Under Corbyn, Labour faces twenty years in the wilderness

by John Braggins

I think it’s time for a confession. Not because it’ll be good for my soul, it’s too late for that, but for because in 1980, when as organiser for the Labour party in Camden I took the lead in persuading one of our members to run for leader of the Labour party. When I say I took the lead I mean I drove over to Hampstead and delivered the resolution passed by the GC that night urging Michael Foot to run for leader. At the time Labour had suffered a general election defeat – Jim Callaghan losing out to Thatcher – and Callaghan had stayed on as leader for a further 18 months.

To say that the party drifted during this time would be an understatement, equally to say that 18 months of Thatcher had not changed the political climate for the worse would be another understatement. Like many people around me at the time we thought that what the Labour party needed was a charismatic leader, an orator of great standing, a man of letters who could stand up at the despatch box and take the Tories on, a man who could lead marches and address great rallies.

History, I’m afraid, proved us wrong. We were led into the worst election defeat since 1918 losing three million votes and only just coming head of the newly formed SDP with a manifesto later described as the longest suicide note in history.

Today Jeremy Corbyn stands where Michael Foot stood 35 years ago. If history repeats itself Labour will next win a general election in 2033, or more precisely 2035 given the new five year parliaments. I will be 90 years old (hopefully) my children at retirement age and my grandchildren bringing up their families in a world that has had to accept Tory policies as the norm throughout their life.

Yes it has its attractions taking on the establishment, putting two fingers up to austerity, cutting defence spending, taking over the banks and railways, sending miners back under ground to supplement our energy needs, increasing benefits and opening our borders.

But here’s the thing. Do that and you lose the middle ground that every party has needed to occupy to win since the introduction of universal franchise. My research, undertaken immediately after Labour’s defeat last May, was the only research (to my knowledge) that spoke entirely to ex-Labour voters. Many of whom had waited until polling day before taking a big breath and voting Tory or UKIP. They weren’t bad people, but people who, by and large, had thought they had outgrown the Labour party, it no longer spoke for people like them, people that had a job, a family, a car, a house and went on holiday every year.

Maybe they were selfish wanting a government to help them when there were others who were worse off. They certainly knew of people who needed help and in their mind had put them into two distinct categories – the deserving poor, those that were doing their best to find a job, move out of a low paid job, or were looking after sick relatives and the bone idle, sitting at home watching day-time TV, living on benefits, bringing up large families (because they saw it on TV) and all on the tax payers money.

Of course they were wrong to think this applied to more than a handful in society but in their minds these were the people Labour stood for. And is a Labour party led by Corbyn going to change their perception?

If the polls are to be believed we stand on the edge of a Corbyn victory. And if he wins will it be that bad, after all Jeremy has been an MP since 1983 and capitalism is still with us? Well yes, it will because all the time Jeremy has been in parliament he has had a Labour party that either was in government or acted like it wanted to be in government. So his, and other constituents benefited from the minimum wage, 78,000 more nurses, devolved power in Scotland, a Welsh assembly, the overseas aid budget doubled, 30,000 more teachers, winter fuel payments to pensioners, halved waiting times in the NHS, free school milk and fruit, the Disability Rights Commission, free entry to museums and galleries, the Good Friday agreement, paternity leave, civil partnerships, to name but a few.

Yes, I know it’s boring to keep repeating them, that’s just history. But now if Jeremy wins its going to be a long, long time before we can add to that list whilst his, and other Labour MPs constituents, look in vain for a Labour government capable of making life better for ordinary people.

But just a cotton-picking minute you say, isn’t a Corbyn victory nothing more than democracy in action, after all more people will have voted for him than the other candidates on offer? All I can say is that it’s a funny kind of democracy that relegates Labour party members to also-rans as tens of thousands of people pay £3 to vote in an election where they may, or may not, have a passing interest in who wins. Putting to one side the accusation that a number of Tories have paid £3 to vote simply to damage the Labour party, huge numbers of people have paid their £3 to vote. A number who couldn’t bring themselves to vote Labour in the last election and voted Green, Socialist and Trade Union Alliance and so on.

I’ve paid my Labour party subs now for 52 years and that has given me the right to vote in selections, attend meetings, put forward resolutions to determine party policy, attend conferences and, of course, to knock on doors and deliver leaflets. Under the new rules (thank you Ed Miliband) I, and people like me, can be out-voted in the most important election in the Labour party by people with little interest in Labour forming a government in the foreseeable future.

As one of our new ‘friends’ said last week when asked if they would like to help the Labour party, ‘no thanks, I just want to vote for Jeremy’.

So who to vote for if not Jeremy? It’s simple, vote for the candidate you think will be the best for Labour and most likely to win the next election. Me? I shall be voting for what I believe in.

John Braggins worked for the Labour party for 37 years. He was the first head-office staff member to take charge of by-elections for the party, running all by-elections for the party between 1988 and 2000. Now he and his by-election sidekick, Alan Barnard, run their own company, bbm campaigns.

Tags: , , , , ,

34 Responses to “Under Corbyn, Labour faces twenty years in the wilderness”

  1. swatantra says:

    The fact is Corbyn is no Michael Foot, and thank goodness for that! because Foot was a doddering old so and so, who liked nothing better than to lecture and speechify in the manner of Nye Bevan. Me personally I don’t like being lectured to or speechified to, but just like being engaged in a normal conversation. And that’s what you get with Corbyn. And Corbyn is no lefty, as we shall soon be discovering. He’s more of a pragmatist. That Islington luvvie image is just a front.

  2. Landless Peasant says:

    I voted for Michael Foot and I will vote for Corbyn. I never once voted for Tory Blair. Corbyn is Labour’s only chance of getting re-elected. Labour is supposed to be Left wing.

  3. John Stone says:

    Do any of the rightwingers who repeatedly post this doom and gloomery have any concept of how many Labour voters have been lost via the repeated offer of a milquetoast torylite agenda? The triangulations and selling of people down the river. They are many and increasing, and they won’t come back for the type of ongoing focus groupery and sloganising jibber that’s on offer from Cooper and Burnham. Miliband didn’t lose because he was too left wing, he lost because he was a poor strategist with an incoherent offer and because he simply didn’t look or sound like a PM. If Corbyn wins, he would have some of the same risks but I frankly doubt he would be leader at the next election anyway; the attraction is that he may at least have put together a base strategy and offer that better reflects Labour’s values and that a successor can benefit from. I for one wish him well.

  4. John. P Reid says:

    Landless peasant, you compare Foot to corbyn. By pointing out you voted for them both but not Blair, the you say corbyn is electable, but the 2 potential labour leaders you like , lost massively

  5. Robert says:

    So John can vote for what he believes in but that is not acceptable for lesser mortals! I will be voting for Corbyn despite many reservations and it will be a case of damage limitation if he wins. The problem is that the other three candidates are so uninspiring that I cannot give them my first preference. Scotland showed that people need positive reasons to vote for parties or candidates and not pathetic attempts to scare them.

  6. AnneJGP says:

    I have a more than passing interest in Labour being the sort of party I feel able to vote for (basically that means: combining compassion with common sense).

    From what I have read, my fear is that Mr Corbyn, as leader, would have a more than passing interest in undermining the democracy that elected him.

    But if there are enough people in this country who wish to undermine democracy, isn’t it their democratic right to elect people who might achieve that aim?

  7. The people who say that Labour will be out of power for a generation didn’t give Jeremy Corbyn any chance at all when he first nominated. Their idea was ‘let him stand and finish last!’

    So what would they know about Labour’s election chances in 2020?

  8. Paul Tinnion says:

    John Braggins is spot on. Michael Foot was a least a substantial figure, though I always thought he would be a hopeless leader and said so, in vain, at my GMC. Corbyn is not such a figure and this would become very clear to the public. So, if he wins, the comfort I draw is that he would be gone well before 2020.

  9. Tafia says:

    Oh God not another piece of rubbish that no-one is interested in.

  10. Jimmy says:

    I agree Corbyn is no Michael Foot. For one thing Foot was staunchly anti appeasement.

  11. Kaine says:

    Interesting how none of the people now up in arms about entryism appear to be on record anywhere opposing the Collins Review at the time.

  12. Noel says:

    What a desperate article. The Tories are dragging naive blind submssive Labour to the right and then going to sidestep slightly to the middle before the election, leaving Labour chasing old Tory agenda and Osborne claiming he is the working man’s champion. Unless someone can come up with a centre-left strategy and scupper the neoliberal deviousness. Cue: Corbyn. Not only does he offer pragmatic hope for the UK – that is if one actually studies his proposals – he also offers salvation for Labour that would be sliding to oblivion this very minute if Corbyn had not stepped forward. Labour right are aiders and abetters of neoliberal ideology, in a slumber of delusion and timidity, scheming for the wrong things and completely misguided.

  13. Matthew says:

    Characterising non-Labour voters as selfish is a pretty poor starting point. That’s the ‘we have a monopoly on good intentions’ that puts people of voting Labour.

    It’s entirely possible to care a lot about the least well off and then vote Tory. For example, if you think Labour’s policies will lead to increased unemployment or lower wage growth.

    There are good, unselfish people in every party.

  14. Gary Pepworth says:

    I remain more optimistic. I don’t think Corbyn has the arrogance of Ed Miliband. If he sees that Labour is failing badly under his leadership he will fall on his sword.

    I don’t for one minute believe he actually wants to be Labour leader and only took on what he thought would be the sacrificial lamb role under duress.

    Being leader of the opposition is gruelling, falling polls and the inevitable attacks from his ephemeral supporters that he has sold out will take its toll and he will opt for a quieter life.

  15. Jane says:

    Jeremy Corbyn is no Michael Foot. Michael had a fierce intellect as well as being a great orator. Mr Corbyn has neither of these qualities. All he has done in my lifetime is oppose the Labour Leadership and associated with people who hold extreme views.

    Yes I voted for Michael Foot – I stayed loyal even though I opposed almost all of the 1983 manifesto. Indeed, I remained loyal to the party until 2010 – I could not vote for Gordon Brown. I would have returned in 2015 if a different leader had been in place but again could not vote for someone who had taken the party to the left and was anti business. I do not live in cloud cuckoo land. I know the importance of the financial markets and business in a globalised world. I need them to be successful.

    Now that I have got over the dreadful soul searching in not voting for the party – it is not such a big deal. I read every manifesto and assess which policies would be better for the country. Which will attract investors, how much each policy will cost and is it fair. I am not into over taxing successful people – smacks of envy. i am not into wasting taxpayers money by bigger wasteful government. i am not into permitting people to choose to live off welfare benefits as I hold dear the notion of personal responsibility.

    I would never vote for Jeremy Corbyn – and yes I have followed his antics for 30 years. This decision will not upset many on this board as you do not want my vote as I am a great fan of Tony Blair. You would class me as a Tory which I am not. Again though, those who vote for Mr Corbyn do not want a Labour Government. If you think that middle England would vote for this man you are deluded.

  16. Philip Young says:

    I think the whole Corbyn vs not-Corbyn debate actually shows Labour for what it truly is. The people who genuinely are left wing are all going to vote Corbyn, there are enough of them to get Corbyn elected and so he will become the next leader. Then when they suffer a massive disaster at the next election, they will then do what they did in May, namely blame the electorate. They are so full of themselves that they don’t appreciate that they are a small, tiny, unrepresentative minority who are sufficiently arrogant and egotistical to believe they are right about everything. In truth they are wrong about everything. Socialism is dead. DEAD. It’s time they woke up and smelled the roses. People like them, Corbyn, et al all need to realise that everything they believe in is wrong and move on. Get with the programme. If Labour has a future it is as a soft left, moderate, Blairite, social-democratic party that preferably is no longer dependent on a few nutty Union barons for its livelihood. If Labour don’t take that course, you can expect continuous Conservative majority governments.

    I appreciate all of this will fall on the deaf ears of the Corbynistas but I think it is important to at least speak the truth to them. At least then we can all say they have been warned.

  17. Brian says:

    I don’t think Corbyn would wreck Labour’s chances for 20 years (4 elections); but certainly 10 (2 elections).

  18. Hereford Cow says:

    Can I just point out —- none of you voted for Michael Foot. Some false memory syndrome here – he was elected not by party members, but by MPs only (as was the rule, in 1980). Of the 268 who voted, I guess most are dead now. False memory is a funny thing…

  19. Dom says:

    “they weren’t bad people”

    “maybe they were selfish”

    or, just maybe, and I’m just putting it out there you understand it was labour that was the problem, not the voters.

    See the subtle difference in thinking there?

  20. Peter says:

    Jeremy was my MP for over 20 years. I voted for him repeatedly because I had a tribal attachment to Labour. You know the sort of thing: born in a prefab; parents manual workers; one of the 2% of working class kids who went university at the time; trade unionist etc. I couldn’t bring myself to vote Labour at the last election and I actually can’t believe what is happing now. Is the party of Hardy, Atlee, Bevan, Gateskill, Wilson, Castle, Brown, Foot, Dewer and Blair, really going choose a leader who has done little more during his 30 years in parliament than attend meetings and conferences and cosy up to gun men and tin pot dictators?

  21. Ellis says:

    Watching the Labour party emulate lemmings leaping en masse off the electoral cliffs is both fascinating and hilarious. As a long-time Conservative I look forward to 20 or more years of good governance and the death of Labour as a political force – so long as we can rid ourselves of the social democrat Cameron and install Osborne or Johnson in 2020. Many of us who remember the Foot/Benn/Militant Tendency years can only wish Corbyn on the new young lefty idiots whose understanding of history is only equaled by their misunderstanding of what a Corbyn-led country would mean. A prime example is this reopening of the coal mines – who would they get to go underground? Certainly not Britain’s molly-coddled youths, but even more Polish and Czech immigrants; and how do you balance the burning of dirty coal with the left’s global warming alarmist agenda? Elect Corbyn and it won’t be 20 years in the wilderness but the death of Labour as we know it – and good bloody riddance too.

  22. bert says:

    Jane, you sound far too reasonable a person to have any association with the Labour party. Your wise words will be wasted here, make no mistake about that.

    Anyway, if Corbyn does become leader, it will be very interesting to see who his Shadow Cabinet will be. Ummuna has already ruled himself out, and I cannot see Burnham or Cooper serving under him. So he’ll stuff his cabinet with loonies like Diane Abbott and Dennis Skinner.

    This is going to be one of the bloodiest car crashes in Labour’s history, put your house on it.

  23. sammy gravano says:

    ‘my grandchildren bringing up their families in a world that has had to accept Tory policies as the norm throughout their life.’

    yes and they should thank their lucky stars.

  24. Aron Lippe says:

    Foot was a buffoon stuck in the 1930s, Corbyn is a buffoon stuck in the 1970s. There is nobody in the Labour party with more charisma, intellect or credibility than a penguin at the zoo. They only worry about appealing to each other, not to the voter. Waste of time, waste of space.

  25. Bill Quango MP says:

    Scotland showed that people need positive reasons to vote for parties or candidates and not pathetic attempts to scare them.

    Actually, the referendum showed the exact opposite. I realise it doesn’t seem like it, but the Scots, actually, overwhelmingly, voted for nanny for fear of something worse.

    It was only later, that the Scots got all nationalist. Mostly blaming Labour for their own cowardice at the polls.

  26. Peter says:

    You say, about paying benefits to the scroungers seen on TV, “Of course [ex labour voters] were wrong to think this applied to more than a handful in society”.

    The solution is simple, if as you say these people are only a handful, because it would then be impossible for them to be receiving more than a tiny amount of money in total.

    So change Labour policy to strictly limit the amount of money paid to this handful of people, to say £1 million in total.

    This would totally convince everyone that Labour was not about subsidizing scroungers. And if you’re right, and these people are only getting only a tiny amount of money now, this limit would make no difference to their income. Win-win!

    You are right, aren’t you?

  27. Denziloe says:

    “Corbyn is Labour’s only chance of getting re-elected. Labour is supposed to be Left wing.”

    Historical facts are so annoying, aren’t they?

  28. John Reilly says:

    If you seriously think that only a handful (5, 6, 7?) of people in the UK are idle and prefer to live on benefits rather than working for a living and and paying taxes, then you really are a deluded fool and fail to understand why there has been such a massive increase in net migration over the past 20 years.

  29. Luke says:

    Goodnight and goodbye Labour, you had a good run. You did some good things. But your end is nigh.

  30. 07052015 says:

    The reason labour spent so long out of power was becos of Foot yes,but also the Falklands,right to buy and the sdp -none of which is on the cards.

    Still 2016 will be interesting -corbyn campaigns in scotland,opposes trident renewal and camerons EU terms .All we need now is boris to also oppose the EU terms as well.Very interesting.

  31. Landless Peasant says:

    Labour will be relegated to political wilderness unless it moves back to being a proper Left wing Socialist Party. I for one will not vote for Tory Lite.

  32. Donald Smith says:

    I’m not a Labour member or supporter. Watching all this from the outside. The level of disdain or even hatred from the different parts of the party towards each other is remarkable. Labour’s internal contradictions are at last coming back to be revealed. As a party it was founded by a mix of ideological socialists (ILP etc), pragmatic trades unionists (although the NUM remained with the Liberals until 1910), Christian socialists, radical liberals, co-operatives and others. Not all these could be accommodated by one single policy platform. Now we see a party falling apart. Isn’t it time for the Labour tribe to disband and rethink itself as at least two parties who could with sincerity and honesty present themselves to the electorate? Labour’s weakness I fell has always been its tribal feeling and a spurious unity of the ‘true believers’. British politics is the poorer for this and gives voters a lack of choice. But then the Labour Party would have to embrace electoral reform, not something it has a history of supporting. My advice – stop the name calling and bitching, be true to yourselves, dissolve the party and begin again as separate organisations in which you can each be happy instead of fighting your ‘colleagues’.

  33. Feodor says:

    “…the NUM remained with the Liberals until 1910”.

    Uh, Donald, the NUM wasn’t even founded until 1945, don’t know where you got that from. Also worth noting that while your analysis of Labour being too broad a church may be correct, you neglect to mention the most important development over the last twenty or so years–the rise of the Labour liberals. It’s hard to see how a party which contains slightly-watered down neo-liberals at one pole and non-revolutionary socialists at the other can be a particularly unified and cohesive force. Ideologically, that is a huge, irreconcilable schism.

  34. Julian says:

    I wouldn’t make the mistake of believing that it’s the ‘£3 Socialists’ who are, apparently, swinging the vote to Corbyn. As far as I can see a great number of ‘ordinary’ members have or plan to vote ‘Jezza’ too. I guess we’re all craving something which is the ‘authentic’ voice of a ‘true’ Labour opposition – not just, frankly, what appears to be the contemptuous sound of hollow personal ambition (yes Andy, Yvette, I’m talking about you). And into the breach steps ‘Jezza’ – speaking smooth, calm words of melifluous Socialism to warm the heart – and many are captivated. The truth is somewhat different, though. He is a massive risk to the party. It isn’t certain that he will cause the party to implode or disappear at the polls – clearly he has energised and inspired many who have been very disenchanted with what they see as ‘same old, same old’ politics. But it is also difficult to see what appeal he could have to a ‘middle ground’ – which Labour HAVE to win – which is more inclined to a Tory view of the world than it is to Jeremy’s. I fear they will just see him as, at minimum, well meaning but impractical, naive, not understanding ‘their’ world and ‘usual Labour’ – spendthrift and untrustworthy with the economy. He speaks to a certain constituency but he is not a vote winner where it counts.

Leave a Reply