Yes Labour must bold, but it must not fall into civil war

by Trevor Fisher

Only two responses to my recent piece on the need for Labour to be bold, addressed the issues. Ted Wilson is wrong to argue that the SNP should be held to its 2014 “Once in a Generation” slogan and no 2nd vote be allowed, this is the Boris Tory line and it is both politically and constitutionally wrong.

Constitutionally it has always been the case than campaign slogans cannot be enforced. Bill Clinton won his first presidency on Keynesian economics, went to the treasury and promptly junked all his campaign pledges – and embracing treasury orthodoxy did him no harm at all. No campaign slogan is ever enforceable. As Johnson is currently showing with the “Oven ready deal” slogan of 2019. Politically it is not the case, as Theresa May accepted, that a second referendum can be denied, so Labour should stop endorsing the Johnson-Tory position.

Meanwhile Labour’s internal politics are becoming toxic. Corbynites and anti-Corbynites are tearing the party apart. The three month suspension should be accepted and hostilities suspended.  As legal proceedings may happen, any discussion of the EHRC report and implications are sub judice, but a deeply ominous threat has emerged from three unions who are reported to have threatened to remove funding for the May 2021 elections unless Corbyn has the whip restored immediately.

According to the Mirror, Unite, CWU and FBU have made this threat which must be withdrawn. It is a direct attack on Labour’s campaigning and helps the Tories. Activists fighting elections depend on having central funding when needed, especially for Commissioner elections. The threat by the three unions goes to the heart of what Labour, as the Labour Representation Committee, was formed in 1900 to achieve – fight and win elections. Elections cannot be won without funding. Withdraw this threat NOW.

And the second valid comment on my article? Tafia for once got something right. Michael Meacher was indeed a lovely man. And saved the Labour Party. At a crucial moment in the battles of the 80s when the NEC was finely balanced between the factions, a vital vote was on a knife edge and Meacher normally voted with the left. Neil Kinnock whispered to Meacher, sitting next to him, “If I lose this vote I am resigning”. Michael switched his vote and won the day. I bought him a drink when next I met him, he did enjoy a drink. But he was also a political realist and knew when the leader had to be backed.  Activists on the NEC have a choice to make. Back the current leader, not the last one, and stop a civil war.

Trevor Fisher was a member of the Labour Coordinating Committee executive 1987-90 and secretary of the Labour Reform Group 1995- 2007. He was a member of the Compass Executive 2007-2009

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37 Responses to “Yes Labour must bold, but it must not fall into civil war”

  1. Alf says:

    Keef Starmer is useless. There are several Blairites at our CLP that think he’s a Tory!

  2. Anne says:

    When we have such major concerns going on – Covid, unpressed borrowing, Brexit and an illiterate government which, in many cases, is making a bad situation much worse with the decisions made we in the Labour Party have got this dispute going on. Most large organisations have procedures in place to deal with disciplinary matters – this is the correct place for this issue to be addressed – it is not responsible for unions, groups, MPs or anyone else to interfere with internal procedures. Corbyn has now got his lawyer in – this is something he should have done from the beginning – correct procedure must be followed. I am not a particular Corbyn supporter but I do believe in fairness. Also no group or person should dictate or interfere with Labour Party policy or the outcome. We all like to think we have a fair and reasonable system in place. In this way decisions made will be more acceptable, even if we don’t fully agree.

  3. Yes, a civil war is underway inside the party, but can anyone really pretend that the war was started by Starmer and Evans. I suspect that their advisors, or is it Evans himself, has called this wrong. What will they do at next year’s conference? Will they try to cancel it or emasculate it? Remember that Evans is only a ‘acting’ general secretary until ratified by conference. The complete mess we have now almost makes me think Luke Akehurst is running the whole shebang.

  4. A.J. says:

    Meacher was precisely the kind of two-faced snake others turned out to be – including the failed would-be PM Neil Kinnock, who went on to make himself a mint of money working for the EU. I don’t care how many pints an MP can shift down his local – it isn’t going to cut any ice with people like my former shop steward wife who now finds herself virtually stunned at voting Conservative – something I still refuse to do.

    Tafia has a habit of telling it how it iis, not adopting all the usual radical postures. Remember what Orwell said about ‘smelly little orthodoxies’?

  5. John .p Reid says:

    Not sure what the militant expulsion vote and Kinnock getting his way had to do with anything

  6. A.J. says:

    As for Scotland, allow them their second referendum – so long as they pay for it.
    But a family member assures me almost all SNP support in his neck of the woods (close enough to Clydeside) comes from former Labour voters, who were not impressed by Miliband or Corbyn and are not likely to be impressed by Stormzy ‘Take That Knee, Angela’ Starmer. Do you think Labour’s leadership in Scotland has been up to much these past few years?
    Scottish Nationalists – blue-painted faces and always the hand out for the next subsidy.

  7. A.J. says:

    Meacher’s little tiff with Alan Watkins was rather amusing, wasn’t it?

  8. A.J. says:

    Oh, and unless there are memoirs, diaries or other biographical or autobiographical material of which I’m unaware, do have a look at Meacher’s track record: his posturing hypocrisy. He was in good company, of course, and perhaps hob-nobbed with some of those nice Hampstead intellectuals who were busy ruining the lives of the working class during Harold Wilson’s time (see Trevor Fisher on Wilson) – or their well-heeled heirs.
    Mind you, Jimmy Thomas used to enjoy a swift half in the pub just around the corner from where I was brought up. I’m not sure whether he ever had the King along with him. Probably not.
    A Labour MP came from our street, six doors up. Contemporary of Jimmy.

  9. A.J. says:

    Paul Embery is in ‘The Spectator’: talking balls in the first paragraph – the ‘New Jerusalem’ indeed. What is this, a TV advert for Hovis? It’ll have the middle classes – like my first wife’s repellent mother – wiping a little tear from their Left eye…

  10. A.J. says:

    Ask yourselves this: was Labour ever a truly working class party? Think of Sidney and Beatrice Webb, of Tawney, of G.D.H. Cole, of Laski and their kind. They were would-be moulders of the working class mind; nothing more. George Orwell, for all his faults, more or less advised his readers to keep their options open. The old Liberal Party was never a working class party, it was full of shopkeeping, canting non-conformists; Labour grew out of that. No party of the Left has ever cared much for the working class other than as voting/placard-toting/newspaper selling on street corners fodder. I actually did working class jobs – left school on the Friday and began sawing and red-leading angle iron on the Monday morning. My first wife’s mother, the daughter of a bank manager,
    hated me for that. A true Bennite, her children dipped in and out of private schooling.
    No, this so-called abandonment of the working class is laying a false trail.

  11. A.J. says:

    What exactly is going on in Scotland under devolved government? Most of what I know is derived from our generally wretched media. ‘Period poverty’? What kind of Guardianista nonsense is that? Now I’m reading about winter school clothing banks (wake up, Corbyn, you’re evidently behind the times), when surely all Scottish children need to keep them warm is a hearty red pudding supper. Come on, Sturgeon, up on your hind legs, hand out and mouth wide open…

    Then Wales has its own posturing ponce in Mark Drakeford, busily pursuing the BLM agenda.
    Good to know Oscar Wilde is now on some Woke hit list…

  12. A.J. says:

    Why did Bevan not accept the notion that the NHS should be for the working class and that those who could afford to pay their way should do so?
    Why is there no recognition that, had Churchill won the election of 1945, a Conservative government might well have introduced an NHS?
    Why was Tony Crosland so spiteful about grammar schools educating working class children when Ellen Wilkinson had been in favour?
    Why, during the 1970s, was there no sensible solution offered over the sale of council houses? Why was it left to the Thatcherites to provide an answer? Were Labour afraid of what might happen if it conceded on what colour a front door might be painted?
    Why was there no rational debate over immigration, only emotional spasms?
    Chickens come home to roost. Where I live now was once considered safe Labour territory: some mining (mostly open-cast), lots of textiles, some light engineering and chemicals. Now you’ve got literally hundreds of new-build houses and apartments instead and the town fancies itself a bit trendy.
    Where I went to school, a couple of miles from home, was once mostly Labour but became a UKIP stronghold – mostly because a former Labour man took most of his supporters with him.
    The Labour people round here are public sector Momentum types. The Tories are as thick as pudding.
    Might be a bit of a nationwide problem.
    Someone in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ is already predicting the crumbling of the so-called ‘Blue Wall’. There’s no such thing. Nor was there ever a ‘Red Wall’. Just media nonsense. But I do think – as in Scotland – people got pissed off with being taken for granted. ‘The Guardian’ – to give it credit – refuses to write Johnson off so glibly.

  13. A.J. says:

    ‘Red Wall’ bollocks or not, seeing Bolsover go Conservative was a shock to the system for anyone born and bred in my neck of the woods and with miners in their family. Even Tories I knew used to say at least you knew where you were with Dennis. I don’t like him much but he put in some service. I know people in his constituency said he wasn’t seen around much, but he is getting on a bit and hasn’t been well.
    Sound views on the bloody European business. See him debating with Enoch and Bob Mellish et al. on YouTube.

  14. A.J. says:

    Does Trevor Fisher believe there should be a second referendum? If so, what does he think it would achieve – or, rather, what would the campaigning and attendant media attention achieve? Would the so-called ‘Red Wall’ be re-built? I think Starmer ought to be free to say what’s on his mind – or in his heart – then suck it and see. But it would be a risky business, no?

  15. A.J. says:

    If we were to rejoin the EU, would the Scots (SNP variety) learn to love the English more?
    There is a certain type who really enjoys a good plebiscite – so long as the result is the right one. There is a certain type who enjoys spouting about democracy – so long as they’re on the winning side.
    I’ve never liked the word/phrase ‘Remoaner’. I accept the sincerity of those who want to belong to something bigger, grander, more prone to mismanagement, corruption, lying excuses and plain feather-bedding. It’s just that most pro-EU types I know base their approval on two weeks in Tuscany – very much like one old Labour Party goat I knew who’d spent a day in East Berlin and thought how wonderful it all was.

  16. richard mackinnon says:

    It is incredible to watch the chaos one man has caused during his career. I cannot recall another politician that has managed to cause so much damage as Jeremy Corbyn has to the LP. The most remarkable thing about it is he has done the damage to his beloved party by default, his election as leader was a blunder. There is an irony here, that he became leader by mistake and then went on his wrecking spree, but the irony is compounded by another undeniable truth; he did it without meaning to.
    Jeremy Corbyn I believe is not in any way a duplicitous politician. He believes he is a moral and good human being, and he is.
    But when you survey the state of Her Majesty’s Opposition 2020 it is without doubt the most unbelievable political story. When the historians write this chapter in British politics how will blame be apportioned?
    Well the bending of the rules to let him stand in the first place was an obvious mistake.
    There is no argument, Tony Blair and his excursions in Iraq were instrumental in opening a deep schism. But then the BLP has always struggled with ideological differences within the ranks and has somehow carried on.
    What about Corbyn himself? Is he blameless for the debacle he has left behind? Again I cannot get over the farcical side of this. He was never leader material. He just did not have the tools. I think he has admitted it himself. Not directly but when he was made leader he said something along the lines of ‘doing things differently’ as I recall. Knowing his lack of skills for the big job should he have stood in the first place? (More irony on top of a lot of irony) He never thought he was ever going to win. No one did. He was as surprised as the rest of us. And once he did win was there any way out of it? Could he have said after being elected, or at any time during his chaotic reign, ‘I’m not up to this’?
    I’m not sure, that is open to opinion. He must have known what was coming down the road at him once he took the job on. He came with a lot of baggage. He had lots of enemies and they had lots of weapons.
    I am sure of this, Jeremy Corbyn is a vain man. He believes in himself and I dont think there is much self doubt in him. I think that is a big flaw in the mans character.
    He has others. I think he is weak. I think he is a coward. He never stood up for himself or his Party when the allegations of antisemitism were originally made and that dragged him down.
    There is another thing that irritates me when I watch clips of Jeremy Corbyn; he is not very bright. OK that is not his fault, but he could have overcome that by good preparation. But he never did and that is still a fault of his. He never sounds as if he is on top of his brief. He does’nt seem to be ready for the questions. His lack of depth of understanding his subject is obvious. He is superficial in debate, and that is a fault he has never owned. Politicians should do their homework before going in front of a camera, Corbyn does not. He thinks ‘he knows it’. Abbott is another example of a politician not doing the perp work. Thatcher took lessons from a voice coach. She understood the importance of preparation.
    I just had to go back their and change the tense in places. I wrote this in the past tense, understandably, but had to correct myself, because the story is not over. This is why we read politics. Where will the story of Jeremy Corbyn end up? Has his contribution to the BLP damaged it beyond repair? Can Keir Starmer somehow pull it back together? What does 2021 hold in store for the UK?

  17. jon livesey says:

    A Labour supporter who thinks the World would be ideal if only everyone did as he tells them. who saw that coming?

  18. David Bradley says:

    I have an ideal maybe the three unions should ask their membership if they should after all the membership is where they get their money from i suggest this as a member of the G.M.B who is getting very fed up in the way union membership is now being treated by the union management it seems to me and after talking to other union members they have become like the Labour party very London centric

  19. A.J. says:

    Is Paul Embery really talking in his book about ‘socialist economics’? Doubtless he lacked the benefit of foresight – don’t we all? – but what does he (or anyone) make of this ongoing ‘Tory’ splurging? It’s as though someone left the tap running then someone else decided to attach a garden hose to it, followed by a lawn-sprinkler. Back in the spring, however, that ‘bad smell under the nose’ character Evans-Pritchard, writing it the DT, urged Johnson to embrace socialism – in order, presumably, to save the sinking ship, i.e. an apparently already flatlining economy. Now both John McDonnell and Bernard Ingham have begun wading into Sunak. Another DT journalist refers to ‘economic illiteracy’, and it is certainly entertaining to imagine what that crusty old bugger Philip Snowden would have made of it. Mind you, if you fancy a pint of beer without a ‘substantial meal’ neither socialist economics nor the free market are going to be of much use to you at the moment. Meanwhile, at my pro-EU, pro-NHS, pro-anything vaguely Leftie next door neighbour’s, Amazon vans come and go with alarming frequency. My wife, sitting in her makeshift office at the front of the house, is the perfect Stasi operative….

  20. A.J. says:

    Compare many – too many – figures in the modern Labour Party with a man of integrity like John Belcher. Even Bob Crow – who had sound views on capital punishment – stood accused of feathering his own nest.

  21. A.J. says:

    I assume, going on the current state of affairs inside the Party at a highish level, Trevor Fisher is writing more in hope than expectation. The outlook appears to remain gloomy, although I have read somewhere or other that the unions will fall into line behind Starmer after a given period of posturing.
    There may not have been exactly civil war back in the day, but there was little love lost between Bevan’s people and those who went with Hugh Gaitskell (a leader who I admire very much, albeit with certain reservations; not unlike George Lansbury). Then there was that protracted period of awkwardness for both Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan. These things don’t just come bubbling up out of the ground, now, do they?
    But there are many, many questions for the current leadership to answer, and Trevor Fisher shouting NOW like a toddler wanting his sweet ration is likely to impress no-one – certainly not the harder-headed Momentum types.
    Even as we speak, though, Drakeford in Wales appears to be playing silly games of his own, reminding anyone who cares to read about it of Labour’s basic mentality when it should be banging on about public sector housing, various aspects of the kind of infrastructure that really matter, and creating green spaces where children can play without encountering perverts and junkies. Kowtowing to BLM has to stop… now…

  22. A.J. says:

    Still, it could be worse. We could be Finnish.

  23. A.J. says:

    Hugely amusing to see the SNP being described as ‘structurally racist’. That quite made my day. I love the shift from ‘ethnic minority’ to ‘minority ethnic’, too. Proof positive that Sturgeon may well go tripping over her own knickers come 2021.

  24. A.J. says:

    I’ve just been going over some older ‘Labour Uncut’ articles and responses. I see Tafia predicted (or something of that kind) that the rather irritating Yvette Cooper would either be deselected else lose her seat (2019). Well. But not to worry. At least Mr. Cooper waltzed off into the sunset. But I do wonder if the Conservative Party would ever manage to tie itself into knots the way those who produce the LU articles seem to. I rather think not. I believe Clement Attlee used to say that it was the Party intellectuals who invariably got everything wrong. I cannot imagine sitting down with some the old battleaxes and warhorses who were still around in the mid-80s and having a ding-dong about quotas, radical trans horseshit, ‘structural racism’, whether Nelson pissed in a pot made by a slave or whatever. Their interest was in council houses, schools, people not being fucked about by their GPs or the local hospital, cleaning up dogshit. Ordinary people, ordinary lives.

  25. A.J. says:

    Google the photograph of Belper and Duffield Labour Party. Only the dog on the right of the photograph looks as if it has a spark of intelligence.

  26. A.J. says:

    Has David Evans now scored an obvious own goal by disallowing chit-chat over Corbyn?

  27. A.J. says:

    Posted on the 25th and still no comments. What, is Trevor Fisher still waiting for someone who agrees with him? Where’s Anne when you need her? She can usually be relied on for a chuckle or two.
    The SNP get-together over this weekend. Let’s hope they have a lovely time passing lots of interesting resolutions.
    Meanwhile, south of the border, Keir Starmer is about to put his head on the chopping block – at least according to ‘The Guardian’ – by backing Johnson’s deal (whatever it might finally amount to) via a three line whip – just to prove to the so-called ‘Red Wall’ voters that metropolitan north London liberals now share their pain. Good for a laugh, anyway.

  28. A.J. says:

    Ah, I see Owen Jones agrees with Trevor Fisher (‘Guardian’ article 28th November) to a greater or lesser extent. But Owen is talking out of his backside, particularly towards the end, about the political sympathies of young people and then, in the final paragraph, about the potential for ‘transformative government’. The young people will sooner or later fall under the absolute domination of the free market (if they haven’t already) and the notion of ‘transformative government’, well, that’s the same twaddle Jones and his kind have been peddling forever and a bleeding day. As for the possibility of wounds being healed any time soon… Labour loves its faction fighting far too much to settle for a kiss and cuddle behind the bikeshed then a marriage lasting long enough to see them into a General Election campaign. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

  29. A.J. says:

    Putting the ongoing internal strife aside for a moment, might it not be the case that the electorate will be feeling nothing but hatred and contempt for the entire political establishment come next spring? Just look at the way the police are behaving. Virtually everything is photographed now and their bullying tactics are there for all to see. Older political figures, the likes of Tony Benn, Michael Foot or Enoch Powell, would have had something to say on the subject of civil liberties. Now? Next to nothing. And what if the 2021 elections are cancelled? What happens to democracy then? Keir Starmer should have been given his chance this year, if he’s denied it in 2021 he should be shouting about it loud and clear. Before then, though, he could do himself some good – as could one or two of his witless, gutless MPs, by criticizing the inane blundering, outright lie-telling and contempt for the individual by the so-called ‘Conservative Party’. I shan’t be holding my breath.

  30. John P Reid says:

    The only thing blue labour has in common with new labour is both want(ed) to win a section of the electorate that vote Tory in the formers case it’s the working class who went away from labour, As labour think they’re scum ,in The latter case it was the middle class part of the electorate who didn’t trust the Labour Party with their money

  31. John. P reid says:

    I get the impression from inner London labour
    The working class Love for the Labour Party had fallen out as the guardian
    bought into the Blue labour view of getting back working class votes,
    was A pointless think to try to do, and the guardian felt getting ex Libdem voters who were disillusioned with the coalition And middle class, was a better strategy and blue labours Paul embery was sexist as he’d criticised Emily Thornberry for sneering at a working class family who’d put a St george flag up by his home , after the meeting I chatted to her said the first person Paul embery had criticised was Gordon brown for wrongly saying Mrs Duffy who had genuine concerns in migration was “a bigoted lady” and Brown apologised so Paul embery wasn’t sexist for criticising  Ms Thornberry
    And there was A web page had found more people living in £700,000 homes in The posh parts of London had said more racist things than the working class, so Shami Chakrabarti saying the working class of Essex was The racist people there, was wrong

    But the thing I did agree with is local labour parties want their constituency to represent their views

    Now 25 years ago  I bought into the new labour view get middle class votes  of The working class

    While I have great admiration for blue labour I kind of see the point of if a ex Libdem or that their local constituencies members views don’t share their views they feel Jin welcome at a meeting

  32. A.J. says:

    Now Angela Rayner is apparently throwing her weight around, threatening to suspend ‘thousands’ of members. Good luck with that one, Angela, for starters.
    Daft piece by Andrew Fisher in ‘The Guardian’ (albeit correct about that arsewipe Gove being a Marxist), yet bringing some fairly coherent responses (as well as the expected Bojo this, Bojo that hot air).
    Simon Heffer published an article in the ‘Sunday Telegraph’ this weekend which should be of concern to anyone who values democratic values and the rule of (rational) law.

  33. A.J. says:

    I have the crazy notion that Labour will do better in the 2021 elections than may be currently expected – just as they did better than expected in 2017, when enough people thought Jeremy was Santa Claus and Theresa May just a bit thick and arrogant (insufficient, anyway, to be a truly winning combination). Commissioners for ‘Crime’ (of what description?) can be swept to power by two men and a whippet, then have a lovely time tweeting and twittering about ‘diversity’ whilst the burglars and drug-dealers go about their lawful business. We must be about due another ‘Gay Pride’ march in our small town: surgical masks ought to set off the rainbow banners a treat. Oh, I actually saw a copper yesterday, in a car, about to queue up for petrol. At least I think it was a copper. It could have been, say, a paramilitary lollipop lady on a Sunday-afternoon jaunt.
    One of our local Labour bods managed to get onto the County Council a few years ago by promising to keep open the public toilets. Ladies, don’t get caught short in Amber Valley.
    Nothing to choose here: thick, middle-class Corbynistas as opposed to thick, middle-class Tories. I think a Liberal Democrat might have been spotted scurrying for cover behind a convenient thicket several years ago. He probably discovered a lady spending a penny.

  34. A.J. says:

    Mind you, it’ll be interesting to see how Labour gets on in Wales after a few weeks of pre-Christmas lemonade.

    Nicola Sturgeon says she would very much like to see her parents indoors at Christmas.
    Ah, but will they be overjoyed at seeing Nicola?

  35. A.J. says:

    Concerning the second paragraph of this (rather meaningless) article, does it not strike the reader as rather cynical? We all know what a certain American said about elections being a time when the voters imagine what it is they want then deserve to get it, hot and strong.
    I expect there are untold thousands of youthful voters – mostly ‘students’ – who imagine that the Labour Party is somehow libertarian, else pledged to fund their trips to Glastonbury, drugs, beer and so on. Not much hard work involved; no boiler suits with your initials stencilled on your back and something like a Covid Marshal standing over you with a clenched fist. The Tories are often quite horrible, even inexplicable, in the way they go about things, but the Labour Party too often reminds me of the clergyman who wears a beaming smile for his congregation but is then glugging the commuinion wine and shagging the choir boys.

  36. Tafia says:

    @A.J. (November 27, 2020 at 3:49 pm)
    I see Tafia predicted (or something of that kind) that the rather irritating Yvette Cooper would either be deselected else lose her seat (2019).

    Against expectation, she held the seat narrowly by 1,076 votes from the tories. This was a supposed Labour ‘safe seat’. Her vote collapsed 21.6% (11,000 votes)

    She would have lost the seat except for two things –

    a. She promised her CLP (who are Labour Leavers) she would no longer obstruct Brexit, and promised her electorate she would not stand in the way of it anymore.
    b. Brexit Party also fielded a candidate who took over 8,000 votes. That combined with the Tory vote would have seen her lose the seat by quite a margin.

  37. John P Reid says:

    Richard Mackinnon

    So I was shopping with my wife who’s black I’m not and I’m white so A do gooder also white comes up to me accused me of being a undercover shop security guard and I was following the black lady around as I assumed she was a shop lifter as she’s black

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