If Jeremy Corbyn wins, we need to make it work

by Brian Back

Let’s face it: with so little time left before members vote for a new leader, it is time that we stopped the shouting, insults and dire forecasts for the future.

It is time to face the facts.

It is time that we took a calm, pragmatic view of the possibility of a Corbyn win. Whilst we should not stop campaigning for the other candidates, we have to face the fact that a Corbyn win is a real possibility. That being the case, how should we deal with this prospect?

So far, everyone seems to be asking the wrong questions regarding the possibility of Corbyn becoming the new Labour leader.

Some have asked whether those in the centre-ground of the Labour party should split, and start a new party, if Corbyn wins. That is not a sensible question, because forming a new party would just split the left-wing vote, thereby guaranteeing a Tory win at the next election. Also, most members would stay with the Corbyn-led Labour party, as would the unions, so the new party would have few members or activists, and very little funding, as well as a very short life-span.

Others have asked whether the centre-ground MPs should stage a coup and force another election contest. This is not sensible either, as disunity and conflict are the biggest problems we face; problems which, if not dealt with, always spell electoral disaster, and a coup would only make things much worse. Furthermore, the next contest would probably be won by Corbyn again, but with a bigger majority, as Labour members react with fury against MPs who are seen to ignore members’ wishes.

Another big question is whether his opponents should refuse to accept shadow cabinet positions if he wins. Some big name MPs have already stated that they would not work with Corbyn.

However, those MPs who have said that they will not work with him are surely only saying that for tactical reasons, because their main argument regarding a more centre-ground approach is that; you have to be in power, if you want to make changes. By that logic, it is obvious that accepting a shadow cabinet post gives one the power to influence Corbyn’s policies, so they will, and must surely find a way to reverse that decision and work with him, for the good of the party and the people it represents, who desperately need the party to be at full strength and firing on all cylinders.

Most commentators who oppose Corbyn have stated that his leadership would leave us forever shouting from the sidelines. Once again, the argument holds true regarding a shadow cabinet position- refusing a place in the cabinet would relegate centre-ground MPs to a position of just grumbling from the backbenches.

These questions have to be seen as just tactical manoeuvres in the leadership contest, which, whilst being entirely understandable in that context, have no place in any serious discussion regarding a Corbyn-led Labour party.

Instead of these questions, we should now be asking the same question we would ask regarding any of the candidates- if they become leader, how do we win the next election?’

So, firstly, we need to consider the biggest question regarding winning the next election; is Jeremy Corbyn unelectable? The answer is: only if we make him that- by creating a self-fulfilling prophecy; by causing conflict and refusing to work with him, thereby making not just Corbyn, but the whole party unelectable.

I have been as guilty as others, in my assessment of Corbyn; as in a previous article, I called him unelectable. Whilst that may have been understandable and ok at the start of the contest, it will not be ok if he wins. If he wins, then the party must treat him as they would any of the others; by uniting behind him and focusing on finding a way to win the next election.

Whilst some may say that winning the next election is impossible with Corbyn as leader, this is not true.

The left has seen a huge resurgence across Europe; in France, Spain and Greece. Whilst the overall situation may be significantly different in those countries, the electoral success of the Left in those countries clearly demonstrates that choosing Corbyn as leader may not be as disastrous as it is generally being depicted by most commentators in the media.

We need to learn the lessons from those countries; that a mass-movement, of the kind that seems to be developing around Corbyn, can lead not only to effective opposition, but also success in elections. Building on the growth in membership and the groundswell of support that Corbyn’s campaign seems to have generated, could give us a community-based movement that is easily strong enough to combat the wealth of the Tories and their devastating media power and propaganda.

However, this will not be enough on its own; we must also learn the lessons from our defeat in the election.

Polls consistently show voters agree with and want policies that promote a fairer society, but the election showed that wasn’t enough. There has now been sufficient post-election analysis for us to be sure of what is required to win back voters: a credible plan for economic growth and stability, which also shows the definite gains which will come from greater investment in public services; as well as real solutions for the issues of welfare and immigration. These are obviously massively difficult problems. Finding credible solutions will therefore require all the talent, from all parts of the party. This once again shows the need for us to put aside the rivalries, conflicts and insults of the leadership contest, directing all our energies towards the tasks of opposing the Tories winning the next election. Corbyn has offered the olive branch to his opponents, stating his desire to work with all sections of the party. His opponents must accept this offer and help to create the ‘big-tent’, unified party that is strong enough to win in 2020.

We also need to learn from the Tories. Their media strategy was hugely effective, we need to emulate it. Their policy of endlessly repeating, in every media appearance, by every Tory politician, the same message- that Labour caused the crash, did huge damage to our reputation. If Corbyn wins, a powerful and effective media strategy will be vital, to make the possibility of a left-wing Labour government seem viable and attractive to voters.

We cannot rely on many of the national newspapers, so we need to focus on developing a radio and TV strategy, that is focused on maximum exposure and repeatedly hammering home the same message; which blames each individual issue on the Tories’ failing and unfair austerity policies and then gives our superior solutions- solutions that are fairer, which will also boost the economy.

This strategy must be pursued on national and local media, by big-name shadow-cabinet members, backbench MPs, AMs, councillors and activists. Staying on-message, hammering home the same clear, direct and easily understandable points at every opportunity, will give us the chance to dominate the debate, to once again make left-wing ideas mainstream, ‘normal’ and acceptable by the whole population, pulling the political centre-ground away from the current right-wing position.

We don’t need to be concerned that Corbyn’s politics would take us back to some kind of Marxist dark age, in which we all address each other as ‘comrade’, whilst planning to overthrow the capitalist system. We can combine arguments based on fairness and social justice, with a hard-nosed, economic analysis of the problems caused by poverty and inequality: educational failure, poor health and lower life-expectancy, unemployment, crime, low productivity, absence from work, huge costs to the NHS, and an ever-increasing welfare and prisons bill.

There is a huge wealth of rigorous research evidence to back up these arguments, to ensure that our approach is seen as credible: from the Rowntree Foundation and Townsend’s work on poverty, as well as its effects on educational attainment; to The ‘Black Report’ (1980) on the class-based inequalities of health; to Wilkinson and Pickett’s ‘The Spirit Level’ (2009), and Piketty’s work on the corrosive effects of inequality, to name but a few.

This approach would enable us to appeal to people’s head, as well as their heart; to their self-interest, as well as their conscience; to voters on the right and the left of the political spectrum.

So, when we consider how strong and effective this overall approach could be, we can see that it is possible to be hopeful, rather than despondent, at the thought of a Corbyn-led Labour Party.

We can also see that it is obvious that we have been asking all the wrong questions about the possibility of a much more left-wing Labour party.

In fact, when we consider how strong and effective this approach could be, the most pertinent question concerning this issue may be: ‘why haven’t we done this before?’

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

Tags: , , , , , ,

65 Responses to “If Jeremy Corbyn wins, we need to make it work”

  1. Jimmy and Madasafish,

    If there’s any economic illiteracy it’s down to Attlee’s govt. I’m describing the method they used.

    Personally, I’m not in favour of these kind of nationalisations. Including EON or anyone else. As I say, the govt issues the stock and swaps them for shares. So instead of the capitalists getting a possible profit from the ownership of their shares they get a guaranteed return on the ownership of government stock. They’re getting a good deal.

    They don’t actually cost anything if the entity being nationalised continues to make that profit but that’s an unknown. Even so, nationalisations (unless they are without compensation) don’t do anything for wealth redistribution which can only come about through the taxation system.

  2. joseph says:

    This just reads as the confessions of an idiot.

    I cannot believe for the anti spam I had to type in ‘Blair’.

    labour uncut is obviously all about cuts :/

  3. Madasafish,

    Just as a matter of interest, can you tell us what you like about the Labour Party and why you vote Labour rather than for the Tories or the Lib Dems?

  4. Metro Elite says:

    Comrades! The dear leader Corbyn will march on to victory! A cure to the Blairite virus!

  5. swatantra says:

    Don’t know why everyone is getting so worked up over JC winning this Leadership. He’ll only be Leader for 3 years and then stepping down making way for another.

  6. Jimmy says:

    They don’t actually cost anything if the entity being nationalised continues to make that profit but that’s an unknown.

    Nonsense. Assuming this method is still legal, which i doubt, You’re still borrowing, you’re just forcing the vendor to lend to you.

  7. Blair says:

    Assuming this method is still legal, which i doubt,

    If the government doesn’t like the law, the government can change it.

  8. Blair says:

    You’re still borrowing, you’re just forcing the vendor to lend to you.

    Leveraged buy-out. Perfectly standard business practice.

  9. Jimmy says:

    If the government doesn’t like the law, the government can change it.

    Putin thought that too. It’s not just domestic law however.

    Leveraged buy-out. Perfectly standard business practice.

    It is. It’s also still borrowing isn’t it?

  10. john P Redui says:

    this is all tosh, we have to see if Corbyn only wins by the £3 supporters who aren’t members, we have to say that we can’t prove but believe that those voting are really wanting to swing labour away form what we stand for on our pledge card, to be A DEMOCRATIC Socialist party, unless we can prove it Corbyn will have to stay until we go dowen to 15% in the polls a year from now

  11. Tafia says:

    we have to see if Corbyn only wins by the £3 supporters who aren’t members,

    The latest polling data suggests that not only is he going to win by a landslide in the first round, but that if you discount all the £3 members he would still win outright.

    Interesting reading is the YouGov. People have switched from the other candidates to Corbyn because of their disgust at the way the party and the other three candidates have been trying to rubbish him without actually saying anything themselves and bringing nothing to the table. Another big reason is total lack of connect between the other three and the base – they just regurgitate management-speak that doesn’t actually mean anything and offer little in the way of committment or vision.

    Labour’s members don’t like the negativity, they don’t like the lack of vision and the don’t like the threadbare fare on offer from the other 3 and they don’t like the other 3 personally and Labour only have themselves to blame for that.

    The reason Kendall, Cooper and Burnham are languishing so far behind and combined are still trailing Corbyn is because the membership don’t like them and don’t like what little they have to say. In short they serve little to no purpose to the people that count – the members.

    If I was one of the other three candidates I would be deeply, deeply embarrassed at how poorly the membership though of me.

  12. @Jimmy

    “It is. It’s also still borrowing isn’t it?”

    Is it? The government issues stocks to replace the shares. Right?

    If so, who would you say was the lender?

  13. Jimmy says:

    Is it? The government issues stocks to replace the shares. Right?

    If so, who would you say was the lender?

    I rest my case.

    You know if I were really out to overthrow capitalism I might at least consider reading a book about it.

  14. @Jimmy,

    I doubt you’ve understood what I’m asking. The government creates the stock. The stock doesn’t exist before its creation so who’s doing the lending?

    The whole concept of government “borrowing” is logically problematic. The £ is an IOU of government. If I borrow a pound of sugar from you I can give you an IOU for that sugar. If I later need another pound of sugar, can I borrow back that IOU? I can’t. I can give you another one or I can swap that IOU for another IOU which promises some interest. Maybe an extra ounce of sugar per year on the loan.

    So government “borrowing” is always nearly always government “issuing”. The exception might be if it were borrowing euros or US$.

    Do you follow what I’m getting at?

  15. Jimmy says:

    No. Do you?

Leave a Reply