crying

For all I know, the Social Democratic Party (“SDP”), which was founded on 26 March 1981, never actually formally died. The SDP was founded on 26 March 1981 by four senior Labour Party ‘moderates’, dubbed the ‘Gang of Four’. The four left the Labour Party as a result of the January 1981 Wembley conference which committed the party to unilateral nuclear disarmament and withdrawal from the European Economic Community. They also believed that Labour had become too left-wing, and had been infiltrated at constituency party level by Trotskyist factions whose views and behaviour they considered to be at odds with the Parliamentary Labour Party and Labour voters.

Last week, 172 Labour MPs voted ‘no confidence’ in the leadership of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn MP. I’ve voted Labour all my life. In fact, my 42nd birthday was on June 18th 2016, four days before what would have been Jo Cox’s. I was devastated at Jo’s murder. It was a reminder how brilliantly MPs work for their constituents in such a devoted way, not seeking media publicity, but driven so strongly by values such as social justice.

I’ve been fortunate to attend the Labour Party conference on-and-off since 2010. I’ve had good memories of the event too. I remember once asking Jim Naughtie about how once he accidentally had used the C word in introducing the current Secretary of State for health on the Today Programme. Even to this day, I am intensely proud to be a low-down-in-the-foodchain member of Labour. A few years ago, I met Grahame Morris MP, MP for Easington, for the first time. A wonderful man, clearly a devoted constituency MP, and also who served meticulously on the Health Select Committee.

I use this background to front load how let down I have felt by the behaviour of a ‘gang of 172’ Labour MPs. I am not a “Trot”, nor a member or activist within “Momentum”. I am ambivalent about Momentum. I can see the merits of a grassroots ‘organising’ movement within Labour, but I happen not to be part of it. I am not counting the number of Momentum posters at Jeremy Corbyn rallies. I understand Paul Mason’s argument that some people who feel politically motivated encourage friends to pop along if they happen to be around, such is the depth of feeling. And, after all, we wanted people to become politically engaged didn’t we? I remember going to meetings in the fringe of the  Fabian Society talking about “lost voters”, at roughly the same era the Fabians were looking into “Southern Discomfort” And of course, this Southern Discomfort soon became Scottish Discomfort, and North East Discomfort, and so on.

I was once given some advice by John Prescott, which turned out to be very good. In that same year, his son David Prescott helped me across the street in Manchester, as he recognised me, and saw I was physically having difficulty. That is either manners, or solidarity, as three years’ previously I had come out of a coma due to meningitis. It’s why I fundamentally believe that anything can happen to anyone at any time. It’s why I think the welfare state is important – not an albatross round the taxpayers’ neck, but an essential lifeline for some. I am physically disabled, and remember when my DLA was taken away for no reason overnight. I understand why some of my disabled Comrades committed suicide, allegedly, under the pressure of it all.

There is an argument that austerity is a political choice, not an economic one. To give you an example, Stephen Dorrell, previous Secretary of State for Health under a previous Conservative administration, felt that the ‘Nicholson efficiency savings’, first proposed by McKinseys, would be unprecedented. And we have seen the pressure of these savings in the context of budgets negotiating, for example, private finance initiative loan repayments. Jeremy Hunt has never implemented the NICE safe staffing guidance, and some hospitals are able to hide behind a cloak of lack of transparency in freedom of information ‘for commercial reasons’.

There’s some of us, who are not Trots, or ‘Momentum activists’, but who are Labour voters, and are not particularly happy the way things went in New Labour. New Labour ‘successes’ are substantial in number, such as the introduction of the national minimum wage, introduction of human rights legislation to harmonise us with Europe, drastic improvement in performance of the NHS early on, to name but a few. But clearly Tony Blair, whom I respect, may have become dazzled with personal ambition to become EU president in 2008, and helped to introduce a raft of legislation such as the NHS Act and Public Contracts Regulations, and so on, which helped shore up the notion of economic competitive entities and a free market in the NHS. The late great Tony Benn used to warn that once such legislation was laid down in parliament it was subsequently hard to get rid of it. And also he used to warn that if you really want neoliberal policies to be introduced with relative ease in parliament it’s a good idea to get a Labour government to do it.

Tony Benn’s argument was that he became disillusioned with government once he realised that government was about doing things more efficiently rather than fundamentally doing it better. And of course Tony Benn was involved in not an inconsiderable number of policy disasters himself, such as the wages policy of the Callaghan government. But even Tony Benn had his moments.

Believe me, I am not a Trot when I say that the work of Barbara Castle on equality, which predates our membership of the EU, was brilliant. Or that I agree that the money potentially we could get in tackling tax avoidance and evasion, which arguably Dame Margaret Hodge has not been that successful at, could help to fund parts of our infrastructure rather than help to subsidise tax cuts for the high income or corporations? Or that the ambition to build social housing, rather than see the State organise a small supply of ‘affordable housing’ to flog off to the private sector, to solve a housing crisis, is much needed.

These for me are not particularly ‘left wing’ policies. I never felt that Heidi Alexander made much headway as Secretary of State for health in clarifying clearly policy on the NHS ‘free at the point of use’ – in other words no clear policy on the use of PFI, the argument against alternative funding apart from general taxation (e.g. copayments). I never felt Alexander was particularly vocal about insisting on the NHS being funded on a more solid footing, but the argument against this is that this is a Treasury matter. I felt there was some populist posturing, which did not, expectedly, include the picket line, but I don’t wish to go down this route. So when she resigned I was not devastated.

I continue to adore the work of Andy Burnham on the other hand. I am not air brushing Mid Staffs out, to which I felt New Labour’s target driven culture, market ideology, and the rush for Foundation Trust status may have contributed. I am confused about the privatisation of NHS Logistics. But the introduction of the NHS Preferred Provider policy, whilst a big no no for me in simply tinkering with a market philosophy I don’t agree with, was at least part mitigation against a free for all liberalisation of the market which was subsequently to come with bells on with section 75 Health and Social Care Act 2012. But social care continued to suffer, as it had done in the 1990s, under New Labour. Privatisation was clearly not the answer – and if it had been the solution, what had originally been the problem? Above, whole person care, as advanced for the UK, in my professional view, was the right policy in the right place at the right time.

I must part company with the recent commentary from Westminster lobby journalists about the ‘wilting’ of Jeremy Corbyn. I think, for a start, when a seleb journalist chucks the boot into Jeremy Corbyn, rather than it being a “deal breaker” it becomes a “badge of honour”. I think Jeremy Corbyn’s mis-speak when he says “I have a mandate”, a worse version of the “I have a dream” of the charismatic leader Dr Martin Luther King, was a vague attempt by Corbyn to establish himself as a leader. But of course some people are as fed up with the perception of Jeremy Corbyn’s followership as a personality cult, not a social movement, in the same way some of us look at the followership of Tony Blair at Progress with an equal sense of bafflement.

But the ‘wilting of Jeremy Corbyn’, a framing of the problem by Westminster journalists, is as unclear as the general criticism of Corbyn. There is a strong consensus that Corbyn’s leadership and teamwork skills could be much improved, along with overall strategic direction. The communications, including the famous ‘Seumas, I don’t think this is a good idea”, could be better. But many people like me buy into the vision of , say, tackling social housing problems, and so on.

And take last week for example. The argument from the Conservatives was that the UK economy is doing well post Brexit. As a result of Labour MPs being whipped to tour the TV studios and to cry on camera at their disgust of Jeremy Corbyn, nobody put up the ‘in the alternative’ argument. And that was Sterling was at a 31 year low, and that £ had been artificially sustained due to massive recapitalisation from the Bank of England. This, reasonably foreseeable, had shoved up temporarily the national debt, which meant of course there was no way on earth that the Conservative Party could meet their fiscal surplus economic rule. So – surprise surprise – Osborne scrapped this rule.

For all the sense of bereavement about the EU membership, blame laid at the foot of Jeremy Corbyn, more % wise voted remain in Labour than in the Conservatives,  and possible future Conservative leader to be, Theresa May, campaigned for remain with equal magnificence an Jeremy Corbyn arguably. And there is a concern, unaddressed by the #Labour172 resignations, of immigration – repeatedly said to be a “good thing” by Corbyn – lead to a perception of insecurity amongst some Labour voters. It’s notable how so many Labour areas voted in favour of Brexit, including Dame Margaret Hodge’s constituency of Barking and Dagenham. The implementation of Brexit, in terms of the demands of free movement of people and the single market, may address this in part, but if the Conservatives and  Labour effectively adopt the positioning of not opposing the result of the EU referendum not opposing a drastic limit to immigration could become legitimised for short-term political gain.

These are problems which a future Labour Party, whoever leads it, must face. The economic benefits of EU membership were made, but to give Corbyn credit Labour unlike the Conservatives had made a case for social merits of immigration too. The starting point must be surely that, particularly if Gove and May don’t want a ‘snap election’, the Fixed Terms Parliament Act must play out such that there’s an general election on the first thursday of May 2020. It will suit the Conservatives to have this national election then as the full boundary changes will have been implemented to their benefit.

So there was no hurry to register the ‘Angela for Leader’ or ‘Saving Labour’ websites, arguably, in fact. Or no hurry to ring around to activate a coup which had been planned for months. A party, had it been big on the socialist principles of planning and solidarity, might have changed gear from carping and demoralising to one of improving massively teamwork and leadership of the Corbyn organisation. The argument that the Corbyn office is impossible to work with is totally negated by the continuous plotting and criticism since day one, even with resignations of Labour MPs who had not even been invited to serve in the shadow cabinet.

No – apart from some names which spring to mind, I’m pretty disgusted by the current bunch of Labour MPs, but the membership historically is more important than the MPs in parliament. It’s a given that MPs represent all the constituents, but it’s also a given that the party is supposed to represent in parliament the working class needs of society, as explained here by Prof Geoffrey Alderman.

We in the membership feel as if it’s our party – so please forgive us if we cry if we want to.

 

@dr_shibley

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13 Comments

  1. Robert Jones says:

    As a matter purely of information, the SDP slunk into the Liberal Party, which is why they now call themselves Liberal Democrats. That isn’t what I call them, but pay me no mind.

    The PLP is behaving like a rabble – whether one likes or supports Corbyn or not. And no, its own record of simply doing its job is not impressive. If one’s going to start a coup, it’s at least wise to have an alternative in mind – they appear not to have, and the standard bearer they’ve chosen in Angela Eagle seems extremely reluctant (understandably) while their compromise candidate, one Smith, is almost entirely anonymous outside of his own back garden.

    I’m not a Trot, nor a member of Momentum, either. Leave a few tissues in the Kleenex box for me.

  2. excellent comment Robert – thanks

  3. Fee Berry says:

    I was a Green until I heard Jeremy Corbyn speak. I watched hours of footage of him addressing various groups and resigned my Green Party membership to join the Labour Party in time to vote for him as leader. I joined Momentum a few days ago after hearing Tom Blenkinsop call them dogs and make the unwarranted accusation that violence was feared by MPs from Momentum. It was incredible to me that a member of my own party would characterise a group of the membership in this negative way, and imply that they were extremists who would use violence on MPs. The BBC allowed this to pass without challenge, although, as far as I am aware, there are no episodes of threatened or actual violence reported by anyone.

    That I am an ordinary moderate person who was inspired by Jeremy Corbyn’s vision of how our society may be definitely colours my view of the PLP rebellion and the reporting of the whole debacle in the BBC. I have been particularly shocked that my two preferred sources of news, the Guardian and the BBC are so partisan and prejudiced in their reporting. Allowing people to say that he failed to deliver the Remain vote, when he did almost as well as Nicola Sturgeon despite members of his own party campagning for Leave, or that his support in the party is waning despite 60,000 people joining in the last week, without challenge, seems very wrong.

    There are groups on Facebook and Twitter that are sharing information about the movement to support Corbyn, who showed photographs and video of crowds marching and chanting for Corbyn, who are rapidly losing patience with the PLP and supporters, it is true. Because it is plain to see that there is a party procedure for a leadership challenge which the rebels are not using, patently because they know that they’d lose if there was a rematch and Jeremy was on the ballot.

    We have to ask the question – if these MPs want to be members of the Labour Party and don’t want to launch a membership challenge, are there party procedures by which they can lose the Labour whip? Because it seems to me they need to put up or shut up and get behind our democratically elected leader. And it’s hard to know why journalists are not asking those questions and are spinning everything Corbyn does and everything he says, negatively, all the time.

    I believed we had a partially free press. I no longer do. And I am beginning to think that someone, somewhere, is very threatened by a grassroots movement that could definitely win the next general election.

  4. You’ve denied (on Twitter) giving strong support to Corbyn, but consistently during this crisis period, you’ve strongly criticised Labour MPs, who are overwhelmingly calling for Corbyn to resign (you’ve said they’re part of a “City plot” I think), and you’ve defended and made excuses for Corbyn.

    What I think you’ve been missing right from the start is that Corbyn’s world view is morally indefensible. You should do some research into his stance on the IRA, on Jihadist terror and on Israel—then, perhaps, you’d understand why many of us have been so opposed to him all along. To many people, it comes as no surprise whatever that Corbyn managed to turn an antisemitism event into a storm about antisemitism.

    On top of that, he is obviously incompetent. The referendum campaign and the Vice documentary have proved that beyond any reasonable person’s doubt.

    I think you’re entirely dazzled by the fact he loudly calls himself a “socialist”: that’s enough for you to assume his critics are right-wing stooges even though they’ve worked hard for Labour for decades. I don’t think you’ve ever had a really close look at Corbyn or tried to understand why there’s a Labour uprising against him.

    Two final points.

    As so often you praise Tony Benn, who achieved practically nothing in his political career. And as so often you criticise Tony Blair whose list of achievements is very long. This is a characteristic Corbynist preference. I think you dream of loud and clear socialist opposition to Tory government, for ever.

    And while no one remotely accuses you of being a Trotskyist, the SDP were right about Trotskyist infiltration. That’s why many members of Militant ended up being expelled from Labour in the 1980s. I wonder if you think Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock, who fought back against Militant, were neoliberal Blairite City stooges.

    You’re on the wrong side of this, Shibley. You’ve chosen the self-proclaimed “socialist” side, but it’s not the Labour side, and it’s not the morally defensible side.

    1. Fee Berry says:

      Can’t get away from the fact there is a party procedure for challenging the leadership, and until someone uses that to challenge he is the democratically elected leader. Whatever you think of his policies or his leadership, that is a fact. Wanting to challenge the leadership? No problem. Using frankly despicable means to challenge without mounting a leadership challenge the democratic way? Not OK. Not only does that undermine the proper and right procedure in the party, it undermines the faith of the ordinary members AND the ordinary voters that the party is listening or paying attention to the views of the members. And that’s a BAD thing for the labour Party in general.

      You can’t assume that all the members will stick around and vote for the Blairites if they manage to move Corbyn by some means – the trust the membership has for party MPs and an the old guard and the mainstream media is diminishing fast. I’ve never heard Corbyn say anything I disagrees with, and I can be accused of idealism for sure. I’m a pacifist Quaker, and I don’t take kindly to the spin that’s been given to his wish to put talking before violence no matter to whom he is talking.

      As for the PLP appearing on radio and tv to slander Momentum as though it is an organization of hard left trots who are likely to use violence upon their opponents (not that I am saying trot would do this) I absolutely refute the idea. Most of us are ordinary members, moderate, passionately for Corbyn and passionately against the coup. And that’s all

    2. Thanks Carl. very best wishes as ever. a valid perspective from your end, but which I happen to disagree with?

    3. rotzeichen says:

      Carl: You also appear to address one side of the argument only, you also raise the issue of MORALS, what will you be saying after the Chilcott inquiry, I can hear the silence from here?

      1. It’s “Chilcot”. I don’t know what I’ll be saying after it. I’m going to try reading some of it. I’m not among those who already think they know what it’ll say.

  5. Robert Jones says:

    As I don’t follow Shibley, and am not aware of what he may have said elsewhere, I’m not in a position to bring that into this brief discussion even if I wanted to, and I probably wouldn’t much want to as people’s ideas develop and change – and they’re entitled to them. On Corbyn – there was a good deal of sentimental nonsense written and spoken about the IRA on the left, particularly when Bobby Sands carried out his hunger-strike. I don’t really remember if JC was part of that, because frankly I didn’t pay him any attention at the time; I think it possible that those who say they remember it are actually trawling through his past utterances in order to find something damaging, which they certainly could. But then – you can play that game with anyone if you really want to.

    Not my role to defend Corbyn as a leader – I have my own views on the subject, but doubt it’d help much to share them just now. The point is – as I see it anyway – that he was elected as leader not by the PLP but by the membership, and the PLP never accepted that and have sought from the outset to remove him. You may dislike him, Carl Gardner, and obviously always have done: but this isn’t the way to remove him – it’s dishonest, clumsy, and self-destructive. For better or worse, the party changed the leadership election rules – having done so, we should either accept their logic or change them back to the position that the PLP chooses the leader. MPs calculated that a vote of no confidence from themselves would prompt a leader’s resignation: they were wrong – was that huge gamble worth it?

    1. I don’t blame you for not having paid attention to Corbyn in the distant past. He was a pretty minor figure then. But you ought now to pay more attention to what he did in the past, and the things he does and says today that are entirely consistent with his past.

      I suppose it is a game you can play with anyone. But with most politicians you can find a few embarrassing things in their past. In Corbyn’s you find tons of extremely dodgy stuff.

      No need even to consider that, though. It should be pretty easy to work out what we think about someone who says Israel has a right to exist but only at the third time of asking, after insistent questioning means he really has to say Yes or No.

  6. Teresa Steele says:

    I am not a political animal, far from it, I just go with what I believe is right for the people of the UK. No one is perfect. Unfortunately to be in the public domain you have to speak and behave, and it would seem more importantly, look a certain way. I speak as I find, and all I can see is that Mr Corbyn believes 100% in politics for the people. He may not have the persona of other western world leaders, but he wants to ensure inclusivity, understanding and to engage with the people. It would appear that most of modern day politics is based on keeping the people at bay lest they interfere with policies being made on our behalf, heaven forbid that the electorate become involved and start making suggestions. Most top end politicians fear this type of engagement because it would stifle their own agendas. We haven’t got a democracy, it’s a sham a total lie. No one is held to account, their is definitely no transparency and the general public, including me, are waking up to the idea that we are all being led by the nose and enough is enough. I’m a grandma, a school cleaner, a carer for a husband who was let down by the establishment, so badly in fact that my case rests with the MET along with others within our pressure group. The NHS failed us, and then covered up and lied, the PHSO colluded and still I fight. I nursed for 17 years, and even though we were let down by our establishment I still fight for my beloved NHS, I still believe in it and our doctors and nurses within it, who struggle every day. We need to engage, we need to understand our media isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and we need to think for ourselves, look through the sea of lies and soundbites and look into the eyes of people who truly want to engage with the electorate, and Mr Corbyn is that man. I too once thought ‘his look’ would hinder his political career, shame on me for being so judgmental.

  7. Scarlet Wilde says:

    Carl – your response is riddled with incorrect statements which are simply untrue. It’s such well worn propaganda, the same accusations are trotted out by the MSM, Progress and, of course, by the risible dirty tricks campaign by Portland Communications.

    Regarding Corbyn having had meetings with both the IRA and UDA, with the intention of opening a political discussion towards peace. Would you call Bill Clinton and Mo Mowlam “terrorist sympathisers” for talking to both sides to move a peace process forward? As for Bobby Sands, he was a political prisoner and Corbyn is not on record making any comment about his death.

    Now onto the “anti-semitism” trope. Have a read of the report, which, btw, was put together with leading Jewish organisations and you will see that there is no systemic anti-sensitise found in the party. As for the “incident” watch the full video. It’s a stunt. A despicable one. There is no anti-semitism whatsoever.

    As for “sharing platforms” with X,Y or Z in discussing the Israeli/Palestine situation, what’s the problem? Corbyn has always sought peace and a movement towards the two state solution. There is plenty on record about this. It is again ridiculous and slanderous to claim otherwise.

    I don’t know who you are, either you never bother to check what the MSM or Corbyn’s many enemies claim or you are yet another propaganda mouthpiece. Look deeper and keep an open mind, please, if that is not the case and when you do, ask yourself why are all the lies and dirt being consistently aimed at one man. Is it because, somehow, by letting ordinary people have a voice, this is seen as dangerous? If that is the case (and I suspect it is), what does that say about the disregard our establishment has for most of us? How dare they!

  8. When did Corbyn meet the UDA?

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