Is Corbynism a 21st century version of Bennism?

In an exclusive and edited extract from the new book The Corbyn Effect Mark Perryman argues there are similarities but important differences too.

Alan Freeman in his 1982 book The Benn Heresy described the mood in the Labour Party while Jeremy Corbyn was getting ready to stand for the first time as Labour’s candidate for Islington North:

Benn now had grounds for hope. The left seemed on the verge of complete triumph. It looked as if only the last bastion – the PLP – needed to be conquered, and with the right wing packing its bags and reselection entrenched in the constitution, this would surely fall in time.”

It didn’t quite turn out like that. First the SDP split then the 1983, 1987 and 1992 defeats and finally Blairist-Brownite New Labour. Throughout these years the Bennite Left was in headlong decline. Thoroughly marginalised, by the time Jeremy stood for leader its parliamentary faction, The Campaign Group, barely existed and was seriously considering its continuing existence. Continue reading

Eternal Corbynism

Long to reign over us? The decision of Labour’s National Executive Committee this week to lower the Labour leadership ballot threshold to 10% and set up a review into party democracy headed by Katy Clark is a welcome advance for Corbynism. Not only does Corbynism now stand a better chance of continuing after Jeremy, the extra seat for an affiliated trade union (USDAW) and three more for the members’ section of the NEC opens the party to more pressure from and accountability to the members. While I’d like to have seen more it’s a good start (who knows, conference might decide it should go further) but it shows the distance travelled in two years. Not only was the leadership question definitely settled by the general election, but the deal done on lowering the threshold and the concession of the review shows the Corbyn-sceptic and hostile forces are firmly on the retreat. Continue reading

Look and learn from across the Atlantic – the Third Way is over

trump-clintonLook and learn, not from across the Irish Sea as George Osborne once famously enjoined, but from over the Atlantic. Let even atheists among us pray that Hillary Clinton will secure a narrow victory over Donald Trump in the US presidential race this week. But that proposition looks far from certain; she may yet, God forbid, lose.

Either way, ideological factors underlying her dire performance need to be registered and processed by the left this side of the pond. The recoil against the dominant politics of the centre-left over last twenty years stands revealed for all to see. In short, the Third Way is over. Continue reading

Why the establishment doesn’t get Corbynism

JC with ordinary folkSpare a thought for the poor hacks paid to write about the Labour Party. Your job is to throw down boiler plate with a semi-original angle, while making a conscious effort not think about it unless you’re employed for that express purpose. Making matters trickier is that last year’s silly season saw every seam strip mined to throw dirt at Jeremy Corbyn. With little else left to be excavated we see a churn of pretty much the same stuff. This then has led to the new journalistic sub-genre of the anti-Corbyn missive, and their recycled insights come in two flavours. The first are attacks on the leader’s character, of which the tedious Traingate non-story is an example. And the second goes after his support, which typically entails questioning the intelligence of those who back him.

Of the second type is Euan McColm’s piece in The Scotsman. Reading like a desperate bid to get the thousand words necessary to hit pay dirt, Euan’s piece is at turns insulting, at turns patronising, and is nothing we haven’t read already. But what it does do is condense the common sense among plenty of journalists and politicians. And because it so often persists that Jeremy supporters are mendacious or brainwashed or thick or naive, we have to ask why it is the view is so widespread. Continue reading