What next for Labour?

Jeremy_CorbynSo the pundits got it wrong. 

Jeremy won an overall majority of first-preference votes – an outcome I have predicted since July.

How did I know and why didn’t the media pundits?

My experience of the May general election was voters did not see any real difference between Labour and Tories. Voters wanted to vote for something positive.

People are fed up with all conventional politics and welcomed Jeremy for his honesty and commitment. His first act, on becoming Leader, has been to join the “Refugees Welcome” demonstration in London. This is a good augury for the next few years.

Could Labour win the next General Election (in 2020)?  Most certainly!

But, to do so, the hundreds of thousands of new members must feel welcome and Labour must work with the Green Party and Plaid Cymru and the SNP – rather than dilute its anti-Tory meassage by tribal warfare against potential allies.

All four parties should cooperate in a campaign to persuade the 3-4 million eligible but unregistered voters to register for all future elections. This is essential if the Tories are to be defeated.

Labour could stand aside in a dozen or so constituencies where these parties have a better prospect of defeating the Tories – and the Green Party (in particular) need not contest (literally) hundreds of unwinnable seats but, instead, give its backing to the best anti-Tory candidate in each constituency.

We are living in interesting times and must seize this opportunity.

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It was predicted!

Jeremy_CorbynIn June, virtually every (paid) political commentator said Jeremy would come last – and some green pundits and arm-chair socialists were even more dismissive.

I was more upbeat and, below, reproduce what I wrote when he got on the ballot paper. I am even more confident that Labour could win in 2020, if Jeremy is elected as its leader – provided that a coalition of socialist and green and other progressive forces work together.

(my blog from 15th June)

“Jeremy and Leanne – striking similarities”

My initial reaction in 2012, when I learnt that Leanne was to contest for leader of Plaid Cymru, was that she had no chance – but that it was great that she was having a go. I was wrong on the first count. 

Within days, hundreds were joining Plaid Cymru to vote for a committed green socialist and, despite setbacks, Leanne is today deservedly their very popular leader. My fear in 2012 of her glorious defeat proved unfounded.

I had similar thoughts on hearing that Jeremy hoped to become leader of the Labour Party. However, on reflection, I believe that he also could win.

On a personal level, the similarities are striking. I have known both for decades (Leanne for two and Jeremy for three) as committed green socialists and as supporters of CND. Both were active in the Stop the War campaign against the Iraq invasion (in Cardiff and London). Both, when appropriate, have put causes first whilst remaining loyal to their party and both conduct their politics with both courtesy and firmness.

The auguries are good. Straw polls put Jeremy in the lead and a social media campaign in his support is growing rapidly. Moreover, unlike previous leadership elections, this is a “one member/supporter, one vote election” and not weighted in favour of MPs and Trade Unions.

It’s an exciting prospect as, if Jeremy is elected, he will challenge Tory policies in a manner not seen for decades. Even if he fails, the others will be obliged to respond to his anti-austerity and anti-Trident message – which, in itself, will be good. Win or lose, it’s great that he is contesting and that these policies will get an airing.

My worry is over what others may do if he is elected.  The most recent precedent was when Michael Foot became leader on a progressive programme that included nuclear disarmament. Although hugely popular with Labour voters and supporters when Michael spoke to dozens of packed enthusiastic meeting (including, I recall vividly, in Blaenavon), his disgruntled opponents sat out the campaign and some even briefed the media against Labour Party policy.

If Jeremy is elected, the media will go into overdrive attacking him and his anti-austerity and anti-Trident policies. Whilst I am sure that these policies are vote-winners (see “The Red Ed Myth” and “Rewriting Labour History”), the possibility of a right-wing opt out or split does concern me.

We need to be realistic about the Parliamentary Labour Party – it contains few MPs from the ‘shop floor’ or with experience of the sort of campaigns that has made Jeremy such a popular figure. In their view, genuine anti-Tory policies will render Labour unelectable – in reality, disloyalty by career politicians is a bigger danger. 

Just as Leanne found herself dependent on AMs overwhelmingly opposed to her election, Jeremy will be faced with a hostile PLP. That’s the downside.

The upside is that many thousands of members who left during the Blair/Brown years would be tempted to rejoin. They, and active new and younger members, would support Jeremy as leader and help transform British politics.

Smears won’t work

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Bereft of arguments, those opposed to Jeremy Corbyn being elected leader of the Labour Party have resorted to smears – accusing him of anti-semitism !

I have known Jeremy for 30+ years and have never heard him utter anything that could be construed as anti-semitic. He has excellent relations with people of all faiths and ethnicity in his own community – which is why his majority has quadrupled over the 30 years he has represented Islington North.

In common with a majority of people and nations throughout the world, Jeremy disagrees with Israeli government policies towards Palestine. This in no way makes him anti-semitic – just as his opposition to the US/UK invasion of Iraq (also in common with most people and nations throughout the world) in no way makes him anti-British.

Letter in the Jewish Chronicle:

Dear Letters Editor

As Jewish constituents of Jeremy Corbyn for nearly two decades we have met him many times, both through his day-to-day work supporting people in his constituency, and through his wider campaigning work, especially in support of migrants and refugees and against racism, fascism and war.

Those who know him personally cannot take seriously the campaign of smears, wild distortions and innuendo against him, through which newspapers such as the Jewish Chronicle, Daily Mail and Sunday Express are trying to paint him as an antisemite or a friend of antisemites.

Memories are depressingly short. In 2013, the Daily Mail, which regularly publishes lurid scare stories about migrants and refugees, tried to undermine the previous Labour Leader, Ed Miliband, in the minds of anti-immigrant readers, by reminding them that Miliband’s father was an East European refugee. Furthermore, it claimed that Miliband senior was disloyal and insufficiently grateful to Britain. In the late 1930s, when Miliband’s family were desperately trying to escape from Nazism, it was the Sunday Express which complained in an editorial “…just now there is a big influx of foreign Jews into Britain. They are over-running the country.”

Last weekend we stood outside Yarl’s Wood Immigration Detention Centre protesting the inhuman treatment of women detained there. Jeremy Corbyn was the only leadership candidate to send a message of support.

His real crime, of course, in the eyes of the Jewish Chronicle, is that he has been a longstanding supporter of justice for the Palestinians and a negotiated peace based on an end to the occupation.

But as he said in the JW3 hustings recently: “Does questioning the behaviour of the Israeli state towards Palestinians lead to antisemitism? No, it mustn’t and shouldn’t … Whether it’s a synagogue or a mosque under attack we must all come together … as one in confronting it.”

We are proud that our MP has stood for the Labour leadership on a platform of challenging austerity, enhancing democracy, combating racism and giving support and hope to the most vulnerable members of society.

David Rosenberg and Julia Bard

All the way with Jeremy

Jeremy_Corbyn I’ve just returned from an inspiring 1000+ meeting in Cardiff addressed by Jeremy Corbyn and leading supporters in South Wales. It was the most inspiring political meeting I have attended since 1945.

Jeremy said everything far more eloquently than I have in my blogs and, were he to become Labour Leader, I will not be able to justify not becoming a member.

Indeed, had he led the Labour Party in May, I would have not needed to contest (q.v. my blog of 6 May).

Unlike the pundits who predicted he would come last (some still do!), I said from the outset that “he could win” (June 15). This was because my experience in the General Election made it clear that acceptance of austerity was the overwhelming reason for Labour’s loss of electoral popularity.

The high-profile pundits encased within the Westminster bubble have no idea what real people think. If Jeremy becomes Leader, Labour could win the next General Election with anti-austerity and anti-Trident policies.

The enthusiasm for such policies was evident at the public meeting tonight and gives me hope that the labour movement will recapture the post-war spirit.

Meeting

No, I don’t expect to win

Torfaen is ultra- safe for Labour. Our next MP will be Nick Thomas-Symonds. acorn to oak

So why am I contesting? Frankly I would not have stood if Nick were like (say) Paul Flynn (in Newport West) or Jeremy Corbyn (Islington) and likely to campaign to reverse Tory spending cuts and oppose nuclear weapons.

I also would not be standing if either the Green Party or Plaid Cymru candidates were visible in Torfaen and campaigning against austerity and Trident renewal. But both, for personal reasons, have relied on TV appearances by their excellent leaders, Natalie Bennett and Leanne Wood.

So, rather than sit at home fretting, I decided to stand. Otherwise I would have not been able to write these posts arguing for more progressive policies. I have nothing against Nick personally. He is a loyal and capable Labour member and, if Labour decided to reverse Tory spending cuts and plans to renew Trident, he would be equally convincing in arguing for my preferred alternative policies. But unlike Paul Flynn and Jeremy Corbyn and other left Labour MPs, it’s not in his nature to argue for anything other than official party policy.

The point of voting for John Cox on May 7th is to tell the Labour Party to reject austerity and Trident renewal and to make a clean break with Tory policies (a clear “red line” – to quote our former First Minister).

That’s what I would be doing if (by a miracle) I were to be elected. So every vote cast for John Cox will message our new MP to respond to these demands. Far from being wasted (as adding one more vote to Nick’s huge majority will be), a good vote for John Cox (Socialist Labour) will send a very clear message to Labour to oppose austerity and Trident renewal.

PS If you wish to read more of my views on these topics, hit the Tag for Trident or Austerity or whatever and scroll down.