The right wing of the Labour Party are stepping up their attacks on Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign, yet “Corbyn Mania” shows no signs of slowing. With some polls now putting the man who started as the outsider candidate, at over 50% in the Labour leadership race, it’s looking more and more likely that Jeremy Corbyn will be the next leader of the Labour Party.
If you had said to your average Labour activist just a couple of months ago, that the party’s membership would have more than doubled as a result of this leadership election, they would have thought you delusional (but then people said that about me, when I suggested Corbyn might potentially emerge as the frontrunner). Yet here we are. The country seems genuinely enthused by Labour Party politics, the Corbyn campaign is drawing huge crowds the length and breadth of the country, and we’re all eagerly watching to see what happens next.
Oddly though, this is not exciting the parliamentary Labour Party. The cries of “division” still drown out the half-hearted, placatory “isn’t it great that everyone’s so engaged” stuff.
The Blairites still make up a majority of Labour MPs, and they are terrified of a left-wing revolution within the party. But for all they warn of the horrors of electoral defeat following any lurch to the left, they are being disingenuous. The right wing of the Labour Party are not the forward looking pragmatists that they – and many sections of the media – like to present themselves. They are ideologues, and its time we stopped acting as though they weren’t.
The line goes, that Labour always suffers when it goes too left wing, it divides the party, Michael Foot’s manifesto was the longest suicide note in history blah blah blah. Perhaps, but all that was 32 years ago, and much has changed since then. Just because a left wing manifesto failed to woo the UK electorate in 1983, doesn’t mean it never can. After all, we’re yet to try it. Ed Miliband’s campaign was not left wing, it was barely a campaign. Gordon Brown’s 2010 campaign wasn’t much better, but in fairness his defeat probably had more to do with the financial crisis and the general fatigue and disillusionment that followed 13 years of a New Labour government.
Few commentators – with, or without the benefit of hindsight – would have predicted an outcome in 1997 that didn’t result in a Labour landslide. The Blairites though, have been at pains to perpetuate the narrative that the adoption of Conservative economics and the rejection of Socialism, was necessary to win. The reality of course, is that a throw-cushion with a red rosette could have led the party to victory in 1997. The increasingly unpopular, scandal ridden Tory Government of the late nineties wasn’t returning to Downing Street anytime soon. ‘New Labour’ was not some pragmatic strategy to bring the Labour Party back to Government, it was quite simply an ideological coup d’état against the traditional Labour movement in the UK, and it was massively successful.
Margaret Thatcher once said that among her greatest ambitions, was that one day British politics would consist of two parties arguing over which was best placed to implement capitalism. That is the Britain we live in now, but Thatcher would never have achieved it without the complicity of those so-called “modernisers” of the Labour Party, such as Tony Blair and (yes) Neil Kinnock.
The Blairite vision was more than simply a drive to get back to power, it was an ideological crusade to denigrate, and ultimately destroy the influence of the left in the Labour Party.
When opponents of Jeremy Corbyn talk about division, and the dangers of becoming unelectable on a left wing prospectus, they wilfully ignore the reality, that the UK is far more left wing (even Socialist) than most of us realise. There’s a massive amount of polling for example, which shows a majority in favour of renationalisation, or opposed to the privatisation of the health service; yet we are told repeatedly, that these are unpopular positions belonging to an “out of date politics”.
Do not mistake the Blairites for idiots though, they understand this all too well. They are ideologues, and that is why they fear Corbyn.
What they’ll never admit, is that their greatest fear is a Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn winning in 2020, as it would render the argument they’ve been punting for over 30 years utterly redundant. It would expose Blairism and New Labour for the confidence trick it always was, and they’d be forced to hand the party back to those they stole it from all those years ago: the people.
And where then for the Blairs, the Kendalls, the McTernans? Well, there’s always the Conservative Party.