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John McDonnell on the leadership battle

JohnMcDonnellThis talk was given by John McDonnell on Wednesday 29 June at a Stand Up for Labour event in the George IV pub in Chiswick, West London. The transcript has been lightly edited to account for the difference between spoken and written language but the content is unchanged. 

Let me just tell you where we’re at at the moment because it’s important that you know. I just want to go back a short while, I won’t keep you long.

When Jeremy got elected last year he got elected on 59.5% of the vote – the highest mandate that any political leader of this country has ever received from their own membership. It was overwhelming in individual members, the affiliated group and also the new supporters. In every category he won.

When we got back to Parliament he tried, in his own quiet way (I’ve known Jeremy 35/40 years and he’s one of the most caring, compassionate people I’ve met), to work with people, put them together. He created a Shadow Cabinet of left, right and centre, he tried to hold it together. And when he did that he tried to work with the Parliamentary Labour Party all the way through. But there’s been a group within the PLP who consistently refused to accept his democratic mandate and consistently undermined him in every way they possibly could. To be frank, I don’t know how he’s borne it. I’m just so proud of him, to be honest, for what he’s done.

We knew at that time, that for some time they were plotting to see if they could have a coup at some stage. We knew that. We knew all the way along. The thing about it is they’re not particularly good at it. We had people in meetings where they were discussing who would be the candidate they would run etc. And so we got intelligence on a regular basis.

False arguments about electability

And their first attempt was the Oldham by-election. What they tried to say was “It’s not political this, it’s not his policies we disagree with, it’s the fact that he can’t win elections”. So the Oldham by-election was the first test. If he had lost the Oldham by-election that might have been the opportunity for some form of coup or to start the first stages. We went to Oldham. Jim McMahon was a fantastic candidate but what we got was the best of both worlds: a good local candidate and the Corbyn supporters enthusiasm. And we has a massive victory in Oldham. So they backed off.

So the next one was going to be the local government elections. That was the excuse for the next plot. We got to the local government elections and they said again “You can’t win an election with Corbyn” etc. We won every mayoral election we contested, every one. We won the seats in terms of local government, councils we were expected to lose, we won every one.

We reached in our first six months the highest level of  support that Ed Miliband got all through his term of office. Now that was not something that we thought was wonderful but it was better than anyone thought possible. And in every Parliamentary by-election that’s taken place, we’ve increased our majorities on every occasion.

When Jeremy took over as leader in September we were fourteen points behind in the opinion polls. We are now ahead of the Tories in the opinion polls this week even post-Brexit. And here’s the irony, it’s just extraordinary, on Monday the Parliamentary Labour Party meeting was one of the most disgraceful  meetings I’ve ever attended. It was like a lynching without the rope. It was appalling. MP after MP got up calling on Jeremy to resign: “We can’t win elections under you”. And here’s the irony, the first item on the agenda was to welcome the new Labour MP for Tooting who had doubled Labour’s majority.

I don’t accept that this is about Jeremy not being able to win elections. I know how tough it’s going to be to defeat the Tories but also we know that we’ve been building a solid base of support. Why? Because we’ve changed the political direction of this party within nine months. When we went into the last election we were austerity-lite. We had voted for tuition fees, we had voted for wars in Iraq, and all the rest of it. We transformed ourselves. We’re now an anti-austerity party, we’re now in favour of scrapping tuition fees, we’re in favour of building council houses again, we favour trade union rights and also, in the week before Chilcott is published, under Jeremy Corbyn we are now a party that will never again go on a military adventure that cost 500,000 lives as happened in Iraq under Blair. Never again.

That’s why they’re coming for Jeremy. This isn’t about electability. This is about policy and politics. They told us that it was about the European referendum, because he hadn’t done enough.

The referendum campaign

So let me just explain what happened on that because I’m gutted that we lost it. I’m sad that we lost it. But what happened way back in September was that Jeremy and I met with Angela Eagle and Hilary Benn and they said they wanted to run the European campaign and we said “fine”. But at that point in time we said that we need to agree the politics of this. We said that we can’t just go out there as simple Europhiles because, to be frank, there was a need for reform in Europe. And at that point in time they were trying to argue that we should unanimously support Cameron’s deal in Europe. We refused.

So we said “get on with the campaign and call us in when you need us, we will do all that we can to support”. Jeremy toured round this country – the stamina of the man is unbelievable. Thousands of miles, meeting after meeting. Both of us spoke in virtually every major city in the country. But we campaigned on the basis of ‘remain but reform’. And that is where most of the British population are. They agree that there needs to be reform. It was no use going out there just arguing that the European Union was perfect. It was remain and reform.

We also said, to be frank, as soon as you start appearing on platforms with Tories Farage and Boris Johnson ironically will call you “the establishment”. And that’s exactly what happened in Scotland and that is exactly what happened in Northern cities in particular across this country. So we believed that the tactics of the campaign were wrong. Nevertheless we worked really hard. But when the result came out they wanted a scapegoat, they wanted to blame Jeremy. They wanted to use this as the excuse for the coup.

The plot unfolds

And what happened I’ll briefly tell you. On Saturday night last Jeremy was contacted by a sympathetic journalist. He had been briefed that Hilary Benn was going round the Shadow Cabinet urging people to urge Jeremy to stand down or threaten resignation. When Jeremy contacted him and asked if it was true. Would he be happy for a statement to be put out saying it was an error or that Hilary withdraw from his actions. He refused. What else could he do but ask him to stand down? There was no other option.

What we then discovered, because they just leak like I don’t know what, was that there was a plan that what would happen is group after group of individuals, front benchers, would resign, in batches. Because it was to destabilise. It was on the basis that one group resigned, fine we could accommodate that, settle down for a few hours and then another group would resign. It went on like that.
So what Jeremy had to do was to put together another Shadow Cabinet and that’s what we’ve done. And we’ve brought in, yes, lots of the new young people into the Shadow Cabinet. I tell you, listening to some of their speeches this week has been thrilling and they are the heroes and heroines of this movement.

Finally, let me just say where we’re at now because we’re getting to the point where it becomes farcical. What they did, to try and divide me and Jeremy, they briefed the media that I was trying to challenge him. And today Tom Watson has given an interview saying its John MacDonnell who’s forcing him to stay. You can’t have it both ways.

So what I’ve said today is, straightforwardly, if Jeremy wants to remain the leader of the Labour Party I will support him wholeheartedly, I will chair his campaign committee again. It’s his decision and he’s made that decision. He’s staying.

I think this is a tragedy what’s going on now. At a time when, to be frank, our country’s facing some of the severest economic problems we’ve had in a generation as a result of the referendum, when the Tories are in disarray and this is virtually no government there whatsoever, this is the time the Labour Party should have held together and stepped up its campaigning. Parliamentary pomposity this is not. This is not just for the sake of the Party. It’s for the sake of our country and the people we represent because they’re the ones that will be hit the hardest as a result of this result from the European referendum and the economic instability.

What we’ve said is Jeremy is staying. If someone wants to challenge him fine. I spoke to Tom Watson and said if a candidate comes forward let’s have a democratic election of the leader but let’s do it as comrades, as friends, it doesn’t have to be like this. We should be able to act amicably in this party and not in the way that people have treated Jeremy in the Parliamentary Labour Party.

They’re falling out among themselves as to who should be the candidate. It looks as though Angela Eagle, we’re told by the BBC, will announce she will become a candidate tomorrow. Fine, fine. I’ve said we will convene an urgent NEC, have a short leadership campaign timetable in order to match the Tories and get our leader in place so that we can then challenge the Tories and if there is a general election  then we’re ready to go with the leader.

Debate as comrades and hold together

But, above all else, now at the moment, what we need people to do, whichever position they come from, is just to hold together in the party, just basically to treat each other with some common decency.

So where we’re at at the moment is that we think there will be a candidate coming forward tomorrow, the NEC will set up the timetable for the leadership election and we’ll have what we’ve always wanted really, a democratic debate. Jeremy will stand again and tour round the country setting out his policies and we’ll hope that he gets re-elected.

We’d welcome it, if you’re not a member of the Labour Party at the moment we need you to join. If you are a member of the Labour Party let me just say this. What we’re witnessing at the moment is a very British coup. If we don’t face this down what will be the point of being a Labour Party member, voting for a leader that you want and then having the Labour Party MPs exercise a veto. That is unacceptable.

There has been a recent modern invention by the Greeks. It’s called democracy. What we’re standing for in this period now is democracy in the Party – the ability of rank and file members of the Labour Party to choose the leader that they want and the policies that they want. And if we lost that, if we allow this coup to destroy Jeremy Corbyn, they destroy our Party. I am not going to allow that to happen and I hope that you don’t. So I’m urging you, pleading with you now, as we go through this period, let’s be comradely to whoever comes forward in the other campaign and let’s stand firm in the interests of democracy. And I appeal to you to support the person who actually did get democratically elected nine months ago, who transformed our policies into becoming a socialist party once again, and right the way round the country gave people hope of a new form of politics, caring and compassionate but socialist above all else.

So I say to you if this election comes stand with me and support Jeremy Corbyn. Solidarity.

(Recording and transcript made by David Pavett)


  1. John Penney says:

    Superb speech from John – absolutely spot on.

  2. I am not a Corbyn supporter, but there is no doubt the rebels are not merely unprincipled and have no interest in what ordinary people think – the core problem for the Westminster establishment to which they belong – but they are stupid. They cannot win. Have they no political brains at all?

    Sorry, I forgot I am talking about BEnnites. Having lived through the events of 1981, its not suprising to me that Hilary Benn is linked to this.

    Apart from the elements of political arrogance and miscalculation by the rebels, I am more and more convinced that psychology and family play a major part in political activities. I remember talking to Ken Coates of the Institute for Workers Control that I belonged to at the time as to why Tony Benn put in his papers to trigger the 1981 deputy leadership election that nearly wrecked Labour, and gave Thatcher her victory of 1983, and he simply said “he was pursing his own strategy” or words to that effect.

    Like father, like son. But why do others go along with it? And why do we not have a soft left? Don’t bother trying to answer the questions. Its simply a reality gap that makes me think of Thomas S Kuhn and his paradigm theory.

    Trevor Fisher.

    1. David Pavett says:

      Trevor, I think that they (apart from the committed venal plotters) go along with it because they are mesmerised by the idea of their social standing as inhabitants of the Westminster bubble. They are without out a real world appraisal of who and what they are and how they got to their “elevated” position. Their loss of a sense of reality means that they can delude themselves that it is their responsibility to veto the decisions of the party members when they believe that the people who put them in Parliament have lost their way. And they do that, for the most part with only the most cursory attempt, if at all, to discuss the matter with the CLP that organised the campaign to get them elected. They are a disgrace – and I know that this includes some very nice and very well meaning people. “Forgive them Lord for they know not what they do”.

    2. Tim Wilkinson says:

      Yes analogy with Kuhn – and Lakatos’s idea of the degenerating research programme – definitely applies here.

      And Planck: “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

      We were never going to be able to end the hegemony of NuLab doctrines without a turnover of personnel. Especially in the case of those MPs ineradicably tainted by complicity in neocon foreign policy, privatisation/’new public management’, austerity etc etc.

      Those right-wingers not already beyond all redemption had to be offered the chance to embrace a return to Labour policies, but did anyone really expect them to do so, and to be able to do so convincingly and wholeheartedly?

    3. this is a silly comment. There is no comparison between Tony Benn’s 1981 campaign and Hilary Benn’s devious behaviour. Tony Benn fought an open and principled campaign.

      Nor did it put Thatcher in in 1983. That was the Falklands Campaign.

  3. Robert Green says:

    Brexit: the working class got sick of delivering ever more liberal social reforms, passport-less travel and opportunities for the middle class plus ever-rising house prices in exchange for zero hours contracts, food banks, benefits sanctions and the bedroom tax, sink estates and blood-sucking landlords, poverty, destitution and joblessness. If a progressive alliance is to be re-forged that can defend those socially liberal outcomes then it will have to be based on a socialist economic model. Neo-liberalism is dead.

  4. R.B.Stewart says:


  5. Sue says:

    I’m with Corbyn and the policy changes he has brought about so far. this was never about Corbyns leadership qualities it was always about policies. No going back to a Labour Party that votes for welfare cuts and such. Keep Corbyn!

    1. while there are real problems with the policy direction Labour took under New Labour, and I left the party 2007-2015, its not possible Sue to ignore personalities. I voted for Blair in 1994 not understanding his personality, something I deeply regret. And nice but incompetent people are the death of a party.

      Check back on the only time Labour sacked its leader, George Lansbury in 1935. Sacked partly because the old T&G now Unite found him unable to make a stand against Hitler, the main issue as the Nazis began their war efforts, and so Ernie Bevin organized to get him out.

      There is a line between Lansbury and Blair that we have to find. Policy, even if we agreed on it, is not enough. Labour suffers from not having leaders, as the Scottish situation shows. Tories and SNP have good female leaders. Labour?

      Lets address problems not ignore them

      Trevor FIsher.

      1. Sue says:

        Corbyn always said he’d just be a stand in (so to speak) until we could vote for an up and coming younger MP prepared to carry the policies forward.

        1. no record of that sue, please give chapter and verse

          what he did say – on newsnight – was that there should be a mid term election to confirm the leadership. I then started working out a rule change, but suddenly a cult of personality started and we had to see JC as the answer to everything.

          I STILL think a mid term election is the way forward

          trevor fisher.

          1. Tim Wilkinson says:

            1. There is no cult of personality and the imputation is insulting. Corbyn wasn’t meant to get where he is, and having got him there, we are bloody well going to keep him there until such time as it seems wise to oversee a succession process.

            2. A mid-term election would be after two and a half years. Not 9 months, much of which was taken up with surmounting obstacles erected by internal saboteurs.

          2. refer to the history books of the CPGB for a cult of personality. The personality is crucial to the current appeal of JC – and it should be acknowledged. McDonnell is superior politically in my view as the speech shows – but he does not have the appeal.

            Two and a half years was the time scale I was working on (November 2017 if arrangements were passed by the 2017 conference) but it is dead in the water given the current plotting, which are wholly destructive

            Trevor Fisher.

          3. Tim Wilkinson says:

            re: ‘personality cult’

            The history of the CPGB is irrelevant.

            Of course personality – the predictor of behaviour – is important in selecting representatives. The key feature of Corbyn’s personality is that he can be trusted and relied on not to (a) give up, (b) sell out. At this point there is no available and reliable mechanism to replace him with another person who also has those characteristics.

            The poisonous smear of Corbyn supporters as forming a ‘cult’ is however quite unwarranted and amounts to pushing right-wing propaganda.

            re: elections

            The rebels simply want a second bite at the leadership election. None of the candidates they might put forward would have merited voting against Corbyn in that election, and nothing has changed since then, except that we are getting closer to the inevitable crisis point.

            Once that is past, and we have had a period of operation relatively unimpeded by sabotage, we move into phase two and can start considering the issue of the succession, from a position of strength and on terms which Corbyn endorses – because we can trust him to step down too, once it is clearly in the interests of a left wing Labour party that he do so.

      2. this is wrong. The problem is not with Corbyn’s personality, weak though it may be. It is a PLP which is determined to cling on to the old failed policy of neo-liberalism. This is an existential crisis for LP.

        1. John Penney says:

          What are you on about, Fisher ? What’s with this “weak personality” bullshit ? And, Trevor Fisher, what’s with all this “Cult of personality” nonsense , and ” your ” now’s the time to talk about mid term elections” diversionary nonsense ?

          You have noticed that we are currently at war with the neoliberal Labour Right and their billionaire backers ? And you think you have any credibility on Left Futures in the midst of this vital struggle for the very soul of the party, and the future direction of UK politics, raising petty issues about “mid term elections , etc ? I think we can see your real position in this struggle cde Fisher – and it’s not on the side of the Left in any way.

          I think anyone who has any knowledge of Jeremy’s political career ,and his actually superb public speaking skills, and witnessed his extraordinary workrate over the last 9 months , will recognise that Jeremy has a personality, and personal integrity, that should impress and humble us all.

          Of course all that the ever factional Tony Greenstein means is “I’m upset because Jeremy has adopted the Two States ” position on Israel. That’s it – that is what cde Greenstein actually means by “weak personality” – ie, he doesn’t agree with me on my personal obsession.

          Similarly the recent backstabbing by the Tax Justice Networks Richard Murphy seems to be largely motivated by personal resentment that Jeremy and his team didn’t immediately elevate Murphy to be their economic guru after making use of his “People’s Quantitative Easing” proposal during the Leadership election.

          Likewise the backstabbing betrayal of the previous mass media’s go to “Voice of radical yoof” , Owen Jones. Not given a key role in Jeremy’s team, and recruited to the Guardian – and within months the Left radicalism is cast aside and he decides to “stand aside” whilst we on the left fight for our political lives.

          For all these individuals , the political struggle is, as far as they are concerned “all about me”. Pathetic.

        2. Richard Tiffin says:

          Clearly Trevor, one supports a leader, hopefully because of the policies they promote, and in that sense one supports a personality. However, to jump from that position to make comparisons to a Stalinist cult of personality and what is happening around Corbyn is stretching the point. Reductio ad absurdum.

          There is a simple fact here, Corbyn is the first truly left leader of the Labour Party, perhaps ever. Given the nomination requirements to run a candidate, requirements designed by the previous leadership to keep ‘undesirables’ from running, the chances of getting another left candidate for leader is as as close a probability of zero as is possible.

          This is why people are hanging on to Corbyn, the left needs him for the position he holds in order to reform the party in our interests because we believe, rightly or wrongly, that this is in the interests of the working classes. Simply stated, the left need him because we need the position he holds. To reduce this to a cult of personality suggests some political wavering on your part or a lack of understanding and would cause Corbyn damage if it became a widely held view.

          From the the perspective of the PLP if this were about personality rather than policy it would take nothing for the PLP to present a document with 51 signatures on it nominating McDonnell to run as leader, even though he is not seeking leadership. They could then break the impasse as Corbyn could resign in favour of John running for the leadership and the PLP would get what they allege they want, somebody with leadership qualities and a choice given to the membership.

          Have we seen Anyang like this? Of course we haven’t because this is not about personalities on their part, policy is at the centre of their actions. All we have seen is that they plotters have negotiated through Watson that the new leader will sign up to Corbyn philosophies. Whatever.

  6. Sunny Lambe says:

    I was never a pro or anti Corbyn. I just didn’t know enough about the man to like or dislike him until the leadership elections last year. He was my third choice but he won. He has his mandate, I respect that. But since then, the more I get closer, the more I see a honest, decent and principled human being who genuinely cares about ordinary people. Isn’t that what politics is about?

    I just hope that both warring parties can find a middle ground and come together for the sake of millions of ordinary British public whose hope and future rest on our ability hold the Tory Government to account and provide a an alternative government whenever the opportunity arises.

    Conscience is like open wound, only truth can heal it. (Uthman Dan Fodio-great African Islamic Scholar)
    Truth shall set us free. One love!

  7. Karl Stewart says:

    Some frankly silly comments here from Trevor Fisher – there’s no ‘personality cult’ what a load of nonsense.

    We have to defend Corbyn resolutely, not because we worship him, but because if they can get rid of him, they’ll get rid of anyone.

    We have to fight now to keep Corbyn in post – no compromise, no ‘alternative candidate’.

    What we urgently need to do is to put forward a Labour Brexit plan – based on leaving the single market, offering citizenship to EU people living here, comprehensively rebuilding our manufacturing industry, full employment, renationalisation, restoration of full trade union rights, housing for all, proper apprenticeships or university places for all young people, and the abolition of tuition fees.

    We can win mass working-class support for this programme – and recruit mass working-class membership too.

    The Blairites won’t accept this agenda – but so what? Let them try to win mass working-class support for keeping in the single market, further privatisation, zero-hour contracts, and public service cuts.

    We need to be able to say we have a Labour Brexit plan and we need to campaign on it with confidence.

    1. Bazza says:

      Yes Karl and do deals with the EC for our migrants (UK citizens) living, working and retiring in EC countries who are probably worried to death.

  8. Karl Stewart says:

    On the idea of offering full citizenship, there is precedent in terms of this was available to Commonwealth citizens and also to Polish citizens in the years following WWII.

    It might be an unpopular policy with some. but I think it’s morally right to do so and something we should be prepared to stand up and argue for. The people who came here under EU ‘free movement’ did so in good faith and perfectly legally – therefore we should offer them this solid assurance as the right policy I think.

  9. Karl Stewart says:

    I also thing we must fight hard to remain within the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) against any attempts to withdraw from it.

    It’s important to stress and to keep stressing, that ECHR is absoolutely nothing to do with the EU. ECHR was set up under the auspices of the UN back in 1947 and every European nation (except for Belarus) is a signatory.

  10. David Pavett says:

    Someone looking back on his support for Stalin and the CPSU in the 1930s wrote “Because we could see that the fascism we opposed was wholly evil we slipped into thinking what was opposed to must be wholly good”. That sort of binary thinking is the basis for all cults including those based on persons. That is all that Trevor is pointing out.

    In these columns we have been told that what is required is “unquestioning loyalty”, that those who voice doubts are “cowards” and “traitors” and even that we are preparing for the “final cathartic battle”. Anyone who doesn’t recognise the cultish/evangelical quality in such language is already a part of the cult. I don’t see Trevor as saying much more than that.

    I voted for Jeremy Corbyn not because I think he is a wonderful politician, I have always been critical of some of what he says and does, but because the alternatives were all much worse. I have continued to support him on the same basis and I will vote for him again on the same basis. That doesn’t mean we should close our eyes to his weaknesses and failures or those of the team around him. In fact, where we have criticisms we should make them as comrades. We should be trying to offer intelligent support not to behave like Corbyn groupies.

    No one is saying that there is a Corbyn cult comparable to Stalin’s. That would be ridiculius. It is only being pointed out that there are worrying signs if cultish fervour, no doubt based on a deep yearning for a different kind of politics, which are contrary to the spirit of democratic politics.

    Having said all that it would be a good idea to discuss the content of John McDonnell’s speech. I transcribed it because I found it very clear and very informative. I was particularly interested to hear about the roles that Angela Eagle and Hilary Benn took on regarding the EU referendum – not that anyone could have guessed they had those roles.

    1. Bazza says:

      Yes David but I support Jeremy because I believe Jeremy is in tune with bottom up grassroots members power.
      I believe he is a leader and a facilitator for this.
      This is a battle between JC and a bottom up left wing grassrots democratic socialists and top down elite bourgeois Labour Neo-Liberals.
      Win this and future left wing democratic socialist leaders/facilitators will emerge when JC hands over the batton.
      I don’t believe in the great men and women of history thesis.
      Jeremy is a star but we all know history is made by movements.

      1. David Pavett says:

        Bazza, thanks for the response. I only want to add that we should be careful not to be one-sided about bottom-up and top-down. In any movement worth its salt their is a dialectic of both. Leaders have an important role and this us not just as expressions of the rank and file.

        And while the “great men” theory of history is wrong this should not lead us to deny that there are great individuals who play exceptional roles in history.

        One of my concerns about Corbyn’s leadership is that he has provided far to little steer on policy development. I am not saying that he should develop all the policies himself but he has not provided the leadership to facilitate the contrubutions which would willingly be provided by various sections of the Party. For example why did we have nine months of the policy vacuum that was Lucy Powell without any involvement of the Socialist Educational Association which has been asking to be involved in the work of the Education policy commission for three years?

        1. Bazza says:

          David, I agree with you on developing policy from he grassroots upwards and I have posted many times on ways of doing this but perhaps things have been happening so fast and the constant attempts by the Right to hamper JC from the start may not have allowed a space for this that WE wish for.
          But I have a cunning plan and I have joined CPLD and have a file of ideas and will try to put something on this site (it is already written) to stimulate ideas which I will do after Conference so we are perhaps both pushing in the same direction. But the priority is to beat the Rights attacks and courtesy of Blairite Portland Communications they expected to win in 24 hours and we may have fought them to standstill despite their considerable resources.
          Perhaps as well as with organisation we may win with art, music, comedy and poetry!

  11. Peter Rowlands says:

    David is quite right about Trevor’s remarks and support for Corbyn.
    I had thought up until today that there might have been a remote possibility of a negotiation to replace Corbyn with McDonnell, thus preventing what I otherwise see as an inevitable split. I now recognise that that is not possible, not least because of the interesting YouGov poll of Labour members which makes it clear that only Corbyn can win for the left, and I shall actively support him in doing so.
    Even so, some form of negotiated settlement now seems to be gaining ground, even, ludicrously, to the point of would be leaders pledging to support Corbyn’s principles. This would appear to be being pushed by Watson, who at least seems to be aware of the potential damage to the party, but I fancy that some of the other 171 MPs are thinking ‘Oh my god what have we done?’
    But it’s too late. The die is cast, and they will be responsible for the consequences, which I cannot see as being anything but adverse.

  12. Karl Stewart says:

    PeterR and DavidP, really positive that you’re both committed to backing Corbyn.

    Don’t necessarily agree 100 per cent with all your other points, but anyone who commits to backing Corbyn is a comrade as far as I’m concerned.

    Do either of you have any thoughts on the policy ideas I mentioned in my above posts?

    1. David Pavett says:

      Karl, yes it should be possible to comrades despite differences. Please note what John McDonnell says about this. He says we must treat others who take very different positions as comrades. We must make a distinction between the venal plotters and disrupters of the John Mann or Simon Danczuc variety and ordinary party members who do not support Corbyn for one reason or another. McDonnell says they are comrades too and should be treated as such. I agree with him.

      Your policy ideas are headings rather than policies. Yes, of course we need to rebuild our manufacturing industry, to achieve full imployment, to have proper apprenticeships, restore trade union rights and so on. But it is basically a wish list. The hard work is turning such things into detailed feasible policies. That is something the Labour left has generally shown itself to be reluctant to do. A slogan is not a policy.

      I favour most of the things you call for but they need to be spelled and shown to be superior to alternative policies in circulation. Why don’t you do that for just one of your policy ideas?

      1. Karl Stewart says:

        Totally agree there’s a big difference between the 172 Red Tory traitors and ordinary party members and voters who may have doubts or disagreements with the elected leader.

        And if anyone does decide to launch a challenge to Corbyn, and of a leadership election is triggered, then it’s vital that we adopt a very different tone towards the ‘electorate’ than we do towards the Red Tory traitors.

        But let’s never forget that the 172 are Red Tory traitors, each and every one of them.

        Going back to the policy ideas I referred to, I accept your point that these are ‘headline’ ideas with no details. But one of them, the call for the granting of full citizenship to people who came to live here under EU ‘free-movement’ is pretty straightforward – what do you think about that?

        1. David Pavett says:

          I think it is a propsal worth discussing. I don’t know enough to be aware of the pros and cons. For example, in many cases the people concerned would hold dual nationality. This would may allow them to have two votes in EU elections. Since millions could be in the frame this needs to be discussed. Secondly, there are conditions for citizenship such as having a basic level of English. These should not be waived. I could go on but I guess you see my point. The proposal merits discussion but I am nit well enough informed to have a definite view.

          On the 172 MPs I am sure there are some who do not feel comfortable about their vote. In the eventuality of a split the door should be open to as many of them as possible. The language of “Red Tories” and “traitors” won’t help that. People make mistakes and should always be guven the opportunity to rectify them. Politics is a complicated business and anyone who thinks that it isn’t or that they don’t make mistakes, even serious ones, is a fool.

          1. Karl Stewart says:

            hmmm…I’m wondering whether to describe you as indecisive, but I’m not sure…

            I hope you and I are never caught in an emergency situation!

  13. Quite Likely says:

    Really beautiful. McDonnell is a treasure. Corbyn’s election to the leadership has given a level of hope to British politics that has been absent for a long time. If he is PM someday with a loyal majority behind him it will truly be a different and better country.

  14. Paul Dias says:

    I hope all of you understand that if the plotters do get their way, Labour will face electoral annihilation at the next general election.

    Some people don’t like lefties, and some people don’t like righties – but no one likes a traitor.

    1. David Pavett says:

      You are right but if they don’t get their way it is difficult to see how there will not be a split (how can a leader rejected by 80% of his MPs manage?). They won’t go off into the night they will fight as a new party. In which case Labour will, again, face electoral annihilation. Things look grim at the moment but perhaps new possibilities will emerge in the coming days. Difficult to see more than a few hours ahead at the moment – if that.

      1. Paul Dias says:

        Perhaps I’m being naive here, but I would think it is never too late to stop plotting and stand by your leader or, at the very least, to stop actively trying to undermine him!

  15. Eleanor Firman says:

    making anyone a celebrity is a media tactic to appropriate what they signify so lets defend OUR CHOICE/DECISION as OUR CHOICE/DECICiSION. Let’s also remember that the only other figurehead to take as advanced a left position as Corbyn, was Lord Benn. Tony Benn did what he could to dispense with his privilege but maybe we need to acknowledge it was this background that allowed him through, and almost no one else with the same politics. I admire and am deeply grateful to both Corbyn and McDonnell for what they are doing/ have done. But as left programmes go, it isn’t the most radical – its only as radical as they are willing to be transparent and accountable. I have faith, but I sense for some there could be an issue of idealisation and that’s a problem. Idealisation is often followed by denigration.

  16. Tim Wilkinson says:

    It is not cultish fervour – it is unity of purpose and a determination not to be deflected diverted or deterred from prosecuting the plan.

    The essential core of that plan is to keep Corbyn in place until ‘pragmatic’ New Labourites accept & embrace realignment and ideological New Labourites bugger off through the revolving door or wherever else.

    The strategy of the spoilers has been to sabotage Corbyn’s leadership with two interrelated objectives:

    Objective 1: to convince members that Corbyn is not up to the job, thus must be replaced by a PLP-nominated candidate. This has largely failed up to now because a. the hoped-for catastrophic failures have not eventuated, b. sabotage and obstruction by the ‘plotters’ has been too blatant, c. pro-Corbyn members have been taking a strategic view rather than the endless tactical tail-chasing of focus groups, polls and – yes – even a single election result.

    Objective 2: to overtly coerce members into dumping Corbyn by the simple threat of continued sabotage and obstruction. This was initially meant to be largely implicit, dogwhistled only to more strategically aware members.

    The first objectives still applies to an extent – and the rebellion is framed as objecting to incompetence rather than ideology and factional power-politics. But it is not really wqhere the action is. The key is the the overt threat of non-co-operation (and continued sabotage), and now – something hardly mentioned by the plotters and seemingly conjured up by the left! – the fantastical idea that half the PLP is going to go off and start the Sainsbury Party, throw in their lot with the thriving Lib Dems or join UKIP, the single-issue pro-Brexit party. None of those things is going to happen. In particular, the Blairites do not have the will or commitment to specifically political means of self-promotion to try to start the Tristram Hunt Aspirational Anti-immigrant Demotic Party. I wish they did as it would be a fine spectacle.

    Some MPs will stand down – that is good; saves us the trouble of deselecting them. Some will defect – perhaps even better, since it puts into sharp relief a cluster of vices including disloyalty, opportunism, narcissism.

    None of that is in fact very significant either in political, procedural or electoral terms. As their current behaviour suggests, the rebels do not have any trump cards. The cards they do have they have played badly. They have nothing. All that is required is that the members and broadly pro-Corbyn MPs hold their nerve. The only thing we have to fear, one might say, is fear itself.

    So it is entirely apt to exhort members to maintain solidarity, loyalty, faith and courage. These are not irrational sentiments. They are part of the apparatus human beings use to maintain a plan over time.

    What is irrational is to allow doubts and worries once dismissed to be endlessly reconsidered even though circumstances are materially unaltered. What is irrational is to allow far-fetched scenarios of doom to frame defeat as a ‘lesser evil’. What is irrational is to entertain arguments one knows are pure manipulative propaganda emanating from proven liars and cheats.

    And those who panic as soon as things come to a head, who cannot hold their nerve when they need to, who flinch in the face of the same threats they committed themselves to resisting nine months ago, cannot really complain if they are described as cowards – and, as the logic of maintaining discipline in human associations perhaps dictates, socially stigmatised on that basis.

  17. David Pavett says:

    And those who panic as soon as things come to a head, who cannot hold their nerve when they need to, who flinch in the face of the same threats they committed themselves to resisting nine months ago, cannot really complain if they are described as cowards

    Oh dear.

    I’m with McDonnell on this (see his transcribed speech above). I take it that you are not.

  18. Tim Wilkinson says:

    An unwarranted failure of nerve is aptly describable as cowardice – there’s no injustice in the application of the term in the circumstances described. Noinetheless I don’t think it’s constructive in the circumstances to bandy the term about where party members are concerned, not least because of the habitual resort to spurious victimology on the part of the anti-Corbyn camp.

    1. David Pavett says:

      I don’t think it’s constructive in the circumstances to bandy the term about where party members are concerned,

      Good, we agree.

    2. Peter Rowlands says:

      Tim Wilkinson. Having offensively accused people of cowardice at 8.58 am and then having agreed with David that it was not appropriate at 1.18 pm hardly demonstrates that you have the ‘determination not to be deflected,diverted or deterred’ that you advocate for others.
      It is not a question of loyalty, faith or courage, although we obviously want to maintain morale in this struggle with the right. But the danger is of courage becoming recklessness, of faith becoming a refusal to consider a range of approaches, and solidarity becoming intimidation, as in your distasteful threat to socially stigmatise cowards.
      The central criterion should always be that which advances, or in this case least damages the position and strength of the left. For reasons given above I now believe that that is best achieved by fighting for Corbyn. However, if successful that makes some sort of split highly likely, something you quite wrongly dismiss, and which could lead to electoral disaster.

  19. Tim Wilkinson says:

    No threat, no denunciation but we are talking about shall we say failure of nerve here and people can’t really expect everyone else to pretend otherwise to save embarassment.

    I didn’t advocate ‘stigmatisation’ – ie denunciation of cowardice – of members who break ranks as I approximatedly agree that “The central criterion should always be that which advances, or in this case least damages the position and strength of the left”.

    Social obloquy is a common enough convention however for trying to keep group action from disintegrating, morale from being undermined etc – as for example in the case of strike-breakers.

    On the less abstruse side of the topic, I’m interested to hear how you envisage the split you warn of proceeding. I tried to put some flesh on those apocalyptic bones and didn’t manage to come up with any convincing disaster scenarios. Did you have more success?

    1. Paul Dias says:

      “we are talking about shall we say failure of nerve here”

      To me it looks like a bunch of people putting their political careers ahead of their party’s democratic process, but what would I know.

      1. Tim Wilkinson says:

        Yes, the failure of nerve lies in others yielding to them for fear of the threatened or imagined consequences.

    2. Peter Rowlands says:

      Tim,you didn’t explore this, you asserted that it wouldn’t happen because there wasn’t the will to do so. ( We are talking about a split)
      I doubt this. I think that in many quarters there is quite a strong will to do so, and that many others will go with it simply because there is nowhere else to go – they have by their vote of no confidence burnt their boats.and even if some now regret that there is no way back.Neither can a situation in which a reconfirmed leader presides over a parliamentary party which has overwhelmingly voted no confidence in him be in any way viable. Or do you think there’s going to be a ‘Sorry, we didn’t mean it’ vote and all will be forgotten.
      Some will leave politics, yes, some will defect, but the Lib-Dems are hardly an attractive proposition politically, and there is only one MP eligible to defect to the SNP. Surely even the most hardened Blairites would blanch at the prospect o joining the shortly to be Mrs Thatcher Mark 2 Tory party, although an attempt by Jon Cruddas and the Blue Labourites to take over UKIP might be interesting.
      Progress and Labour First are well organised, there would be no problem with funding, and a sizeable minority of the party on the ground would go with a new party, including many councillors, lay officers and employees. It would be viable, and to deny this is complacency gone mad.
      It is true that the experience of the SDP and the understanding by some of the possible disastrous electoral consequences of a split may delay the process, but the problems I have outlined will not go away.

      1. John Penney says:

        I agree with you on this, Peter. It is hard to see the touted “Len McCluskey Negotiated Compromise” now bringing together a Jeremy Corbyn continuing Leadership and the bulk of the PLP. What on earth could such a “compromise” consist of ? As you say, “bridges have been well and truly burnt ” over the last two weeks or so – and it was the Blairites who built the bonfire and lit the tinder.

        It is always too easy to assign amazing Machiavellian cleverness to ones political enemies – whereas , as the Tory disaster over Brexit (and Osborne’s string of self-inflicted policy errors this year too) , show, politicians are repeatedly prone to believe their own spurious propaganda , rather than merely fooling us lesser mortals with their speil. The Blairites seemed to believe their own spin that “Corbyn’s membership support was collapsing” , and that he was just a sad old codger who could be browbeaten and intimidated into resigning. That’s the problem with living in a small social and ideological bubble – as the Far Left demonstrates only to well over the years too – the “Westminster career politician bubble” has deluded itself into deep instability in the Tory Party – and almost certain terminal breakup of the former “broad Church” Labour Party.

        Where to now for Labour now ? The Blairites and the Party machine (plus I suspect a now rather worried middle ground of PLP thinking “WTF have we done ? We were assured he would go easily, and it would be back to business as usual in cynical bourgeois politics”), are currently having a last go to prevent Jeremy standing . They aim to skew the NEC , by hook or by crook, to get this result, and then impose a stooge – who they foolishly hope will re-establish the old cynical Labour arty ways in which members were firmly excluded from decision making. That they think this is possible just shows their self delusion – fed by willing mass media.

        A fundamental split has actually happened already politically – but the terminally wounded dinosaur of Labour is just so slow to react that the Party as it was hasn’t actually fallen over yet. The critical aim for the Left has to be that we, and trades union partners come away from the eventual split with the Labour “brand”. That has to be an absolute priority. And that is seen clearly by the Right too. One thing is quite clear – if the Blairites hadn’t seduced the “soft Left” PLP into this coup, the disarray in Tory ranks over Brexit would have made it impossible to continue the present government, and Labour could well have won the resulting General Election.

        The future , with a now inevitable split Labour Party is in the short and medium term , pretty grim – a Right-wing Tory government rampaging about unblocked by effective Parliamentary Opposition , which lest we forget, was repeatedly blocked on key issues like Tax Credits and Academisation this year,
        under Jeremy’s supposedly “weak” leadership.

      2. Tim Wilkinson says:

        Well this is the key isn’t it. Do you believe the right wing factions of the party can and will start a rival party and by doing so inflict significant damage on Labour in the medium-to-long-term (greater than would be inflicted by allowing a business-as-usual PLP nominee to take back total control of the party, rewrite the rules and enact a scorched earth policy on the left and centre-left)?

        I agree I didn’t lay out an analysis in depth of the prospects for such an initiative.


        How many MPs would regard it as a good move to defect to such a party before they face re-election, finally cutting all ties with Labour? Many of those who decided to try and by forcing Corbyn’s resignation did so as a way to placate the rebels and thus (they thought) to restore party unity. They will not be so inclined to desert the party altogether.

        (And they have not burnt their boats by making that call in a secret ballot. They were entitled to do so, and if they have behaved with decency in other respects, they aren’t going to be turned away just because of their vote on a PLP motion.)

        Sp how many would defect to such a party if it came to it, and how many would prefer to stay on board the Labour party? Especially given that with the internal saboteurs and intransigent right-wing ideologues gone, the party would for the first time have a chance to make progress – and conduct internal dialogue in good faith. The succession would be taken care of too, since with maybe – what? – 50 right-wingers gone, the threshhold for nominations would be lower and the centre of gravity of the party farther left.


        These would be from NuLab supporters presumably. If they hoped to start a new party it would be a NuLab party, with all the old NuLab faces, doing all the old NuLab things but without the cover of being a colony within the Labour party, without the loyalty of Labour voters, without the assets of the Labour party, and until an election is held or they ask the Conservatives to help them, without any Short money.

        1. Peter Rowlands says:

          I find this completely unrealistic ( We are talking here about a clear Corbyn victory over a challenger for the leadership. A negotiated settlement, being considered today perhaps, would be a different matter). It is not possible for there to be a viable PLP led by somone that a majority of MPs had expressed no confidence in. Even if they recanted and this was accepted they would always be stigmatised for their vote, while the pressure to deselect them would be considerable in many CLPs. Are they going to meekly wait for this to happen? I don’t think so. On finance , there would be many business sources of this for a new ‘moderate’ party.

          1. Tim Wilkinson says:

            It is not unrealistic at all for these people to U-turn on a secret ballot. U-turns happen all the time in politics and life goes on.

            If they are worried about being deselected, all the more reason to start rebuilding bridges sooner rather than later. Those who have acted dishonestly or damagingly to the LP, especially where they have forged petitions, ignored or lied about their CLP’s opinions etc., may well end up deselected, but those who did no more than make what they saw as the best hope to avoid a split will are unlikely to be judged that harshly in the medium to long term.

          2. John P Reid says:

            The difference with the SDP split was there were a lot of Tory voters /members who left the Tories joined the SDP too
            Anna Soubry Chris Brocklebank
            The liberals had been on the rise ,and wanted a Filipino, the libdems are dead in the wood
            If some of the blairites left the Labour Party, they’re more likely to try to join the Tories then set up their own party

  20. Karl Stewart says:

    I think the most important policy issue at this time is to push for full citizenship for everyone who came to settle here under EU ‘free-movement’ before the vote happened.

    This is a guarantee that we can give people now, that would give an assurance and some peace of mind to some worried people.

    1. Robert Green says:

      Why the hell would people from the EU want to ditch their nationality to become British? Give them visas if they are working that they have to reapply for every say two years if they don’t apply for citizenship in the meantime and no more new visas until we have a regime of full-employment in place.

      1. Colin O Driscoll says:

        Why would EU citizens have to renounce their exiting nationality? Talk in Germany is of giving UK nationals German citizenship without asking them to renounce their existing nationality. And renewable 2 year work visas? How very generous of you.

  21. […] Recording and transcript made by David Pavett, and supplied by Mike Phipps of Labour Briefing and the Labour Representation Committee. The speech was also reproduced on the left-wing Labour magazine website Left Futures. […]

  22. Peter Rowlands says:

    Seymour. A very good article, I agree with his assessment of Corbynism, and the Tories, but it still doesn’t answer my central point that I cannot see how it could be at all workable for a reconfirmed leader to lead a parliamentary party, three quarters of which has voted no confidence in him. Anyway, let’s see what Len McCluskey comes up with.

    1. Tim Wilkinson says:

      I just don’t see how this is a real obstacle. They lost confidence, and they can regain it. The vote has no formal status and does not commit anyone to anything. They could have another suitably worded vote that supersedes that one, if it’s such a problem.

      No doubt the vote has provided fodder for Tory soundbites – that was part of the plan to try and make the soft-left’s wobble permanent and irrevocable. But this isn’t the first such ammunition provided by the plotters and actually having faced down an apparently final NuLab revolt and got MPs back into line would be quite a good look for Corbyn.

      1. Peter Rowlands says:

        I think you’re being over optimistic.

  23. Robert Green says:

    Clearly a deal is coming between Corbyn and the rebels that will at least guarantee no de-selection of the coup plotters among other things. That will seal the fate of the Labour Party once and for all because it will guarantee that we won’t get a Corbyn government even if Labour wins the next general election. Labour will be reduced down to about 40 seats and they will bloc with Lib Dems, Greens and Tories to form a government of national unity and emergency against the working class.

  24. in the midst of this thread there is an important theoretical debate about Kuhn and paradigms which needs to be separated out and taken on board as a wider theory. Tim Wilkinson has just posted a thread from Jonathan Cook which is worth reading as this identifies Kuhn’s theory as explaining the PLP and Guardian. Up to a point. Owen Jones’ article on 14th last was not a typical Guardian position. The fundamental problem with Corbynism is that it is also a paradigm and also out of date, and its followers are as blind to this as anyone else. Ignoring the shift to the right in the wider culture is a case in point, confirmed by the EU referendum result. Devastating silence about what happened on July 23rd apart from a few cries about Labour being in the wrong lobby. No. Labour’s position was correct. But the attraction of an old paradigm of Splendid Isolation took hold.

    Paradigm theory explains much including the EU result, which was largely old people voting for a world they knew in their youth. Once paradigm theory is placed at the center of the political process, and SEA members will know that is how I think of the otherwise inexplicable belief of Gove and the media that expert opinion does not matter, then the issues become clearer. But it cannot be applied only to your enemies. The Corbyn phenomenon also gains from being a familiar paradigm. And it too is resistant to counter evidence, notably the opinion poll data

    Trevor Fisher.

    1. Paul Dias says:

      “Ignoring the shift to the right in the wider culture is a case in point, confirmed by the EU referendum result.”

      The EU referendum confirmed that younger voters are more outward looking than older ones, so if anything there seems to be a shift to the left!

      1. A good example of how a paradigm dictates what evidence is to be accepted. While the young voters who voted were in favour of remain, they were outvoted by the old 90% of pensioners having voted while less than 2/3 of the 18-24s voted.

        Which means that in the future, if the young can be got to vote, there may be progress. But on June 23rd the vote was lost.

        As the left paradigm wants the reality to be that the right did not win, it selects out the fact that the right did not win. The front page of the Express yesterday was a case in point (22nd July). They claim house prices rise is due to Britexit. The paradigm of the Britexiteers selects and interprets evidence by their core assumptions – and the left does the same.

        However on June 23rd the right did win and Farage has retired. Temporarily, he will be back. But at this historical point in time, his paradigm has won and is shaping politics. Kuhn did not have in his theory the political consequences of a theory which denies the evidence winning. His view was that experts ultimately choose the evidence so a paradigm shift is possible. He never heard of anyone so ideological as Michael -“ignore the evidence” – Gove. But this is politics, and while paradigm theory is relevant, politics contains a different approach to facts.

        Trevor FIsher

      2. Danny Nicol says:

        Paul Dias – EU law makes privatisation of some of our key sectors irreversible for practical purposes, via the liberalisation directives on gas, electricity, post and telecommunications. Indeed it is doubtful whether any transnational corporations based in other Member States could be nationalised here as long as we are in the EU, due to companies’ Treaty right of freedom of establishment.

        If by Left and Right we are talking about capitalism, there is nothing vaguely left wing about the EU. Like proportional representation, it is a constitutional device for placing the private ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange on a more secure footing. It is only because the lack of socialist theory among young people – i.e. so few of them realise that achieving democratic socialism means abolishing large scale private enterprise – that some mistakenly see EU membership as “left”. As for the virtues of being outward looking, well in a sense neoliberal globalisation is indeed outward looking!

        1. Paul Dias says:

          You need to read my comment in the context of trevor’s original comment.

          Trevor postulates that the referendum result (Brexit) is a symptom of a shift to the right ‘in the wider culture’. IF one accepts his premise (that the Brexit vote is a right-wing vote and Bremain a left-wing one), then logically one must disagree with his assertion that the public is becoming more right wing, as the bulk of the Brexit vote is bound to die or become senile in the next 20 years.

        2. Paul Dias says:

          As to your critique of the EU as an instrument of capitalist concentration, I believe you are making the same logical mistake that other left-wing Brexiters have made – and that is to assume that because (as you rightly put it) common market rules encourage privatisation, leaving the EU would allow for privatisation eg of trains to be reversed. In reality, the left is no closer to renationalising eg trains as it was prior to Brexit. In other words, you’ve eliminated a non-obstacle to something you will not be able to achieve regardless.

        3. Paul Dias says:

          As to your assertion that there is nothing vaguely left wing about the EU, I leave you with the words of one Jeremy Corbyn:

          “We, the Labour Party, are overwhelmingly for staying in, because we believe the European Union has brought investment, jobs and protection for workers, consumers and the environment.

          “But also because we recognise that our membership offers a crucial route to meeting the challenges we face in the 21st century, on climate change, on restraining the power of global corporations and ensuring they pay fair taxes, on tackling cyber-crime and terrorism, on ensuring trade is fair with protections for workers and consumers and in addressing refugee movements.”

    2. James Martin says:

      What are you on about Trevor, I voted Leave like the majority of people in my Lancashire ex-mill town and am neither a pensioner nor right wing. In fact UKIP don’t get a look in around here and the Labour vote went up last year and this, so no rightward shift here thank you very much!

      1. Karl Stewart says:

        Strange views here from Trevor and Paul. The Leave vote was a class vote against neo-liberalist capitalism. Tragically, the political weakness of the organised left at this time could well mean that the positive opportunities the exit vote provides could be missed. We should be getting a solid and robust Labour Brexit plan together.

  25. sorry, my own prejudices are coming out here. Para three sentence 1 should read “the right DID win”. My wish was father to the thought. I hoped that they did not

    Trevor Fisher

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