Labour: Abuse, Excuse… and truce?

Something strange is happening in the Labour Party.

Over the last twelve months, Labour Headquarters has pulled all the strings it can to attack Jeremy Corbyn and Labour Party members.

Recall the last Labour leadership election. Not even 1 year ago, Jeremy Corbyn was nominated as Labour Party leader.

He won by a landslide. No other candidate came close.

Winning on a platform of integrity, honesty and social and economic justice; he toured the country to packed town halls and street rallies, declaring that we needed a “kinder, gentler politics;” a “New Politics” for the future of the country.

Jeremy tapped-in to the frustrations of Labour Party members and supporters. The New Labour era ended under Ed Miliband but it had not been replaced with anything substantial. Jeremy Corbyn was elected to deliver it.

But Corbyn’s appeal transcended the normal boundaries of Labour Party leadership contests. People joined the Labour Party – as members and supporters – to be part of the movement Jeremy had started.

Jeremy’s innate sense of justice, of compassion, of empathy, allowed people from all corners of the country to not just identify with his message; but to be motivated to join the fight against poverty, against war; against “politics as usual.” This was a movement for a better society – a better world – and Jeremy was riding a tidal wave of enthusiastic, passionate and dedicated support.

But there were concerns.

Many expected a quick end to the honeymoon-period. Indeed, many people couldn’t even believe Jeremy Corbyn had sealed the nomination, let alone by a margin larger than any elected leader in Labour’s history.

Having scraped onto the ballot in the last seconds of the PLP’s leadership vote, conventional wisdom suggested Corbyn was on the ballot out of some sort of misplaced pity from senior Party figures.

Some predicted that, since Jeremy had been shunned by the front-benches for nearly thirty years, he could expect a rocky reception at best from his Parliamentary colleagues, expecting not much of a honeymoon period at all.

But few could have predicted what would happen following this victory, just a few months later…

Not only has Jeremy faced continuous assault from the mainstream media, but he has endured the most unprecedented attacks from his own MPs.

No leader has endured so much disloyalty, subversion and outright disdain as Jeremy Corbyn.

The refusal of experienced MPs to serve in a Shadow Cabinet, continuous anti-briefings, public desertion and at least two coup attempts, it is a miracle that Jeremy has not been displaced or resigned.

And yet, despite all this, Jeremy’s support has grown. Recent polling suggests Corbyn is now supported by even more people than at the last leadership election, with over 60% Party members now backing him to continue as leader.

Unwavering and increasing support from the grassroots does present its own problems, however.

The Labour Party machinery has now unleashed what can only be described as a coup against its own members.

Realising they cannot get to Jeremy either politically or via “trying to destroy him as a man,” according to Diane Abbott at a recent PLP meeting, Labour Party HQ has decided to attack him through his supporters.

When Jeremy was voted onto the Labour Leadership ballot just a few weeks ago, the Labour Party machine seemed to have been defeated.

A margin of 18-14 votes had vindicated Corbyn’s democratic right to stand as well as his supporters’ conviction that any attempt to remove him from the ballot would be a gross attack on democracy.

Whilst celebrations were underway across the country, news broke-out from Labour HQ: the same NEC that kept Corbyn on the ballot had disenfranchised 150,000 Labour members from voting in the leadership election, and supporter registration fees had increased by over 800%.

Clearly, Labour HQ was only content to keep Corbyn on the ballot so long as they made a significant dent in his supporters’ right to vote.

Besides the legal problems the NEC’s decision has presents, there is something much more sinister at work: first, the removal of democratic participation in Party affairs and, second, the pricing-out of many people voting for Jeremy by registering as a supporter.

The increased supporter fees (from £3 to £25) was implemented with the sole intention of preventing people on lower incomes from registering to vote.

This was not just gerrymandering – it was abuse.

If this wasn’t enough, rules barring Labour members registered since 16th January, 2016 had been extended to affiliated members too; overriding Union autonomy and democracy.

And yet, still more steps have been taken.

Under the guise of “preventing abuse,” CLP meetings have been suspended, pro-democracy organisations such as “Momentum,” attacked, and social media accounts and timelines trawled-through on the off-chance that HQ can point to something incriminating to further disenfranchise its members.

We have now entered a kind-of “Panopticon-Politics” of self-governance; where thought-policing is well and truly entrenched in the minds of many Labour members and supporters.

Many are now afraid to even criticise anti-Corbyn MPs through fear of being labelled “abusive” and having their vote stolen or Party membership suspended.

Political cartoons, memes or honest disagreement – hallmarks of a democratic society – are now openly-discouraged, shutdown or, perhaps worse; not even made in the first-place.

Labour members and supporters are now openly-encouraged to report other members and supporters to Labour HQ if they witness any “abusive behaviour.”

But the idea that “abuse” is carried-out solely by Corbyn supporters is far off the mark.

Indeed, Jeremy Corbyn is the only leadership candidate (including former candidate, Angela Eagle) to explicitly demand of his own supporters to “behave with civility” and “treat all with respect”. Corbyn has dedicated an entire section of his campaign website to “Respect and Unity.”

Owen Smith has not done this and has, at no point, condemned his own supporters for abusing Jeremy Corbyn, pro-Corbyn MPs, members or supporters.

A fundamental re-think is required not just for how politics is conducted but for how politics is encouraged.

It is too easy to become disinterested, cynical and angry at political Parties and processes; particularly when part of these processes.

The attacks from Labour Party HQ only encourage abuse.

The responsibility lies not with members and supporters who are moved to make “abusive” comments to opposing forces within the Party or wider political arena; but with those driving the abuse and shutting-down channels of critical engagement and community within these organisations.

Condemning “abuse” is easy when encouraging it to take-place.

But take-heart in this: the Labour Party hierarchy is terrified. They are terrified that their schemes have failed. Terrified that Jeremy will come-back stronger. Terrified he will win again. Terrified that a democratic, Socialist, pro-member NEC will be elected, causing more members to join. Above-all, they are terrified they will lose their jobs.

But Labour’s message should be this: Don’t be scared. Join us. Come on-board. And let’s unite to build a better future – a better world – together.

Owen Smith – Chameleon Candidate

Angela Eagle is out of the race.

After warning repeatedly against “backroom fixes“, Angela Eagle now seems to have orchestrated one; with Owen Smith likely to offer her the role of Shadow Chancellor.

So how did Smith, a man who 48 hours ago told Eagle he would be be happy “to serve [her] with great humility and respect,” reverse the opinion of the PLP?

This screams of not only a “backroom fix” between the two candidates but a plethora of deals between Smith and the 90 delegates backing him.

Yet what’s worrying about this isn’t the number of delegates Smith received – but the speed at which he received them.

At around 1:30pm Angela Eagle had gratefully accepted Harriet Harman’s endorsement for Labour Leader. By 6pm, she had pulled out of the race and endorsed Smith; claiming he had the “values, vision & policies we need”.

Comb19072016064457

In other words, it took Angela Eagle just over four hours to renege on her claim Labour needed “a woman leader” and that she would “make the best leader.”

So what happened?

Eagle wasn’t too far behind on nominations, with Channel 4’s Michael Crick reporting only twenty delegates separated the two candidates.

She retained the backing of senior MPs and, if she was to be believed, saw her candidacy as an almost moral imperative.

The truth is that, aside from being almost completely delusional, she was far out of her own depth. A prime candidate for being taken for a ride.

Smith has ridden Eagle’s coat-tails throughout this race, only to stab her in the back at the last minute.

Presenting himself as the “humble” and reverent politician, nothing about Smith’s actions backs this up.

Tories used to respect ruthlessness until Michael Gove knifed Boris after Brexit.

Owen Smith is our Michael Gove.

A former lobbyist for Pfizer who argued for private sector involvement in our NHS (and, indeed, the entire public sector), Smith lives and breaths PR.

On Trident, Smith defended his position backing its renewal, claiming he “wants to live in a world free of nuclear weapons,” but supports renewing the “deterrent.” Asked whether he would “press the button,” he said, “Yes,” then proceeded to criticise Corbyn for claiming he wouldn’t.

We now live in a world where it’s “reckless” to say you “wouldn’t” annihilate entire populations but perfectly OK to say you “would.”

However, Smith isn’t just pro-nuclear weapons, he is also pro-benefit cuts.

Abstaining on the welfare bill but now “regretting it,” Smith has only ever known one rule of politics: “Shirk it.”

Responsibility is not in his vocabularly.

Positioning himself as an anti-austerity candidate, Smith cannot take responsibility for his actions because he can’t back them up.

A refusal to own his past and admit his mistakes allows Smith to be all things.

He is anti-austerity, yet pro-private provision of services. He is anti-war, yet pro-Trident. He is “loyal”, yet betrayed both Corbyn and Eagle in a matter of weeks.

But out of all the problems Owen Smith presents; above all the policy difficulties and questionable past histories; there is one fact that matters: he stood in the election.

This alone should force Labour members and supporters to question his motives and, ultimately, to question whether he is the right person to lead the Labour Party.

In Corbyn, we don’t have these problems. We do not have questions. Corbyn’s whole political life is testament to his principles, his honesty, his integrity.

Jeremy has devoted his entire life to social justice, international peace and economic liberation for all.

His position is clear.

There is no evasive language, no bi-polar political posturing, no translucence of character.

This is why he was elected.

Call Corbyn”naive.” Call him “idealistic.” Call him “unfit to lead” (for whatever reason). But don’t call him a “loser.”

4 mayoral elections, 22 government u-turns, increased Parliamentary majorities, 300,000 new members and successful council elections is not the record of a “loser.”

Jeremy’s 59.5% first-preference vote landslide, not even one year ago, whilst on-course to win this year’s election with an even bigger margin – is not the record of a “loser.”

A “loser” is an ex-Pfizer-lobbying, political-posturing, Trident-renewing, PR expert; bulldozing his way to the top without a second thought for the membership, support-base or incumbent leadership.

Jeremy Corbyn is arguably the most successful Labour Party leader in modern political history.

The speed at which the Party has grown, the size to which it has grown and the appeal to all sections of the electorate; young, old, black, white, rich, poor, male, female, retired, working, gay, straight; is unprecedented.

With a Parliamentary support-base mirroring the support of the membership; Labour is a force that cannot be reckoned with.

Jeremy will not come along twice. We will not have this opportunity again.

Don’t take it away from him. Don’t take it away from the Party. And, most of all, don’t take it away from the millions of people depending on a strong Labour government.

Support Corbyn. And let’s win together.

Social Media, Labour & Opportunity

The Arab Spring rendered broadcasters obsolete. Social media set the agenda. Amateur news reporters and previously-sidelined journalists were able to shape a new narrative: that it wasn’t Mubarak and his media elites that controlled Egypt. It was everyday citizens.

In many ways, our task is harder. We may not be faced with a brutal military regime, willing to crush public demonstrations and curb private freedoms at a moment’s notice. But we are faced with something more difficult: the illusion that our government is any better.

To campaign effectively and be taken seriously in these circumstances is difficult. Most people feel our government is a model-democracy. We have iPhones, clubbing, craft breweries and Burger King; we’re advanced. We’re professional.

And yet we have a government that treats its poor and disabled like third-class citizens. We have a government that slashes funding for public services and outsources them to free-market profiteers. We have a public and mental health crisis; directly linked to reforms of state schools and work/life imbalance.

We have a government hell-bent on destroying the environment through fracking and appointing ministers with links to “big oil.” We have a Health Secretary who wanted to privatise the NHS. A DCMS Secretary abusing sex workers and a Home Secretary who’s handed-out lucrative contracts to private security firms.

Does this sound like a “model-democracy?”

We have a wholly unelected Second Chamber, an unelected Head of State and a government run by an out-of-touch Eton-elite.

Things are far from perfect.

And, yet, because our government isn’t chopping heads off, banning drinking or blacklisting pornography, we have a “modern, liberal democracy.”

Our media is no better.

Not only have Corbyn’s views been sidelined for the past 30 years, he is now openly mocked by Labour MPs and media pundits; whether he’s fortuitous enough to be present or not.

The Iraq Inquiry, as revealed in the Chilcot Report, shows a series of events that could well be the most disastrous in modern political history.

Yet who was it that opposed this war from the beginning? Who was it that consistently voted for an inquiry from the beginning? Who was it to warn about the future consequences from the beginning? It wasn’t David Cameron. It wasn’t Tom Watson or Hilary Benn or Angela Eagle. It was Jeremy Corbyn.

Our entire leadership team has been proven right again and again; whether on welfare, war or cuts; Corbyn, McDonnell and Abott have all displayed the character and intelligence necessary to lead not just the Labour Party but the entire country.

And still, due to media disinformation and outright propaganda, we find ourselves in a position where this message is struggling to be heard.

We live in the 6th richest country in the world, we have technology at our finger-tips and the free use of social media.

An Arab Spring-style event could not be easier.

We need to use all the tools at our disposal to ensure that Jeremy is not just leader of the Labour Party; but Prime Minister of this country.

Corbyn has already begun to use alternative media channels to speak to people across the UK.

Virtual rallies have been held via video-link, allowing him to speak to thousands of people at once without being present. And the message seems to be resonating.

Almost 150,000 people have joined the Labour Party as full-members in less than two weeks; the vast majority of whom cited support for Corbyn as their main reason for joining.

Even if only 66% of these members joined to support him, that’s an extra £3.5 million in annual income for Labour from Corbyn supporters alone.

However, in addition to these new members, it is important to remember the hundreds of thousands who supported Jeremy in last year’s leadership election.

Many of these members had been members for years – even decades. Some had joined in order to vote for Jeremy or immediately after his election. But what matters isn’t when people joined; it’s that they voted for him.

Roughly 300,000 people have now joined Labour in the past year to support Corbyn. Taking the £3 per month standard membership fee (as above) and multiplying this by the number of new members; Labour has benefited from a £10.8 million income surge over the past 12 months.

This proves two things: first, Jeremy Corbyn’s message is resonating, despite all media and Parliamentary attempts to publicly destroy him. Second, unless the Labour Party wants to plunge itself into a financial black-hole; governing figures within the Party need to do all they can to hold-on to these members.

The PLP claims that Jeremy’s leadership is destroying the Party. If an increase of 300,000 members in 12 months and a seven-figure income boost is “destruction,” then perhaps they ought to answer what “success” is.

The truth, is this: We have the ability to not only ensure that Corbyn remains as Labour Leader – we have the ability to make him Prime Minister. We have the ability to not only transform politics through social media – we have the ability to revolutionise Labour. We have the ability to not only move social justice up the agenda – but the responsibility to love our neighbour.

So let’s pool our resources. Let’s get out. Let’s campaign. Let’s listen. Let’s harass. Let’s provoke. Let’s persuade…

And let’s do this!

The “Unity Candidate”

Accusations of weak leadership have hounded Jeremy for the past year. But, since Brexit, these attacks have intensified.

The PLP and an increasingly large section of the Labour Party believe leaving the EU provides sufficient excuse for Corbyn to resign.

Yet 90% of Labour members, 63% of Labour voters and the vast majority of the PLP (including Corbyn and his team) voted to remain in the EU.

This is a resounding success.

So why, despite this success, are people desperate to blame Corbyn?

The truth is that Brexit is the failure of Number 10, not Islington North. Responsibility lies solely with David Cameron.

People can talk about Corbyn’s “failures.” But would he have “failed” if he had the support of the PLP?

When Jeremy was elected 9 months ago, he created the most diverse Shadow Cabinet ever assembled. Over 50% of posts were filled by women.

This was done without the help and support of Yvette Cooper, Harriet Harman, Caroline Flint, Liz Kendall, Mary Creagh, Margaret Beckett, Meg Hillier or Rachel Reeves; some of the most popular and experienced women within the Parliamentary Labour Party.

The likes of Chuka Umunna, Alan Johnson, Ed Miliband and Ben Bradshaw also refused.

Almost a year later, Corbyn assembled a new Shadow Cabinet even more diverse than the first.

Over 50 resignations and a vote of no confidence totaling 81% has proved two things: First, that it is very difficult to create a Shadow Cabinet in these circumstances. Second, that those willing to serve are the best ones to serve.

A Cabinet selection forged out of necessity has turned into a Cabinet of integrity.

This new Shadow Cabinet has stuck by its leader. It is willing to put its neck on the line for the sake of the membership, and almost all of it is in agreement with Jeremy on his policies, approach and leadership priorities.

Now that Corbyn has surrounded himself with allies (forming the Shadow Cabinet he should have created in the first-place), past “failures of leadership” should be dead and buried.

He now has a dedicated, responsive, energetic team to defend, reach-out and execute his policies.

Yet imagine what Corbyn could do with a fully-mobilised Parliamentary Labour Party behind him. We could destroy this government in 2 weeks.

Instead, influential figures within the PLP are demanding their own candidate – not because they want unity; but because they don’t want Jeremy.

This is not a pro-active coup. This is about self-preservation not just for MPs’ personal ambitions, but for the advancement of the New Labour agenda.

Anyone that stands against Jeremy for leadership of the Labour Party openly condemns the new politics he is trying to implement.

Treachery, back-stabbing and public abuse are features not of the new politics, but of the old.

The PLP’s search for a “unity candidate” is simply the scrambling for a candidate who would allow them to fulfill their personal ambitions and advance their own agenda.

The reason Diane Abbott, Clive Lewis and John McDonnell aren’t being discussed as leadership candidates is because the PLP doesn’t want to defend the mandate Jeremy received.

In these circumstances, unity is not possible. The members have spoken clearly. Support Jeremy, or leave the Labour Party.

Until the Parliamentary Labour Party accepts this, the Party is destined for a split – a split that history would remember as the fault entirely of the PLP and those MPs who sought to undermine him; an aggressive and undemocratic attack on the Labour Party membership.

Leadership contenders need to think. Think about the consequences of your actions. Forget your personal ambitions. Forget whether you agree with Jeremy or not. Serve your members. Serve your supporters. Serve the Party you claim to believe in.