Labour should unite around the possibilities offered by a Corbyn government

by Jonathan Todd

Jeremy Corbyn has changed politics. Many – not least at Uncut – doubted whether he could. But he has. And it would be churlish to pretend otherwise.

Corbyn has illuminated a pathway to a transformative Labour government and the salvaging of the UK’s relationship with our European neighbours.

This is a future that everyone in Labour should fight for. Chuka Umunna should be congratulated for making himself available to serve on our frontbench, while the unwillingness of Chris Leslie is disappointing.

Much increased turnout among younger voters has produced a general election result broadly in line with those polls that took people at their word on their intention to vote. The youngsters said they would vote, they did, and Corbyn was key to this. If younger people continue to vote in these numbers, future elections will be different contests from previously.

As encouraging as this change is, the big vote among younger people for Labour was not sufficient to prevent a Tory government. At least for now.

Where coalition with the Liberal Democrats helped modernise the Tory brand, and provided a solid parliamentary majority, working with the DUP – pre-modern in their attitude to women and climate change – deepens the re-toxification of the already UKIP-esque Tories, in exchange for a puny majority.

“I do not give a shit about the IRA,” said a voter to a Tory canvasser. There is much greater anger about the contemporary impact of austerity than who Corbyn met in the 1980s.

After all the Corbyn-IRA scaremongering, the Tories are working with a party backed by loyalist paramilitaries. This is the latest hypocrisy from the so-called Conservative and Unionist Party. They say that a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is unnecessary but UK exit from the EU Customs Union demands it.

This is one of many details of Brexit that threatens profoundly negative consequences, which it is hard to have any confidence that the geniuses who gave us the calamitous Tory general campaign have any plan for resolving (or have left one in their handover notes).

They’ve cut public services to the bone, while failing to close the fiscal deficit – a deeply troubling combination. The resources available to these services will be further squeezed by a Brexit induced economic slowdown – which even Brexit cheerleaders anticipate and which would be exacerbated by poor handling of the Brexit negotiations by the hardly peerless Theresa May (or whomever the parliamentary Conservative Party decide to inflict upon a grateful nation as prime minister).

The heartlessness of austerity and the Brexit shambles reinforce one another. They are two sides of the same coin of Tory failure.

The people of the UK are right to hope for something better and many see Corbyn as embodying this hope – but it won’t be made real unless Corbyn forms a government. With a programme for government that could be delivered.

This is now Labour’s task. Revisiting the manifesto to ensure that it is as strong as possible – focusing, in particular, on minimising any hostages to fortune to a future Labour government. Putting forward our best salespeople for this manifesto – which should include having all our brightest stars, such as Umunna, on the frontbench, tasked also with forensic and aggressive parliamentary opposition. Retaining the coalition of support that Corbyn has built – which, given the pro-EU views of many youthful Labour voters, must incorporate some mechanism for reversing Brexit. Sufficiently building upon this coalition to get Labour over the line – a stronger frontbench and, while retaining its ambition, a more credible manifesto would help.

For those within Labour who have doubted Corbyn, this might not come easily. Nor will it be without challenges for those that have backed Corbyn. The easy road is factionalism, the harder route is unity.

Only by working together, overcoming suspicion and mistrust, will we get a Labour government. Only with such a government will we be able to fulfil the hopes that everyone in Labour shares with much of the British population.

There is no time to waste. We should back Keir Starmer to the hilt as he bats for Britain in opposing a destructive Brexit. We rapidly need to be battle ready for another general election, whenever it comes.

We need to stop seeing Corbynism as simply a vehicle for change within the Labour movement, or a popular expression of protest, and start working together on having it be a means of securing, and delivering upon, a much better form of government than the Toryism that diminishes and impoverishes the UK.

After the frustration of the 1992 defeat, much of the left bought into New Labour as a route to bringing about cherished policy goals. After our latest defeat, the right should commit to Corbynism for the same reasons.

What else is the right going to do?

Let’s leave the carping to the grumbling hive that will be a Tory party that has boxed itself into positions that have put UKIP out of business. It is clear that Britain hopes for better than UKIP and there is a responsibility incumbent upon everyone in Labour to do all that we can to make a reality of these hopes.

Jonathan Todd is Deputy Editor of Labour Uncut

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22 Responses to “Labour should unite around the possibilities offered by a Corbyn government”

  1. Peter Kenny says:

    Yes, I agree.

    A sentence I have rarely written on this site!

    Of course, and this is key, Corbynism has to lead. We need to do the things we did in this election better, more boldly, not significantly differently.

    That means Corbyn and his approach must lead. Listen to advice of course, give people a voice of course, but, in the end, lead.

    That means those who have seen themselves as entitled to lead must learn to follow. Now that willl be hard!

  2. there is no doubt that party unity is now essential. The factionalism which has been Labour’s curse since the LRC was formed in 1900 has to be overcome, and if people like Chris Leslie cannot see this they are no wanted on voyage.

    The young in particular expect a party that will fight for their interests. If Labour cannot do this it has no future.

    Ignore the manifesto unless an election is imminent, it will do for the moment. The essential is to focus on building in key seats. In my neck of the woods we have two MPs with less than 50 vote majorities – Newcastle Under Lyme and Crewe – and two were the Tories are within touching distance, Stoke North and Central, with Stoke South lost because of UKIP.

    A unity platform to get these and similar seats into shape for an election is now vital. Left right and centre are irrelevant. Lets have a unity platform

    Trevor Fisher

  3. Anne says:

    I agree with this piece. We have got some very talented politicians in the Labour Party- Chuka is undoubtedly one of those. Kier Starmer is undoubtedly the best Brexit negotiator and the Labour Party is right to put the economy and jobs first in these negotiations. For me one of the Labour stars of the election was Barry Gardiner – good at interviews, facts and presentation.
    A lot is said about gender of MPs by the media- wanting female short lists and more female MPs – I disagree with this position – for me it is about ability. However, One female I think talks a lot of sense is Francis O’Grady of the TUC – she talks of workers rights, zero hours contracts as well as Brexit – worth seeing more of Francis.

  4. Peter Martin says:

    A nice idea but we don’t quite have the numbers for Govt. If the Tories have to rely on the DUP then so would we, and that’s just not an option politically.

    We need to build on the new sense of unity within the party and be ready for the next election when it comes.

    The public won’t thank us if we bring that about too quickly. We need to be fairly circumspect just at present.

  5. buttley says:

    “Chuka Umunna should be congratulated for making himself available to serve on our frontbench”

    ….Why should somebody be congratulated for orchestrating a concerted media campaign to further their own naked political ambition.

    ….Are you seriously advocating this unabashed narcissism?

    ….Chuka at his forensic best, conflating anti-Semitism with Momentum.

    This sums up Uncut perfectly right now.

  6. Eamonn says:

    Hmm. So against their political instincts they should simply give up and collude with the hard left takeover of the party? So are we now saying that moderate centre left political thinking is dead and we should all celebrate a return to 70s style old labour socialism? Really? What a pathetic self serving rabble. Oh and I nearly forgot, guess they’ll all have to turn a blind eye to antisemitism within the party, intimidation of MPs by the Momentum mob (remember the Syria vote anyone?) and the continuing revisionism gripping the party whereby New Labour = bad old days. Hope the moderates can live with their exceptionally opportunistic drift to the left.

  7. Alf says:

    We can’t go back to just being Tory-lite. I’m with Corbyn!

  8. John P Reid says:

    Yes people don’t care about the IRA,now they care about his friends Hamas, and yes the Tories who shot themselves in the foot over austerity,so it wasn’t corbyn increasing our votes,it was a anti Tory vote that did it,

  9. Bob says:

    Broadly agree though a cabinet of all talents is required. Corbyn has proven to be a great campaigner in the country, but we also need great party leaders and also parliamentarians – the skills aren’t all the same. Also, a fleshed out programme of government building on the manifesto – catchphrases and headlines are great but they need depth. We’ll never get the chance we had again – the tories will learn quick and in the next election the advantages of this one will be largely negated. Expect attack ads about where’s the money come no from, my middle class kids get free university fees etc. Enough of the internal party stuff, we’ve a real chance if we don’t blow it – unfortunately a recurring habit since the beginning….

  10. john P reid says:

    OK, the SNP running out of money, the collapse of UKIP, although the tores got back more ex ukippers who wnt to them than we have,many labour activists, not being prepared to see a labour deafeat, a rubbiush tory campaign,which they thought they’d walk it

    an dthe Tories had 13 year sin opposition to renew themselves, we had 18, aftyer 13 years we wer eburnt out,and after 7 they are,and despite not hainvg a civil wa rin 2010, we have rebuilt ourselves

    the fact is that people who voted labour in 1983 who were on the picket line at grunskwick voted tory for the first time last week, and there are youngster who liked the idea of free child care, for their kids but voted tory,and they thought labour couldn’t afford what we were promising

    we lost in 1992 ,the pulbic hadn’t forgot the witner of discontent
    as we let Thatcherism happen with the 1974 manifesto getting rid of Ted heath union reforms, that caused the winter of discontent, and then we let Thatcher win ,by bullying out the SDP ,telling the electorate they were wrong not to vote for us, and by saying we los tin 1979 as it wasn’t left wing enough ,and we should reverse tory polices they brought in

    we got 40%good our 3rd best result after 1997 and 2001 since 1966

    but we had a lot in our favour, and demographics of the public helped, but we needed to win seats like Thurrock that we had in 1992 that we couldn’t win now

    John Cruddas seat in Dagenham’s majority fell by 1,000, Wes streeting majoirty fell by 100
    we could see councillors there lose their seats and the greens gain in Hackney and tower hamlets yes Corbyn did well,but we won those seats despite him ,not because of him
    the council election in London next year

  11. Dave Hansell says:

    ” What else is the right going to do?”

    Well the optimistic scenario is perhaps they could ask Peter Mandelson…..

    …..who wants them to prop up an extreme right wing Tory Government led by Theresa May who has just appointed Britain’s answer to Alfred E Neuman, Michael Gove, as Environment Minister.

    The more realistic scenario is that the only man in these islands who makes Michael Howard look like someone who relishes daylight is actually telling them that is what they are going to do.

  12. Ex Labour says:

    Lets get this nonsense clear. Most of the article ranges from wishful thinking to fantasy land.

    The Labour party did much better than expected – why ? Was it some ‘Road to Damascus’ conversion to Corbyn or was it some other reason ? For this I look to my Labour friends for answers. On each election occasion their voting intensions tell me who will do well, because looking at the polls is pointless. In 2015 their views told me it was Cameron despite what the polls were saying. They also indicated which way Brexit would go, so they are pretty reliable.

    The brutal fact is that according to them they held their nose and voted Labour DESPITE Corbyn. Their reasons were generally around potentially heading off a hard Brexit and having a stronger opposition voice during negotiations. I did point out that Corbyn is not pro-Europe and never has been, which caused a few furrowed brows.

    The absolutely piss poor campaign by the PM made the impact so much better for Labour. Quite frankly they couldn’t have done any worse. So I’d inject a note of caution that all is still not sorted for Labour and internal divisions do still exist. Perhaps when the euphoria dies down wiser heads will see this.

  13. John P Reid says:

    Referring to the right of the Tory party as Ukip-Esque in a bad way un does the damage done,of getting back those ex labour voters who went to Ukip,

  14. Peter Kenny says:

    Hi John P Reid – the SDP were not ‘bullied out’ – Jenkins and other right wingers had discussed the idea of a new party for ages. Jenkins from the comfort of a position as a Eurocrat, where I’m sure he suffered epic levels of oppression!

    When they judged the time was right they launched their party, planned, deliberately, to do as much damage to the Labour Party as possible. Those MPs who defected deliberately staggered their leaving the LP so that it dragged on for weeks.

    The behaviour of the LP wasn’t bullying it was weak – Foot bleating about trying to keep them in when what was needed was a loyalty oath to the LP and anyone who didn’t sign should have been expelled, in order to flush them out in one go. Anyone who signed and then left would have revealed themselves as a liar.

    Of course in their local parties some MPs had the nasty exprience of members challenging them and people thinking that they might have a say in who got the plum, priveleged job of being an MP. Poor souls. Most of them found out later that the LP was the only reason they had those jobs! They were bullied out by the electorate!

    The SDP was a miserable failure of course but kept the Tories in power for years.

    They were never bullied – they were a bunch of self important, entitled elitists who thought that they could make a party in their own image. David Owen was so up his own orifice that he couldn’t even work with the Liberals!

    The useful thing about it all is that it stands as an awful warning to anyone who thinks about setting up such a thing again.

    We’re still here, where are they?

  15. paul barker says:

    “What else is The Right going to do ?”
    Its a pretty stark choice isnt it ? Its either go along with The Left or defect to The Libdems.

  16. David Walker says:

    Corbyn should start to use the line that May gave to the 1922 Commitee, every week in PMQs, as there will be constant chaos now the Tories have no majority’

    “The Right Honorable lady got us into this mess. Only a Labour government can now get us out of it.”

    Make that quote as hard to shake-off as “There’s no money left” was for Labour, in 2010-2015.

  17. Simon Ray says:

    I think Jonathan Todd’s article is good, and he is surely right that the Party needs to come together at this moment rather than continue with the damaging disunity of the past year/ 2 years. The MPs’ reception for Corbyn in Parliament today happily suggests that the vast majority of them have taken this on board and that Chris Leslie is in a small minority. But, being towards the left of the party myself, I’m curious as to what it is that people on a site don’t like: is it primarily a dislike of Corbyn himself, or do people dislike the policies he advanced in the manifesto? I would hope that the manifesto – which is social democratic rather than outright socialist – can form the basis of unity between previously warring factions as there’s nothing in it that I’d expect most members to disagree with. Or am I wrong? Do Labour Uncut regulars actually oppose, eg, the idea of taxing the well-off more, re-nationalising the railways, ending privatisation within the NHS, reversing cuts to the education and the arts etc etc? Enlighten me, please.

  18. John P Reid says:

    Paul barker, it was years of being bullied that eventually saw them leave through out the 70’s that’s bullying in,the straw that broke the camels back, was the trots having deselections,

    Owen didn’t want to join the liberals he didn’t agree with them, so he said hold your nose vote Tory, and foot should have realized the bullying that was going on

  19. Peter Kenny says: “The SDP was a miserable failure of course but kept the Tories in power for years.”

    In 1983, the Labour party received 27.6%, the SDP/Liberal Alliance received 25.4%. Of course, the first past the post system defeated the Alliance, as those many votes translated into few seats. But this vote share was a remarkable achievement, almost as large as one of the two main parties. Some failure.

    It’s a constantly repeated myth that the SDP kept Labour out of power. Polling evidence showed that the Alliance took as many votes from the Tories, as from Labour, and in terms of seats, the parliamentary by-election and general election gains the Alliance, and later the Lib Dems, achieved were predominantly from the Tories.

    What kept Labour out of power was that Labour was less popular than the Tories.

    As for the SDP being “self important, entitled elitists”… I joined the SDP in 1981, and like most members, I had never been in a party before. I have remained loyal in the 36 years since, because I believe the two party system needs breaking. That a system that requires the voters to play game theory before they decide how to effectively cast their votes is a travesty of democracy. That it results in far rightwing policies, when the consensus of the country would reject them, and if it elected a far leftwing government, it would only be because the country disliked the far right even more.

    If I were a careerist, I’d never have stayed in the Lib Dems. I’d have swallowed my principles. I’d have joined Labour. I’d have changed my convictions like the Vicar of Bray to suite the prevailing opinion in the Labour party, in the hope of advancement.

    I don’t blame Chuka Umunna and Jonathan Todd for what they’ve said and written. Politics is about the possible, and they may feel this path is the only possible one for them. But I’m sorry to hear Chris Leslie being attacked in the way he is. He is sticking to his principles, probably at considerable cost to his career, just as Jeremy Corbyn did in the years of the Blair ascendency. Those who support Corbyn should be the first to applaud this. But, of course, they won’t.

  20. @Simon Ray
    Thank you for your question. I suspect many Labour moderates will be reluctant to say what they really think, for fear of being condemned, in the way that Chris Leslie has been.

    I’m a LibDem, but Labour uncut have been kind enough to publish several articles from me. As a member of another party, I’m much freer to say what I think, and I suspect many of my concerns are shared by social democrats in the Labour party.

    I could try to write in some detail what so troubles me about Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. I’ll contact Labour uncut to see if that might be of interest.

  21. Peter Kenny says:

    Goodbye. I’ve finally finished with this pit of negativity, defeatism and disdain for real social change.

    Hey, George, I was talking about the Gang of Four and the defectors, not people like you. I thought the context made that clear. I stand by it, especially the ‘Four’.

    How else would you describe Owen, for example? A man who I think still secretly suspects the country will call for him one day in its hour of need!

    As for success – how would you describe losing to the Monster Raving Loony Party? you have to surely look at the SDP over its whole life span to make a judgement, not just pick out the high points?

  22. Simon Ray says:

    Thanks for the response, George. I’m really interested in what the right-wing of the Labour Party are thinking, but it seems that a lot of people here – like you – aren’t actually Labour members or even voters, and at least half the links to individual bloggers on the ‘Outside’ listings are no longer operative. So where do the Labour right talk among themselves these days?

    I’m hoping that the better than expected GE result will help the two wings of the party come together after the infighting and resentments of the past two years. In my area that happened in the campaign and it worked well – we were one of the big gains of the night – so everyone is up and optimistic and looking forward to campaigning together again soon. Members of Momentum came into the constituency in the final week once it was clear we had a chance of winning. They did sterling work on the doorstep, and were well-received even by local members who have been very anti-Corbyn. So things are looking promising in my locality, but sadly this site is a different matter. I liked Jonathan’s article above, but in general, as Peter Kenny says, Labour Uncut seems to be infused with negativity and defeatism, and with people who made pessimistic assessments of Corbyn trying to justify themselves to save face. Which is a shame, but I suspect I’ll have to look elsewhere to find answers to my original question and to get a realistic sense of how things are looking from the right of the party.

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