Yes, we’re still friends because we’re united by our wants. We want a left-of-centre government, we want a fairer society, we want those who are sick, or unemployed, or struggling with society’s many ills to be afforded what they need and given hope, we want worthwhile education, we want an NHS that cares for us from birth through to death without crushing the tremendous spirit of the carers who work within it nor taking their many sacrifices for granted, we want dignity in old age, we want an end to unfair working practices that make life a misery for those less well-off, we want equal justice for all, we want to go to sleep in our beds at night knowing that others aren’t settling themselves down for another night on the streets, we want to live in a developed country where people don’t routinely have to rely on food-banks to stay alive, we want a country that we’re proud to call our home.
How could we want all that together and not be friends? How can it be that when all of the above lies within our grasp we’re fighting each other on social media? How can it be that we’re both prepared to sacrifice all of the above, to give up all hope of it, to leave it to our political rivals to decide what, if any of it, ever happens…all over one man?
We both know that Jeremy Corbyn is going to be re-elected to lead the Labour party next month. We both know that, if anything, his support amongst the membership of the party is going to be stronger than it was last year.
My question to you, his supporters, is “Then what?”
Because I think we both also know that he will never be Prime Minister.
I could write a long missive about any number of subjects, and you could write one back refuting it point-by-point and we could repeat that until the time when it matters is long since passed.
Instead consider what happens the day after his leadership win…he returns to a party where 170 or more of his own MPs don’t support him, he still can’t fill his own front bench, he’s still facing a formidable opponent across the aisle and all of the charges that I could have written my long missive about will still be there.
Some MPs may accept the result of the leadership contest and fall in behind them, but you don’t really trust them to really support Jeremy, and I think you’re right in that.
You could de-select the rebels, of course, but you’d be de-selecting people who, though in your eyes they may have betrayed Jeremy, have served their constituencies…in some case for years. How many people’s problems have they listened to and solved? How much of minutia of daily life, that doesn’t make the front pages, have they waded through? How many doorsteps have they stood on? How many local events, local companies, local groups have they given their support to? How loved are they in their communities?
The political costs involved in de-selecting them, of plucking them from amongst the people with whom they’ve fostered relationships, in the name of remote Westminster games will be huge.
And then we’ll get a general election, and the party is in the jaws of a media you already believe is hostile and biased. Everywhere we look there’ll be a Tory election poster showing Jeremy smiling with an 80s Gerry Adams, or posing with supporters of Hamas. His less wise quotes will be everywhere, in letters as tall as a person.
You can write a thousand blogs and alternative media articles explaining them all, and all of them put together won’t be seen by as many swing voters as a single poster in the centre of London.
Then it’s over, and we have another 5 years of Tory government, and all of those things from the first paragraph will be further away.
That will be sad for you, and it will be sad for me; but to those people who rely on disability living allowance, or JSA, or housing benefit, or who are sleeping rough, or sleeping on a bed in a hospital corridor that we’re a bit sad will seem rather hollow.
Don’t feel despondent, though. Look what you’ve achieved…in last year’s leadership election we had four candidates from across the political spectrum of the party, in today’s leadership election it’s two left-wingers. In terms of policy there’s almost nothing between Corbyn and Smith. I’d even go as far as to suggest that if Smith had been in Corbyn’s place in the last leadership election you’d have welcomed him with open arms. You’ve done it, you’ve moved the party leftwards!
Rejoice in your victory and know that we can end the Labour civil war next month, but only by electing Smith.
I know it’s not what you want…but re-read the start of this letter again and decide what it is you really want.
10 thoughts on “A letter to the Corbynthians”
So how did he win? I would really like to know that. Was it just complacency? Not that I really care.
How did Jeremy win? I think a lot of party members wanted the party to move left, and it has. Unfortunately winning over party members doesn’t win a general election…I like to think Labour could count on their vote anyway.
Sorry. I am hard core Capitalist. Presuming that I even know what this means, since I have never had two sous to rub together. I was much too occupied in putting my three sons through Public School. That took the cleaning of a few lavatories over quite some time. Onwards and Upwards.
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Thank you for your nicely written note. It’s not clear to me why you should be asking Corbyn supporters ‘what then?’ We will, obviously, be most pleased that the candidate we support has won the leadership contest against considerable odds and opposition. We will be eager to swing in behind him and take the fight to the Tories. I suggest that the question, ‘what then?’, is better directed to his opponents, who have behaved in an extremely uncomradely way. Their tactics have been almost entirely negative; premised on little more than disparaging Corbyn and his supporters. (Even before Corbyn was elected, his supporters were deemed to ‘need a heart transplant’, although this insult now seems mild in comparison to the accusations of being misogynists, anti-semites, thugs, trots, etc.) Despite this, in response to your ‘what then?’ we will welcome the MPs back with open arms. All we ask is that they turn their fire on the tories instead of us! My question to you, ‘what then?’ for opposing MPs and their supporters, stands.
In a similar vein of response, I ask you whether you believe two things: that, were Owen Smith to win the leadership election campaign,
he would become the next Prime Minister;
he would be the leader of the Labour Party at a general election in 2020.
I am afraid I think the possibility of either of these outcomes to be extremely remote. I believe that, were Owen Smith to win, he would be leader for less than 18 months. After an initial poll bounce, the right-wing media would attack his borrowing and big-spending plans with gusto–“plunging us back into the debt we’ve worked so hard to get out of!”–and framing him as an out-of-touch elite–former high paid lobbyist–who is determined to ignore democracy and the will of the people by holding a second referendum because he didn’t like the result of the first. The consequence? Labour would again be five to seven points behind the Tories in the polls and Smith will be tapped on the shoulder. With the precedent of bad polling being the rationale for removal, and no grassroots support, he will have no choice but to resign. This would be the end of all the left wing promises, which would be deemed ‘unelectable’, and we would end up again with a right-wing leader and thus an election choice between Tory and Tory-light. I think your congratulations that we have moved the party left are disingenuous under these circumstances.
I acknowledge Corbyn’s many shortcomings and would like to see him step down and anoint, sometime during 2018, a more deft parliamentary performer to lead us into the 2020 general election. I do not want the right wing to use Owen Smith as a stalking horse to seize control of the party and advance a neoliberal agenda that is a bit kinder to the poor than the Tories. For this reason, I will be voting for Jeremy Corbyn in the leadership election. I encourage you to do the same.
Thank you for your considered response. As I said in the blog I’m not keen to get into point-by-point “Corbyn’s good”/”Corbyn’s bad” argument, but it strikes me that there are serious failings on both sides. We’ve been ridiculously self-indulgent in spending a year fighting each other, rather than the enemy, but if Jeremy continues as leader, even just until 2018, then we both know that we’ll spend another 2 years doing the same thing. Smith, whatever else, is a clean slate for a party that cannot survive those 2 years.
Comrade, are you tacitly conceding that the answer to my question, ‘what then?’ for anti-Corbyn MPs and supporters, is ‘we will continue to attack the labour leadership and its supporters whatever the consequences for the party and the poor we profess to want to help?’ Surely you can’t be happy with this? Why even go through the pretence of having a leadership contest to resolve the issue, which will not be resolved until the right’s preferred candidate wins?
Without wishing to be a nuisance, I reiterate my second set of questions: were Owen Smith to win the leadership election campaign, do you believe
he would become the next Prime Minister;
he would be the leader of the Labour Party at a general election in 2020?
Yes, if Corbyn remains in charge then I expect he will face challenge after challenge, because – for the reasons I outline – he can only lose the next general election.
Whether Smith will stay leader is beyond my power to foresee. My hope would be that the party has had enough in-fighting and will unite behind him for stability. If it doesn’t then it’s doomed.
Thought provoking. But I suspect that the stakes are already too high for either side to compromise now.
What I struggle to comprehend is why people think that you have to be a lefty to be concerned about social iniquities. Right of centre people have the same political sensibilities with perhaps a slightly different approach about how you react to them. It’s incredibly arrogant of the lefties to assume (you know the homily) that they care, and no-one else could possibly care as much.
I know exactly what you mean. What often infuriates me about the left is their inability to comprehend why anybody would vote Tory if they weren’t a millionaire. Too often Labour’s message is, “If you’re unemployed we’ll give you more benefits”, which is a poor comparison to the Tory’s, “If you’re unemployed we’ll give you hope of employment”.
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