Friday 30 September 2016

Jeremy Corbyn: Leading Labour into the abyss

I've spent the last couple of weeks enjoying a great holiday on the Caribbean island of St Kitts.

I returned just in time to witness the response to Jeremy Corbyn's re-election as Labour Party leader. The result was of no surprise and Corbyn even increased the size of his vote. Regardless of what Corbyn supporters might say his victory is bad for the Labour Party and bad for democracy in the UK.

As a member of the GMB Union I voted in both this month's leadership election voting for Owen Smith, and in last year's election when I voted for Liz Kendall. I didn't think Jeremy Corbyn would be the right leader for the Labour Party in 2015 and the last 12 months have only confirmed my feelings that he is essentially killing the Labour Party.

I understand Corbyn's appeal, and I recognise that a lot of people in the country, particularly on the left are looking for something different in politics. It's not something unique to Britain. We've seen the rise in anti-establishment politics around the world. Donald Trump and Bennie Sanders are examples of this in America.

In Europe you have Podemos in Spain, the Five Star Movement in Italy, France's National Front and in Greece the far left party of Syriza are now in government. Corbyn is part of this protest movement.

The problem is that this protest movement should not and cannot be in charge a mainstream party like the Labour Party. The purpose of the Labour Party is to win power on behalf of working people. It is not a protest party which is what Labour has and will continue to be under Corbyn.

Labour: A party to please itself

I have to admit, I thought Corbyn gave a good speech at this week's Party Conference in Liverpool. It was well delivered and you can see that he has certainly grown into the role of Labour leader. But ultimately there was nothing in the speech or the conference as a whole to suggest anything other than a huge defeat for Labour at the next General Election.

If I have learnt anything about the success and popularity of the Jeremy Corbyn it's this. Labour has become a party that is run by and for the interests of its growing membership.

It's quite revealing that those members of the party pre 2015 voted in favour of Owen Smith - those who joined the party post 2015 voted overwhelmingly in favour of Corbyn. In some ways this reveals a certain level of entryism as it's new members with no longstanding affiliation to the party who are mainly in support of Corbyn.

The problem Labour have had for years is the tension that exists in the party between the demands of pragmatism and winning power to enable change and that of principles and values and not wanting to compromise. This partly explains why Tony Blair's 3 election wins are not celebrated.

I'm a pragmatist and support the views of Labour moderates and MPs who understand that you cannot do anything without first achieving power.

Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party is all about party members wrapping themselves up in a warm comfort blanket, feeling comfortable in their comfort zone. They don't want to do compromise and put forward policies and statements that reflect where many of the electorate actually are.

Politics is hard but by sticking to principles and never getting elected means principles are never put on the line. Tough decisions and compromises never have to be made. This might make people feel good but part of me thinks it's a bit gutless.

If the party is serious about winning the next election then it needs to reconnect with its traditional Northern working-class base, but the truth is Labour are culturally out of step with many of these people. This was reflected in Corbyn's announcement about immigration controls.

Secondly, Labour will have to win votes from some voters who voted Conservative in 2015 and 2010 but the sad and deluded fact is that some party members and activists don't want these votes. That's fine but you cannot win elections without appealing to some of these floating voters.

Does Corbyn's Labour Party even care? I don't think so!

My own personal problem with Corbyn's Labour Party and the hard left

Politics isn't just about policies and leadership or the ability to make the right decisions; it's also about gut feeling and instinct.

When it comes to the political spectrum I consider myself very much center-left. In that context the Labour Party is my natural political home, however my gut feeling tells me that under no circumstances can I ever vote for the Labour Party while Corbyn remains leader.

From a policy point of view, this week's conference has made clear that Labour are an unashamedly Socialist Party. I know this makes members feel good about themselves but I am a Social Democrat. I'm considered too right-wing for most Labour Party members who will most likely call me 'Tory lite' or a Blairite'. That's fine by me they shouldn't expect my vote.

But it goes much further than this. Do you remember last year when Corbyn was elected, promising a new kind of politics? A gentler politics?

I'm always sceptical when people put forward claims of a 'new politics.' Corbyn is presenting an updated version of traditional socialism. There's nothing new about socialism, I'm perfectly aware of it. It's been around since the 19th Century. Nationalising the railways for example is not radical new politics it's been done before.

Labour and the hard left like to consider themselves as progressives in their political objectives but in many cases they're incredibly conservative. They're conservative in the sense that they want to turn the clock back to a period (most likely before Margret Thatcher's election in 1979) to an imagined better age. In this sense they're simply a left-wing version of UKIP.

As for a kinder, gentler politics. That wish didn't last very long. I cannot remember a time when there has been so much bitterness and hatred exposed in politics but then anyone familiar with the hard left will know that such politics can be incredibly abusive, aggressive, bigoted and at times downright nasty. It's been made worse with social media. Anyone who disagrees with Corbyn and groups like Momentum are immediately denounced as Tories, Blairites, defenders of the Neo-Liberal consensus. It's so boring and pathetic.

There's been a marked increase in complaints of anti-semitism within the Labour Party but these complaints have been addressed only half hardheartedly and are generally considered to be part of a wider conspiracy against Corbyn. It's ridiculous.

I agree with the sentiment that Labour under Corbyn is at worst a personality cult! This is someone who has spent 30 years on the back benches. This is not someone who could be considered a political or intellectual heavyweight during that time, but here we are being led to believe by some that he will change the world whilst walking on water!

If we've learnt anything from the last week is that Jeremy Corbyn will almost certainly lead Labour into the next election. I won't be voting for him and to be honest I'm not sure I will vote for anyone. Labour under Corbyn represents a party and a form of left-wing politics that I'm uncomfortable with and is out of step with your average Briton.

Intellectually it has little to say to me or shows signs of wanting to address and deal with some of the big challenges we currently face (Brexit anyone). In truth I'm bored of Labour, Jeremy Corbyn and the hard left in this country. Labour will be led off a cliff at the next election, it's debatable whether they will recover.

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