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Monday, 26 September 2016

Viva Corbyn!

I could not help but grinning a little when I read this morning of Jeremy Corbyn’s clean sweep of the polls in the leadership election (here, here and here) in the UK.

I suppose that lays clear a good chunk of my political views but then again I have never been shy about advertising it and that does not mean I can’t be critical of left wing antics which are bone headed, petty or just plain stupid. But still I was grinning.

Also I wonder what Andrew Little, current glorious leader of Labour in NZ, will make of this, but more of that in a moment.

Whats clear in the UK is that despite the best quisling efforts of the bankster Labour MPs to get rid of him through such means as open dissent, voter disenfranchisement and outright political skulduggery; Corbyn came though and with an even stronger mandate via increased turnout and a higher polling for him. In anyone’s terms he saw off all challenges, held firm and then some.

I do also like Corbyn for his underdog position, at least as portrayed by the media, and the fact that even now when he could be scornful in defeat he is still willing to work with those who opposed him although I don’t think they will ever be willing to work with him because what has happened here is that power in UK Labour has shifted well away from the MPs who had assumed that once they got elected they were on the gravy train for life and instead are now finding out that their accountability goes all the way back to the actual people who voted for them and not just the little club of fellow MPs who they work with.

And with this shift goes the last real chance of the Blairites to hold onto power in Labour (of which previous Labour leader Ed Milliband was one). Milliband, had obviously tried to keep Labour on the business friendly, pro EU course but in the end he was little more than a slightly younger, less seedy version of Tony “poodle” Blair and things had changed, his five years as Labour party leader were mediocre at best and killing time at worst.

It was less Milliband as the man himself but that his values were out of touch and out of step with the mood on his side of the tracks and in the end he paid for it at the polls, which had UK Labour not been a rat’s nest of cosy business interests and status quo politicians, he would have seen coming. Instead he did not, could not or even possibly chose not to see the what was barrelling towards him like a truck filled with overpriced luxury items, more fool him.

As for those Labour MPs that opposed Corbyn, they now only have two options, or only two realistic options, which are quit Labour and politics or toe the line fully.

The possible third option of forming a new party is political suicide as their mandate to form one would be limited to those few who actually supported them and that rare combination of person who wants Britain to remain in the EU, supports Labour and would see any value in a watered down, middle of the road rehash of Labour; not many of those people around.

But despite Corbyn offering the olive branch I suspect there will be a purge of sorts, he has hinted as much and the worst offenders are very likely to get their marching orders in one form or another. There are two meanings to Corbyn wanting to “wipe the slate clean”; the first is to heal the old divisions and move on but the other is a political purge pure and simple and I do not doubt that he will have the will to pull the trigger.

Because at this moment he has them politically stunned and in shock and with only some deft manipulations of the political controls could we see a few fatalities like this (all be in political form only: although if he did actually pull his skin off and breath fire that would sure be one way of enforcing party discipline).

So the reality now facing those rebel Labour MPs is pretty bleak, they represent something on its way out; in decline and their actions to stop the inevitability rank alongside those of the Republicans in the US to thwart Trump getting the party nomination.

Not that Corbyn is on par with Trump but both of them are riding a wave of electoral anger right into the top spot and no amount of media manipulation or party trickery has stopped them as they represent the actual party members not the entrenched party elite (the MPs and assorted advisers) who thought they had everything under control and now it’s too late, the democratic beast has woken and its hungry.

Of course none of this is any guarantee that Corbyn will turn out to be a good PM or be able to lead the UK out of its current state but it’s does show that where it counts he has support for whatever he proposes because he has made no bones about his agenda and has not hidden it one iota, which is a big step up from many of his recent predecessors who tried to keep the Labour name but in all other instances were steering the party towards the right (by claiming to be moving to the center) and abandoning all but the core few who were benefiting from their actions.

Meanwhile in NZ, Andrew Little must be wondering what to make of this. His own efforts to remake the NZ Labour party, or at least raise its poll ratings seem to have failed and he is left, King Canute like, to shout incomprehensibly at the reality washing around his legs.

Unfortunately for him (Little that is) Corbyn by his very presence and political endurance (30 years as a lowly backbencher) is a repudiation of all the old and ugly that Tony Blair and his subsequent clones stood for when he kick-started new Labour in the 90s. Also UK Labour only had the horrid stain of the Iraq war to wash away and in Corbyn that can be achieved by removing the last of the Blairite dregs from the senior roles in the party and by … pause … returning it to its roots.

In NZ, Little and Labour still have yet to renounce their actions in the 80s and Little is a political spring chicken when compared to Corbyn, his protection inside the cocoon of union politics is not probably going to help him if Labour NZ gets nailed to the cross in 2017.

So while I suspect that Little might want to wish his UK counterpart well in his electoral outcomes it’s his own fortunes here and in 12 months’ time that he may wish to try and learn from if only he could.

The key take away for Little from Corbyns win is that honesty is the best policy, not some cheap tricks for raising polling or a grab bag of often nifty, but often terminally lame policy planks. What little needs is a fire in his belly and a willingness to come clean about Labour and its current doldrums in the calm waters of the political middle. 

The current is now heading to the outer edges (both left and right) and his recent rejection of Clark’s advice to stay in the middle shows he may be starting to figure out what is actually needed to win an election (no matter how much David Farrer crows about it).

Corbyn is where he is by rejecting the status quo and by sticking to his guns and probably his political instincts (honed no doubt by 30 years in politics). Little does not have 30 years to wait and needs to move now, MP backlash or not.

And if it seems that I am trying to transfer the situation in the UK onto what’s happening in NZ then you would be correct, I am. Regional flavorings aside, what’s happening in NZ has enough parallels in the UK for a previously friendly party of the worker to take back that mandate it lost through the inevitably foolish move to the middle, especially as times get tougher and the income gap grows.

Viva Corbyn and Beuna Suerte Little!


  1. It seems to me like a stalemate, with the parliamentary party and the popular party heading in quite different directions. At this point neither is likely to change course. Yet in the short term at least neither can fully achieve its objects without the cooperation of the other. The parliamentary party is centrist because its goal is to obtain and hold office - at one level constituency seats, and at the next level the government benches. So as Helen Clark has argued, it must be centrist. The popular party on the other hand wants more radical policies to serve the interests of working people which means they will have to win over an absolute majority of the British public before the parliamentary party will fall into line - however reluctantly.
    In the meantime there is a stalemate, which I believe can only be resolved by Corbyn moving to the centre to appease the centrist parliamentary party while doing what he can to retain as much as possible of his radical support base. In short, I don't see any good outcome for the Corbanites. To succeed they will have to radicalize the electorate and then purge the parliamentary party of its centrists, and they don't have forever to achieve that goal. The centrists will sit tight so long as they have seats to keep warm in parliament, while the enthusiasm of the Corbanites will wane if, after a few years of struggle, their efforts have failed to bear fruit.

  2. Hi Geoff.

    I am not so sure on this one, if Corbyn does go center then he ends up disappointing a lot of people who voted for him due to his current stance (think Bernie Sanders in the US) but as you note the parliamentary party oppose him.

    I suppose the dynamic is 60,000 party members vrs 50% of your MPs?

    My gut feeling is that Corbyn will try to weed the truly opposed and then try to herd the rest of the sheep into line.

    Either way it will be interesting to watch.

    Another interesting dynamic will be the possible rise of a true workers party again. I say possible because I can see a lot of people who would oppose it, or do so now.

  3. A "true workers party" has been the holy grail of social democrats, socialists and communists for the past two centuries, and at various times and in various places they have approached that ideal, but like Sisyphus they have found that no matter how close they come to the pinnacle of success the force of gravity is always against them. Socialist parties invariably slide back into liberalism (both social and economic) and workers parties become middle class. There really are no exceptions, and that should cause us to examine the forces at work, rather than answer the call for another great push to move the mass uphill.
    I am not saying that nothing can be gained from the effort to fight the force of political gravity. In a sense the struggle of Sisyphus is a necessary struggle, and a good one. Ceaseless struggle is the reality of our life on earth and even if we cannot make things perfect for eternity to come, we can make things a little better for a little while, or even quite a lot better for quite a long while.
    However if we are to be truly effective we should understand why things happen the way they do. Marxists have analysed the economic system, but no one (except the occasional Islamist) has analysed the political system with the same critical rigor. Helen Clark, who is a professional politician in the truest sense, a graduate political scientist who has spent her whole life in the business of politics, takes a pragmatic approach and on that basis tells Andrew Little and others that they should not even try to move the rock uphill. All her experience has taught her that economic liberalism (aka "neo-liberalism") and social liberalism, capitalism and democracy are the only way to be, and the natural end-point of human existence. Yet this "end of history" has proven to be a very dark place, full of inequality, resentment, despair, wars and addictions, which leads some to think that it cannot be the end of history at all, but merely a time of pain preceding the birth of a new order.
    The UN negotiator on Syria, Stefan di Mistura (?), has said that there is a link between Syria and Brexit. He is right, but it is more than a causal link. There is an association. (Yes, you read it right. Associations are more meaningful than causes because they are facts, whereas causes are mere constructs). The association between Iraq, Syria, Brexit and Trump is the condition of insignificant minority groups (or even insignificant majorities) in a world order which is blindly attached to system and process. The system is working "as it should". "Everything is in the right place". But it is delivering crimes and chaos all over the world. Technology has undermined the moral and social basis of the democratic system, while at the same time it has given us the means to construct a far superior kind of democracy which would make it possible to have a "true workers party" in developed nations, and which would not deny the Sunni Muslims of Iraq, the Christians of Syria, the Maori of Rotorua or the Koreans of Northcote a voice and legitimate influence over the political process. Proportional representation as we know it may be a start, just so long as we do not deem it the end. The real change for the good will come when we allow people to choose their own political constituency and to actually choose their own leaders rather than be forced to accept whatever "leaders" are thrown up by "democratic process".

  4. Hi Geoff:

    Good points but I think Corbyn has shown there might be another way, in fact I don't think he would use the word "might".

    Best see my part II Corbyn post rather than repeat myself here.

    I agree with your points about the need for people to be free to choose the actual political system they want but that's the long game, what Corbyn has done is actual take a step towards that.

    Exciting stuff methinks.