The Labour right-wing still doesn’t get it

Let’s face it, the New Labour cabal, the right-wing of the party and the ‘power at all costs’ sections of the Labour Party (often they are one and the same) just do not want Jeremy Corbyn or his socialism. They’ve tried every dirty trick in the book and according to their official spiel he is ‘an honest man, but just not leadership material’.

Okay then, working on that assumption, it clearly does not occur to the Labour right that the answer to the question is: another leader who embodies everything Jeremy Corbyn stands for; all the things that are the reason so many people have made an effort to support him. Of course there have been claims from all quarters claiming that this person or that person actually believes in all the same basic things Jeremy Corbyn believes, which if true makes you wonder why they so urgently need to replace him.

Do they just think he’s the wrong figurehead or is it really the policy they hate? Because they also keep making digs about ‘the politics of last century’ and ‘a dated approach’ etc etc. Unfortunately for them the ‘politics of last century’ is the real core of Labour. It is also the real core of right-wing politics too because despite the giddy excitement about the advent of broadband internet and accelerated globalisation, the gritty local problems of last century have not gone away. If people take the trouble to remove their PR-drenched media goggles for a moment they’ll see that things like the 21st century job market bears an uncanny basic resemblance to the pre-WW2 job market. Casual labour, work uncertainty, no real contracts, poor or non-existent sick pay, companies shirking employee welfare issues, suppression of organisation and industrial action through negative PR. Oh it’s a long list.

All of this disintegration of rights and conditions built up over 150 years – part of that including the foundation of the Labour Party to uphold these very values and achievements – has also occurred and been accelerated under Labour governments. Select representatives keep popping up on telly repeating that New Labour introduced the minimum wage, something they failed to implement in every previous Labour administration. Big deal. It didn’t stop the growth of zero-hour contracts or other capitalist trickery to bend the rules. New Labour homed-in on that little policy (of offering working-age people not much more than a fiver per hour) to cover the fact that they had no plan to offer any other traditional Labour Party policy and a master plan to cut loose with a host of neo-liberal shenanigans, which is exactly what happened. Then a crash and depression happened and a lot of people lost patience with the same old lies.

Unfortunately it took that economic crash to shake awake a good portion of the people who are sympathetic to what Corbyn represents and also created enough discontent to prevent the bigwigs at the top of the Labour Party from dismissing it as ‘fringe elements’ and carrying on unabated with the New Labour debacle.

On Saturday morning (that’s later on this morning), if the polls are correct, Corbyn is going to sweep Owen Smith and his cheerleaders into obscurity. If we are to believe the anti-Corbyn offensive he is also going to also sweep the Labour Party into obscurity. Well we’ll see. He’s the one calling for unity, they are the ones predicting collapse. It’s because they’ve fully absorbed and adopted the New Labour/right-wing economic rhetoric that social justice and national prosperity is achieved through deregulated market capitalism, privatisation, austerity for poor people etc ad nauseum. Jeremy Corbyn, or what he represents, is the backlash to all that. They still don’t get it.

 

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Kuenssberg vs Corbyn

kuntsbergDuring Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign there was one particular hypercritical, whiny, nasal voice never far away. Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC’s political editor, has seemingly led a one-woman campaign to portray Corbyn in the most negative way possible. It isn’t merely the stories she focuses upon, but the particular words she chooses in her reports and the way they are delivered. If she was an honest woman (or an least a woman who hoped to move away from the hack-like reputation that is increasingly tainting BBC politics coverage), she would actually take a stance that allows Corbyn to succeed or fail on his own merit rather than persistently trying to find cheap angles and answers of yes/no to complicated questions.

Today’s issue was ‘the nuclear button’. It’s common news by now that Corbyn remarked that as prime minister, he would not push the button that would launch nuclear weapons. Immediately Kuenssberg’s report leapt on it and went on a merry-go-round of interviewing as many members of his shadow cabinet she could find, showing them disagreeing with them. It seems the BBC team are engaged in a little game of trying to juxtapose Corbyn the leader with Corbyn the backbencher and hoping to find as many contradictions in his views and opinions as possible. Kuenssberg didn’t want to address Corbyn’s point that all the nuclear weapons in the U.S. did nothing to stop the September 11th attacks and that the problem of terrorism is not one that can be paralleled with the Cold War or any conflict that relies upon the concept of mutually assured destruction as a deterrent. Kuenssberg ‘s aim is not to disprove Corbyn’s point, but to try and show that his leadership is in disarray, which has been her position since Corbyn became the front runner. It’s record that needs changing because it’s getting boring, unless of course you happen to be interested in the sort of cheap hack politics coverage Kuenssberg is increasingly making her own. Like the rest of the official press rabble she still doesn’t appear to have grasped the point that Corbyn is not willing to play their little games. Or perhaps she has, which may explain the resort to cheap, low-level reporting.

Jeremy Corbyn won the battle, but now there is the war

Corbyn’s Cabinet

Despite a full month of cheap character assassination attempts (from right and the alleged left), Jeremy Corbyn blew away the ‘competition’ to take the Labour leadership. That’s the big news and there isn’t much left to do, but speculate because Corbyn has been pretty much tight-lipped since his victory. In a world of rolling 24-hour news this is a disaster and so as usual the television ‘journalists’ have been on one of the biggest speculation benders since September 11. They really have no idea what is going on and so they continue wheeling out crapshoot analysis and soundbites to pad out the thin reports and fill up airtime. It’s painful to watch and yet also infuriating. Every report is bathed in the same cynical, ‘realpolitik’ that proclaims: ‘Only the paradigm of post-Thatcher neo-liberalism is real, everything else is extremism and illusory’.

The newspapers have been doing the same and the most notable observation to be made is that  a portion of the mainstream left-liberal press now contains more of the worst shower of opportunistic bullshitters than the average PR boardroom. The Blairite acolytes are really foaming at the mouth. Their candidates were trounced and Nu Labour is being dropped into its long overdue grave. In the pages of the newspapers the spew of vitriol has congealed the Tory hacks and the Blairism hacks into one unsightly gob of phlegm. The Guardian in particular has shown its true colours. Its commentators may as well be leader writers for the Murdoch papers and yet they are being paid to write their garbage for an alleged social democratic newspaper. The Guardian is now a pathetic gravy train of middle-class chancers and must be regarded as such by all those whose political interests lie outside of the decayed paradigm that has dominated politics and economic policy for the last 35-40 years.

Perhaps the only remark worthy of consideration is that Corbyn’s leadership victory does not mean he is poised for national victory, perhaps not even easy victory within the party he now leads. The Labour Party at its top is no longer the Party of Clem Attlee; it’s not even that of Neil Kinnock. The parliamentary party is shot through with passive acceptance of Nu Labour Neo-Liberalism. There is a reason why many of those faces we’ve seen on the Labour front benches, over the last decade or so, have resigned. They thought socialism had died and now it has come back in the form of the new leader it makes them look too much like members of the Tory Party. Perhaps they are going to sit back and wait, hoping that ‘Corbynism’ will flounder and collapse, so they can eventually re-assume their positions, with a told-you-so smile upon their smug faces.

As Corbyn named his cabinet yesterday and today made his first appearance on the front benches in the Commons, the same old newspeak rubbish has been employed in every report. All his appointments are ‘left-wingers’ (a phrase heaped with pejorative implications) and they have ‘far left’ ideas and policies (as opposed to the obvious policies sensible people would have); mention of his shadow chancellor has to include that he ‘once vowed to overthrow capitalism’. In the Tory press the Labour Party now forms a ‘danger’ to the economy and society! The political orthodoxy, and most of the country, has now been dragged very far down the path of believing in a twisted ideology. One informing us that corporate capitalism, austerity, a free-for all in housing prices (with soaring rents and housing shortages); low wages, job insecurity, child poverty, gutted public services etc etc, is the new political norm. That it is inevitable and unavoidable and the politics that administers this poison is ‘good governance’. On Saturday a large portion of the Labour Party elbowed the Blairist usurpers aside and said no. They are not the entire country and certainly not the people voting Tory, Lib Dem or UKIP, but it is a seed that may grow, if it is nurtured.

Corbyn’s cabinet choices are far more diverse than the media hacks are pretending. At least two of the women in the top jobs did not back the new leader, yet he appointed them. There are in fact very few so-called ‘hard left Corbynites’ in this new cabinet. The media is, as usual, making a sensation out of something that merely contrasts with the usual grey cesspool of politics.  They can’t fight the fact that Corbyn is authentic and likeable as a person. He is not an expenses thief (his are fact amongst the lowest, if not the lowest) and his message is not wrapped in the usual clichéd political phraseology that seems to affect every major politician whose face appears in public. Corbyn’s real challenge will be convincing enough people that his democratic-socialist alternative – for the economy, for essential public services, for society as a whole – is a better, fairer and more progressive prospect than the politics of pandering to the super-rich and operating as an arm of the corporate boardroom (which is probably in a tax haven). If the ‘ordinary voter’, the people who really ‘feel the pinch’ and live from salary to salary as it is claimed a majority of people do, seek an alternative, then they have another choice. Convincing people to undo the cultural habits that have developed under neo-liberalism (debt-fuelled lifestyles, consumption greed), something which is also a necessity for such an alternative, is a tall order indeed.

Jeremy Corbyn: A very British coup?

Jeremy Corbyn

If age is not on your side you might well remember the 1982 novel by Chris Mullins to which this post’s title alludes. A solidly left-wing and principled leader of the Labour Party becomes prime minister and sets in motion a cabal of secret service agents, high-level mandarins and establishment aristocrats conspiring to plot his downfall.

Well…Jeremy Corbin isn’t quite that far, but he seems set to do a version of it within the Labour Party. Those ‘senior figures’ within Labour – like Harriet Harmon and most of Corbyn’s other current competitors –  rather shot themselves in the foot when they initiated the ‘open forum’ that allowed Jeremy Corbyn to be propelled into the front running position he now occupies. His core supporters are firmly rooted in the values of what is now called Old Labour, as a contrast to New Labour, that banal and mediocre media transformation atop the policy transformation that saw Blair and Co., shift the party firmly in line with dominant neo-liberal ideology. Whatever New Labour is supposed to represent its very existence attempts to drop the guillotine on the party’s prior history, declaring its entire raison d’etre to be outmoded and out of line with the politics (though in truth they mean the economic hegemony) of the modern world.

Jeremy Corbyn has taken to the podium to tell us that this is nonsense, and he has a lot of willing listeners. These are not just disgruntled old pre-Kinnock Labourites, they are young people too; those who may have voted for Blair in 1997, or who were too young to vote and really are ‘Blair’s children’. What they all share is the disillusionment produced from those three Labour governments that oversaw monumental lies leading to war, a near-complete hollowing-out of social infrastructure, financial corruption and ending ignominiously in financial meltdown. Not content with having presided over this, the very same repertory of rotating faces is now trying to pretend that they offer something different. These are people who served in Blair governments and were touted as the new faces of New Labour. The Blair coup fully integrated the view that there is one way to win elections (because this is all they care about) and that is to court plutocrats and media-moguls and rub-shoulders, in a friendly way, with the people and institutions that Labour as a party was created to moderate.

In his book Feeding Frenzy Will Self remarked that “Never before has style so fantastically glossed substance.” That was New Labour’s real legacy for politics, a media realignment achieved by a full-scale in-house demolition project. Instead of holding principles and damn the media, the line was taken that it is the media that wins an election. It is the media that shapes public opinion and any party seeking office has to be in line with the ideological interests that now saturate the corporate media. In 1997 it was tempting to believe that some sacrifice was worth it just to end Tory rule and perhaps undo at least some of the damage of their privatisation frenzy and corporate cronyism. Never was an electorate so misguided as in 1997.

In Chris Mullins’s book the protagonist is a character modelled upon Tony Benn who at the time had just lost the deputy leadership to Denis Healy (by 1%) and had come in fourth in the leadership contest of 1976. Like Corbyn now, Tony Benn was always popular with grass roots Labour activists, but his fate in terms of leadership positions shows just how difficult it is for a principled politician to secure the position that directs the party; let alone capture the wide support that leads to 10 Downing Street. Generation upon generation of the regular voting public has been persuaded that anyone like Tony Benn is ‘bad for business’ and business (specifically dancing to its tune) is really all that matters. Under this supposed home truth everything has to be sacrificed to market ideology, or in reality a hegemony of massive corporations, banking giants and other financial institutions who cajole and blackmail any government not following orders. More usually its representatives hop back and forth between boardroom and Westminster. Tony Benn kept his principles and eventually became a back bench ‘voice of reason’ and fierce critic. Jeremy Corbyn has already been a back bench voice of reason and fierce critic for some time, so it’s interesting to see his ascent.

Radio 4’s The Report recently produced a programme about the ‘Corbyn effect’ and looked at the sorts of people supporting his leadership bid. It focused on two young people, essentially disillusioned young people produced during the Blair era who see those years in much the same way my generation saw Thatcher; which is a poor show indeed for the Labour Party. My generation also saw a Labour Party out of office for nearly twenty years, but at the time, despite the desperation and dashed hope, it mattered that you took a genuine stand rather than buying into the club just to be able to make some paltry difference, like New Labour eventually did.

If Jeremy Corbyn wins, the Labour Party will have a crisis on its hands because the rest of the shadow cabinet is largely made up of Blairites or Blair-lites who have fully signed up to the so-called new paradigm of British politics. The middle-class voters wooed to Labour by Blair (those who haven’t already gone back either to the Conservatives or onwards to UKIP) are a new generation of people who have no clue about class or a ‘right-left divide’ because they’ve been weaned on a culture of individualism and personal consumption of everything including political needs. It remains to be seen if enough damage has been done by Thatcher-Blair-Cameron to have pushed these people far enough, through austerity, housing shortages, unemployment and political corruption, to be able to accept a principled left-wing Labour Leader as man whose vision they can share. In Mullins’s book the status quo is maintained and his hero is removed by the establishment.