Would Corbyn really lead us back into the political wilderness?

by Brian Back

Let me make this clear from the start; I am backing Liz Kendall for the leadership of the Labour Party. I believe that she has the vision, the strength, the passion, conviction and charisma that we require in a leader, if we want to be successful.

When I read that Jeremy Corbyn was ahead in the polls, I was understandably dismayed. However, my dismay came; not at the thought of Corbyn leading the party, but at the thought of how members of the party would react to this news.

I was right to be dismayed, as various explanations of how Corbyn would be a disaster for the party soon surfaced and the predictable spats on social media dutifully followed. This has clearly demonstrated to me, that the biggest danger we face within the party, is not the issue of going too far to the left, right, or centre, but the problem of disunity.

It is division, rather than political position, which should be our primary concern.

All Labour members must remember we are defined much more by what unites us, than what divides us. We all want the same thing- a fairer society; only our methods for achieving this differ.

As long as we are guided by the values and principles we profess to hold- those of fairness, equality and democracy, then any of the candidates should be able to do a decent job of leading the party.

Every one of the candidates has grown and bloomed, because of the demands of the leadership contest and they have all shown themselves to be very worthy of our support.

So let us not be so quick to write off any of the candidates, because if we do that, then we are doing the Tories’ work for them.

Unity and respect must be our watchwords, which must guide our course. Deviation from that course will also be doing the Tories’ work for them.

So, could we be united under Corbyn’s leadership?

It has been said that Corbyn has always held true to the fundamental values and principles of the Labour movement throughout his political career. So, guided by these principles, if Jeremy Corbyn wins; in the same spirit as that which got him nominated, he will surely elect for a big-tent shadow cabinet, in which all sides of the party are represented, so as to ensure a genuine debate on party direction and policy.

Just as I have previously advocated for a key shadow cabinet position for Corbyn; if Kendall wins, then in the same spirit; we should all advocate for key positions for each of the other candidates, if Corbyn wins. Now that we have seen the talent, intelligence and support they each have, why on earth would anyone sideline them, their ideas, or their supporters? I have no doubt that each of the potential leaders would feel the same and would therefore also advocate this course of action.

As long as we are united, and we utilise all the talent in the Party, then we will be a truly formidable force to be reckoned with.

If we could all take off our Burnham/Cooper/Corbyn/Kendall-coloured glasses for just a moment, then maybe we could see the value in each of them and get the best out of all of them.

It seems to me, that Burnham, Cooper and Kendall supporters wouldn’t find it too difficult to accept any one of those three as leader, as they are all said to be clustered around the centre-ground of the Party. Corbyn, however, has been derided for being a dinosaur, for his supposedly outdated, far-left, socialist ideas.

The first thing to say about this, is that insulting terms such as dinosaur are particularly unhelpful and will damage the party, because of the enmity they will cause, far more than they will damage Corbyn, or his campaign. But, disregarding that, how should we feel about the prospect of a Corbyn victory- would it be as terrible as his detractors suggest? Let’s consider what he represents, before condemning him out of hand.

If we are truthful, we know that Corbyn’s socialist politics is the same politics that drew us to the Labour Party in the first place. Whilst we may have become what we claim is to be much more realistic, are we really prepared to completely disavow that fervent faith in left-wing ideas and principles that drew us together in the first place? Surely, if we are honest, we can see that, just like Burnham, Cooper and Kendall, he shares many of our values and views, so therefore deserves an equal amount of respect.

It has been stated that to elect Corbyn as our leader, would be to choose more wilderness years of the kind that Labour faced under Michael Foot’s leadership. This a selective view of history, favoured by the right of the party, which ignores the effect of the Falklands war on Thatcher’s popularity and the effect of the SDP on the Labour vote.

If we are comparing Corbyn to Foot, we should recall that Foot was elected as the compromise candidate, who was attempting to bring unity to the warring factions of Healey and Benn. It could be seen that the biggest problem Labour had under Foot’s leadership was not that he was unelectable, but was instead, disunity, which was of course clearly demonstrated by the defection of the gang of four to form the SDP.

The clear lesson here, is not that the party would suffer, due to being too left, or right-wing, but that the party’s biggest problem is disunity and internal strife.

History has shown us that the biggest threat to any party’s success is disunity. It was disunity that cost Labour the election in 1983 and disunity that brought down the Tories in 1997.

So, in answer to the question in the title, the answer is no, and neither would any of the other candidates. It is disunity and division which would be much more likely to take us there.

Now I am not saying that you should back Corbyn. I am going to continue to support Liz Kendall and you should continue to support your favoured candidate.

What I am saying is that we must respect every member of the party and avoid disunity at all costs. Let’s focus on our similarities- our shared values and goals, rather than on minor differences in preferred methods to achieve those goals.

We must remember that we didn’t join the party because of any one particular candidate; we joined the Labour party, full stop. So, whoever wins the most votes in the leadership contest, we must support them, because failure to support the elected leader equates to a failure to support the party.

The new leader will represent the views of the Party that we joined and support, and it is our comrades; our brothers and sisters in arms; our fellow party members- who share our values and goals, who will have voted them in, so how could they be wrong?

Brian Back is a sociology lecturer and Labour campaigner who blogs at brianbackblog

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23 Responses to “Would Corbyn really lead us back into the political wilderness?”

  1. DblEntry says:

    I’m sorry, but if Corbyn is elected leader many of us on the moderate side of the party will feel we have more in common with the left / one-nation strain of the Tory party than an extreme left Labour leadership at that point. Some will decide to stay and fight, others will feel it is a lost cause altogether.

    Anybody who is seriously supporting Corbyn as a candidate has to realise that this is a one way route to electoral oblivion and irrelevance. This would give the Tories the political cover to move further away from the centre ground harming the very people that the Corbynites claim to represent.

    Chukka was right to say those on the left need to grow up and stop playing the politics of the student union and fringe meetings.

  2. Madasafish says:

    So, whoever wins the most votes in the leadership contest, we must support them, because failure to support the elected leader equates to a failure to support the party.”

    Unity at all costs.. so no-one is to blame when it all goes horribly wrong.

    Support the Leader no matter how rubbish they are.

    Hmm a failure to learn from past mistakes suggest a short life.. Anyone remember what a success Ed Miliband was and how everyone loyally supported him? That worked well.

  3. Mike says:

    I cannot believe you support Kendall yet are relaxed if Corbyn wins.
    You state “All Labour members must remember we are defined much more by what unites us, than what divides us. We all want the same thing- a fairer society; only our methods for achieving this differ.” Really? I would think there is more agreement between someone like Ken Clarke (Conservative) and Liz Kendall than there is between Kendall and Corbyn. Corbyn wants to renationalise lots of private companies, he wants to spend GBP10 billion on eliminating university fees, he wants to get rid of Trident. Kendall (and Clarke) disagree with all three).

    You also say Foot lost because of the Falklands factor. The left conveniently forgets that the Conservatives didn`t cut and run in 1982 when they won the war. They went a year later. A year is a long time in politics. The Conservatives won because the economy was improving, Labour had gone far left and Labour had a shambolic leader.

  4. Tafia says:

    Umanna now berating Labour’s voters for supporting Corbyn. You would have thopught after what happened in Scotland they would have learnt by now – don’t ever berate your voters. At all. Ever.

    Apparently not.

  5. Tafia says:

    All the Corbyn haters are actually failing to address the real problem – Corbyn, like him or loathe him, is a far better and far more credible candidate than the other three.

    Corbyn might not win a General Election, but the other three definately won’t.

  6. Ian says:


    Perhaps you should talk to the editor of this blog about his disgusting smear on Jeremy Corbyn that he had published on the Sun website yesterday.

    How is he meant to lead a party that’s prepared to resort to such filthy tactics to undermine him?

  7. dwll says:

    Utterly delusional. If Corbyn wins, disunity will be one of many problems but the biggest problem of all will be the enormous gulf between what the leader thinks and what public opinion thinks.

    All Corbyn supporters are demonstrating is that they don’t understand the population of the country they live in and don’t have a clue why Labour suffered such a humiliating defeat in May. This is the sort of nonsense that gave Thatcher the keys to No.10 again and again in the 1980s. How many defeats do you need go through to learn that this approach never works?

  8. Tafia says:

    All Corbyn supporters are demonstrating is that they don’t understand the population of the country they live in

    That is a nonsense from top to bottom.

    Corbyn supporters support Corbyn. They wouldn’t be Corbyn supporters if they supported someone else. It’s up to the other candidates to sort their support out, not Corbyn supporters to pretend they support someone else for purely cosmetic purposes.

    What you are suggesting is that Labour party members should abandon all principle and select a candidate purely on their marketable viability to non-Labour voters as opposed to their beliefs – and that is laughable and shallow in the extreme as well as politically unhealthy.

  9. john problem says:

    In the temporary (we hope) absence of a clear philosophy, Labour should simply go on an all-out attack on what the Tories are doing that people don’t like. (Remember only 21% of the voters voted for the Tories). And firstly, they should research exactly what people don’t like about the Tories and their activities. Then concentrate on those points. All this counting angels on the head of a pin is a waste of time. Action is needed! Not navel-gazing, not nit-picking, not head scratching, not waffling on reviewing the past….
    For Heaven’s sake, Labour! Your country really needs you now! Act!

  10. Robert says:

    Where is my comment?

  11. Robert says:

    Well not really, its different from 1995. Corbyn is the only candidate with any weight even though he is loony left, Cooper = Balls so unpopular with electorate, Kendall = Kendall who?, and Burnham is just an arse licker not a leader. More importantly we don’t have a “new labour/third way” gimmick to sell the public. All we have is competing with the Tory party at being tory which will not bring any new votes. So Corbyn or not its wilderness years ahead for Labour I’m afraid.

  12. Madasafish says:

    How many defeats do you need go through to learn that this approach never works?

    History says a minimum of 3, often 4..

  13. John P Reid says:

    dwll, havent you heard it was the electorates fault, for nit voting for us, that caused Thatcher too win, if the SDP had never left, those 3.2 million voters who went with the would have voted for the Labour Party despite the fact,that labour had completely different policies on neatly everything that the SDP stood for.
    This is sarcasm by the way.

    Ian although, it was a what if ,article,it could have been worse, such as Corbyn stays on the 2020 election is so bad Tories win a landslide, that Mckluaky leads a suicide mission, I’m going to take out Public workers on a illegal, Scargill style strike (assuming the new union laws,means he didn’t get the mandate) but Tom Watson Corbyns sucseesor, unlike Kinnock, hasn’t the courage to stand up to his union pay master, and..the Labour Party after only getting 15% of the vote in 2020′ then goes the same wy the NUM did,

    Tafia what makes a better candidate than the others,one who wins elections and implements policies, prefarably, policies that help the Country to the point the electorate,Are Prepared to give them ago a second time.

    I don’t know whether Kendall could hold the party together after the u-turn Harman made, but I can see,if Kendall by a miracle became leader, but lost due too, the Tories being popular at the moment, then if Gloria De Piero, took over as leader in 2020, she could stand on Kendall’s platform, and win in 2025′

  14. John P Reid says:

    Mike, adlentry madasafish, good quotes.

  15. Are the Taliban snapping at your heels, Brian? It doesn’t look like they consider you a true believer.

    Of course they have a point. Although you are probably correct in saying that Corbyn would be leading a broad church, him winning would do a lot to end the New Labour experiment. Ed Miliband couldn’t do it as he was too much part of it, while Gordon was one of its architects. Corbyn never was on board with it. Myself, I think it is long past time it was put to sleep. It should have said mea culpa and disappeared in 2008.

  16. James Rowland says:

    Corbyn wont be prime minister but I dont think the other three will be either. They all speak in 20year old blairite clichés and are in the old frauds image

    But Nu labours central premise that it would woo swing voters and ignore core voters on the basis that core supporters have nowhere else to go is surely bankrupt

    Ignoring core supporters has resulted in Labour being wiped out in land of its birth something which threatens the very existence of the British state. Marhi Black spoke on this eloquently in her maiden speech

    In England they are switching to ukip or the greens or more likely not voting or even registering to vote

    It is very telling that none of the Blairites have had anything to say about any of these existential crises for Labour. Indeed their prescription of making labour a tory tribute act will only worsen alienation of core support whilst convincing no one

    Corbyn might at least give Labour back its soul and hand over to a successor who could win

  17. Malatesta says:

    So two posters here, Mike and DblEntry, have said they feel close to the Tories than the Labour left. And yet such people claim to be insulted when called Red Tories. It’s also striking that these “moderates” mention their affinity for One Nation Tories rather than the actually existing centrist party, the Lib Dems.

    If these people feel that they have more in common with the Tories than some of their own supposed comrades, why are they in the Labour party in the first place?

  18. cpnlsn says:

    I would just state this. The Fifth Republic in France under Charles de Gaulle was started in 1958. The socialists first won under that system in 1981 – a gap of 23 years. No reason this cannot happen here. And that could be the best of it. My view is that a Corbyn win would effectively end the Labour Party as an effective political force. There isn’t another centre left political force out there willing to be the government but there will be. There are only so many Conservative wins a country can endure before a centre left party comes into existence in order to be an alternative. But until then, think of the damage repeated Tory majorities can inflict, completely unshackled by any effective opposition.

  19. Robert says:

    I don’t know that a Corbyn premiership is really that impossible. Certainly it would need a new strategy to counteract the hegemony of the right wing owned and controlled mainstream media. Maybe the internet is the key. What is definitely not getting elected is a blander version of the Tory party lead by copycats and arse lickers – Burnham et al. The Labour party has an opportunity to become something new (oh dear) and exciting, a proper party with proper values, so what if its left wing.

  20. Stevie Smith says:

    The comments so far prove the authors’ points unintentionally. Depressing, regurgitated tabloid mewling, facile and intolerant.

  21. swatantra says:

    I very much doubt it. JC has said, he’s there as a temp, to put things right, and will step down in 3 years. That’s good enough for me.
    He’s actually the one the Tories fear most, because he hasn’t anything to lose! No career, no lucrative appointments, no chance to make money out of his role as Leader. So he’ll go back to being Mr Nobody, after he’s done his bit for the Party.
    And that’s good enough for me.

  22. Madasafish says:

    I very much doubt it. JC has said, he’s there as a temp, to put things right, and will step down in 3 years. That’s good enough for me.
    He’s actually the one the Tories fear most, because he hasn’t anything to lose!

    Yes they fear him so much David Cameron gives him advice how to win and Tories are flocking to pay £3 a head so they can vote for him..

    They are very very afraid…. 🙂

  23. john P Reid says:

    Swat,I’m sure foot Or miliband were asked to stand down,when they knew they’d lose,they carried on

    This whole £3 business set up by Ed milband and being used to great effect by those who aren’t members want Corbyn as leader, so they can either dream of him winning the election, or if they’re Tories leading Labour to its worse ever defeat, was just set up by Ed to get money, it’s a disaster if Corbyn wins, not by getting votes of members ,but of secret non labour supporters, I appreciate over the years Tories in unions affiliated with Labour have voted and tried to vote for Diane Abbott to be mayor, so we’d lose etc, but this is worse

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