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My honest thoughts on the Corbyn campaign — and overcoming formidable obstacles

Corbyn on redA confession: I didn’t originally want a ‘left’ candidate in the Labour leadership election. My view was that, in the midst of general post-election demoralisation, a left candidate could end up being crushed. Such a result would be used by both the Labour party establishment and the British right generally to perform the last rites of the left, dismiss us as irrelevant, and tell us to shut up forever. I originally toyed with starting a campaign to enlist Lisa Nandy, the straight-talking ‘soft left’ Wigan MP, but she had just given birth, so that wasn’t going to happen.

The Shadow Cabinet minister Jon Trickett was originally approached by several people asking him to stand: for the reasons above, I suggested it was a bad idea. Instead we began brainstorming a ‘Not The Labour Leadership’ tour alongside a presumably dispiriting leadership contest with three candidates dancing on the head of a pin, with the aim of helping to rebuild a grassroots movement.

In all honesty, when Jeremy got the nominations, my instinctive reaction was somewhere between nervousness and trepidation. On top of the reasons above, I was worried (as someone who first met him a decade ago) that the personal characteristics that, in actual fact, have contributed to his popularity amidst a general anti-Westminster mood — understated, modest, his anti-firebrand disposition — might count against him. (On that count, I was clearly very wrong).

Obviously there was no question I would do anything other than wholly support the campaign — I’d be a charlatan to do anything else. As one of the only people with a media platform who isn’t hostile to Jeremy — let alone supportive! — I’m pretty much duty-bound to be helpful and rebut the stuff thrown at the campaign as best I can.

But I originally felt that if he came third, that would in itself be a huge political achievement. The big contribution of Jeremy’s campaign, I felt, would be to put policies on the agenda, shift the terms of debate, and help rebuild a grassroots left movement; that this achievement could be built on, and crucially used to shift public opinion.

If you’d asked me privately back in May what I thought about a left candidate winning the Labour leadership, I’d have responded simply: “I don’t think we’re ready for that yet”. We’d need to spend the next few years building a formidable movement, I’d have argued, to win support for the policies we believe in, and to shift attitudes on a number of issues. Such a candidate would face formidable opposition from both within the Labour party, and from very powerful groups outside it, too. Without a big grassroots movement behind it, such a leadership would be crushed like an insect in someone’s hands.

But obviously the thing about history is that it doesn’t unfold in ways you can control. “Hey, history, tell you what, could we run this three years instead when we’re more ready?” A grassroots movement and political phenomenon has emerged now. It could well be that, without Jeremy’s candidature, it would never have emerged. It has to be engaged with as constructively as possible. It is like riding a tiger — a tiger that, yes, may well throw you off.

Anyone who predicted this huge grassroots movement would emerge in such a short space of time is bluffing. The packed meetings across the country, with 1 in 40 inhabitants of Llandudno coming to hear Jeremy speak; hundreds of thousands registering as members or supporters of the Labour Party (has there even been such an increase in the membership of a party across Britain in such a short space of time?); YouGov polls suggesting overwhelming support for Corbyn across the Labour party; polling suggesting that not only he is now the preferred candidate of Labour supporters, but does best among supporters of parties ranging from UKIP to the SNP; and that as well as poll suggesting cross-generational support, some of his most enthusiastic supporters are young people whose futures are threatened, and have few politicians championing their interests. This movement — and building it after 12th September — matters, because a Corbyn leadership would sink without it, and quickly too.

For some opponents of Corbyn, support for his campaign is an outrageous self-indulgence, the promotion of unelectability and thus the betrayal of the people Labour was founded to represent and who need it most. Firstly, if a candidate can not enthuse enough people in a semi-open primary of Labour supporters, and they lose this contest, they are by definition unelectable. And secondly, it is beyond me how Labour voters who plumped for the SNP, or people who voted Green, or UKIP, or who didn’t vote at all, are realistically going to go, “Oh, now that Andy Burnham/Yvette Cooper/Liz Kendall are leader of the Labour Party, I’m definitely going to vote for them.” The polling suggests that — although the general public doesn’t know the candidates, and with the exception of Kendall, Jeremy least of all — that if anything he has the edge amongst them.

The Tories are said to be privately delighted, despite the pronouncement of some Tory supporters who believe that Jeremy should not be underestimated. They believe his election will be a catastrophe for the Labour party. In the case of these people — drunk on triumphalism — this is deeply sincere. There is no doubt that the odds against a party led by Jeremy are formidable — yes, they can be overcome, but we have to be aware of what they are if we are to achieve this.

The current internal schism within the Labour Party is partly the product of our electoral system. In other democracies, there are often two left parties — one ‘centre-left’, the other more radical. They compete against each other but frequently form governing coalitions together. In Britain, they are in the same party. ‘First-past-the-post’ is increasingly untenable as a system because of the political fragmentation resulting from fragmentation in wider society — because of changes like deindustrialisation, a more transient workforce, immigration, people moving more, an ageing population, and so on. Having broad ‘left’ and ‘right’ coalitions fighting elections under the same banner seems to make less and less sense, but the electoral system compels it to be so.

The Corbyn surge is part of a general trend of political discontent bubbling across the Western world, manifesting itself in progressive ways but also reactionary ways, too: Podemos, Syriza, Bernie Sanders, the SNP, UKIP, the National Front, the True Finns, and so on. My fear is that, without this progressive Corbyn surge, that discontent could end up being funnelled to UKIP.

A strong movement is a precondition for success. But it is no guarantee of it, by any stretch. If Corbyn wins, the challenges, as I say, will be enormous, but not insurmountable. I’m not writing this to dampen people’s hopes, or to prepare excuses, but because people have to be ready and prepared. See those guns in the distance? Yeah, well we’re running towards them. We have to be hopeful and optimistic, but also prepared for what awaits. So here’s my thoughts about the problems, and what can be done about some of it.

Popular appeal cannot be won by simply focusing on issues that affect those at the bottom of society.
Yes, we desperately need policies that transform the lives of the one in five workers who earn less than a living wage; people who lack an affordable home; disabled people having their benefits cut away; those suffering from the bedroom tax; and so on. And yes, one of the main aims of a Corbyn-led campaign will be to mobilise, inspire, political engage poorer people who are significantly less likely to vote. But empathy for the worst affected alone will never win an election. Jeremy has begun outlining policies to support self-employed people and entrepreneurs, as well as expanding home ownership without flogging off social housing. This has to be built on, with a direct appeal to both middle-income and middle-class people that goes beyond being asked to empathise for the poorest people in society.

A grassroots movement, yes. A cult, no.
If you’re part of a movement that faces almost universal hostility from an Establishment you reject — in the political, media, and political world — it’s easy to become very defensive indeed. You feel like you’re under daily attack. Your positivity is sapped away, and you lash out, failing to differentiate between the sceptical and the critical and the militantly hostile. You risk becoming suspicious of anyone who is not already a signed up believer, and fail to be able to convince those who might be persuaded but have reservations.

That has to be resisted at all costs. This growing grassroots movement has to based on positivity and inclusivity, love-bombing those who disagree — and certainly not attacking others as ‘Red Tories’ and the like. Hundreds of thousands have signed up as Labour members or supporters in a short space of time. It is at least conceivable that over a million people could sign up if he becomes leader — and that must be the aim. But if they become passive supporters, then Jeremy’s leadership is doomed.

A thriving outward-looking movement has to be built, which organises in every single community in the country; which can start the biggest election registration drive in history, to “expand the electorate” as the Obama Democrats did; which can win over young voters, and particularly those people who voted for the SNP, the Greens and UKIP.

The media campaign against a Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn will be brutal and utterly unrelenting.
It will be far worse than anything dealt out to Ed Miliband, Neil Kinnock or Michael Foot. The Tories are currently compiling the mother of all dossiers to throw at him. Jeremy has spoken at thousands of events in his political life: they will be trawled for other participants with dodgy backgrounds in order to condemn Jeremy with guilt-by-association. Quotes will be distorted. There will be little fair hearing of his policy proposals. He will be portrayed — remorselessly — as a dangerous extremist. The idea will be to extract a constant stream of denials, to produce a batter of headlines along the lines of “Jeremy Corbyn denies link to extremist”.

A Corbyn-led party would have to learn from New Labour in at least one crucial respect: to have a rapid rebuttal media strategy. An image of moderation has to be emphasised: because Corbyn could hardly come across as less demagogic, portrayals of him as an extremist can be presented as ridiculous. The response from the leadership itself would have to be positive and upbeat, rather than constantly defensive. But without a mass movement, such a media onslaught could strangle Jeremy’s leadership.

Socialism is the language of priorities”, as Nye Bevan put it.
Yes, we can look at polls and say — look, the vast majority support public ownership of rail. But while most certainly do agree with that, it will be eclipsed by other priorities. The focus must surely be on bread-and-butter concerns, like jobs, health, education, public services, housing, and so on. An issue like public ownership of rail can be broadened out by targeting, say, middle-class commuters who have to pay often ridiculous sums to get to work, while the public splash out several times more subsidies than the days of British Rail.

Scotland cannot be won back straight away, even if this is a test Jeremy’s opponents will set.
As things stand, Labour face being wiped out in next May’s Holyrood elections. The SNP won 6 Westminster seats in 2010; in 2015 they won 56. Huge Labour majorities became huge SNP majorities. The SNP’s lead in Scottish opinion polls is astronomical. Scottish Labour as a party currently remains a husk. The idea such a profound political shift simply be suddenly turned around — even though Jeremy is by far the best candidate to do so — in a matter of months is fantasy land stuff. Many ex-Labour voters who defected to the SNP are besotted with the formidable Nicola Sturgeon, will see Scottish Labour as a separate entity to a Corbyn-led Westminster Labour (an ironic turnaround in perceptions) and may take the view of “well done, best of luck, hope it turns out well with you, and if we don’t have independence by 2020, we’d be delighted to work with a Corbyn-led Westminster government”. As a beginning, an uncompromising apology has to be offered to the people of Scotland. And I mean grovelling. Huge amounts of effort have to be expended into showing Labour has changed. Trident and austerity will be key issues, of course. But it will take so much work, and it will mean relaunching Scottish Labour as a new grassroots insurgent movement that can take on the SNP from the left.

Concerns about immigration cannot be addressed by sticking our fingers in our ears, or only emphasising the benefits of immigration.
One of the great contributions of a Corbyn-led Labour Party could certainly be to reframe the debate, redirecting blame at problems caused by, say, austerity, failing to build housing, failing to protect skilled jobs, not paying workers a decent wage, away from those born abroad to the powerful instead. Stressing, say, the contribution made by immigrants to the National Health Service would also help. Shifting away from statistics about immigration (which don’t convince) to stories — examples of being helped by foreign-born nurses, or desperate stories of refugees — could also help. But there need to be other approaches, too.

Studies show immigrants pay in more than they get back, but that means little to most people: so the economic benefits of immigration should be felt by communities with the highest level of immigration in the form of an ‘immigration dividend’, an extra pot of money for such communities. Measures to prevent employers undercutting wages and working conditions should be emphasised. The NHS currently has to recruit one in four nurses from abroad because of cuts to training places: this is unfair on poorer countries who need those nurses more than us, which is why those cuts should be reversed. Rich Gulf states — who are staunch allies of Britain — are refusing to take in refugees fleeing places like Syria, and Labour should pressure the Government to do something about it — helping to reassure the public that others are pulling their weight.

It’s also worth going for the Tories over their hopeless immigration targets — by pointing out that politicians promising things they can never deliver undermines people’s faith in both politicians as a whole and democracy, too. Social and economic grievances are not the only reasons for anti-immigration backlash, but they certainly give it its intensity: they can only be reduced when Labour is in power, and in the meantime the conversation has to be shifted while concerns are met.

Huge amounts of efforts have to expended into winning over working-class voters plumping for UKIP.
Authentic working-class voices like Ian Lavery and Jon Trickett need to be front and central here. UKIP voters must be love-bombed, not treated as closet racists, but as people who feel abandoned by the political elite and who have burning concerns on issues ranging from housing to jobs.

Tanks have to be parked on opponents’ lawns from the outset.
Corbyn’s first visits should surely be to places like Nuneaton, the Tory-Labour marginal seat that has become emblematic; Clacton, which is represented by UKIP’s sole MP; Chingford and Woodford Green, represented by Iain Duncan-Smith; and, well, let’s face it, pretty much anywhere in Scotland.

What about Cornwall and the South West?
Cornwall is Britain’s poorest region. That Labour is so weak there is just ridiculous, even if it is down to historic factors (like the weakness of the labour movement due to the nature of the unconcentrated industrial workforce there, and so on). A huge effort has to be put into winning over people there who frankly Labour was founded to represent and champion.

A Corbyn-led government has to pick its battles, because it already has enough of them.
Take NATO: the merits of membership are so far from the mainstream of political debate, it would be pointless and self-defeating to pick a fight over it. Instead, Labour should suggest a more constructive role for Britain within the Alliance.

The government should be relentlessly attacked for not only consorting with extremists, but arming them.
Saudi Arabia is one of the most vicious dictatorships on Earth. It beheads its own citizens for being gay or being “sorcerers”. It deprives women of basic rights. It has no democratic freedoms. The Kingdom exports extremism which is a clear and present threat to British citizens. And yet when the dictator of Saudi Arabia died, British flags were flown at half mast. We arm this dictatorship to the teeth. This arming of extremists must be absolutely taken on.

Economic credibility is key.
So a Corbyn-led Labour party should set up some sort of ‘Council of Economic Advisors’ composed of the various economic brains who back an alternative to austerity, and use it to flesh out a viable alternative based on clearing the deficit in a way that doesn’t punish working people, disabled people, and so on. A big coup would be the use the Labour Party’s considerable economic resources to hire the Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman as an advisor.

Message discipline is crucial.
Jeremy has won plaudits because he speaks in an authentic, unscripted way. But one of the fatal flaws of Ed Miliband’s leadership was the failure to have clear sharp succinct messages repeated over and over again — unlike the Tories, who do exactly this. Many people simply did not know what Labour even stood for. Early on, it’s crucial to settle on some key themes and messages that can be endlessly repeated.

The Parliamentary Labour Party must be tied in with more party democracy.
If Jeremy wins, he will be helped by the fact he has the biggest democratic mandate in the history of the Labour Party. By having more democratic structures for policy-making, the argument can be made that backbench rebellions are rebellions against the democratic decisions of the Labour Party as a whole, rather than an arbitrary leader. Introducing more democratic consultations in the Parliamentary Labour Party will help, too. It will still be extremely difficult. Jeremy has to be extremely conciliatory, as he has indicated — emphasising a broad church, involving people from all wings of the party in the Shadow Cabinet, so that if he is attacked by those determined to undermine his democratically decided leadership, they are exposed as the aggressors.

Democracy should not mean chaos, though.
In our world of rolling news and rampant social media, having public conferences with huge bust-ups over every other issue would not look good at all, and would project an image of unfitness to government, as well as leaving the public unsure what Labour stands for on each given issue. So, there needs to be a balanced approach to democratic involvement.

The first Prime Ministers’ Questions could well feature delighted, celebrating and baying Tory benches, while the Labour benches could be mostly quiet (which David Cameron will ruthlessly mock).
If Cameron is mocking the Leader of the Opposition when he is discussing one of the main current matters of extreme importance — like the deaths of desperate refugees in the Mediterranean — he will shame himself. Sadly, that is not beneath him. It’s worth noting that at least two backbench Tory MPs have raised objections to cuts to in-work benefits. Maybe even picking something unexpected: like the huge drop in home ownership amongst young people.

A new approach to politics has to be emphasised.
Jeremy has already pledged — and stuck to — a non-personalised form of debate. He should avoid the sort of ‘Bullingdon Boy’ stuff that was thrown at David Cameron under Miliband’s leadership, because it will mean that when he is attacked, he will look clean and above personal abuse. It is not where the Tories are from that really matters, but where they are going. Inclusive; consensual; not personal — this approach to politics will help to defend him when he comes under a barrage of attack.

Because he will be caricatured as a dinosaur, Jeremy will have to emphasise modernisation and a forward-looking vision.
Emphasis on, say, an industrial strategy that nurtures the hi-tech jobs of the future, and renewable energy industries, so that Britain can move on from its failed old economic model and properly compete in the world.

Stand up for the working poor.
Cuts to in-work benefits will see them driven further into hardship. The gap between the rhetoric of patronising them as “hard-working Britons doing the right thing” and the reality of what is being done to them must be exposed. A £10 an hour minimum wage by 2020 is just a start, of course.

The whole debate over social security needs to be reframed.
Sweeping powers to build council housing, to reduce the amount of public money spent subsidising private landlords for example. A minimum wage of £10 an hour which would reduce the amount spent subsidising low pay, without imposing cuts to in-work benefits. But rather than focusing on statistics, Labour should focus on stories which are more effective: young people desperately looking for work that isn’t there; people trapped in insecure forms of work, in a cycle of low-paid work and unemployment; low-paid workers having their tax credits cut; and so on.

Labour really does need to become a social movement, as Jeremy has promised.
What about Labour setting up food banks? What about challenging the ‘clash of generation’ mantra by setting up a national scheme where many of the new young activists volunteer to spend a couple of hours a week keeping older people company? What about launching community initiatives? And so on.

Labour needs a strategy for local government cuts.
Refusing to implement them is not going to work — the Tories will simply sweep in and enforce their own. Instead, there needs to be a national strategy agreed by Labour councils to protest cuts and emphasise they are imposed by the Westminster government.

Reframe the debate over national identity.
Some people think that the left somehow hates being British or English. That simply is not true. A new approach to British — and, separately, English — traditions and values should be emphasised: of people throughout history who fought and struggled for our rights and freedoms, some of which are now under attack.

Labour needs to win over older people.
Labour got its second best result among 18–24 year olds since 1974, but half of them did not vote; whilst older people decisively plumped for the Tories, and had a huge turnout. Obviously Labour needs to inspire young people and encourage (and register them) to vote, by offering policies that actually provide hope for their futures. But that will not be enough to win: at least some older people need to be won over. An appeal for the future of their grandchildren is insufficient. From radical plans on social care to replacing inheritance tax with a new tax on the wealth of the recipient rather than the person who dies (note — shamelessly pillaged from the Greens); from dealing with the low level of the state pension compared to other Western European nations to the still unacceptable level of pensioner poverty — there’s so much Labour could offer. This has to be front and central to Labour’s new proposals or Labour can never win, particularly because of our ageing population.

A mass registration drive is key.
The Tories are stitching up the electoral system in their favour, from reducing the number of MPs, redrawing the constituencies and introducing individual voter registration. The poorer you are — and younger you are — the less likely you are to vote, disproportionately hammering Labour. So a new Corbyn-led Labour Party would have to be unleash the biggest ever mass registration drive, challenging a widespread sense that politics is irrelevant to people’s everyday problems.

Labour’s support from black and ethnic minority voters cannot be taken for granted, and may be under increasing challenge.
Talented newly elected MPs like Clive Lewis, Kate Osamor and Dawn Butler surely have to be given prominent roles under a Corbyn-led leadership, as well as leading on strategies to involve BME Britons.

Polls suggest ‘Corbynmania’ has disproportionately been driven by women, but ambitious policies are needed here.
Policies have already been suggested on street harassment, and ideas on everything from domestic violence to low pay and insecure work among women need to be developed.

Men’s issues also need to be addressed.
A good place to start could be the fact that the biggest killer of men aged 18–50 is suicide, with many men suffering from mental distress but unable to seek help, and often finding it lacking when they do.

Advocate a new federal Britain.
George Osborne’s form of devolution is devolving cuts. But Labour should commit to federalism that devolves power while supporting redistribution based on need. That means to local authorities, as well as the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly.

23 Comments

  1. Jim says:

    Come on Owen, great article but without electoral form the Corbyn ship will never leave port. There will never be a left majority in this country, the one thing Kendall gets right. Instead, progress has to come from setting red lines on certain policies and working in a coalition, as you describe above. That coalition can’t be cobbled together under FPTP, electoral reform should be at the top of any agenda. We can’t make progressive “socialist” policies like building more social housing stick with the present system.

  2. Jim says:

    Reform , obviously, darn spell checker

  3. Stephen says:

    I notice that “economic credibility is key” and thus has to kept for the usual in-crowd to determine instead of being discussed in the open: “same as the old boss” as someone sang.

  4. David Ellis says:

    So the moderating of Corbyn begins. The left finally captures the Labour Party and immediately suggests the liberal policy of electoral reform so it can split the labour vote behind left and right opportunists and thereby simply abrogate responsibility for policy-making to the right as it always has. The degenerate Western Left are no more than moralisers.

    Every time Labour gets elected it is like a thwarted revolution and the more lefty promise that labour government intially showed the more severe the backlash on its collapse. This will never have been truer than in 2020. When Corbyn gets elected as leader the real discussion needs to be about the working class taking power and ending capitalist rule for good and how that can be achieved. What programme is required. We need to be preparing for social revolution not a relatively non-disastrous first Prime Ministers’ Questions.

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      Now that’s what I call, “being of the left,” it’s really not that difficult a concept.

  5. Patrick says:

    One reason we lost the GE was the ill fated Crawley Meeting, we had lost the South already.
    Solution Cancel Conference to save money and give money to CLPs so they can run with paid staff instead of on a shoestring.
    Get rid of SE Region
    Have a small conference in Hull job done.

  6. Mike Phipps says:

    I think Owen’s piece is very thoughtful. We are in totally uncharted territory, which in May nobody could have expected, and every new victory raises new challenges.

    There will be many on the left who have a wish list of what needs doing. But we have to remember why we have been so successful so far. It’s a combination of articulating policies that
    already command wide support in both the movement and the public, such as rail and post renationalisation, anti-austerity policies and a collectivist approach to social problems – but also of the personal integrity of the candidate who is a break not only with the Westminster bubble but the dishonest offering of empty
    promises.

    So Owen is right to say first-up that to spread build our support we have to have something to offer a much wider layer of people, including middle income and middle class people. This is why in the Occupy Movement the slogan of 99
    percent versus 1 percent was so popular. We can do a lot both by hitting the really rich and saving money on useless weapons systems – we don’t have to target the middle class, or ignore them.

    We also have to continue to take the offensive on a range of other issues on which we’ve said little in the past. For me, one of the big successes of the campaign so far has been the development of some credible, fleshed out ideas on regional policy. These ideas were also developed in a really inclusive way, drawing on a wealth of grassroots supporters’ ideas.

    On issues like NATO, there is little prospect of a successful withdrawal without a mass campaign that can build popular support for the idea. This is true of so much that needs doing, yet there will be a temptation for many on the left to
    expect a JC-led Party to wave a wand on these issues.

    The key to everything, as Owen argues, is a massive democratisation of the Party, transforming it into something very different to what we have currently, not only numerically but also in terms of functions. A mass social movement reaching beyond current party allegiances is necessary to sustain the kind of
    project we envisage.

  7. Mervyn Hyde says:

    The first thing to remember is that we have five years to lay out our stall.

    The first act is to reach out to the country as a whole, as far as Labour is concerned there are no, nogo areas, we attack every region of the country.

    Blair tried the same thing in his forums, only they were tightly controlled for other political objectives, as I remember only too well people were led by the nose repeating what the bullet points outlined and ended up with bland objectives such as did we want better public services, instead of how do we get better public services?

    Democracy starts with the party structure, the Labour Party I joined in 1974 recognised the fight ahead of it, it was somewhere where you could put the ideas you believed into practice, today those that stood up for Labour’s real values have left frustrated by a party machine that kills off real debate, we need to get back into our parties and take the real issues that confront all of us.

    What Owen perhaps does not know, we none of us can know everything, but there is information available to us now that was not known even in the Blair years.

    1. Margaret Thatcher’s secret 1982 cabinet papers, “the longer term options” this is the blue print for dismantling the state:

    http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C13318082

    Please take the time to read it and understand it, just click on SHOW IMAGE to access the document.

    This proves how the Neo-Liberals would go about dismantling the state and how to circumvent public resistance to it.

    2. We have been told for generations that we must export to create the wealth necessary to fund our public expenditure, this whole premise is of course false, we don’t need to export at all, money is not created by buying and selling, it is printed out of thin air by the private banks.

    97% of all money in circulation within Britain was printed electronically out of thin air, that means for every pound in our pockets, 97p was borrowed by someone else into existence. with that knowledge, it should be apparent to any thinking person that if that money was created out of thin air then we could use that more efficiently by directing it for useful purposes within the economy without the banks profiting from it first.

    So the facts are that there is no limit to what the state can do, the private sector in fact creates artificial limits by price rationing; the only real limits to the state are human and
    natural resources, which can be planned and maintained in a way the private sector can’t.

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/18/truth-money-iou-bank-of-england-austerity

    These are not difficult ideas to express and it completely turns the Neo-Liberal arguments on it’s head in our favour. We can completely reframe the agenda and talk in terms of what is possible like never before, people that have benefited from Thatcher’s great give away in the Eighties and nineties can see their children’s and grandchildren’s futures being taken away from them, we need to prove there is a real alternative, these are the tools to do just that.

    1. SANDRA CRAWFORD says:

      Banks print what can be used as money, but of course, it is not an asset, it is a debt.
      Keynes tells us in his “Treatise on Money” that there is “money proper” and bank money, bank money created as a debt. Money proper is that created by government.
      Government money is the only real asset to business and households.
      Jeremy Corbyn intends to make sure that he produces more of it, calling it “peoples quantitative easing.” Now that is excellent policy. That will really help the economy, the middle classes and the poor.
      Listen to this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4bXpOUYrr1c
      and this, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBpm5sVmGYc
      and read this. http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2015/03/12/how-green-infrastructure-quantitative-easing-would-work/

      Quantitative Easing worked in Canada, as described on this NEF website.

      Study the Modern Monetary Theorists such as Stephanie Kelton, Randall Wray and Bill Mitchell, all professors offering the left a good economic model which scotches the myth of the deficit.
      The best blog is “the billyblog” – here – it is brilliant. http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/

      Bill Mitchell was in London last week at a lecture with some of Jeremy’s team – very heartening. I was there – it was very good.

      1. SANDRA CRAWFORD says:

        Correction, Strategic Quantitative easing worked in Canada, here on this website.
        http://www.neweconomics.org/publications/entry/strategic-quantitative-easing

  8. David Ellis says:

    This would be my ten days that shook the Labour Party and Britain if Corbyn got elected:

    1. Immediately sack all New Labour clones from the Shadow Cabinet – they are electorally toxic and will cost Labour tens of thousands of votes every time they open their mouths;

    2. Invite Mhairi Black and Caroline Lucas to join the shadow cabinet;

    3. By-pass the Blairite Scottish Labour and outflank the SNP from the left by declaring that Labour will stand for a UDI at the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections and for a voluntary federation of sovereign nations to replace the Westminster Union. Parliament and the Lords are to become a museum for the entertainment of tourists or perhaps London’s biggest Wetherspoons;

    4. No raprochment with the disgusting homophoic kleptocrat Putin and his imperialist foreign policy;

    5. Declare that the Labour Party will be supporting an OUT or NO or LEAVE vote in Cameron’s EU Referendum – we cannot vote positively for it neo-liberal fundamentals or Cameron’s anti-working class `reforms’. Another Europe is Possible;

    6. Declare and end to the bank bail out if he is elected and that he will bring the staff, estates and desposits of the bankrupts into administration to form a people’s bank with a monopoly of credit lending at base rate to small business and facilitating social investment in accordance with a democratic plan;

    7. Announce that Labour will repeal all anti-trade union legislation and support the establishment of labour movement defence forces to defend pickets, demos, meetings, minority communities against fascist and state attack. Announce that Labour MPs get one vote like everybody else on party and policy matters.

    8. Declare that the purpose of the Labour Party is to socialise the means of production and exchange with worker elected managers and leaders replacing fat cat executives imposed by patronage and corporate shareholders that treat UK plc like a private trough and that that is what he is going to do;

    9. Declare Labour’s intention to introduce with the help of the trades unions a regime of full-employment by which every school and college leaver and unemployed worker are bought into the local workforce to share in the available productive work with each paid the minimum of a trades union living wage. We want a workers’ state not a bourgeois welfare state.

  9. Chris Warwick says:

    The only assertion I would take issue with from Owens piece is the suggestion that one cannot build a party platform around concern for the poor and deprived. I feel, on the contrary, it is this concern which is drawing support from appalled members of the middle classes and it must remain the bedrock on which all other policies rest, if they are to make sense. A strong element of Labours appeal was to the possibility of a social conscience within politics. At last, people seem to be turning away from acquisitive individualism. Let’s help them along the way!

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      That’s certainly an important element of Corbyn’s support although I wouldn’t put too much stock by it, particularly when you look at just how anti establishment Blair, (once almost unbelievably a member of the CND,) and most of his then trendy left middle class mates once were.

      But you’re right in that at it’s the best Labor, (preBlair,) appealed as much to people’s hearts and common decency as to their wallets.

      But you’d have to look long and hard to find much resembling common decency in the by now notoriously sticky fingered PLP, (“for hire the way you’d hire a London taxi,”) theses days.

      Yet, “we’re,” all somehow expected to work with, “these people,” (many of whom I utterly despise and some of whom just continue to irritate me hugely,) towards a common goal disregarding everything that they’ve been responsible for previously, (Iraq, Afghanistan, Mid Staffs, Rotherham, Rochdale, ATOS,) .

      Not easy.

  10. Doug says:

    ‘Labour needs a strategy for local government cuts.
    Refusing to implement them is not going to work — the Tories will simply sweep in and enforce their own. Instead, there needs to be a national strategy agreed by Labour councils to protest cuts and emphasise they are imposed by the Westminster government.’
    So Labour councils should carry on implementing cuts! Brilliant. Business as usual, then.

    1. Geoff Lumley says:

      I am very surprised at Owen’s weak position for local councillors. Its hardly going to enthuse my voters.

  11. David Pavett says:

    Owen Jones has added his voice to those of others who are supporting Corbyn but at the same time asking supporters to think about the immensity of the challenges his leadership would face and the consequent pitfalls that could lead to his defeat. In my view it would be crazy not to engage in this discussion.

    I agree with most of OJ’s points but some of them are a bit too vague to take the debate forward.

    Thus it is true that democracy should not be allowed to lead to chaos in the Labour Party and that the idea of resolving differences by grand slam votes at annual conference is nonsense. And it is nonsense however much some older lefties might have nostalgic reflexes when they compare the days of block votes reversing Party policy as compared with the reduction of Conference to a media show).

    However OJ only warns against what we should avoid (and I agree with him) but doesn’t propose anything.

    There wasn’t a democratic golden age to which we must now return and certainly it would make no sense to want to return to the days of block voting and conference deals in back rooms.

    Besides, trying to run democracy as if email, the web and social media didn’t exist is absurd. Democracy needs to allow for informed debate by the most effective means possible.

    Documents containing clear expositions of the main contending views can, in the Internet age, be delivered a negligible cost to all participants. local meetings can then be organised around such material. There is no need to wait for an Annual Conference (with its selection of motions and its rigid distinctions of types of motion). A reconstructed and more powerful National Policy Forum could become a standing conference that develops Party policy continuously.

    I agree that too many people on the left tend to put their fingers in their ears when anyone wants to discuss problems associated with immigration. But having made that point OJ doesn’t really suggest much of a way forward. It is surely not a particularly effective strategy to try to bring about a change of heart of the oil-Rich Gulf states people fleeing from their continental neighbours. We need a European solution and Labour should be pushing for one. Germany has already shown some leadership on this.

    And that bring me to the EU – a topic strangely missing from OJ’s 4000 word piece. There are many complex questions to be resolved. If we are to stay in then on what basis should that be? What reforms should we expect the Labour Party to call for and to work to achieve with centre-left and left parties in other countries?

    And what should Labour be saying about the free movement of capital and the free movement of Labour? Questions largely avoided on the left.

    I strongly agree with OJ’s proposal for a “Council of Economic Advisors”. Labour needs to tap into a broad range of economic advice and to avoid becoming beholden to just one school of thought. Such a Council should also help the Party generally to hold informed debate about economic alternatives.

    Lots to discuss and many vast problems. If Corbyn is not to be submerged he will need a lot of active support (which does not exclude friendly criticism).

    1. Mervyn Hyde says:

      David: something that does erk me is that when people are given significant information that exposes entirely what the real Neo-Liberal agenda is, how over the last forty years people have been told a bogus story about turning the corner, when in reality the real agenda was quietly being instituted.

      The public at large have been kept in the dark about the Neo-Liberal agenda, we have five years ahead of us and the sooner we make clear to people why there will be no sunny skies beyond that perpetual corner that we have been turning, unless we reverse everything that happened since Thatcher.

      The idea has been planted firmly into the national psyche that we can’t afford our public services, which was a massive employer of people, THE FACTS ARE THAT IS A LIE.

      We can print money into infinity, money is printed out of thin air and can be taxed out of existence, tax is not raised to pay for public expenditure, it is along with interest rates a means to regulate the economy.

      That is what we should be telling the public at large, why do you think Henry Ford, speaking to American Busness after the Wall St crash said,

      It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.

      Henry Ford

      Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/h/henry_ford.html#GmYWEyVTTidk1rOq.99

      They recognised then how that knowledge would empower people, that frightens them because that would end their dominance.

      With TTIP it could also be the end of democracy for us.

      1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

        The Americans in particular are actually pretty up front about their neolibral, (globalization/free trade,) agenda as it’s been imposed for the last 100 years or so across the world; from Iraq and Guatemala, Chile, (who can forget Thatcher’s good buddy General Pinochet,) Jamaica, (excellent book about what the US did there written by a former PM, Struggle on periphery, written by Nelson Manley,) Nicaragua, Mexico, (“So far from god, so near the US,”) and most recently in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan and my contention remains that it impossible to discuss UK economic policy without acknowledging all this honestly and realistically.

        1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

          Micheal Meacher recently used the useful term, “economic colonialism,” to describe this process and it’s hard to come up with better or more accurate description of it.

  12. Bazza says:

    It is really the labour of the working billions that creates the wealth and makes societies work but the rich and powerful legally nick their surplus labour so our proposals are only moderate -getting this wealth back.
    The Tories and the rich and powerful through the right wing media will vilify Jeremy Corbyn if he wins, they will distort, exaggerate, use the most unkind photographs of him etc. all to demonise him, to frighten people – to keep power with the rich and powerful and we should explain why they are doing this.
    We should stand by the poor and appeal to the working class and progressive middle class but also try to politicise the general middle class (who are socialised to vote Tory) plus we should also appeal to the 15.9m of our co citizens who gave up and didn’t vote (believing they are all the same).
    We should also appeal to everyone who has to sell their labour to live by offering a 30 hour working week with good pay & earlier retirement to free time poor working humanity – with driverless cars, trains, ships steered by computers, robotics, new technology etc. coming I fear my idea maybe far too modest here.
    Owen Jones recently had a good idea about championing more rights and security for the self employed and perhaps we need to go more on the offensive in ‘Tory Land’ – why not offer diary farmers a new Milk Marketing Board for example. Why leave them with free reigns?
    I am also interested in enterprise and Miliband couldn’t cope with small minded small business attacks on him during the BBC debate in the election but Labour should be about dynamic business. An aggressive ‘Tory’ business owner said they employed 76 staff – but are these human beings there as this person’s slaves solely to make this person rich?
    Isn’t business there to serve us and not the other way round?
    Some have an old fashioned view of enterprise – the image of the fat capitalist but enterprise is about more – team work, thinking outside of the box, communicating, negotiating, drawing on evidence and research & modern theorists would argue the best leaders are consulting leaders. Labour is not against business and as long as staff are well rewarded, involved and treated fairly (and can join trade unions) and have a say we are for dynamic business which can build on the ideas of staff (a massively untapped source).
    We recognise small business can often be some people’s dreams but dynamic business can be all people’s dreams and has its place amongst democratic public ownership and state-led public investment.
    We should reform the EC to replace a top down Neo-Liberal EC with one that favours those who have to sell their labour to live; we also need an alternative to NATO- some global peace alliance – with no man made enemy countries, perhaps we could spend the trillions on human beings instead of on weapons to kill them.
    In Labour if Jeremy wins we need to draw on the ideas of the grassroots but in the past at branch meetings policy could be made by 10 people attending but what about the 90 who couldn’t attend because of work, childcare, other commitments etc and I do believe we need to harness on-line democracy as well as meetings.
    I think I would scrap the National Policy Forums but making all policy at conference could be cumbersome – we need a better but more democratic system – brief documents on a topics i.e. housing (simply written) as a ‘stimulus-response’ to be discussed could be sent to Constituencies every 3 months and they could hold open meetings where Labour supporters could be invited plus we should harness e voting.
    I watched the debate on C4 tonight and we had ‘one great man and 2 great women of history’ (top downers) v Jeremy, a Facilitator.
    If Jeremy wins it could be exciting times and I believe the grassroots of Labour has the life experience, the reading, and the ability to research to crush the Conservatives.

  13. Chris says:

    Why on earth would we apologise to Scots? How have we treated them any worse than the English etc?

  14. Jim says:

    Wow. Delusion Central. Let me off here please

  15. […] alternative. Corbyn could tackle the economic question by implementing a similar tactic, perhaps, as Owen Jones has suggested, by creating a commission that explores the alternatives to deficit reduction. Tactically this […]

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