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Speaker: Britain: the crisis isn't Brexit, it's Labour

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  • Sam Bradford, in reply to BenWilson,

    Yes, but if it's about electability--
    --you don't win elections by immediately kneecapping your leader
    --especially when there is no obvious replacement (if the other contenders hadn't been remarkably uninspired Corbyn never would have won)
    --the centrist Labour party was already very unpopular and directionless
    --and they haven't actually campaigned to the left for about 30 years. The conventional wisdom is all that the public will never buy it, based on what happened in the 80s, but the conventional wisdom about what people will vote for has been extremely fucking wrong recently. Centrism is dead, or at least the version that lets you talk about how concerned you are that the world is turning to shit while doing precisely nothing about it; and that version of centrism seems to be the absolute specialty of the parliamentary wing of the British Labour Party.

    New Zealand • Since Jul 2014 • 30 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin,

    I recall talking to friends and reading accounts of the hustings in 2015 and how so many people felt so excited and hopeful for Corbyn, Twitter was abuzz with photos of suburban Labour meetings that had queues around the block. That's exciting for any Anglo political party these days and so one can see why he has retained some form of mass mandate.

    But that excitement didn't bring along the solid core of the party, the councilors, the key activists and of course the Parliamentary party. How could it? Unlike the general membership, new supports or people generally, they all knew him or thought they did. They knew him as a a likeable but awkward backbencher who didn't follow the Party Line, an old school Bennite, someone who always seemed happiest in the furthest reaches of the loosely affiliated left. There is literally no way they were ever going to get on board with him heart and soul. They run local organisations, local councils, they try to win elections. They knew he had little for them and they had little for him.

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 1019 posts Report Reply

  • martinb,

    It was interesting to hear Mike Moore talk about Anderton as our Benn. It was also handy that he was able to operate as a party apart, and a yet play a crucial part. Wasn’t it Deputy PM? And a top ranking in cabinet?

    Corbyn is unable to do that in the current UK electoral system and there is certainly no Helen Clark of Britain (thus far or Michael Cullen for that matter) looking to lead and bridge the divide between the old left, and current factions.

    The British electoral system has its benefits. Local MPs and local responsibilities. But it seems also intransigent and unable to provide such an ‘elegant solution’ as creating a left party outside Labour that could express its own personality, yet work so closely with it when required. No one is taken for granted and no one splits the vote.

    Though I guess there is a lot of different takes on the Alliance years too…!

    Auckland • Since Jul 2010 • 203 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Sam Bradford,

    you don’t win elections by immediately kneecapping your leader

    You might if you thought they were leading you to disaster. But I'm not defending the party dysfunction. It's totally divided. I think that's because what it represents is, too. Its fragmentation is an image of the society under it. It's astonishing that nearly 50% of the people who voted voted to Remain, but neither of the two parties that have almost all the power stands for them. It's the most important decision their country has faced in 70 years, and their political system is unable to present its population with a choice. Seriously, this election ratifies Brexit, that is exactly what it stands for, exactly what May says it stands for. Who on earth are all the Remain people meant to vote for?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • kiwiwolf, in reply to Nick Russell,

    Yeah Right

    Whangaparaoa • Since Sep 2014 • 30 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Andrews, in reply to Russell Brown,

    That doesn't really prove anything - I know a lot of Labour Party members (and am one) who are very happy that the party actually stands for something now (surely the leadership votes are a better indication of what the party members think than what a few friends think?), the 26,000 leaving reporting was a bit of spin: it includes lapsed memberships, came after 1000s of new members were not allowed to vote in the leadership election and estimates, but it was represented as an exodus from Corbyn's leadership. And Momentum changed the membership rules in response to criticism - not forcing all members of Momentum join Labour, rather only allowing Labour members to join Momentum. And seriously - the entryism comment?

    This post is really disappointing. There is no analysis, no balance, no insight and it a looks a lot like a lot of Guardian comment pieces (thankfully not so much now the election has been called) - if it contained a few capitalised action words and talked about the loony left it could have come from the Express. There is the potential for something interesting at the beginning - either in terms of May's reasons for calling the election (election fraud charges making her majority less secure - as both SNP and UKIP have called it) or in terms of the volatility of politics in this country, and many other countries, particularly regarding the opinion polls - the Brexit referendum is being seen as a possible game changer for the political landscape here, but no-one really knows if it will pan out that way. All of this makes the election quite volatile - a number of commentators are saying they think May has made a big tactical error. It does look likely that the Conservatives will win - but that doesn't mean its inevitable or that Labour party the rank and file have given up. We haven't.

    London • Since Apr 2017 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Andrews, in reply to Nick Russell,

    And this, right here, is why the Labour Party is f*cked. I hope the last person to leave will turn out the lights, and leave Corbyn in charge of an empty room. Maybe then he and Momentum will finally be happy

    Labour now has the largest membership of any party in Western Europe. This does mean something - it is highly unlikely in the UK that you would get 500,000 people that have views that are strongly enough held to pay to join an organisation, but at the same time be so completely out of step with public opinion that the party has no future.

    London • Since Apr 2017 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    What if both the Blairite and Corbynite wings of UK Labour are in the gun? It could mean the unwelcome prospect of the UK turning into a Singaporean-style one-party democracy.

    Worth noting that in 1964, 37% of UK Labour MPs came from the working class but by 2015 that had dropped to 7%. A trend that's likely been replicated throughout the Anglosphere by way of union-busting, globalisation and automation, among other trends.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5420 posts Report Reply

  • Neil, in reply to Matthew Andrews,

    ...it is highly unlikely in the UK that you would get 500,000 people that have views that are strongly enough held to pay to join an organisation, but at the same time be so completely out of step with public opinion that the party has no future.

    Given the current state of the polls that paradox looks likely to come to pass. A decimated PLP with a large party membership. Corbyn being essentially a protestor may think this will solidifying a true labour movement around a true Labour Party but it will have little influence.

    There was a genuine wave of enthusiasm initially for Corbyn as an agent of change but I don't think the majority of new members shared Corbyn's core values as represented by the appointment of Seamus Milne - a decision that can't be blamed on Blairites.

    Since Nov 2016 • 356 posts Report Reply

  • andrew r,

    Got on ya George - this seems a better focus. Especially right about---- *now* !!
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/apr/25/vote-labour-jeremy-corbyn-theresa-may

    auckland • Since May 2007 • 99 posts Report Reply

  • martinb,

    Dude posted 3 times now- please, please don’t mention the war or abstaining on welfare capping or …

    Also I saw George Monbiot headbut a guy in the face. He’s a violent psycho, like most of Corbyn’s supporters. And what is Corbyn doing to stop that? The Monbiots of this world assaulting folk in the high street? Nothing, he hasn’t said anything.

    Monbiot's opening salvo:

    Those who tolerated anything the Labour party did under Blair tolerate nothing under Corbyn. Those who insisted that we should vote Labour at any cost turn their backs as it seeks to recover its principles.

    They proclaimed undying loyalty when the party stood for the creeping privatisation of the NHS, the abandonment of the biggest corruption case in British history, the collapse of Britain’s social housing programme, bans on peaceful protest, detention without trial, the kidnap and torture of innocent people and an illegal war in which hundreds of thousands died. They proclaim disenchantment now that it calls for the protection of the poor, the containment of the rich and the peaceful resolution of conflict.

    Those who insisted that William Hague, Michael Howard and David Cameron presented an existential threat remain silent as Labour confronts a Conservative leader who makes her predecessors look like socialists.

    Auckland • Since Jul 2010 • 203 posts Report Reply

  • martinb, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Wow, actually finally read the your Irish post all the way to the bottom.

    Perhaps the ultimate take on this is that English exceptionalism and arrogance is about to over-balance and take the whole thing down to the depths of irrelevance, in a world where China, Russia, Brazil and India are emerging economies and powers to whom a small rock off Europe is as inconsequential as it has been most of its history.

    Auckland • Since Jul 2010 • 203 posts Report Reply

  • Nick Russell, in reply to Matthew Andrews,

    Labour now has the largest membership of any party in Western Europe. This does mean something – it is highly unlikely in the UK that you would get 500,000 people that have views that are strongly enough held to pay to join an organisation, but at the same time be so completely out of step with public opinion that the party has no future.

    Well, we are about to find out, aren't we. But having 500,000 members means nothing if they cannot get millions out to vote Labour. And if Labour does lose badly - as currently seems likely - we will know that having lots of passionate members means very little if they are just a passionate minority who can't attract the support of ordinary voters.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 125 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to martinb,

    But it seems also intransigent and unable to provide such an ‘elegant solution’ as creating a left party outside Labour that could express its own personality, yet work so closely with it when required.

    It causes me to think plenty about how the likes of Douglas and Prebble infiltrated NZ Labour in the 80s, despite having polar opposite ideologies from typical Labour policies. They weren't exactly going to get anywhere under Muldoon, and joining Labour was the only realistic option for getting into parliament at all. Never say never, I suppose, but under MMP things seem to have completely changed. It's no longer a two party system and so it's feasible to get into parliament without joining the only other party that has any hope whatsoever of replacing the government.

    Does the UK have any realistic appetite for reviewing its electoral system? Or is it highly content with what it has?

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1139 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to izogi,

    It causes me to think plenty about how the likes of Douglas and Prebble infiltrated NZ Labour in the 80s, despite having polar opposite ideologies from typical Labour policies. They weren't exactly going to get anywhere under Muldoon, and joining Labour was the only realistic option for getting into parliament at all.

    Douglas was effectively born into the party, and was something of a rising star Minister in the Kirk and Rowling Governments. Despite his unprepossessing haircut and dire taste in jumpers, the young Prebble apparently made a great impression with the ageing stalwarts of the Princes Street branch of the Labour Party.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • Alex Coleman,

    The thing that continually strikes me about pieces like this is the lack of any self reflection whatsoever by the centrists, or whatever you want to call them.

    Complaining that Corbyn brought in outsiders so no fair, or doesn't count, or what have you are so far off point as to be funny if it weren't so frustrating. The fact is that the centrists suck much worse, and that's why they kept losing to Corbyn. There was no rule saying centrists couldn't sign up members, it's just that they have no idea about how to go about doing that.

    All they do is lecture the base that they, the wise and in touch, can connect with middle UK. But where is the evidence of that? If they could connect, they could inspire new members too. But they can't and so they play ridiculous games like the no confidence clsusterfuck after the referendum that led Corbyn to yet another win with the party. Did they not care about the rules of the fight they started? Did they not know them? Nope, they just assumed that everything would fall into their laps because they deserve it; because they just are better than the filthy mob that are keeping them from their rightful place. It's the same dynamic with which they treat the electorate at large.

    Sure, Corbyn sucks, but why can't they beat him given that? Oh that's right, blame the voters, coz it's never the very clever pol science grads fault at all. ever.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 247 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to izogi,

    Does the UK have any realistic appetite for reviewing its electoral system? Or is it highly content with what it has?

    There have been electoral reform efforts in the UK for over 100 years. Seems there's been little progress made in that time.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5420 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Alex Coleman,

    There was no rule saying centrists couldn't sign up members

    I suspect that the existing MPs are mostly committed to the same system as we have in Australia. They want a small group of local party members who all have close social ties to the MP, and rules to make it hard to join the party and influence anything. That way the MP can get on with the business of governing and representing his local party members. When there's only 30 of them they can all get a fair bit of personal attention. In Oz both Liberal and Labour do this, and if you look at the numbers reported in the branch stacking scandals they are indeed scandalous - sometimes fewer than 50 new members are required to roll an MP at pre-selection.

    Momentum broke that model quite savagely.

    The Greens don't do this, FWIW, which is one reason I like their model. They tend to fall for the opposite trap, anyone who turns up to meetings regularly becomes "known" and will often get to speak and influence the local group, even if they "forget" to actually become a member of the party. But geez, you need to do that with 2-5 local groups in electorates where The Greens are likely to win, and you need persuasive agents because they prefer consensus and only fall back to voting when that fails. It would be an awful lot of work to grab one extra vote in the senate... and it would all be public. "we quietly changed this policy" except that all policies are public as are the deliberations.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1198 posts Report Reply

  • martinb,

    To get elected you've got to win your wing and take them with you toward the centre. The right does this- promises of dead rats to be swallowed for now, and that slash and burn is on the way soon. There is room for all kinds of far out right wing nuttery within the Tory/National parties.

    No one hates the left it seems more than the Labour Party. The left and the centre-left, or the working class and the liberals need to work together if they want to change the government. There is clearly an international dissatisfaction with TINA and let 'free trade' provide, so how do you sell and prepare for the challenges of now and 10-15 years in the future?

    In many cases as well, and especially so for Corbyn it would seem, old baggage gets in the way of current need.

    It's a bit like the Turkish astronomer in the Little Prince who has to dress up in a suit for people to take his discovery seriously. In NZ the Nats replaced Brash with Key. The Greens have replaced one protesty white male who was often suited, with another ex-banker white male who always has a short back and sides and is clean shaven. I don't think the message of either changed or has changed substantially.

    There has been no clear answer to the Sanders/Corbyn/Trump/Le Pen rumbles, but it is clear that the status quo is broken for many and that more status quo is not the likely to satisfy.

    The electoral system fails to adequately express the polity, and makes the politicians unresponsive to the voters. Perhaps?

    Auckland • Since Jul 2010 • 203 posts Report Reply

  • martinb, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    Yeh, it wasn't the people that infiltrated it was the ideas. And Muldoon did gosh darn broke it. So I've been told. I think that's a red herring, because they won an election and then did the opposite of what they said. That's not the fault of the electoral system!

    But yes ultimately the answer to Muldoon and two elections won by a minority vote was electoral reform and more checks and balances. And I think we've seen that to a degree with the Maori Party and Peter Dunne. The opposite of that is that there are now no or limited backbencher revolts based on what their communities want as most MPs are reliant on the party.

    Auckland • Since Jul 2010 • 203 posts Report Reply

  • Zach Bagnall, in reply to izogi,

    Does the UK have any realistic appetite for reviewing its electoral system? Or is it highly content with what it has?

    The last referendum on the topic had a negative campaign (backed by both sides of the political divide) which make the Brexit campaign look restrained and factual in comparison. It went No 2:1.

    Colorado • Since Nov 2006 • 120 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to martinb,

    To get elected you’ve got to win your wing and take them with you toward the centre.

    There are many strategies that might work. That one has been popular, but it might have also had its day as the "wing" concerned is divided into many different directions. Perhaps the wing a personal technically belongs to is not as big a driver of political choice as it was.

    Depends on what is meant by a wing, though. If it is actually based on where the population's main points of political difference align (and thus moves with the population, rather than fixes around a political theory), then winning the wing is by definition the only way to take a majority.

    TBH, I think that this is actually the best way to define the wings. What actually is it that most divides the populace? What questions explain their political choice most? It might be the values of a traditional Labour voter, or it might (these days) not be. I doubt that it is. This does not mean Labour has to change necessarily. It just means they don't sit in the middle of their wing the way they probably think they do. It also means that the question of which direction to move to be closer to more voters is not always axiomatically "the center". It could be that moving around within the Left in orthogonal directions actually works better, hoovering up big clusters of voters.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to martinb,

    Yeh, it wasn't the people that infiltrated it was the ideas. And Muldoon did gosh darn broke it. So I've been told. I think that's a red herring, because they won an election and then did the opposite of what they said. That's not the fault of the electoral system!

    Even Muldoon, in his late career interventionist Gang-of-One pomp, paid occasional lip service to Roger Douglas-style free market capitalism. Once Douglas was rehabilitated to the opposition front bench from his time in the wilderness, senior Muldoon-cabinet members such as Jim McLay were quick to accuse Labour of stealing National Party policy. As someone, either Tom Scott or Denis Welch, noted at the time, it mostly was National's policy, even if they kept it garaged and only took it for the occasional Sunday drive.

    But yes ultimately the answer to Muldoon and two elections won by a minority vote was electoral reform and more checks and balances....The opposite of that is that there are now no or limited backbencher revolts based on what their communities want as most MPs are reliant on the party.

    Others will be more au fait with the detailed history than I am, but I believe that sometime post-Muldoon National introduced Party reforms to overrule local branches on candidate selection. After Muldoon saw off an effective leadership challenge from Derek Quigley he all but exhausted his remaining political capital by cynically exploiting the support of the ailing and incompetent Keith Allen. That the ultimately tragic Allen was even an MP was, as Tom Scott put it at the time, due to local branches insisting on their right to send the incompetent of their choice to parliament.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    I think the lesson here is that if you're going to give the members a say you need to be very careful that the members are aligned with the organisation

    The members...not...being part of the organisation? Is that what you're trying to say?

    I trust that Labour have something similar.

    Yeah, they deliberately put the 3 quid sign-up thing in place to prevent this type of thing from ever happening (union/bloc voting). Worked well, eh?

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • 81stcolumn,

    Ok this is a bit of a snark but surely is evidence that Labour's problems don't revolve exclusively around Corbyn.

    I present Michael Foster:

    The charming candidate

    The bellicose ex-member

    The entitled resurrected activist

    Nawthshaw • Since Nov 2006 • 790 posts Report Reply

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