It’s Not The Taking Part That Counts, But The Winning

28th March 2016

Editor’s Note: Please note that posts are the views of individuals and do not necessarily represent the views of others who post on Middle Vision. See disclaimer at foot of post. 

It’s Not The Taking Part That Counts, But The Winning

The Labour Party’s NEC met in November last year and late on in the meeting around half of the members left to attend the England/France football match.  A proposal was suddenly pulled out to be voted on, and it was to boycott the security firm G4S over its links to Israel.  G4S provided security to Labour Party conferences and provided employment to many GMB members.  The NEC voted by twelve votes to four, even though the party holds a long-standing opposition to such boycotts, and despite the lack of advance notification for the proposal itself.

Then on 9 March of this year, G4S announced that it would be selling its Israeli business.  The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement was triumphant that their campaign was working and other similar examples have been highlighted.

Hang on, I thought to myself as I read the news, has BDS really won here?  The politics and policies of Israel will not have changed one iota.  Everything will carry on as before, but with another company carrying out the same security work for the Israeli government instead.

As a supporter of Israel I will acknowledge that at least campaigners for BDS have the opportunity to feel good about themselves for a while and celebrate, whilst the rest of us can query the “victory”.

I was immediately reminded of 1990 and the resignation of Margaret Thatcher.  How so many of her political opponents celebrated then, and how many Labour supporters in particular were jubilant that the long years of Thatcherism were over.

And how they were all about to face the cruel realisation that nothing had really changed at all.  John Major took over as prime minister and we were in for almost seven more years of Tory mismanagement and people who had suffered continued to do so, until Tony Blair gave us true cause for celebration.

John O’Farrell wrote about it in his 1998 book “Things can only get better”:

“A handful of socialist workers turned up and occasionally burst into chants of ‘Maggie, Maggie, Maggie!  Gone!  Gone!  Gone!’  But apart from that it could have been any other Thursday night in Whitehall.  Why out of 50 million oppressed subjects had only me, Pete and a few socialist workers turned up to celebrate her departure?  This was my VE Day but the British public at large didn’t seem particularly bothered, as if nothing much had changed.  The trouble was they were right of course.  The Tories were still in power.”

I cannot help but think back to a week last Friday as well.  The delight on Twitter when Iain Duncan Smith was gone – followed by the sheer horror that Priti Patel might take over!

You can always feel better about yourself when you are holding a set of principles dear, and not sullying yourself with any kind of compromise that will actually help you to win and achieve any of your objectives.  At least the Labour Party of the 1990s came around to the idea that winning elections was the priority, and May 1997 brought the euphoria that comes from being in power and making things better with decent principles at the heart of decision-making.

In respect of the EU referendum, I keep hearing Labour members say that we should not be campaigning alongside the Tories to remain in the EU.  They say we need to learn the lessons from Scotland and recognise how we lost so many seats in Westminster because we worked with the Tories on the independence referendum, and the Scottish electorate punished us for it.

However, I would urge parties to work together to remain in the EU and I welcomed a recent photograph which showed Nicky Morgan, Emma Reynolds, Lynne Featherstone and Caroline Lucas sitting together at a Stronger In phone bank.  Four parties, one common cause.

In 2011 we had the referendum to change our voting system from First Past The Post to Alternative Vote.  I wanted to keep FPTP and remember being amused by the fact that we had a debate on the subject at our CLP meeting.  Only four hands went up to keep FPTP; mine and those of the three most left-wing people in the room!  The only time we had managed to agree on anything during a debate.

AV lost on the day of the referendum, and I noted that only a few areas seemed to vote in favour of it, including pockets of North London.  Many went on to write about why the campaign had failed, but the absence of UKIP was noticed by some commentators.  It seemed that in their eagerness to remain pure, those on the left who wanted AV had failed to convince a broad enough section of the voters.  Had Nigel Farage been allowed to have a role, then AV would have gone beyond being a cause of the Guardianistas, and some of those on the right would have been more likely to take the campaign seriously.

Of course, many in the Labour party of today would prefer to feel pure and good about themselves.  The party being a “proper” socialist party is more important than getting the Tories out of office.  The last few polls have either put us level or even ahead of the Tories, but by very little.  So, sadly, we do not have a good chance of even convincing the Corbyn devotees that change at the top is desperately needed.

There has been much speculation about a possible Labour leadership election in advance of the annual conference.  Moderates supposedly realise that it could be their only chance before any possible changes to the rules.  The key is that we would all have to unite around one candidate, and a number of names have been touted over the past few months including Hilary Benn, Angela Eagle and Dan Jarvis.

I am unconvinced that we would be able to pull off an election to rid ourselves of Jeremy Corbyn.  The vast majority of our members will vote to keep Corbyn in place even if the party does badly in the May elections, as these members either voted for him or have become loyal supporters urging for unity.

But let’s just say that this contest does take place.  To stand any chance the moderates would have to choose someone who was agreeable to the soft-left and who had remained faithful to the leader supposedly elected with a mandate.  They would not have refused to serve on the shadow front bench or made themselves unpalatable to many by voting contrary to the leader’s views on issues such as air strikes in Syria against ISIL.

For me, I am sorry, but this excludes Benn, Eagle or Jarvis on this occasion.  So, if we are to have a new leader in the summer then we need someone like a candidate who is on the front bench and who voted against the air strikes and who has an excellent reputation for standing up for causes that are popular within the party, such as the NHS.

So for me, in order that the Labour Party comes out of this a winner by any description at all, that candidate has to be Andy Burnham.

By Paddington Baby

Please note: articles and posts on ‘Middle Vision’ reflect the views of the individual authors and not of all involved in ‘Middle Vision’

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4 thoughts on “It’s Not The Taking Part That Counts, But The Winning

  1. Don’t think I’ve read such a sensible post (except for the andy burnham bit… and I need time to think about that) for a long time… I agree with almost everything Paddington baby has written…. if I was on twitter i’d “follow”…
    thank you for a bit of common sense at last so lacking in the labour party at the moment…
    how the most vulnerable amongst us feel with this twirp “leading” the labour party and so many of the lemming followers suggesting that taking part is all….
    tell me how will that get rid of the brutal tories… ?


    • Hi Adrienne

      Thank you for your very kind words!

      I understand your feelings on my conclusion, although I am trying to think through whatever options we have, as I couldn’t agree more that we need to get rid of the Tories in 2020, and the current set up in Labour will not achieve that.


  2. It’s not the winning that counts, but changing the lives of the people this Party was created to represent.

    You will not be surprised at this comment and no doubt would accuse me of a desire for socialist purity over electoral credibility, so be it. This is politics and the minimisation, discrediting and maligning of ones opponents is inevitable. However, I think what the right are doing goes beyond reasonable internal political opposition and I hope that it sinks into the consciousnesses of the membership for there will be hell to pay. But this you already know, hence your cowardly use of a nom de plume.

    As a Corbyn supporter and Labour Party member I’m naturally unhappy that this debate to attempt to overturn the will of the Party and the huge mandate is taking place and repeated in the press, causing such great damage. But I am not surprised. The call to arms by Blair in his infamous Progress ‘heartless’ interview was heeded by ideological bedfellows such as yourself and damage caused to the party is of less concern to you than wrestling control of the party leadership from the left. I am sure this means you are far from ‘moderate’, but this will not stop you laying claim to the title.

    Naturally, this battle you are undertaking is disguised. The strongest argument you have, thus the one you reach for, is electoral credibility. Strong because it’s not disprovable, for it is based on an event yet to occur, and all you need to do is point at the greed, the chauvinism and other aspects of sections of the population whilst resting upon the Cold War anti communist assumptions to call the left naive ideological purists, job done.

    Undoubtably, the loss of so many millions of lost Labour voters, the non registered, the abstainers and the collapse of the once mighty Scottish Labour Party would not cross your mind as evidence of failure of the Labour Party under Blair. I am confident that you’d promote a continuation of the policies and presentation that failed us for the last two elections, mostly because it’s ideology that motivates you, not popularity. No doubt you would see working to enthuse the disenfranchised and disappointed such as Scottish voters as political naivity and insist we focus on those who do vote.

    So everything you have said or are likely to say is of no surprise, what amazes me is your gall. Unless you are actually Andy Burnham promoting Andy Burnham as a potential leader, as Kinnock is promoting Eagle and the press have their darlings in Jarvis or Benn, how can you talk of the unelectability of Corbyn whilst promoting the proven loser in an election, Burnham, who was ridiculed up in the campaign to boot?

    Your argument for promoting this election loser? He is the best of a bad bunch in terms of appealing to the left as he is untainted by actions unpopular to party members. After all, you need somebody with a ‘soft left’ image to promote them as ‘reasonable’ and ‘electable’ in opposition to the ‘unelectable hard left’. Well if Burnham is the best you can think or the best you have of carry on mate for the right (not moderates) are doomed unless you keep Corbyn from the ballot. Have you forgotten the welfare vote mid leadership campaign and the way Burnham attempted to wriggle out of his actions? I haven’t and I imagine neither have many on the left.

    Tell you what though, I have an idea. How about you express some loyalty to the membership and their decision? How about you use the time, energy and obvious skills to promote the leader we have so that we have a chance of electing a Labour government who might challenge the status quo and the misery this economy brings to so many of our citizens. Even as I write those last two sentences I know that I am at my most naive when asking that of you.


  3. Richard,

    So it’s not about winning elections then? So how do you propose changing the lives of the people this party was created to represent?

    Did Tony Blair give us the minimum wage whilst in opposition?

    Did Harold Wilson give us the Open University whilst in opposition?

    Did Clement Attlee give us the NHS whilst in opposition?

    I must apologise for asking so many questions, but I am also sorry that you think that sitting in opposition under Jeremy Corbyn is really helping the poor, the vulnerable and the disadvantaged.

    I can have all the respect in the world for other Labour leaders such as Neil Kinnock, but they were simply unable to achieve anything as significant as the three I mention above as they failed to attract the votes of enough people in order to get into government and do something. As good a man as Mr Kinnock is, he did not alleviate the suffering of the 3 million unemployed and provide an economy that would create the jobs. That is because he was not in power to do so.

    You mention Scotland. The reason why the party has lost so much there is because we became complacent. We did not do enough to get out and campaign and continually reassure the voters there that we were interested in them, so that we could rely on their votes and win.

    I live in a safe Labour ward in a safe Labour constituency. All the same, I understand that we have to continue to campaign to continue to win. During the London Mayoral campaign, there is not a single street in my ward that I have not leafletted or knocked on doors in. And I have worked in nine other wards in the borough as well. Complacent? Not me!

    What I will have to point out is that very few of the Corbyn supporters have joined me and my activist comrades. You talk about the lost Labour voters and the non-voters. So why is it that the Corbyn supporters are so reluctant to get out there and win the support of these people? It is the moderates that are left to do most of the work.

    And talking about moderates, it is interesting that you doubt whether I have a right to claim that title, as I have written before on this blog about this very subject. I looked at the possibility that moderates could be described as extreme, because of all the extreme progress we have made in helping the people that the Labour party is here to serve:

    But let’s go back to Labour leaders and failed candidates. If there were a leadership election after what are predicted to be dreadful council election results next week, then I do think Andy Burnham is the only chance for the party as he is the only moderate who could be elected in my opinion.

    Having said that, I would prefer we went for another candidate at a later point when the moderates have a greater chance of winning.

    You talk about the welfare vote, but those members who did not vote for Corbyn but who are now loyal to him are often found to be Andy Burnham supporters. These supporters stuck by Andy through the welfare vote and are full of admiration for the work he did in opposing the Coalition’s running of the NHS.

    Andy Burnham will have made his way to the history books this week for all he did for the families after the Hillsborough disaster. He campaigned for justice and the families were the winners.

    After so many years in parliament, Jeremy Corbyn achieved nothing that could come close. He may be the leader, but the only notable things about him are a speech that was quite admirable about the Queen and a speech arguing for us to stay in the EU. He has never believed in the EU! He only does so now because he has had to break with his principles! Corbyn supporters wanted him because he was principled. Where does that leave them now?

    If you want to question my loyalty to the party and the membership, then I invite you to compare my record of hard work with most of the Corbyn supporters in my area. All the hours I have put in since September, even if I had to drag myself out of my sick bed at times to do it.

    I am of relatively low income, but intend to spend a small fortune on cakes and other refreshments for my fellow members who will be working hard next Thursday for a Sadiq Khan win.

    I want my party to win because I want the ordinary people of my borough and my country to win.

    Liked by 1 person

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