Credibility, Democracy and Tories: a Plan

Labour’s task isn’t to fight for credibility – it’s to demonstrate the Tories have none.

“Gaining credibility” is not a plan. It’s a myth.

By trying to convince the public of its own credibility, Labour often sacrificed its principles in its attempt to achieve this; aligning itself closely to the policies of the elected government.

Below, we outline a few reasons why credibility – far from being an aim – should be forgotten.

First, no one gets elected showing how similar they are to those already elected. What would be the point? Why vote for Coke Zero when you could have Coke?

Second, if Oppositions spent their time trying to appear “credible,” the government would go un-challenged. Oppositions don’t have the luxury of being pro-active. They have to be re-active, and then provide an alternative. Agenda-setting comes primarily as a response to a perceived failure; not as a proposal to an unchallenged agenda. Context is key.

Example: Theresa May wants to introduce grammar schools. Opposition fights against; outlines benefits of state schooling, negatives of grammar schools, then proposes – instead – of putting more money into state schools. Good. But if Theresa May instead presided over failing state schools, and Labour proposed grammar schools as a solution; two things would happen: first, Labour’s proposal wouldn’t be accepted because, if it was; the government would have legitimised a major Opposition proposal. Second, the force of argument required for a revolution in schooling can only be carried by the government. Oppositions do not carry the weight of argument to propose radical policy changes in a void of information.

The key is to discredit the incumbent and – through this – appear credible. Credibility doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Credibility is an accidental by-product of discrediting a pre-conceived-credibility.

Third, people don’t vote for a “safe pair of hands.” They vote for a “’safe-er’ pair of hands.” This can be achieved two ways: a spectacular failure of governance by the incumbent, or presenting a real alternative and vision for the future.

As things currently stand, Labour could get lucky – and get both.

Under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour once-again has a vision for a radically-different government – where society and individuals are supported to reach their full potential. To harness our gifts, talents and abilities. To live in a free and safe world where social and economic justice prevail.

Theresa May is doing her best to reveal her Cabinet as a Cabinet of cronies – hell-bent on economic and social destruction; flirting with war on Russia, supporting Saudi Arabia’s war crimes on Yemen, consigning the environment to yet more destruction via Heathrow and fracking (against the wishes of local residents).

The Tories are warring against their own constituencies, forcing by-elections and annihilating their core vote. Boundary reviews will reduce the democratic accountability of MPs through larger constituencies in the same way larger class-sizes result in poorer education.

The Conservatives have demonstrated absolute contempt for the democratic process. Even Theresa May’s position as Prime Minister was a tragic accident; unsanctioned by the British public and with no mandate even from her own Party.

The failings of this government are plain for all to see – but we need a strategy which allows them to be seen in a new light: that almost all major initiatives under Theresa May have no mandate. Not even a hard Brexit.

Fighting the Tories through this malaise of totalitarian chaos is perhaps the best place to start to undermine this government. All issues can be summarised in two words: No. Democracy.

It’s up to us to expose this. To use it. To demonstrate that Labour should not be elected just because the Tories are a mess – but because it deserves to be on its own merits. Merits of fairness. Of democracy. Of accountability.

Why Labour should NOT stand in Richmond Park

Here are our Top-10 reasons to not stand in Richmond Park:

1. Zac Goldsmith resigned out of principle. He made a promise to oppose Heathrow expansion and resign as an MP to stand as an Independent. In an age where “principle” and “integrity” are difficult to come-by – particularly in the Conservative Party – this should be a welcome move. We cannot attack MPs for selling-out then, in the next breath; attack them for doing the opposite.

2. He is a popular MP enjoying the support of his constituents. Heathrow expansion is widely opposed in Richmond Park. Goldsmith’s constituents deserve the chance to re-elect him. Elected just 1 year ago with an increased majority; standing against Goldsmith would be seen as a slimy attempt at subverting democracy.

3. The Tories will lose an MP. Of course, Zac Goldsmith will vote with the government on the majority of issues: but to stand as an Independent will pile pressure on a Tory government already under pressure on fracking, Brexit, grammar schools and Heathrow.

4. Zac Goldsmith would be under no pressure whatsoever to vote with the government. He would be able to vote on environmental issues without the pressure of Conservative whips; and speak-out on issues more freely knowing he remains independent of Theresa May.

5. Labour will lose. The Witney by-election confirmed Labour’s vote is likely to reduce in Tory safe-seats (down by just over 2% in Witney); no doubt for moving Leftwards. However, this will ensure victories in marginal seats and increase vote shares in Labour, SNP and Plaid safe-seats. Moving Leftwards will not win Tory safe-seats. This is a necessary price – and it’s worth paying.

6. The Lib Dem vote increased by a 25% in Witney – an astronomical increase for a Party annihilated in 2015. If other Parties stood in the Richmond by-election the Lib Dems would have less chance of winning. If the Left were to back a candidate; the obvious choice would be LD Sarah Olney.

7. It’s a waste of money. Labour is swimming in cash thanks to its surge in membership and supporters. However, to throw thousands of pounds at a by-election Labour stands no chance of winning would be foolish. As above, the chances of winning may actually decrease, resulting in a lower vote share and another media headline slamming Labour’s “ailing support” in the South. Do we really need another PR disaster at the present time? The Left has already failed spectacularly in controlling the message over the last few weeks; allowing Corbyn’s attendance at a Stand Up to Racism event to deflect from the failings of Theresa May and her Cabinet. We need to end this. Now.

8. We all agree on the issue of Heathrow expansion. A united front from the Left against Heathrow could force the government into its first major u-turn. This government is drowning in incompetence. What better way to land its first major blow than from someone who was (and may still be) the future of its own Party? If we are to succeed in halting Heathrow expansion, we need to be united and reach past our differences. This is an issue of serious environmental and economic importance. Splitting the vote and fighting each other will damage – not strengthen – our ability to defeat the Tories.

9. We often talk about a “Progressive Alliance.” This could be the first major test of its effectiveness. Not that we succeed in allowing a Tory to win. But in coordinating our efforts to ensure Left-wing issues are heard and enforced. Solutions don’t always come in perfect-form: but they come nonetheless.

10. To hijack the re-election of a popular MP who stands-up for their constituents and keeps their promises would be to hijack democracy itself. This is not a general election. This is not an, “Oh, I’ve had enough,” by-election. This is a principled decision taken by an MP elected just over one year ago with a resounding mandate to oppose Heathrow expansion. Zac Goldsmith is – in many ways – an atrocious MP. But this election is not about his voting record. It’s about Heathrow. We need to be seen to support the will of local residents and recognise when someone has acted justly. We demand it for Corbyn. We should demand it for Goldsmith.

We hate to say it: but allowing Zac Goldsmith to win Richmond Park could be the best thing for the Left since Corbyn’s re-election. We have to be careful. This is not a blank cheque for Goldsmith to do whatever he pleases. But, if we handle this correctly, we will be seen as a Party that seeks unity in all things; that will fight on the issues – not the person delivering them. A Party that – above all – respects democracy; the right to uphold ones principles with dignity and respect – and is supported for it.

It’s what we’d expect for Islington North. It’s what we should do for Richmond Park.

Labour Grassroots – All Roots, No Shoots?

It’s 24th September. Jeremy Corbyn has just won his second leadership election in a year. Landslide victory. 61.8%. Against all odds.

Corbyn won not just because of his own team’s active campaigning; but because of Labour activists throughout the country, delivering huge success via social media, in addition to in-person campaigning.

Fast-forward two weeks. Jeremy Corbyn has created the most ethnically diverse and gender-balanced Shadow Cabinet of any front-bench in history.

Made-up not just of six BAME Ministers but a majority-female Cabinet, including a female Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary.

A few days ago we published a piece on this; stating just a handful of Jeremy’s record-breaking achievements. But we need to recap.

Today – just two weeks later – we’d be mistaken for thinking the same grassroots that elected Jeremy have now abandoned him.

When Keir Starmer (newly-appointed Shadow Minister for Brexit) appeared on Sunday’s Marr Show, he delivered something different: a balanced, polished, politically-relevant performance. Nothing flashy. Nothing unorthodox. Just smooth-talking. Clean-shaven. Shirt-buttoned. Standard.

We’ve missed this.

As someone who resigned their Shadow Cabinet post earlier this year, Keir is one of the many MPs who returned to the front-bench to back Corbyn and fight the Tories.

During his interview, Keir outlined the following:

  1. “Great concern” about migration but it needs to be discussed in a “way that’s meaningful.”
  2. Don’t “fan the flames of division.”
  3. Gain “democratic grip of the [Brexit] process.”
  4. “Terms” of Brexit have to be put to Parliament.
  5. Open to adjustments of freedom of movement but being “shrewd and careful” about it.
  6. Lastly (and perhaps most importantly): migration “should be reduced and it should be reduced by making sure we have the skills in this country that are needed for the jobs that need to be done.”

Nothing here appears to be out of line with Corbyn’s message of focusing on positives of immigration, and to not aim at an arbitrary cap. Indeed, Keir went out of his way to address the key point: that Brexit cannot be used as a way to attack migrants.

Yet, in the aftermath of the interview, semi-influential, grassroots Twitter accounts were running polls asking if and when Starmer should be sacked from the Shadow Cabinet for his comments. A different reality.

These same, pro-Corbyn campaigners – who succeeded so well in getting him elected – have now taken it upon themselves to attack Corbyn’s own appointments to his own Shadow Cabinet.

Others have gone further.

When Jeremy spoke at an anti-racism event on Saturday, there was uproar from senior, grassroots activists and established, Left-wing journalists.

Corbyn even had to release a statement justifying his appearance at the event after earlier indications he’d decline. (As it happens, this was due to a pre-planned trip to Scotland, which he did not make; allowing him to attend the event).

The event was controversial for one reason: the SWP was a main organiser (even though the event itself was not an SWP function).

Had this been an event co-created by the Conservative Party; praise would have reigned-down on Corbyn’s shoulders for “reaching-out” and “looking beyond Party politics.”

So why the change of approach?

Now Corbyn has a second mandate, his leadership position is incontrovertible. It seems some on the Left feel he is therefore subject to public criticism; just like anyone else.

But we need to be careful.

First, of the many things to criticise Jeremy Corbyn; attending an anti-racism event seems a poor choice.

Second, even if Jeremy deserves criticism; does he really need it the same weekend he selected a new Shadow Cabinet? Criticising him publicly – often aggressively – defers attention from the real issue of establishing a new, record-breaking Shadow Cabinet.

Third, by jumping down Jeremy’s throat; we are in danger of subverting his own support-base. How can we be taken seriously? How do we expect others to support him? There is no need – or desire – for “blind loyalty.” But there is a time and a place for criticism. And it isn’t now.

The Left is in danger of becoming self-righteous; monopolising its own claims to Corbyn, expecting him to do whatever we like now he’s elected.

After attacking the mainstream media for accusing him of naivete during the campaign, the least we could expect is to not charge him with the same offence once elected.

Now is not the time to attack. Now is the time to unite around him and support him.

An attack on any member of the Shadow Cabinet is an attack on Jeremy Corbyn. He selected them. They agreed to serve. For the good of the Party. For the good of the country.

So, we say enough. Enough egotism. Enough self-criticism.

From now on, we focus on the Tories. We support the Shadow Cabinet. We support Jeremy Corbyn.

Join us in Tweeting new Shadow Cabinet ministers our welcome, thanks and best wishes for the fight ahead. They will need our support. It’s our job to provide it.

Jeremy Corbyn: Record-Breaker

Often accused of “sounding like a broken-record,” Jeremy Corbyn spent 30 years championing the Left in Parliament. Trade unions. Socialism. Democracy.

But the truth is; far from being a broken-record: Jeremy Corbyn is a record-breaker:

12th September, 2015: Wins leadership election by 59.5%.

24th September, 2016: Wins leadership election by 61.8%.

6th October, 2016: Gives two-out-of-three “great offices of state” (Foreign Secretary, Chancellor, Home Secretary) to women, creating the most diverse Shadow Cabinet ever, with a record number of BAME Ministers.

With 550,000 Party members, 180,000 supporters and 168,000 affiliates, Labour’s grassroots has boomed; making it the biggest political Party in Western Europe.

Two landslide leadership elections have allowed Corbyn to form a front-bench entirely of his own choosing; with some MPs returning, having previously resigned.

The inclusion of Jonny Reynolds, Sarah Champion, Keir Starmer and Nia Griffith signals not just Corbyn’s desire to work with the PLP; but the PLP’s desire to work with him; respecting his mandate and focusing on the Tories.

Aided by an increased mandate of over 2 per cent; Corbyn has managed to build not just a Shadow Cabinet of “all the talents;” but one that’s representative of the country.

A single-parent, Shadow Education Secretary; who dropped-out of school to feed her family. The first Asian, Shadow Attorney General. The first Black, Shadow Home Secretary. A Shadow Business Secretary who grew-up on a council estate and served in the military. A Shadow DfID Secretary, born to first-generation migrants, having grown-up in East London and a Shadow Minister for BME Communities; also a second-generation migrant and former trade union officer.

Corbyn’s Cabinet is more talented, energetic, passionate and hard-working than the one in government. Theresa May’s Cabinet may be headed by a woman, but it has a grand total of two BAME Ministers; one of whom is a multi-millionaire; the other earned £165 per hour from British American Tobacco: supporting a Burmese dictatorship, paying its workers £15 per month. The only country the Tories represent is a third-world dictatorship.

To say Labour’s Shadow Cabinet was “more representative” than the Tories’ would be an understatement.

This is the team to lead us into the next general election – but it will only succeed if we make it. From now on, our hit-pieces should be against the Tories only; not our own MPs.

We have our own resources. Our own wisdom. Our campaigning abilities are beyond the competence of our enemies. The second leadership election proved it.

There is no need to indulge Phillips, Streeting, Austin and others. They had their opportunity. They failed.

The new Shadow Cabinet gives us the opportunity to unite around Jeremy Corbyn – around the membership – and put Labour back in government.

Corbyn has been plagued with accusations he’s “not electable.” That he’s “consigning Labour to oblivion.” That he’s “out-of-touch.” But we’re the ones who decide. We’re the ones who build the future. We all shoulder the responsibility to ensure Corbyn succeeds.

We have a Shadow Cabinet ready to break the foundations of this Tory government. A leader with the biggest mandate for change in Labour history. A movement of dedicated activists – expert campaigners – and a Party ready to embrace new ideas and campaigning techniques, under re-appointed Head of Campaigns, Jon Trickett (see here).

It’s up to us to make it happen: to work. To campaign. To fight. Not just against the Tories. But for Jeremy Corbyn. For Labour. And for the country.

“No one. Anywhere. Ever. Left-behind.”

No ifs. No buts. No excuses. We’re going to do this. And it’s in our hands to deliver it.

Suggested read: Labour Transformed: Campaign Machine.