The UK general election campaign is up and running again, after attention was focused on France over the weekend. I have just been watching Jeremy Corbyn giving a heartfelt speech on the BBC News. His rather stumbling style is quite endearing in many ways, and the absence of slick oration and stage-managed key points also refreshing to see.
He came up with some great ideas of course. A better NHS, a fairer society, the end of privatisation of industry and utilities, and increased taxation on the rich. Yesterday, his shadow chancellor made a speech about how Labour might pay for all their promises, despite pledging not to raise taxes on anyone earning £80,000 a year, or less. This is far higher than the average wage in this country of course. I suspect that the majority of the population would consider someone wih an income of £80,000 to be very well off indeed. So, Labour attempted to sweep in the affluent middle classes yesterday, then Corbyn returned to appeal to the poor and hard-working this morning.
Listening to the Labour leader today, I found myself liking most of what he had to say. He has in roots in the Socialist origins of that party, yet current trends have forced him to temper his one-time radical enthusiasm. Bold claims to build one million new houses are best taken with a pinch of salt though, as are some of his other rather fantastic promises. But he can afford to make such promises, as he knows he is unlikely to ever be in a position to have to deliver on them. He can boast of a minimum wage increase, huge additional investment into the NHS, and getting a Brexit deal that leaves the UK in a strong trading position. He might just as well say that he will pay for a holiday in Florida for every family in Britain, or give every pensioner free electricity, and a new car. He can say anything, because he will never have to prove the truth of his words.
Jeremy Corbyn enjoys huge support within his own party. He has won two leadership elections, and survived the backstabbers among his Labour colleagues in Westminster. But the hard truth is that the Labour Party has never been in a worse place, and never before faced a potential defeat of such proportions. OK, they will probably get my vote, but that will make little difference in a county dominated by the government party. UKIP may have also lost any influence in the country as a whole, but their votes will not be going to Labour. They will be bolstering Conservative majorities instead.
As Jeremy made his speech today, he must have been encouraged by the cheering from the audience, and the whoops of delight as he drove home each point. The applause was genuine, and the enthusiasm palpable. You might have believed that he could become a real leader, a man of substance.
But he was preaching to the converted.
Recently, we have seen the vultures circling over the heads of both Brexit, and the Labour Party leadership. Just in time to turn the political milk sour in advance of two by-elections, that well known rent-a-mouth, Tony Blair, reappeared to make one of his ‘impassioned’ speeches about the referendum result. We didn’t know what we were voting for, according to him. We were too stupid to understand the implications, according to him. We need to reject the vote, and get behind a deal to stay in, according to him. It’s not too late to overturn the result, and refuse to accept the will of the people, according to him.
This is the man who supposedly turned his back on politics, after losing the 2007 election, then resigning his seat in a safe Labour stronghold. He embarked on the usual round of ‘pretend jobs’, book deals, and very lucrative speaking engagements. But he obviously misses the power and prestige that comes with being the British Prime Minister, and there are even suggestions that he may well return to the political arena. In the meantime, he continues to pop up and mouth off about things that he could have influenced, had he chosen to remain in his previous job instead of leaving to become a multi-millionaire. Showing his true contempt for ordinary people, and telling us that he knows what is best for us, so we should listen to him.
Then we get David Miliband, pontificating about what a bad leader Jeremy Corbyn is, and how he will destroy the Labour Party. This from a man who lost the leadership election for that party, to his own less-effective younger brother. In 2013, he resigned from politics, to accept a lucrative job as head of the cartoon-sounding International Rescue Committee in New York, USA, where he now lives. Yet this grey man, former adviser to Tony Blair, and fellow-traveller in the politics of appeasement, feels justified to comment on the current situation here, adding fuel to the fire of Labour’s spectacular defeat in the safe seat of Copeland this week.
It seems that both men still crave positions of influence in British politics. They are also happy to back-stab their former political party, with agendas bordering on the suspicious. They are both losers, and bad ones at that. And they both represent a time when the Labour Party was hard to separate from the Conservative party in ideas, policies, or physical appearance. Corbyn may well prove to be a man who cannot lead his party to election victory. Political trends are changing the world over, and the right-wing resurgence is taking its toll on traditional Labour areas too. But what we will never need are the spiteful or patronising statements from the likes of Blair and Miliband, which are totally destructive, and will do nothing to help Labour become anything other than a middle-class Conservative clone.
They need to just shut up, and go away.
After this morning’s post on this blog about the Labour leadership, I have just watched the results of the election live on the BBC News.
Jeremy Corbyn not only won by a huge margin, he increased his majority since the previous election in 2015. It could not have been more decisive. He then made a very good speech about unification in the party, and all the members working together in the future.
A soon as the applause died down, the BBC political reporters were circling like vultures on a carcass. They sought opinion from disgruntled Corbyn opponents, and then tried to get his supporters to agree that this would cause further division in the Labour Party. What should have pertinent and possibly interesting questions degenerated into a veiled attack on Corbyn once again, attempting to put words into the mouths of those being interviewed.
I watched this with growing discomfort. Supposedly impartial BBC journalists kept asking people’s opinions, until they got the responses they were looking for, rather than reporting what those interviewed were actually saying. One brief report from a Corbyn supporters rally was soon curtailed, as they did not receive the negative answers that they were looking for.
I do not necessarily support Corbyn, and I am not a member of his party (or any other). But I am just tired of the media, and in this instance the BBC, attempting to create division and to invent news, instead of reporting the facts.
The man has won. And he has won convincingly, despite your failed campaigns to derail him.
Now let him get on with his job, and leave him alone.
The battle for the Labour leadership drags on. The attacks on Corbyn continue, and his opponent tries hard to erase his past as a pharmaceutical lobbyist, and to establish some Socialist credentials. For his part, Corbyn does his best to rebut the allegations of anti-Semitism, and takes part in debates with the person who once happily worked with him, instead of against him. Expensive lawyers have been engaged to overturn the voting regulations for new members, successfully excluding more than 100,000 potential Corbyn voters.
The Conservatives must be enjoying watching this collapse unfold before their eyes. They just carry on doing what they like, as the only viable opposition disintegrates in front of the public gaze, and the glare of the media spotlight. Accusations are flying thick and fast. Some Labour members of parliament are accusing the Corbyn camp of seeking to undermine the very foundations of the party, by infiltrating this arguably moderate party with a secret hard-Left agenda behind the scenes.
The outcome can only be a loss for the party, either way. If Smith succeeds, they will be left with a Welsh M.P. who has a history of working for big business. A man who thinks we should have a second EU Referendum, and will almost certainly fail to engage with the working-class traditional supporters of that party. If Corbyn survives the vote, as many believe he will, he will be left in charge of a Labour Party where only the rank and file members really support him, struggling to find enough elected members of parliament to form a credible opposition, and under constant threat of yet more leadership struggles.
If they are ever to return to government, which currently seems highly unlikely, they have to respect the will of the people, and offer radical policies that hark back to the real Socialist ideals of the original Labour Party. It is obviously what the members want to happen, and would have the benefit of attracting undecided voters, and those transferring their vote from parties like the Liberal Democrats in the next election.
At the core of it all, is the need for Nationalisation. There should be a radical programme on offer, starting with the re-nationalisation of the railways. Rail commuters have never suffered as they do now. Higher fares, constant rises in ticket prices, and a mind-boggling fare structure that makes it cheaper to fly to most cities in the UK, than to take a train. Private rail companies have their hands tied by a different private company that manages the rails and tracks, as well as being restricted by short-term franchises that negate the desire to invest in improvements for the future. The answer is simple. Stop awarding franchises, and nationalise the lot. Offer reasonably-priced travel on reliable trains, and let the workers get to where they need to be on time. If nothing else, it would reduce road congestion in certain areas. Cancel the high-cost and unnecessary building of express links to cities that already have plenty of rail services running to them, and do a long-term deal with the unions to ensure safety and decent working conditions for all.
Once they have tackled the railways, they can get on with the utility companies, and the telephone providers too. Then they could stop contracting out expensive medical procedures and clinics to the private sector, and spend the money on improving the NHS instead. Once the much-disputed ‘Brexit’ deal is done, there will be money available for many projects, despite the gainsayers. Labour needs to formulate a real Socialist agenda, with Nationalisation and the NHS at the heart of it. A real alternative to more privatisation and cronyism under the Conservatives.
They have to learn that being The Opposition has to mean more than just having the same policies, whilst wearing cheaper suits. And they have to swallow the bitter pill of telling people the truth for once.
Will they do it? I doubt it, but they should.
For Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the knives are well and truly out. He would do well to consider the fate of Julius Caesar, as his colleagues collaborate to unseat him from his job. He may not come across as much of a firebrand any more these days. He is older, and perhaps tired of the machinations he has experienced during a long career in politics. He may not look the part either, with his casual attire, and an appearance that could be described as scruffy. In parliament, he has failed to make his mark as an orator, and lacks the necessary spite to take on his opposite numbers.
But like him or not, he was elected leader. And by the membership of his party, not as a result of a general election, or because he was chosen by his parliamentary party. There was a time when this would have been considered adequate, and his detractors would have had to like it, or lump it. But then came the EU Referendum. Labour fastened their colours to the ‘Remain’ camp, and lost. Instead of accepting this defeat as part of the political changes in this country, many of them sought to pile all the blame onto one person. Jeremy Corbyn. It was all his fault, they claimed. He wasn’t assertive enough, failed to get the Remain message across, and was lukewarm in his condemnation of those wishing to Leave.
Some of them are now in the process of trying to force through a new leadership election in that party. Two front runners have emerged, both with very similar ideas and policies. Not surprisingly, similar ideas and policies to the now discredited Tony Blair too, though they both deny being Blairites. One of these is the abrasive 55 year-old Angela Eagle, MP for Wallesey. She is well-known in parliament for having an identical twin sister who is also a Labour MP, and for being openly lesbian, and married to another woman. She claims much of her ‘Northern working-class roots.’ She was born in the north, that is true. It was in the Yorkshire town of Bridlington, a peaceful seaside holiday resort on the east coast. She then went on to study Politics, Philosophy, and Economics at the prestigious Oxford University, before going to work for the Confederation of British Industry. This is hardly the stuff of cloth caps and mining communities, even if her parents were factory workers. She has also hinted at the possibility of a second EU referendum during discussions and debates.
The second candidate for Jeremy’s job is Owen Smith. Smith is the 46 year-old MP for Pontypridd, in Wales. Born in Lancashire, he went on to study History and French, at Sussex University. He later worked as a producer for the BBC, and as a lobbyist for the international drug giant, Pfizer, where he earned £80,000 a year to promote their products. Once again, hardly the ‘dirty hands’ man-of-the-people working class hero we might have once expected to emerge from the Labour Party, and hope to lead it. He has clearly stated that he would like the Labour Party to promise not to trigger Article 50 to leave the EU, and that he thinks that a second referendum would be a good idea.
So where does that leave the opposition? If either of these people succeed in ousting Corbyn, we face a return to the Blairite politics of years gone by. Cosy with business, supporting the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and impossible to tell apart from the softer Tories sitting across on the other side of the House of Commons. Worse than that, they intend to try to overrule the democratic process and betray more than 17,000,000 of the people in the UK, by attempting to change the result of the recent referendum.
And we thought we lived in a democracy.
Despite predictions of a moderate winning the election to become leader of the Labour Party, an outsider has confounded expectations, by becoming the front runner. Jeremy Corbyn has been the M.P. for Islington North in London, since 1983. Before that, he was prominent in Haringey Council. He has always been regarded as a rebel, and to the Left of the party line. He lives in his constituency, takes little money for expenses, and espouses causes, both domestic, and international.
During his political career, he has campaigned in favour of nuclear disarmament, and the dissolution of The House of Lords. He supports re-nationalisation of the railways, equal rights and pay for workers, and the return of the six counties to Ireland. He has a long association with the Trade Union movement in the UK and abroad, and once worked for the National Union of Public Employees. On the international stage, he has been outspoken against Israel, and fought for fair treatment of the people in Chile. He is also a well-known for his support of the government in Venezuela, and for his views on animal rights and welfare.
So, his Socialist credentials are fairly sound, it would appear.
If this is the case, why do so many people think that his becoming the leader of the Labour Party would be a disaster? Well for one thing, times have changed. We live in an acquisitive society, overwhelmed by avarice, where selfishness has replaced selflessness. Huge multi-national companies control almost every job, and international financiers control our economy. The politics of the so-called ‘man in the street’ has moved further to the right than ever before, with immigration and terrorism replacing health and education as the main concerns. If this is the case, then the mild-mannered Corbyn is certainly not electable as a leader of the nation. The doomsday scenario is that Labour would return to being a party of the far Left, with an agenda unpopular with almost everyone, save for those who voted for Corbyn.
His opponents claim that Labour would become a minority party; a party of protest, a party that would never again see itself in power. Of course, they are lamenting their own demise, their own inability to achieve that power, whatever the cost to their principles or background. They claim that the opposing parties are delighted, that they want Corbyn to win, so that Labour will lose whatever vestige of power it still clings to. But is politics really only just about winning? Perhaps most people see it that way. I do not.
Corbyn offers at least a partial return to the roots of Socialism in the UK. Nationalisation, equality in education and in the workplace, fair treatment for the poorest in society, as well as the sick and disabled. Ridding the country of nuclear weapons, and tackling the energy crisis. Reopening the mines, closed by spiteful politicians and businessmen as supposedly unprofitable, as a punishment to the miners after the strike. He offers respect to all, regardless of social position, sexuality, or creed, and a chance to rebuild the economy without reliance on invisible industries, or foreign companies.
This might all seem to be just an unworkable ideal, but it is not. It is all possible, if you are brave enough to take on the gainsayers, and conglomerates. It might well be that the time for this has been missed, and all the stories of the Labour Party becoming an anachronism under his leadership are true.
But at least it would restore its honour, and its self-respect.
Yesterday, I watched the numerous candidates for the Labour Party leadership election being interviewed on TV. It was a specially set up forum, designed to allow each candidate to get across their vision of a Labour government led by them. After the resignation of Ed Miliband, we might have hoped to see some passion, some bold rhetoric, even, dare I suggest, a return to some Socialist principles. But no, of course not, that was never going to happen.
Instead we got the two front runners talking about ‘engaging’ with Business and Industry, when they should have been talking about nationalising them instead. They all spoke about ‘connecting’ with the aspirations of all voters, and having to address the main doorstep issues of Immigration, and EU membership. They were quick to add that whilst Immigration might have to be dealt with in some sort of acceptable way, EU membership was a non-negotiable issue for Labour.
The female candidates were the most interesting. They talked of having children, understanding mothers, and of their natural empathy and compassion. We haven’t forgotten Margaret Thatcher yet. She was a mother. Enough said. One young woman looked as if she was about to say something good about equality and Socialism, so the chairman reigned her in. She won’t win, that’s for sure. A well-spoken, charismatic man at the end of the table talked with confidence about staying in the EU, appealing to the middle-ground in politics, and forging links with big business. He will go far.
It was depressing stuff. The potential leaders of a party that had already moved too far to the Right, all sitting there talking about moving even further in that direction, the wrong direction, to ‘appeal to the voters’. The new generation of voters, presumably. Those who worry about their mortgages, want bigger and better houses, bigger and faster cars. The same people who want to stop all Immigration, blame everything that is wrong with this country on foreigners, and stop paying any benefits to the elderly and disabled in our population.
They should have given each of them a hammer,and a large nail. Then they could have finished the job, by hammering the last nails into the Labour Party’s coffin. They will change the name again soon. Just watch.