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Yvette Cooper’s “Alternative Vision”

That’s a bit embarrassing. There you are, the personnel are appointed and your team is ready to go. And then the Labour leader spoils it by defying expectations, winning extra seats, throwing the Tories into their most wretched state for 20 years and surges ahead with poll leads last seen since before the Iraq War. What can you do? If you are Chuka Umunna, you can stir the pot to remind the world (and yourself) that you’re still a player. Or you can proceed as if nothing happened and turn your campaign-that-never-was into a profile raising exercise. Entirely consistent with the long game the old Brownite right are playing, this is where Yvette Cooper is going: a Fabian speech here, a Pride photo opp there, and no doubt a good clutch of fringes in Brighton this September.

About that Fabian speech, this got trailed in the week as Yvette’s “alternative vision”. Of what and in relation to whom wasn’t entirely clear. Our party as a distinctive alternative to the Tories? Well, we already have that and folks are warming considerably to the new (small n) Labour. As something different to the policy agenda and vision Jeremy Corbyn is proposing? Or a different politics? Whatever that means.

In the end, the speech was, well, underwhelming. There was the usual plea for nicer politics which, while well meaning, was hampered by the assumption underpinning it: that the abuse and violent language which see flitting across social media is a matter of bad manners and rude people. If only. We are where we are because politics is in flux and there are a lot of interests at stake. For example, let’s remind ourselves of the hysterical and childish behaviour of certain Labour MPs since Jeremy assumed the leadership. I can understand why they felt threatened by a leader who doesn’t share their views, has a record of wanting to see the party democratised and the PLP’s privileges curbed, and turned the party into the largest in Western Europe on the basis of left wing politics. They turned to the weapons they had to hand – the platform afforded by public office, helpful friends in the media who would relay their attacks – to defend their position. Not excusable and, in some cases, downright scabby. But understandable. Naturally, such an empathetic understanding is absent from Yvette’s Bill and Ted approach to political discourse. No thoughts on why people might state their politics in crude and abusive tones. No attempt to recognise they might have grievances, real or imagined, that have to be addressed. It was as apolitical as they come and would barely have made a ripple in the Sally Army’s Young Soldier.

What else was in there? She identified three things Labour needs to do:

• First – the task of holding the new voters we inspired, whilst reaching out beyond them to others we lost – and staying a broad based party to do it
• Second – to chart a course for a progressive Brexit – the most important challenge facing our country over the next two years that will scar us for years to come if we let the Tories get it wrong
• Third – to overcome the new and growing divide in Britain between city and town

Looking at each in turn, the first is so obvious that its inclusion, unless you have something interesting to say on it, is just filler. Indeed, Yvette said nothing and offered nothing that may help accomplish this. We instead get some guff on standing together as a party and how wonderful it is when we do things collectively. On Brexit, she floated the view that we should try for a cross-party commission so the Tories don’t screw it up and get ourselves a good deal. I don’t personally think a de facto national coalition on Brexit is something worthwhile for the party nor the interests it represents. Because yes, getting in bed to deliver a Brexit that’s going to impoverish our people will do wonders in keeping our electoral coalition (point one, remember) together. Being independent of the process but working with certain Tories who are not totally kamikaze to extract concessions from the government re: negotiating lines seems the most sensible course for Labour at this juncture. And lastly, Labour’s got to get towns – the route to a majority goes on a circuitous journey through them. Yes, it is true, we do. If only Labour had a programme that was about rebuilding public services and using the state to stimulate industry so towns would benefit.

Yvette’s speech was less a vision and more a case of stating the obvious. Nevertheless, just as I thanked Chuka t’other day for reminding us about the merry band of irreconcilables latching onto Brexit, Yvette too has rendered a useful service. She has reminded us that her section of the party have no ideas, no clue, and no plan to respond to the situation we find ourselves in. A technocratic fix for Brexit that could sink the party? No thanks. A lecture on the importance of party unity? A missive best addressed to the people she sits with on the backbenches. And the belated remembrance of towns is a studied misreading, if not wilful ignorance, of the kind of policy package Labour is offering. Yes Yvette’s was a flacid and empty speech littered with banalities and self-evident points. If she really is the brightest mind of the PLP right, if this is the best they can do then they’re in a far worse state than anyone suspected.

15 Comments

  1. Jeffrey davies says:

    To be or not to be bye bye but the greedie ones of this party can’t or won’t hear their bosses vision but purely their own it’s time to put right whot was wrong with this party and wave the gredie ones away

  2. Verity says:

    You do have to remember of course that this speech to the Fabians was supposed to be the launch of her leadership challenge to Corbyn. It did not give Cooper much time to find a speech to replace the one she had already written. Unfortunately for her, for some time now, she really has become a ‘light weight’ contributor. At least Chuka presents an ‘interesting-to-hear’ angle on ‘Right-Wing Coalition Building’ propositions. Cooper is no longer, even if she ever was, much of an asset to Right -Wing coalition building. Even the Fabian audience were largely bored by her, ‘aren’t we nice people’ receptive message?’

  3. Sue says:

    I was completely unimpressed by her speech and wondered what I was missing. We did pretty well in not electing her as leader I think.

  4. Karl Stewart says:

    An extremely poor speech by a political lightweight who has no vision, no ideas and nothing really to say.

    No-one’s even listening to her or paying her any attention.

    Hard to believe, after reading the above critique, that the author of this article voted for her in the 2015 party leadership election.

    I don’t disagree with any of the criticisms he now makes of Yvette Cooper, but I’d be interested in what it is about Yvette Cooper that he thinks has changed between now and then?

  5. Ric Euteneuer says:

    Rough translation

    • First – the task of holding the new voters we inspired, whilst reaching out beyond them to others we lost – and staying a broad based party to do it

    “Thanks for the unexpected additional votes, comrades – but we “lost” the Daily Mail readers and wobbly Lib Dems, and we desperately need them back, particularly if we are going to want to shift the political centre of gravity back to how it was in 1997″

    • Second – to chart a course for a progressive Brexit – the most important challenge facing our country over the next two years that will scar us for years to come if we let the Tories get it wrong

    “I’m really confused here. I backed remain but I know it would be political suicide with our core vote to advocate a second referendum or EEA membership. Help”

    • Third – to overcome the new and growing divide in Britain between city and town

    “I really don’t know the difference between the two”

  6. James Martin says:

    So was the speech meant to be an audition for the next series of Strictly where she can then afterwards join hubby on the carvery circuit?

  7. JohnP says:

    As Phil.BC correctly says , the “interventions by Cooper, Umunna, and sundry others from the Labour Right and Centre Right merely emphasise the utter current ideological confusion and strategic pickle they are in – now that the supposedly “electorally toxic” Left reformist” offer of “Corbynism” has proven so massively popular.

    As Karl rightly asks though, what was different about Cooper’s vacuous neoliberal political ideology in her 2015 Leadership proposition, than the identical centrist clichés she offers today – for Phil BC to so resoundingly reject and mock her now ? Answer – “Corbynism” is the name of the game for wannabe MPs today !

    The Labour Right are all at sea as to how to “get their party back” from the Corbynist Left – (so as to recommence its , for them, sole role as a platform for their careers and corruption), but they are far from “beaten” in organisational terms, still massively entrenched in PLP, Party machine, and local government. What they, the Lib Dems, the Guardianista pro EU neoliberal liberals, and Big Business increasingly hanker after is the “soft political Coup” of a “Macronist” neoliberal centre Party, built on the bones of a collapsed Labour AND Tory Party structure , ie, a “national government” (of Capital) within a pseudo democratic cloak.

    And just such a “Macronist” “National salvation government” could well arise in short order if we get a victorious Corbyn government within a year, as the Tories collapse. Why ? Simply because Corbyn and his team, nor the Labour Left , nor Momentum have any developed strategy to combat the crushing hostile response the global capitalist markets will impose almost immediately a Left leaning Corbyn government came into office – with currency manipulation, capital flight and the full range of other economy disrupting sabotage actions so recently used on the Syriza government in Greece being deployed.

    This WILL happen if we win an election in the next year or so. The most likely outcome is a retreat by a politically and organisationally weak Corbyn Government (constantly undermined by the majority of the PLP) from its key anti austerity Manifesto promises – and a resulting mass demoralisation on the Left , as per the consequence of the policy betrayals of the French Hollande government. The outcome of this, as in France is likely to be the creation, using a bottomless pit of Big Capital’s cash, of a new, massively promoted by the mass media, neoliberal “Macronist” Party, scooping up Tory, Labour and Lib Dem MP’s.

    Gloomy this may be indeed, but as long as we , on the Left, foolishly believe that as currently constituted, with a huge neoliberal 5th column at its core, The Labour Party can be the vehicle for profound politico/social transformation, we are walking blindfolded to eventual disaster.

    1. Robin Edwards says:

      Without a doubt for the Labour Right it’s all about Macrony Capitalism. A Soft or No Brexit Government of National Unity and Austerity formed of pro-EU Tories, the Lib Dems, the SNP, Plaid, the DUP and New Labour Coup Plotters is the ultimate aim with Vince, Chukka and the Editor of the London Evening Standard pulling the strings.

      Corbyn needs to stick to his Proper Brexit guns, leaving ESM and Customs Union, whilst putting forward a programme for the transition of a post-Brexit Britain to socialism and his vision for a new European settlement that leaves the wretched neo-liberal EU behind and which prioritises workers interests over those of the corporate human traffickers. This will contrast nicely to the hyper neo-liberal fantasies of the Thatcherite Tories who think Brexit is an opportunity to completely de-regulate and let in the cold winds of international competition from India, China, Indonesia, Brazil, America to create mass unemployment and mass bankruptcy in an orgy of `creative destruction’.

    2. Stewart says:

      Very well said, John. Regarding the “soft coup”, it has long been in the planning as reported in the Telegraph article about a rump of Blairite MPs teaming up with the Tories to undermine the current leadership. Actually, I am surprised May chose to negotiate with the DUP, who turned out to be more expensive, when she had these Labour MPs who were willing to sell-out for cheap. I guess that again is a reflection of typical May – always not seeing the wood for the trees.

      The key aim for the Left now should be for control of party structures to be able to get rid of these 5th columnists once and for all. Yes, they are far from beaten. But they are limping. They have now lost one of their major funders – Lord So-and-So. Big business is also realizing the Blairites no longer have any influence on the direction Labour is taking – hence the Blairites’ incessant shrill trying to convince their paymasters that they are still relevant. Why pay a middleman Blairite MP who can’t give you access to Corbyn or his thoughts, so Big Business asks itself.

    3. C MacMackin says:

      Some serious concerns to engage with here. Even if Corbyn doesn’t yield to the pressure of capital, there is a very real chance that a portion of the party would refuse to vote through the radical measures needed and end up decamping to form a National Government anyway. With the PLP’s present makeup it would take quite a large majority to be able to overcome even rebellions on the scale of that over the Umunna amendment. Mind you, that would be less damaging than the situation John describes, since it would then be possible for the rest of the Labour Party to rebuild for the next election with a fresh bunch of left-wing candidates.

      To avoid either of these situations, it seems to me that a two-pronged strategy is needed. First, the party needs to be democratised. There are a few motions to this effect coming before Conference this year and considerably more scheduled for next year (a semi-mandatory reselection process, electing the general secretary, increased member representation on the NEC). Hopefully lots of CLPs will put forward Contemporary Motions demanding the right to select candidates for snap elections. The current requirement for proposed rule changes to wait one year before going to conference slows things down a lot, but there is a proposal to be voted on this year which could abolish that delay. Some sort of new mechanism for democratic involvement in policy making must be introduced, although I’m not sure what exactly that would look like.

      Policy is the second prong of the strategy. Even before members are given direct involvement in policy formation, somehow we need to get them talking about it and try to improve their literacy. Perhaps we should look to start organising local workshops around this which could eventually link up. Or maybe at this point it would be better just to start with reading groups. Somehow we need to start people thinking about the limits of social democracy and how to confront them. John Penny (or anyone else), if you’d be interested in trying to coordinate efforts in this across different CLPs and/or Momentum locals then I can give you my email address and we can try to come up with something.

  8. buttley says:

    In certain circles it is rumoured that, the great, great, grand uncle of Torsten Bell designed the original Fabian’s Coat of Arms, an impressive wolf in sheep’s clothing. Now sadly replaced by a fair trade tortoise logo.

  9. john preid says:

    bit unfair to compare her to Chuka, who should join the tories, ,at least Yvette is consistent, with the Ed miliband get the Libdems vote 35% strategy, the other day Barking Labour were discussing why as moderates they voted For jeremy in 2015 because he was saying no one left behind, as away to appealing to brexiters, just hope those students don’t twig what Jeremy said, as they will see Mr corbyn as a new Andy burnham trying to say all things to appeal to all people

    1. JohnP says:

      Dearie me, there is so much nonsense in your post, john pried. First of all you accept the neoliberal Guardianista narrative that “the yoof” are all manic Remainers. Complete bollocks. There was a very low turnout of younger voters in the Referendum, with working class youth overwhelmingly abstaining – seeing “in or Out” as irrelevant to their low wage, precariat, existence. So the fact that middle class younger voters did vote in a majority for Remain is only part of a much more complex story.

      Getting out the (mainly non-voting) working class younger voter (which recent analysis of voting behaviour suggests WASN’T in fact quite the “Youth Surge” the mainstream press (and Momentum) like to claim) will in fact require just the nuanced position Jeremy has clearly enunciated from day one.

      Jeremy’s position is quite clear, from many an interview, ie, that the UK is leaving the EU, and , unless amazing , unlikely, concessions on the “Four Freedoms ” are forthcoming, from the Single Market too. The official Leadership and Party “Single market position”, is to seek tariff free ACCESS to this huge market, not to seek full MEMBERSHIP of it (unless these very unlikely major concessions were forthcoming). Got it now , john ?

      Since this is the oft repeated Corbyn position, it can only be that you are simply determined to repeat the current mass media meme that somehow “Jeremy is conning da yoof” on the EU, for shit-stirring purposes .

      By the way , john pried, there are no “moderates” in the Labour Party – that is simply a very long-running, value-loaded, Right Wing euphemism for a Labour neoliberal right winger or confused centrist. That you choose to use such a loaded term clearly identifies you as a non Left winger.

      1. John.p Reid says:

        Used the term moderates as uts he used elsewhere, forvthe recrd, I never said guardian or your, but are you saying that ,there hasn’t been any disappointment from the younger voter who voted labour last month that we abstained on the chuka amendment

        By the way the fact we’re at our highest since pre Iraq, tat was 2002 when we were in power and suffering mid term blues, so Blair in 2002 inpower was more popular than Corbyn in opposition
        The fact was, that we were 26% ahead in the polls in 1990′ then we still lost

  10. Bazza says:

    Left wing democratic socialists need to elect 620 diverse left wing socialist Prospective Parliamentary Candidate stars.
    Perhaps if you want to be a PCC all you need to do is to demonstate that you are a socialist star!

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