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The way forward for Labour (in response to Lord Mandelson)

Lord Mandelson in ermineWe have the benefit – courtesy of the Guardian – of the advice offered by one of the Labour Party’s grandees as to the response that should be made to the calamity that has apparently now befallen the Party. That calamity is of course the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader. Lord Mandelson, we are told, has advised that the new leader, elected just three weeks ago, should not be immediately “forced out” but that the deposition should be delayed just a little while more people realise what a disastrous mistake has been made.

We are fortunate to have this advice, since it tells us so much about what has gone wrong with the Party. Here is the authentic voice of those who have been in charge of its fortunes for so long.

The decision as to whether, and – even more importantly, when – the new leader should be deposed apparently rests in the hands of those who have just been roundly rejected by the Party. Lord Mandelson seems confident that the natural order will soon be restored, not least one assumes, because the energies of the defeated Blairites will now turn to undermining the new leader.

Indeed, it could be argued that, in Lord Mandelson’s unusual view of the world, his willingness to wait a full three weeks before mapping the course that will, he believes, negate the Party’s democratic decision means that his is really the voice of moderation.

That confidence appears to rest on the sustained and focused assault delivered on the new leader by the Tory press – an assault echoed not so sotto voce by Lord Mandelson and his colleagues. We expect nothing different from the Daily Mail – and, sadly, not much better from Labour’s erstwhile leaders either.

The most damaging aspect of Lord Mandelson’s initiative, however, is not what is said, but what is not said. Where is there, in his message to Party members, any recognition of the support commanded by Jeremy Corbyn for what he did and said during his leadership campaign? Where is the understanding of why so many responded so positively to the prospect of renouncing the craven “me-tooism” that has dominated Labour for so long?

Most of all, where is the acknowledgment of the task that now lies before the Party? So quick are Corbyn’s defeated opponents to rubbish him that they simply do not recognise the opportunity that is now presented by Corbyn’s victory. That opportunity can be turned to advantage only if the Party unites to advance an analysis and a political platform that reflects those aspects of Corbyn’s campaign that resonated with so many.

That does not mean that the Party must endorse everything that Corbyn has done and said over his long career on the backbenches. Like most 32 year-long veterans, there will be aspects of his past – comments and links, attitudes and causes – that were defensible at the time, but that may not seem so appropriate for a potential Prime Minister in 2015.

That will be particularly true of those personal preferences and beliefs – his republicanism and his support for a united Ireland, for example – that were no doubt his own business as a backbencher, but that may place him at odds with a large number of actual and potential Labour voters.

These will be matters that he has not had to consider before. He will have to reach his own way of resolving them, now that it is the Party’s interest and not merely his own that must be considered. But what matters is that neither he nor the party should lose sight of those issues where he expressed, and committed to, ideas that were fresh and uplifting, that gave new hope to millions of people. These were not matters of personal interest or preference, but statements of universal significance and appeal – the re-assertion of enduring values, the need for fairnesss and sharing, the rejection of inequality and the denunciation of growing poverty.

More importantly, they were not merely repetitions of familiar mantras, but were backed up by hard, specific and credible policy ideas – anathema no doubt to so many who bought the lie that there is no alternative to austerity and the supposedly infallible market – but backed up by growing numbers, including many informed experts and specialists who understand that the time has come for a new start.

Jeremy Corbyn himself, in other words, has a major task ahead of him. He has to work out which of his wide range of commitments, accumulated over 32 years, he is now ready to forego, for the sake of focusing on the vitally important and central ideas that will enthuse millions of potential voters and offer a better future to all. He needs all the help he can get to help him make those judgments.

That is where Lord Mandelson should be looking for challenge and inspiration. The Party’s prime responsibility surely now is to unite in engaging those millions who want change and hope, not trying to focus on throttling that prospect at birth.

 

20 Comments

  1. David Ellis says:

    The Corbyn leadership needed to give confident, principled and focused political leadership to the labour movement. For that to happen the New Labour cuckoos needed to be purged. Only then could the Labour Party offer society as a whole a way out of its current malaise. Unfortunately Corbyn, in the name of party unity, has already ditched opposition to the EU and Cameron’s `reforms’ and looks unlikely to impose the whip on Labour MPs to vote against any proposal by the Tories to turn the RAF into Assad’s and Iran’s airforce. The speed of Corbyn’s capitulation has been even more breath taking than his sudden rise and no doubt this Conference with delegates elected long before the leadership election will impose on him many more policies that he opposes but will take on board in order to placate the right whose disastrous three terms in office took the Labour Party to the brink of destruction and lumbered us with this most vicious Tory government perhaps ever. The British public despise with a passion the toxic New Labour brand. They will never be elected again. Corbyn supporters must despise it even more or witness the deserved recomensment of the Labour Party’s pasokification.

    1. John P Reid says:

      Bryan Gould speaks a lot of sense it was a pleasure. To canvass for him in1983,1987,1992′ but he was against the purging that militant did,in fact he alongside Mandelson fought it in 1985

      The comment to say the RAF will be used for others Middle East countries is daft,

      Yes ,new labour will never be elected again,getting 29% of the vote in 2010 and the Tories nearly winning, but old labour got 27% in 1983 and when we went back to old labour in2015 ,the Tories won for the first time in 23 years.

      1. David Ellis says:

        Not even God himself could have got Labour elected in 1983. The right wing Labour governments of the 70s that attacked workers at every opportunity and politically disarmed the labour movement whilst presiding over capitalist stagnation ensured that Labour were unelectable for years. But by 1997 a stuffed badger could have beaten the Tories. A few terms of New Labour and Labour were screwed again and the Tory far right back in power. Of the four candidates only Corbyn had a chance of making Labour electable by 2020 but his EU and other decisions have determined that Labour’s pasokification will resume and end in complete wipe out in Scotland and Wales to go with its obliteration in Scotland.

        1. John P Reid says:

          Lol, so the labour government of 1974 ,saw labour get more votes in 1979′ than Octover 1974′ but because the labour government of 1974 were so bad, those people who still voted labour in 1979′ didn’t vote for us in 1983′ why didn’t they stop voting for us in 1979

          It took all the civil wars and rejecting the 1983 manifesto, to win in 1997′ and a few terms(3) the Tories still couldn’t win in 2010 after 13 years we were burnt out.so the Tory right weren’t back in power we had a coalition, and your view of the right must be different to the electorate at the last election,the public felt the Tories were in the centre.

          Wales isn’t as Eurosceptic as you think, and Scotland, the SNP have been campaigning to be independent in the aeU for 25years,

    2. P Spence says:

      “For that to happen the New Labour cuckoos needed to be purged.”

      And how do you suggest Corbyn undertake such a purge? He does not have a free hand and nor does he have control of the party machine to contemplate such a move even if it was a good idea, which its not.

      Better the focus be on democratising the Party and policy making and thereby to limit the political space for the Right to operate in.

  2. Matty says:

    It’s pretty amazing that a section of the right, having for decades preached the importance of putting winning elections first and doing nothing to endanger electoral prospects, are now seemingly intent on doing maximum damage to Labour’s electoral prospects. Every day, there is a newspaper story on a Labour bigwig criticising Corbyn for being unelectable. They are trying to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy. People may read the stories and justifiably think “well if even his own side is against him, why should I support him?”. Debating policy issues is fine but as others have said “play the ball, not the man”.

    1. John P Reid says:

      I don’t think Mandleson has said he wants to do damage to winning elections ,he’s said that he feels Corbyn Will do that alone

      1. e says:

        But he’s lying isn’t he. He is knowingly putting his weight behind efforts to ridicule the man; what’s distressing for voters, new joiners such as myself, is looking on at longstanding lightweight labour MPs colluding in the process. Their seems to be a rule, sigh and or giggle a little if a journalist mentions leadership – so as to enhance Labour’s prospects?

      2. Barbara McKenzie says:

        Surely Mandelson and co., saying again and again and again that Corbyn is unelectable, is hardly conducive to creating voter confidence (and that is Matty’s point).

    2. Shaun says:

      As Tony Blair said in his speech on the future of the Labour party (quoted in the Guardian 22 July 2015 – “Tony Blair’s speech on the future of the Labour party in full”), “So let me make my position clear: I wouldn’t want to win on an old-fashioned leftist platform. Even if I thought it was the route to victory, I wouldn’t take it.”

      I interpret this as meaning that Tony Blair would prefer to lose than to be elected on a socialist platform.

      Peter Mandelson’s comments are based on the same approach Labour’s defeat is preferable to victory on a left-wing program.

  3. Bazza says:

    Yes the 4.5% lecturing the 95.5%!

    1. John P Reid says:

      I know people like Rod liddle who were going to back Kendall, who just voted Butnham straight away to try to stop JC
      In fairness to Mandleson he did say wait till Corybn is so unpopular that labour start losing council elections before pointing out to members IF. They want to win, that he has to go.

  4. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

    I think the Labor party needs to look beyond the tired rants of sleazy political has beens like, “Lord,” Mandelson and I dislike terms such, “grandees,” which lend him and his fellow, “piggies,” a completely spurious credibility one which post Blair, he no longer really commands and as with all the utterly pathetic and rabid and uniformly hostile right wing propaganda that JC’s election has evoked from our equally sleazy and unrepresentative press, (of all political stripes,) really representing only the interests, (generally financial,) of a corrupt and institutionally rotten, “establishment,” , (I’ve had much difficulty over the last decade for example, with the notion that either Guardian or the BBC for example are in any respect left leaning, or even independent or unbiased,) so as far as it’s probably better to just ignore him.

    Certainly they should not be being allowed to dictate the political debate.

    But back on earth, those of us who voted for Corbyn are still not really being welcomed back with open arms at a constituency level, not only was I basically told after registering , (certainly I strongly encouraged to,) vote for Andy Burnham, (of whom I am definitely not a fan,) but despite my contacts to replies to them they have made no serious attempt to engage with us at all quite opposite in fact.

    They seem to me to be far more intent in weeding out anyone who might challenge or disturb their comfortably and cosy arrangements than being seriously interested any interests, views or opinions other than their own.

    I did receive however a serious and courteous phone call from a pleasant and interested young man from the North West Regional Labor, group asking for both my opinions and for my participation; which I very much appreciated and which has nonetheless encouraged me.

    Elsewhere this petty albeit far from rhetorical question has been asked, “why should people who pay about £50 a year to be full members of the Labor party countenance the participation and views of people such as myself who have only paid £3”

    The answer is of course, because as last 2 general elections have proved conclusively, they can’t win without us and because a labor party that has in many ways been reduced to an exclusive, out of touch and unrepresentative club for well heeled millionaires like Mandelson, (or for that matter Miliband, Umuna, Harman, etc…) and their hangers on really has nothing whatsoever to offer the electorate.

    As Blair himself pointed out the Tories didn’t win the last election on policy or on popularity they won by default in the absence any serious of convincing opposition from Labor, (basically the PLP,) and many of are still completely appalled by the extent of that sell out.

  5. Craighaggis says:

    it is a little naïve to think that democratising the party structures can alienate the right-wing anti-Corbyn group(s). People like the Lord of Darkness aren’t ever going to rally around the new leadership, even if it starts winning by-elections and has some success in next year’s elections. The Lord and his ilk are divisive and perhaps only expulsion will work. Should the enemies be pissing in or out of the tent?

    1. Sam says:

      Mr Corbyn is very effective, and popular, when preaching to the converted. That’s not saying much though; it should be true of every politician. When will the Labour Party get it into its collective head that elections are won by persuading people who didn’t vote for it last time to vote for you next time? That means appealing to people who socialists refer to contemptuously as “the masses”. It must be very frustrating for the Left that people behave like individuals, and that most of them don’t live in North London, and that in the main they have jobs – with employers who need to make (that filthy word) a profit – and that some of them drive white vans and are (another expletive coming up) patriotic. The Labour Party can either stick to its idealism and empty gestures, or get real.

      1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

        Well you make a very good point and all that I can say in response is that not only did I personally not vote for Labor at the last election, (despite us having an experienced, honest, decent and hardworking Labor MP, for whom I feel little but respect, regard and affection,) but I actively voted against them, though not god forbid for the Tories, (for UKIP a party which, despite them making some fair and reasonable points, I largely dislike, but who fortunately had no prospect whatsoever of winning.)

        Until they/we elected Corbyn I thought Labor were completely finished, but following the election of JC as leader, (and encouraged by the snub that it gave to the various low life from the PLP,) I like many other people am now prepared to give them one last chance as it were to establish a consensus and genuine political mandate, (something both parties now lack equally,) but the ball in the air and everything now depends very much on a bunch of often passionate people, (many of whom would quite cheerfully like to stab the other lot,) remembering that the Tories who are currently engaged for example, in the most brutal, “cull,” of our sick and disabled since the Final Solution are worse, are always worse and always will be worse.

        1. Sam says:

          You’ve compared a liberal British government with Nazism, and I won’t be continuing with this conversation. Enjoy your freedom.

          1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

            “Godwins Law,” is, as in this case too often just a cheap cop out to avoid serious discussion?

            How very dull and pedestrian of you; but then we’re scarcely having a conversation anyway are we, but then clearly you’re obviously completely out of touch with what’s really going on in the UK ?

            But if you have nothing serious to contribute to the discussion that’s fair enough but you needn’t be so pompous about it.

          2. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

            I might also take the liberty of suggesting you read, for example, Behemoth, The Structure and Practice of National Socialism, by Franz Neumann after which you might find yourself considerably less glib about our, “Liberal,” government.

  6. jeffrey davies says:

    has jp states the great cull of the stock aktion t4 who better to take this mantle up but that well nown liar rtu ids but jc has made the peasant look up once more afraid that his policys will be watered down by the right who wont cross that floor but now hes leader the peasants are waiting to see the promises of better britain but to do so he better watch out for blair babies who will backstab him at every turn so now we wait to see if labour can return itself to honesty and fairness jeff3

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