Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith: Labour's future is in the balance [Composite: BBC].

Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith: Labour’s future is in the balance [Composite: BBC].

Simon Wren-Lewis, in his Mainly Macro blog, reckons that Labour should vote in Owen Smith as its new leader this year. He is mistaken.

He reckons Labour cannot possible win a general election with candidates who have declared that they have no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn as their leader.

And he says a defeat is likely to mean transformational left-wing politics would be buried for another generation while Labour is again overtaken by appeasement-monkeys.

Accepting Smith, and letting him lead Labour to defeat in 2020, will allow the left-wingers more leverage afterwards, he says.

His thesis is riddled with false premises.

Let’s tackle what’s on most Labour members’ minds first: Owen Smith is not a suitable candidate for the party leadership. His candidacy is based on a quiet conspiracy against Mr Corbyn that has been happening ever since September last year, and any victory would be based on a catalogue of lies and false promises that we have seen since the end of June.

I trust I do not have to go over the list again.  It is now extremely long and, to be honest, depressing.

If Smith is elected, then he will certainly change party rules to ensure that the left-wing party membership will no longer enjoy the influence they have at the moment. It comes from an attempt by former leader Ed Miliband to reduce the influence of trade unions by giving everybody a vote of their own, but this backfired when it turned out that most Labour members are far more left-wing than the then-leadership expected.

Of course, restricting the influence of both the members and the trade unions can only mean one thing: A mass exodus of members and union support from Smith’s version of Labour. He would be left in charge of a feeble ‘rump’ that would not resemble a party of government in any way.

Conversely, if Corbyn were re-elected, he will certainly change party rules to ensure that the party membership enjoy more influence – starting with a measure that members across the UK are demanding ever-more stridently: Mandatory re-selection of MPs.

Prof Wren-Lewis’s contention that Labour cannot win an election with candidates who voted against Mr Corbyn’s leadership is irrelevant because most, if not all, of those MPs will not be standing for re-election in 2020. They will have been removed to make way for new candidates who support Corbyn’s policy platform.

In fact, the smart money is already suggesting that the ringleaders won’t even hang around to be deselected – they’ll split off to form a party of their own which, again, will be a feeble ‘rump’ that would not have any hope of taking office. I’m trying very hard to resist saying they’ll make an arse of themselves either way.

In my opinion, Prof Wren-Lewis is misjudging the strength of feeling against the rebels in the Parliamentary Labour Party. CLP meetings have been suspended because people are baying for blood and party officers fear they might just try to spill it, given the opportunity (metaphorically or actually, it’s all the same to some).

As a party, Labour wants change. Preaching for a return to failed right-wing policies – under a corrupt leadership – is like spitting in the wind.

When it looked like Jeremy Corbyn might win the 2015 leadership election, I was asked to both endorse and condemn. I did neither. I criticised one of his proposed policies, but I was also highly critical of the way Labour had been run over the previous 5 years. It was a superficial focus group style of policy making that led to decisions like not defending the Labour government’s fiscal record, which ultimately was an important part of the general election defeat.

For a Corbyn led Labour party to work, the new leadership had to bring on board the majority of its MPs. There would always be a minority – I called them the anti-Corbynistas – who would oppose Corbyn come what may, but it is a gross error to imagine all the MPs who did not vote for Corbyn were of this type. Some were prepared to work with him, and some were content to remain on the sidelines, pursuing their own particular interests.

What seems totally clear to me is that given recent events a Corbyn led party cannot win in 2020, or even come close. I was highly critical of the anti-Corbynistas who wanted to argue that their antics were having no impact on public opinion, so it would be absurd for me to pretend that people would elect to power a Labour party that had voted no confidence in its leader.

Those who voted for Corbyn only a year ago will naturally ask why they should, only a year later, change their minds. One important point is that the 2015 vote itself changed things: any leadership now knows it ignores its membership at its peril. But in addition the hopes of many of those who voted for Corbyn, which is that enough of the parliamentary could unite behind him to form an effective opposition and a potential government, have proved false. If that reality is ignored or wished away, the implications for those who oppose the current disastrous and incompetent Conservative government will be devastating.

Source: mainly macro: Labour: times change

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