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Statement on my BBC Radio 4 interview

Lunch with

Yesterday, the BBC aired an interview with me as part of its occasional “At lunch with…” series. The full episode was 18 minutes long and a shorter version appeared on the PM program on Radio 4.

In the interview, I said that under the New Labour project, we alienated millions of our core voters, who have gone over to other parties or to not voting. I then said that Jeremy Corbyn could win them back. This statement has been presented by some as criticism of Jeremy by saying he could, rather than has already, won back these voters. My comments were not a criticism but a statement of how important Jeremy’s leadership is to the party. He can win back these lost voters, and we are on a path to do so but we are not complacent about the task ahead.

Later in the conversation, but juxtaposed in the full program, I also said that Jeremy won the Labour leadership election by opposing austerity and that to win the country, we need to develop a positive economic program. I stated that it’s John McDonnell, as Shadow Chancellor, who is leading on developing Labour’s positive economic program. That Labour’s Shadow Chancellor should be leading on the economy is unremarkable.

However, the shorter version on the PM program removed my comments about austerity. This edit makes it seem as if I said that John is taking the lead on developing our overall program, rather than turning our anti-austerity message into a positive economic program. Unfortunately, PM’s version removes the context. The result is that an unremarkable statement about a Shadow Chancellor leading on economic policy could be misconstrued by some as an implied criticism of Jeremy.

For the record, I was not at any point criticising Jeremy’s leadership or suggesting that anybody else could do a better job. I believe Jeremy is providing strong leadership for the party and is on course to win back and win over millions of voters to the Labour Party. In the interview I describe myself as a Corbynista. I am a proud Corbynista.

The speculation that John will challenge Jeremy for the leadership or that Momentum or I would support that are totally and utterly unfounded. These are malicious stories, whose aim is to undermine the Corbyn project, and they contain no shred of truth.

You can listen to the longer version of the interview here.

15 Comments

  1. John Walsh says:

    Rather odd – yesterday’s comments are no longer available, except via things like Google cache (currently showing a 17:44 snapshot with 7 comments from yesterday) …

    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:L6doXczZ5-0J:www.leftfutures.org/2016/06/statement-on-my-bbc-radio-4-interview/comment-page-1/+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk

    Anyway, to start again ..

    Interesting the need is felt to set the record straight on Left Futures – this is hardly enemy territory and so most readers would be able to sniff out the media bias for themselves. Reading Jon Lansman state that he is ‘a proud Corbynista’ on Left Futures seems unnecessary, almost a waste of time. As for the Radio 4 interview, I’ll pass on that for now – I’m looking for more substance and would be more interested to read about Momentum’s direction and in particular how the effort to mobilise the membership is going and what future plans are. Would such output make in less necessary to be so sensitive about (inevitable) media bias?

    1. John Penney says:

      Yes, John, odd disappearance of previous posts.

      Here is what I contributed previously :

      Some very relevant points, John Walsh. Looking at Momentum’s current website offering, I am amazed that the central Momentum team apparently have the time and resources to create a “online Momentum shop” for sundry T shirts etc, merchandise – but of this website being used to organised and build momentum in localities (by simple things like listing the local Momentum branches and providing a local contact route for local Momentum supporters and potential supporters), not a sign – a full eight months after Momentum was set up !

      1. John Walsh says:

        Very strange that mild criticism should be deleted. Perhaps at the risk of being expelled from Momentum and CLPD, here’s my reply from yesterday …

        Good point John Penney. I fear the problem is deeply rooted, though, and not about to go away anytime soon. Namely, whereas Momentum is supposed to be the enabler for the 200,000 new members, in practice it is run (nationally and at the local level) using an orthodox conception of membership. In short, the new members came along with an expansive conception of what constitutes meaningful political activity, but when we get there it’s all ‘speakers and Chairs’ meetings and then door-knocking.

        There are exceptions though. Mervyn Hyde comments on here about how they are organising in Gloucestershire. Also, I saw an add for ‘Momentum Summer Nights’ somewhere in London, which looked promising. However, it would take quite some culture change for that kind of thing to happen up here in the East Midlands. And this is where, in a parallel universe, Jon Lansman would be helping to define, design, promote and help organise new member involvement initiatives.

        1. David Pavett says:

          I have my criticisms of momentum but one of them is not that its all ‘speakers and chairs’ at meetings. What do you suggest? Free-form meetings?

          In my view we need good chairs, good speakers, ecouragement and facilitation of member contribution. The latter should be in part provided by nationally produced good quality political discussion materials to which all members are invited to contribute. This element is so far only noticeable by its absence giving the impression of a political headless chicken. It seems that the leaders of Momentum just don’t know what to do or that they have a purely activist view of politics. I also suspect that they don’t call on the wider help available because their view of political organisation is not free of the control freakery which has been such an oblectionable feature of Labour organisation for the last 20 years.

          1. John Walsh says:

            David, ‘Speakers and Chairs’ was meant to be shorthand (clearly, not very good shorthand) for a dominant mode of meeting which goes hand-in-hand with the activist model of membership and the hierarchy-obsessed control freakery you mention and which denies (is designed to stop) the facilitation of member involvement which would be part of more expansive conceptions of membership (e.g. when organising meetings, the make-up of the top-table is the sole concern). As such, the notion of political discussion materials makes little sense in this mode of meeting. For me, this is an important aspect of the ‘making use of the membership’ issue that many people keep coming back to on these pages.

          2. David Pavett says:

            @John Walsh (June 22, 2016 at 8:25 pm)
            I agree with a lot of what you say. But if I take my own local Momentum group as an example I would say that there is definitely no control-freakery and no desire to dominate from the ‘top table’. And yet there is a persistent complaint about the form of the meetings being “too traditional” (‘Why can’t we sit in a circle?’, ‘Motions and amendments are boring’, ‘Older members talk in code that newer members don’t understand’ and on and on). I think that these are expressions of frustration rather than well-targeted criticism. The sources of that criticism, in my view, are the lack of national steer, the lack of clear objectives and the general low level of political culture all of which leaves people floundering and wondering if they might have better ways to spend an evening.

            I think that you and I are on the same page on this. I just want to keep the criticisms as sharp and focussed as possible.

          3. John Penney says:

            The so far refusal of Momentum Central to use the national website to even alert Momentum Supporters to the existence of their local Momentum branch – or proto branch, is quite extraordinary. It does strongly suggest that those at the head of Momentum view us all as a “stage army/ event turn out footsoldiers” . The election of a “Momentum National Committee” appears to have changed nothing.

            It has certainly made it hard to build Momentum in my very rural, dispersed, CLP. Since Jeremy’s leadership victory my two branch CLP has doubled in size, with about 200 new full members. We have seen a tiny fraction of these either at branches or in activities. So , with an old guard totally unwilling to share out new member addresses (“Data protection Comrade”), it has proved very hard for the handful of us local Momentum supporters who have discovered each other, to build a Momentum branch of any size. Approaching Momentum Central for information on whether there are any other Momentum supporters locally – from their circa 200,000 name database – I got the response “no can do, Data Protection , Comrade” ).

            Momentum is the most peculiarly passive “Left ginger group – to supposedly maintain the momentum from the Leadership Campaign”” that I have ever come across. The highly focussed, well funded, Right conspirators in Progress and Labour First must be highly amused.

          4. David Pavett says:

            @John Penney (June 23, 2016 at 1:28 pm).
            I am as amazed as you by the national Momentum website. It lack of policy ideas is stunning. The left could win all the seats on the NEC on this sort basis and still be trounced by the right.

            I just checked to see if the Momentum website had improved since I last looked. It has. There is a Unite Labour jargon buster and a 60 minute podcast introducing the Party to newbies. There is also a page with material on the EU for the referendum.

            That’s the good news. The bad news is that’s it and, btw, the EU materials are weak (e.g. lots of stuff about the need for reform but no reform proposals).

            As for all the other issues crying out for left-wing contributions (pensions, local government, the economy, business policy, banking, forms of social ownership, free movement of labour and capital, actions with other EU parties, education, apprenticeships, housing, regional policy, transport, childcare, housing, national and local planning, environment, party structure and organisation …) there is nothing, not even a call for contributions.

          5. John Penney says:

            Utterly predictably , sections of the “bitterite” Labour Right are pushing this morning for a Leadership coup, via a ” No Confidence” vote at next week’s PLP meeting. The prospect of an early General Election arising from the now “zombie government” status of the Tories after the “Leave” vote, has motivated at least some Labour Rightists to go for broke to remove Jeremy – and spit on the Labour membership’s democratic decision in September.

            It is quite possible that , with the Labour Right utterly unable to face up to their own total responsibility, via Blairite neoliberalism, for destroying a major segment of the working class’s faith in Labour, and the TUC bureaucracy so keen for a Labour Government on any basis whatsoever (regardless that the idea that a continued neoliberal Labour Party could ever win an election – even in the face of Tory disarray, is delusional), that key union leaders might well side with the Labour Right to try to remove Jeremy.

            The current coup plot may well fizzle out – but it demonstrates just how direly Momentum’s leaders have squandered the vital period since Jeremy’s leadership victory , maintaining Momentum as a passive, fragmented “stage army”, when a real activist, democratic, Left policy developing Momentum mass movement could have been built.

            Instead we have so far got a website devoted largely to selling trivial Momentum merchandise, no Left policy development at all – and no development of Momentum as the required democratic Left pressure group in the Labour Party.

            The current leadership of Momentum have a lot to answer for , that we are so unprepared for the accelerating pace of struggle within and without the Party.

            This is rather more important than how Jon Lansman feels he went down in a BBc interview !

  2. If you think that the BBC has misrepresented you, then you should be protesting to the Director General. The BBC does have a complaint’s mechanism but is judge and jury in its own backyard. Immediately you should be using the existing mechanism to complain you were misrepresented, in the longer term make this a public issue.

    Telling your own website your side of the story gets you nowhere.

    Trevor FIsher.

    1. Matty says:

      “Telling your own website your side of the story gets you nowhere.

      Trevor FIsher.”
      At least, it’s putting the record straight so I would suggest it does get you somewhere.

  3. I support Jon Lansman’s statement and accept the truth of it.

  4. Jim Denham says:

    I heard the interview and thought it was fine. Certainly not the disaster that the recent film about Corbyn and his team turned out to be.

    However, there may be a case when dealing with the bourgeois media, for insisting that any editing of interviews must be cleared in advance.

  5. Tony says:

    It was informative to see Toby Young on the Daily Politics recently. He willingly conceded that Corbyn was not as unpopular with voters as he had hoped.

  6. Robert Green says:

    It is time for Corbyn to strap on a set and stand up to these New Labour wreckers. He must enthusiastically embrace the Brexit vote from the reactionary EU and demand an immediate general election at which Labour can put forward its vision for a radical anti-austerity post-Brexit Britain and for a workers’ Europe to replace the imperialist bosses’ alliance. If he does not Right Brexit will pick up the ball, supply the next PM and Labour will disintegrate.

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