Labour: Stop meeting. Start leading. Or others will

by Jonathan Todd

“There are decades where nothing happens,” according to Lenin, “and there are weeks where decades happen.”

We are living weeks of decades. At least the Great British public are. In contrast, Labour, with its Leninist conclave nominally at our helm, are having some meetings.

Meetings about meetings. Paranoid bunker meetings. Rousing, Kinnock-fuelled PLP meetings. Nice that Neil’s still got it in him. But just a meeting.

But some meetings don’t happen. Like between our leader and deputy. Portland Communications, newly rumbled and keen to appear even-handed but doubtless driven by dastardly capitalist motive to showcase a client, have given them both brain reading technology.

This means that they are constantly meeting, even when they are not meeting, but never, decade after decade, saying anything relevant to a population crawling into a new, disconcerting era.

Change so bewildering that a politician who struggles to guarantee the status of EU nationals in the UK, against a backdrop of intimidation to such people, starts to appear the least bad PM option. Better than the “political psychopath” who did as much as anyone to induce this Brexit catastrophe. Preferable to the new Iron Lady – who, as the Remain frontrunner is intensely scrutinised, might win to satiate the Tory thirst for a Leaver.

No matter who the next PM is, they have no mandate for the terms upon which the UK leaves the EU. The Leave campaign – on a false prospectus that no one is held to account for – won a Brexit mandate.

No-one, though, has a mandate for our terms of exit. For a PM to initiate this exit without such – which can only come from a general election or second referendum – would be as scandalous as the disingenuous, powder keg of Leave.

This PM must be held to account; the country deserves an alternative future. You don’t need brain reading technology to know Labour provides none of this.

Brexit transformed the inadequacies of Corbyn’s Labour from party disappointments to national scandals. Corbyn ruinously failed to prevent the UK tumbling out of our most vital alliance and is now unable to either properly hold to account those now responsible for charting a new course or to credibly set out what Labour would do differently.

Labour might begin by noting that of the options likely to be available, EEA status would do the least harm to the UK’s economy. But this would do nothing about free movement – perhaps most effectively combated by a country crashing its economy and endlessly going on about how much it hates hard working, ambitious people coming to its shores – and would mean that the rules of the single market are applied to the UK with the UK having no say over these rules.

If Labour were leading, we’d open people’s eyes to this. “But what,” the Leave part of Labour’s base would angrily ask, “are you going to do about all those hard working, ambitious people?”

“Well,” we might say, if we were leading, “no matter how hard working and ambitious they are, they will have zero access to public housing, the NHS, or benefits till they have contributed enough through national insurance to earn them.”

Leaving the EU is a destructively wrong answer to immigration – a debate that has been largely about numbers of people coming to the UK. Contributory welfare is the right one.

The numbers game on immigration is a madness that threatens the nightmares of PM Leadsom and her most vocal opposition coming from even further right, as UKIP reap a bitter harvest of Leavers across Labour’s heartlands.

This, for Labour, is an unwinnable death spiral. We must play smarter. By reconfiguring all public services around contribution. Immigrants, like everyone else, can only access them once they’ve contributed. A policy of something-for-something, a debate about contribution, not numbers.

Once the promises of Leave evaporate; the disadvantages of even the UK’s best option, EEA, manifest; contributory welfare takes the sting out of immigration; we might get round to thinking that we are better off in the EU.

The 48% can grow in size, they hunger for leadership now. All those most destructive to Labour – not just Leadsom and UKIP but even darker forces, Marine Le Pen et al, further afield – are seizing their opportunities.

To lead the 48% is Labour’s opportunity. But Labour is meeting, not leading. The craving for leadership from the 48% is such that if Labour doesn’t lead them, alternative leadership will emerge. Such leadership, whether via Labour or other centre-left forces, is imperative to the UK’s interests.

There is no historical inevitability – pace Lenin and other determinists – to Labour’s withering or cogency. We must choose to be part of the future or not. And in choosing, we help form this future.

Marx understood this. While professing the historic inevitability of communism, he published the Communist Manifesto to try to shape the future emerging around him.

The liberal, social democratic manifesto of the 48% remains unwritten. Its future will never be born in a Labour meeting. Only leadership can bring this future into the present. The only question is where this will come from.

Jonathan Todd is Deputy Editor of Labour Uncut 

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13 Responses to “Labour: Stop meeting. Start leading. Or others will”

  1. james says:

    The funny thing is that I find Brexit very liberal and much more so than Remain that is really an old fashioned sort of unprogressive stodge. No one regards as social democracy as the default guarantee of progressive values and outcomes. That’s the message from Brexit.

    I remind myself of James Callahan’s words in 1979: ` “You know there are times, perhaps once every thirty years, when there is a sea-change in politics. It then does not matter what you say or what you do. There is a shift in what the public wants and what it approves of.”

    “I suspect there is now such a sea change and it is for Mrs Thatcher – scrub that and insert Mrs Leadsome or Mrs May.`

  2. John P Reid says:

    What Akkad of Pony,
    For a start it is Rheresa May, the remainder who was talking bout not letting EU citizens already here, stay, and the leave campaign, including Leadson, we’re all saying that people already here could stay, wither apply, for citizenship, or at worse reapply for their jobs
    The idea that Leaving will be so bad it’ll cause those Ex labour voters who now vote Ukip, or the 37% of labour voters who voted Brexit, to say ‘we’ve made a mistake we’re now neo liberal remainders’ is daft, the Soectator carried a great article saying leavers who’ve been ridiculed, scorned called racist will one day be seen as right, in fact more remain voters,now wish they’d voted leave, than abrexiters who wish they’d voted remain
    Land Immigration was hardly a issue with the majority of working class abrexiters in the South
    The slurs, comparisons with Marie ler pen, or ‘dark forces’ was childish
    Is no one holding to account the slurs the working class are thick, violent and racist, by Diane Abbot, Ava Vidal, Polly toynbee or Emily arhornberry
    Is no one criticisng, Bob Geldoff,or Richard Branson, both who make a fortune on,off shore accounts, including private housing and the NHS

    What part of the 48% only about 15% were labour voters, who these days outside London and some in Scotland are our middle class liberal vote, who probably were in the libdems up to 2010, don’t you understand

  3. TC says:

    Leaving to one side yet another repeat of the lie that Corbyn led a bad EU referendum campaign, let’s talk about leadership.

    Who is a better position to provide leadership: is it the @ChickenCoup plotters who, with 10 months of planning and preparation, backed up by serious support in the media, have not only failed to oust Corbyn but have in fact strengthened his grip on the party, and who are currently busy turning themselves into laughing stocks by steadfastly refusing to launch a leadership challenge? Or is it the current leader, elected with massive support from the membership, the size of which has more than doubled during his tenure, who has ridden out crisis after crisis created by disloyal party members like you who would prefer to undermine a left-wing leader at any cost rather than get behind him, and who has behaved in a thoroughly statesmanlike way, even offering an olive branch to the PLP after their failed putsch while making it clear that he will not betray those who voted for him?

    While we consider that question, we might also reflect that although Corbyn’s leadership has been far from perfect, it would have been damn sight better if certain sections of the party had decided to respect the leadership election results and support Corbyn rather than trying to undermine him from day one.

  4. Well said, Jonathan.

    Whatever the best answer to Brexit, it won’t be easy. But an alternative movement will start to form.

    People in Labour shouldn’t fear it, though. Those of us who want a sensible, compassionate alternative to the Tories aren’t your enemies, we are your allies. But you need to get your act together. And I’m afraid Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership team has shown they are preventing that.


  5. Peter Kenny says:

    Meetings! This is the great ‘moderate’ PLP failing, failing and failing again. Some in tears listening to Kinmock, as well they might be!

    The grim thing about these articles is their deliberate mendacity. Corbyn and Labour didn’t lose the referendum, the Tories did. The supposedly masterful Cameron couldn’t bring his 2015 support with him only one year on – look at Ashcroft’s polls.

    Also Corbyn is not a Leninist, he’s a left Social Democrat. Kinnock apparently said he was a ‘revolutionary socialist’ – utter nonsense and deliberately so.

    It’s like the idea that the 10,000 who demonstrated for Corbyn at Parliament were all the SWP. The various Trotskyist groups don’t have 10,000 in the whole country.

    Most of the Corbyn programme would have been happily implemented by Ted Heath, that’s how right wing our discourses have become.

    I’m struck by how useless the overwhelming majority of politicians are faced by a genuine crisis – essentially running around waving their hands in the air.

  6. Mike Homfray says:

    Switching to contributory welfare would be exceptionally expensive – as Frank Field was told when he was asked to go away and think the unthinkable.
    We start from a largely means tested system and to set up a system with a level playing field to begin the process will be very challenging and doesn’t deal with those who haven’t contributed such as young people.

  7. Tafia says:

    Change so bewildering that a politician who struggles to guarantee the status of EU nationals in the UK, against a backdrop of intimidation

    Amateurish bilge. Persons from other countries that fibnd themselves caught up in a a status issue following a treaty change are protected by the Vienna Convention on the Law on Treaties. Basically, any EU national here right up until the moment we invoke Article 50, retains their status, rights and privilages for the rest of the time they reside here. Likewise any UK nationals in theother EU countries.

    With two exception – France. France never signed the Convention because they deemed it gave to many rights away (so any UK national living in France, that’s what the French really think of you and because it’s reciprocal, we have no obligation to French nationals living here either). The other country is Romania – who just never bothered getting round to signing it.

  8. Mark Livingston says:

    The Chicken Coup has failed. The plotters know that any Blairbot contender would be publicly humiliated.

  9. Tafia says:

    No matter who the next PM is, they have no mandate for the terms upon which the UK leaves the EU. The Leave campaign – on a false prospectus that no one is held to account for – won a Brexit mandate.

    Every bit of that paragraph is wrong.

    Article 50 is part of a sovereign Treaty. The Prime Minister – as the Monarch’s chosen representative, has sole right to trigger it without consultation and that, whether you like it or not, is a legal fact. There is no need for a Parliamentary debats, no need for a vote and no need for even advance warning. Whoever is PM can trigger it whenever they like. Being as the EU are currently adamant – no negotiation until Article 50 is invoked, then the whole thing is now none of Parliaments business because a) it’s up to the PM & b) Once Article 50 is triggered it’s unstoppable – even if negotiations fail we are out 24 months later.

    No matter who would have won the referendum, neither side would have any mandate whatsoever. Both sides were campaign groups, were not political parties and were and are not in Parliament. The minute the result was announced, both sides were dissolved and no longer exist.

  10. Maurice Cavindish says:

    “No-one, though, has a mandate for our terms of exit”

    Regardless of this opinion, The world and britain goes forward.

    This is the will of the brittish people and they voted to leave,
    There will be no second vote.
    And there shoudn’t be one.
    To argue that labour wasn’t good enough to convince the voters and “open their eyes”, therefor the vote is invalid, Is nonsense.

  11. Mark Livingston says:

    Angela Eagle is an unelectable Blairbot. Owen Smith is a slightly less unelectable Blairbot. The #ChickenCoup has failed.

  12. Andy Harrigan says:

    Why do you keep banging on about hard working immigrants, maybe just maybe its all about democracy. Something that Labour has been missing for years.

  13. joh np Redi says:

    mark Livingston, the idea that Angela eagle who was sacked by text message by blair,is a blairite, is silly

    the CLPD backed her for deputy

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