Anyone but Jeremy is not personal

Angela Eagle at her campaign meeting in Nottingham said many tough minded and true things, just one of which is that politics is adversarial.
Approaching the day when 610,000 people are invited to vote for Leader of the Labour party, the adversary is very evident, particularly in social media, as members of this electorate fire off complaints about opponents, and not all, especially those calling opponents Tories, are taking care to say things that they can sustain should their opponent win.
Tony Blair, Alistair Campbell and Alan Johnson have published major articles trying to convey how electing Jeremy Corbyn threatens Labour’s ability to win the next General Election.
Some are talking about splits in the party – talking about the creation of the SDP all over again. This overlooks the years of pain before it reached that point and overlooks a more basic point – a party leader expecting respect for a majority decision by the party, having voted against the whip over 500 times in parliament. “Unity is our byword’ does not live easily with that.
Most challenged is the idea that winning from the left cannot be done. Why, this follows 2 election defeats for Labour from the centre! Why, there are polls suggesting Jeremy is the most popular candidate amongst the public and that there is an appetite for people who say what they believe! Why, must we surrender to the power of corporations and capital, and the shallowness of the media and popular culture!
Aspects of winning from the centre can appear outdated – worrying about the efficiency of public service delivery when the current challenge is plainly capacity – we haven’t enough money to get enough done (something I think middle England will come to worry about).
The problem with this kind of analysis is the embrace of left, centre-left, centre and right – it’s all too one-dimensional. There is an ability to win a majority for a radical package provided it’s geared to persuading a majority, and building majority support. (Thinking that winning over those who voted Green and winning over those that don’t vote is not an electoral strategy – we need to persuade people in middle England who voted Conservative.)
It’s here where the challenge to the ability of Jeremy to win a General Election comes. It’s sometimes expressed as a concern that under his leadership, the political party will not be that anymore, but instead a huge pressure group. But it also the aspect of some of his most fervent campaigners that says state your principles, demonstrate bold policies (‘elect him and they will come’) and then win groups over one by one – sometimes described as the politics of affirmation. A kind of the anti-political politics described by Bernard Crick in “In Defence of Politics” (text is available from p135 of this online text version). It’s what distinguishes Jeremy Corbyn from the other 3 candidates and why a wide range of supporters will not be voting for him – including me. It’s not personal.
If Jeremy Corbyn wins, there will be no particular reason for him to want to listen from the defeated about what he’ll need to do to win, but I hope nevertheless he will take on the following –
1. always be clear that he intends to win the 2020 General Election; as ‘Jed Bartlett’ said on his darkest day “… and I’m gonna win”;
2. treat the history of Labour in power as something to celebrate, with the lessons to learn from, rather than something to condemn; a lot of good has been done;
3. couch everything in terms of its desirability for working people, that addresses the concerns they have and hold; embrace value for money, customer focus, and good governance, cos actually in practice that what some of the fine minds supporting him are saying in practice – we can use money in a better and finer way;
4. pick the battles to win; I want to talk about jobs for local people and a better labour market; I don’t want to spend the next few years on the doorstep talking about whether we want to be in NATO or not;
5. don’t fight battles on old ground; we want security across the world, with fewer nuclear weapons and much lower propensity for anyone to fire them; it’s not about whether Nye Bevan or Michael Foot was right in the 1950s on unilateralism vs multilateralism.
It’s plain that the ideas of a more egalitarian and greener future have the potential to take us forward. Using quantitative easing to help people rather than corporations; restoring proper levels of public service; embracing the green energy ideas from Germany rather than expensive under-writing expensive, costly new nuclear energy plans in Somerset. These ideas don’t have to cost us elections. Just be clear we’ve worked the ways and the numbers out.
Translating the traditional values in our modern setting into an appeal that is about winning General Election.

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