Friday, 2 September 2016

His way or none? Why I can't vote for Jeremy

There is an assumption that all would be well with the Labour Party if people hadn't expressed their genuine concern with what they consider the inadequacies of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership. If only, it is said, the Parliamentary Labour Party and his Shadow Cabinet had supported him, instead of undermining him, all would have been fine. If they had been quiet and towed the line, then the party would not have been in the mess it is in. So, should they have stayed silent, or speak of their concerns?

There comes a point when the cost of staying silent outweighs the cost of speaking out. This is a judgment. Many call it a coup by the PLP. They paint a picture of a right-wing PLP out of touch with the membership.  This is the narrative of the Corbyn camp.

But Jeremy Corbyn, over the decades he has been in politics, showed the way.  It was Jeremy Corbyn who opposed almost all Labour leaders and rarely held back from speaking out, or voting time and again against the party line. As Secretary of the Camapaign Group, he led the attempt to oust Neil Kinnock in 1988. Sadly, he has continued this approach even when he was elected leader last year.

Opposition comes naturally to Jeremy Corbyn, the responsibilities of leadership are more tricky, and certainly more messy. Thus he continued to oppose rather than seek understanding and compromise for the greater good of party unity and electability. The Labour party 'establishment' were still the enemy. The PLP became the enemy.  The shadow cabinet became the enemy.

Rather than lead, he picked unnecessary fights with his shadow cabinet. This was ill-conceived, and it was doomed to failure - and failure is what it is.  If he wins the current contest, which appears likely, then unless he adopts a different approach it is likely to destroy his party.

This is the problem I have had with his leadership. In so many ways he has been leading Momentum rather than the Labour Party. He is more at home addressing their rallies than he is leading all of Labour. From the start he failed to seek compromise or reach out to the parliamentary party, and he failed to seek a way forward. Trident is an example. It has been Labour's position to support renewal of UK's nuclear deterrent and the party fought the last election on a manifesto pledging to keep a nuclear deterrent.

We cannot expect the Parliamentary Labour Party to abandon that position simply because Jeremy has become leader. Yet this is what he expected.

Corbyn rightly agreed to set up a review, and the then Shadow Defence Secretary, Maria Eagle, was to lead it. But without consultation, Corbyn made Ken Livingstone a joint chair of the review. It was a provocative move.

We hear so much from his supporters that the PLP would not work with him. On the contrary, many were willing to serve in his shadow cabinet. Maria Eagle was one of them. She didn't run to the press shouting about his lack of consultation. But it was symptomatic of the way he would treat his shadow team.

By all accounts, he rarely consulted with his shadow team on an individual basis, and yet he made policy statements. He repeatedly declared war on his own shadow cabinet. He opposed them. His experience in politics is only to adopt positions, not to negotiate with others.

Jeremy's supporters would have us dismiss the entire PLP as 'Blarite' or 'Tories', or worse (go on twitter to find much worse). But we would be foolish to ignore what they have been saying telling us from their experience of his leadership.

Jeremy Corbyn has succeeded in uniting his PLP, but only in as much as he has united them against his leadership. Now, when anyone expresses similar concern they are subjected to the same dismissal of their points. They are not listened to. The reply is always simply 'if you would support him' then it would be different.

Corbyn's supporters won't listen. They are on a mission. It is their way or none. That is what is so damaging about them. That is what is so damaging about Momentum. That is what is wrong with Jeremy's leadership - 'his way or none'. And then there is Momentum, a party that now straddles the Labour party.

Momentum is not just 'Labour supporters'. It embraces also The Socialist Party (former Militant Tendency) and The Socialist Workers Party. Neither of these parties wish Labour to succeed. Yet they bus people to Corbyn rallies.

I have voted for Owen Smith 2016. I believe Jeremy is leading Labour to destruction because of his 'take it or leave it' approach to policy. It is their way or none, and that ignores a substantial number of members who do not support 'his way'.

Labour's greatest achievements have come through compromise. They come though embracing the broader church of the Labour party not narrowing it. The NHS, welfare reform, equality legislation and much more was achieved by being electable, not by saying 'its my principles or none!'. To achieve little is easy enough, to achieve much is difficult. It requires more than a wish list. It requires a coherent programme on the economy and on social policy. It requires priorities and a degree of pragmatism about what can be achieved. But nothing can be achieved without power. Nothing can be achieved without reaching out and addressing voter concerns and becoming electable. We need a Labour government.

A good leader does not hold his party ransom for his principles. That is unprincipled.




4 comments:

  1. I think we should all vote Owen Smith. The Labour leader should be former chief pharmaceutical lobbyist who votes for war and austerity!

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    1. Like me Owen Smith considers it sometimes necessary to use military force when protecting civilians. You haven't really explained your comment so it is difficult to give an answer. But Owen Smith voted to decline to authorise UK military action in Syria. Owen Smith voted against UK airstrikes against ISIL in Syria. I don't agree with his decision on that, but I respect it. One thing a leader or potential Prime Minister should never do is to tell your potential enemy that under no circumstances would you ever use military force. This is why Jeremy's answers are so inadequate. If you lead a nation you are not free to simply follow you own personal principles. You have to represent. We have a representative democracy. As for Austerity, Owen Smith has led the attack on the government and has a good record of voting against benefit cuts.

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  2. Corbyn certainly isn't perfect, though I don't think it's wise to believe everything said about him by his enemies; when we are allowed to know the facts they are always less damning than the interpretation we are instructed to believe.

    But his opponents are the plotters of the coordinated resignations that we are told not to think of as a coup, the hostile briefings even while they were supposedly giving him a chance, the retrospective membership time limit and the farcical purges. They are the geniuses who think they can win the next election by the methods that lost the last two (and Scotland). And their brightest, whitest hope, their most convincing offer to the membership, is faux-socialist Owen Smith. Oh, and the hint of some other saviour next year who’s not prepared to stand up and be counted just now.

    Not good enough by a very long chalk. I’m sticking with Corbyn.

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  3. Thank you for your comment Paul. I am not convinced it is sensible to consider any leader as 'a saviour'. If people think that, then they will be bitterly disappointed. Whoever wins the leadership, Labour faces a difficult challenge in the road ahead.

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