Cuckoos in the nest: If a Labour split has happened, here’s the reason for it

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Masquerade: The spelling of ‘Labor’ suggests this is a poster for a foreign political party – perhaps Australian? In Mr McKeon’s article it was presented as representing the UK party – as its right-wing entryists have been presented as representing the party’s traditional values when they don’t.

Obviously This Writer does not sympathise with Chris McKeon completely – he self-identifies as Corbyn-sceptic while I support the Labour leader.

He makes a good point – that the Labour Party has already split into two different political groups, characterised by the fact that they refer to each other in terms reserved for opposing organisations.

The article could have benefited from some discussion of how this came about, however.

History shows that Labour suffered a serious shock after Margaret Thatcher’s neoliberalism-powered Conservatives won the 1979 election. After several years of confusion, the rise of Neil Kinnock signalled a change of direction towards the Right – amplified with the ascendance of Tony Blair in the 1990s.

There was a huge amount of right-wing entryism into Labour at this time – typified by the establishment of the practice of “parachuting” right-wing candidates into “safe” seats to ensure that Blairite-neoliberal policies would be supported in Parliament.

Meanwhile the traditional Left was pushed into the background. Members and voters who upheld the views of the old-style Labour Party were sidelined and either quit the party or stopped voting for it. Membership dwindled and voter support slipped away.

People wanted a party that opposed Conservative neoliberalism – not one that agreed with most of its policies in the belief that this was what made politicians “electable”.

Then a gap appeared in right-wing Labour’s armour. MPs thought it would be “fair” to let a left-wing candidate take part in the 2015 leadership election.

Jeremy Corbyn stormed it.

Of course he did. He represented a section of the party that had been suppressed for decades but had recently been given a voice by the right-wingers’ attempts to shut up the trade unions (whose left-wing leanings were no doubt considered to be more undesirable relics of the old days).

His victory signalled a return to the party for many ex-members who had abandoned it, along with new members who had found a version of politics they could support – more than doubling the size of Labour’s membership and increasing its electability.

And what did the right-wingers who had taken over Labour’s positions of power have to say about that? Did they accept the change with good grace and do their best to help the party in its new direction?

No.

They dug their heels in, hindered Mr Corbyn in as many ways as they could find, accused him of incompetence in matters where no evidence was available, and attacked his supporters for having supported other parties and for holding unacceptable views.

Accusations of anti-Semitism, misogyny and the like have been defeated quite convincingly, although there remain some holdouts who will repeat defeated arguments in the face of all the evidence.

As for support for other parties – Labour had been a right-wing, authoritarian party for many years by the time Mr Corbyn came on the scene. Obviously people with activist leanings had joined other parties in the meantime, but that does not justify excluding them when they came back into the fold.

So we have seen a huge amount of right-wing entryism into a left-wing party, and then when left-wingers returned we have seen a huge amount of unfair accusations from the cuckoos in the nest.

Perhaps a split is inevitable. Perhaps it is because some now inhabiting the Labour Party weren’t really Labour people at all.

The Labour Party is a deeply unpleasant place to be right now.

People who criticise Corbyn have their motives questioned – when JK Rowling came out against the leader, she was accused of being a billionaire worried about extra taxes under Corbyn.
Meanwhile, Smith’s partisans deride their opponents as delusional members of the Cult of Corbyn, whom they mockingly call ‘the Jezziah’. Both sides accuse each other of being liars, aiding the Tories and not being ‘real Labour’.

Non-Corbynite members set up a secret group where they could express their doubts about the party’s leadership ‘without facing attacks of “Blairite” and “go join the Tories”’, in the words of the group’s founders. But while this group has seen measured discussion of the problems facing Labour, it has also acted as an echo chamber amplifying the unpleasantness. There are frequent posts mocking ‘the cult’ along with cartoons of turkeys voting for Christmas overlain with ‘I voted for Jeremy’ banners.

It is a similar story on the ‘Owen 4 Leader’ group, where one member has rewritten Gilbert and Sullivan’s Major-General’s song, with lyrics describing Corbyn as ‘ineffectual’ and a ‘bottom feeder’.

In fact, both sides are talking about each other in ways that we used to reserve for discussion of other political parties. There is no sense that we all ultimately want the same thing. We are no longer all on the same side.

Source: Comrades No More: The Labour Party split has already happened | Chris McKeon

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19 thoughts on “Cuckoos in the nest: If a Labour split has happened, here’s the reason for it

  1. David Woods

    I will vote for a democratically elected leader who shares my views and my concerns, which is why I will vote for Jeremy Corbyn!

    Owen ‘whatshisname’; He’s a Tory isnt he? He certainly supports their view far more than mine!

  2. Jess

    With respect, Mike;

    ‘History shows that Labour suffered a serious shock after Margaret Thatcher’s neoliberalism-powered Conservatives won the 1979 election.’

    True enough

    Just as it had done twenty years earlier. As Benn recorded (Years of Hope; 11 October 1959) Gaitskell was ‘not prepared to lose another Election for the sake of nationalisation’ and ‘laid great stress on the disadvantages of the name Labour [and] also thought [the party] must review.. relations with the trades unions’.

    Henderson and the Webbs tried to pull the same trick in 1918, when Labour was full of ‘entryists’ from disillusioned former Liberal stalwarts.

    In 1959 it was Roy Jenkins who trumpeted the Gaitskellite message to all and sundry. And where did he end up?

    The right wing of Labour always tries to pull the party in their direction, when they feel their careers may be at risk, fogetting that, for the bulk of the party’s supporters, it is seen as a party of hope, not despair

  3. Rupert Mitchell (@rupert_rrl)

    I am very sad to have to agree with you Mike. Of course true Labour was split by the infiltration of people like the Blue Tories who had no place to be in it. There is no point in trying to reconcile the impossible as these people are out to do as much damage as possible to the real true Labour party and they need to be expelled once and for all. The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn is our only hope of ever getting back to a proper government with its interests for all; not just the rich and not just the poor.

    People are waking up to the fact that the Party was split by those with vested interests for themselves and their rich pals, and I think Jeremy Corbyn now has a huge following and that we could win a new election under him but NOT if we don’t get rid of the rubbish first!

  4. Roy Beiley

    Why not have two Labour Parties then. Labour Left; Labour Right. Whoever elects the most MP’s at an Election becomes the Official Labour Party, either in Govt or in Opposition. If the right wing are so sure of success why not chance it and be done with the McCarthy tactics now being employed.

  5. mohandeer

    Mosborough should be a wake up call to JC but, like so many before him he will follow his own thinking and disregard others. If he insists on his broad church then no matter how many have turned out in support of him at rallies, they will simply not vote for an anti Corbyn candidate who does not represent their views. He risks losing the support he has engendered by dictating to them what they should think and feel, much like Kinnock did when Thatcher had a landslide victory and Blair did, which is why so many left the party in the first place. The two sides of the divide, which is now a chasm, are not reconcilable, whatever Jeremy thinks.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying here.
      It might be better to suggest it should be a wake-up call to local Labour parties – that people will not vote for an anti-Corbyn candidate who does not represent their views.
      Mr Corbyn hasn’t dictated to them what they should think and feel – nor should he. But that does imply that they are responsible and should do what works.

  6. Two Thumbed Fist

    Both of the main two parties, Labour and the Conservatives, are split and essentially dysfunctional because of it. What we need is a truly proportional voting system which would allow smaller parties to be founded and flourish, giving people a real choice in respect to who they vote for and a prospect of getting real representation of their views in parliament. Then we could have a rabidly right wing flavour of the Tories and a moderate flavour competing for support. Same with Labour. One version of Labour with Jeremy Corbyn at the wheel and at least one other more moderate version so left of centre voters wouldn’t have to hold their noses and vote for people by default because there’s nobody better to support. This IS the only real way to democratise politics. Give the people real choice and let them have their say. The results would be telling.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Not a terrible idea. All the parties would have to have different names, though – that’s the law; the Electoral Commission won’t have it any other way.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Yup. You read the caption attached to that picture after you wrote the comment, I take it?

  7. Hairyloon

    Your opening paragraph highlights the fundamental problem with the Corbyn Campaign: the false dichotomy ‘twixt sceptic and support.
    The movement give the impression that they are not open to criticism: if you do not believe wholeheartedly in Corbyn’s supremacy then it seems you are not welcome.

    And unless he actually is the Messiah and can perform miracles, then without a healthy dose of scepticism then he is going to fail: it is that simple, and it is true of almost any endeavour.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      No, my opening paragraph highlights the very real difference between supporters of the two leadership candidates.
      It does not follow that Mr Corbyn’s campaign reckons it is not to be criticised so your further argument is invalid and does not require refutation.

      1. Hairyloon

        My apologies: I had assumed that being a writer you would be familiar with the phrase “a false dichotomy” and would realise that I am saying you are wrong to suggest that one is either a Corbyn supporter or a Corbyn sceptic; it is entirely possible to be neither or both. Now you appear to take a step further and seem to be saying that one is either a Corbyn supporter or a Smith supporter. I see nothing in the article to suggest that the writer supports Smith, apart from the criticism of the Corbynites which appears to be well justified.
        Your assumption that that criticism makes him a Smith supporter rather illustrates my point…

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        There was no false dichotomy, though.
        I wasn’t saying people can only be Corbyn supporters or Corbyn-sceptics. I was saying that I, personally, don’t sympathise with Mr McKeon because he is one and I am the other. Did I really need to write “other opinions are available” just for your benefit?
        There’s nothing in the article that assumes Mr McKeon is a Smith supporter. You seem to be making far too many assumptions yourself.

      3. Hairyloon

        I am not making any assumptions at all. You have clearly expressed the opinion that the writer is a Smith supporter, and that seems to be solely on the grounds that he is a Corbyn sceptic.

      4. Mike Sivier Post author

        If I had expressed that opinion, you would have been able to quote it. You haven’t, because I didn’t.
        I won’t be taking any more correspondence on this as you seem to be trying to waste my time.

  8. Jim Butler-Daulby

    I have long held the belief that there is a strong desire amongst vested interests to end democracy. I am fully aware that I sound like a conspiracy theorist, but having read much about how corporates have operated since the Industrial Revolution (see Nicholas Shaxson, Thomas Pikkety, et al.), it’s not a huge step to imagine how backroom lobbying can be a force for the good of corporate “values”.

    When Kinnock decided to ‘purge’ the Militant in the ’80s, I left the Labour Party. I absolutely knew that a seismic shift had occurred. Not fully understanding it, I just ignored politics until John Smith came along. Following his sad demise, I voted for Blair believing him to be following Smith’s trajectory. I was wrong! What I didn’t know was what ‘triangulation’ meant. I now understand.

    I paraphrase Chomsky by saying; to end democracy one has to end debate! ‘Triangulation’ does precisely that! To give the illusion of democracy, Chomsky actually argues that we would narrow down the debate and allow rigorous discussion within those narrow parameters. His observations come from the US political system, but we are actively following their rules.

    The right of the Labour Party are hoping to follow Blair and his cohort into a post-political life of corporate pampering! They’re led to believe that the electorate are predominantly guided by the media and are either disinterested in politics, or are further to the right than they actually are. Jeremy Corbyn has come as a shock!

    What they fail to recognise is that we’re a smaller country than the USA. And, like Scotland, sick of the Westminster Bubble! It now matters little if the Labour Party does split. The overwhelming fact is that the suffering wrought by neoliberalism has affected too many of us, has become more visible and it’s day has ended in the minds of the majority. Economically, it’s been a disaster!

    Unlike America, we’re too European to let democracy slip through our fingers so easily. We’re too close to our neighbours! (I hope I’m right!) We’re also slightly more cognisant of our history. We don’t have Hollywood rewriting it for us! (They did try with Thatcher. That faded into obscurity!)

    We need more “Corbyns” to come out and challenge the corporate dogma. I will be paying close attention to the debate on lobbying!

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