Saturday, 25 July 2015

Labour ‘Leadership’ and British Politics

The British media is focused on Jeremy Corbyn, the radical outsider who, according to opinion polls, might win the Labour Party’s leadership vote. That vote is in about seven weeks’ time, so don’t hold your breath. But it is worth making some comments on what this reveals about British politics.
Most of the Labour leadership contenders make Ed Miliband look like a charismatic guru who could inspire followers to walk over burning coals and not feel a thing. By comparison, Corbyn is an exception, at least in having a personality and some political beliefs. I would only point out that his political beliefs have not prevented him from remaining a Labour Party Member of Parliament for more than thirty years. Just consider what that means. So many years and so many crimes, either committed by, or supported by, the party to which you belong. Was the Labour Government’s interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq weird anomalies – against which a critical voice could build an effective opposition? Or would history judge instead that Labour has always supported British imperialism’s interests and that dissident voices reflected naivety at best?
However, Corbyn’s dissident beliefs on Iraq and Palestine, among other things, are not the basis of his support, either in his London constituency or among ordinary Labour party members in this leadership contest. Instead, that support comes from his anti-austerity stance. Yet while his inner-City constituency might support Corbyn’s position on opposing cuts in welfare payments, the rest of the UK does not. Against his stance, one has to consider why the other Labour leadership contenders basically support the Conservative government on the need to slash welfare payments, something summed up by the recommendation of Harriet Harman, acting Labour leader, to abstain in the recent Parliamentary vote on welfare cuts. The Conservative government’s proposals reflected not just a Conservative prejudice, but also a view that they would go down well with their supporters and others. Recall that, in the May 2015 UK general election, close to 50% of the British electorate voted either for the Conservatives (36.9%) or for UKIP (12.6%).
This is the substance of the horror expressed in the news media, by Tony Blair and others who are shocked by Corbyn’s rise to prominence in the polls. A vote for Corbyn as Labour leader will make Labour even more unelectable! It is not a question of his anti-New Labour beard, or even his opinion that the government should discuss with Hamas and Hezbollah. The key point is that he has failed to reflect in his political stance the fundamental conservatism of the British electorate.
It will take an eruption some years in the making even to begin to alter the scene. Perhaps that will come when this Conservative government eventually encounters its own ‘Poll Tax’ moment, a wall that Thatcher hit after believing that British politics was at her command. But, at close to the peak of her power, even she could not make her favourite adviser, Alan Walters, like Caligula’s horse, a consul and instead lost Nigel Lawson, her once-feted Chancellor. This miscreant group of slimeballs has less ability. It is full of low-grade chancers, not least Boris ‘water cannon’ Johnson, so it could unwittingly contrive to generate protest from the UK populace. However, personally, I do not bet on that eventuality making any real difference.

Tony Norfield, 25 July 2015
(some small amendments to the text on 31 July)


  1. Parts of the media including correspondents over at the BBC and Sky News are already questioning the validity of the Labour Party leader context all because a mild mannered reforming candidate is thought to be in the lead. If these organisations were facing a Lenin type figure they would be pleading for a military dictatorship sanctified by the Royal Family.

  2. If you count those who didn't vote then the Tories barely mustered 25%. UKIP were not fighting on a pro Austerity platform.

    I think bashing the poorest is something popular and whipped up by the tabloids.

    But because it is a reaction to lowest common denominator propaganda it is built on clay shoes.

    However, a defeat for Corbyn mus surely mean a left exodus from the party? Well, maybe not!