Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour: what must happen now
The “unelectable” Mr Corbyn has just been elected again — to a chorus of sighs from the right of the Labour Party. As in my previous article, Labour Party Split; a matter of when, not if? it looks like a split is inevitable and my head still tells me that is the most likely outcome — but here’s what I think needs to happen now within the Labour Party to avoid that, and get back on track to removing the Tories from power.
Labour must stop fighting themselves, and take the attack to the Conservatives
First and foremost, the obvious one — the infighting has to stop. Labour must put on a united front and hold the Tories to account. Too many precious opportunities have already been missed, especially with the Tories in disarray after the EU Referendum result. Infighting has made Labour look like a shambles, and certainly not a government in waiting — a lot of damage has been done, and it will take time to restore the reputation of the party.
The right of the party need to take a good, long look at themselves in the mirror and stop blaming everything on Jeremy. They need to stop trying to enforce their will on the party, and accept that they must get behind the cause or step aside to make way for someone who will.
That being sad, I don’t expect this to happen. I expect certain members of the PLP to go on undermining the leadership, attacking Corbyn in the media, briefing the Tories and trying to spread discontent. I know Jeremy Corbyn has been quick to talk down the idea of deselection, but I think for the sake of the party the prospect must be kept in mind. If I were to refuse to do the work my boss wanted, plotted to replace him, and attacked him on social media I’d expect to be shown the door quick smart — the same should apply for disloyal MP’s who clearly have a different agenda to the aims of the Labour Party.
Jeremy Corbyn won the leadership contest with a resounding 62% of the vote — and this even in the face of the attempted gerrymandering of the contest by the party. His victory would likely have been more emphatic if new members hadn’t been excluded and the dubious purge of Corbyn supporters hadn’t have taken place.
The PLP must embrace the new membership, and drop the “we know best” attitude of old and get on board with the new politics.
If there is one thing the success of Jeremy Corbyn is symbolic of is that people are bored with the politics of old. People are bored with an upper-middle class managerial business class who believe they have the right to rule, and tell us what we should think and who we should vote for — the “we know best” attitude. In some senses the “do as I say, not as I do” mentality. The PLP failed to comprehend that the attempt to eject Corbyn felt to many like a direct attack on the Labour membership, and rightly they did not like being told they did not vote right the first time, and should think again.
Jeremy Corbyn is not of the normal political ilk. He is genuine, honest and true to his principles: unlike the PR type who say whatever they think they need to at the time. He has given people hope of a new politics which works for all, and can involve all — a more democratic society.
Labour’s membership has swelled under the leadership of Jeremy, and the right of the party’s response is not to welcome it, rather to call those newly engaged members entryists, Trotskyists and Nazi Stormtroopers: they talk about having to reach out to non-members to be electable, yet once Corbyn does this they dismiss it. The right tried desperately to cling on after the leadership result was announced, claiming Owen Smith was victorious among pre-2015 members — but this just seemed petty and besides the point . Didn’t Labour lost the election in 2015 general election? The new intake represent the young, the previously disengaged and are full of drive and hope for a better future — is the best way to win new voters over to meet them with hostility when they join the party?
Corbyn’s detractors must stop with the hypocrisy and snidey tactics, they must welcome new members (whatever their political stance) and realise that strength is in numbers — opinions differ within a political party, and debate is welcome, but the must accept the democratic decision of the party and stop with the vicious attacks.
Labour must address the “immigration problem”.
The problem which could also be described as the “UKIP problem”. The elephant in the room for the past few years.
There are two potential ways this issue could be addressed; by creating a policy which is tough on immigration and drastically aim to reduce the numbers of migrants entering the country, or by fighting the believe that immigrants are the cause of all our ills in this country — I believe in the later, as moving your political standpoint to match public consensus may be the easy option and the option the right of the party are advocating, but fighting years of deceit and bringing people to your side of the argument certainly shows more integrity, and is inded what socialism is all about.
The media have drilled the idea that immigrants are to blame into the public mindset with years of defamatory articles, and this is deeply set and will not be easy to budge. Labour need to expose the real reason NHS waiting lists are so high, school places are so scarce, and jobs are so lowly paid and hard to come by — years of greed by a criminal capitalist class, and years of underfunding and investment, not immigration.
Labour must fight back against media aggression firmly, without sounding like they are sulking.
A report by the London School of Economics and Political Science analysed the media response to Corbyn. According to the findings, the press has turned into an “attackdog”, abandoning its supposed role as watchdog. A shocking 75% of press coverage misrepresents him.
The media are never going to be unbiased, it is full of people from the upper portion of society, and run by the rich, for whom the system works perfectly — the aims of Labour are a direct threat to the lifestyle of the majority of the journalism and media profession, and especially those that own the media monopoly. Labour must realise this, and must draw up and counter-attack strategy to fight against the assumptions that are being repeated on a daily basis and embedded into the public consciousness. They must expose the media for what they are, make them seem like the petulant bully they are and win the public over with their arguments by coming together in a united attack on the media’s distortion of the truth.
Labour already understand the importance of using social media to address this, but they cannot avoid the mainstream media — but they can beat them at their own game and use the tide of anti-establishment feeling sweeping the country to do so.
Labour must fight the myth that overspending caused the financial crash and that austerity is essential and that they are unreliable with the economy.
Possibly the major issue that lost Labour the 2015 general election — they failed to fight the lie that Labour had caused the financial crisis and couldn’t be trusted to run the country’s finances.
The Conservatives have in their time in government (coalition and in their slender majority) added more to the national debt than any Labour government ever has. But the Tories are clever at repeating a claim knowing it will eventually sink in: the saying goes that once you hear something so many times you will begin to believe it is true. Winston Churchill himself said that “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” and Labour have to be quicker and stronger to refute such claims before they spiral out of control.
Labour have set out a very clear anti-austerity agenda, but there is a long way to go before the nation will be convinced that Labour won’t overspend, such is the damage of Tory tactics post-2008.
Labour must set out a coherent post-capitalist strategy and an investment plan for the future.
Capitalism somehow managed to survive the 2008 financial crash, but it has become a horribly mutated system which doesn’t serve anyone but the big businesses and wealthiest in society — it will continue to balloon horribly out of control until breaking point should nothing be done to rebalance the system.
Worldwide there has been an anti-politics-as-usual movement, and the left can and have used this sentiment: take Podemos in Spain for instance. If Corbyn’s Labour can harness populist campaigners and set the well-oiled machine of the Labour movement into action, it could pick up a head of speed. However, Labour must come together with the likes of the Green Party to tackle the sheer might of the Tories and capitalist establishment head on.
The people of this country need a pay rise, and our infrastructure is in desperate need of investment after years of neglect, but the issue will be bringing the big businesses and the capitalist system to heel: they will attempt blackmail and every other dirty tactic they can think of to survive.
The key to this will be restructuring the tax system. Tax Research UK estimates that the tax gap (The difference between total amounts of taxes owed to the government versus the amount they actually receive) was £119.4 billion in 2013/14 and rising. Think of how much good that could do if invested in the things our country needs? The NHS deficit wiped out, new schools built, council budgets restored, worthwhile funding projects brought back to life.
A tough stance on tax is a must, even most Tory voters are sick and tired of the way companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon pay as little as 3% in tax, whilst the rest of us shoulder the burden with our 20%, stagnated wages and austerity.
Labour needs to ensure EU funding is replaced, and doesn’t disappear into the back pockets of FTSE 100 bosses and shareholders.
Brexit means Brexit so we are told — but what does Brexit actually mean? The wave of anti-establishment hatred mixed with worries about immigration boiled over in the EU referendum and we voted to leave the union. Under Tory rule this could mean that the establishment gain more control, not less, with more capital diverted to the big businesses and already rich and a decline in working conditions and rights for the rest of us.
Labour must ensure that all EU funding that will be lost is matched and replaced like for like. Industries like farming heavily rely on EU subsidies and the Tories cannot be trusted to divert such money to the back pockets their wealthy friends and shareholders.
Leaving the EU is dangerous, and there could be some rocky times ahead which will deal serious damage to the Conservative government — Labour must seize their chance and be the champions of the leave voter who expects more money for the NHS and for job and economic prospects to improve.
Labour must win back Scotland
The rise of the SNP was akin to a funeral march for Labour’s chances of getting back into government in 2015, the traditionally Labour territory had abandoned the party in the wake of the Independence referendum — Labour had worked too closely with the Tories, and arguably abandoned Scotland, showing contempt and complacency and had sown the seeds of their own demise.
Labour will have to win back Scotland, unless they plan on making huge gains in the traditional Tory southern heartlands.
If Scotland gains its independence, which it looks like it will at some point within the next generation, Labour is really going to struggle to win back power with English seats alone, especially in the wake of the boundary changes the Tories are trying to push through. This is no easy task, but one which is viewed by many as vital.
Despite the scare tactics of proposing a deal with Alex Salmond of the SNP being a liability for Ed Miliband, most people view Nicola Sturgeon in a very favourable light — perhaps an electoral pact with the SNP might be the way to steady the Scottish ship?
Labour must develop a new Social Contract to unite the working and middle classes against the ruling elite.
The richest 1% are only becoming richer, and the middle classes aren’t immune from the cuts of Tory austerity. Even those that could potentially pay for private healthcare still rely on the Police and Fire services. Labour must stop the attempts of the establishment to turn the middle classes against the working classes, repel the “scrounger” attacks and convince the middle classes that the real reason for the stagnation of their wages, higher living costs, and cuts to their councils and public services are the result of the greed of the wealthiest and not the poorest. The only way capitalism can be toppled is with strength in numbers, it’s a resilient beast but it won’t withstand attack from 99% of the population — only then can we hope to achieve a fairer society.
Socialism has been tarnished, particularly during the ‘red under the bed’ years of the Cold War, but it can make a comeback into the political mainstream. When shown to people blind, Corbyn’s politics are popular with the public, though are met with a deal scepticism when attributed to Corbyn’s name and the socialist movement. Labour’s job is shifting the so-called Overton Window and gain support around its policies to rebalance society, they’ll need a clear, coherent message and a strong media campaign to achieve this — certainly an uphill struggle, but not altogether impossible.
The country is crying out for the kind of vision that leads the way to a better future. Issues like healthcare, education and housing are something that affect those across the classes (barring the richest). Traditionally Tory voters too are worried about whether their children will ever be able to afford their own houses, whether they will get the healthcare they require in their time of need — the Tories have made their agenda clear, that they simply don’t care, and Labour can really deal a knockout blow using these issues as ammunition.
Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell has promised to introduce a real living wage under the next Labour government, a strong step if sufficiently planned: adding to a raft of policies like rail nationalisation which will be beneficial to huge swathes of the country. But they must go further in convincing people of how corrupt the current system is. Labour must create a new social contract to win over the country just as Clement Atlee did against the grain after the Second World War.
Originally published at The Daily Spectacle.