Friday, 24 July 2015

Better Morons Than Mordor

The Labour MPs who have nominated left winger Jeremy Corbyn to stand for leader are morons. So says John McTernan.

Who he? He is former special adviser to Tony Blair when he was Prime Minister and he popped up on Newsnight to slag off the apparent front-runner in the Labour leadership contest in the same week his former boss came out of hiding to claim that anyone whose heart was with Corbyn "needs a heart transplant".

Now of course hearing Blair talking about something as warm and empathetic as a human heart somehow feels strange, jarring against reality as it does, but his pompous histrionics are pretty illustrative of an Establishment in crisis. Although it has been clear for sometime that, with Labour now a one-member-one-vote party, Corbyn stood to poll well, an opinion poll last week putting him 17% ahead of supposed favourite Andy Burnham among Labour members has panicked the complacent upper crust of Nu-Labour. 

Democracy it seems isn't keeping to the script. As people listen to the patently sincere Islington North MP talking about ending austerity, taxing the rich and scrapping nuclear weapons and then compare him to the muddled middle of Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper alongside the sub-Tory clown that is Liz Kendall, his popularity and chances have surged. As well as drawing hundreds to his meetings, he has prompted a wave of voters, especially younger people, to join the Labour Party to support him.

Faced with this revolt, Labour MPs are in meltdown. To stand, candidates needed the nominations of 35 Labour MPs, a high number in their depleted ranks, and Corbyn just made it with two minutes to the deadline when some non-supporters agreed to sign for him. Some apparently nominated him simply to "widen the debate", assuming he would be content to turn up at hustings, be patronised a bit as an unrealistic idealist and then come last in the vote, finally putting a nail in the coffin of the Labour Left. Then the neoliberals who have been in charge since Blair could get on with tactics like not opposing the Tory Welfare Bill and a strategy of seeking to match the Tories on their own far right ground.

And so we have the spectacle of the media, from the Torigraph through the BBC and Sky News to the New Statesman trying to portray the Corbyn surge as some sort of summer silly season story. Just as they have rubbished every other popular revolt, from the Scottish referendum to Syriza and Podemos, they repeatedly seek to decry any demand for genuine change: the public must be misled/having a laugh to not keep the Establishment in place.

One piece suggested Labour members aren't taking the future of their party seriously, otherwise they would know that the last thing they would want would be some crazy old guy calling for wild-eyed schemes such as, er, renationalising the rail companies or energy firms, or investing in public services. The Telegraph today suggested that as a handful of his nominators had said they won't vote for Corbyn because he might win, he no longer has a mandate to stand - which must be the first time someone's burgeoning popularity has been viewed as losing a mandate!

Even more darkly, an item in this week's New Statesman quoted a Labour MP as saying if Corbyn wins, the MPs will remove him "by Christmas." This has to be about as shocking and blatantly undemocratic a threat as could be expected, and proof positive of the ill intent and innate hostility of the elite to any true assertion of democracy.

Labour MPs, cravenly sucking up to the right wing media, have bought the narrative that the only voters that matter, the only people whose views should be taken into account in framing future political debate, are the 3 or 4% of the electorate among the 24% that voted Tory who might one day be persuaded to vote Labour. As these people are by default pretty right of centre, that means Labour must spend their time timidly trying to simply sound like slightly nicer Tories. The 76% who did not vote Tory and who, according to the polls, are generally well disposed to left wing policies on tax, equality, nationalisation and public services (even among UKIP voters)  are discounted.

But it is among the 76% that Corbyn is drawing his support. One note showed how his key nine campaign promises are supported by the majority of the electorate and just as the turnouts at his rallies and the polls show, when people hear him, they warm to him. An LBC debate on Wednesday evening was followed by a phone-in where over 90% of callers, many of them people who had not previously voted Labour, said they supported Corbyn.

It will be some weeks before we know the outcome. A not unlikely scenario is that Jeremy Corbyn will poll first place but, because of the transfers of second and third preference votes from Kendall and Cooper, Burnham will probably scrape in on the second or even third count. If his response or, possibly more likely, the response of those around him in Labour's High Command is to patronise or diminish acknowledgement of the strength of feeling behind Corbyn's campaign for genuine socialist values, the continuing unity of Labour must be seriously in doubt. Yet while this may spark considerable turmoil on the Left, it may also kindle many positive new possibilities of a major and lasting realignment of political forces.

As blogged previously, British politics are in generational transition. The rise of UKIP, the Scottish referendum, the Green surge, and the SNP triumph in May are each way markers on the journey. The Corbyn campaign shifts the gear up substantially in that process. But progressives need to keep guard, and keep calm. Each step forward, each small victory will be derided, scorned and downplayed by the agents of status quo, many of whom simply can't understand what is happening as they are not programmed to. For in a political class whose motto is about near complete personal pragmatism, any candidate or movement gathered under anything remotely resembling an ideological banner will be viewed as an aberration, and a dangerous one at that.

So #GoJezzer. He carries the hopes of millions with him and strikes fear deep into the heart of the heartless Establishment. Blair's Friends and Sponsors won't go quietly or cleanly, but as the Eye of Tony falls disapprovingly on the horde of tiny morons who should know better than to challenge his dark legacy, it is quite clear whose hearts are full of hope as the march on Mordor quickens its pace.

No comments:

Post a Comment