Getting rid of comrade Corbyn will take patience

by Atul Hatwal

Years from now, politics students will be told jokingly by their tutors about the time the Labour leader had to U-turn and admit that a suicide bomber, who was about to blow himself up, should in fact be shot by the police.

It will be a salutary tale of what happens when an individual characterized by extremes of incompetence and ideology, is put in charge of a political party.

Many MPs think that the madness cannot continue. That Corbyn will fall in the next six months, or at the latest, after poll disaster in next year’s regional and local elections.

Sadly, they are wrong.

Before Corbyn falls, three changes are needed, none of which are immediate: the soft left need to wake-up to what’s happening, new terms of trade are required within Labour’s internal debate and a viable alternative leader must emerge.

Westminster Standard Time and Greenwich Mean Time are wholly different concepts.

In the political bubble, new notions become conventional wisdom within two or three turns of a super-accelerated Twitter fueled news cycle.

But what might seem suddenly eye-rollingly obvious in Westminster has barely registered outside.

Doubts sown by Corbyn’s reaction to Paris will take time to grow. Electoral reverses next May will accelerate this process. But this is the start of a journey for Labour’s internal swing vote – the soft left – not the end.

If Labour’s leadership selectorate was as attuned to poll lessons as the more complacent MPs hope, Corbyn would never have been elected in the first place.

The bitter experience of the general election would have been sufficient.

The impossibility of Jeremy Corbyn’s electoral position will take two, or more likely, three years of defeats to convince soft left romantics that this story will only end in one way.

When Tony Blair was elected, Labour had been out of power for 15 years. The hunger, the desperation for power was palpable.

The importance of electability was not an argument that had to be made, it was an accepted fact.

Only when the importance of being in power is once again implicitly understood by the party, is substantive change possible.

On the road to this decision point, the non-Corbyn majority in the PLP and membership will need to shift the terms of debate within the party.

To achieve this, moderates must remember how to triangulate.

When an established consensus is to be changed, it takes a tag team of two groups.

One outrides, says the unsayable and acts as a lightning conductor for discontent. They are condemned, controversial and at the heart of the fight.

These are the shock troops, moving the Overton window – that narrow range of political ideas that are acceptable – by dragging the debate away from the comfortable consensus.

Think Peter Tatchell and Outrage on LGBT rights, Malcolm X in the civil rights struggle or more prosaically, the Maastricht rebels in the Tories 90’s civil war over Europe.


The second group is more consensual and tonally emollient. However, as conflict flares, this group moves incrementally into the space opened up by the first group’s assault.

They will be pained about disunity and the abrasive nature of the debate, but will acknowledge the need for a debate. They take the centre line between the old consensus and the new agitators.

Their role legitimises and fixes the shift in the Overton window.

Stonewall closed the deal made possible by Outrage. Martin Luther King was the acceptable representative of change when contrasted with Malcolm X. Michael Portillo, Peter Lilley and John Redwood – John Major’s “bastard” cabinet ministers – were able to shift the Tory consensus on Europe specifically because they were the centrists in the Tory debate.

The Labour left are no strangers to using this type of triangulation to change the party.

When the hard left tried to have Progress expelled it was a brutal and controversial assault on a group that had been scrupulously loyal.

Ed Miliband’s office’s equivocation and refusal to intervene, egged on by the hard left, shifted the nature of debate within Labour, legitimizing the move to delegitimize the right.

There have been some tentative attempts at triangulation by those trying to frame an alternative to Corbynism, but so far they haven’t worked.

A couple of weeks ago Liam Byrne gave an interesting speech on the party’s future. It was rich in policy content and most pertinently he located himself between the Corbyn left and the New Labour past.

The intent was clear but the triangulation wasn’t effective because New Labour is ancient history. It’s a fading, static idea.

True triangulation requires an active outrider to move the debate on from its current position.

In today’s context, this means those bold enough to voice what others whisper privately, need to remain connected and co-ordinated with the mainstream opponents of Corbyn.

It means the likes of Simon Danczuk need support and cannot be allowed to become politically isolated.

Whenever MPs like John Mann, Ian Austin and John Woodcock make the blunt case for sanity on policy issues, they deserve voices to be raised in support.

As conflicts erupt and then subside, Labour’s panoply of centrist groups such as Red Shift, Labour Together and Labour for the Common Good need to occupy the space created, whether on security, defence or the economy.

How effective these groups are at doing this will determine whether Labour’s ideological direction of travel can be reversed.

Time and triangulation will create the conditions for change from Corbyn but won’t be enough on their own.

The last piece of the puzzle is agreement on an anti-hard left candidate .

The lesson from the leadership campaign is that there needs to be a single alternative, one person who provides a sole media counter-point to the Corbynite candidate.

Jeremy Corbyn was partially able to generate such momentum because his opponents were so divided.

He always presented certitude and clarity. The others got lost in the noise of their own bickering. The media reports reflected this structural imbalance, helping amplify the Corbyn surge.

To unify, this candidate will need to be a relatively blank canvass.

They will not have been involved in the hand to hand combat required to change the debate within the party. They might not even be prominent in the mainstream groups that move Labour’s centre of gravity, slowly back towards the centre.

Their most prized asset will be to be a clean-skin, acceptable to the broadest span of Labour members and supporters, from soft left through to old right.

One of the most apposite comments about Tony Blair in 1994 was that he “emerged without trace”. Similar could be said of David Cameron in 2005 or even John Major in 1990.

Only when Labour moderates understand the need for these three changes – time, triangulation and a single candidate – will the grip of the hard left on the leadership be challenged.

Patience will be needed. There will be many more dark days.

But a path does exist to toppling Corbyn, if those who care about the party are prepared to take it.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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38 Responses to “Getting rid of comrade Corbyn will take patience”

  1. Mike Homfray says:

    Forget about the soft left. It really doesn’t exist any more – and overwhelmingly supports Jeremy.

    Thye only way this could happen is for the right wing to go out and recruit 300000 members and that’s not going to happen

  2. John P Reid says:

    Scenario 1
    2018 Jez, realizes he’s a disaster stands down says Watsin should take us into the election
    Corbyns unpopular, that a anyone but Ajax candidate stands against him, Jon a cryer, Alan Johnson Stephen kinnock, Lisa Nandy, Dan Jarvis, or Yvette as she’s the only one of the 3 other leadership candidates with credibility, left
    But it’s a 50/50 vote
    Scenario 3
    Corbyn stands down,and McDonnell stands in his place against, say Jon acruddas.

  3. paul barker says:

    This all sounds superficially plausible but ignores the big shift on the Soft Left & the influx of new members.
    The polling of Corbyn supporters during the Leadership campaign showed that most did not place winning Elections at the top of their list of priorities, they were accepting the need for losses before Corbyn was even elected. Simply losing a few hundred councillors isnt going to shift them, that has been factored in.
    Nearly half the current Labour membership have joined since May & most of the new ones are more than just a bit more left, many have absorbed a dose of Marxism. You can laugh at the myriad sects of the Marxist Left but they have been plugging away for the last half century & have influenced huge numbers of people. The Corbyn surge was the payback for all those decades of slogan shouting & paper selling.
    In the 2 or 3 years your strategy is proposed to take your party will have become unrecognisable, an English Syryza.

  4. Dave Roberts. says:

    It may take time as far as the Parliamentary Party are concerned but for long time Labour voters that I have been speaking to the decision has been made, he has to go. It was bad enough before Paris but his performance over that has been a disgrace.

    I see that he has appointed Livingstone to some advisory position on defence and that he is to be the star of the Stop the War Christmas fund raising party. The man is either insane or so out of touch with reality that he may as well be.

  5. Ryland1 says:

    On the road to this decision point, the non-Corbyn majority in the PLP and membership will need to shift the terms of debate within the party

    the above comment is by a distance the most amusing i have seen on here – among many ! the non corbyn majority …. Corbyn won a majority – 59% of the party not 2 MONTHS ago.. plus all of the people who have joined since him winning – over 50 in my CLP alone.

    what you people dont get is that the party members are still 100% behind Corbyn. I am attending a meeting with him on Thursday and am sure that the message from the party members will be …’ keep going… dont change.. go to the stop the war coalition xmas dinner’

  6. Stephen Kelly says:

    What a ridiculous article. ASfor so called Labour moderates. They aren’t.

  7. Rallan says:

    The membership and union backers of the Labour party overwhelmingly chose Corbyn and hard-left politics. It’s what the actual Labour party wants.

    This fact has been very well publicised. Even if there is a “moderate” Labour leader in 3 years time it will be obvious to everyone that the Labour party is simply wearing an ill-fitting mask to conceal its true nature.

    The PLP clearly does not speak for the wider Labour Party and its career politicians do not inspire the country. When “moderates” talk about electability they never reflect that (as in the recent leadership election) they are not really much more electable than Jeremy Corbyn.

    I simply don’t see why the bulk of the Labour party would get back in its box accept having the “moderates” in charge again. What’s in it for them?

  8. Tony says:

    “It means the likes of Simon Danczuk need support and cannot be allowed to become politically isolated.”

    You would hardly think that this man is a Labour MP at all. I cannot think of a single example of where he has actually attacked the Conservative Party.

  9. John. PReid says:

    Mike homfray, as there were quite a few £3 Tories forcorbyn, maybe the centre of the party could get the equivalent, of £3 Tories for anytime but Corbyn

  10. Ryland1 says:


    it seems my post of earlier this morning has not been published

    any chance of a bit of feedback as to why



  11. james says:

    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Laugh due to the antics of the past couple of months or cry knowing that the opposition to the tories is in such insecure (snigger) hands.

    Actually if anyone stood as an independent they could make mincemeat of any lacklustre labour cllrs

    Listen the game is up. Post Paris most people don’t want to vote for a party that doesn’t want a shoot to kill policy in a crowded theatre. Yes I know that he didn’t MEAN exactly that but, for good or ill, Labour chose this politically naive and idiotic man. Most people just look at headlines on the train or listen to snatches of news on the telly before putting the kids to bed not delve into the minutae of policy detail.

    If you can’t convince on security then you won’t convince on the economy (well, that’s another story) and you can’t win a GE. End of.

  12. Atul thinks he needs time and triangulation. What he really needs is to understand why Kendall only got 4.5%.

  13. John R says:

    If Labour are now full of Marxists of various hues, why wasn’t a strong leftist chosen to fight the Oldham by election? After all, it had been Michael Meacher’s seat. One would have expected the left to make a stronger showing than it did and, I would guess, the majority of members there voted Corbyn.

    I think the answer is twofold. Labour members are, actually, more pragmatic than many think and the Corbyn win was a protest vote against the banality of the other three leadership candidates.

    As for Corbyn’s future, never mind May next year, the Oldham by election might decide his future.

    Could UKIP win? Unlikely, but their odds have fallen from 8/1 to 7/2 recently though Labour are still odds on to win. Even the Kippers admit that Labour have a good candidate there and (not surprisingly) are concentrating their attack on Corbyn.

    The Tories were a close third to the Kippers’ second and I’d expect a bit of tactical voting to try and add to Labour’s woes. If UKIP win, expect the knives to be out for Corbyn.

    After all, what does the PLP have to lose? Labour will be in shock and as Corbyn heads off to the “Stop the War” Xmas do on Dec 11, Watson could be called on to save the Party.

  14. Graham Ward says:

    Don’t assume disaster in next years local elections. The impact of cuts to tax credits will have hit, and this government will be hated.
    And if the right failed to unite behind a single candidate this year, what makes you think they can do it next?

  15. Trevor Magee says:

    If Corbyn keeps up the sort of rhetoric he has employed over the Paris killings then much of the debate cited in these posts will be irrelevant.It seems evident that the
    Labour party like the hapless Lemming has decided to throw itself over the cliff face and accept exile in the political wilderness for the next 10-15 years. Tragic.

  16. Madasafish says:

    I expect Mr Corbyn to lead Labour to a grand triumph in the 2020 General Election. The Tories will be routed and Britain will covert to a socialist paradise on earth.

  17. I’ve absolutely no idea if this fascinating article is realistic or not. But I know Labour moderates have to try.

    I was completely blindsided by Corbyn’s win. I can’t imagine the shock for people who’ve given many years of their life to the Labour party, to now see its electoral credibility being utterly destroyed.

    If I were in Labour, I know I’d want to fight.

    But I hope Labour members keep other possibilities in the back of their minds.

    I doubt there are 300,000 people who would join Labour in order to oust Corbyn. But I’m sure there are many who would join a new moderate progressive force to challenge the Tories (there’s already 60,000 Lib Dem members for a start).

    If progressive moderates can’t get rid of Corbyn, I dearly hope that they don’t leave politics.

  18. james says:

    John R – it’s my understanding that the new members that had joined since May were ineligible to vote for the candidate at the byelection due to a six month rule.

    Can someone confirm this?

  19. Anne says:

    We hear that Mr Corbyn has appointed his pal Ken Livingstone to a committee reviewing defence – yet we know that Mr Livingstone has campaigned against Trident. Any research student could inform us that this is a form of bias. This again shows lack of judgement on Mr Corbyn. There are plenty of able people who could serve on this committee who would provide be objective account on this subject.

  20. Union Jock says:

    Mr Hatwal as prophet of Jeremy Corbyn’s future:

  21. Robert says:

    But New labour is doing so well at the moment, I cannot see the right thinking labour view of the world would get people voting for it.

    If the labour right wish to have a Progressive democratic party form one, go for it.

    Right now the Blair clone is doing even better then the real thing, that of course is Cameron.

  22. Tafia says:

    The Parliamentary Labour Party are failing to grasp the reality of the situation. The Corbynistas control the actual Paryy now. Any attempt tp pust Corbyn will actually ;lead to their own destruction.

    Corvyn maiintains his stance there will be no deselections – but as a Telegraph columnist pointed out, Henry the Second got others to do his bidding for him while giving of the appearance of grief.

    And remember, Cameron is redrawing the boundaries for GE2020 to balance out the constituencies – and simple maths shows that that is a quite significant redrawing of nearly every Labour constituency in the UK – and what will that create? Oh yes, a wave of selections for the new seats as the current ones cease to exist. Cameron will be Cotbyn/the Lefts eavesdropping Knight and the PLP have neatly already made themselves Thomas a Becket.

    Now some idiots would say ‘but that will lead to the destruction of the PLP’ – does anyone think Cameron gives a toss about that? From his perspective it’s a bloody good idea.

    Basically the PLP is walking itself to the noose that it has actually created for itself and skipping and singing as it goes. You really couldn’t make it up and it’s going to be fascinating to watch once it starts. Because even the removal of Corbyn is not going to stop it now – the cards have already been dealt. ‘Momentum’ has already taken the actual Labour Party and the MPs – no matter how important they think they are (and they aren’t) have only got two choices; knuckle down or be put to the sword.

  23. Tafia says:

    Ryland1 – posts are moderated to protect from spam etc and published in batches. You sometimes have to wait several hours to see it (a day or more at weekends)

  24. Mr Akira Origami says:

    Patience has its limits. Take it too far, and it’s cowardice.

    George Jackson

    Old Trots…..

  25. Robert said: “Right now the Blair clone is doing even better then the real thing, that of course is Cameron”

    That’s an outrageous slur against good people, who introduced the minimum wage, raised in-work benefits, and increased spending on the NHS.

    In contrast, we have a Tory government that deceived the working poor into voting for them, then launched an appalling attack on their living standards, cut taxes for the estates of millionaires, and is diverting money from homes for the homeless to help the better off get on the housing ladder.

    I’m no fan of Tony Blair, I’ve written some scathing things about him on LibDemVoice, but I can tell the difference between moderate progressives and rightwingers whose mission in life is to defend privilege.

    Some of my colleagues have scored political points about the rise in the gap between rich and poor under Blair, but that’s part of the cut and thrust of inter-party debate. Anyone who can’t see that Labour tried to fight poverty between 1997 and 2010 is either blinded by ideological anger, or just blind. And, if they are a member of the Labour party, they have a bizarre sense of loyalty.

  26. Janet Silver says:

    I find this article profoundly depressing. Nothing about policy, nothing about vision, nothing about commitment to values – only an attack on Jeremy Corbyn which is also wildly unfair. And nothing about Labour losing the last two elections when the Party was clearly ‘moderate’ – was that ‘electability? What is the author’s economic strategy? How will he oppose the destruction of the welfare state – wait for four years until his shadowy ‘moderate’ takes over (and then not oppose much of the Tory agenda anyway). I despair.

  27. Janet Silver says:

    Oh and just googled this:

    Sorry, that Labour leadership poll is nonsense. Jeremy Corbyn is going to finish fourth
    by Atul Hatwal

    Such wisdom is inspiring.

  28. Tafia says:

    That’s an outrageous slur against good people, who introduced the minimum wage, raised in-work benefits, and increased spending on the NHS.

    Then again, the tories have been raising the minimum wage faster in real terms than Labour did, are introducing the new national wage, have raised in work benefits faster than Labour did (even raising JSA faster in real terms than Labour did), and have increased NHS spending faster than Labour did in real terms – indeed the only place NHS spending has been cut is in Wales, 6%, by a Labour government, despite their settlement from Westminster rising faster in real terms than it did under Labour.

    But what’s reality got to do with it eh?

  29. leslie48 says:

    Ryland1 you are totally wrong the majority of Fully paid Labour Party members are not behind Corbyn as the last few days clearly shows. His defence policy for the vast majority of voters is in tatters if only because the first task of government is to protect UK citizens and on Trident, Terrorism and Syria he is totally out of touch. Earlier in the Autumn he had the lowest recorded ratings of any Labour Leader in history. For the majority of members who work hard in the constituencies he is a not a PM candidate who they and others will not be knocking on doors for at any GE. Indeed I would be embarrassed in my nearby Marginal seat to even begin to campaign for him.

  30. Fred says:

    Mike Homfray would tell non Labourites to go away on Labourlist because it was a Labour site.

    Well Homfray, this is a Blairite site, by your own reasoning why are you here?

    Are you just another hypocritical lefty?

  31. Tafia says:

    leslie48 – No matter which way you dress it, Corbyn got just under 50% of the first preference vote from the full-paid membership. Since then, tens of thousands of Corbynistas have joined. If you were to re-run the leadership election with the membership as it is now he would win with an absolute majority in the first round.

    The party is what the voting party members say it is – nothing more, nothing less and the majority of the party membership now put ideology and purity above winning for winning’s sake – ie they would rather lose and remain true to the cause than sacrifice their beliefs in order win.

    You are trying to confuse voters with party members. At Party level, Corbyn and Momentum clearly now rule the roost, and when Cameron redraws the boundaries that will trigger the deselctions – and you will see how much they rule the roost then.

  32. Hi Jafia,

    I must admit, I was astonished by your post above. You’re clearly a well-informed person, but perhaps you’ve not read up on the Conservative Summer budget.

    I’m going to avoid quoting left-leaning news sources, because I suspect you won’t trust them.

    The Daily Mail, quoting a Tory MP (who I suspect is in the wrong party):

    The FT, quoting the independent IFS thinktank:

    I said the Tories deceived, I was careful not to say they lied, because Cameron used the same sort of techniques that Clinton did over Lewinsky, so he didn’t actually lie. See the following:

    Even the rise in the minimum wage is going to increase poverty, because it’s going up too fast.
    See the Telegraph, on why raising the minimum wage so high will cost jobs:

  33. Tony Scooner says:

    Atul, can you tell me why you want members to defend MP Danczuk, when it has just been exposed that in the last parliament, he cost the taxpayer one million two hundred thousand pound in expenses and wages, has taken 100 first class train journeys, the MP in the next constituency, who actually lives further away has not once taken a single first class train journey. He also refuses to fly unless it is first class, has paid his wife over one hundred and thirty thousand pounds, 612 hours of which is overtime. When confronted by this, his office said she “worked the majority of the last parliament just four hours a day, so needed the extra hours”, which has now been found to be a blatant lie as she only worked ten months of the last parliament on four hours a day. He has also just been reported to IPSA for his payment to family members. A good point was immediately flushed down the pan as soon as you mentioned defending him.

  34. uglyfatbloke says:

    The Scottish elections in May will finish off Dugdale; will they have an impact on Corbyn?

  35. Tafia says:

    George Kendal, so rising wages causes poverty. What a crock of shit. You would have to be a tool to think that.

    The tax credit issue is way over-hyped and I blew one of the local Labour biig wigs out of the water the other day when he was using figures based on tax credit cuts coupled with the minimum wage as it is now – in short being deliberately wrong. Look at the impact of tax credit cuts using the incoming National Living Wage as a base line – the peopl losing oare minimal and most lose a very small anopunt. Project oit with the new Nationa Wage keeping place with inflation and by GE2020 nobody will be worse off.

    The bottom line is, no matter which way you wash it, paying decent wages is not the governments role – it’s the employers role.

    And I was sick to the back teeth during my time as union rep putting case after case forward to the employer about why an employee shoulod be allowed to drop from full time to 16 hours a week when really it was because the employee had worked out that tax credits making up the shortfall meant they were no worse off and only working half as much. That is farcical and it has to stop. The employer should pay proper wages and full time workers should ALWAYS be better off than a part time worker in the same circumstances. Equally, it is farcical that someone on tax credits – which is a benefit, gets enough money to buy a new car, holiday abroad and buy a house on a mortgage. Does that not suggest to you that the gurenteed levels are probably to high?

    uglyfatbloke – Dugdale was always going to get flattened no matter who eneded up leader of the Lablour Party. Scottish Labour is finished. It finished itself the minute it took instruction from London and brought London politicians to Scotland during the referendum campaign and patrachuted in that transparent New Labour lightweight Jim Murphy. It’s only hope is to become the Labour Party Of Scotland – totally independent of Labour in London politically and financially. Even Dugdale recognises that and says as much.recognises that and says as much. It’s only because of Corbyn that it hasn’t collapsed faster – the Scots are in no mood for New Labour rubbish. Labour Wales is starting to rumble the same way now, with slowly growing demands that it should move further away from Labour London – not because of Corbyn (Labour Wales is far more left wing than Labour in England), but because of devolution – it no longer wnats to look to London or be seen as a branch office of London.

  36. Hi Tafia,

    There are serious flaws in tax credits. But these are being addressed with a new system, and are not a reason to drastically cut in-work benefits.

    If you believe the Tories over the IFS, the Resolution Foundation, former Tory minister David Willetts, and a host of other experts, nothing I’m going to say will convince you. I think we just have to agree to disagree.

  37. Joe Coyne says:

    He’s doomed.

  38. Ian says:

    Whilst the analysis in the article of Corbyn’s electoral weakness and likely eventual demise, once the focus returns to winning under ‘first last the post’, seems broadly on the money (and noting as an aside that if Labour has kept its promise to introduce fair voting, the environment for Corbyn-style Labour would not be so barren), Atul needs to think more about why the ‘New Labour’ approach is itself now so comprehensively bust.

    Labour needs to do the ideological grafting to develop a coherent programme in opposition to the Tories that is neither Corbyn-style left nor the all-things-to-all-men (people) state-centric mush of triangulation that was New Labour. It was painfully apparent in the recent leadership election that the three ‘continuity’ candidates between them had barely any new insight to offer. So far I would suggest that the party is light years away from getting to this point?

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