Jeremy Corbyn, British Labour Party and British politics

Posted: August 19, 2015 by Admin in Alienation, British politics, Capitalist ideology, Class Matters, Economics, Limits of capitalism, Political & economic power, Poverty & Inequality, Unions - Britain, Workers' rights
Actually, no Jeremy, it can't. And you're misleading people to suggest otherwise. . .

Actually, no Jeremy, it can’t. And you’re misleading people to suggest otherwise. 

by Tony Norfield

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.

The piece above is taken from Tony’s blog, here.  The photo and caption have been added by us.

  1. Gary MacLennan says:

    It was good to read this blog by someone on the Left and based in London. My interest in UK politics persists and, as I have posted, it has been given a boost by the impact of Corbyn in the leadership contest. Now Tony writes

    “The key point is that he [Corbyn] 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. ”

    I am tempted to agree about fundamental conservatism, but I would point out that means they can be won over to opposition to the radical impulses of the neo-liberals, which are on display now for all to see. In any case no-one knows when the eruption that Tony talks about will come. It is being prepared now.

    For me the lesson of the Corbyn campaign is that opposition is there to be tapped into. Every single political insider has been astonished by Corbyn’s impact. The Blair establishment which has such a grip on the Labour Party has been terrified and the word is carefully chosen. They have never had the intention of responding to the wishes of the members of the party or of course of the working class. They made their careers on a commitment to being “responsible” or “electable” as defined primarily by Rupert Murdoch.

    Now in today’s Guardian George Monbiot has taunted the Blairites by describing them as the true unelectables. In doing so he has broken a taboo. The wisdom of Blairism – accommodation at all costs to neo-liberalism- is being called into question by a section of the intelligentsia such as Stiglitz, Krugman, Keen and Monbiot. I think the latter represent a current which believes that neoliberalism is destroying capitalism and that capitalism must be saved from the capitalists. So what I am saying here is that everything is much more fluid, even in the UK than many believe.

    No doubt Cameron’s government is getting the water cannons ready, because they know that despite the rhetoric there is no stability ahead.


  2. Sean Kearns says:

    I think there are two things of note about the Corbyn contest for leadership.

    One is what Gary says. That there is a constituency out there for more radical ideas and Corbyn’s candidacy has ignited it to an extent, and not an insignificant extent at that. I doubt that the revolutionary left will be much able to tap into that sentiment so.

    The other thing is a negative. Corbyn remains within the British Labour Party, the graveyard of lefties. He’s stayed there through everything that the LP leadership did, all the sell-outs of workers’ interests and all the imperialist war-waging. Corbyn is, in my view, a genuine left social democrat in the Benn tradition; but what he is doing is sucking thousands of new people, especially young, idealistic people, into that graveyard.

    When the smoke clears, I suspect they will be yet another layer of the disappointed and disillusioned millions in Britain.

  3. Peter says:

    I’m more optimistic about Corbyn, or hopeful at least. I think the movement that his leadership candidacy has spawned has great promise. Not necessarily to radically alter the direction of the Labour Party, but to create momentum for great non-Parliamentary political engagement. However I think realising such a potentiality will require Corbyn, if he wins, to wrest back control of the policy-making function of Labour from the Parliamentary wing, and put real decision-making back in the hands of the membership.

    Bernstein I’m not, but I think we would be foolish not to recognise the opportunity to leverage off some of the developments in Parliamentary politics to build greater working class consciousness.