’s a third to a half of a week’s income for those on benefits and a sizeable chunk of change to those on low incomes, now set as the price of a vote in a leadership election in the party for working people. My blood still boils at that one.

But apparently, the party wasn’t satisfied with driving my blood to boiling point. No. Because a group of intrepid Labour members went to court to fight the NEC ruling on that cut-off date and they won... briefly. The NEC was awarded the right to appeal and they took the opportunity to place themselves in the absolutely ridiculous and offensive situation of using members’ money to fight to exclude members from the democratic process.

In the same week, deputy leader insulted all those youngsters so recently engaged with politics by launching into wild conspiracy theories about Trots (Trotskyites) intimidating young voters into supporting Corbyn.

And I’ll not say what I want to say at that point. Because a) we are looking to pursue a gentler, kinder politics and b) I purposefully postponed writing this blog post so that I might stand some chance of getting all the way through without using swear words.
So just imagine a few paragraphs here peppered with choice profanities. That should give some impression of my anger without causing undue offence to sensitive eyes and ears.

As heartening as attending that rally was last Saturday, this week’s events have been proportionately disheartening.

So whatever I think of Corbyn and his values is, while by no means immaterial, just a partner to what I think of those in the party who have set out to destroy him. You could replace Owen Smith with St Frances of Assisi or Marilyn Monroe right now and I still wouldn’t vote for them.

If this is the approach chosen to demonstrate electability, competence and a party in touch with the electorate then it is a woeful failure. At a time when the membership is at a high and when we should be focused on attacking the Tories, the party has effectively made enemies of its own members. Showing levels of contempt and incompetence only rivalled by their supportive movement’s command of irony in calling itself ‘Saving Labour’.

They come not to save Labour, but to bury it.

Whatever emerges, if allowed to emerge in their hands, may bear the name, but it will not be Labour. That alone is enough to commit me to the Corbyn campaign.

Declaring someone unelectable does not make it so. What it does is make me want to work towards getting that someone elected. So much more so when people call me stupid, so much more so when the opposition employs low tactics. Because I hate to break it to you there in the PLP, but if you’re questioning someone’s electability then you really need to prove your ability to win elections fair and square. Because, as a rule, you don’t get to win General Elections by excluding groups of voters.

When this is all over and when Corbyn has been elected a second time to the party leadership it is my hope that we can get on with the business of opposing a Tory government.

Whatever others decide to do in that eventuality is up to them, but I hope we can discuss our options, our approach, strategy and tactics together with a united aim. Because in terms of policy and values at least I believe we can find plenty of common ground.

It’s a long and difficult road back from here and already there’s a great deal of damage to be repaired – and this pointless and unnecessary fight isn’t over for another month or more.

Until then, I’ll be saving my breath because I’ve said all I want to say and I’ll need my energies for when we return to fighting Tories. I've no energy or desire to argue any more with friends. And if there are any arguments to be had, given their tendency to be circular anyway, I’ll just send you back here. Like a time loop.

But hopefully one of a more constructive nature.

SAF 2016


Anonymous said...

Your not just a writer SAF.
Your a fantastic, insightful, caring, socialist writer!
Arthur another Dr Who fan

George matthews said...

Wow, well put, I know I have had a hard time holding back from ranting and spitting nails at the stupidity of watsons comments and the actions of the NEC, though how the courts can decide NEC get out clause trumps basic contract law is beyond me, no surprise then that judge sales is a Blair man..............

SAF said...

Thank you both!