Labour and work
September 7, 2016 12:01 AM   Subscribe

Does the Left have a future? (SLGuardian) A longish article on how globalisation, nationalism and changing work has put parties of the left (and particularly Labour in the UK) in crisis.
posted by tavegyl (104 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
Of course it has a future, just maybe not a good one (in England and Wales at least, and for variants of the Future such as my limited imagination can accept as plausible today) struggling to represent a shrinking minority. The Future of The Guardian isn’t looking too good either, what with that ‘Support our journalism for only £49 per year’ footer beneath the article. I hope to be proven wrong on both counts. I suppose there’s always Future of the Left (the band).
posted by misteraitch at 2:52 AM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


A good article I think, I do like John Harris's writings, and his "Anywhere but Westminster" series is excellent.
Anyone who is vaguely a Corbyn fan would be very well to read this article.

As to the question "does the Left have a future?" - it's a good question. Nick Cohen (also of the Grauniad) said recently something along the lines of (I am paraphrasing heavily) - "Corbyn is a gamble, a very serious gamble - if Labour don't win power soon they could be out of power for 20 years - and history doesn't wait".

This last pt I think is the really serious bit that J Harris and Cohen really nail - people move on, nothing is guaranteed, and there's nothing to say that the majority of people won't simply reject any vaguely left policies for 50 years.
posted by rolandroland at 3:05 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


‘Support our journalism for only £49 per year’ footer
The one that gets me is the "Give to the Guardian" banner ad. It makes them sound like a charity when in reality they are a commercial, for-profit newspaper. There arguably needs to be new models of supporting journalism (although would a world with less news be that bad?) but soliciting donations like you're Oxfam just seems desperate and cheesy to me.
posted by winterhill at 3:06 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Eh - The guardian isn't for profit. The trust that owns it is legally barred from paying dividends or enriching anyone other than the trust, whose only obligation is to perpetuate the guardian.
posted by JPD at 4:01 AM on September 7, 2016 [27 favorites]


I read this article yesterday and it really irritated me. It's another in a series of pieces in which the rather hapless Corbyn is asked to bear the blame for the electoral rot caused by over two decades of specific decisions made by the right of the party: to neglect and condescend to the branch membership and undermine their powers to select candidates; to favour candidates with backgrounds in university student politics; to put the interests of large corporate donors above those of the members; to neglect the nations; to purge the left from the party membership; and to push a particular brew of neoliberal economic policy, means-testing, privatization, and identity politics, which, frankly, goes down like a cup of cold sick with the actual left.

The problem, in other words, isn't a Left one so much as a Liberal one. Most members of the PLP by this point are liberals by inclination, not leftists, and really shouldn't be in the Labour Party at all: socially and in terms of political instincts, they're more in alignment with the Conservatives or Liberal Democrats. Many of the young activists drawn to the party by Corbyn, meanwhile, would be better off really in the Greens. The old base, to the extent that it still exists, looks with bafflement at this alien (to them) coalition of Old Oxonians and activists drawn to exotic and far-away causes, wondering what possible areas of commonality they have with the working-class experience in Labour's post-industrial heartlands. The Party's liberal elite, meanwhile, look on the old base with utter cultural and classist distaste.

Labour has always been an odd and unstable mixture of liberal intellectuals and labour-movement types, but the Party's shift to the right that started under Kinnock has really destabilised that coalition. With proportional representation, these blocs could perhaps sort out into two or three smaller, more ideologically coherent parties, but there's no likelihood of that at the moment. So we're left with an angry mass of infighting, and the electorate at large looks at it and decides (rightly, I guess) that it's in no position to form any kind of government.
posted by Sonny Jim at 4:35 AM on September 7, 2016 [30 favorites]


[Blair in his speech] could only offer “affordable, wraparound childcare between the hours of 8am-6pm for all who need it”)

This would be awesome, though. I notice the writer is a man...

My general point: less angst and in-fighting about principles, more election-winning and pragmatic policies helping the people, please, Left.
posted by alasdair at 4:43 AM on September 7, 2016


It's another in a series of pieces in which the rather hapless Corbyn is asked to bear the blame for the electoral rot caused by over two decades of specific decisions made by the right of the party

There are 60 paragraphs in this essay. Three of them refer to Corbyn.

Personally I’m tired of people on the left being convinced that any criticism of the left is nothing but sour grapes from those they disdainfully call “Blairites”. Blaming the “right” of the party for everything that has gone wrong over the last 20 years is just as short sighted as the right assuming that the “left” cannot win. This is a thoughtful essay that tries to deal head on with the changes in UK society & what they mean for the Labour movement as a whole, Blairites & Corbynites included.
posted by pharm at 5:07 AM on September 7, 2016 [12 favorites]


alasdair: Sure, wrap around child care would be great. I *think* the point within the essay was that it was part and parcel of Labour’s focus on work as the only route to solving society’s ills.
posted by pharm at 5:11 AM on September 7, 2016


Maybe it's just because I'm an American, but I found the emphasis on ethnic nationalism both interesting and sort of horrifying, especially when the author suggests the Scottish left has been successful by deploying a 'civic' nationalism without noting that the Scottish image of Scotland *is* as a tolerant and diverse place (from what I can tell, which is, of course, somewhat limited).

Overall, it seems that the European right will continue to have some basis of argument as long as Europeans accept defining nationality in a closed, ethnic way. If the only place to find security is in an unchanging group, it seems like conflict will be eternal.
posted by dame at 6:14 AM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


There are 60 paragraphs in this essay. Three of them refer to Corbyn.

Nevertheless it is about Corbyn, and fits nicely into a series of articles in the liberal intellectual media, in which readers are asked to question the relevance of the old political ideal of caring about other people. An ideal which has - despite the headline - recently had a huge popular resurgence.
posted by iotic at 6:16 AM on September 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


It's hard not to use "Blairite" as a term of abuse, since he is probably one of the most hated men in Britain. However it does also accurately refer to all those in and around the Labour Party who cannot advance a conversation about politics anywhere much beyond 'you must win elections by appealing to the centre'. Luckily the left most definitely has a future beyond them, as evidenced by the thousands of new activists that Corbyn attracts practically every day.
posted by Coda Tronca at 6:33 AM on September 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


This last pt I think is the really serious bit that J Harris and Cohen really nail - people move on, nothing is guaranteed, and there's nothing to say that the majority of people won't simply reject any vaguely left policies for 50 years.

This is three coin flips in row coming up heads based prediction territory.

After every time there have two governments in a row by the same party in any country pundits predict the other party will disappear into a rabbit hole. It almost never happens.
posted by srboisvert at 6:35 AM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


Thought this Michael Ignatieff review of Nick Clegg's memoir was interesting and somewhat relevant:
The former deputy prime minister is appalled by the recent British referendum on membership of the European Union, repelled by the virulence of social media and amazed that a reasoned, pro-market, internationalist politics is being squeezed to vanishing point by angry nativists on the right and anti-capitalist fundamentalists on the left...

A more serious problem is the tendency of liberals to regard ourselves as apostles of sweet reason, the clear quiet voice in a bar room of brawlers. Clegg has a bad case of this high-minded liberal self-regard and it leaves him perpetually baffled that the people he calls populists stole support from under his nose...

Clegg’s brand of liberal moderation (and mine too) is the natural mating call of elite cosmopolitans. The problem is that there just aren’t enough cosmopolitans to win elections. Globalisation, open markets and European integration do not churn out enough winners to build stable electoral coalitions. Globalisation empowers elites economically but disempowers them politically... He offers policies — infrastructure investment, house construction, reform of the banks — when what the electorate wants is a narrative that persuades them that their elites actually know what they are doing. For it is not the anger of globalisation’s losers that ought to worry us most, but the blindness of its winners.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 6:47 AM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


After every time there have two governments in a row by the same party in any country pundits predict the other party will disappear into a rabbit hole. It almost never happens.

It's happening in Scotland right now.
posted by bonaldi at 6:59 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


When you talk about "Blaming the “right” of the party for everything that has gone wrong over the last 20 years" I think you're missing some of the specificity in Sonny Jim's comment.

The right wing of the Labour party made very specific decisions to reshape the Labour party, and they did it in the face of howls of protest from a lot of the members. Many left the party, a lot more stayed and complained and spent 20 years having less and less of a say in how their party operated.

Labour party members backing Corbyn aren't choosing a leader to fight the election, they're taking a stance on what they think the Labour party should be. A democratic organisation controlled by the grass roots members.
So when people cry Blairism I think they're decrying the top down, centralised managerialism, not the policies.
Which is why some Corbyn supporters will call Smith a Blairite even when he's espousing the leftest of leftmost policies, because to them, he looks like a continuation of that style of management within the party.
I think that's where the intellectual disconnect between the two sides lie.*

*My own wild conjectures.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:10 AM on September 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


Labour party members backing Corbyn aren't choosing a leader to fight the election, they're taking a stance on what they think the Labour party should be. A democratic organisation controlled by the grass roots members.

And one that is looking to lose heavily at the polls, thanks to the massive disconnect between the Labour membership and electorate. The simple reality is, at the end of the day, the goal of politics is to enact policy. And if you're not looking at and moving towards that, then you need to seriously rethink what you're doing.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:27 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


It does have a future, I think (and we need it to have one) but not in its present form. The future of work looks different to the vulnerable (mostly) manufacturing workplaces and workers the left was formed to represent. We need a future left that's able to represent today's vulnerable workers: those in the zero hours / self-employed / freelance / gig economy. Critically, that's not just the traditional working class or warehouse / retail labour, but all the people whose jobs are becoming like this. This new left needs to cut across the traditional class etc. boundaries and reach out to everyone most affected by these changing work patterns, and that includes where this cuts into public (or once public) services and a lot of professional or semiprofessional work. I think an effective future left needs to bring a lot of today's middle class on board, not only to get votes that let it enact policy, but because so many of us already need it thanks to how our work is becoming structured - even if we don't realise this yet.
posted by dowcrag at 7:34 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think liberalism/progressivism's future will become more well-defined as the rise of hard-right conservatism/nationalism around the world reaches whatever terrible outcome is in-store.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:41 AM on September 7, 2016


And one that is looking to lose heavily at the polls

Well the polls all said Brexit wouldn't happen either. It's all up for grabs now.
posted by Coda Tronca at 7:47 AM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Well the polls all said Brexit wouldn't happen either. It's all up for grabs now.

The polls actually called what happened - a very close vote that could swing either way.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:49 AM on September 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think liberalism/progressivism's future will become more well-defined as the rise of hard-right conservatism/nationalism around the world reaches whatever terrible outcome is in-store.
"The economy's never been better. Here's another potato!"
posted by Sonny Jim at 7:52 AM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't think a single opinion poll predicted a clear Leave majority in the year running up to Brexit.
posted by Coda Tronca at 7:54 AM on September 7, 2016


I don't think a single opinion poll predicted a clear Leave majority in the year running up to Brexit.

Your point? Because it doesn't matter if that the polls "didn't show a clear Leave majority". What matters is that the polls pretty accurately tracked what we saw - a very tight vote that could go either way.

And the fact is that part of the reason the left in the UK is getting their ass handed to them is because they are rallying around an incredibly incompetent, shitty politician - Corbyn - instead of doing the smart thing and kicking him to the curb, all because he makes the right noises to soothe them.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:01 AM on September 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


the left in the UK is getting their ass handed to them is because they are rallying around an incredibly incompetent, shitty politician - Corbyn -

If you think Momentum is about rallying around a guy to 'soothe' yourself, you clearly have no idea what's going on in it. And the left is growing, not 'having its ass handed to it' anyway.

If you want a Murdoch-approved corporate-friendly politician at the helm, you will need to wait until Umunna or Benn or similar actually grow a pair of balls big enough to take on Corbyn's enormous popularity - at the moment they're all in hiding because they know they'll lose.
posted by Coda Tronca at 8:05 AM on September 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


I don't think a single opinion poll predicted a clear Leave majority in the year running up to Brexit.

The clues were there for anyone who bothered to look.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:06 AM on September 7, 2016


Wait, the argument is that British voters were unexpectedly convinced by lies, appeals to xenophobia, and the personal charisma of Nigel Farage and therefore Labour has a bright future ahead of it?
posted by figurant at 8:14 AM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


The simple reality is, at the end of the day, the goal of politics is to enact policy. And if you're not looking at and moving towards that, then you need to seriously rethink what you're doing.

That illustrates my point well.
I think that the Corbyn side would say that the goal of politics is to represent the people.
Enacting policy just because it's your putative side doing it isn't really relevant if you don't believe in that policy.

The goal is not power. The goal is positive change. If you get your team in power but you still have no say in how they make policy then what have you gained?
Corbyn isn't winning because of his enormous personal magnetism. I mean... obviously. This isn't a cult of personality. There are real reasons why he's polling on an increased mandate (despite every attempt to stop that) and his opponents in Labour don't understand those reasons. As soon as they do, then you can elect whoever you like, because his side will have won.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 8:17 AM on September 7, 2016 [10 favorites]


UKPollingReport on the Referendum polling:
...for many pollsters nothing at all went wrong. Companies like TNS and Opinium got the referendum resolutely right, and many polls painted a consistently tight race between Remain and Leave. However some did less well and in the context of last year’s polling failure there is plenty we can learn ...

Telephone and online polls told very different stories – if one paid more attention to telephone polls then Remain appeared to have a robust lead (and many in the media did, having bought into a “phone polls are more accurate” narrative that turned out to be wholly wrong). If one had paid more attention to online polls the race would have appeared consistently neck-and-neck. If one made the – perfectly reasonable – assumption that the actual result would be somewhere in between phone and online, one would still have ended up expecting a Remain victory...

In fact the final result was not somewhere in between telephone and online at all. Online was closer to the final result, and far from being in between the actual result was more Leave than all of them.
Slightly worrying for Americans: Trump, like Leave, does better in online polls. If they're actually still understating him...
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:18 AM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think the article gets the problem of the left now, and that is how the concept of "work" has changed and the left is stuck in the old concepts of industry and public service. The left needs to redefine what "work" is, and call out on the moral corruptness of the "gig economy", the terrible conditions on some service jobs, the state-sponsored internships where the employee is coerced to pay back the employer, all conditions who are a step up from indentured servitude (because the alternative is often that, or homelessness).
Instead, they are allowing to be dominated by the idea that the problem of employment is the minimum wage, workers protection and regulations. The left has to reaffirm the state is responsible for the livelihood of its' citizens, and what has to be up to question is only how directly.

And of course, in here's there's the issue that media companies are all pushing the same agenda. There's a popular social media account around these parts that goes after the spin machine. To sum it up, it's mostly a lot of using photos of leftist politicians in unflattering articles not connected to them (while doing the opposite for rightwingers), selective quoting and misquoting, using vague words and timing (say, "the government passed on a contract to buy fire-fighting helicopters", not mentioning "the government" was not the current one, but the previous). This subconsciously shapes the public opinion of politicians - right-leaning politicians are hired by them and presented as flawless expert pundits after leaving public office (even when proof of their incompetence is in the books), while left-leaning politicians are presented as clueless dolts. Hard to make any point if the newspapers will barely come short of putting a snapchat clown filter over their photos.
posted by lmfsilva at 8:22 AM on September 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


If you think Momentum is about rallying around a guy to 'soothe' yourself, you clearly have no idea what's going on in it. And the left is growing, not 'having its ass handed to it' anyway.

If you want a Murdoch-approved corporate-friendly politician at the helm, you will need to wait until Umunna or Benn or similar actually grow a pair of balls big enough to take on Corbyn's enormous popularity - at the moment they're all in hiding because they know they'll lose.


What enormous popularity? Everything I've seen coming out of the UK indicates that Labour is heading towards an utter shellacking at the actual polls that actually matter. Because the guy in charge is more interested in posturing than in actually doing his job, as his recent pitiful performance at Question Time illustrated.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:23 AM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


Because the guy in charge is more interested in posturing than in actually doing his job

I don't know what you think his job is supposed to be other than 'winning' and 'power' and being cool on TV, but he has never been in any doubt himself about what he does: he's an activist, and has worked his butt off for forty years for causes like the NHS and anti-nuclear defence, plus others that often used to get you laughed at or locked up (anti-apartheid, LGBT rights, mental health issues, women's refuges, Palestinian solidarity). That's what people know they're getting from him.
posted by Coda Tronca at 8:31 AM on September 7, 2016 [10 favorites]


There are real reasons why he's polling on an increased mandate (despite every attempt to stop that)

Yes, it's called stacking the deck. It's pretty clear that Corbyn's success is due to controlling the small portion of the electorate that actually selects the party leadership. Which is, once again, why Labour is looking to lose big at the actual polls.

Basically, it's an even more amplified version of the problem we have here in the US with primary versus general election voters, in large part because whereas the only real barrier in the US is having to declare a party affiliation ahead of time, the UK system demands that people have to pay to vote. That selects towards a certain sort, and that's a point worth remembering when looking towards the actual election that you need to win to actually accomplish shit.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:32 AM on September 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


There's actually a long, thoughtful, detailed article about the problems of Left parties in general and the Labour Party in particular right at the top of the page.

Unfortunately those problems are a lot more complex and intractable than just "Because Jeremy Corbyn is in charge."
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:33 AM on September 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


It is the money the right has to control media and place information officers, talking points, and cheerleaders all over the web, that has made the left look less popular. There is a full scale information war going on against the socialist societies of South America. Without the limitless natural resources of Africa and South America available to exploitation, the current world burn, can't go on. They have lots of money to spend on their dreams, these destroyers of worlds.
posted by Oyéah at 8:34 AM on September 7, 2016


It's pretty clear that Corbyn's success is due to controlling the small portion of the electorate that actually selects the party leadership.

No, he heads a movement of people that actually joined the party as a result of his leadership campaign. He didn't set out to 'control' anyone - that's how you do it when you're a Blairite.
posted by Coda Tronca at 8:35 AM on September 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


I don't know what you think his job is supposed to be other than 'winning' and 'power' and being cool on TV, but he has never been in any doubt himself about what he does: he's an activist, and has worked his butt off for forty years for causes like the NHS and anti-nuclear defence, plus others that often used to get you laughed at or locked up (anti-apartheid, LGBT rights, mental health issues, women's refuges, Palestinian solidarity). That's what people know they're getting from him.

As the putative head of the opposition, one core aspect of his job is to hold Theresa May's feet to the fire, especially over things like, say, the fact that two of the UK's biggest trading partners just sent them to the back of the line on renegotiating trade deals post-Brexit.

Needless to say, this is a part of the job he has failed spectacularly at.

Corbyn is illustrating why activists often make poor politicians.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:39 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


He's a lovely man and he's taking the party in interesting new directions. I know several people who signed up as Labour supporters just to vote for him. Some of them were lifelong Tories and indeed, still are.
posted by Segundus at 8:41 AM on September 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


Yes, it's called stacking the deck. It's pretty clear that Corbyn's success is due to controlling the small portion of the electorate that actually selects the party leadership

Uh, I'm not sure you're entirely clear how political party membership works in the UK.
The party membership chooses the leader. Anyone may join the party, and in theory is then free to vote for leader (in this case less so because voting rights have been restricted to people who were members before the contest was called, some people think this was to stack the deck against Corbyn, rather than in favour)

On top of this there is a long history of wrangling over who selects MP candidates, and who sets party rules, a lot of the issues being that the central leadership has in the last couple of decades tried to take control of these decisions away from the members.
The candidate here arguing for greater democratic accountability is Corbyn. The ones accused of denying this are his opponents.

Party membership, incidentally, is not a pay to vote system (in fact you its worth reading up on the whole registered supporter thing that occured, if you're not from the UK. That really was a pay to vote system, again not popular amongst the Corbyn camp). Party membership involves a lot more than voting for the leader.
I am assuming from context that the system in the US is different?
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 8:44 AM on September 7, 2016 [8 favorites]


It's another in a series of pieces in which the rather hapless Corbyn is asked to bear the blame for the electoral rot caused by over two decades of specific decisions made by the right of the party...

I don't think that's what the piece is doing, and while it's true that Blair and Brown had no more idea than anyone else about what to do about the fracturing of Labour's social base, it's too simplistic to blame the party's current problems on just them.

The big problem is that Labour is set up to represent the interest of a big industrial working class that no longer exists. Instead you've a got a great big middle class that breaks down politically into loads of little groups, and a comparatively smaller working class that's less and less tied together by institutions like the pub or the chapel or the Labour Party. Plus the political geography going haywire (from Labour's point of view) with things like Scotland and the metropolitan / rest of the country divide.

Corbyn is just people giving the previous Labour regime a bashing by voting in the Labour equivalent of IDS - someone who's catnip to lots of the activists but a joke to the voters at large. He'll be wiped out by electoral reality sooner or later, but if someone serious manages to take over they'll have to do some serious thinking about what kind of social coalition to shoot for while climbing out of the post-Corbyn wreckage.
posted by Mocata at 9:00 AM on September 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


If we're apportioning blame for the Current Unpleasantness, I think one thing that gets overlooked is the abject, demented stupidity of attempting a coup in the Labour party without getting the unions onside first.

If Hilary Benn and Owen Smith had had a quiet word with leaders of the main unions, and yes, writing whatever cheques were necessary, then they might have had a chance.

But the three power blocs in the Labour party are the members, the unions and the PLP. For one of those factions to try to take control with the other two opposed is about as sensible as mashing your face into a meat grinder. Yes, those blades are sharp and hard and fast, aren't they...
posted by TheophileEscargot at 9:01 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


From everything I've heard, party membership is not free - if you want to be a party member and have a vote on party positions and who stands for election, you have to pay dues to the party.

In comparison, in the US, primary elections, where parties put their full slates up to decide candidates, are considered semi-public and are administered by the state. As such, there is no monetary cost to them. The only limitation in some states is that you have to declare affiliation prior to the election (closed primary). Others allow declaration at the time of voting (semi-open) or allow all people to vote on the slates (open).

(Then there are jungle "primaries", which actually aren't primaries and are bullshit, but that's another topic for another time.)

And even with that system, the US still has a massive disconnect between the primary electorate and the general electorate, which has been an issue for both parties, and is the reason we have the first Oompa-loompa-American running for office this year. I can only imagine how much more intensified that disconnect becomes when money is added to the mix.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:01 AM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I was listening to PMQs at lunchtime and Theresa May came out with an interesting line about making sure Labour "never get anywhere near power again." It was particularly poor - stumbling Theresa and bumbling Jeremy sounding like a BBC local radio afternoon DJ ("I've had an email from Clare..." etc) don't make for great listening. Anyway, the Conservatives are lapping up the current situation and I genuinely can't see Labour recovering before 2025, let alone 2020.

That's a concern - while I have no desire to see a Corbyn government, we need a genuinely effective opposition holding the current government to account. We are not a one-party state and the current situation where the self-interested Scots are positioning themselves as the de-facto opposition is unacceptable. The SNP don't give a shit about the English or Welsh and they do not speak for us. We need a UK Labour party speaking for us and looking like a government-in-waiting.

Can we not derail this thread into "here's what happens in the USA because what we really want to do on MeFi is talk about how everything compares to the USA"?
posted by winterhill at 9:03 AM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I agree, let's keep this UK thread about the UK, that said that derail was my fault. Not NoxAeternum's.
I was just trying to explain that party membership is not the same as primary voting and yes you're paying, but you're not paying to vote, it's more like club dues.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 9:08 AM on September 7, 2016


I was just trying to explain that party membership is not the same as primary voting and yes you're paying, but you're not paying to vote, it's more like club dues.

Are you paying to be a party member?

Is party membership required to be able to vote in these elections?

If the following two statements are true, then you are paying to vote.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:17 AM on September 7, 2016


I think one thing that gets overlooked is the abject, demented stupidity of attempting a coup in the Labour party without getting the unions onside first...

Yeah what was that about? You'd think Tom Watson, of all people, would have been reasonably certain about either nobbling the NEC to force Corbyn to seek nominations from MPs, or about getting the unions on side, or both. But no.

Another mystery is what the unions are doing supporting Corbyn, because historically they've been seen as hard-nosed types with a ruthless focus on their members' interests who keep daffy middle-class metropolitan idealists in check. The main explanations I've seen are that their leaderships are uniquely vulnerable to challenges from the left, and that they've got more left groupuscule-like as their memberships have shrunk. But it still seems a bit weird to me.
posted by Mocata at 9:21 AM on September 7, 2016


Something I think that perhaps deters people from supporting Labour is the fact that over the years, it's basically turned into the tax-and-spend party, as opposed to the Conservatives who are the privatise-anything-that-moves party. They look like polar opposites - but what are you really doing?

You are choosing between two elites running things. Do you want the corporate elite running the show, or the public sector apparatchiks who've done very nicely thank you very much from the whole thing? My eyebrows are raised when I see, for example, Porsches with personalised number plates rolling into NHS office car parks. There are a lot of people in the public sector with jobs for life who've risen up the ranks almost entirely by virtue of having worked in the same place for donkey's years. The NHS is a prime example of these things going wrong - it's a little world of its own. How are these people any different from the people who run Capita or Asda? They are all on the take from the public for personal gain, all with generous benefits.

Working-class people look at this situation from the vantage point of their insecure, zero-hours agency job with no holiday, no sick pay, no notice period and say - why should we pay high taxes to keep these folk in jobs with benefits far beyond what we're able to get? Why can't we have a few cutbacks and a bit of rationalisation and fewer sports-car-driving public sector bureaucrats? The left is for more spending on this crap, and it turns people off.
posted by winterhill at 9:31 AM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Working-class people look at this situation from the vantage point of their insecure, zero-hours agency job with no holiday, no sick pay, no notice period and say - why should we pay high taxes to keep these folk in jobs with benefits far beyond what we're able to get? Why can't we have a few cutbacks and a bit of rationalisation and fewer sports-car-driving public sector bureaucrats? The left is for more spending on this crap, and it turns people off.

Good to see crab thinking isn't just a US phenomenon.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:33 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


JPD: Eh - The guardian isn't for profit. The trust that owns it is legally barred from paying dividends or enriching anyone other than the trust, whose only obligation is to perpetuate the guardian.

Note, even non-profits can run into conflicts of interest (or at least give the appearance of doing so), so it's definitely important to assess their media critically as well:
What the piece failed to note—other than the fact that Rhee’s tenure left DC’s schools “worse by almost every conceivable measure” (Truthout, 10/23/13)—is that multi-billionaire Bill Gates is both the major investor of the company administering the Liberian education overhaul and the principal of the Gates Foundation, sponsor of the Guardian’s Global Development vertical, where the story appeared.

The story clearly labels the Gates Foundation as its sponsor. What it never mentioned is that Bill Gates is a major investor of the firm at the heart of the story, Bridge Academies International, having pitched in, along with Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and eBay co-founder Pierre Omidyar, $100 million for the “education startup.”

Making the conflict more glaring is the fact that this is a personal, for-profit investment for Gates, not a charitable donation.

The Guardian claims its Global Development vertical, launched in 2011, is “editorially independent of any sponsorship.” According to its most recent tax filings in 2014, the Gates Foundation has an on-going $5.69 million grant to Guardian News Media Limited.

The Guardian has run other puff pieces on the Gates Foundation in this vertical, such as “Gates Foundation Annual Letter: What Do You Think of Their Vision?” (1/22/15), which is basically an investment letter, along with “Melinda Gates Hits Out at ‘War on Women’ on Eve of Summit” (7/7/12) and “Bill Gates: Digital Learning Will Revolutionize Education in Global South” (1/22/15).
posted by kyp at 10:31 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]



You are choosing between two elites running things. Do you want the corporate elite running the show, or the public sector apparatchiks who've done very nicely thank you very much from the whole thing? My eyebrows are raised when I see, for example, Porsches with personalised number plates rolling into NHS office car parks. There are a lot of people in the public sector with jobs for life who've risen up the ranks almost entirely by virtue of having worked in the same place for donkey's years. The NHS is a prime example of these things going wrong - it's a little world of its own. How are these people any different from the people who run Capita or Asda? They are all on the take from the public for personal gain, all with generous benefits.


WAT

By virtue of a car park observation (the Porches could be due to visitors or consultants) you conclude that labour is the party of "tax and spend" and there are an army of people at the public teat comparable to CEOs who are wrecking the world? Really?
posted by lalochezia at 10:31 AM on September 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


Another mystery is what the unions are doing supporting Corbyn, because historically they've been seen as hard-nosed types with a ruthless focus on their members' interests who keep daffy middle-class metropolitan idealists in check.

If you're going to look after your members' interests, you may have to take industrial action or speak against corporate interests. Blair's Labour Party will never, ever support you in this, but Corbyn has shown time and again that he will. Although he is of course middle class, Corbyn is very active in his constituency, which is densely populated with some of Britain's poorest and most deprived people. The quite straightforward things he says would seem to be based on his experience with them rather than daffy idealism.
posted by Coda Tronca at 10:55 AM on September 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


After seeing how he supported Remain, I'd be wondering if I'd want his support.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:21 AM on September 7, 2016


Corbyn was always anti-EU, as were most hard left people in the UK up till recently. His 'meh' attitude to the EU is yet another thing that helps his popularity.
posted by Coda Tronca at 11:30 AM on September 7, 2016


The NHS is a prime example of these things going wrong - it's a little world of its own. How are these people any different from the people who run Capita or Asda? They are all on the take from the public for personal gain, all with generous benefits.

The NHS is one of the most efficient healthcare providers in the developed world, it has to be what with its chronic underfunding. Probably some good management going on there somewhere. Senior consultants are huge Porsche fans I gather.

After seeing how he supported Remain, I'd be wondering if I'd want his support.

I'm a long term Labour member and I think the party is in a worse state than I've ever seen it, the most frustrating thing being a complete lack of leadership across the party. Corbyn is an activist rather than a parliamentary politician but compared with Owen Smith he's a political heavyweight and when faced with a choice between which one is going to go down in flames in the next election then it's going to be Corbyn every time because at least I can go into the polling station without the clothes peg.
posted by brilliantmistake at 11:54 AM on September 7, 2016 [8 favorites]


Corbyn has shown time and again that he will [support industrial action and denounce corporate interests] .

Fair point but I'm surprised they'd make such a narrow calculation, ie: Benefits: This leader of the opposition will support us in the event of industrial action. Costs: There will be Tory governments for the next 10 years at least, with a more or less free hand for as long as this leader of the opposition clings on, probably leading to a resurgence of the Labour right with a vivid story to tell about the perils of straying too far from 'the centre' .

The whole thing increasingly seems to me like we're living inside an unfairly skewed thought experiment dreamed up by someone like Peter Mandelson in his pomp. 'You want a more left-wing Labour Party? Okay, imagine, say, Jeremy Corbyn as leader and think about how the electoral maths would work out.'

To which one would have said, 'But that's a totally skewed analogy. We should imagine a more left-wing Labour Party that's led by someone who could plausibly do the job.'

To which Mandelson would have said, 'Yeah alright, I was just trying it on.'
posted by Mocata at 12:56 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


he's an activist, and has worked his butt off for forty years for causes like the NHS and anti-nuclear defence, plus others that often used to get you laughed at or locked up (anti-apartheid, LGBT rights, mental health issues, women's refuges, Palestinian solidarity).

I note in passing that your list of Corbyn’s activism conveniently omits to mention his support for the IRA, his association with repressive Muslim groups and the list of deeply repressive soi-disant communist regimes that he thinks are all just fine. You think the Tories are not going to make hay with all of that come the election? Because I do - I bet they have a dossier a foot thick of stories to ready to run already.
posted by pharm at 1:35 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


All the hard left gave conditional support to the IRA; the problems of the middle east have long involved issues around conditional support for groups that have problematic Islamist threads; and 'communism' is not a dirty word for anyone with a brain. If there were that many smears against Corbyn the Blairites would have done them already - but we don't care. Take that shit to the Daily Mail.
posted by Coda Tronca at 2:11 PM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


And that, in a nutshell, is the issue. You might not care, but the actual electorate you need to win does.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:50 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Eh - The guardian isn't for profit. The trust that owns it is legally barred from paying dividends...

Sadly not any longer:

In 2008, “the trust was replaced with a limited company” that was accordingly re-named “The Scott Trust Limited.” Though not a trust at all, but simply a profit-making company, it is still referred to frequently as ‘The Scott Trust,’ promulgating the widely-held but mistaken belief in the Guardian’s inherently benign ownership structure.

The Guardian is now largely bankrolled by HSBC bank. Paying them money might help to reduce that dependence, but like most old media they are bleeding money.
posted by Lanark at 2:58 PM on September 7, 2016


Your link does not show tht at all. What it shows is that HSBC advertises in the guardian.
---


"In October 2008 it was announced that the trust was being wound up and its assets transferred to a new limited company named The Scott Trust Limited.

The core purpose of the Trust was enshrined in the constitution of the Limited company and "cannot be altered or amended." The new company is barred from paying dividends, and "its constitution has been carefully drafted to ensure that no individual can ever personally benefit from the arrangements."
posted by lalochezia at 4:59 PM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


All the hard left gave conditional support to the IRA

Yes, they did, didn’t they. This is not something they should be proud of frankly & “everyone else was doing it” is not an excuse.

'communism' is not a dirty word

Selective quoting for the win! I said “deeply repressive soi-disant communists”. There is a difference between those two things. As far as I can see, anyone that called themselves Communist was alright with Corbyn, regardless of the reality on the ground. (Reminds me of the Left’s attitude to the Soviet Union in the first half of this century actually - it took a long, long time before people finally realised they’d been completely had, because they just didn’t want to see.)

The Blairites didn’t use these arguments, because you’ve so aptly demonstrated, they didn’t have any traction with the people they were trying to convince. The right however?: They will happily use this stuff to tear into Corbyn come the election. You thought the “demon eyes” poster was bad? The next election is going to be worse & it’s going to be effective because Corbyn really has done all these things.
posted by pharm at 11:46 PM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


“as you’ve so aptly demonstrated”. sigh.
posted by pharm at 11:57 PM on September 7, 2016


I'd rather not rehash all the ways that Corbyn is terrible ideally. No one is going to be convinced and we'll all just get cross.

The state of the Labour party is, I think, about much more than Corbyn.
His election was the pebble that let members realise they actually could have more of a say than they were having, and the response he's got from his parliamentary colleagues is very interesting also.
I've not really seen a systemic review of a political party in the way that I think you'd need to get to the heart of the matter.
Because Corbyn came in as an outsider and the internal machinery was fully controlled by Progress or Progress aligned people who didn't really seem to want to help much. A new leader coming in needs a full court press to get anywhere and he got, at best passive acceptance, and in some cases outright hostility.

I think though the party were quite surprised to see someone that spoke about nationalisation and investment and all the other things they liked get in as leader that thyey realised they could exert more control than they had been allowed up to that point. Post Neil Kinnock the party had been moving more and more away from member led policy making, but it was slowly bit by bit eroded and it wasn't until quite late in the day that members started seeing that they didn't actually have much of a say.
So all of a sudden there has been this huge resurgence in the Labour left, and more than Corbyn it shows in things like the NEC elections and in large scale local organising and in some cases CLPs have started asking why they have to be represented by someone who they at times profoundly disagree with.

So in the most extreme cases CLPs have been muttering about (but so far not officially calling for) reselection, which to a sitting MP is a pretty aggressive threat (though some other parties insist on reselection at each election, the Labour party does not)

So, anyway, result being you have two chunks of the party (which I will wildly inaccurately assign to be Momentum and Progress, but I'm really not talking about them specifically, I'm just lazily assigning names on the basis of the vaguest ideological similarity) Momentum tend to be either older members or the newer ones (who may have been members in the past but left over Iraq/Blair/erosion of membership power) and Progress who were quite keen on the third way politics or who are more pragmatic (or possibly tribal) and want to see a new Blair, and election victories and all that.*

I suspect the aggressive takedown of Corbyn may turn out to be a mistake, because the hundreds of thousands of members that have been attracted by all this are not going to just go home if he loses the leadership election (which is hugely unlikely, Corbyn's on 1/10 odds, Smith is at 6/1), they've got a taste for party democracy and want more. It doesn't need to be Corbyn, but it does need to be someone with similar goals.

So.. sorry a bit of a rant, but I wanted to give everyone something solid to disagree with so we don't have to go back to rehashing how terrible Corbyn is.
In conclusion, I guess? I'm saying is that the Left does have a future in the UK, of course it does, the Labour party now has more members than any party in Europe and a lot of them are active committed members. If the party split along ideological grounds the Leftmost side would keep 60% of the members, most of the unions (and, like 10% of the MPs?).
I'd rather either that the PLP stopped being ridiculous and got behind their leader and did their jobs OR that the members found someone who can deliver them what Corbyn aimed to, but was acceptable to the PLP (I don't think there is such a person though, I think the PLP and the CLPs are after different things) but when Corbyn wins again they have to realise it's never gonna be business as usual again.





*Yeah, look I know I'm monstrously biased here, and for all that i try to be even handed my sympathies clearly lie with the Momentum side. I'm doing my best to interpret the aims of the Progress side, but I suspect the two views may be truly incommensurable.
If someone more in favour of the Progress side (as I've named it) wanted to refine their position I'd be very pleased

posted by Just this guy, y'know at 2:53 AM on September 8, 2016


Whilst I agree with a lot of your analysis Jtgyk, I would note in passing that there are plenty of older members (my parents amongst them) who don’t identify with Momentum *at all*. The divide between the socialists & the social democrats in the Labour party goes back a long, long way.
posted by pharm at 4:39 AM on September 8, 2016


Oh, yeah absolutely. I tried to avoid any blanket statements there, which is why I said they "tended to be" either older members or new/rejoiners.

The Labour party has got a long history of tearing itself apart over ideological divisions. It happened in the 1930s and it happened in the late 70's so.. what every 40 years? We were kinda due a schism, maybe it should be officially added to the party constitution?
I think a lot of the party's social democrats went off into the SDLP in '79 and then into the Lib-Dems from there leaving the socialist factions to stay there and stew or go off and join more radical parties. Which is presumably where Tom Watson's seasoned Totskyite operators came from.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:52 AM on September 8, 2016


Okay I'll have a go. I'm not a Progress fan though, I suppose I'm more soft left and don't like Corbyn because i) he's not up to the job, and ii) by being so extremely not up to the job he helps people who'll argue that his incompetence goes hand in hand with his policy positions, and that those policy positions have to be jettisoned too in favour of some kind of New Labour Reloaded. If I thought he had the remotest chance of delivering some of the nice stuff he talks about, I would be more keen on him. But as it is I like him less the more he says stuff I agree with, because he makes it less likely to happen by associating it with his personal brand.

I don't think a split is really all that likely because most MPs understand how things go under FPTP and remember the fate of the SDP. I think what's more likely is that - assuming a Corbyn leadership win - we'll see a return to the status quo ante with a slightly sullen Shadow Cabinet and the Corbyn team continuing to blunder about. I can't see Theresa May calling a snap election: she has a workable if small majority and no opposition to speak of, and would have the hassle of getting round the Fixed Term Parliament Act, probably without Labour support, because it would be suicidal for Corbyn to support an early election. (Which from May's point of view might increase her majority but might also put Labour out of its misery sooner than she'd like.) So I'd expect the Labour MPs to wait and see how low Corbyn can take the poll numbers for a while, and then mount another leadership challenge, with a more heavyweight challenger, after whatever the next fuck-up on the scale of his referendum and post-referendum performance turns out to be. Though quite a few of them might prefer to sit on their hands and wait for a general election to wipe him out: even a lot of people who don't like Corbyn much got quite hot under the collar about the leadership challenges.

In the meantime I'd expect the more sensible Corbyn fans to be trying to retool the party machine to entrench hard left control of it, and to be quietly looking around for a younger, less nationally unpopular figure to hand the leadership on to in an orderly succession should Corbyn go down in flames before a general election. If they were really sensible they'd also do something about Momentum, which hasn't really transcended its role as part of Corbyn's leadership campaign and isn't much use for anything except monstering Labour MPs. As an organisation it's also the personal property of one guy who's prone to saying stuff like 'winning is a bourgeois construct'. So in their shoes I'd be trying to close it down or fold it into the party machine: it would strengthen Corbyn's hand if he could show that all these new activists could be mobilised for CLP-type purposes, if they can. There will also be pressure for deselections, of course.

But I don't think the Labour MPs and party members who aren't keen on Corbyn are going to swayed hugely by the argument from increased party membership. Partly because it doesn't make much difference in the bigger scheme of things - the numbers are trifling in a general election context, and as someone points out above, the Tories are doing fine at the moment without that big a membership - and partly because it's possible to see it as a side-effect of tinkering with the mechanism for electing party leaders rather than a great swell of Democracy. There's no unmediatedly democratic way of selecting leadership for a parliamentary party, and both sides - if we're going to reduce them to two - are trying to game the mechanisms in place for factional advantage. (See Corbyn's about-face on the desirability of shadow cabinet elections now that he's the one who'd be reined in by them.) As long as the people around Corbyn see the party membership as a resource for shoring up his leadership rather than fighting a general election, the argument from increased party membership is weakened. (And that's before you look into what's likely to happen if your electoral strategy is based on attracting Greens and hard left activists rather than punters in the marginals.)

I can see why regular party members are pissed off by the professionalisation of politics and the PPEist Spad class than dominated the Westminster operation in the Blair-Brown years. Lots of Tories don't like it either: see Peter Oborne's book about the political class. But the Tories have another reason for being nostalgic for the old days, when former union reps with impeccable working class credentials faced off against posh barristers out of Eton and Oxbridge: the Oxbridge barrister types tended to run rings round their opponents in argument and parliamentary manoeuvres. The political system as it is isn't responsive to rallies and social media campaigns and the stuff the Corbyn people are good at. And in so far as Corbyn has policies they're hard to distinguish from Miliband's but presented with less pizazz. So I think the case for increased party democracy, Corbyn-style, hasn't been proven.
posted by Mocata at 5:16 AM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


Just some personal thoughts...

I think one of the contrasts between Tony Blair and David Cameron is that Blair habitually under-promised, and Cameron habitually over-promised.

In Blair's autobiography he describes reading through his own previous election manifesto partway through his first term, and being astonished at how little was in there. Cameron on the other hand made huge promises - eliminating the deficit by 2015, reducing immigration to tens of thousands -- that were regarded as ludicrously unachievable by anyone who knew aobut the subject.

Also in his autobiography Blair somewhat plaintively boasts about how his government was massively redistributive. Objectively there's some truth to that... but he never promised it or boasted about it at the time, and so he doesn't get credit for it.

I think that's the other side of the reason that Tony Blair is so badly regarded by the current left: the good that he did was done almost by stealth, so it gets forgotten.

The over-promising is also part of the way Cameron's Conservatices outmanoeuvred Labour.

In 2010 Alastair Darling's plan was to eliminate the deficit by 2020, while Osborne claimed to be able to eliminate it by 2015. Next election, Osborne's plan was to eliminate it by 2020: the same date. Now even that has been abandoned: the Conservative *actual* deficit reduction is *less* than Labour planned in 2010. But by making outrageous promises, they've successfully claimed to be "tougher on the deficit" than Labour.

I work with generally right-wing people, but whenever I mention this they smugly assure me that Alastair Darling, if elected, would never had actually implemented his plan. I don't agree: being under more media pressure, and less hampered by ideology, I think Labour would have reduced the deficit by more than the Conservatives. Perhaps they might have implemented it more humanely.

So at the moment, Labour is squeezed from all directions.

On the left, Labour is criticised for being another pro-Austerity party, based on its manifesto policies. On the right, it's attacked for being insufficiently pro-austerity for not matching David Cameron's wild promises.

Nationally, Labour lost utterly in Scotland from an SNP that *rhetorically* attacks from the left. In England and Wales, it's squeezed from the right by the Conservatives and UKIP.

Another ticking bomb is immigration. With Brexit looming, the old formula of trying to sound tough on immigration ("British jobs for British workers") while allowing immigration and blaming the EU, is no longer workable. From now on the voters question will be "If you don't like immigrants, why aren't you rounding them up and deporting them?"

Nobody in the party seems to have any full answers to these questions. Certain things appear simple to the existing Labour MPs in England and Wales. They're being squeezed by UKIP and the Conservatives from the right, so to protect their seats Labour needs to veer to the right and talk tough about immigrants.

That's a useful strategy for keeping sitting Labour MPs in the Commons. It's not a solution to gaining back seats in Scotland. It's not a solution to getting Labour an actual majority.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 5:55 AM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


The great Flipchart Fairy Tales blog responds. Says that the transition from full-time to casual labour is not really happening.
posted by alasdair at 6:05 AM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Says that the transition from full-time to casual labour is not really happening.

Ahem.
Nick Palmer, an ONS statistician, said: “The estimated number of people saying they work on a zero-hours contract has risen by more than 20% since the same time last year. The ONS will continue to monitor and report on this trend to help inform understanding of changes in the UK’s employment market.”
More than 900,000 UK workers now on zero-hours contracts
posted by Mister Bijou at 6:21 AM on September 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


Corbyn isn't a great leader. But I want to know exactly what excuse the PLP has for not managing to field anyone in his league in five attempts. Owen Smith is, so far as I can tell, an empty suit. He never once in the 2010-2015 Parliament rebelled against his party whips. Not once. Before that he was a drug company lobbyist. (I work for the NHS - ask us our opinion on drug reps sometime...) Therefore I don't think anyone believes him when his platform is basically copied and pasted from Corbyn. He's just peachy with drug company lobbying. Just fine with everything Milliband did. And now is taking Corbyn's platform. He stands for nothing - so what will he fall for?

He also needs to lose because of the attempts to rig the election by the PLP and the NEC. As leader Owen Smith would have precisely zero mandate thanks to the "help" of the NEC. Meaning he'd stand less chance in the general than Corbyn as that's a Corbyn sized mountain of ammo to give the other party. "They had to prevent their own members from voting."

Corbyn's not a great high jumper. But if he has problems clearing the bar you don't run limbo dancers against him and proudly say "Look. We know how to not knock the bar off!" Isn't there anyone in the bloodless Parliamentary Labour Party with a vision? With passion?

And when the machinations of the Chicken Coup have managed to make the rest of the PLP look less competent than Corbyn, we've got problems of a whole different sort.
posted by Francis at 1:27 PM on September 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


Isn't there anyone in the bloodless Parliamentary Labour Party with a vision? With passion?

Danczuk and Vaz are rocking it their own way these days.
posted by Coda Tronca at 1:41 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


This 'Chicken Coup' thing - it's meant to be a play on 'chicken coop'? If so, you urban hipsters need to learn that the 'p' in 'coop' isn't silent.

Also I don't get the idea that Owen Smith must be a wicked right-winger because he's offering a slightly leftier version of what Miliband offered, just like Corbyn is. Politics isn't like writing novels or songs where you get points for originality. All three of them are picking from a general repertoire of off the shelf policies. You might as well lay into Corbyn for copying Miliband.
posted by Mocata at 3:29 PM on September 8, 2016


This 'Chicken Coup' thing - it's meant to be a play on 'chicken coop'? If so, you urban hipsters need to learn that the 'p' in 'coop' isn't silent.

Not my nickname for it (and yes I know how to pronounce coop). I just don't have a contemptuous enough nickname for the attempt to destroy the credibility of the Labour Party that was lead by Hillary Benn in the wake of Brexit and is still ongoing.

Also I don't get the idea that Owen Smith must be a wicked right-winger because he's offering a slightly leftier version of what Miliband offered, just like Corbyn is. Politics isn't like writing novels or songs where you get points for originality. All three of them are picking from a general repertoire of off the shelf policies. You might as well lay into Corbyn for copying Miliband.

Empty suit isn't the same as wicked right winger. Theresa May has beliefs. Smith has none. At least based on his voting record he always voted at his party's call and never thought of thinking for himself at all. He thought so little they rewarded he by making him the ruler of the Labour Party. (With apologies to both Gilbert and Sullivan and Lin-Manuel Miranda).
posted by Francis at 5:21 PM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


Also I don't get the idea that Owen Smith must be a wicked right-winger because he's offering a slightly leftier version of what Miliband offered

Smith is a wicked right-winger because of his Pfizer job and abstaining on the welfare vote. He can say anything he likes to get a vote but the PLP know he'll just change it as required.

"As Head of Policy and Government Relations for Pfizer, Owen Smith was also directly involved in Pfizer’s funding of Blairite right wing entryist group Progress. Pfizer gave Progress £53,000. Progress has actively pursued the agenda of PFI and privatisation of NHS services."
posted by Coda Tronca at 11:43 PM on September 8, 2016


A whole £53,000. Gosh, that must have covered the salaries of an entire 0.5 policy wonks. Where will this moderate conspiracy end?
posted by figurant at 11:52 PM on September 8, 2016


Third-largest donor since 2001. Pfizer didn't give the money without expecting something in return.
posted by Coda Tronca at 12:10 AM on September 9, 2016


No doubt, but I'm not sure they're expecting much for what amounts to a pittance.
posted by figurant at 12:13 AM on September 9, 2016


“Chicken Coup”. SIgh.

The PLP honestly thought that if they all resigned en masse & showed Corbyn the strength of their feelings about his ability to lead that he’d do the “decent thing” and resign. The fact that they didn’t appreciate that he’s operating according to an entirely different set of political mores does not make the PLP cowards.

If you believed that your leader was marching your party to inevitable electoral doom, what would you have done in their place?

In that as far as he’s concerned, if the party have elected him he *can’t* resign - he is the elected leader of the Labour party and has a duty to stay in position until he loses an election. In his eyes the will of the party electorate trumps any political calculation, whether he personally thinks he’s the right man the lead the Labour party or not.
posted by pharm at 1:06 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Francis, that's a really weird criterion for assessing an MP - that they have to be a serial rebel against the party whip or they can't think for themselves. Not being a serial rebel might just mean that they value party loyalty, and/or that they've calculated that climbing the greasy pole is the best way to make things they want to happen happen. Serial rebels have a tendency to be nutters like IDS or campaigners rather than legislators like Corbyn. The only reason for framing it that way is to defend a Corbyn-or-bust position.

(I was joking about the 'chicken coup' thing and don't think you don't know how to pronounce 'coop'. I've got a feeling it was coined by an American who didn't know how to pronounce 'coup'.)

Coda Tronca, you sound like you've been reading The Canary and believing it. But I'm pretty sure you know that the welfare bill thing was a cack-handed parliamentary manoeuvre by the acting leadership that's been brilliantly spun by McDonnell and co, and that abstaining per the whip might just mean the stuff sketched above rather than a sign that the abstainer is a wicked Tory in disguise. I'm pretty sure you know too that absolutely anyone challenging Corbyn for the leadership would have been discovered to be a Tory in disguise by Momentum spinners, as Smith has, although in Smith's case the disguise was so good that he'd successfully passed himself off as a member of the Labour left and been appointed by Corbyn to the Shadow Cabinet.
posted by Mocata at 1:34 AM on September 9, 2016


Corbyn had Smith in the shadow cabinet when, as new leader with a big mandate from the members but not PLP, he was explicitly calling for party unity to calm things at least in the short term, and evidently putting his money where his mouth was. That was before the Chicken Coup (which btw is so called because the resignations and vote of no confidence were carefully designed to try to force Corbyn to resign without there being any leadership challenger; at the time there was no challenger because all the big names knew they'd lose against Corbyn in an election. As they still know. Hence chickens).

Now Smith says he wouldn't serve in a Corbyn cabinet, while intentionally fudging over whether he'd invite Corbyn to serve in his own.

If you don't like The Canary (I don't read it much and have never linked to it), there are plenty of other fairly detailed accounts of the Big Pharma connections of this pitiful stooge:

"Speaking in a Commons debate in October 2010, Smith warned against the “generic substitution of epilepsy drugs” putting firms off spending money on research. Big pharma’s man on the inside was certainly playing to their tune.
It turns out there was much at stake.
In August 2015 Pfizer was slammed by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in a strongly worded statement because “Pfizer and Flynn Pharma each abused a dominant position by charging excessive and unfair prices in the UK for phenytoin sodium capsules, an anti-epilepsy drug, in breach of UK and EU competition law.”

posted by Coda Tronca at 2:54 AM on September 9, 2016


Corbyn had Smith in the shadow cabinet when, as new leader with a big mandate from the members but not PLP, he was explicitly calling for party unity to calm things at least in the short term, and evidently putting his money where his mouth was.

I don't think that's right in Smith's case. (I'm not disputing that the Corbyn camp made efforts to create a broad Shadow Cabinet.) Smith is graded 'Core Group Plus' on the famous list, meaning that they saw him as one of them, or nearly. So either the Corbyn people were a bit clueless (not impossible) or they perceived Smith then as what he seems to be, namely a bloke from the harder end of the soft left. Which doesn't mean that he hasn't made some compromises along the way.

I'm not wild about Smith either, but I voted for him on the grounds that he'd at least go away if it turned out he couldn't do the job. He seems to operate at less of an angle to political reality than Corbyn, who has that essentially theological thing about 'the mandate' and having to stay in post even if it means disaster because that's what 'the mandate' dictates.
posted by Mocata at 3:48 AM on September 9, 2016


If you believed that your leader was marching your party to inevitable electoral doom, what would you have done in their place?

I'll tell you what I wouldn't have done if my party was driving into a swamp. Waited until we were crossing a rickety bridge with no railings on either side and tried to grab the steering wheel off the person driving at the most dangerous possible moment.

The Chicken Coup was planned assuming that Britain would do the sensible thing and vote Remain. When Leave won that was the time to display leadership and possibly the best time in about the past ten years for someone other than a party leader to be able to display leadership to the rest of the country. It was a golden opportunity both for the Labour front bench to be seen as a credible opposition and for anyone with the ambition and foresight to position themself as the next Labour leader.

But Hillary Benn and the Chicken Coup completely screwed that up and demonstrated that they have neither the interests of the country nor the interests of the party at heart. What is effectively the biggest constitutional crisis of my lifetime, and the most effective opposition is provided by the SNP.

Francis, that's a really weird criterion for assessing an MP - that they have to be a serial rebel against the party whip or they can't think for themselves. Not being a serial rebel might just mean that they value party loyalty, and/or that they've calculated that climbing the greasy pole is the best way to make things they want to happen happen.

There are other ways to display you can think for yourself. If as a back bencher you are outspoken on a couple of major topics even if you agree with your party. You have a vision rather than just glomming on to that of someone else.

And if they've calculated that climbing the greasy pole is the best way to make things they want happened, how am I meant to tell them from someone who is completely power hungry without a single political principle?
posted by Francis at 3:51 AM on September 9, 2016


Fair enough points, Mocata, but I would add that the famous list was more about categorising who was most likely to launch an attack in the media or not, rather than who was ideologically aligned. The ones in the 'hostile' group were people like Danczuk, who was being paid for information by The Daily Mail, for example. What he believes in is unknown and irrelevant.
posted by Coda Tronca at 3:57 AM on September 9, 2016


And if they've calculated that climbing the greasy pole is the best way to make things they want happened, how am I meant to tell them from someone who is completely power hungry without a single political principle?

If we could answer that one we'd have solved the problem of politics.

I'll tell you what I wouldn't have done if my party was driving into a swamp. Waited until we were crossing a rickety bridge with no railings on either side and tried to grab the steering wheel off the person driving at the most dangerous possible moment.

But in this case it was more like the driver had just veered wildly off the track and driven into a bog and was insisting that sinking the car further was the best plan. So they tried to take the keys off him. Corbyn manifestly screwed up the referendum campaign and the response to the Leave win: saying the next day that Article 50 should be invoked immediately disqualified him at once from grown-up status in the debate when grown-ups were badly needed. Clinging on after the vote of no confidence compounded that. There was zero chance for Labour to look like a credible alternative government under Corbyn.

Also - to continue the discussion of the fine points of 'Chicken Coup' - wasn't the original implication that the Labour MPs were too chicken to stand against Corbyn? The phrase started going round when Angela Eagle delayed her campaign launch and it looked for a bit like no one would stand. But then two people did in fact stand.
posted by Mocata at 4:07 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


I would add that the famous list was more about categorising who was most likely to launch an attack in the media or not, rather than who was ideologically aligned.

That sounds pretty plausible.

...people like Danczuk ... What he believes in is unknown and irrelevant.

No disagreement here but I believe that he believes in sexting to some extent.
posted by Mocata at 4:11 AM on September 9, 2016


Corbyn manifestly screwed up the referendum campaign

This is certainly the current opinion being spread, but I don't see it. It came up again at the hustings last night, Corbyn said that he had campaigned strongly on a remain and reform platform, stating that he believes they would have had a worse remain vote if he'd come out saying the EU is perfect.
I agree with this, because manifestly the EU is not perfect. I would not have been convinced by a politician saying "Vote Remain, because everything is perfect"
Corbyn's position of maintaining access to the common market but rejecting EU rules of privatisation and market liberalisation is, I think the right position.

Also at that hustings Smith was pushing heavily his second referendum position. An audience member stated that he would be profoundly against a second referendum if Remain had won, so it's hypocritical to keep doing democracy until you get the answer you want.

That hustings is a good watch actually. It's on iPlayer (it was a special question time) , ah, and here it is on youtube.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:29 AM on September 9, 2016


Corbyn said that he had campaigned strongly on a remain and reform platform, stating that he believes they would have had a worse remain vote if he'd come out saying the EU is perfect.

It's possible, and it would have been personally disastrous for him to pretend to be wildly enthusiastic about the EU after being a Eurosceptic since forever. And there's a sort of political logic to his refusal to do any events with Cameron and so on out of fear of bringing down a Scotland-style they're-all-the-same backlash.

But it's just not true that he 'campaigned strongly'. He went on holiday for a week, didn't even visit the northeast, didn't coordinate with the Remain team, and he's long since done more rallies in defence of his leadership than he did in the whole of the referendum campaign. Saying 'the EU isn't perfect but we're better off in it' wasn't unique to him: it's what pretty much everyone said. And it wasn't so wise of him to insinuate that the only thing he likes about the EU is the thing that so many people were riled up about, freedom of movement.

It's true that he's pretty low on the list of the people to blame for the referendum result. (Though David Runciman has pointed out that Cameron might have thought a bit harder about what he was doing if Labour had been led by a more competent figure.) But it wasn't what you'd call an impressive performance, and then just as the shit went down he made his Article 50 goof, which he didn't get round to correcting until a month later. So it's not surprising that lots of people are pissed off with him.
posted by Mocata at 8:03 AM on September 9, 2016


Smith's position on a second referendum is hard to fathom, since his main criticism of Corbyn is that he's 'unelectable'. Anyone going to the many former Labour heartlands that voted Leave (and sometimes also UKIP at elections) promising a second referendum is making themselves unelectable at a single stroke. Even more so now, given that so far none of the dire economic predictions about Brexit - e.g. the 'punishment budget' - have materialised.
posted by Coda Tronca at 8:11 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is true but it's also true that an equivocally Left Brexity stance won't play well in the cities and university towns, especially when Brexit starts to bite the economy. Another headache for whoever ends up sorting the mess out.
posted by Mocata at 8:17 AM on September 9, 2016


So you're saying neither a full on europhile nor an straightforward Brexit approach is the right one?
It sounds like you're saying that the leader should be campaigning to stay to appease the cities and university towns whilst also acknowledging the problems of the EU and putting forward policies to address those problems to appease the Brexit voters.
Isn't a shame no one ran a referendum campaign that struck specifically that balance?
:p
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 12:02 PM on September 9, 2016


You're saying Corbyn ran a campaign? (Ba-dum csssh.)

I wonder if the best approach now would be to say, 'The people have spoken and what they want is clearly Brexit with continuing full single market access, passporting for the City, and no freedom of movement, plus another 350 million a week for the NHS. Anything less would be be a betrayal of the democratic will of the British people and we will oppose any triggering of Article 50 until the government has secured agreement to that from all our European partners.' That should keep everyone happy.
posted by Mocata at 12:34 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Also unicorns. There have to be unicorns. No triggering until we've got unicorns."
posted by Grangousier at 1:29 PM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]




"The Left," in Britain, was always the guilty-feeling middle class helping out the angry working poor with ideas, education etc (they being denied access to education then) to fight the economic power structure in a certain way (unions, strikes, political power). Only a portion of the working poor ever bought the intelligentsiya's view/help. (I want to revive a useful Soviet Russian word for the 'middle class by culture more than money' type; i think we still need this concept.) But now the working poor get their news from tv, including Sky, owned by Murdoch, and newspapers, mainly The Daily Mail and The Sun, but also The Express, also owned by Rupert Murdoch. All of his media came out virulently against Remain and is very rightwing, anti-immigrant etc. I give an example: by far the biggest selling UK paper, the Daily Fail (they have traditional nicknames here) headlined (front paged) "Police In Burkas!" and another of his papers "Burka Police Soon!", after someone high up in the force, at an after-dinner talk, suggested muslims might be allowed in future to wear traditional dress, which probably means hijab (headscarf); this in the context of a recent relaxation of the ban on recruiting people with visible tattoos, and constant evidence of the force's institutional racism. I allow you to guess how much analysis the tabloid readers give to any article. I live and work with working class people in the UK and believe me, they think this stuff is gospel truth, the headline's implication that is, not the analysed substance. I once suggested the Mail was racist to be met with a look of shock that would match any mefite's on reading its vile racism. (Maybe not, you have fox news, you're hardened.)

I put it: the Left's current problem in Britain is that the left-behind poor, who like in America are the rural, the poor, the working class and the less educated (i mean that literally, i don't think amount of education matters, just that it dis-empowers), don't access alternative news sources, but rely on tv and papers. What's clearly disproven or ridiculous to anyone with a wider source of news, isn't to someone who listens solely to Murdoch's media and the BBC, who are pretty good but limited to parrotting the current ruling party line without criticism.

And every program on tv currently is about how lazy idle fat pigs on benefits are really criminals defrauding the system being given stuff for free that you have to pay for - that line in the article 100% summarises what most people feel here. And that politicians here, since the early 1990s, have used racism lite (usually against immigrants and refugees) to get free votes, always escalating.

Britain is a country where the old joke "a capitalist takes two biscuits from the three on the plate and tells the worker, 'watch out, that unionist is about to take your biscuit' " has 80% of the electorate as that worker believing and parroting that capitalist. (I exclude from 'electorate' that half of the population who don't vote.)

Because of the sudden divide in knowledge introduced by the internet, where half the population has a huge wide range of information and the other half of the population is too old, rural or poor to access it much (these compound: rural areas are older due to migration to jobs, poor people migrate less as it takes some capital, there's little point in social media which most people you know don't use so large rural poor groups don't use most of it, etc) and is the toy of whoever controls the flow of information. In this case, Murdoch, whom every single government has kowtowed to for my whole life (dude is old. corpse-looking old) and who was about to be handed the rest of satellite tv on a plate before the Graun broke the Milly Dowler phone hacking story that day (illegal practice by his papers) (he was invited to private meal with minister responsible to be told how to make the bid in such a way that he would definitely get it, or similar).
That ran on, but nobody will be reading this by now so it's okay:)
posted by maiamaia at 11:00 AM on September 11, 2016 [2 favorites]




It doesn’t surprise me in the least that Corbyn (or whoever manages his Twitter account) couldn’t resist a bit of finger-wagging self-righteousness in a Tweet about 9/11.
posted by pharm at 3:33 AM on September 12, 2016


So, it looks like the Tories may solve Labour's problem with Corbyn for them, by cutting his seat out from under him.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:48 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh, happy day!
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:20 PM on September 12, 2016


I can't get my head around this. According to the received wisdom around these here parts, Corbyn is an utter joke that the Tories would be well advised simply to keep in place. So why deliberately target him (along with other May opponents) through this act of gerrymandering?

Of course, it could well be that liberals (former self-described "left-liberals" who have only just learned this year what left-wing politics actually are, and are still recovering from the shock) simply dislike Corbyn because of his left-wing politics, not because they are more sensible and level-headed and grown-up than the rest of us. Who'd have thought?
posted by Sonny Jim at 7:31 AM on September 13, 2016


Because it isn't actually gerrymandering - constituency compactness (generally considered one of the key metrics for determining gerrymandering) will be improved under the new map. Basically, the issue is that it's been proposed to remove 50 MPs, and the vulnerable seats are predominantly Labour ones.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:56 AM on September 13, 2016


Funny, that.
posted by Sonny Jim at 8:15 AM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


To be fair, Labour have had an electoral advantage for ages now, because of unequal constituency sizes.

This review is a terrible idea, because we need more (significantly more) MPs, not less.
But in terms of out and out classic gerrymandering, that's not what's going on here.
Labour lose 23 seats I think and the tories lose 17.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 8:43 AM on September 13, 2016


Huh, turns out that's not actually true anymore.

The electoral bias shifted heavily to the conservatives in 2015.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 1:01 PM on September 14, 2016


Labour leader election results are as expected.

I note in passing that Corbyn was actually *good* at the last PMQs, which was something of a surprise given his usual woeful performance. Apparently if he really cares about something he’s capable of staying on topic & making the Tories deeply uncomfortable. More of that please.
posted by pharm at 4:54 AM on September 24, 2016


woot
posted by Coda Tronca at 6:52 AM on September 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


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