OK Owen, here you go. I’m a Corbyn supporter and Momentum member. Before I start, an important point to make is that most of these questions apply to Labour generally, irrespective of leader. Labour’s biggest problems are deep-rooted and follow the pattern of Europe-wide crisis for Social Democratic parties. The issues you raise need to be addressed (fair enough) but they also apply to all sides of Labour and answering them is not easy for anybody. Those who think that replacing Jeremy will solve such problems are seriously kidding themselves, as I’m sure OJ would agree.
- How can the disastrous polling be turned around?
This is a tough one of course and I will answer it in terms of strategy later on. We must also point out though that Labour would struggle electorally whoever was leader and that divided parties never do well. Labour was close in the polls before the coup and that (as you have correctly pointed out) Labour missed a golden opportunity to blame the Tories for Brexit. Instead, they blamed Corbyn.
2. Where is the clear vision?
In terms of political tactics, I do prefer the approach of Bernie Sanders. He employs a simple clear narrative that people can relate to and repeats it relentlessly until it gets boring. When it gets boring to political dorks like us then it has probably penetrated its target audience just the right amount! This is a lesson for the Corbyn team but I would still maintain that Jeremy and John have articulated a much clearer vision than the confusing and contradictory clusterfudge by the two Eds.
3. How are the policies significantly different from the last general election?
Obviously Trident is one big difference (though maybe that could be de-emphasised because most people don’t actually care!). I would personally have liked McDonnell to keep PQE but he kept to a more conventional maco-economics with an alternative fiscal rule. Obviously this has in mind the potential accusations of ‘economic credibility’ that would (and still will) be leveled against Labour, hence McDonnell went conservative out of political consideration. However, this IS different to Miliband in that it is based on the assumption of growth through investment and not through cuts. In other words, it is Keyenesian and a definite step in the right direction. In addition, so is rail re-nationalisation and plans to roll back school acadamisation. Most ironically — given all weasel word mentions of the 83 manifesto and supposed extremism — Corbynist policy is an attempt to gradually shift the Overton Window through a modern re-alignment to the historic centre of Labour politics. This is far closer to the platform of the old Labour-right than most of the PLP critics would like to admit.
4. What’s the media strategy?
Yes this needs to be better. Social media has been used well but this does indeed preach mostly to the converted (because you have to make a conscious effort to access it). Of course, the media hostility to Corbyn is ridiculous, hyperbolic and terrible though I do also get the sense that they could play the game a little better. See my point 2 above.
5. What’s the strategy to win over the over-44s?
A better state pension and successful criticism of Tory cuts (and privatisation) of the NHS. I think the Tories are vulnerable in both of these areas.
6. What’s the strategy to win over Scotland?
Pass. OK then I’ll do it. Seriously though it cannae be done laddie. Scotland was lost by Blair and Scottish Labour and is now firmly SNP territoty for the foreseeable future. It took twenty years to erode loyalty of tartan voters and it will take at least a decade to win them back, assuming Scotland even stays in the union that long. To even make progress in this we need to: 1) Get rid of Kezia Dugdale; who is flaky, gaffe-prone and part of the discredited Murphy/McTernan wing of the party. 2) Give Scottish Labour more autonomy — part of the problem is that they are seenas a ‘branch office’ of the Westminster party who cannot make decisions for Scotland. 3) Offer Devo-Max as part of a comprehensive devolution package, also including English regions.
As this is a long-term strategy, Labour needs to openly admit that it needs an SNP coalition to win Government. I agree with Clive Lewis about the idea of a progressive alliance that should also include the Greens and (if we REALLY must) the Lib Dems. I am a Labour member but tribalism be damned. This needs to happen.
7. What’s the strategy to win over Conservative voters?
This is not actually necessary IF we have the alliance above and/or can raise the turnout. Only 24% of adults voted Tory in the last election and a larger percentage of people didn’t vote. Yes, I hear you say, it will be hard to reach them but that strategy stands a much better chance of working than going after Tories. In addition, it involves a much lesser need for tactical or ideological compromises.
8. How would we deal with people’s concerns about immigration?
By not pandering and by making a good economic offer. ‘Acknowledging concerns’ over immigration only strengthens the right and puts us on the defensive. This kind of identity politics matters much less when people feel hope and that there economic concerns can be addressed through other means. This is not easy of course but nothing ever is and this is what the whole Corbyn project should be about.
9. How can Labour’s mass membership be mobilised?
First lets take a step back and acknowledge that Labour has now by far the largest and most active membership base of any party, in England at least. Of course more needs to be done and many of the young members never go to meetings or do canvassing. Momentum is key and we need to have explicit youth wings and make young people leaders.
One Question that Owen Jones needs to answer:
What is your strategy for the Labour left?
I appreciate that you condemned the coup but I am surprised you have not explicitly supported Corbyn. I am not calling you a Blairite, a sell-out or any of that; I just think that you have completely missed the point. Yes; the divided party is un-electable but there is no chance of that being resolved, short of utter capitulation by the left. A win for Smith would likely result in Labour moving to the right, reducing party democracy, moving against Momentum and eventually full-blown Pasokification of the party.
Corbyn’s leadership skill and media strategy are important but some things matter even more. There is no tangible compromise option available and even if their was, such a thing would be utterly unacceptable to the power structures of the Labour right. Like it or not, this is a binary choice and an existential threat for socialism within the Labour Party. I hope you realise this Owen and come back to our side.