Labour threatened with split

Is it all threats or will there really be a split?

Supporters of the Labour Coup and their allies in the media have raised the spectre of a split in the party if Jeremy Corbyn refuses to resign as Labour leader.

So adamant have some been that a split will happen that one is tempted to ask when so we can put the date in our diaries.

If nothing else, the events of the last couple of weeks have shown that making predictions is a foolhardy occupation. So what are the probabilities of a split? What nature would a split take? And more importantly could it deny a Labour victory in the next election as the split and formation of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) did in the 1983?
It’s worth taking a brief look at that event as many are tempted to view it as a template. What is revealed is that while there are similarities there are also important differences.

Tessa Jowell
Tessa Jowell, Daily Politics 5 July 2016

Coup is fundamentally political

Despite all the talk of Jeremy Corbyn’s suitability and competence of as leader, the coup is fundamentally political. As with the 1983 General Election, the motivation is to prevent a Labour government elected on a radical left programme. Both revolts were and are orchestrated and lead by, for want of a better term, supporters of Neoliberalism.

But the context is different in one vital aspect, 1983 was set against a back drop of the ascendancy of Neoliberalism epitomised by Thatcherism and Reagonomics.
Now, after two recessions and a global financial collapse, the Neoliberal ideology, advanced by Tony Blair and his supporters in the Labour Party, has been discredited and is in decline. It’s still a powerful presence in the form of economic policies like austerity.

Were there to be a separate party based on the discredited ideas of ‘Blairism’ it would be of little attraction to voters and have little chance of success.

One lesson that any MP thinking of defecting should take note of is, the majority of MPs that joined the SDP lost their seats and their careers were consigned to the political graveyard…
Some commentators when discussing a split seem to assert that the 172 Labour MPs can simply form their own party in parliament. This profoundly misunderstands the structure, organisation and resourcing needed for a national political party with ambitions to rival Labour and that’s assuming all 172 would sign up.

The real case is that most Labour MPs are loyal to the party and those that aren’t value their careers!

What would a “new party” look like?

That reduces the probability of a split somewhat. However, if that doesn’t rule it out entirely what would its likely nature be?

The main core of the coup attempt appears to be a group of 25 to 40 MPs, mostly career politicians, on the right-wing of the Labour Party.

The consideration of self interest would be felt particularly keenly amongst this group so it’s reasonable to assume that the number of defectors would be towards the lower end of the scale as it was in the 1981 formation of the SDP.

A further consideration in forming a new party is the question of its social base, its membership and demographic. With the ongoing process of the polarisation of society, there is very little left of the ‘centre ground’ and what is left is occupied by the Liberal Democrats. The only other ground is to the right, into Conservative territory which clearly would fail.

Do the numbers stack up?

Do the right-wing have the numbers for a viable party? The closest estimate of the right’s real base of support within the Labour Party would be their candidate Liz Kendal’s 4.5% (18,857) of the vote in the leadership election last September. It’s doubtful they would all leave. The SDP boasted a membership of 65,000 in 1981. If all the right-wing’s supporters in the Labour Party joined a new party it could not mount a viable or sustained challenge to Labour even with heavy funding. Like the SDP they would have to rely on alliances with other parties.

What about an alliance?

If forming an independent party is not a viable option, where would the natural home for these orphaned MPs be? Here again, there is an important difference with the 1980s experience.
The Liberal Party of 1981 welcomed the defecting MPs with open arms. The current crop of prospective defectors supported the Iraq war, something vociferously opposed by Liberal Democrat members. The reputational damage, (Update: With the publication of the Chilcot report this is especially the case), to the Liberal Democrats of welcoming this rump of MPs would probably be a risk not worth taking.

To do the damage necessary to prevent Labour winning the next General Election these MPs need a party machine that at least covers all of England and Wales. Taking everything above into account, even if they do split away, it’s unclear that their project would derail Labour, other events may conspire do that but its unlikely to be the doing of a rump of right-wing ex-Labour MPs.

The coup handed the left a cheap victory

There is a final consideration, the Labour coup is showing all signs of failing. One unintended consequence of the mass resignations is that Corbyn has has filled the key posts with those loyal to him and the party – he now has something that seemed impossible a couple of weeks ago, a Corbyn cabinet. In gambling everything the coup organisers have given the left a cheap victory.

I’d judge that those supporting the coup such as Lord Mandelson would be wary of handing the left another cheap victory by emptying the Labour Party of their remaining support.

So far an empty threat

Even though in these volatile times events can turn on a sixpence at bewildering speed, it would seem that the threat of a Labour split is mostly just that at this stage, a threat.

Gary Hollands – July 5th 2016 updated July 8th 2016.

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Corbyn blamed for Brexit

Margaret Hodge calls for a vote of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn

Margaret Hodge MP
Dame Margaret Hodge MP

With the Tories on the ropes following a shock EU referendum defeat and the resignation of David Cameron, Dame Margaret Hodge’s call for Jeremy Corbyn’s resignation was greeted with dismay by many Labour supporters[1].

The right wing of the Labour’s Parliamentary Party (PLP), rather than holding the Tories accountable for the outcome of their party’s civil war, decided instead to try and launch one themselves.

Margaret Hodge’s vociferous criticism of Corbyn, as well as revealing a condescending attitude towards Labour voters (“..Labour voters simply didn’t get the message”), is ironic in view of a Polly Toynbee article. She recounts an open-door meeting held by Hodge where she tried to address an audience of fifty constituents on the benefits of remaining in the EU[2]. Hodge’s case for remain was angrily rejected out of hand.

If Margaret Hodge, “a well-respected, diligent MP”, was unable to persuade a captive audience of fifty of her own constituents then it’s baffling as to what Corbyn could have done apart from aping the discredited ‘Project Fear‘ campaign of the remain camp. As Polly Toynbee observed of those favouring Brexit:

“Jeremy Corbyn is under fire for half-heartedness, but I doubt he, Brown or any Labour figure could budge them.”

With the whole debate framed as immigration versus the economy, Cameron versus Boris and a media that prefers Shakespearean drama to Plato’s discourse, a more nuanced argument just wasn’t going to get much of a hearing.

In the event, a Lord Ashcroft poll revealed that 63% of Labour voters voted to remain, not quite so disastrous as claimed by the right-wing.

At face value the timing of the call for a no confidence vote seems to be the height of tactical stupidity, only serving to take the heat off the Tories.

Closer examination, however, reveals a pattern of behaviour. Whenever Labour has had the Tories on the ropes, up pops a Blairite to engage in verbal chaff or call for his resignation.

One could be forgiven for believing that this rump of MPs are engaged in project ‘Tory bail out’.

This may be closer to the truth than one would think. In an interview with The Independent, Tony Blair inadvertently expressed the psychology of Labour’s right-wing:

“Let me make my position clear: I wouldn’t want to win on an old-fashioned leftist platform. Even if I thought it was the route to victory, I wouldn’t take it.”

In a nutshell, the Labour right are so ideologically opposed to a left[ist] platform they would rather lose a general election….

Reality is if there was another leadership contest Corbyn would win. The only way to prevent that would be to stop him being put on the ballot. In that event, the winner would have won by cheating and rigging the vote. They would have no authority or credibility as leader.

The truth is, if the right wing are successful, there would be a higher probability of Labour losing the next election than if Jeremy Corbyn was leader – but, that rather is the point isn’t it…

Gary Hollands – June 25th 2016.

Postscript

The day after writing Labour’s right-wing took advantage of the Brexit vote as a convenient hook to hang a coup on.

In the planning openly for months it used mass resignations of the shadow cabinet spread out over two days combined with support from ‘left’ leaning papers such as the Guardian and the Mirror.

Daily Mirror: 28th June 2016
Daily Mirror Front Page 28th June 2016

After a stormy meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party Monday night, Jeremy Corbyn addressed a rally of around 10,000 supporters that had been called at 24 hours notice.

Today, Tuesday 28th June, the next stage will play out with a vote of no confidence which the right-wing look set to win.

The clear aim of this strategy is to force Corbyn to resign and avoid a leadership election with him on the ballot.

Though difficult to predict the outcome the stakes are high, Labour’s right-wing whether they realise it or not, have gambled everything on the success of this coup.

With such a slender base of support in the Labour Party the price of failure for the right-wing may well be marginalisation as a rump within the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Notes and references

1. At the time of writing, two petitions supporting Jeremy Corbyn, one on 38 Degrees collected nearly 140,000 in a day. Another by Momentum, a pro-Corbyn group in the Labour Party, had collected over 30,000.

2. It’s worth quoting this account from The Guardian at length;
“Every week in Barking the MP Margaret Hodge invites a whole ward for coffee and biscuits to air whatever’s on their minds. When the BNP shockingly won 12 council seats, those open-door meetings dealing with everyday grievances saw her make the case and beat them off, so the BNP lost every seat. On Friday about 50 voters came, wanting to talk about ordinary things – parking, fly-tipping and houses in multiple occupation crammed with migrants by rogue landlords. Hodge and her volunteers went from table to table recording everyone’s issues, writing to them later with resolutions.

But at the end when she asked the hall about the referendum, the mood changed. “We didn’t come to talk about that!” one angry woman said, others agreeing. “We came about parking!” But Hodge insisted, making an eloquent remain case: shrinking services are caused by Tory austerity that halved their council’s budget, more than migrants. The room bristled with antagonism. “Do you want to be governed by Brussels?” one shouted out. “You’re being sold a false prospectus, a bunch of lies,” she said, to no avail. One said: “When I get out at the station, I think I’m in another country. Labour opened the floodgates.”

They like her, a well-respected, diligent MP, but they weren’t listening. She demolished the £350m myth, but they clung to it. She told them housing shortages were due to Tory sell-offs and failure to build but a young man protested that he was falling further down the waiting list, with immigrants put first. Barking’s long-time residents come first, she said, but she was not believed. I found just two remainers.

This is Labour London, supposedly remain’s stronghold, though the Barking and Dagenham Post finds 67% for Brexit. Jeremy Corbyn is under fire for half-heartedness, but I doubt he, Brown or any Labour figure could budge them. Roused by anti-migrant leavers, will they ever revert to Labour? Their neighbourhoods have changed beyond recognition, without them being asked.”

The Borough of Barking & Dagenham, which includes Margaret Hodge’s Barking constituency voted 62.4% to leave the EU.

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Labour’s crisis of anti-Semitism

Ken Livingstone plunges Labour into crisis

In the week before the local and London Mayoral elections, interviews with Ken Livingstone about allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party exploded into a crisis that overshadowed Labour’s local election campaign.

Ken Livingstone in an interview with Venessa Feltz defending suspended Labour MP Naz Shah, who had posted anti-Semitic material on Facebook, alluded to an agreement between the Nazis and a Zionist organisation for the resettlement of Jews in Palestine. He commented that:

“…when Hitler won his election in 1932 his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel, he supported Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing 6 million Jews”.

Listening to the interview there was no apparent context to make the reference to the Haavara Agreement and it’s unsurprising it caused offence.

Amongst the responses was the reaction of John Mann MP who confronted Ken Livingstone before a Daily Politics interview with accusations of being a Nazi apologist and being a racist. The manner of John Mann’s intervention was guaranteed to generate headline news…

The Livingstone defence

Ken Livingstone’s defence is that he was factually correct on there being an agreement between Nazi Germany and Zionistische Vereinigung für Deutschland (Zionist Federation of Germany).

However even though factually correct in that there was an agreement, the Hitler going mad bit is nonsense, the conclusion that Hitler ‘supported’ Zionism is problematic on two counts:

1) The motivation of the Nazis and the Zionist Federation of Germany were completely different. Hitler had no sympathy for the reasons that the Zionist Federation of Germany entered into the Haavara Agreement. He was motivated by a long standing hatred of the Jews.

2) Using the word ‘support’ invites the danger of victim blaming. This is analogous to choosing to raise the point that Africans were also involved in supplying captives to white slave traders when discussing the discrimination against black Americans in the USA and the historic injustice of the slave trade. Racists can use this as cover to shift responsibility from those who commissioned the crimes to its victims, one has to exercise extreme caution when discussing the history of the Zionist movement as with any other discussion that can carry undertones of racism.

Naz Shah’s Facebook posts

Naz Shah’s Facebook posts of anti-Semitic images, in particular the image falsely conflating the Holocaust and the military occupation of Palestinian lands, are clearly anti-Semitic.

Facebook Posts
Naz Shah Facebook Posts

Naz Shah’s apology in the House of Commons and the Jewish News acknowledged this along with her suspension from the Labour Party.

There was no need for comment from Ken Livingstone beyond allowing and stating that the process dealing with Naz Shah would follow its natural course.

Ken Livingstone’s comments were bound to be pounced on and he has to accept responsibility for handing ammunition to Labour’s enemies, both inside and outside the Labour Party.

A sense of proportion: How widespread is anti-Semitism in the Labour Party?

On the Andrew Marr Show 1st May 2016 Dianne Abbot made the point, in response to a question where Marr implied that anti-Semitism was a deep problem in the Labour Party, that to date there had been a dozen incidences of anti-Semitic and racism and all those had been suspended within 48 hours.

In a party of around 400,000 members and registered supporters those are tiny numbers and are not enough to show that there is a systemic problem. Having said that, the enquiry into racism to be chaired by Shami Chakrabarti will not only reassure that the Labour Party is not a comforting environment for anti-Semites but also set out clear guidelines that nip any further incidents in the bud.

The membership and the cloud of anti-Semitism

There is great frustration in the Labour ranks that their efforts to challenge Conservative policies such as enforced academisation have been over shadowed. They will be further frustrated at Labour MPs taking to the airwaves to criticise the party and the leadership.

While Labour figures are right to raise the issue of anti-Semitism, they need to exercise more care in the manner they express their concern. Otherwise there is the risk of giving the misleading impression that the bulk of the membership are tolerant of anti-Semitism.

There are of course those who are deliberately resorting to distortions and slurs to attack the party and the left in general. Typical of this was a Newsnight interview, 27th April 2016, with Rabbi and Baroness Julia Neuberger who asserted that:

“At the moment it [anti-Semitism] is much more specific to Labour, it is attached to the Jeremy Corbyn becoming leader, and therefore, old… some of this existed probably within Militant. For those of us old enough to remember Militant, it existed there, it is an issue with the hard left and in particular a criticism of Israel, and I suspect that peoples whose views would not have been acceptable in the Labour Party have rejoined or they have joined…”

No evidence is offered to back up these rather meandering claims (I had personal experience of Militant at the time and there was no evidence of anti-Semitism in that group), and is a crude attempt at smearing Jeremy Corbyn.

The Conservatives anti-Semitism problem: Cameron’s hypocrisy

Cameron’s lecture on anti-Semitism at Prime Ministers Questions is particularly grotesque given that he willingly forged alliances with openly anti-Semitic groups in the European parliament.

Labour should not take any lessons from the Tories. It’s frustrating that they have been given such a light ride on the use of Islamophobia in the London mayoral election, where they have tried to link Sadiq Khan to ‘radical and extremist Muslims’. At times this has been farcical. One of those so called extremists that the Tories condemned, Suliman Gani, turned out to be a Tory supporter! It goes without saying that neither Zac Goldsmith nor David Cameron have apologised to Suliman Gani.

Cameron’s record and his defence of the Conservative’s behaviour in the mayoral election shows that for the Tories racism is a systemic problem in their party.

Labour is duty bound to rip out all signs of racism from its ranks, not because of negative headlines or that it gives ammunition to those opposed to Jeremy Corbyn, but because it is the natural party of all those who face prejudice and discrimination.

Gary Hollands – May 2nd 2016.

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Labour Leadership Contest

Token left candidate set to win election

Voting in the Labour leadership has just started and the ‘token’ left candidate Jeremy Corbyn, regarded as little more than a joke by the media, by galvanising the anti-austerity support into a genuine movement now looks mostly likely to win. With the first signs of the popularity for Corbyn and his anti-austerity message, the right-wing of the Labour Party and their idealogical friends in the political establishment snorted with derision declaring Corbyn unelectable.

The right wing and their allies in the press have descended into outright, even blind panic judging by Peter Mandelson’s eccentric attempt to halt the election to prevent a Corbyn victory.

What began as barely concealed contempt turned into insults. Tony Blair retorted to those expressing a desire to follow their heart and vote for Corbyn, telling them to get a transplant[1].

Jeremy Corbyn speaking at a rally
Jeremy Corbryn Speaking at a Labour leadership rally

This contempt has transformed into vitriol and smears. A Labour MP in an open letter accuses Jeremy Corbyn of turning a blind eye to child abuse. In another smear attempt, a newspaper in an exercise of guilt by association charges Corbyn with giving encouragement to anti-Semites.

It’s worth dwelling in some detail on the reasons behind Labour’s election defeat, particularly as there is hot debate with many conflicting theories, especially given the impact of the Scottish National Party and UKIP.

A useful starting point is the frequent accusation levelled at an anti-austerity platform that Labour will be doomed to electoral defeat, just as it was under Labour’s left wing leader Michael Foot in the 1983 General Election.

1983 – It was the manifesto that lost it

The glib pronouncement of Labour’s 1983 manifesto being the longest suicide note in history makes for a good sound bite but is a gross distortion.

Labour continued to enjoy substantial poll leads over the Conservatives after Michael Foot was elected as Labour leader in November 1980.

The forming of the Social Democratic Party in 1981 by a section of Labour’s right wing ate into Labour’s support but Labour still attracted greater support than the Conservatives with leads of up to 14% in the polls.

This was to dramatically change with the start of the Falklands War in April 1982 where Conservative support surged into the 30% and 40%. The national pride that victory in the Falklands War brought cut across the process that was moving inexorably to a Conservative defeat.

For Labour the 1983 General Election results were a disaster. The Conservatives won by a landslide in terms of seats even though their vote dropped to 13,012,316 from the 13,697,690 they received in the 1979 General Election. The split in the anti-Tory vote also caused significant damage. The SDP section of the SDP-Liberal Alliance, mostly ex-Labour ‘moderates’, suffered a near wipe out losing 22 of their seats.

The evidence shows that far from Labour’s 1983 manifesto being responsible for defeat, it was the Falklands War victory compounded by a split in the anti-Tory vote.

Neil Kinnock, the antidote to the left

Elected as leader in 1983, Neil Kinnock went on to lose the next two General Elections in 1987 and 1992. This despite taking the party to the right, disowning Liverpool City Council in their fight against cuts and distancing Labour from the Miners in their 1984-85 strike against pit closures.

Sun election headline
It’s The Sun Wot Won It – April 11, 1992

I was a member of the Labour Party at the time and canvassed in the General Elections of 1987 and 1992. Anecdotally, Kinnock’s taking on the called “left wing extremists” had very little impact on voters I canvassed. My experience was that the expulsions and the anti-left speeches, while enthusiastically applauded in the press, served to undermine Labour’s credibility. Militant and the left were mostly mentioned by Conservative voters and even then in relatively small numbers. Labour and non committed voters expressed frustration at the “in-fighting” and “disunity”. The Labour Party leadership appeared more preoccupied with fighting members of its own party than it was on fighting for the day to day issues affecting ordinary people.

Tony Blair’s three victories

Tony Blair’s triumphs in the 1997, 2001 and 2005 General Elections are held up as a model example of ‘moderate’ policies being essential for ‘electability’.

The reality was that by 1997 the Conservative government had become mired in sleaze and corruption and tearing itself apart over Europe. The Labour Party, re-branded as New Labour faced a Tory government rotting on its feet and a party racked by divisions.

Labour aided by an upswing in the economy and the continuing disarray in the Tory Party, won the 2001 General Election and the following election.

While the Labour Government made worthwhile achievements such as introduction of the minimum wage it also took the country into the Iraq war, with Tony Blair subsequently admitting that “The blowback since … has been fierce, unrelenting and costly.” It was a decision that was still costing Labour in 2015.

Far from the rosy picture painted by the right wing, Labour became increasingly unpopular as it drifted to the right haemorrhaging nearly four million votes from its 1997 victory to 2005. The New Labour project was to end in failure at the 2010 General Election.

2015 election – The shock of defeat

The result of the 2015 election came as a shock, even the most realistic of us expected Labour to emerge with the most seats.

Harriet Harman’s response in an interview with Andrew Neil, was to signal capitulation to the Tories. This was to result in the humiliation of the SNP mocking Labour in parliament that they were now the official opposition.

Harriet Harman was right in saying that there was no great enthusiasm for the Tories, but Labour’s problems were of its own making. Policies were fired out like so much chaff with nothing binding them into a coherent platform. They were inconsistent, incoherent, at times incompetent and if that wasn’t demoralising enough, they then wheeled out the Ed Stone!

The Scottish catastrophe

The collapse of the Labour vote in Scotland and its poor showing in many English seats has attracted some of the most superficial and banal analysis.

This was typified by Andrew Marr in an interview with Jeremy Corbyn, (Andrew Marr show – BBC1 26-07-2015 52:08) where he stated:

What seems to have happened is that the electorate moved to the left in Scotland and to the right in England. Isn’t the logic that the Labour Party cannot retain unity across Scotland and England…

Labour’s catastrophe in Scotland was the fault of its own disastrous tactics. Rather than mounting its own campaign against independence coupled with an anti-austerity message, Labour instead chose to stand with the Tories on the platform of the Better Together campaign. The right-wing of the Labour Party are fond of lecturing that left policies will result in electoral suicide. Collaborating in the Better Together campaign with those who had inflicted so much damage on the working classes in Scotland was not only gross stupidity but was also electoral suicide.

Not even the SNP, who have a vested interest, have claimed their trouncing of Labour was due to a desire for independence. Nicola Sturgeon, the day after the election said “The vote yesterday was an overwhelming vote against continued austerity and that issue will be put at the top of our agenda…“. The result in Scotland shows the potential support for an anti-austerity programme.

Labour’s heartlands

Rowenna Davis, writing in a recent Fabian Society publication, Never Again lessons from Labour’s key seats, could be describing many of the traditional Labour heartlands in her description of Southampton Itchen as:

…the eastern side of the city of Southampton, a port city that has seen huge deindustrialisation over the last 20 years. The likes of Ford, Pirelli and Vosper Thorneycroft which used to provide dependable, respected work for huge numbers of people in the city, have now disappeared, to be replaced with more white-collar, unstable work.

Study after study[2] points to the economic stress that afflicts many of the regions outside of the South East. In a study by the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI), the North West and North East regions suffered the greatest cuts in public sector employment, along with the South West[3].

A Low Pay Commission report shows in 2013 the northern regions with the higher proportions of minimum wage jobs, 7.5% for the North East and just over 6% for the North West.

The overwhelming majority of low turn out seats tend to be Labour. Labour seats in the Midlands, Northern and Yorkshire regions are characterised by higher rates than the national average of those on out of work benefits and correspondingly, lower rates of employment. The same also applies to Scotland[4].

The challenge of UKIP

UKIP, pointing the finger of blame at immigrants and exploiting the alienation of some of Labour’s traditional support reaped dividends in the elections.

According to a Yougov survey the average UKIP voter is a working class older white male, with lower educational qualifications and reads the red top newspapers. However, a British Social Attitude Survey paints a more nuanced picture. Though socially conservative, their attitude towards the rich and business is even further to the left of Labour supporters[5].

The survey also reveals many UKIP supporters describing themselves as ‘struggling’ and ‘really struggling’. This is clearly a disenfranchised, exploited and insecure group where anti-immigrant sentiments are more a ‘cry of anguish’ at their circumstances, they can be particularly receptive to the ideas peddled by UKIP who are skilled at anti-establishment rhetoric.

Unfortunately, sections of the Labour Party draw the wrong conclusions in thinking that talking tough on immigration will win over UKIP supporters. They miss the point on two counts, firstly UKIP supporters do not trust them and secondly, getting tough on immigrants will not improve or solve the problems faced by working class voters who support UKIP.

Instead of aping the Tories in tough talk, Labour should have answered with a pledge for socially useful and economically beneficial investment programmes. For example, a house building programme that would create thousands of jobs and be integrated with apprenticeship schemes. High-tech industries would be nurtured and encouraged by employing the latest techniques in energy saving, building and conservation, that would also have a positive impact on productivity by improving the skills of the work force. There would be the additional benefits of improved social mobility.

Many of the Labour heartlands in Scotland and England are working class areas under economic stress, Labour’s traditional support felt abandoned to face the onslaught from the Tories. Too many of Labour’s core voters stayed at home as Labour failed to energise and enthuse its base. There was no contradiction in the shearing of Labour votes to the left in Scotland and to the right in England. As the saying goes nature abhors a vacuum, in Scotland the SNP filled the void with an anti-austerity message and in England UKIP were the beneficiaries.

These are not ordinary times

The seismic tremors of the Great Recession are still being felt, events once thought impossible now happen within the blink of an eye.

We have seen the rise of left movements such as Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain. We have also witnessed the annihilation of the formally left Greek party, PASOK, and the Labour Party in Scotland.
To these should be added the phenomenal rise of Jeremy Corbyn.

What is inconceivable today could become probable tomorrow.

The mantra of much of the political establishment and the media is that Labour has no chance of winning the next election if Corbyn is leader. However, not all are as confident in this assessment. Ken Clark, in an interview with the Huffington Post, warned that “If you have another recession or if the Conservative Government becomes very unpopular, he could win.

There is every indication of difficult times ahead for the Tories. The anaemic, productivity poor, economic recovery could soon be derailed by the problems being experienced by China[6] and the Euro zone.

Ordinary people are disillusioned with a system that ignores and fails them and they are beginning to grope towards an alternative. The other three candidates just offer piecemeal policies carefully calibrated for ‘electability’ while party members and supporters have left them behind and are looking for a more profound change.

Jeremy Corbyn has struck a chord and caused alarm amongst the elites. They do not subscribe to the stupid position of Tories such as Toby Young with his endorsement of the #ToriesForCorbyn campaign. They have recognised Jeremy Corbyn as an expression of an anti-austerity sentiment in transition to a united movement based on the still considerable power of the Labour Party and the Trades Unions.

As for Jeremy Corbyn winning the next election if elected leader of the Labour Party? These are not ordinary times and what is inconceivable today could well be probable in 2020…

Gary Hollands – August 16th – 23rd 2015.

Notes and references

1. We should remind ourselves that the then special Middle East envoy, Tony Blair, was stood on the volcano that was to be the Arab Spring oblivious to the impeding eruption.
This is the same Tony Blair giving dire warnings of Labour’s annihilation if Corbyn wins. If this record is any guide, his powers of prediction are little better than that of a fairground clairvoyant.

2. Centre For Cities report ‘Cities Outlook 2015’. Of the 64 cities surveyed 16 of the 20 cities that experienced a net loss of jobs over the period 2004 to 2014 were in the Midlands, Yorkshire and northern regions of England.

3. The North East lost the greatest percentage at 19% followed by the South West at 15% and North West at 14%. The SPERI study also shows the two northern regions experiencing among the lowest rate of private sector employment growth, giving lie to the Tory claims of the public sector stifling the private sectors. A TUC assessment of ONS figures from 2010 to 2015 also shows the same pattern, Scotland similarly suffers losses at a greater rate than the UK average.

4. A House of Commons Library facility, the Constituency Explorer, some interesting features are revealed when examining Labour seats in their northern heartlands.

5. The following table is an extract of table 6 of the British Social Attitude Survey.

British Social Attitudes 32
% Agree UKIP supporters Conservative supporters Labour supporters All
Excerpt of Table 6. Attitudes to inequality by party identification
There is one law for the rich and one for the poor 76 39 71 59
Ordinary people do not get their fair share of the nation’s wealth 76 41 72 60
Management will always try to get the better of employees if it gets the chance 72 41 60 53
Big business benefits owners at the expense of workers 62 39 63 53
Government should redistribute income from the better off to those who are less well-off 40 22 52 39

6. Since this line was written China has just suffered (24th August 2015) Black Monday that has ricocheted around the world’s stocks and commodities markets.

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