I joined the Labour party. Corbyn needs to win
July 25, 2015
This morning I awoke with a slightly sore head and a subtle taste of kebab in my mouth after a well deserved Friday night out. As normal I tried to replay the events of the evening to identify if I owed anybody an apology, and then it came back to me.
In my email inbox, an email lurked from Harriet Harman welcoming me to the Labour Party. Ah yes, that’s right. I joined the Labour Party. Whilst drunk.
I had considered doing this after the general election, whilst sober. I had decided to hold off for a while as I did not want to have a knee-jerk reaction (I used to be a member of the Liberal Democrats), and I feared the leadership election would result in nothing more than a campaign of Tories dressed in red and with accents like my own from the North trying to show how centralist they were. Liz Kendall immediatley disappointed me.
Last night as I watched Newsnight - I record it so most days I watch the previous night’s edition in the morning before work - with a drunken haze, I got angry. For the last week there has been a dialogue about what Labour should be that I find utterly alien.
The New Labour guard tells it like this: Labour could not win in the 1980s and 1990s because they were too leftist. By moving to the centre, people did not feel their homes were going to be taken away from them and the aspirational and wealthy did not feel threatened. By “lurching to the Left”, they argue, this work will be undone and the party will be unelectable.
This analysis is, to be frank, utter bollocks.
Blair won because the country needed some charisma after a decade of old grey haired men being bitter towards each other in the Tory party. If Kinnock had still been leader in 1997, I suspect he could have actually taken it - he nearly did in 1992, and it by 1997 John Major and his “bastards” had been under the skin of everybody for too long.
I was a young man in 1997, but I recall very clearly that most people did not completely understand the change that had happened in the Labour party but knew that it was probably going to be OK and the trade unions were not going to run rampany under a New Labour government. It was not Clause 4, it was not the manifesto. It was just time for a change.
Centrist politics has never been popular in the UK. If it were, the Liberal Democrats would hold a majority.
At the last election, the Tories by being extremely right-wing were able to find a majority. Right-wing batshit-crazy UKIP picked up 3 million votes. The Greens - whose economic policy is so far to the left it would prompt Karl Marx to suggest they calm down and have a think - quadrupled their vote. In Scotland, Labour got thoroughly whipped by the SNP who are to the left of Labour.
Harriet Harman led Labour into a vote for austerity last week, and it became clear that the right/centrists of the party do not dispute a word of the Tory manifesto other than by querying the finer points of just how much they should fuck over the poor.
They agree with the neoliberal myth that short-term deficit reduction is the answer to all our problems and the only debate is on how much and which services need to be cut. Rather than saying “stop, there might be another way”, the only defence against Osborne’s suggestions at 40% cuts across services like policing and the Justice service was that this is what the country had voted for, and it could just work.
How is that an effective opposition? How does the defeat the cynical view that all politicians are the same so why bother to vote? How is that a principled stand against a party that is planning to wreak havoc whilst only holding 34% of the vote at the last election?
Labour needs to move to the left. Hard, fast and authentically it needs to develop and communicate some core values around equality. Not in a terrifying way, but they need to be anti-austerity, argue that the invisible hand in the market is randomly waving and there are some key areas it should have less effect on.
If Labour do not do this, Scotland is lost to the SNP for generations. If Labour try and pretend to be Tory-lite they will lose votes to the Tories on the right and to the Greens and even Lib Dems on the left.
If however a leader is elected who is prepared to stand up for some basic principles, there is a chance that they could not only win, but they make the United Kingdom a better place. I think if a leader could take a Japanese view of industry, a Scandinavian view on taxation and the wealthy, and a contemporary British view on culture and immigration, that leader can win a majority in 2020.
I believe that leader to be Jeremy Corbyn.
His policies range from the popular - nationalising the railways - to the moderately progressive in the shape of taking an anti-austerity stance. This is not a vote loser. The SNP and Greens have shown that a leftist agenda and strong stance can win votes in a UK general election. All Labour need to do is communicate it convincingly. Elsewhere in Europe left-wing governments have shown wide popular support.
I am therefore proud to call myself a Labour member and will be voting for Corbyn as leader with Watson as deputy. If they win, I expect to find myself out on doorsteps helping argue his case in 2020, if not before.
In the event of either Liz Kendall or Yvette Cooper winning I will cancel my membership: the party will be out of power for a generation and deservedly so, because it serves no purpose other than to justify and support a weak Tory majority and the neoliberal ideas that are hurting so many people in the UK.
If Andy Burnham should grab it, I’ll sit back and wait. I am not sure he has his direction sorted out yet. He thinks he does, but he is still holding onto that belief that centrism is the way to go, a path that serves nobody, including himself.