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Chuka is wrong – Jeremy Corbyn can win over the electorate

chukaThis morning Chuka Umunna warned the Labour Party that “we’re running around stamping our feet, screaming at the electorate when ultimately what we need to do is meet people where they are at.” He went on to say that Jeremy Corbyn did not have “a politics that can win.”

The problem with this approach to politics is that not everybody is the same and so when you rely on polls and focus groups you tend to produce conflicting policies, such as Labour’s policy on immigration from the 2014 National Policy Forum report: on the one hand extolling the virtues of immigration, such as the net contribution that immigrants make to the economy and promising not to engage in a “rhetorical arms race” with UKIP, while on the other promising to to “bring it under control” by introducing a “cap on workers from outside of the EU” and prioritising “reducing illegal and low-skilled immigration.”

The Labour Party then went completely off the rails by literally carving the “Controls on Immigration” pledge onto mugs and a giant 8ft plinth.

The loss of trust in the Labour Party is that it produces such contradictory policies that nobody actually knows what it stands for. “Labour has no policy on immigration” I was told by a voter switching to UKIP. When I asked him why he was switching to UKIP he told me that they would “get rid of the rag-heads.”

Does Chuka really expect the Labour Party to “meet this man where he is at?” Does he want the party to tell him “don’t worry comrade, we’ll deport all those rag-heads for you.”

No, the solution is to stick to our principles and make the case against chauvinism, as Jeremy Corbyn did during the hustings on Newsnight. When a man in the audience said that immigrants were causing our hospitals and other public services to fail Corbyn rightly pointed out that the reason that these services were failing were that they were underfunded, the staff overworked. He also pointed out that immigrants make a net contribution to the economy.

He did not, as the other candidates did, placate the man by promising to introduce an “Australian points-based immigration system” like Liz Kendall, even though Labour already introduced such a system in 2008. In fact in a speech in Manchester in 2008 Jacqui Smith told the audience that Labour would be “transforming immigration with the Australian-style Points Based System that makes sure that only those who have something to contribute to the UK can come and stay.”

Corbyn’s response to the man was met with rapturous applause from the audience, unlike the other candidates.

Chuka’s deference to ‘meeting the public where they’re at’ mysteriously vanishes as soon as it comes to issues such as nationalisation of public services. A study conducted by YouGov showed that “voters are far more ideological than pragmatic in the debate over running public services” with well over 50% of voters wanting Hospitals, Schools, Post, and Railways back in public ownership, but you don’t find Chuka advocating bringing any of these services back into public-ownership.

That is because the Blairite ‘modernising’ faction of the Labour Party are just as ideological as the left, but instead of coming out and justifying their policies with political, economic, or ideological arguments they hide behind the non-existent views of fictional character profiles of “Aldi Mum” and whichever poll they can find that justifies the popularity of their policy.

The most risible example of the Blairites hiding their ideology through polling data was at the 2013 Young Labour Conference in Leicester.When the Secretary of a large North West PCS branch asked if Gloria De Piero would come and stand in solidarity with him on the picket line (because he was facing a real-terms cut of 16% in his income) she told him that she was ‘a democrat’ and had conducted a survey and found that a majority of people do not support strikes.

I agree with Chuka that we shouldn’t be screaming at people, but we can have a debate with them and convince them of our policies. That is what the Labour Party should be doing. Without principles the Labour Party is nothing. Without Jeremy Corbyn as leader the Labour Party will have no principles.


Patrick Smith is standing for the National Policy Forum in the Yorkshire & Humberside Region with the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance. You can follow him on Twitter @PatSmithLabour


  1. swatantra says:

    To state the bleeding obvious Jay Cee can win if enough people vote for him. I’m even thinking of switching from Andy to Jay Cee if he promises that he is willing to resubmit himself or election in 2018. None of the others would.
    Not sure what ‘ragheads’ are but does it make any difference that Chukka’s got no hair?

    1. swatantra says:

      … but to answer the question, yes, Labour voters will vote for him, but no, the general public won’t.

      1. John P Reid says:

        The others did say they’d stand down, if unpopular

  2. Robert says:

    The issue is do we need to vote in a labour party when the Tories seem to be doing so well, why risk all that is being gained . The problem is who is gaining anything well the political class have had a nice rise in wages while the rest of us are all finding it hard to find enough to eat.

    Chuka found out when he put his name forward as leader that people were not willing to back him, I suspect he phoned around to get the 35 MP’s by phoning people he thought would back him and they said maybe or nope sorry, , so he thought better to get out blame the media for messing with his Mum.

    But the fact is he knew the press and the media would be out side his door if he did not why is he in politics.

    He is another of the Progress drones with Kendall who think labour should be a better copy of the Tories then the Tories, but the fact is we do not need a second rate Tory party when the one in power is doing so well for it’s people .

    Labour is back to being only needed when the Tories get tired and needs a rest.

  3. James Martin says:

    As if a smarmy, slimy privately educated posh git like Umunna has any right to comment on socialist politics.

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      By which you mean of course another well heeled right wing Tory Muppet and you don’t joint the kind of, “posh,” club that apparently he frequents because you’re comfortable mingling with voters.

      Another sticky fingered parasite; completely out of touch with the electorate and a man with nothing useful to offer and useful nothing to say and particularly so after his own completely risible bid for the Leadership.

    2. John P Reid says:

      Which kind of undermines all black shortlists, rather than working class ones,but maybe all black working class short lists for certain places

      1. Billericaydickie says:

        More work needed on that shortlist John P. Certainly if the issue of class is important here, and for most of us it has never gone away, then if “all” shortlists are to be introduced then class has to be a factor.

        The most under represented section of society in this country are white working class women with no representation at all virtually anywhere.

  4. john problem says:

    In the temporary (we hope) absence of a clear philosophy, Labour should simply go on an all-out attack on what the Tories are doing that people don’t really like. (Remember only 21% of the voters voted for the Tories). And firstly, they should research exactly what people don’t like about the Tories and their activities. Then concentrate on those points. All this counting angels on the head of a pin is a waste of time. Action is needed! Not navel-gazing, not nit-picking, not head scratching, not waffling on reviewing the past….
    For Heaven’s sake, Labour! Your country really needs you now!

  5. Carol says:

    Does Chukka Umunna he will contribute to making the

  6. Carol says:

    Second go ! Does Chukka Umunna believe that he will contribute to making the Labour Party more electable by insulting and patronising Jeremy Corbyn and the significant number of party activists who have endorsed his candidacy in the leadership election? Has he noticed that there is something really ironic about his claim that the Party is behaving as a petulant child, when he throws a hissy fit because it looks as though his preferred candidate is unlikely to win the contest. And where does he get off telling us that there is no glory in opposition and ‘ we betray our people if we don’t get elected.’? Hasn’t he noticed that we just didn’t get elected? He shares some culpability in any ‘betrayal’ that represents. He was part of the shadow ministerial team that failed to come up with a message that would attract electoral success for the Party.

    Grass roots activists have worked hard in recent months trying to win seats for Labour and return a Labour government. We had those millions of conversations and literally met millions of people ‘ where they are’, to quote Mr Umunna. We know why they are disappointed with the Labour Party and why many of those who we would have expected to vote for us, didn’t. We know what they would like to see Labour offering. Those voters would agree with Liz Kendall, we can’t keep saying what we have been saying over the past five to eight years. What many of them would have liked to hear us saying is the stuff they hear from Jeremy now !

    As a grass roots member I would certainly like to hear a lot less from Chukka as this competition progresses. The parliamentary Party have had their say in these initial stages of the contest and now its time for us to have ours. It would be helpful for the future of the Party if the views of all in the Party could be heard respectfully and without condescension. Chukka should realise that comments like his are massively destructive. He should apologise for them and commit, as the majority of the membership at grass roots level are bound to do, to work with who ever emerges as leader of the Party at the end of this process, to deliver that much needed Labour victory next time.

  7. John P Reid says:

    You can’t have it both ways, either labour got more votes in 2015 denouncing,both New labour,and excessive immigration, or labour gave the Tories the first overall majority they had in 23 years because we swung to the left,and if you feel the way to win,is to say ,we were still new labour in 2015′ despite the ,limits of immigration mugs, then ,quoting statistics that ,somehow we lost ,worse as we’re still new labour, goes against the Idea Ed actually got more votes than Gordon.

  8. Ben Morley says:

    Politicians like Chukka follow cowards politics such as if you can’t beat them join them. Corbyn stands for what he believed in and for me that is what the Labour Party need to do now more than ever. I can’t see any of the other candidates other than Corbyn doing this

  9. Sue says:

    A sensible article which I can agree with. Our policies should be firmly anchored in socialist principles and should aim to produce a standard of living below which no one is allowed to drop and (maybe) a standard of living above which no one should be allowed to rise? Baths for the rich carved from precious stone costing a million pounds upwards seems a tad lavish doesnt it when the unemployed are struggling to survive on £73 a week! Private jets and private islands ——— it’s all got a bit out of control! Lets have less inequality and more opportunity.

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      Well put indeed; and it was being such a beneficiary of that kind conspicuous inequality that was in too many respects the downfall of Miliband, who, if not necessarily a hypocrite per se, certainly looked exactly like one to a lot of people who actually have to work for a living in whatever capacity.

  10. John P Reid says:

    If he feels a Corbyn victory could destroy labour he has a right to speak, as if it’s true and he’d said nothing, he’d have felt bad about it

    1. Billericaydickie says:

      Here here. What the party want isn’t always what the electorate want. The constant carping on about the proportion of what vote the party did or didn’t get is irrelevant as in its thirteen years in power Labour did nothing about the electoral system.

      UKIP, under some form of PR would have got forty seats, double that of the Greens.

      1. John P Reid says:

        Admittedly, I shouldn’t welcome (Dave Roberts /Tery Fitz) endorsing my comments,but seeing as that idiot Lee Jasper, was the one who brought you down, I can ignore your one mistake, Comrade

  11. David Ellis says:

    Elect one of the New Labour drones and like the Tory collaborating Lib Dems the Labour Party will have less MPs than you can count on the fingers of two hands. Corbyn on the other hand as the true extent of the assault of this most vicious of Tory governments hits home can only grow in popularity. The capitalist system is screwed. It cannot even supply minimal welfare for the most vulnerable anymore. It is stagnant, sclerotic and irretrievably bankrupt. The futility of striving even for the most fatuous petit bourgeois ideologue or useful idiot of capitalism should now be obvious.

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      Marry me.

      1. David Ellis says:

        Heh, heh, heh.

  12. David Pavett says:

    I agree with Patrick Smith that that the claims of the right to be “pragmatic” rather than “ideological” are a subterfuge to hide their own ideological credentials. So-called “pragmatism” itself is an ideology and a particularly insidious one at that.

    It is less clear why Patrick Smith sees a contradiction between recognising the contribution that immigrants have made to the economy (and social life more generally) and accepting that it needs to by contolled in some way. I recognise the contribution to health of exposure to sunlight but I also accept that this exposure needs to be controlled. There is no contradiction.

    I also think that there is confusion in the criticism of Umunna’s idea of meeting the people where they are at. The last thing I want to do is defend Umunna but if we are going to criticise him it needs to be done in an intelligent way. Meeting people where they are at does not mean agreeing with everything they say. It means talking in a way that has real traction with their concerns. To oppose meeting people where they are at with “sticking to our principles” is ridiculous. Patrick Smith seems to have an equal and opposite confusion to that of Chuka Umunna.

    A political party of any substance would both develop clarity on its basic principles AND produce policies which engage with people’s current concerns while moving them in a direction determined by those principles. Umunna would dump debate about principles to allegedly meet people where they are at. Patrick Smith seems to want us to focus on principles rather than meet people where they are at.

    1. David Ellis says:

      This is why the Transitional Programme was developed. Being principled does not mean giving up politics but being political should not mean being unprincipled. We don’t need a broad party or a pragmatic party. We need a principled political party.

      1. David Pavett says:

        What is the “Transitional Programme”? Is that something we are all supposed to know about?

        The concept if a “principled political party” like the demands for “principled positions” can be as wrong-headed as the call for “pragmatic” policies. It is most often associated with a deductive approach according to which policies can be derived directly from principles. This approach is popular, for example, with dogmatic Marxists (people for whom Marxism has been collapsed into a series if dogmas).

        What is needed is a critical basis for political action in which policy is informed by underlying theoretical principles without being deducible from them and in which the theory itself is developed and revised in the light of experience and changing conditions. All too often prinipled positions means policy deduced frim dogma.

        1. David Ellis says:

          Principled politics are derived from the interests of the working class and their historic mission. Everything else is just bourgeois shit. That however does not mean we act like propaganda sects but we must have a programme of transitional demands that bridge the gap between where they are and where they need to be. Our policies must be popular but they must always pose the question of power.

          1. David Pavett says:

            That doesn’t answer my question or any of my points.

            Incidentally, are we to take it that the political concepts and analyses developed before the rise of capitalism (and therefore if the modern working class) are just so much “bourgeois shit”?

  13. Mukkinese says:

    What frustrates about the rightwing of the party, typified by Chukka and Liz Kendall, is their refusal to listen to the left.

    Any fool can see that we need to be more inclusive and broaden Labour’s appeal, but that does not mean a lurch to one side or other of the political spectrum.

    Surely selling good economic management alongside social justice is not such a hard task?

    The idea that leftwing policies are what lost the election is clearly disingenuous and why the arguments are getting so fractious.

    To the right I say stop lying and treating the core of the party with such contempt, and to the left, we must take into account the worries of the electorate.

    If either side do not take this on board or crash and burn again…

    1. Mukkinese says:

      “If either side do not take this on board or crash and burn again…” SHOULD READ:

      If either side do not take this on board we will crash and burn again…

  14. Peter Rowlands says:

    David Pavett’s approach is right. The Transitional Programme was the founding document of Trotsky’s Fourth International in 1938, and is an example of what David criticises as Marxist dogma.

  15. swatantra says:

    JC has really put the wind up the Labour heirarchy, and they really don’t like it!
    Something good will come out of it with members at last taking ownership of their beloved Party back from the Aparatchik and Spads and Timeservers.

  16. Chris says:

    The trouble with Labour’s pragmatism is that it means no one in mainstream politics voices left wing opinions. But plenty of people voice right wing ones. Inevitably the electorate becomes more right wing. If we go on like we have done in the last 20 years that will never change and we will never change British society in any appreciable way.

    1. David Ellis says:

      New Labour has come close to obliterating socialist consciousness in the British working class altogether after centuries of struggle. Corbyn shows there is still time to revive it.

  17. Raging Crip says:

    It is apparent to observers of the working class in UK that we have been patronised and reviled by the entire Filth. They have been very keen to point out how stupid we are, and introduced the nonsensical term “conceived wisdom”. They entire toolbox have been arrogant enough to forget that these are not conventional times. That is why JC’s brand of socialism will absolutely bowl out the establishment, who are considerably hamstrung. Bring it on JC, make the people of UK speak. Then we will see bumptious bumbling buffoon Borisconi shit himself.

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