After the Election
Let’s assume Jeremy Corbyn has won the Labour party leadership election, as he almost certainly has. What happens next? Let’s be honest, it doesn’t look good. The much talked about compromise is nowhere to be seen, some Labour MP’s are still insisting that Corbyn does not even want to win power and columnists suggest that Labour MPs essentially work as their own party, ignoring the leadership as much as possible. Lip service is paid to the idea that rising membership is a good thing, whilst decrying those actual members as entryist, trotskyist anti-Semites. Some like Owen Jones and Zoe Williams plead for the party to remember it’s shared values, but concede that may no longer be enough. Others, like Paul Mason believe that the war for the party has already begun.
One must hope that there is still chance for compromise, and of course that involves both sides making concessions, but there is one issue on which both sides must agree, that Jeremy Corbyn is the legitimate leader of the Labour party. It’s hard to imagine how else any agreement can be reached if MP’s do not accept that basic point, and the moves to delegitimise him suggest that we may not even get that far. This is the point of the argument being made, that Corbyn and his supporters don’t care about winning power. If you simply have different opinions on the best way to win power, then there is a discussion that can be had and trade offs that can be made. If you argue that the other side in fact has no interest in winning in the first place then you free yourself from any obligation to work with them. After all, how can a leader who doesn’t want to win be considered legitimate? Indeed, you are almost obligated to ignore him, work around him and continue to try to remove him if that is the case. You may wonder why Jeremy Corbyn went to the effort of fighting two leadership elections if he doesn’t care about winning, or indeed how he so comprehensively beat those who do care about winning, one can only speculate.
It may also be worth considering who is making these arguments about the importance of winning. Kerry McCarthy contrasts Corbyn unfavourably with Gordon Brown, who, whatever his qualities, was never elected Prime Minister and lost his only General Election as leader. Neil Kinnock, ten years as leader, no General Election wins. Then we have Ed Balls, shadow Chancellor under Ed Miliband, who lost his seat in the 2015 General Election. The point is not that these people were bad politicians, bad for the Labour party, or not ‘real’ Labour. The ‘broad church’ is, I believe a positive aspect to the Labour party, as well as being an electoral necessity in a first past the post system. The question is rather, simply, by what right do they seek to lecture Corbyn and his supporters on how to win? What is the basis of their authority on this? There is of course one former leader who does know something about winning elections, but for some reason even the anti Corbyn side of the party seem largely uninterested in his counsel or indeed his support.
There seems to be a parallel effort to discredit those who voted for Jeremy Corbyn as leader. Dispatches recently treated us to the results of six months of undercover journalism on Momentum. The actual content was underwhelming to say the least, but the process of throwing everything at them until something sticks is unlikely to stop any time soon. Ask ACORN if not having actually done anything wrong is likely to protect them. The constant barrage of accusations, aimed not at individuals, but at Momentum and Corbyn supporters in general is likely to have an effect, whether or not anything is ever proven, on a ‘where there’s smoke there’s fire’ basis. Again, as with the charges against Corbyn, the point is to move Corbyn supporters from simply being people on the left of the Labour party, to abusive racists and entryist trotskyists who cannot (and should not) be reasoned with.
Compromise will be essential for the Labour party to have a realistic chance of competing in the next election, surely the majority from both sides want that? The Anti Corbyn side does not have to fall in love with Jeremy, but they do need to accept he is the elected leader of the party. They tried to remove him and that failed. As they are fond of telling Corbyn supporters, It’s time to live in the real world.