‘Do Not Mistake Barking For Biting’. A plea to my friends to help save the Labour Party.
When I was eight years old, the Labour government introduced the National Literacy Strategy, this meant daily literacy hours were mandatory for children my age. As a child who struggled with reading and writing, and was on the Special Educational Needs register until the age of 11 — I had a dedicated support staff member who gave me one-to-one tuition. Without her, I don’t think I would be where I am today. When Labour left government in 2010, we had 2,400 extra teachers and 212,000 more support staff in our schools than in 1997. I was in Year One in 1997. I can only imagine the impact that these policies had not only on my life but also my peers.
I was of a generation who never lived through the dark days, when the roofs of our schools were crumbling. Me and my friends did not have to experience class rooms bursting at the seams with 40 or 50 children crammed into a room. Each school I attended gained modern ICT suites during my time there — on the back of the billions of pounds spent by a Labour government. By the time I completed my GCSEs in 2008, per-pupil funding was up by 55% from 1997. We had experienced all-time record levels of literacy and numeracy in our schools.
Now I can see what these policies offered me as I grew up, but it wasn’t always this way. For many years growing up I looked upon the Labour government with indifference and occasionally scorn. To me New Labour were a benign status quo — more grey than red.
My parents had both been Labour members since their teens. While I always knew I was ‘Labour’, I had no desire to sign up during the Blair or Brown era. As I became more politically aware, I realised that their politics wasn’t my politics. I looked to the likes of John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn and others in the Socialist Campaign Group as my people. These were the real Labour Party — those rebels on the backbenches — they were the true bearers of Labour’s socialist flame.
* * *
I went off to University with my satchel full of radical left-wing literature. Once there I soon made a new friend who was flirting with the Socialist Workers Party. He persuaded me to attend their meetings and I went along eager to fit in. This was during the height of the coalition’s increasing of university tuition fees, and hell hath no fury like a middle class student betrayed by the Liberal Democrats. Time and time again I was lectured to by dusty old men who told me that tuition fees would be this Government’s “poll-tax” and that we could bring down this government. I was sceptical. Exasperated, I once pointed out that two years after the poll-tax riots the Tories were voted in for a fourth term. I looked the speaker in the eye, and with this question he realised I was not one of them, and I knew I wasn’t one of them either.
The student protests against the tuition fees increases were large and widespread. One major rally brought between 30,000 and 50,000 demonstrators marching through central London. My university library roof was occupied for a while. As the protests went on and slowly began to peter-out, I became increasingly disillusioned. It became clear that the protests were never going to change anything. ‘Defying Tory rule’ and climbing up the Cenotaph just made us look like a slightly-unhinged, posturing rabble.
It was around this time I stumbled across a speech that was unlike any that I heard or read before. Delivered by Neil Kinnock at the 1985 Labour Conference — it was a speech that was a symbolic turning point for the Labour Party. It was speech that bubbled with tension, defiance and passion. This was Kinnock’s fierce impassioned cry for realism — for the acceptance — and adaptation to — the reality of social and economic change. He said the Labour Party must always be looking forward, not backwards to the past. This speech showed me that pragmatism and idealism are not opposites in conflict, but partners that form the bedrock of the Labour movement. It was a speech that changed my life.
I first found a short clip of the speech on YouTube. I’ve transcribed it below.
“I’ll tell you what happens with impossible promises. You start with far-fetched resolutions. They are then pickled into a rigid dogma, a code, and you go through the years sticking to that, out-dated, mis-placed, irrelevant to the real needs, and you end up in the grotesque chaos of a Labour council hiring taxis to scuttle round a city handing out redundancy notices to its own workers.
I am telling you, no matter how entertaining, how fulfilling to short-term egos — you can’t play politics with people’s jobs and with people’s services or with their homes. Comrades, the voice of the people — not the people here; the voice of the real people with real needs — is louder than all the boos that can be assembled.”
“I owe this party everything I have got — not the job, not being leader of the Labour Party, but every life chance that I have had since the time I was a child: the life chance of a comfortable home, with working parents, people who had jobs; the life chance of moving out of a pest and damp-infested set of rooms into a decent home, built by a Labour council under a Labour Government; the life chance of an education that went on for as long as I wanted to take it.”
A few months after watching one YouTube clip, I had joined the Labour Party.
I had to be honest with myself; reading my ‘left-Communist’ political theory, taking part in the occasional sit-in, and yet another drizzly march to Parliament was never going to change the lives of millions. The protests, the rallies, the grandstanding and philosophising — was only fulfilling to my short-term ego. It was what had left me feeling disillusioned and empty. Not only did this speech make me finally join the Labour Party — (God, how it made my mum smile) — it laid a seed of pragmatism, of realism, not only in my political psyche but in the way in which I saw the world.
It was the Labour Party that when in Government, brought about the greatest strides of progress our country has ever made. The Labour Party did not just cry for equality of opportunity, but fought to make it happen. The comprehensive education system, the welfare state, the NHS, the Race Relations Act, the national minimum wage, all brought in by Labour governments. Even now, when I watch this snippet of Kinnock’s speech - “I owe this party everything I have got — every life chance that I have had since the time I was a child” – it hits me hard. I now have a copy of the whole speech, and it’s something I will return to in this piece. I urge my friends to read it too.
* * *
Last May I spent most of my time canvassing in the Old Bermondsey & Southwark constituency. I watched the Liberal Democrat vote crumble on the doorstep. I saw the tide was turning and I was right in a way. The tide was turning against the Lib Dems. You cannot campaign to the left of the Labour Party for over a decade and then prop-up a Conservative government, and think you can get away it. Old Bermondsey & Southwark and other similar Lab/Lib marginals across the country saw a large swing to Labour. Simon Hughes was dumped unceremoniously out of Westminster, his vote dropping by 14% — long awaited justice for the his 1983 by-election campaign, in my opinion.
Maybe my campaigning in this seat gave me the wrong impression because I was quietly confident that Labour would edge to a victory. I’ll never forget the moment I saw the exit-poll. Exhausted, I lay on a friend’s couch in his flat in Stockwell. Still in a state of disbelief I took myself out for some fresh air. I admit that a few tears hit the pavement down Stockwell Road that night.
As the days after the election went by, it seemed clear where Labour had gone wrong. Put simply, Miliband’s 35% strategy was not enough. Labour could not win by simply appealing to its affluent socially liberal core vote, while expecting the BME and working class to stay ‘because they had nowhere else to go’, — then wait for victory.
Miliband’s Labour spoke to people like me but that was not enough. Under Miliband, Labour were seen as too profligate, too soft on welfare and immigration, and too incompetent. The top reasons people gave for not voting Labour were fears that the party could not be trusted with the economy and would spend too much and be too generous with the benefit system.
We needed a Labour leader who can win back those who thought we weren’t credible in running the economy. We needed a leader who would listen to socially conservative voters worried about immigration, and challenge their assumptions that we have an ‘open door’ policy. Basically, we needed to win over voters who didn’t scoff at The Sun or dismiss the Daily Mail. The membership thought otherwise.
Jeremy Corbyn’s was a man who spoke wholeheartedly to the type of people who would predominantly be members of the Labour Party. The focus of his campaign and his policy pillar was his support of an anti-austerity agenda. This was what galvanized so many people like the friends of mine. I understood where they were coming from. I too felt passionately that the damage to our economy, instigated by our financial markets, should not be felt most keenly on those at the bottom. I like many people felt austerity was an unnecessary burden, that stunts our economic growth and prosperity while punishing the poorest in our society. And I felt a great deal of anger as with each budget George Osborne failed to cut the deficit, while continuing to strip our public services to the bone.
I knew deep down the majority of the general public do not share my view on austerity. Though our economic recovery was weak and sluggish under the coalition government, when push came to shove the English people voted for a Conservative government in 2015. They voted for austerity.
When polled after the election 58% of voters agreed that, ‘we must live within our means so cutting the deficit is the top priority’. Just 16% disagreed. Almost all Tories and a majority of Lib Dems and Ukip voters agreed. Labour must win over these Tory voters to win the next general election, as well as keeping the 32% of Labour voters that agreed with the importance of the reducing the deficit. Amongst working class C2DE voters, 54% agree and 15% disagree with cutting the deficit being a top priority.
This does not mean we have a wildly right-wing electorate who want a minimal state and slashed services — that there is little hope for us progressive voices. The study showed that while voters want fiscal responsibility, 43% agreed that, ‘I am most likely to vote for the political party that redistributes wealth from rich to poor’, against 22% who do not — 60% agreed with the statement, ‘the economic system in this country unfairly favours powerful interests’. This rises to 73% amongst UKIP voters and 78% amongst Labour voters. The British electorate are both economically radical, and fiscally conservative.
Our British electorate are not intrinsically against redistribution of wealth. Blair’s New Labour government massively redistributed wealth from middle and high earners, often through ‘stealth taxes’, back to the poorest. This was achieved by gaining the trust of the British people in running our country’s economy. What is clear, and must not be ignored, is that for our voters fiscal responsibility must come before radical economic reform. Polling by the Trade Union Congress showed that people who voted on May 7th judged the Tories to be better at handling the economy by a 39 point margin. We have a long way to go as a Party to prove we’re a ‘safe pair of hands’ with our nation’s finances. Waving a copy of Mao’s ‘Little Red Book’ at the despatch box, does not help.
I’ve lost patience with the comforting myths on why Labour lost in 2015. The argument that voters chose to vote Conservative, for austerity, did so Labour because Labour were ‘pro-austerity lite’, disappointed they weren’t left-wing or radical enough — has, at its best, no grounding in logic or reason. At its worst, it plays on a paternalistic and patronizing assumption that our electorate are ignorant, misguided and choose to vote against their own interests. To hold this view, to toy with the ideas of ‘false consciousness’, is to the damn the Labour Party.
For decades the Left have hung on to the idea that amongst the large numbers of non-voters, there is a secret well of staunch left-wingers waiting on the day that we build Jerusalem. Yet there is no evidence that non-voters lean predominantly to the Left. Immediately after the election the Trade Union Congress produced a wealth of polling on the attitudes of non-voters. When asked what prevented non-voters from supporting Labour, the top 4 responses were: 35% ‘don’t know’, 30% ‘they can’t be trusted with the economy’, 23% ‘they would make it too easy for people to live on benefits’, 22% ‘they would raise taxes’.
On single-issue polls, the country may be in-tune with some of Jeremy Corbyn’s policy. But in politics perception if often more important than policy. ‘Two thirds of Brits want to see an international convention on banning nuclear weapons’ — but this is a very different thing to unilateral disarmament. The public opinion on scraping the bomb is rather complex. Yet couple Corbyn’s policy of scrapping Trident, alongside say his record of voting against banning al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas and 18 other terror groups in 2001, and you have a toxic mix.
This analysis by YouGov shows just how out of touch Jeremy Corbyn is from the rest of the country. Its conclusion is damning:
“The party is winning tenuous support from former Lib Dems and Greens because of Corbyn, while simultaneously losing support from voters who best reflect public opinion. In so doing it is choosing to represent a dwindling section of the electorate that not only does not reflect the breadth of public opinion but is blissfully unconcerned by it.
Should Corbyn fall on his sword it is more than likely those voters who have recently attached themselves to the party will drift away again, leaving Labour with the 68% it has retained from May. By that point it will have so alienated itself from public opinion as to be considered unelectable by those voters who would quite like a bit of economic security and competence. The third of voters it has lost may well choose to permanently close the door on any return. All of which slowly and inexorably sends a great political institution towards its unfortunate but inevitable death.”
* * *
Let’s be categorical. The Labour Party under Ed Miliband lost because it was weak on the economy and weak on welfare. The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn is weaker still. Ed Miliband struggled to win over a sceptical press, Corbyn doesn’t even want to. If we refuse to learn these lessons, not only from 2015 but from our history — we damn the Labour Party to irrelevancy for a generation. We will follow in the footsteps on my parent’s generation who lived through 18 years of Conservative Party rule; who saw the roofs of our schools crumble, who saw a country burdened with 3 million people unemployed, who saw our NHS fall to its knees.
As a party we must fight those voices who say that the legacy of 1 million pensioners lifted out of poverty, 600,000 children lifted from poverty, record levels of literacy and numeracy in schools and a national minimum wage, did not change this country for the better. These are things Labour can achieve when it is a credible Party of governance; when it doesn’t just listen to the cries of the membership, but to the voice of the country as a whole.
Jeremy Corbyn’s brand of old-school socialism attracted “high-status city dwellers” in the summer and they still like what they hear from him. His few electoral successes have come in places with a large middle class graduate or public sector base. As Stephen Bush of the New Statesman put it: “places where people put wind chimes in their front door”. In 9 months there has been no evidence that his politics connects with ‘Labour heartlands’ — as people like to say.
Any victory for Labour Party in the past year has been jumped on by the Corbynite supporters as proof of his success. Some of it has been laughable, some of it slightly misplaced. For example, any political commentator worth their salt knows it is inaccurate to judge wider national trends on by-election results. Local dynamics play too much of a role. Jim McMahon’s success probably had less to do with the fact he is a moderate or Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, than the fact he was a well-known and popular leader of the local council with strong ties to the area. Rosena Allin-Khan’s victory in the Tooting by-election came in a metropolitan, increasingly wealthy London seat, perfect Corbyn-message territory. But again, don’t read too much into it, it’s just a by-election.
The election in May however was terrible for the Labour Party. Labour’s lead from the election in May was 1%, which matches the movement from Blair’s landslide in 1997 to Hague’s Conservatives in 1998. While Hague was battling a Blair government enjoying his honeymoon period; Corbyn’s Labour were up against a Tory government that has been split down the middle by the EU referendum and riddled with in-fighting. A credible opposition would have crushed the Tories two months ago. Since 1974 and excluding general election years, opposition parties have always gained seats in local elections — with the exceptions of 1982, 1985 and now 2016.
Two-thirds of Labour voters voted to remain in the EU. The fact that more Labour voters voted for remain than Tory voters, has been used to say Jeremy Corbyn must be doing a good job. Those who voted Remain were more likely to be graduates, from the wealthy middle class, and from metropolitan centres. These are the people that the Labour Party, and Jeremy Corbyn, already connect with. They the ones who make up the bulk of the Party membership. Jeremy Corbyn failed to help the Labour Party reach beyond its middle class base in the EU referendum campaign. I certainly don’t think he can be blamed entirely for referendum result, and it would be wrong to do so. Yet his inability to give a clear, unambiguous message in support of Remain, (so much so he refused to confirm to his shadow cabinet colleagues that he even voted In), let us all down.
It is true that Jeremy Corbyn has caused a surge in the Labour Party membership, and his rallies draw thousands. When this is used as a defence of his electability, I can’t help but think of John Golding MP discussing Michael Foot’s delusion prior to the 1983 election. Golding recalled, when telling Michael Foot how bad the polls were — `He said, “You’re wrong. There were a thousand people at my meeting last night and they all cheered.” And I said, “There were 122,000 outside who think you’re crackers.” As I’ve repeatedly said, the Labour Party needs to appeal far beyond its membership.
Before you cry “treachery”, remember that our Parliamentary Labour Party do not just have a responsibility to their members— they have a responsibility to all of their voters and constituents they represent, many of whom want a credible and coherent Labour Party capable of winning a General Election. We’ve seen how the brute majoritarianism of the EU referendum was played by demagogues, and how it has pulled apart our country. I believe that we cannot expect the brute majoritarianism of a narrow leadership vote by a small selectorate - hold to ransom our Labour MPs who represent 9 million voters.
* * *
In politics today we are fighting a backlash against intellectualism, and rationalism. I’ve seen people online stating that Jeremy Corbyn’s own constituency voted 75% in favour of Remain (compared to say Margaret Hodge’s Barking constituency) and that this shows that he is ‘electable’. This is what we are up against. A simple understanding of demographics and the voting habits of different social and economic groups would negate these arguments — yet these ‘arguments’ are being widely peddled.
Some of Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters have told me not to listen to polls and surveys, or be ‘misled’ by the media. I agree with Philip Stephens when he says that modern democracies operate within a framework of rationalism and if we dismantle this, then prejudice fills the void – ‘Fear will count above reason; anger above evidence. Lies will claim equal status with facts’. Evidence is treated with distrust, opinion polls and voter surveys are dismissed out of hand if coming from the scheming ‘mainstream media’ or from ‘blairite’ scum such as myself.
When Michael Gove said “people have had enough of experts”, he could be talking as much about middle-class Labour members, than disaffected Brexit voters. Many I speak to who are thinking Corbyn can lead us to victory are going on hunches, ‘feelings of a mood’, or a self-righteous posturing that ‘they’ understand the working class.
I’ve been warned too not to trust the BBC or even the liberal press. But we do this at our peril. Most of the electorate will gather their knowledge from the ‘mainstream’ media. We cannot simply sit on our hands and wait for day 1.8 million people read The Canary instead of The Sun each day. The Labour Party has always had to fight against, and persuade, a press often sceptical, and sometimes hostile to our message.
I am fearful of a Labour Party that wants to withdraw from world of most Britain’s. When the likes of Paul Mason are telling those sympathetic to our cause to “switch off the TV and trust internet networks and each other” I feel little but trepidation. The rise of the internet and social media has meant voters can easily access information from sources tailored to reflect nothing but their own views back to them — I feel this is what is happening among our clickivist supporters and it is blinkering our outlook. We must understand that most voters will not get their political insight from a ‘Jeremy Corbyn 4 PM’ Facebook page. We must understand that most voters will listen to Laura Kuenssberg or Robert Peston over the shouts of a crowd on Parliament Square.
* * *
I’ve been around the ‘far-Left’ for long enough to understand their thought processes. I briefly dropped into that world — I experienced the dogmatism, the ‘us vs them’ moralism. They see themselves as the community of the good and position any opponents or critic as being outside of that community. When I criticise Jeremy Corbyn’s past associations, I am not faced with reasons why I may be mistaken on a matter of principle, or fact. I am dismissed as a ‘Blairite’, a ‘Red-Tory’, a ‘Zionist’. If you wonder why we now find Labour MPs such as my very own, facing death threats and online vitriol. It is because it comes from this political landscape.
As David Hirsh explains, when Corbyn is challenged on his beliefs and his record, he will often respond as if it were a personal attack. He treats it as untoward, intrusive and vulgar. Just witness his response to Jonathan Freedland’s measured article in the guardian raising concerns over antisemitism in Labour’s ranks. In doing this, he ‘paints himself as the innocent victim of unjust aggression; he avoids responding to the detail of the challenge; and he bolsters the distinction between the good people inside his tent and the bad people outside of it.’
If Jeremy Corbyn fails to deliver electorally, to his hard-Left supporters it will never be his fault. It will be the ‘subliminal nastiness’ of the media, the scheming ‘Blairites’, the ‘Zionist’ conspiracy, or the wild combination of all three that caused his downfall. Neil Kinnock called this out his speech attacking the hard-Left tearing the party apart 30 years ago:
“Comrades, it seems to me lately that some of our number become like latter-day public school-boys. It seems it matters not whether you won or lost, but how you played the game. We cannot take that inspiration from Rudyard Kipling. Those game players get isolated, hammered, blocked off. They might try to blame others — workers, trade unions, some other leadership, the people of the city — for not showing sufficient revolutionary consciousness, always somebody else, and then they claim a rampant victory. Whose victory? Not victory for the people, not victory for them.”
Right now we’re seeing an emergence of a factionalist sect whose allegiances with Jeremy Corbyn are more important than the coherence and success of our Parliamentarily Labour Party, our assembly members and our MEPs. I believe Jeremy Corbyn to be a genuine, though misguided man, who wants the best for Britain. But many of those who surround him have shown that they do not have the best interests of the party at heart. I have no doubt that some of them would not mind seeing the end of the Labour Party. No leader can struggle on having lost so little support from his colleagues that he cannot even fill his shadow cabinet. I’m staggered that I even need to type that sentence.
* * *
A few days ago I watched the coverage of the press conference for the release of the inquiry into anti-Semitism within the Labour Party. Jeremy Corbyn made a speech in which said this: “He (Boris Johnson) questioned his (Barack Obama) motives because of his part Kenyan heritage. That was no dogwhistle, that was a fog-horn. A classic racist trope, casting doubt on someone’s motivation because of their race.”
Later in this very same press conference a Momentum activists gets up and singles out Ruth Smeeth a Jewish MP and accuses her of working ‘hand in hand’ with The Telegraph. This was that very same classic racist trope — casting doubt on someone’s motivation because of their race. Ruth Smeeth left the conference in tears.
I waited to see if Jeremy Corbyn would call the man out for his bigotry. He did not. After the conference he went over to the heckler and had a chit-chat, they seemed to know each other, Corbyn had sent him a text. He did not call him out. The words of his speech were hollow. I was nearly in tears. I am so tired of seeing anti-Semitic attacks on our MPs and members. I have no doubt from what quarters they are coming from.
I am so tired too of hearing what Hirsh describes as the Livingstone Formulation — ‘a rhetorical device that seeks to construe the raising of the issue of antisemitism as more suspect and inherently problematic than the phenomenon of antisemitism itself’. But most of all I am tired of the silence from my liberal friends. When I bring up anti-Semitism in the Labour Party most shake it off uncomfortably. The defence of Ken Livingstone’s Jew-bating by Labour members should be a warning to future generations about the moral blindness that tribalism can cause.
Last week my MP faced a death-threat. Our MPs have repeatedly expressed concerns over their safety and the safety of their staff — they have pleaded with Corbyn to tone down his rhetoric. He goes on the television to tell the public that Labour MPs “have nowhere to hide” if they choose to follow their consciences with regard to the vote on Syria. This type of language has consequences.
When Corbyn last week ignored his colleagues’ pleas and addressed an agitated crowd with a view to further inciting the kind of discontent that fosters this hate for our MPs — It was the final straw for me. I’ve now put forward a motion of no confidence in Corbyn to my CLP. I can no longer sit by and watch the soul of my Party be torn in two. I know the hard-Left, I understand their politics — Jeremy Corbyn may be a principled man of integrity, but the longer he stays as leader, the longer this poison will seep into our political Party.
I do believe there are a silent few out there, who supported Jeremy Corbyn but have witnessed the fanatics and cranks and anti-Semites emboldened, and are concerned for the future of our Party. Among these types of leftists you will not find the kinder, more honest politics you long for.
* * *
I have heard people say to me “but the people are crying out for a ‘real’, and ‘authentic’ politicians” and I agree with this. For too long our politicians have come across as an aloof technocratic elite. Yet saying this suggests that all our hard-working and principled moderate Labour MPs, many of whom are from working class backgrounds, are unauthentic and self-serving. ‘Authentic’ becomes code for ‘left-wing like me’.
I believe our country is facing many grave issues. There are many people in this country who have lost out from globalization, who feel adrift from our wealthy metropolitan centres, who feel discomfited by immigration. Many voted to leave the EU because they felt they had little to lose from doing so. It’s these people the Labour needs to win back and fight for.
Yet a lot of my friends are saying to me that Labour cannot win anyway. They say a moderate in charge won’t change anything so we might as well lose with our principles intact with Jeremy Corbyn. Nothing saddens me more. This attitude is so inward looking — it is the politics of gesture, the politics of opposition and critique. It’s the politics of “Defy Tory Rule” and not even bothering to vote. It’s the politics of saying that the world is screwed! But at least not it’s our fault. I offer to these people this rallying cry from Neil Kinnock to his Labour Party colleagues:
“There is anger in this country at the devastation brought about by these last six years of Tory government, but strangely that anger is mixed with despair, a feeling that the problems are just too great, too complex, to be dealt with by any government or any policy. That feeling is abroad. We disagree with it, we contend it, we try to give people the rational alternatives, but it exists. If our response to that despair, anger and confusion amounts to little more than slogans, if we give the impression to the British people that we believe that we can just make a loud noise and the Tory walls of Jericho will fall down, they are not going to treat us very seriously at all — and we won’t deserve to be treated very seriously.”
Slogans and gestures will not do. We need power in the corridors of Westminster to change the world. We need to be voted in by an electorate sometimes sceptical of our principles and often sceptical of our methods.
Perhaps the difference between a centrist Labour Party and a Conservative administration seems academic to you. Maybe your life won’t be hugely affected by cuts to tax credits, welfare freezes or the bedroom tax. But by keeping Corbyn in as leader you damn the people you care about to the most hated ‘Tory rule’.
The victory of socialism said Nye Bevan, “does not have to be complete to be convincing. I have no time, for those who appear to threaten the whole of private property but who in practice would threaten nothing; they are purists and therefore barren.” I plead with my comrades that a moderate Labour can radically change our society for the better. We know it can. Yes, they may not bring about a new socialist dawn to this country, or pull down the chains of neo-liberalism, but neither will Jeremy Corbyn.
Corbyn’s message may put a fire in your belly. The sense of solidarity with your peers may make it feel like a revolution is just around the corner. But it won’t be. With a possible snap general election in the autumn this is no time to take a gamble with the lives of the people worst off in our society. Today the words of Neil Kinnock are ringing in my ears- “I am telling you, no matter how entertaining, how fulfilling to short-term egos, you can’t play politics with people’s jobs and with people’s services or with their homes.” — and they should be ringing in yours too.
I plead with my friends not to make the mistakes I have done so before — “to mistake a slogan for a strategy, to mistake own individual enthusiasm for mass movement, to mistake barking for biting”. The Labour Party has always been a gradualist and reformist democratic socialist party, grounded in pragmatism, and focused on bringing about real changes to real people’s lives.
‘There is no collision between principle and power. For us as democratic socialists the two must go together, like a rich vein that passes through everything that we believe in, everything that we try to do, everything that we will implement. Principle and power, conviction and accomplishment, going together.”
I believe the Labour Party is the greatest vehicle for progressive change this country has ever known. But to achieve what we want to, to change the lives of the marginalised and vulnerable, we need to be able to win the trust and support of a whole nation.
If Jeremy Corbyn stays as leader it will split this Party and most likely destroy it. He has made his choice. In doing so he has shown he’d rather see the Labour Party crumble than step down. What this says about the content of the man’s character, I’ll let you decide.
I end with this paragraph from Kinnock’s speech, the speech that changed my life:
“There are some in our movement who, when I say that we must reach out in that fashion, accuse me of an obsession with electoral politics; there are some who, when I say we must reach out and make a broader appeal to those who only have their labour to sell, who are part of the working classes — no doubt about their credentials — say that I am too preoccupied with winning; there are some who say, when I reach out like that and in the course of seeking that objective, that I am prepared to compromise values. I say to them and I say to everybody else, and I mean it from the depths of my soul: there is no need to compromise values, there is no need in this task to surrender our socialism, there is no need to abandon or even try to hide any of our principles, but there is an implacable need to win and there is an equal need for us to understand that we address an electorate which is sceptical, an electorate which needs convincing, a British public who want to know that our idealism is not lunacy, our realism is not timidity, our eagerness is not extremism, a British public who want to know that our carefulness too is not nervousness.”
I hoped that this essay has swayed some of you but right now hope is all I have.