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Corbyn Rebooted?

CorbynMike Phipps (Brent Central CLP) and Sue Lukes (Islington North CLP) suggest five priorities for the Labour leader following his re-election

The 2016 campaign for re-election may have added new members to the Labour Party and helped popularise some of our key ideas, but ultimately it was always an unnecessary distraction. The reality is that Britain and all of its key political institutions are in deep crisis. The priority now for the Corbyn leadership is to address the country, not the Party. We must now prepare to win the next General Election.

To do this, firstly, a broad political alliance needs to be constructed. Current electoral geography is against us, in particular the dominance of the SNP in Scotland, but also the expected loss of safe Labour seats resulting from the government’s gerrymandered redrawing of constituency boundaries. Labour is going to need to work with community groups, trade unions, tenants, single issue campaigns and other parties from the bottom up on key fronts – health, education, civil liberties, housing, migrant rights.

Party patriotism cannot be allowed to get in the way of building the broadest possible unity around campaigns on these issues, on many of which there will be stronger supporters among Greens, Nationalists and even some Lib Dems than among some of Labour’s right wing. Concrete alliances on issues where we have agreement can be forged, as some members of the Shadow Cabinet are already doing. These will be popular and can isolate and expose those right wing leadership elements in all parties that reject mutual co-operation against the Tory government’s offensive.

Two institutional flaws in Britain’s inadequate democracy need to be put back on the table. The idea that this Tory government be allowed to claim a democratic mandate on just 36% of those who voted in the 2015 General Election is a scandal. To say that Labour too got away with this in the past is not good enough. The fact that Caroline Lucas, the newly elected joint leader of the Greens, has made proportional representation a “red line” in any discussion with Labour on electoral pacts makes this debate an unavoidable one for us.

Likewise, if real progress is to be made in Scotland and Wales, this could mean strategic alliances with nationalist forces if that’s what it takes to get Labour into government. For that to happen, Labour will have to stop playing “catch-up” on the national question and commit to the broadest possible devolution across the UK’s regions.

Our second big challenge: whatever problems the Party continues to face at national level, we must build on our base in local government and work with councillors to help define the agenda they need to deliver services. The work that Jon Trickett did on regional devolution in the 2015 leadership election can be taken forward, drawing on some of the new mayors, for example in Bristol, and mayoral candidates, in the North West, who are not hostile to Corbyn’s leadership.

Thirdly, we need to introduce some mechanisms for popular consultation on policy. These could be citizens’ assemblies or Podemos-style online circles to refine and develop policy ideas. While this is a radical departure in Labour policymaking, it fits in with Jeremy Corbyn’s own proposals, announced in August, to lead a digital revolution and strengthen online democracy. The aim would be to ensure that not just the leader but every policy has a mandate. Local party branches could play a key role in reaching out to ensure these frameworks have a real place in local political activity.

Fourthly, we have to have a clear idea of what kind of Brexit we want. By prioritising the removal of Jeremy Corbyn, many on Labour’s right who claim the Party did too little in the referendum campaign squandered a real opportunity to take the offensive on this issue against a Tory government that was – is – clueless on how to deal with Brexit. We must provide leadership on this: full integration into the single market must be a central goal. Bilateral trade agreements, let alone service agreements, are just unserious – the government has so little expertise on this, it is hiring expensive outside consultants to do the work. Seeking bilateral solutions can lead only to a further enfeebling of Britain’s declining industrial base. We also need to resolutely defend EU social entitlements and European Convention human rights for all citizens and residents from impending Tory attack.

Fifthly, our Party is in a mess at all levels, with the exception of the grassroots where the phenomenal increase in membership, trebling what it was 18 months ago, poses new challenges. We have to continue to encourage and listen to these new members if we are to retain them and make them active ingredients in a Labour victory. To this end, the full-time apparatus must be reshaped to ensure it is at the service of the members, helping them to play a full role in the Party, rather than playing a factional role, even excluding members from activity, as we have seen in recent months.

Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election is also an opportunity to strengthen the team around the leadership. Last year’s unexpected win necessitated a hasty pulling together from scratch of a new team, with all its inevitable teething troubles. This year’s long-expected victory should provide the impetus to recruit some of the finest experts who want to serve. We need a focused, efficient operation, outward-looking and responsive to the electorate, strategic in its vision and clear and concise in its core messages.

What about the MPs? The war in the PLP has to end. It’s appalling that Labour MPs who claim to care so passionately about EU membership have dragged us into these internal squabbles at a time of national crisis. The plotting has to stop. But if we get all these other things right, then probably some who resigned from Shadow Cabinet positions, as well as some who didn’t come on board before, will be prepared to work with us. If we are magnanimous in victory and reach out to them, then the diehards whose sole aim is to bring down Jeremy Corbyn can be isolated from the broader middle ground of the PLP.

Nothing succeeds like success. If we can go beyond the internal contest to address the concerns and win the trust of voters who didn’t vote Labour last time and now feel betrayed by the other parties, we can change the political landscape.

This article first appeared at www.labourbriefing.org.

18 Comments

  1. jeffrey davies says:

    The priority now for the Corbyn leadership is to address the country, not the Party. We must now prepare to win the next General Election. cuckoo cuckoo yep you believe the gredie ones will support corbyn then you live in cloud cuckoo land they aint going to support but hurt corbyn at every turn untill they gone then there be no piece from these oh dear greedie ones

  2. The first two suggestions here reflect the paucity apparent in some of the leading supporters of Corbyn. I wonder if they also reflect the wider views of Corbynistas?

    The first suggestion about building coalitions with Nationalists (why would the SNP be interested?) Greens and even some Liberal Democrats reflect many earlier attempts to build popular fronts and such would necessarily have a lot more right-wing politics than Corbyn.

    But there’s one glaring difference: the writers just accept that the Labour Right will remain and be allowed to be a roadblock. How about fighting them to make Labour the party taking up these matters instead of a doomed attempt to do such in conjunction with some LibDems, etc.?

    The fight is similarly avoided with suggestions two. ‘Define the agenda to deliver services.’ That could mean anything but would seem to be about changes in organisation, further devolution of powers. The socialist ‘agenda’ for local government is resisting cuts and improving services.

    Corbynistas / Momentum can’t run away from such key questions. Soon (already) there will be councils with Momentum members in leading positions or controlling councils. Do they meekly slash away and so make the Momentum ‘brand’ no different to the rest, or fight – as some councillors did in the 80s?

    1. Imran Khan says:

      When you say fight the Labour right do you mean expelling or deselecting most of the Parliamentary Party. Can you be more specific?

  3. Paul Brooks says:

    Firstly, let’s get the suspension for Wallasey CLP lifted after the lies and smears from the Eagle camp! Let’s make sure those responsible are held to account! It’s odd that it takes the party five minutes to suspend and expel members before the leadership election but forever to investigate this! I am sure Brighton CLP agree!

    1. James Martin says:

      It’s not odd in the context of Momentum being politically neutered and disarmed by Jon Lansman and his AWL allies Paul, which in turn emboldens the PLP Henry Jackson right, Progress, the JLM and McNichol, particularly when Momentum starts witch hunting black socialists (of which the AWL has form unfortunately).

    2. Imran Khan says:

      Could you give us some details of these lies and smears?

      1. Pablo says:

        Check out the website – https://wirralinittogether.wordpress.com/
        You must surely remember “brickgate” at The office building of Angela Eagle? Also, the Wallasey CLP AGM where there were around 40 delegates present were accused of homophobia and intimidation. On the “top table” was a delegate whose daughter was to be married the following day in an LGBT ceremony and also one whose son is openly gay – would they not have stopped any homophobic remarks? The AGM – Ms Eagle was not present – gave her their backing on the Friday, as she was in the Corbyn Shadow Cabinet, only for her to renege and come out as a possible Leadership challenger. The chair of the meeting, Mr Stuart, has since claimed intimidation at the meeting but did not say or do anything at the time to stop it! Maybe all of this came out because the local branches were about to call a vote of no confidence in Ms Eagle – one did but this was not recognised as the CLP was suspended in the following day or so – and it would not have looked good for any possible leadership challenger!

  4. Verity says:

    At the broad strategic level it is difficult not to be seduced by the idea of a broad electoral alliance in order to secure a ‘coalition-type’ government for one term (only). Presumably, such a coalition would then implement a form of representation that gives some weight to a second preference vote. Following such a period we could all then go our own way. The objective would presumably be to isolate the Tories, thereby enhancing non – Tory Party’ chances for a future parliament. But it all looks a rather too neat theoretical model to me, overlooking so many practical obstacles.

    One of these is why would be it be achievable to gain such an allegiance when it is too difficult to even secure the allegiance of the Right – Wing of the Labour Party. In Tory area strongholds with Liberal second places, would our Labour members gain the energy to enter the polling booth for a Liberal when some struggle with exiting similar existing views within the Labour Party. Would all Greens and Liberals want any Left Labour candidate (as opposed perhaps to a Labour Right-Winger). Could we ever get CLP to step down in their areas, perhaps conceding for a long time any reason to stand at a later date.

    As a strategic way forward it is one of the few short term winning opens available, but it looks like the work of theoreticians, scratching for any strategy as a way forward.

  5. Robert Green says:

    I intend to stand against any one of the coup plotting Labour MPs that the party fails to de-select and I hope people will join me by standing against others. We need to get every last New Labour Blairite traitor out of the House of Commons and try our best to save those seats for the left. I will be standing on a platform of radical socialist policies but with a declaration that I would not stand in the way of the formation of a Corbyn-led government and that I would support any legislation it proposed that I felt advanced the cause of the working class whilst opposing any that did not.

    Yes it might well be that standing against a coup plotter will split the vote and the seat will be lost but nobody is going to vote for the coup plotters when they already know that not only will they refuse to form a Labour government under Corbyn but that they are certain to bloc with Lib Dems and Tories to form a government of national austerity against such a thing and so those seats will be lost to the party in any case.

    Join me as an independent socialist candidate against the coup plotters:

    For a regime of full-employment;
    For a People’s Bank to replace the bankrupts;
    For the socialisation of the property, cash mountains and mega profits of the corporations, cartels and monopolies;
    For workers’ democracy to replace fat cat executives;
    For repeal of all anti-trade union law;
    For the immediate triggering of Article 50, a moratorium on free movement so-called until the education of UK children allows them to compete with EU job tourists or until economic equality between the states of Europe are equalised guaranteeing that the result of open borders will not be the misery of mass economic migration or abandonment in sink estates and schools;
    For a Federation to replace the wretched Westminster Union;
    For a New Socialist European Settlement based on co-operation not strangulating competition.

    1. Imran Khan says:

      What kind of drugs are you on?

      1. Robert Green says:

        Ha ha. Stick to the cricket Mr Khan. Whatever you are smoking is blinding you and your coup plotting chums from clearly seeing the new reality. When the results of the next general election are announced there will be only the tiniest smattering of the 172 MPs left as they will all have been either de-selected by the party or by the electorate and I intend to help that process along and give the working class in those constituencies a genuine choice and a chance to be represented by a genuine socialist.

  6. Verity says:

    There is one significant element in the above strategy that is completely ignored. Without any knowledge of the geographic base of the contributors it would be consistent with their outlook if they represented a London perspective. The missing elephant is the only feature of ‘Corbynism’ which early today I became mystified by, and this is the attachment to a free market liberalism in respect of labour. Forget long term or even short term socialist planning. Forget the local constituent for which we should be defenders and accountable.

    No serious strategist would deny that (non asylum-seeking) migrants make ‘a contribution’ (unlike any other employees, of course?), but the impact of those random private choices and market driven selection of employees, disadvantages working class communities in the UK. Those communities that in the past have looked to Labour as their defenders and promotors. The non – university educated are especially vulnerable, both in reality and in perception, and in sense of insecurity. Even University graduates with mediocre degrees are hit though. Other low paid citizens also feel insecure, especially if they have family and/or caring responsibilities in contrast to some ‘foot – loose’ and ‘fancy – free’ new labour market entrants.

    Of course highly motivated, 25yr. old more mature, work-experienced East European migrants will squeeze out any 18 yr. old job – seeker, marginally and poorly educated, local applicant with little vision for their future prospect BMEs are especially disadvantaged. As a selector amongst applicants we would all be agreement about who is the strongest applicant. If we do not discriminate then we would always take the bright-eyed ‘new- comer’, with hope and ‘blue-eyed visions’ for the future.

    Businesses in the UK will always look to the easiest measures of taking ready – trained and more compliant workers with good ‘attitude’ ready for the ‘higher – productive’ work the very next day, especially when there may be latent state subsidies to ease their introduction. Employers have no need of responsibilities for the long term impact on some communities and no interest in whether the new employees would be content with higher work commitment and demands. Businesses have no interest in whether their new employees would have social solidarity with other employees or would act with trade union solidarity. After all many entrants will have had negative views of past trade unions, seen as hampering their aspirations; many have experienced no social supported national health service as given. Private services have been a part of the ‘normal’. So with their experiences of low state supports what is the loss in the diminution of welfare. If it gets too bad at least there may be ‘return option’ with the aspirations to take of advantage of the market – returns that could conceivably be on offer.

    What the does the 19 yr old inexperienced offer the go – getting, productive community in this market for labour?

    Migration has a place in society when it is a feature of socialist planning, but when becoming an extension of the Thatcherite – Blairist, individual aspirant offering no certainties of long term solidarity it risks alienating what I would predict to be hundreds of thousands if not a million of longer – term Labour supporters in the Midland and/or North of the country. Even huge migrant impact funds become small when spread thinly; tend to zero for the disadvantaged following competition amongst local and central bureaucracies.

    Some of these former supporters may ask, “why does Corbyn not stand up for us”, instead of others I have never met, do not know, who do not necessarily to share my experiences and as far as I known of variable commitment?

    Setting UKIP aside, and ignoring Party allegiances, a vote – canvasser in a deprived area of the Midlands could make a stronger case for supporting the rhetoric of May than that of Corbyn’s morals about what I should think.

    Early today I said I was mystified by this free labour market of ‘Corbynism’. But since then, I had a deep sleep and centuries had passed and I realised that we lived under world communism. Then everything was comprehensible and fell into place. I no longer needed the protectionism and my former resentment was no longer ‘racist’.

  7. Danny Nicol says:

    This strategy relies on our accepting Tom Watson’s belief that capitalism is great, since it advocates a coalitionist common front with parties like the Lib Dems and SNP which are absolutely committed to the firm, and particularly the global firm, continuing to dominate human society. Why should we want to tie ourselves to the Lib Dems after suffering that dreadful coalition? The shift to the Left in Labour’s membership should be about loosening our ties with private sector domination of this country, not consolidating them.

    As for proportional representation, it would of course result in no more Labour governments. It would also mean over 100 UKIP MPs which could easily form the basis for an extreme right takeover of the United Kingdom. Just as proportional representation helped Adolf Hitler climb to power in Germany it could likewise easily propel Britain down the road to fascism in the present climate.

  8. Bazza says:

    As a working class Northern socialist in Labour (and there is just me, I am not part of a group) but a Momentum supporter I am starting to get the feeling that momentum can be a bit top down.
    But I put this down to some very decent old lefties just not being used to a grassroots, bottom up approach, so perhaps we should all be asserting ourselves.
    We should have space for Other Business at Momentum meetings so anyone could introduce topics (and hope the bourgeois socialists won’t try to introduce their top down ready made programmes to try lead us – socialism FOR rather than left wing democratic socialism WITH) and we then create from below.
    Volunteers could write short papers (one side of A4 – up to 10 bullet points) for future meetings so we could have discussions on reforming the NEC so power is with members, and on reforming conference on similar lines then pass our conclusions up the chain!
    From our learning from these deliberations we can then promote more informed democratic grassroots change in Labour.
    I would argue Momentum groups around the country (as ‘pilots’ and to inform ourselves) should follow Jeremy’s suggestions and try to add to and thus enrich his ten policy areas.
    We could have Momentum Saturday morning conferences around the country where in small groups we all look at one topic each then report back on our additions then everyone can further add or amend the suggestions in the feedback session and these conclusions are then passed up.
    Then after our ‘pilot’ we push for every CLP and affiliate to do this around the country but open their conferences up this time to the public and we start the general election campaign there and then.
    But these would differ from the Momentum ‘pilots’ in that in these open CLP etc. conferences would deal with one topic at a time say housing, then health, economy, and peace and international policy etc and held say every 3/4 months or so – and it could be pretty exciting and a Corbyn-led Labour Party would then be turning OUTWARDS to engage with and build with the community!
    Just some food for thought!
    Yours in solidarity!

  9. Bazza says:

    Oh and in Momentum ‘pilots’ and CLP etc. conferences people should be allowed to contribute on-line too as not everyone can make meetings.

  10. Craig Stephen says:

    It’s a London-centric view to suggest some sort of alliance with “nationalist forces”. The dislike between the SNP and Labour is deep-rooted, and even left forces in the SNP, such as Tommy Shepherd and Mhairi Black, have no empathy with Scottish Labour which has learnt nothing from the referendum nor the rise of the Nats. Why would the Nats form any form of alliance with any other party when they have 56 of the 59 Westminster seats and almost half of the Edinburgh constituencies and continue to win by-elections. For most of the SNP, Labour is part of the problem, not the solution.

  11. Danny Nicol says:

    Many of the 172 proclaimed that we can never win with Corbyn. Once said, that cannot be unsaid.

    It would therefore be better not to have the 172 as Labour candidates for the 2020 election. To have them standing for Labour is too risky. It would do less damage if they were merely ordinary members of the Party.

    One additional reason why the idea that Momentum should not take a stance on parliamentary selections is nonsensical.

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