Monday, 17 August 2015

A Note on Burnham

I'm putting Burnham as my second preference with no others. I think he could actually be a very useful part of Corbyn's team, and in a new political paradigm may finally have the courage of his (rather well-hidden) convictions.

It's important that the party stay unified after the election. If Corbyn wins he would ideally get the support of all of the other candidates as part of that unification process. It's unlikely that Kendall and Cooper would support him or join his shadow cabinet. Burnham has indicated that he would join and will support Corbyn. To maximise the unifying effect of that it would be best if Burnham came second in terms of number of votes cast. It can then be said that the two candidates that got the most votes are working together etc.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Gordon Brown on Electability

Gordon Brown is an impressive speaker (if he'd learn to stand still – I'm still dizzy) but the narrative that most people who support Jeremy Corbyn are not interested in whether he is electable is silly. If I didn't think Corbyn could be elected I wouldn't be supporting him.

Brown lost. Miliband lost. Cooper would lose. Kendall would lose. Burnham would probably lose. 

The reality is that Corbyn has the best chance of winning in 2020 if the party unites behind him.

First, Corbyn can expand and energise the party to make it a real campaigning force, a real social movement that can make its case effectively to liberals and centrist Tories. Second, he has the best chance of winning back those 40 seats in Scotland. Third, his straight-talking–but polite–authenticity can win over those who don't vote, vote UKIP or don't care because they believe all politicians are all the same.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Economic Credibility

Lucy Powell, one of Ed Miliband's top aides, was on Newsnight last night. Her comments epitomised the irrationality of some parts of the Labour Party.

She refers to polls taken after the election that showed that one reason many didn't vote Labour was because they didn't trust the party on the economy – that Labour weren't, in the now-familiar phrase, "credible on the economy".

Powell implies that this is evidence that Labour must move closer to the Tories' economic policies, and since Corbyn's economic policies are further away, he isn't electable.

What nonsense.

We have to imagine that she, Ed Balls, and Ed Miliband thought they were credible on the economy when they were campaigning – so what the poll results *really* mean is that Labour weren't able to *market* themselves as being credible to the electorate.

And, let's face it, Labour had an uninspiring, mediocre campaign that failed – both from the point of view of the "air war" at a national level and the "ground war" at the local level. (A subject I'll go into at a later date, based on my experience in South Thanet.)

The take-away for me is that whatever economic policies we think are the best for the country need to be presented to people in a much more effective manner, in a manner that *establishes* Labour's economic credibility – *by making the case effectively*.

New Labour, on the other hand, has decided that the election result tells us that economic credibility for Labour now equals Osbornomics, but with a few more crumbs from the table left over…

Friday, 14 August 2015

The Demonisation of 1983

I don't think the comparisons between Corbyn and Labour in 1983 are valid, but it's true to note that between the 1979 and 1983 elections Labour lost just over 3 million votes. 

Was it a clear indictment of Labour's manifesto? Or was it due to Thatcher's bounce after the winning of the Falklands War – and the impact of the Liz Kendalls of the day defecting to form the SDP, splitting the party and the electorate?

What happened to the 3 million votes lost by Labour in 1983? Well, the Liberals, in alliance with the Labour defectors of the SDP, just happened to increase their vote by 3.5 million that year…

So you have a prime minister coming off a successful war (in the country's eyes) and a recently-split Labour Party. And, yes, Michael Foot wasn't from central casting... Clearly, it would have been hard for *any* party with *any* manifesto to win under those conditions. 

Given this, New Labour's use of 1983 as the final, damning argument as to why left-wing policies would make the party forever unelectable is disingenuous, at best.

And, in any case, the idea that the Labour Party should be reduced to patching up the wounds inflicted by the excesses of the free market instead of working to reform and manage it properly has to be resisted. And Corbyn's the key, right now, to that resistance.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

A Lesson from South Thanet

I spent 3 weeks during the general election in Broadstairs, Kent (and 3 weeks here in Tokyo before that) running online and social media publicity for Labour's campaign in South Thanet (amongst other things) to keep Nigel Farage from becoming the MP there. It was a hell of a ride. UKIP spent an absolute *fortune* on trying to get Farage elected. Our goal (apart from winning the seat for candidate Will Scobie, of course) was to keep Farage out by stemming the tide of Labour voters moving to UKIP. In that, at least, we succeeded: Farage lost.

Labour nationally had abandoned South Thanet and the regional Labour Party was more hindrance than help (e.g. cancelling a morning press conference with Delia Smith on the night before despite invitations having already gone out, not passing on interview requests from the media etc.). But we did have strong support from a number of MPs including Jeremy Corbyn, who visited at least twice. (No pictures with me, I'm afraid, I was slaving behind a hot computer much of the time.)

It was during this election that it really hit home to me how out of touch the Labour Party was with people, and how essential it was to have: 

(1) a leader who spoke human and was prepared to say what he believed, authentically – this was the element that so many people found attractive about Farage.

(2) a social movement that was active in between elections not just something that popped up at your doorstep when it wanted your vote. (The South Thanet Labour Party seems to have popped out of existence since May 8th.)

Now, in addition, we need to understand what kind of society we want to achieve (not in a utopian way, but in a down-to-earth way with concrete examples) and then debate what policies are best to help us get there.

This approach casts aside labels such as "left" and "right" which are often meaningless, often used thoughtlessly, and which usually have the effect of dumbing down the conversation, a conversation which needs to be about how effective policies would be in getting us where we want to go.

Corbyn is a breath of fresh air. I'd prefer someone younger, and I don't agree with everything he says, but he is raising the conversation the Labour party needs to have to the level it needs to be at.
And he was nice enough to help us in South Thanet! :-)