People keep saying that Corbyn shouldn’t be the leader of the Labour party because he can’t win a General Election, and that Labour have to win the next General Election in order to make a difference and help those who most need help. So – Labour must win, they can’t win under Corbyn, Corbyn must go.
The logical extension of this argument is that Corbyn supporters don’t really care about those who most need help – Corbyn supporters are kind of woolly-minded, or naïve, or blinded by their own ideological purity, or ignorant, or actual destructive bullies, or something.
I should say here that I like Corbyn, and I paid £3 to vote for him last year, and I think his leadership of the Labour party could have been the greatest thing to happen in British politics in a generation, if not longer. (And I really believe that the failure of the Labour party to get behind him will go down in history as a catastrophic missed opportunity, for various reasons). If I had a vote now, though, I would hesitate to vote for him, because it honestly looks like the PLP would rather the party implode than support him as leader.
And this post isn’t intended to persuade people to vote Corbyn or anything, for the above reason. I have no idea what would be best for the Labour party right now, and I’m not going to pretend that I do. I’m not trying to change people’s minds. I just want to use this post to ask some questions, really, because I’m not a member of the Labour party and although I try to keep up with politics, I’m not an expert.
The questions are:
1) Can’t Labour help those who most need help right now by being intelligent, articulate, and passionate in the House of Commons? If e.g. the Conservatives are trying to legislate something abhorrent, can’t Labour MPs pack the house, and not only vote against the proposal but also use their arguments to persuade Conservatives and MPs of other parties to vote against it? The Conservative majority is tiny. I get that parties have whips and everything, but don’t the debates and votes mean anything? And – maybe they don’t, I don’t know. It might all be a pantomime. (Like I say, these are genuine questions).
2) Can’t Labour help those who most need help right now by being intelligent, articulate and passionate in dealing with the media and the press? Can’t they out-reason the Conservatives, and explain why the Conservatives (and the Daily Mail, and the Sun, and the Times, and the Telegraph, etc etc etc) are so wrong so often? In short, can’t they challenge false narratives and change public opinion? This seems to be what Corbyn, Abbott and McDonnell try to do. They’d do a better job of it if they weren’t on their own. If Labour succeeded in doing this, and certain attitudes or policies became unacceptable to the public, the Conservatives might change their plans accordingly.
3) Can’t Labour help those who most need help right now by shifting the Overton Window back over to the left? This is very similar to the previous question I guess, except this is less about Labour ripping the Conservatives’ arguments to pieces and more about getting their heads together and presenting genuine, cohesive alternatives to the public. Again, this would have the effect of changing public opinion and forcing the Tories to change. (As an aside, the Tories being forced to the left should be regarded as a achievement, in the same way that Thatcher saw Tony Blair’s ascension to PM as an achievement).
4) If Nigel Farage got Britain out of the EU without UKIP being in Government (which, make no mistake, he did), then how can any Labour MP seriously, in good faith, with a straight face, claim that being in Government is necessary in order to effect change? And just in case this needs saying, this isn’t an endorsement of Brexit or Farage.
Those are questions I have for Labour members who say that Labour can’t make a difference until they win an election, but they all depend on the party being unified in their opposition to the Conservatives and not…y’know. Whatever they are now. Note: I don’t see why they can’t privately dislike Corbyn or disagree with him and still focus on opposing the Tories. Surely that happens all the time in politics? I don’t know.
But let’s put all that aside and assume that Labour can’t help anybody until they win an election. So, with regards to winning an election:
5) Can’t Labour MPs raise concerns about Corbyn’s weak management skills internally, i.e. not in the press? What’s with all this leaking and briefing? It doesn’t make me (a fairly disenfranchised voter) want to vote Labour…like, I don’t care if Labour get Owen Smith in and he turns out to be a great manager. I’m not going to vote for a load of MPs who just resign if they’re not happy with the boss, because I want to be represented by politicians capable of working with people they don’t like or don’t agree with. What I’m trying to say is: if Labour want to win the next General Election, whenever that is, then why aren’t they trying to give the impression to voters that they’re competent?
6) If there is stuff that Corbyn isn’t good at (and of course there is) then why aren’t MPs stepping up to bolster him in those areas? Communication and presentation are two that spring to mind. He’s got good, relevant and future-cognisant ideas imho (e.g. the National Education Service, focus on renewable energies, etc) – why don’t Labour MPs take these ideas and present them, amplify them, sell them? Or at least give the party leadership a chance to develop a full suite of policies, instead of setting fires for them to put out.
7) Why doesn’t the Labour party take collective responsibility when it (or Corbyn) polls badly? If I was polled right now, I might well say that I wouldn’t vote for Labour in a General Election – but it’s not because of Corbyn, it’s because the party seems incompetent, and I worry that as long as they can depend on anti-Tory votes they’re going to remain incompetent. If I was polled specifically on Corbyn as party leader, I might well say that I wouldn’t vote for him because I wouldn’t trust the party to support him if he won. It’s the party’s failure, not just his.
8) Does the Labour party believe that winning elections is a matter of appealing to the public’s desires and concerns, or persuading the public to change their desires and concerns? To me, it looks as if New Labour and the current PLP believe it’s the former, whereas Corbyn and McDonnell (and Corbyn supporters like me, I suppose) believe it’s the latter. For me, at least, it has to be the latter; Britain has an overly right-wing and irresponsible press, ruthlessly exploited by the Conservatives and UKIP etc, and as long as Labour capitulate to dominant social narratives (i.e. the former) then public opinion will drift to the right – especially as the economic impact of Brexit hits, and the consequences of worldwide climate chaos become even more severe.
It’s pretty obvious from all this that I’m a Corbyn supporter, and I’m not attempting to be unbiased, but nor am I trying to change minds. The above are all genuine questions that various Facebook and Whatsapp conversations have raised, and that nobody has really answered to my satisfaction. If anybody can answer them now, on Facebook or Twitter or whatever, please do – I want to understand this stuff. Also, this post might help those who are anti-Corbyn to understand how some of us can both support Corbyn and expect the Labour party to help those who need help at the same time.