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The Labour right are risking ‘Pasokification’ on their own

Harriet_Harman,_2014Harriet Harman’s announcement on the Sunday politics yesterday, that Labour would not be voting against the welfare bill, nor would they oppose child tax credit cuts or the Tories new benefits cap, has rightly drawn condemnation from different sections of the Party, and now both Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham have joined Jeremy Corbyn (who launched a petition last night) calling for opposition to the child tax credit cut. Kendall has remained silent, while none of the candidates have yet said they would oppose the new lower benefit cap (of £23,000 in London, and £20,000 outside of London – an astonishing cut of 23%) with the exception of Jeremy Corbyn, who has already said in hustings that he is opposed to the cap altogether.

It is worth remembering, that both Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham voted in favour of the initial household benefit cap in 2014, despite Save the Children’s report that the policy would push 345,000 children into poverty. Of all the leadership and deputy leadership candidates, only Corbyn and Watson voted through the ‘No’ lobby on that occasion.This capitulation by Harriet Harman has been seen by some, including LabourList’s Conor Pope, as her attempt to guide the narrative of the leadership contest. While this is possibly her strategy, it doesn’t seem to be having much traction. Both Cooper and Burnham are worrying themselves about the possibility of a Jeremy Corbyn victory, with the news that Unite have signed up 50,000 affiliated supporters thus far, and Jeremy’s odds being further slashed by the bookmakers. The New Statesman’s Stephen Bush has written two articles in two days both asking the same question: can Corbyn win?

It should be no surprise that Corbyn’s popularity is forcing the more centrist of the Blairites, Cooper and Burnham, to give the left-leaning Party membership reasons to vote for or at least second preference them. Meanwhile, the Kendall camp and the Progress Twitterati remain steadfast in their opposition to any ‘weakness’ or ‘appearance of being soft’ on welfare – genuinely believing the road to Downing Street is paved with food parcels and evicted families.

This will only solidify their defeat in the leadership election. Kendall is currently, with just five CLP nominations to Corbyn’s 34, on course to come dead last. People are already talking about ‘shy Kendall’ supporters, implying her brand has the toxicity of voting Tory among Labour members – not a good indicator of victory in an election of, well, Labour members and trade unionists.

Progress and the Party’s right are, it may seem, undergoing their own partial ‘Pasokification’. The term, coined by James Doran, refers to the rapid capitulation of a social democratic heavyweight in times of austerity, taking its name from Labour’s Greek sister party, who collapsed from a party of government to scraping a few percent for signing up to New Democracy’s austerity programme. It has long been touted in Labour circles that if the Party subscribes to austerity, wins an election and implements it, it would lose its core voters for a generation if not indefinitely.

The difficulty with ‘Pasokification’ under a First-Past-The-Post electoral system is there is no obviously easy way for those disaffected with Labour to outlet that anger. There was of course the Green surge, which amounted to no gain in seats, a loss of working-class votes to UKIP, and the SNP’s referendum-inspired surge in Scotland – but as yet no Party can outflank Labour’s Left across the UK.

The anger has thus found a valve in the campaign to elect Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. While the hard right of the party, by subscribing to economically illiterate and socially unjust policies of austerity are consigning themselves to fourth place in the Party’s leadership election, the Corbyn campaign is capturing all the headlines – and maybe, a substantial enough portion of the votes to win.


  1. Timmy says:

    Can I offer you Varoufakisification as the choice to move in the direction of ideological purity and practical failure? (Or perhaps The 5% Stategy?)

    1. Gary Brooke says:

      Or to ‘Merlkelise’, as the choice to move in the direction of crushing democracy the name of neoliberal purity and practical tyranny? (Or perhaps the 1% strategy.)

  2. David Ellis says:

    If the right do Pasok the party they will take the left with them as Scotland shows. That is why the Corbyn campaign is so important and why it could do with a bit more urgency.


    I hate to say this, but many unthinking Germans in the 1930s went through Nazification because of the imposed austerity and racism that abounded at the time. This did not make it morally or intellectually right. Austerity is class war and oligarchical greed, and it needs the appropriate left response, not a propagandised lazy mindless response.

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