Love your local Corbynista

by George Kendall

We’ve all had experience of the worst kind of Corbynista. The ones who insist that moderate members of the Labour party are right-wing extremists.

Some of them denounce social democrats as Tories. Presumably, they think there’s no difference between the USA andDenmark either.

But most Corbynistas aren’t like that.

I think what drives them is idealism. A belief that politics should be about improving the world, not making cynical political calculations. The tragedy is that they don’t recognise the idealism that is central to social democracy.

There’s a lot that’s idealistic about a well-run northern European social democracy. If there’s anything idealistic about a corrupt basket case like oil-rich Venuzuela, it’s pretty jaded.

Why don’t they understand that social democracy is the kind of idealism that delivers?

I think it’s partly our fault.

We’ve become so obsessed with beating the Tories that we’ve lost touch with the language we need to inspire good people, who want to help make the world a better place. We’ve failed to make the case for a hard-headed idealism that works, rather than ideological solutions that don’t.

I’ve become very involved in the EU fightback. And I’ve had the pleasure of coming across a number of people, some who used to support Jeremy Corbyn, some who still do. These people share a lot with me over Europe. A passion for internationalism, a horror of racism. Most of all, they share my fear that the most damaging consequences of Brexit will be for some of those who voted to leave.

Anyone who has read my blog posts will know that I don’t agree with Corbyn, and in particular I don’t like the people he closely associates with. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like his supporters.

My hope is, they’ll change their minds and become social democrats. I suspect, eventually, many will.

But, even if they don’t, just because they support Corbyn, doesn’t stop them being great people.

George Kendall is convener of the Social Democrat Group – a Liberal Democrat organisation to develop the social democrat tradition of the Liberal Democrats, and to build links with social democrats in the Labour party

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22 Responses to “Love your local Corbynista”

  1. james says:

    “I’ve become very involved in the EU fightback. And I’ve had the pleasure of coming across a number of people, some who used to support Jeremy Corbyn, some who still do. These people share a lot with me over Europe. A passion for internationalism, a horror of racism. Most of all, they share my fear that the most damaging consequences of Brexit will be for some of those who voted to leave.`

    You see that’s the main problem for the left. Brexit is progressive. Planned migration is both liberal and progressive. Global trade links is more liberal and progressive. The Lib Dems and the left will progress nationally (unlike locally) when they come to like Brexit and understand the need to balance migration with growth.

    There are two differing economic models on offer: a) unplanned unlimited migration (current lib dem and labour policy) based on the assumption that more is always better. If you want that then you will have to say some unpleasant things to Londoners who will need to share their wealth opportunities with the rest of us and answer some tough questions on Britain’s migration policies ie who, what, why, where. or b) planned migration and trade in which you’ll have to face down your core vote. At the moment Mrs May is preparing to walk all over you.

    The difficulty for the left is that they are the new intellectual cowards. They need to learn to say `no` and tell some unpleasant home truths to people – to do that they need to face down ALL vested interests (London, the city, unions, liberal elite) and then developing radical policies that work in the centre ground to attract floating voters in places like Nuneaton.

    You cannot have a planned housing, health or economic policies without planned migration. Controlling migration is the key to then developing sensible radical policies that attract people to the voting booths. Throw off the intellectual comfort blanket of the EU. Brexit is going to happen. It’s more internationalist and more progressive anyway – FOR THE PEOPLE AT THE BOTTOM YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO SERVE!

  2. Mark Livingston says:

    Being “tougher on welfare than the Tories” isn’t very idealistic.

  3. Rallan says:

    “The tragedy is that they don’t recognise the idealism that is central to social democracy … I’ve become very involved in the EU fightback.”

    Against democracy.

  4. Anthony Lawton says:

    It is not just a case of losing “touch with the language we need to inspire good people”. It is losing touch with the desire to inspire, and the types of behaviour that do and do not inspire.

  5. John pReid says:

    MaRk Livingston,the Attlee govt said the sign of welfare was of a failing labour government, being tough on welfare is archived by higher employment

  6. Richard MacKinnon says:

    George Kendall,
    What are you talking about?
    “We’ve become so obsessed with beating the Tories that we’ve lost touch with the language we need to inspire good people, who want to help make the world a better place. We’ve failed to make the case for a hard-headed idealism that works, rather than ideological solutions that don’t.”
    “inspire good people”. “make the world a better place” George are you being serious here? What does that sentence mean? What is hard headed idealism? What is social democracy? Every one that votes can call themselves a social democrat. It means absolutely nothing.
    You need to explain your self better. No one knows what your going on about.
    Try re reading James’ reply, you might not agree with him but his discourse has a thread of logic through it. When you read James’ writing you know what he is thinking; what he believes. His rationale is fact based. The basis of his plan is firstly the control of migration. Once you have done that you can plan housing numbers, schools and teachers, hospitals and nurses. Numbers. He has a plan and his challenge to The Left, you George, is to come up with an alternative plan.
    The longer we wait the more we are inclined to think maybe The Left doesn’t have a plan and that they are unable to design one.
    Here is an idea for you George, take a country with a successful stable left of centre government, somewhere you are familiar with, where employment levels are low, and standard of living high, all the things you support, then model your ‘idealism’ on it.

  7. Martin says:

    Without free movement of goods, money and people there is no Single Market. The UK is a single market and the better for it. If controls were placed on people from South Wales preventing them finding jobs elsewhere the overall economy would be harmed and those in the restricted areas would be limited and unable to achieve as much as they could have done. It is the same across the EU, the Liberal ideal is that individual freedom and ability to express one’s potential takes precedence over the powers of the state and that we all benefit from the contributions that result from the fulfillment of others.

    A century ago similar arguments were trotted out against equality for women; women were said to be taking away the jobs of men, but thank goodness the Liberal view prevailed and we all benefit from the contribution of women to society.

    Idealistically free movement world wide would be beneficial, but this is a Utopian view that would immediately collapse without structures in place that ensured fairness and equitable conditions. We can increase freedoms incrementally with incremental benefits, but Brexit is a retrograde step promoted by retrograde attitudes, that shamefully, have given licence to racism and are anything but internationalist.

  8. james says:

    I suggest you tell that to the Liberal poster boy Justin Trudeau. His migration policies would make your eyes water. But again he doesn’t have free movement of people with the USA and there is no `North American Union`.

    What the left needs to do is to proudly and emphatically look out for everyone and really screw down on migration. Once everyone is employed with the terms and conditions and productivity deserving of a first world nation with the 5th largest economy in the world you can start talking about unplanned migration in a politically sustainable way.

    Brexit is basically a step for us to take stock and hand democracy back where it belongs – with the people. We need a comprehensive national debate on migration around a coherent economic plan. I trust Mrs May to do that more than Mr Farron or Mr Corbyn both of whom don’t believe there’s a problem. We don’t need more benefits we need more employment opportunities with strong companies and strong terms and conditions. You can’t do that with unplanned unlimited migration that are current lib dem and labour policies. Just ruling out zero hours contracts just attracts even more migrants. It can be done with migration controls – just as every other country outside the EU has.

    As for being racist – i’ve been to 49 countries, often staying with locals including all European countries barring Kosovo, Belarus and Moldova. How many have you been to? The idea that the UK isn’t a diverse, open-minded country is laughable. It’s because a lot of other European countries aren’t or haven’t had the planned migration of the 60s to the early noughties with the unplanned migration from the 90s. I defy anyone outside those countries that use people as serfs (Middle East mainly) to find a more open-minded, culturally diverse and generous country to migrants.

  9. Tafia says:

    “A passion for internationalism, a horror of racism.

    Well there’s a contradiction in terms if ever there was one. The EU by ut’s very nature is inherently both racist and inward looking.

    Most of the world is not in the EU therefore a true internationalist cannot support the EU. Likewise the EU is obstructionist to external trade and highly discriminatory and imperialistic.

    As for racism. Virtually all EU internal migrants – who do not need visas, have rights to all public services etc etc are white. Most externl immigrants are denied accesses, need visas, sponsors etc etc and funnily enough are not white.

    So we’ll have no cobblers that the EU is internationalist (when it plainly is not) or that it isn’t blatantly racist (when it very obviously is).

  10. Thanks for the comments guys. It’s always good to know some one has read a piece. I’d thought the piece was about social democrats and followers of Jeremy Corbyn, but I’m happy to talk about the european issue as well.

    I know a lot of people think that immigration is to blame for housing shortages, poor health provision and other problems in the country. That will be true in a few localities, but not across the country.

    Housing shortages are primarily down to successive governments not building enough homes. That’s not just the Tories, everyone shares some of the blame. We’ve known that this was a problem for ten years and more, but little has been done about it.

    On health provision, I think the problem would be worse with less immigration. Those coming from abroad tend to be younger, and so need less healthcare than the average Brit, so they make a net contribution to financing the NHS. They also make up a large proportion of NHS staff. I understand there is a problem is some localities, but across the country, cutting immigration dramatically would make the situation worse. This will be even more true, as our population ages.

    I very much agree with Justin Welby’s approach to this. That it is really important that fears about immigration are listened to, and, in certain localities, resources need to be put in place to address them. See

    My approach to the referendum is that, if the government can deliver what the official Leave campaign promised, then the result should be respected. However, if Leave turns out to be very different from what was promised, we should have another referendum.

    Do you think the government can deliver what Leave promised?

    The part of the EU fightback that I’m most supporting is to try to ensure that those promises are not forgotten. I think that’s very democratic and idealistic.

    @Anthony Lawton
    With politicians at their worst, that’s a fair comment, but only at their worst. When I’ve come across politicians personally, they have a lot of idealism. The real cynics, all too often, are those who demean them.

    @Richard MacKinnon
    You’re right, of course, that people have many interpretations of what social democrat means. In the context, I thought I was clear. I was using social democrat to mean those who are not on the leftwing of the Labour party, like Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, who I regard as socialists.
    I also describe it in general terms in the following article (have a look also in the comments):

    Perhaps a re-read of my article might be useful. You seem to have missed the part where I mention Denmark and north european social democracies. I don’t regard Denmark as a model, in that every country has its flaws, but it, and other north european social democracies, certainly have good things going for them. In my opinion, if you are poor, the countries you would be most fortunate to live in would probably be those north european social democracies.

    Out of interest, what country would you look to as a model?

    That said, I’m not uncritical of the EU. To take one example, I thought creating a Eurozone with countries that had incompatible was a bad mistake (and I thought that in the nineties). But then so did those economic experts that Brexiters like to deride.

  11. Richard says:

    In reply to James.

    Why should the left screw down on migration? The left is solidly the majority in the Labour Party, so you are clearly suggesting that it is the LP who should “screw down”. I guess you mean more of those anti-migration mugs that were so popular with Labour supporters and ethnic minorities, but I suspect you would go further than that, I shall return to this.

    There are parties out there happy to “screw down” on migration, I suspect you are a supporter of one of them, why should the Labour Party join in the chorus? Leave the other party’s to their agenda, we will keep ours. On the other hand I can tell you why the LP should not “screw down” on migration.

    The consequence of the campaign and the decision to leave the EU has seen a dramatic rise in racist incidents. This is because “anti-migration” quickly becomes “anti-immigrant” in the minds of some.

    The fact is the victims of this vile racist mood amongst a certain section of the population are not EU migrants, the only ones up for discussion under Brexit, but “Muslims”, brown people, often born here and as British as I am, but with a religion and some cultural norms and values born of their heiritage. Language and sentiments such as yours with your “screw down” would feed in to this racism. The only winners will be the far right as the Labour Party would alienate ethnic minorities, the vast majority of whom are Labour voters. My guess is this is what you actually want to happen with your “screw down” language.

    Having dealt with that lets move on to the premise that underpins your position. Your reasoning appears to be based upon the idea that expelling migrants will free up jobs because you continue, “once everyone is employed”, suggesting that jobs will be freed up, without explicitly stating this. You continue that “more employment opportunities” cannot be achieved with “unplanned migration”, though you don’t explain this conclusion. Here you are simply unconsciously regurgitating discredited Malthusian economics. The basic assumption that underpins your position is that there are a finite number of jobs. Way back in the early 1980’s the National Front promoted similar simplistic propoganda such as ‘three million unemployed, 3 million immigrants, figure it out’. Since which time of course the population has grown by over ten million and the problem of unemployment has been reduced. That simple fact shows how stupid the position is and why Mathuse is discredited.

    The issue under capitalism is not one of absolute numbers of people but economic activity. As the economy booms there is “loads of work”, and, as any builder will tell you during these periods, there is “loads of money”. At this point labour is required and sucked in from all over the place and most people are happy. Then the economy enters a recessionary period and those out of work talk of “British jobs for British people”. What they actually mean, just like you, is kick out the foreigners so the “British” can have their jobs.

    A simplistic “solution” on the surface, but isn’t this focussing on the wrong thing? Surely we shouldn’t be blaming those who come here and contribute to our economy and society during a boom once the bust comes, because the economic system is built on boom and bust? Isn’t it the system that is at fault?

    It obviously is the system that is the problem, not migrants, but those who wish to divert our attention from the true cause of the problem, a flawed economic system, focus on a consequence of the system, migration, as the cause. Nice people. Invite them over then scapegoat them.

    This is where you come in James. You are either fully aware of all of this, in which case you are an implacable enemy of the Labour movement, or you have been foolishly duped into regurgitating the rubbish that the ruling classes propagate to defend their system. So which is it James, are you fool or knave?

  12. Richard MacKinnon says:

    I agree we can admire much from our North European neighbours. There is as I see it an unsurmountable difference between them and the us. That is, we are a nuclear power and regardless of the party of government our foreign policy is recognised as a global interventionist state. UK governments Tory and recent Labour see the UK as a global super power.
    The Labour Party has a real opportunity here to articulate a more realistic foreign and defence policy. It needs to explain why nuclear submarines, Trident weapons systems, giant aircraft carriers are weapons of the last century. Labour has to say ‘the British Empire is no longer’ , that our place in the 21st century is as a northern European, properous, peaceful, technologically advanced, open to business, science, and trade.
    At present UK politics is getting bossed by anti migrant, anti EU, anti Islamic, anti Russian voices. There is a fear factor driving UK politics. There is a real opportunity for Labour to counter this project of fear, but the policies have to be clearly defined, they have to make sense so they can be understood. Corbyn’s anti Trident stance is a start but he appears not to have thought the whole idea through. He sounds vague and unsure of himself. He needs help.
    I think Corbyn knows he is not a leader, but he is not going to let a unknown Blairite conman take the reins.
    If a proper radical rational new Labour agenda were to be articulated along the lines of other northern European nation states I believe Corbyn would step aside to a genuine leader and the Labour Party can be in government again but at the present time it is a million miles away.

  13. paul barker says:

    Most UK Immigration is from outside The EU & has been controlled, if you think its too high then your argument is with succsessive UK Governments, not The EU. Many of the areas that voted Leave are actually suffering from net Emigration, empty Mills, empty houses, what they need is an injection of Investment & new people.
    Democracy is a process, votes are only ever temporary, each vote only lasts till the next one. There is nothing undemocratic about campaigning to stop Brexit or to reverse it if it happens.

  14. John PReid says:

    The EU stops commonwealth immigration, so it’s racist, not the opposite

  15. james says:

    Perhaps that’s why someone I know as an IT installer was contracted to go to Rotherham. In the factory half of the workers that were there were locals half were bussed in Eastern Europeans. All were on zero hours etc.

    Farronite liberals just don’t get it – they don’t want more competition for these jobs that undermine wages and terms and conditions. They want a plan for good quality jobs, training and terms and conditions that befit a first world country. Once migration is planned under the terms of parliament (by the way what will lib dems policy be and their speeches be about now they can’t get cover from the EU?) we can sort out a proper policy and hopefully persuade those people about internationalism. At the moment the left is `cart before the horse`. It’s letting down those they most need to serve and is hampering liberalism.

    My advice is a) go along with Brexit b) stand up for those at the bottom instead of the liberal elite that are more than able to look after themselves and c) work out practical and radical policies that intervene in liberal orthodoxy and really tackles vested interests. Here’s one for starters – how to tackle the imbalance between London and the rest of the country. Varying vat rates? Zero vat rates for those companies genuinely hq’d in the North? Capping welfare at the average rate of the country with tourists, sales and those living in the areas making up the difference? Parliament with the whole civil service moving over time to Birmingham or the North? Just ideas (not prescriptiosn) that are unfortunately outside the orthodoxy loop of the Farronite liberals.

  16. Mike Homfray says:

    And social democracy is dying across Europe.
    That’s why I support Jeremy. I want a more robust left wing approach – and hope that some of our right wing will join you in the Liberal Democrats

  17. Tafia says:

    Social Democracy is a meaningless phrase. ask two social democrats to define it and you will get two different answers. Even Hitler’s nazis were social democrat in their own little malevolent way. as was Pol Pot. It’s a meaningless guff phrase tjhat people use to impress others – same as ‘progressive’.

  18. @Richard MacKinnon

    Hi Richard,

    If Corbyn actually just wants to move the UK towards, say, Denmark, or the Netherlands, it’d be useful if he actually said it. These are northern european social democracies which are members of NATO.

    But I wonder what he actually wants, both on NATO and on social democracy.

    Corbyn has previously said he wanted NATO disbanded, and recently he refused to say he’d defend a NATO ally if it was attacked by Russia. When politicians avoid a question like that, I think it’s very significant. And my assumption is that, if Corbyn were PM, even if we didn’t leave NATO, the UK would in effect have left, because it would not be willing to abide by its NATO treaty obligations.

    Aside from NATO, what about economics? Richard Murphy is the man who Corbyn borrowed from when he created Corbynonics. I’m no fan of Murphy as an economist. But even he now thinks having Corbyn as leader has not worked. See:

    Personally, I think it’s worse than Richard Murphy describes. He has appointed as Chancellor a man who, in 2006, named Lenin and Trotsky as his biggest influences. Has he changed his views? It’s hard to tell, because McDonnell is much better than Corbyn at dodging questions without appearing to. If McDonnell on economics is like Corbyn appears to be on NATO, then a northern European social democracy is nothing like radical enough for him.

    Despite all the above, I recognise that there are decent people who support Corbyn. I don’t understand why they still do. I’m reluctant to press the question with them, for fear of causing offence.

    But, regardless, I think they are good people.

  19. The term “Social Democracy” has the same problem as other political terms, like left-wing, right-wing, conservative, liberal, socialist. All have varied meanings, but that doesn’t mean they are meaningless. I tend to use the terms in the way they are used by the general media, and sometimes I give specific examples, as I did in this article. Denmark is a social democracy, so are many of the countries of nothern europe.

    The term is sometimes used in other ways, but not in the way it is used by the general media.

    @Mike Homfray
    Social Democracy is having a hard time in Europe, but it is not dying. Denmark does not have a social democratic government, but Denmark is still (rightly) described as a social democracy.

    There are serious challenges that social democracy has to face. In particular how to deliver fairness in a globalised world, with increasing use of machines and expert systems. It will have to adapt. But I am confident it will.

    Rather, I think it is socialism that is in trouble. Is there any country in the world now, which could reasonably be called socialist, which anyone would hold up as a model for other countries to follow?

    My response to your last post is the same as my response to @rallan. If the government can deliver what the official Leave campaign promised, then the result should be respected. However, if Leave turns out to be very different from what was promised, we should have another referendum.

    Do you think the government can deliver what Leave promised?

    I think we should stay in the EU, but I do think a much greater emphasis should be put on helping the left behind make globalisation work for them.

  20. Jonathan Hoffman says:

    Anyone who supports Corbyn must be made aware of his many associations with antisemites and must ask themselves whether supporting him is consistent with their antiracist principles.

  21. DJ says:

    “We’ve become so obsessed with beating the Tories that we’ve lost touch with the language we need to inspire good people”

    Close; it does seems that the PLP are happier to see traditional labour values destroyed if they can win a few moderate tory votes and weirdly happy to see politics become a game of who can sit on the most seats rather than about helping people, but thinking it’s about words only suggests that “moderate” and “unifying” (only one has said, backing it up with actions, that labour is a broad church and that is Jeremy Corbyn) are still caught up in a media image when action is what is needed. I know people who see blairites as hypocrites because they preach about free education but would grasp for the benefits of high fee schools for their own children so labour should be thrilled that their party is attracting so many who believe in labour values and believe that labour values can secure a labour government. Patronise these people at your peril.

  22. @George,

    “My hope is, they’ll change their minds and become social democrats. I suspect, eventually, many will.”

    I think this is just wishful thinking. The term “social democrat” is fine if understood literally or in its original early 20th century context, but in the 21st century it has come to mean support for the centre parties. As we’ve seen in the EU and USA recently, the centre ground is being increasingly abandoned. The center ground is inherently conservative, whereas those on the right and left want changes of some sort.

    So the centre ground is a good place to be when the system is working well. We can tinker with it here and there to make it even better, but it is obvious to nearly everyone that the system is not at all working well right now. So whether to change it from a left or right perspective?

    So, the centre parties both in the UK and the EU have a big problem. They are losing support to the left and the right. The UK campaign on the EU was just hopeless IMO. There was little or no optimism about the merits of EU membership. Just a lot of doom-mongering about how much worse the UK would be without it.

    The problem for the centre parties is that they have bought into the economic falsehoods spread by the neo-liberal right and given up on the commitment they used to share with the left on such ideals as full employment for everyone. They’ve swapped the economics of Keynes for that of Friedmann and Hayek. Anyone espousing Keynesian economics right now is classed as being on the extreme left! They are branded as “deficit deniers”! But anyone who knows a bit about Keynes knows he was no ultra leftie!

    Keynesian economics is very simple. In a nutshell we just need to bear in mind that if the GDP of the UK is £N trillion then it does need £N trillion of spending, each year, to keep it going. Or in the eurozone €N trillion. The spending is a mixture of public and private. The problem for any government is that it doesn’t know what everyone else will spend in any given time period. So if everyone else is spending too much the government has to spend less to prevent inflation.

    If everyone else isn’t spending enough the government has to spend more , or tax less to encourage everyone else to spend more. Too much overall spending = Too Much Inflation. Too little spending = Too Much Unemployment and Recession. What’s so hard about that? If politicians and Eurozone economists, had just kept these very simple concepts in mind, there wouldn’t now be anywhere near so many economic problems, Britain wouldn’t be in the process leaving the EU and the centre ground of politics would be a much better place to be for you, our LibDem guest on Labour Uncut!

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