Corbyn’s a disaster but we must fight, fight and fight again to save the party we love

by Rob Marchant

It all seems so obvious now. But none of us was predicting it over breakfast yesterday, partly because Theresa May had several times denied it was a possibility. In some ways, it might have paid her to let Jeremy Corbyn stay in a few more years and hurt Labour’s polling more.

But the combination of the lack of a decent majority and the lack of legitimacy of a prime minister who has never gone to the polls, combined with Labour’s unprecedentedly awful polling made it a very modest gamble indeed. And leaders, to be a success, need to learn how to gamble when the odds are good.

News correspondents, bless them, for the purposes of unbiased reporting need to now pretend for the next seven weeks that Labour has a chance of winning. But no serious commentator is predicting any such thing. It is simply impossible. The party is in damage limitation in a way it is difficult to imagine it has ever been before. It is fighting for its life.

Its problems can be summarised in four points.

One: this is the Brexit election and Labour has no answers. Its leader pretended to be anti-Brexit but was really pro. He has now even stopped any pretence otherwise and the party’s message is therefore utterly confused. With the result that Labour is now mistrusted by many in both pro- and anti- camps. Worse, current polls show that voters care more about Brexit than they do political colours. So Labour can effortlessly be squeezed by UKIP and the Tories in some constituencies and the Lib Dems or Greens in others.

Two: the snap election means that Labour’s ground war will be its worst ever. This is the first snap election in forty-three years. There are very few staffers, if any, who even remember the last one.

Given the point in the parliamentary cycle, Labour has few new candidates selected, and had to endure hours yesterday of the prospect of the Leader’s office suicidally attempting to enforce mandatory reselections on the sitting MPs. Fortunately this was ultimately abandoned but not before souring relations at the top of the party even further.

The Tories won’t be much more advanced in terms of candidate selection, but in the marginals they should easily be able to find candidates who fancy a spell in Westminster and have a really very good chance of arriving there.

Although Labour has a little more from the influx of new members, it is still strapped for cash and will be easily outspent by the Tories.

Electoral data is two years out of date already and there is no time to update it. Their new, Corbyn-supporting activists will largely not door-knock and their old ones will struggle to motivate themselves.

In short, the party would have been poorly placed for street campaigning if it had the normal five years to prepare. This time it has seven weeks.

Three: policy vacuum, awful media management and far-left skeletons mean that its air war will also be its worst ever.

Even apart from its confusion on Brexit, the party has barely a handful of policies to scrape together. Having had to run two leadership elections in two years, the party has barely begun its normal policy-formation process. The most likely outcome is that it will campaign on a variation of Corbyn’s woefully-vague “pledges” on which he battled the leadership. Nothing firm, nothing costed. The Tories, meanwhile, can run on some variation of their 2015 manifesto, and doubtless someone has been secretly working in No. 10 in recent weeks to tweak it into a professional-looking effort.

The old days of tight media management are also gone. Corbyn ducks hard questions and has spent 18 months blaming the media for his poor performance. One wonders if they will even manage the usual “grid” of campaign stories which Labour has run since Alastair Campbell days.

And then there is the whole of Corbyn’s and McDonnell’s political career. The consensus in the Westminster lobby is that the Tories have wisely been holding back on publishing the most juicy of their attack lines, saving them up for a moment such as this. Anti-Semitism, IRA support, Islamist terrorist support, unilateralism, sucking up to Putin, you name it. At a national message level, it’s shooting fish in the proverbial barrel. There will be a negative story every day about Labour and they will all be impossible to defend against.

Four: the party leader has no resonance outside his own party. General elections are about leadership and Corbyn has polled disastrously since his election. May will not enter the TV debates, why should she?

All of this adds up to it only be a question of the scale of the disaster, just how many seats we are left with. Honestly, why bother? A reasonable party member might ask themselves.

And so we must now make the case for what needs to be done. There is no question there will be a defeat and Corbyn will own it. We are way past any worry about that.

There are a few rays of light on the horizon. We could have a half-decent result with the metro mayors, if not in the locals overall. Len McCluskey might yet fall next week, which would be a game-changer, albeit an unlikely one.

In the end, it’s a question of whether it will be 50, 100 or 150 seats we lose. And that’s worth fighting for.

We can choose to do nothing, and let everything fall apart. Or choose to resist, for what will come after the election. This party has been a great force for good in this country and it can be again. But it is on life-support. It needs help. This election is about staunching the flow of blood out of the wound, so as not to kill the patient. Saving those seats we can. Fighting not just the Tories without but the far left within.

The only sensible choice is to hold your nose and vote for Jeremy Corbyn. He will never become prime minister, so your conscience is perfectly clear. Hold your nose and door-knock. Hold your nose and come out for your decent local councillor or MP, who deserve better than this.

In Hugh Gaitskell’s brilliant, defiant words: to fight, fight and fight again, to save the party we love.

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour party manager who blogs at The Centre Left


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17 Responses to “Corbyn’s a disaster but we must fight, fight and fight again to save the party we love”

  1. Ian says:

    Or vote LibDem and stand a chance of unseating at least some of the Tory MPs….

  2. buttley says:

    “In Hugh Gaitskell’s brilliant, defiant words:” ……. which if i am not mistaken, utterly failed in their intended objective.

    “Krusty the Klown as its campaigns chief”……Torsten Bell holds that moniker proudly & deservedly, you have no right to take it from him.

  3. Anon says:

    Wow…just wow!

    No mention of an EU constitutional treaty being forced upon the UK people.
    No mention of Iraq and David Kelly. Common Purpose and ‘Progressive Intervention’.
    No mention of the revolving door between the Health Secretary’s office and private health directorships.
    Cash for questions, Peerages.
    No mention of borrowed billions from unregulated banks.
    Etcetera….

    I’m no Corbyn lover, but Mr Marchant is a million miles away from street level opinion.

    The carnage was well in process long before the Corbyn farce.

    Alastair Campbell? Seriously? FFS!

  4. Normish says:

    All this assumes Corbyn has the integrity to resign once Labour is beaten – he does’nt.
    The Corbyn cult needs to own this defeat completely and be hammered.
    Anything less then a massacre and Corbyn will claim he has done better than expected and will cling on, kept on by the leftist swing of the new intake MPs.

  5. Jamie says:

    I don’t think anyone has been “sucking up to Putin.” They may have argued that it’s a bad idea to start a new cold war with Russia, which is a perfectly reasonable position and one shared by many people of all political persuasions.

  6. Touchstone says:

    Tories: Ukip policies

    Labour: Ukip policies with a seasoning of lefty-student whingeing

    Anyone who doesn’t want to join the Brexit lemmings has no choice but to vote Lib Dem, the only party with any spine left.

  7. paul barker says:

    Labour hasnt been a “Force for Good” in this Century, remember ID Cards & 30 Days without Charge ? Labours decline didnt start with Corbyn, Milliband or Brown.
    Labour is dying but not fast enough for Centre-Left voters to unite round The Libdems & stop The Tories. If you really cared about your Party you would want it to die with some Dignity left.

  8. John.p Reid says:

    Butley Gaitskell said fight,fight again in 1960′ after Labour gave voted at conference to go unilateral, he reversed it 4 months later, then was on 25% ahead in the polls just before his death, which 19 months after Harold Wilson b came leader, we won a election ,on a multi lateral policy, hung about being leader for 19 months and Wilson won, was he took credit for it, same as if a leader had been leader for 22 months and lost a leadership election in June this year they’d have totake tepsonsiblilty for it

    I see Diane Abbott has already put on twitter if Jeremy loses its cos he hasn’t had long enough to be leader and it’s new labours fault

    Anon ,what has David kelly’s suicide got to do with whether labour were any good b fore Jeremy?
    Paul barker ,Jeremy voted for a months degntion

  9. madasafish says:

    Five

    (Omitted by Rob Marchant).

    Labour’s biggest problem is that the botched reforms of Ed Miliband and the dumb stupidity of some Labour MPs allowing Corbyn to stand as leader have resulted in a party membership far to the left of the electorate.

    As the membership choose the Leader, naturally enough they will vote for a left wing candidate. So if and when Corbyn retires or dies of old age or continues on till he’s in his eighties, the next Leader is going to present the electorate with the same mix of half baked incoherent rubbish which they rejected forty years ago.

    Unsurprisingly – unless things change a lot – it is likely that that nect Leader will lose the next General Election as well.

    So Labour have a choice if they want to ever be in power again. Change the membership, change the voting system for Leader or hope the Electorate decide to do a U turn in the long turn trends apparent since 1979 when Mrs Thatcher was elected.

  10. buttley says:

    Barry Gardiner, made Bunter, eat his own lard today. That is how you take on an opponent.

  11. Mike says:

    Labour need to suffer a major defeat. The electoral system protects them – the Conservatives polled 30% in 1997 but only had 165 MP’s. Labour polled lower in 2010 and 2015 (or thereabouts) and received over 50 MP’s more.
    The Conservatives need a solid majority since 12 is too small and have correctly gone for the main chance to unify the country – as witnessed by polling 48% – won`t get that but wow.

  12. Tafia says:

    There’s nothing wrtong with a month’s detention for certain types of offence such as serious terror, internet child pornography, complicated (usually internent-based) financial offences.

    These things take a lot of time to do initial investigatory work due to their sheer complexity and because of the nature of the offences it’s vital that the people being investigated have their access to the outside world severely curtailed.

  13. Tony says:

    Tafia:

    There is something wrong, however, with playing politics with basic freedoms.

    Andrew Rawnsley:

    “Ninety days (pre-charge detention for terror suspects) had not been asked for by the intelligence services. They were, in fact, privately against detention without trial for such a long period”

    “Her (Elizabeth Manningham-Buller, head of MI5) opposition would remain
    secret until she retired from the service.”

    “In terms of political positioning, Blair calculated that he was in the right place. He believed he was outflanking the Tories by making himself look tougher on terror”.

    “The End of the Party: The Rise and Fall of New Labour” by Andrew Rawnsley (Viking 2010) hardback edition.

    Pages 340, 341.

    Hope you find this useful.

  14. Tafia says:

    Tony, Government policy is formulated by Government – not government’s servants.

    (not to mention I said a month – not three months.)

  15. steve says:

    Vote for the party you don’t want to win?

    I must say, that is a veritable masterstroke of political thought!

    It really is unfortunate that the despicable Corbyn opted for the slogan “Straight-talking, honest politics.”

    Clearly, the slogan would find a much better home aside of Rob’s name.

  16. Dragonfighter says:

    Taffia @10:02
    Have you never heard of the EU? It is the Commission that formulate the policy, the Parliament only gets to accept or reject it.

  17. Paul says:

    Sick to death of reading anti JC blogs / labour mp’s resigning “because of JC” when there is a political battle with the Tories to be had.
    Whatever the perceived wisdom is about the election outcome Labour supporters / employees need to ask themselves the following question.
    Do I want:
    A labour majority government led by JC.
    A coalition government exc tories.
    A coalition government inc tories.
    A tory majority government.
    Make a decision and act accordingly throughout this general election.
    Stop secretly wanting a Labour collapse in order to get rid of JC, how dare people who think like this call themselves any supporters of social based politics.
    The battle right now is with is right wing politics.
    For me I will take a troubled Labour government over a rampant tory government all day long.
    As a party we are where we are at for a multitude of complex and historical reasons, JC is the product of this not the cause.

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