The ABCs (Anybody But Corbyn) need to understand the good that Labour did, not the bad

The man on the right is a representative of the ABC (Anybody But Corbyn) brigade. Does anybody seriously want a return to his kind of politics?

The man on the right is a representative of the ABC (Anybody But Corbyn) brigade. Does anybody seriously want a return to his kind of politics?

What should the strategy be for the great majority of Labour MPs who did not vote for Jeremy Corbyn (ABC=anyone but Corbyn)? They can continue to expound their misery to receptive political journalists. They can continue to stand aghast at the dislike that some now in power hold for their predecessors. But for a group that has lost two crucial elections within the space of a few months, they really need a more positive focus.

Tony Payne, director of SPERI at Sheffield University, has a suggestion which I think has a great deal of merit. They should “come to terms fully, properly and honestly with Labour’s record in government under Blair and Brown between 1997 and 2010”. This is not in some kind of masochistic, ‘what we got wrong’ kind of exercise, but rather to recognise what that Labour government got right.

I was part of a group of academics that looked at economic policy under Labour, and the sense I got was that there were an awful lot of positives to note. But in looking at the negatives, one point that should be recognised is that these (e.g. Iraq, not enough banking regulation, perhaps not enough local support for inward migration) did not come from any tendency to be too populist. Instead rather the opposite.

Let me take my own subject as an example, partly because austerity is also central to much else. In the end what quite a few of the ABCs wanted to do was to junk the complex and perhaps awkward truths of how to run a sensible fiscal policy in favour of the populist politics of talking about the nation’s credit card. Osborne’s fiscal charter is not supported by a single economist I know, but many of the ABC’s have advocated supporting it. In this case what those ABCs have been doing is adopting – or at least flirting with – populist politics, but the popular politics of the right rather than the left.

The dominant mantra of the ABCs… is that only they are serious about trying to win elections. That is why, we are told, they have to adopt the populist policies of the other side, because only that way can they win. Notice first how different this is from the noble Weberian concept of the centre that Tony Payne puts forward. Notice second that these populist policies seem to come from the right rather than the left: whenever there is a populist policy from the left (like renationalising rail), then it becomes time to cast aside populism and be ‘sensible’.

I said that the ABCs would do well to follow Tony Payne’s advice and focus on what the Labour government did right. One of those things was the regime of tax credits, which cut poverty and made it easier for people to work. They might then reflect on the reasoning, forces and processes that led so many of them this July to abstain on the bill that cut those credits.

Please read the full article: mainly macro: What are ABC to do?

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6 thoughts on “The ABCs (Anybody But Corbyn) need to understand the good that Labour did, not the bad

  1. Rupert Mitchell (@rupert_rrl)

    I can’t quote for all, but I find that the many of the “ABCs” are pretty wealthy people who probably have more selfish reasons for not wanting the sincerity of Jeremy Corbyn and who might do better to vote Conservative. In fact some could possibly be planted!

  2. Florence

    The last Labour govt took the NHS from a crumbling neglected state to a modern clean and well resourced pride again. That PFI was used was roundly rejected by many, but like the rebuilding of schools, tax credits, sure start, child povrty reduction, GP access, rapid referal for cancer test, minimum wage and many other things were to be proud of. When the crash happened, Brown & Darling led the way internationally, surviving something that had never happened before. Brown was given recognition for their fast thinking, and for doing all the right things to protect the victims – the jobless and low paid, stimulated she economy, created public sector jobs, and had started growth again. These are all consistent with Corbyns approach. The Blairites really do need to take this on board, and were the reason so many continued to vote Labour. The things that sullied the LP and lost votes are those right wing, now Tory, ideological mistakes like ESA, WCA, war, bank deregulation, not raising the minimum wage, that lost them 2 elections. The ABCs do have an air of the gilded lily, and need to become more realistic about the lives of the miions that ARE the Labour party.

    1. Neilth

      I agree with you Florence. The Last Labour Government did many things that are worth reminding people about, most of them policies from the Brownites who retained much of the traditional aims of Labour. You’re right to say that Brown and Darling were key figures in preventing the world economy from completely falling off a cliff and they are rightly praised for this everywhere (except the UK).

      Brown and Clare Short are hugely revered in much of Africa for their principled and effective Aid packages.

      Back home the minimum wage, support for the NHS, anti discriminatory and many other policies were crucial for the nation. Devolution to the Celtic nations and the peace agreement in Northern Ireland were other progressive achievements.

      The current disastrous government are hell bent on dismantling all the positive strides made, for narrow right wing ideological reasons that have been tried many times in many places and have always resulted in a hugely successful minority of casino capitalists while the rest of the population are left to struggle in adversity.

      What CaMoron has missed though is that those rich reactionaries maintain their power through military and police powers that are wholly repressive but they are powerful tools of the state because they are well paid (and corrupt) and are part of the means of oppression.

      Getting rid of the human rights act etc is a further step on the road to this future but cutting the police and army is a big mistake as, when they look for support against civil unrest, they won’t find it. If they start to talk about an “elite force to combat …” Then worry.

    2. Jeffrey Leung

      I was sectioned under the mental health act for no reason in 2006 and then spent 9 years stopping the NHS trying to blame me for what they did wrong. So much for “well resourced pride”.

  3. mrmarcpc

    Blairite Labour is really tory Labour, Corbyn is true Labour and that is why they hate him and will do anything to scupper him, the status quo right now suits the right just fine and they don’t want anyone to spoil it, regardless of which party they’re in!

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