Tag: harriet harman

Why Corbyn Will Win the Next Election

By Daniel Margrain


Jeremy Corbyn at the thousands-strong Leeds rally on Saturday

Jeremy Corbyn at a thousands-strong Leeds rally (Pic: Neil Terry)

During the Labour leadership nomination process last year – much to the consternation of Harriet Harman – forty-eight opposition MPs who genuinely desire an alternative to the austerity-driven policies of the Tories, did the honourable thing by voting against the governments welfare reform legislation. One of the other numerous prominent Labour MPs who refused to vote against the Tories was Owen Smith. Needless to say, Jeremy Corbyn wasn’t one of them.

As I alluded to at the time, the kind of concession to the Tories made by Harman and Smith was predicated on the belief that Labour has to move to the right in order to be electable.

Given the Liberal Democrat’s close ideological proximity to the Tories during their power sharing term, and their subsequent virtual demise following the last election, the strategic move by Harman and the party hierarchy was clearly a calculable risk.

Harman’s assumption appeared to have been that there was no longer any more political and electoral traction to be gained by appealing to a diminishing band of traditional left wing voters. However, subsequent events proved that she was wrong and that these, as well as other voters, many of whom are young had, prior to Corbyn, been largely abandoned by the political class.

If it is to be accepted that the class structure of British society remains largely intact and that the real life experiences of the vast majority in the country were made worse under the austerity-driven policies of the Tories, then rationally the notion would be that the voices of those adversely affected by these policies would eventually at some point make themselves heard.

And so it came to pass. The rise of Corbyn gave voice to the voiceless and hope that things could change for the better by transforming apathy into a mobilizing political force. Corbyn went on to oversee a growth in the party’s membership to well over half a million – making it the biggest left-of-centre party in Europe, while Harman, Smith and the rest of the New Labour ideologues are fast becoming a footnote in history.

Outside the relatively small band of Labour party dissenters, the opposition to welfare cuts and austerity in England have come from the SNP, Plaid and the Greens. Tony Blair’s election victory in 1997 predicated on a left-wing mandate, the dominance of the SNP in Scotland and the popularity of both Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon, all put the lie to many of the claims in the corporate media that you have to be right wing to win elections. The official announcement this morning (September 24) that Jeremy Corbyn had convincingly beaten his right-wing rival, Owen Smith with a second mandate of 61.8 per cent is likely to bring this myth into even more of a sharper focus.

The reality is the people of England are inherently no more right wing than the people of Scotland. But the mainstream media commentators who marginalize, ridicule and smear those with left wing views, most certainly are. So it’s not a question of their being no appetite for left-wing views among the public, rather, the issue is one in which an inherently right-wing mainstream media attempt to manufacture the public’s consent through a process of propaganda and censorship by omission. As self-publicist, John McTernan illustrated on last Wednesday’s (September 21) Channel 4 News, rather than bringing political power to account, the media’s role is that of its gatekeeper.

As has been well documented, the orchestrated and systematic media vilification of Corbyn has been virtually incessant since the moment he was elected as leader. Moreover, the decision to challenge Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership was planned by a core group in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) almost as soon as he won his landslide victory in September last year.

Corbyn’s second decisive victory within a year is unlikely to deter his detractors in their quest to continue to smear and undermine his leadership at every opportunity. Those who pre-planned and coordinated the coup and the subsequent war of attrition against him were so confident in succeeding that they briefed the Daily Telegraph about their plot to overthrow the Labour leader.

As journalist Steve Topple has shown, the attempt to depose Corbyn continues to be orchestrated behind the scenes by among others, public relations company Portland Communications whose Strategic Counsel includes former Blair spin-doctor, Alistair Campbell. The war of attrition also involves the McCarthyite purging of Corbyn supporters, a tradition of disdain for the grass roots membership which has a long history within the hierarchy of the party.

As Corbyn’s vindication by the memberships overwhelming support of him shows, the ‘race to the bottom’ strategy of his opponents serves nobody other than the narrow careerist motivations of an out of touch elite who have their snouts embedded in the trough and don’t want to give up their privileges without a fight. And that, as far the likes of Harman, Smith and the rest of the New Labour establishment are concerned, is clearly the crux of the matter.

A sincere and incorruptible politician like Corbyn represents a potential threat to these privileges and the gravy train that sustains them. This explains why the New Labour bubble would prefer a Tory government over a Corbyn government and thus are happy to continue with the ‘divided party at war with one another’ meme. This was what the challenge to Corbyn’s authority within the right-wing of the party is really all about. It’s not that Corbyn hasn’t a realistic chance of winning the next General Election, rather, it’s more a case that the establishment will do everything in their power to ensure that he doesn’t.

In that sense, the political battle lines have been drawn, not between the Tories, MSM and the opposition, but between the Tories, MSM, opposition and the rest of us. In the weeks and months prior to the election of Corbyn, I hadn’t remembered a time when the disconnect between the political establishment and ordinary people that Corbyn’s popularity represents had been greater. The former argue that he is unelectable while the latter put the lie to that myth.

The notion that Corbyn is unelectable is a joke. In his constituency of Islington North, Corbyn inherited a majority of 4,456, which is now 21,194. He’s one of the few Labour MPs whose vote increased between 2005 and 2010, when he added 5,685 to his majority. It’s true that Corbyn is currently well behind in the polls and it’s going to be tough – in my view, impossible – to unite the right-wing of the party that appears unwilling to work alongside him.

But it must be remembered that pre-coup, Labour led the Tories in three polls in a row over 41 days. Also Corbyn’s record at elections is exemplary. London and Bristol now have Labour mayors, rolling back years of Tory dominance, while Labour’s majorities in by-elections have uniformly increased. Moreover, as George Galloway pointed out, last Thursday Labour won three local government by-elections – two off the Tories and one off the SNP. In May’s local elections, the party overtook the Tories in the share of the vote, coming from seven points behind at the last election.

Meanwhile, the party which haemorrhaged 4.9 million votes between 1997 and 2010 under the ‘triangulated’ leadership of a man who lobbies on behalf of some of the world’s most brutal and corrupt dictators, claimed in a moment of Orwellian irony, that Corbyn is a disaster for the party. This can only be beneficial for the current Labour leader. Finally, Corbyn’s Tory counterpart, Theresa May’s unpopular campaign focusing on grammar schools and the uncertain situation around Brexit is also likely to play into Corbyn’s hands.

So the implication the public don’t necessarily favour Corbyn’s politics is wrong. On the contrary, his position on issues like the NHS and the re-nationalization of the railways are universally popular. Rather it’s more the case that the establishment know Corbyn is incorruptible and therefore feel they are unable to win him over on their terms. Consequently, they realize that the longer Corbyn remains at the helm the more likely it will be that those sympathetic to him and his policies will be elected into positions of power.

It’s unlikely that the Tories will call a snap election given that the proposed boundary changes will benefit them electorally at a later date. This means that Corbyn will potentially have time to initiate the changes required in order to unite the party or, more likely, rid it of the plotters before the likely election in 2020. Four years is a lifetime in political terms and I’m convinced that if Corbyn and those close to him can see off the plotters, he can win.

 

Jeremy Corbyn, nuclear weapons and the mainstream media

By Daniel Margrain

From my personal experience, discussing political matters with many of our friends on the other side of the Atlantic, often takes somewhat of a surreal bent. To quote Shaw’s famous phrase, “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.”  I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking this.

A few weeks ago, I heard a contribution from a right-wing American political commentator called Charlie Wolf on LBC bemoaning the fact that the U.N are probing into (justifiable) allegations of human rights abuses by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) against British citizens. “How dare this external organisation poke their noses into the workings of a long standing democracy like Britain”, he exclaimed (or words to that effect). “The democratically elected Tory government are entitled to cut benefits to the most vulnerable people in society because they have a mandate to do so”, he continued.

It’s a refrain that many of us have heard repeatedly but of course does not stand up to the basic of critiques. Firstly, Cameron came to power in a “landslide” with only 24.4% of all those eligible to vote. Secondly, and just as significantly (but rarely ever mentioned), is the fact that there is no process by which leading politicians’ can be recalled. Hence, they can, and often do, redact on election manifesto promises without any legal redress from those adversely affected by such decisions.

But in the case of Iain Duncan Smith, whose controversial policies are at the centre of the U.N’s probe into the workings of the DWP, it’s worse than that: He wasn’t even in the public domain prior to the election to answer questions from journalists about these policies and, therefore, be held publicly accountable for his decisions. After the election, the government then disingenuously claimed it had a mandate to introduce severe benefit cuts for the most vulnerable in society when no mandate existed. The then standing leader, and self proclaimed champion of women’s rights, Harriet Harman, abstained on the vote to challenge the said decision whose impacts negatively affect women the most. The election of Corbyn put and end to this cozy Tory-Labour consensus.

The mainstream media and the establishment and political elite cannot handle the idea that Corbyn can be both a campaigner and a leader, or that decision making can be a democratic process emanating from the bottom up. They just can’t seem to get to grips with the fact that a politician like him answers questions directly and comes across as person with principle and integrity who offers to debate and discuss policy issues with colleagues before formulating them.

But in the harsh political climate of spin and the behind the scenes buying of political influence, this kind and humane approach is likely to work against a man who the corrupt establishment cannot buy. To quote a fellow comrade, “Compromise will be Corbyn’s enemy. His detractors – the current crop of BBC and Guardian political commentators included – will focus upon any inclination towards compromise in order to split Corbyn’s support.”

His concessions to the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) that compromise the democratic wishes of the mass membership are likely to create the foundations upon which the corrupted mainstream media, whose interests the former share, will pounce. The media’s strategy is to exacerbate the wedge between the Blairite elements within the PLP hierarchy and the mass membership. Here’s an example. Two days ago, BBC journalist, Laura Kuenssberg asked Corbyn a question she would never dream of asking any other leader, namely, whether he would ever envisage a circumstance where he would press the nuclear button? He answered directly with a “No”.

The reply is consistent with Corbyn’s stated opposition to nuclear weapons which he reiterated in his speech to conference. This was portrayed in the media as if it was the craziest thing any politician had ever said and, as all readers familiar with the editorial line taken by the Daily Telegraph will know, is apparently akin to treachery. It was also deemed to be treacherous to have the temerity to wear a beard, the failure to straighten up his tie, wear a brown jacket and not sing a stupid song about an extremely rich elderly woman living off state handouts who got even richer by pillaging the resources of black people in a faraway continent.

Corbyn’s intervention came despite Labour’s official policy to support the £40 billion renewal of Trident. Labour’s position in favouring this weapon of mass destruction is based on the protection of jobs that would inevitably be lost if the renewal plans were scrapped. This is a bad argument in the same way that hypothetically supporting those who produce weapons of torture from losing their jobs is a bad argument.

Corbyn said he would try to change Labour’s official support for Trident but he would live with it if he couldn’t. The media as one, jumped on the bandwagon by declaring Corbyn to be a weak person. I was unaware that listening to what other people have to say prior to formulating policy was a sign of weakness and immaturity. The fact that he actually listens to what other people say and then makes up his mind accordingly, is clearly too much of a revolutionary concept for some, including Kuenssberg, to handle.

The intervention by Corbyn, raises the prospect of Labour voting to renew Trident nuclear weapons but having a leader who has vowed never to use them. But surely the right and moral position to adopt is to insist that all leaders’ of all countries’ should vow never to use them. This is because there are no circumstances in which Britain or any other nation state would launch a nuclear attack. Shadow Defense Secretary, the Hawk, Maria Eagle, said Corbyn’s admission that he would never authorize the use of Britain’s nuclear weapons was unhelpful because, according to her, it undermined Britain’s defenses.

This is nonsense. Her claim only makes sense if one was to believe that Britain would be attacked by a country that has nuclear weapons. Only in this circumstance would it undermine Britain’s defenses. Corbyn rightly said, being in possession of nuclear weapons didn’t help America on 9-11. No country that has nuclear weapons will be stupid enough to launch a nuclear attack on another country that has nuclear weapons.

There are five declared nuclear weapons states’ in the world and three others that have nuclear weapons out of a total of 192 nations. 187 countries don’t feel the need to have a nuclear weapon to protect their security. Why should those five need it themselves? Corbyn said, “I am opposed to the use of nuclear weapons. I am opposed to the holding of nuclear weapons. I want to see a nuclear free world. I believe it is possible” 

Of course it is. It merely requires the political will to make it happen. Why in the 21st century can’t it be possible for the leaders of the nations that comprise the UN Security Council to sit around a table and say something like: “We know we are never going to use weapons that have the potential to destroy life on earth that cost hundreds of billions. How about instead, we use that money to save life on earth”?

This is not in any shape or form a radical idea but a humanistic and moral one. Corbyn said“If I could persuade the whole of the Labour Party to come around to my point of view, I would be very happy indeed. I will do my best”. But pressed on whether he would concede defeat on the issue, he noted, Well, if I can’t, we’ll live with it somehow.”

To me, this sounds like the words of a wise man. But to others in the media who are depicting Corbyn as some kind of bearded hippie freak, they represent the words of a traitor and imbecile. On twitter, Mark Steel, in typically ironic style, said the media “established that Corbyn is an extremist, because he won’t press the button to fire nuclear missiles round the world”.   added: “Why is it some are treating the bloke who says he wouldn’t nuke anyone like HE’s the crazy person”?

Meanwhile, in responding to Laura Kuenssberg’s hatchet job interview with Corbyn, Colin Campbell commented, “Shocking! Corbyn says he wouldn’t incinerate 1000s of civilians and create birth defects for generations.”

But being servile to establishment power is the role Kuenssberg and others within the mainstream media play. By creating a schism they will attempt to undermine Corbyn’s authority. His straightforwardness is of a course a great quality to have in a politician, but I do fear that his good intentions will paradoxically lead to his downfall. I hope I’m wrong.

Don’t Believe The Hype

Much to the almost certain consternation of Harriet Harman, forty-eight labour MPs did the honourable thing by voting against the Tories’ welfare reform legislation. As I alluded to previously, Harman’s concession to the Tories was predicated on the belief that Labour has to move right in order to be electable.

Given the Liberal Democrat’s close ideological proximity to the Tories during their power sharing term, and their subsequent virtual demise following the last election, the strategic move by Harman and the party hierarchy is clearly a calculable risk.

Harman’s assumption appears to be that there is no longer any more political and electoral traction to be gained by appealing to a diminishing band of traditional left wing voters. But the question is, are the abandoned merely lying dormant and waiting to be awoken from their slumber by a parliamentary opposition worthy of the name?

If we accept that the class structure remains in tact and that the real life experiences of the vast majority in the country will be made worse by the impending cuts, then rationally the answer to the question is they will at some point make their voice heard. But neither Harman or any of the Blairites competing for the leadership will be the catalyst.

In essence, there is no fundamental difference between the people of England and the people of Scotland. And yet, with the exception of a solitary seat, the latter wiped out from power a pro-austerity party, while the opposite was true for the former.

Outside the relatively small band of Labour Party dissenters, the opposition to benefit cuts in England will come from the SNP, Plaid and the Greens. The dominance of the SNP in Scotland and the popularity of both Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon, puts the lie to many of the claims in the corporate media that you have to be right wing to win elections. The forthcoming labour leadership battle is likely to bring this myth into even more of a sharper focus.

The reality is the people of England are inherently no more right wing than the people of Scotland. But the media who marginalize, ridicule and smear those with left wing views, most certainly are. So it’s not a question of their being no appetite for left wing views among the public, rather, the issue is one in which a right wing consensus is arrived at between the political establishment and the media. This is a policy that works.

We can expect greater media vilification of Corbyn as his campaign gains momentum in the coming period. The notion that a singular right wing ideological elite are first and foremost motivated by an overriding quest for the reins of power, has been addressed by former UK Ambassador, Craig Murray.

As Murray contends, persuasively, not only are the supposed parameters between left and right upon which electoral battles are fought based largely on an illusion, but as evidenced by successively low electoral turnouts, there is little enthusiasm for their leaders either.

Blair may of been the exception, but as Murray points out, his popularity was predicated on a set of left-wing policies outlined in his manifesto that he subsequently u-turned on once gaining power. As people discovered that New Labour were “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich”, to quote Mandelson, their popular support plummeted. “The great communicator” Blair for 90% of his Prime Ministership was no more popular than David Cameron is now. 79% of the electorate did not vote for him by his third election.

Nevertheless, since Blair’s election victory in 1997, successive Tory-lite labour strategists have appeared to have taken the view that the preferred direction of travel for the party is that which is undertaken by their opponent. This ignores the fact that this ‘race to the bottom’ is in nobody’s interests other than the narrow careerist and financial ones of those at the top. And that, as far as Harman is concerned, is clearly the crux of the matter.

Increasingly, the political battle lines are being drawn, not between the ruling party and the opposition, but between the ruling party, opposition and the rest of us. I don’t remember a time when the disconnect between the political establishment and the people has been greater. For the vast majority of the political establishment and their paymasters in the corporate media, they really are all in it together. But that doesn’t mean that left wing views are unelectable as Nicola Sturgeon has shown. Maybe Jeremy will become England’s Nicola. We need him.

Dead Labour

Following Harriet Harman’s admission that the purpose of the Labour Party is to outflank the tories at the expense of any allusion to principle, she might have just put the final nail in the coffin of the party, That said, the heart of the beast hasn’t stopped beating quite yet and it could be revived if leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn comes to its rescue by winning the forthcoming battle.

Harman’s claim that she would not oppose Tory benefit cuts was only surprising in the sense that she was being frank about it. Should Labour die and what remains of the corpse align themselves with the Greens and other progressives, the English people will be reliant on the SNP coming to their aid on their behalf.

Just as the bankers are now in a stronger position than they were prior to Syriza in Greece coming to power as a result of the former’s usurping of national Greek sovereignty, so too will the Tories should Corbyn lose..

In challenging the Osborne/Harman narrative, what used to pass as positively centrist, is now regarded as dangerously revolutionary, particularly when the issue of raising taxes for the rich is concerned..This is what Corbyn had to say to Sky’s Adam Boulton yesterday evening:

Corbyn:

“I think we have made a mistake on giving so much ground to Osborne, particularly on the treatment of young people in the budget and treatment of people in larger families. Why should the third and subsequent amount of children be penalized depending on the random date in which they happen to be born?

Boulton:

“Why should the tax payer support larger families”?

Corbyn:

“We have a system in which even Thatcher signed a European convention protecting the rights of the child. What number were you”?

Boulton:

“I’m playing devils advocate. This is only going to be introduced for future families and that they have a choice as to how many children they have. Surely encouraging families to have a smaller amount of children must be a good thing.”

Corbyn:

“I agree. But they don’t need encouragement. People having small families happens anyway. The average family size over the last 50 years has come down. But because of the idea that there are some large families, that children should be penalized for being born, is simply not right. We could cut rising welfare expenditure by capping rents thus saving on housing benefit and improving drastically the living wage thereby undercutting the subsidising of low pay paid through benefits – a system that currently works to the advantage of large multinationals like Tesco. We need to pay people more so the tax yield is greater and the economy does better. It’s a win-win situation.”

Boulton:

“How are you going to pay for it”?

Corbyn:

“We have to raise the taxes of the wealthiest. Over the last few years, child poverty has increased, homelessness has increased, the use of food banks has increased and overcrowding in houses has increased. So we need a different and more humane approach to welfare.”