Jeremy Corbyn is at a crossroads. The decision he makes now will change everything.

Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson
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Jeremy Corbyn is at a crossroads. And with scientists warning we have 18 months to begin a green industrial revolution to avoid climate catastrophe, the stakes have never been higher. The decision the Labour leadership makes now will change everything.

The stakes

Britain may be a small country, but if it elects Corbyn as the prime minister of a genuinely progressive government on the promise to deliver a green new deal, that will have global repercussions. It will be a turning of the tide against far-right victories such as Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro.

The UK’s domestic issues are also high stakes. As The Canary reported in 2017, experts predicted 100 excess deaths a day linked to Conservative austerity between then and 2020.

The crossroads

Facing prime minister Boris Johnson, Corbyn has two choices as far as I can see. He can align with the centrists, placating them with power and policy concessions to try and create a top-down ‘popular front’ against a hard-Brexit, as Paul Mason argues. Or Corbyn can energise his base with a manifesto at least as transformative as 2017, continue the process of allowing party members to replace neoliberal-gravy train riders as candidates for parliament, and turn the electoral question to one of austerity and the future of our planet rather than Brexit.

Johnson’s trap

Johnson is desperate for him to do the former. His strategists are lining up to paint Corbyn’s Labour as part of the establishment. Vote Leave director turned Johnson special advisor Dominic Cummings is “already planning the Facebook campaign for a ‘people versus the politicians’ election”. They want to “destroy the Corbyn project and the Labour party” through stealing Corbyn’s anti-establishment credentials.

Right off the bat, shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer is walking straight into the trap, generating headlines such as:

Hammond plots with Labour to kill Johnson’s no-deal Brexit plan

Read on...

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Johnson’s strategists could ask for nothing more than Labour teaming up with austerity-delivering technocrats like Hammond. They are desperate for Labour to return to the toxic legacy of Tony Blair’s top down, managerial regime. The logic goes something like: ‘Corbyn may present himself as an anti-establishment force, but really he’s just another cosmopolitan elite closing ranks with other politicians to shut down the popular uprising many consider Brexit to be’. That line of argument is ludicrous to anyone watching closely. Many people are not.

Don’t play their game

Instead of playing the establishment’s game, the Labour leadership should use the 2017 general election as its main point of reference. This is the only example we have of what happens when a Corbyn-led Labour energises its base with a transformative programme and ignores the centrists even while they are in open revolt.

In 2019, Labour can oppose a hard-Tory Brexit while avoiding making the issue its flagship.

Presently, Mason and co are hard-lining for Remain and playing into Johnson’s strategy of the Remain technocrats V people-powered Brexit. This is a striking lesson in how to lose. Many Labour voters seem to care much less about Brexit than the chattering class will have you believe. By the end of the 2017 general election, only 8% of Labour supporters listed Brexit as their top concern, compared to 48% of Conservative voters. The Labour leadership’s strategy helped bring about this sentiment by avoiding becoming the party of Remain, which sidelined Brexit as an electoral issue.

When the dust cleared, the Conservative Party’s record of austerity, privatisation, and inequality was there for all to see. It stood in stark contrast to the Corbyn-led agenda of social housing, free lifelong education, and ending the wars.

An unstoppable force

The message of pro-Corbyn activists – “hold on, this guy is actually worth voting for” – rippled throughout the country in an unstoppable force. Labour’s manifesto became the first document of its kind to go viral online. In the space of the six-week campaign, Corbyn’s Labour went from 21 points behind in numerous polls to achieving 40% of the vote share, a whisker off victory. In fact, Survation – the only poll to accurately predict the results – had Labour on 45% and the Conservatives on 39% just a day after the election took place.

Even three shocking terrorist attacks – which traditionally benefit the Conservatives – couldn’t stop the swing to Labour. Rather than treating the public as children, Corbyn ignored the right-wingers in his party and launched an honest critique of UK foreign policy and how it contributes to terrorism. This was a huge victory for the Labour leader.

We should not underestimate the value of an election campaign with a programme people can get behind. This comes into even sharper focus when you consider that 57% of 2017 Labour voters selected the party within a month of election day. In other words, Corbyn’s Labour won almost two-thirds of its vote share in the four weeks before 8 June.

To beat Johnson, Corbyn must play to his strengths – activists, social media, and a membership of over 500,000 people. Any concessions with the centrists and the corporate media will only be used against him. It’s time to marginalise the Labour right and put the transformative programme front and centre as the solution to Britain’s problems.

Being inside the EU did not stop the past eight years of Conservative climate destruction, austerity, or war. And leaving the trading bloc won’t either. Because only Labour’s investment-led programme can end the Conservative misrule, while energising the grassroots sufficiently to beat Johnson.

Featured image via Rwendland/ WikiCommons and EU2017EE Estonian Presidency / WikiCommons

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  • Show Comments
    1. In the quiz box below this article were questions about PLOs. There was no apparent link to Palestine so I consulted online sources. The only other meaning to emerge was the PLO being a procedural process for social workers; that didn’t appear to fit either.

      Someone at the Canary please note that ambiguous abbreviations, and jargon, ought be explained.

    2. James Wright has identified a choice which if wrongly made by Mr Corbyn has worrying consequences. On the face of it, each option has allure. However, that of taking a principled stand rather than compromise could be not only the proper thing to do but also, in context of political expediency, the one most likely to succeed.

      Mr Corbyn ought appreciate that his party’s recently swollen membership contains many self-directed, well educated people capable of independent thought. What once might have been the task of chivvying along a largely ovine collection of ‘traditional’, from birth and habit, Labour supporters becomes that of energising a new dynamic. Put up a monkey, as, for example, happened in Neath for many years, and more recently when Blair’s son was shoehorned into parliament, but don’t assume blind loyalty from the new intake of members.

      We are not the least interested in anachronistic Labour concerns and associated mythology e.g. Grunwick, miners’ strikes, Tolpuddle Martyrs, and projected guilt over slavery. Moreover, strident minorities angling for ever more supposed ‘rights’, e.g. present day ‘identity politics’ and nonsense over ‘gender’, leave many of us cold as they do most of the electorate upon which Labour soon shall depend.

      We, and a soon to be persuaded electorate, seek remedy for broken market-economics, undue concentration of wealth (particularly when giving rise to financial dynasties), unnecessary ‘austerity’ inflicted to sustain moribund financial institutions (especially banks), palpable arrogance among those ‘bailed out’, perceived rampant corruption in politics and beyond, and the blinkered outlook of a class of ‘career’ politicians (across the board) who seem more intent on feathering their own nests (Johnson et al) than steering the UK toward economic well being for all, this coupled with greatly enhanced opportunity for individuals to explore their potentials for giving purpose to life beyond that of subsistence (‘secular spirituality’ rather than the tacky ‘American Dream’ kind of ambition).

      Ordinary people absorbed in their daily lives of making ends meet and fed shallow expectations of ‘consumerism, have little time or inclination to grasp the ‘big picture’, historical, economic, social, and political, in which they are embedded. People can be persuaded to adopt a simple explanation for their circumstances and ‘solutions’ arising from it. That is all too easy as evident from successes by elements identifying present woes with immigration, harmless minority communities, and supposedly parasitical types living off welfare.

      Yet, Labour can identify a simple and genuine explanation for our move toward an Ayn Rand dystopia: neo-liberalism and its works. This requires explanation. It demands constant repetition, a no longer in-mode educational tool, through putting out the same message in differing words and with variation of examples. From that flows coherent explanation of the plight many find themselves in and gives support to their fears for the future.

      Ordinary people are aware of our mismanaged for-profit public infrastructure. However, those not adult at the time of Mrs Thatcher need assistance in perceiving just how far downhill the utilities have travelled.

      The NHS is another topic easy to engage the popular imagination. How many people understand the nature and destructive effects of PPFI schemes? How many are aware of the moribund, inefficient, corruption ridden, and inequitably distributed, health care system in the USA? Do they know that according to both US collected statistics and those collated by the WHO, some measures of mortality, morbidity, and quality of life, are consistent with third-world nations?

      Additionally people need reminding of the grip the rentier mentality has upon modern economies, notably the USA and UK. This is found with physical property and in so-called ‘intellectual property’. People don’t realise how much of their income, including that which is discretionary spending, feeds the sense of entitlement of various categories of rentier. Similar applies to the UK as an entity: a large chunk of GDP is channelled to overseas rentiers, this especially in context of cultural pursuits.

      Obviously there are many more examples of misery and/or injustice attributable to neo-liberalism.

      Workable solutions must include restoration of market-capitalism to pre-1980s functioning with huge amounts of wealth sequestrated by the avaricious (much stored in ‘dead’ property and fine arts) restored for funding entrepreneurial activity. Commitment to mixed economy is essential. Moreover, whilst acknowledging market-capitalism as a major driver for innovation and efficient production of goods, its limitations need spelling out and determination shown to make it the servant of society rather than, as neo-liberals would have it, the other way around.

      Finally, it is imperative for the ‘New Labour’ experiment roundly to be condemned. Among many other things its foreign policy was subordinated to neo-liberal interests; hence Blair’s war crimes.

    3. A thoughtful and well written contribution from Smythe-Mogg the bulk of which I can not find anything that does not seem reasonable . I agree entirely that the Labour Party should offer explanation, education and focus with regards to the harm done by the Thatcher programme of privatisation, deregulation and transfer of public assets into private hands. It is true, after all, that many people were either very young or unborn at the beginning of the process that tore down the mixed economy post war consensus and embedded the presently dominant neoliberal one within our economic and political culture.

      I feel that it is of equal importance to expose to the light of day the political reality of the so called New Labour revolution when Blair became leader. Tony Blair was elected leader at the end of a lengthy process; begun under Kinnock, during the progression of which many long serving party members had been expelled for alleged “militant” roots / intentions. Party members and the wider public through the auspices of the media were offered a consistent narrative at the centre of which was the claim that the far left was engaged in a project intended to infiltrate and ultimately take over the party. Whilst it is more than likely that there were indeed some on the left who had loyalties outside of the broad church of the party, it was also an unreported and mostly ignored truth that the threat of “entryism” was probably greater from the liberal right.

      We should remember that beneath and behind the slogans and banner of modernisation proudly displayed by the cabal of influence behind Tony Blair and his immediate associates lay other less known and more insidious influences; such as the so called “Successor Generation” (a very secretive and well funded offshoot of the Bilderberg group nb). Blair and several of his associates were allegedly members of this (see “The New Rulers of the World” – John Pilger) The purpose, according to research by John Pilger and published within the above title was to “attain positions of influence” throughout politics and industry within the World in order to assure the continued dominance of market economics and the economic status quo.

      We have been elected as “New Labour” and will Govern as New Labour stated Tony Blair on the steps of Downing Street. Under his direction, the political heart and purpose of the Labour Party was torn out and remodelled in the image of the neoliberal consensus brought by Thatcherism. Indeed, it is a sad fact that it was New Labour that introduced conditionality to the welfare system; which has led to the hostile environment of sanctions and mass penury of the modern DWP. It was under New Labour that PFI really took off, saddling many public institutions with crippling debt whilst transferring million££ of public assets into private hands. It was New Labour that first opened up in house NHS services to “any qualified provider”.

      The New Labour project was an extension of neoliberalism and their remain many supporters of it within the PLP.

    4. Addendum to the above – the final line should read “The New Labour project was an extension of neoliberalism and there remains many supporters of it within the PLP.”

      (Serves me right for typing without sufficient light).

    5. Got it, and agree regards campaigning on a pro reconstruct UK basis but what about the EU and our membership there? Surly defusing the brexit bomb must be a top priority. Has Corbyn finally come down on the pro EU side of the fence?

      If, as you write, only 8% of labour supporters list brexit as their top concern, then the excuse by Labour that they fear losing support by unequivocally supporting remain is no longer valid.

      Where does Len McCluskey and other union leaders fit into this ‘ignore brexit and rebuilt UK etc. ‘ direction and how much influence do they continue to have regards Labour policies and action?

      Norman Finkelstein has (finally) exposed the A/S attack on Corbyn and Labour for what it is, although the Israeli involvement has long been in the public domain and largely ignored. ( Why does Chris Williamson still attract so much negative attention?

      All these issues regarding privatisation and bleeding the public purse are true and ongoing. But how can we exit the EU and lose the strength of association with them and still defeat the billionaires planning to take ownership of the UK?

      Whatever problems exist within the EU and its ‘free enterprise is good’ philosophy they do provide some stability and wealth for the member states. As contributing members we could make positive changes, something that would never ever happen in association with Trump and the US.

      (who is Smythe-Mogg, by the way?)

      (I post the following with most of my comments, excuse the repetition.)

      Withdraw A50, the quickest and least expensive way out of this mess we are in. How can conditions that exist in the UK right now be preferable to resuming our seat at the top table as a respected and honourable member of the world’s largest trade group? Don’t forget, we would not forfeit our right to decide to leave at a later date. When we have a plan and are better prepared, but not now.

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