6th April 2016
Learning to let go
The Labour Party is in a strange place. Some say that it faces extinction if it doesn’t change direction soon. Others argue that only by travelling in the current direction can it survive.
On one wing we have a group I will refer to as pure Corbynistas. On the other wing sit the modernist Ultras. The ground in the centre is occupied by the majority of members and activists.
The modernist Ultras (MUs) see only defeat, gloom and extinction under the leadership of Corbyn. Everything he does or suggests is met with criticism and opposition. The pure Corbynistas (PCs) on the other hand not only cheer and hang onto every word uttered by the leader, they even refer to ‘Corbyn’s Labour Party’ and quite often drop any Labour branding, preferring to promote the Corbyn brand. Who knows… if he is leader at the next general election we may see the description on the ballot paper as ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party’. But I wrote about 2020 last week and this is about the here and now.
I am annoyed and frustrated in equal measure. When Corbyn became leader he promised a new kind of politics; to reach out to the disengaged. To win the hearts, minds and votes of people who hadn’t voted before. To date we haven’t seen any real attempt at that unless you count allowing ant-Semites to become members as an example of that new approach. If he is serious about wider engagement we need to see some evidence of some action. Maybe last weekend we saw something. Corbyn has agreed to speak at Glastonbury.
“Oh, is this the way they say the future’s meant to feel? Or just 20,000 people standing in a field?”
How the MUs reacted annoyed me. Sure, it wasn’t something that previous leaders had done but it isn’t as though he is stepping out onto the main stage to close the festival with a rambling speech about manhole covers. He is going to speak at a smaller stage, the Left Field stage organised by Billy Bragg with this year’s theme being a discussion around social justice, the economy, gender and the possibilities for genuine change under a Corbyn government.
To me this is probably his natural habitat and I think (forgetting the CND branding) that he should do it. It is just possible this is where he will find that new group of voters he talked about during his leadership campaign.
So why am I frustrated? Because I think he will probably forget to talk about why voting Labour is important. There won’t be any accompanying voter registration drive. And after a weekend trudging around in the mud most of the audience will drift home with vague memories of a personable chap talking about nuclear disarmament…
… in the middle of the night.
Before Glastonbury we have the small matter of local elections in England, elections in both Scotland and Wales and the election of a Mayor for London. Leaving London aside the Party leadership and the PCs are softening the rest of us up by suggesting that losing 150 seats wouldn’t be a bad result. They are right. It would be a disaster. I don’t expect Scotland to turn Labour again but I do expect, in the face of an incompetent government seemingly running from one crisis to another, to easily hold Wales, win the London Mayoral contest and make modest gains across the rest of England. The MUs set the bar slightly higher, suggesting 400 gains is the target.
It is easy to get sucked in and to be honest I have more in common with the MUs than I do with the PCs but I am calling time on both. It is time to let Corbyn be Corbyn. Let him do what he thinks he has to do to win the votes required. The votes he promised to win and return the Labour Party to government. Of course continue to criticise and speak out against unpalatable policies, but give him his head.
Let him speak at Glastonbury.
Let him launch petitions when we require adult politics.
Let him sell vintage postcards and quotes.
Let him do all those things.
Then in June 2017 we should have a review/enquiry (Jeremy is fond of enquiries) and see if we are on track. Let’s see if we are winning the trust of the required amount of voters.
If we are still struggling in the opinion polls, membership is continuing to fall and election results simply show a firming up of our ‘core vote’ with no inroad in marginals then he should go. No arguments, no protests. He will have failed to do what he promised.
Until then Jeremy should be allowed to be Jeremy and hopefully he won’t get the urge to sing!
In the middle of the nite, it feels alright, but then tomorrow morning.
Oh then you come down. Just keep on moving…
Everybody asks your name
They say we’re all the same and it’s “nice one”, “Jeremy”
By Tim Carter
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