Sunday, 14 August 2016

Labour unity is essential and possible. Needs wisdom and courage from both sides.

Last week I wrote a blogpost here, in which I called for the Labour Party to unite under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn (I make the assumption - which is widely held - that Corbyn will be elected again when the result of the leadership election is announced on 24 September).

Over 10,000 people have read my blogpost in the last week. A completely unprecedented response for me. It is understandable that people are interested in the subject; the alternative is impotence of the left and no prospect of defeating the Tories for the foreseeable future.

By no means everyone agrees with what I wrote. I had hundreds of responses which fall into three roughly equal groups.

One group say variants of “NO, NEVER, we can never unify with those Trotskyite bastards”.

Another group say along the lines of “NO, NEVER, we can never unify with those Blairite bastards”.

A third group say they like the idea of unity. However, this group is divided between those who think it a good idea but impossible to achieve and those who - like me - can see it is very hard to achieve but who recognise that it is essential and are determined, even desperate, to find a way.

Everyone who cares about the future of the Labour Party needs to be thinking about this now, it cannot wait until 24 September. What happens immediately after the announcement will have profound consequences. Corbyn must use his victory speech to reach out meaningfully to his opponents in the party. The major figures among his opponents, including Owen Smith, Hilary Benn and Angela Eagle must call for unity and agree to serve under Corbyn and fight the real enemy, the Tories.

There is deep bitterness and a profound lack of trust throughout the Labour Party. If this is to be healed it will require wisdom and courage from many individuals. Those at the top of the party can take the first necessary steps to healing on 24 September.

Corbyn should deal head on and in a genuinely conciliatory way, with all the main criticisms of him. These are not matters of policy (Smith has largely accepted Corbyn’s policies except for Trident, on which there has been a free vote). They primarily concern his leadership style. One much repeated criticism is that his own shadow ministers have found it difficult to gain access to speak to him. This is a real issue and it should and can be dealt with.

Another example, is that some of Corbyn’s critics allege he has a “problem with women”. This may or may not be true but the mere appearance that it may be true is damaging. Why not offer to appoint one of his critics to a senior role - with good access to him - to show that he takes this issue seriously?

A huge responsibility will lie on 24 September with the most senior Labour MPs who have opposed Corbyn. They all say that their primary aim is to defeat the Tories and to have a Labour Government. The only way they can demonstrate that they are genuine about that and not more concerned about endlessly waging the internal war in the party, is to immediately accept the result of the leadership election and agree to serve again under Corbyn.

The senior MPs need to be pragmatic. They need to show statesmanship. They need to distance themselves for the 10 or so MPs who have a tunnel-visioned ideological hatred of Corbyn and who will never be reconciled to him as leader and who will continue forever to do everything they can to undermine him.

On 24 September, the Labour Party will face an existential crisis. If it splits in some form or if it is plunged into further internal strife, so that the election will have solved nothing, then it will be a disaster for all Labour supporters and will delight the Tories.

Labour must learn from the discipline of the Tories, who currently present a united front despite their recent very deep divisions, both political and personal.

Unity of the Labour Party will be difficult to achieve but it is essential to achieve, so a way must be found. It will need wisdom and courage at all levels of the party but the first necessary steps must be taken on 24 September by Corbyn himself and the senior Labour MPs who opposed him.


  1. This is the view of a former Labour parliamentary candidate:

    Why I despise Jeremy Corbyn and his Nazi stormtroopers

    "Saturday of last week in my home town of Camborne, the Corbyn Circus rolled into town. A crowd of 2,000 disciples came from all over Cornwall to cheer and clap and worship. One after another, Momentum speakers praised ‘Jeremy’ and spoke of the hope he gave them, the socialism he would bring to Britain. Then the mood got much darker, with each speaker declaiming their personal persecution by unnamed sources and to round it off, all but one named me as the villain who via the courts had tried to rob them of their right to have Jeremy Corbyn as the Leader of the Labour Party. From where I stood in that evangelical crowd, I saw what we have all witnessed across Britain for a year. A brand of politics alien to this country..."


    It feels very important that we should see the evidence of these Cornish Nazi stormtroopers

  2. hi Tom London. Not sure if this is germane to this particular post but just wanted to share some data with you. It may be anecdotal but given the MSM fixation with trivia / dumbing down of political debate (Ant & Dec, "traingate" and so on) it may have some use.
    On Tuesday 23rd Corbyn addressed a public meeting in Newham. Apparently 800 people went, not bad as he had already filled a 4k seater in Kilburn two nights before. The same Tuesday evening Owen Smith held a meeting in Hammersmith. As seems customary both candidates had postings from their meetings on their respective FaceBook pages. For Owen Smith you could watch the whole meeting, Corbyn just had a few minute long soundbite. The soundbite was very interesting as JC talks about democracy being more than voting once every four years, it's about people getting involved and fighting for their due. Quite radical and very different to a normal parliamentary discourse.
    I was interested in the reaction of FB visitors to these two postings. Now I would say the population being looked at is very selective, ie people motivated to look up FB postings from these two worthies. Most likely labour party members taking an interest in the leadership contest.
    So two days we see that Smith's posting has had 12k views, 564 "likes", and 73 shares. I imagine a view gets clocked up anytime someone actually visits the page, a like requires the user to click on a button and a share means the visitor is associating themselves with the content. So as degrees of agreement with the aforesaid content we can go from a view as lowest to share as highest.
    For Corbyn's post we have 191k views, 8.1k likes and 2500 shares, given ratios of 16 to 1 for views, 14,4 for likes and 34 to 1 for shares. Fb now allows people to nuance their likes and looking more closely we see that 133 of Owen Smith's likes are of the "grrr", "haha" or "weeping" variety, so probably not likes as such (Corbyn got 7 of these by the way). Taking this into account the like ratio goes out to 19 to 1 which fits the trend a bit better.
    As I said this may be anecdotal but certainly shows more engagement / involvement / willingness to manifest themselves from Corbyn supporters. This sits very well with his political vision and shows he is in tune with his supporters.