Times have changed for Labour – but not in the way some academics think

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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5 thoughts on “Times have changed for Labour – but not in the way some academics think

    1. John Gaines

      So the Labour Executive now chooses the Leader of the Labour Party? what a hoot — failures such as the Kinnocky grubber, Brown the Tory, Cooper, the I wish I was a Tory, the dumb head Millipeeds, Tory Bent and Daughter Hilary, Prescott the typist desk jumper and on & on & on as meanwhile the dupe Johnson silently whispers ME, ME ME…
      We will close down the Lab Exec if they continue with this thwarting of the Party members, we also will deselect those who claim that Labour voters are theirs, we are not yours we Vote for Labour policies not wanna beTory twisters.

  1. mohandeer

    Simon Wren-Lewis should stick to what he is good at – economics. He is utterly clueless with regard to the grass roots movement that has sought change for the better in our democracy, because he does not live our lives – we do. He has position and status and therefore power and as a consequence no real understanding of the feeling of frustration the “minions” endure.

  2. rotzeichen

    When people say we are fighting for the heart and soul of the party, that is precisely what it is, The Neo-Liberal wing of the party are in my view made up of people that accept the dominance of the minority few who dictate our life styles.

    They preach aspiration knowing full well that those very aspirations are limited by the policies of the 1%, Bernie Sanders said back in 2011 that the 1% were at war with their own people, that is the struggle we face, and yes it will take time to win enough support to finally succeed, but if we dilute our message as over the last 20 or so years, we become tainted and the blame for the failures of capitalism and Labour suffers from a total lack of credibility. Ed Miliband promised that he understood the reasons why we lost 2010, only to replicate those self same reasons (neo-Liberalism).

    What we know about those on the right of the party is that they will apply every Machiavellian tactic possible to achieve their ends, the disgraceful lies and stage management of their actions can’t be ignored and given in to, they will see victory at this stage as the excuse to rout every vestige of socialism out of the party. Our capitulation now would be the end of radical politics in this country, Owen Smith did not get to a top position in an American corporation like Pfizer without stepping on a few necks, I doubt he would spare much time in clearing out any resistance to his political objectives.

    The actions of these right wingers (people pretending to represent the views of the Labour Party) are prepared to do as much damage to the party as they can, because for them it is win, win, they win if they keep control of the party, they win if they destroy the chances of real Labour winning at the next election. We have since the election of Tony Blair stood back and allowed them to erode the welfare state and public provision, that has weakened the living standards of people and created divisions that only a resolute rebuttal can reverse. That will never happen if we give in now, the lessons of the past are, trust these people and lose everything, if we don’t tell the public at large what is happening in this country, rest assured the right in the party won’t.

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