The Empire Strikes Back: Labour’s Right, could I have it all wrong?

Have we got it all wrong? Have I got it all wrong? Have I been seeing this thing with the current Labour leadership backside foremost? From someone who held a neutral position on the Labour leadership when Corbyn took the reins, I looked at what was unfolding and allowed the players to set the stage. My observations of those against Corbyn’s leadership are that they were instant and, in many ways desperate, in their desire to overthrow him.

From the outset, the message against Corbyn was indistinct beyond him not being suitable. I doubt a sun had set on Corbyn’s leadership before chattering about him being no good as a leader started. There are clearly those within Westminster who hold strong views about the matter but, even if I think about it now, those views have never really materialised into a coherent set of reasons for opposing Corbyn’s leadership and that leaves me unconvinced. Either his opponents are not capable of forming a convincing argument against Corbyn through a lack of their own capability or because they don’t have the grounds for it. If the former, then it hardly makes the case for them assuming control of Labour if they can’t even oppose their own party leader properly. If the latter, then, given the damage to Labour’s standing because of their infighting, what place have they in Labour at all?

But, whilst those who have opposed Corbyn’s leadership from before the beginning have been incapable of presenting an actual case against him, they have successfully impregnated the narrative that he is no good into a somewhat wider public conscience. The public know that it is safe to laugh at slights against Jeremy Corbyn, even as they couldn’t tell you why. It’s a place-keeper narrative that those opposing Corbyn’s leadership keep hoping they will be able to add substance to but Corbyn has stubbornly not provided them with any meat for the bones. The plan is simply to keep saying Corbyn is no good until he does something that demonstrates he’s no good. If the public were interested enough to actually find out about the policies of the current Labour leadership then they might wonder why they are being asked to laugh at him. We had the bizarre scenario of Corbyn being ‘challenged’ for the leadership under the banner of ‘He’s a nice chap and we all agree with his policies but we just don’t want him as leader … he could be chief overlord of the galaxy but not leader. Please’.

But what if we put aside the fact that those opposing the current leadership have no evidence with which to make their case against it (unless you include the evidence fabricated by the likes of Laura Kuenssberg). Maybe the strength of feeling against Corbyn represents some ‘truth’ but Corbyn boxes too clever. The view that I formed post September 2015 was one of Labour’s wing of neoliberal supporters jockeying against a leadership that they would be isolated from. From my position, it became clear that their element of the party had thought that they were going to be retaking control of the party following the ousting of Ed Miliband and that, instead of having a leadership that would place them close to power, they would find themselves further out in the cold. It has been this conclusion which has most incensed me over their actions since that time. My view is that Labour’s right have cynically worked to damage Labour’s standing with the general public from a sense of spoilt brat entitlement; a crime that becomes unforgivable when it coincides with the destructive Tory coalition government under Cameron but is much worse now that they chose to unseat Britain’s opposition in response to ‘brexit’. It is regrettable that so many of their Parliamentary colleagues were drawn into their conceit. I wrote back in September 2016:

For me, Nandy’s honesty and insight rather dispelled any notion that I had got my wires crossed; it should be remembered that Nandy was one of the 172. Since Corbyn’s leadership received its second mandate, I would hope the majority of that 172 have seen Labour’s Right for small element they are.

But, still, maybe those people within Labour’s small cluster of neoliberal hardliners do genuinely hold Labour’s values to heart and, however misguided, want the best for the party and Britain? I am not invested in Corbyn’s leadership beyond it being the current Labour leadership, the current chief opposition to our calamitous and vandalous Tory government, and it proposing policies that I agree with. The current Labour leadership are proposing a far more socially just society than we could ever expect from the Tories/UKIP. Labour’s social-neoliberal experiment was a failure that I hope we never revisit. Labour’s neoliberal throwbacks are hoping that circumstances unfold in such a negative way for Labour that they can stand back and say ‘Told you so” but, even if it happens then Labour shifting the party back to the neoliberal ideology that they share with the Tories should never happen. I suspect that some of Labour’s Right leaners (unfair to call them a wing as it disproportionately misrepresents their numerical significance within Labour) know that the tide has turned on them and we are already seeing them leave the party; Reed, the nuclear advocate to the nuclear industry and Hunt, the … historian to the Tory sanctioned £300,000 tax payer salaried job at the V&A.

For all of the above, it does not mean that Jeremy Corbyn will lead Labour to victory and form a government; it can be argued that Labour’s own Right leaners have done as much as anyone to undermine Labour’s chances and it is what they want. History, I suspect, will judge Corbyn’s leadership a success, not by election victories but, if his leadership can rout the Right leaning wreckers that have been ghosting the party since 2007 (and before). Giving Britain a true opposition to the neoliberal doctrine is the battle being waged, it may be a distraction but it is clearly necessary.