Who to vote for: Corbyn or Smith? – Answers from the debate in Cardiff.

My report on the Labour Leadership Debate in Cardiff:

Passions were running very high in the audience for this debate.

This was particularly apparent when Smith stated he was scared the Party would split and that disunity would lead to electoral failure, which to the many Corbyn supporters in the room, seemed hugely hypocritical, as to them, he was one of the main causes of the disunity.

On the whole, Corbyn seemed more passionate than Smith. There is absolutely no doubting his genuine commitment to the cause and to the socialist program he proposes.

However, although Corbyn had passion, Smith was slicker in his presentation.

Much of the time, their ideas were very similar- except on Trident! On Trident; although Smith put forward a decent argument, Corbyn’s knowledge, understanding and passion seemed to clearly win this round, on which Smith conceded that they would just have to agree to disagree.

Because of the similarity of most of their ideas, it is obvious to see that Corbyn has already achieved his main original aim- of bringing socialist ideas back to the forefront of the Party’s manifesto.

In fact, it would be true to say that Smith is entirely a child of Corbyn’s leadership, as, due to all the new members that Corbyn has attracted, Smith has no choice but to put across a similarly left-wing program, without which he has no chance of winning over Corbyn’s supporters, or of retaining their support as members, if he wins this contest.

So, in this, we can already judge Corbyn a success.

As for the debate; who had more success?

Corbyn had a greater number of supporters, so he naturally received more applause.

However, Smith had a surprisingly large number of supporters on his side too, who reacted equally passionately to his points.

At times, it was difficult to see any difference between what they were saying, as they were both very much against austerity and very much in favour of government investment.

However, there was one key difference between them; although Corbyn was more passionate, Smith was the more effective speaker.

Smith was more eloquent and persuasive.

Whilst Corbyn discussed the need for investment, Smith put it into very clear, specific, concrete terms- laying out exactly where investment would go and where the money would come from. This made him sound much more prepared, much more professional and to be honest, much more Prime-Ministerial than Corbyn.

Because of this, I have to reluctantly concede, that although I am totally disgusted with the disloyalty and Machiavellian manoeuvring within the Party that has led to this contest, on tonight’s showing, Owen Smith is more effective at conveying his ideas than Corbyn.

Let me make it clear; I love everything that Corbyn stands for. I love the fact that he has massively increased the size of the membership and I really love the fact that he has made the Labour Party return to its socialist roots.

However, although his passion and his genuine commitment to true Labour values has attracted many thousands of new members to the Party, I don’t believe that he has what it takes to persuade sceptical swing voters to vote Labour. I don’t believe that he has what it takes to persuade voters that they should trust Labour with the economy.

On tonight’s showing, I have to reluctantly concede; that Owen Smith would be much more effective at persuading the average man or woman in the street that they should trust Labour with the economy and that massive borrowing- to fuel massive investment, is more prudent than continued austerity under the Tories.

Owen Smith is a more effective speaker, so he would be more able to communicate his ideas and persuade voters to trust him and vote for him. But, on top of this, he also just looks and sounds much more like a potential Prime Minister than Corbyn. Although Corbyn supporters would argue (and I would agree) that this is a very superficial reason for supporting Smith, it is unfortunately one of the main reasons why he would be more successful than Corbyn. Although we might like to think of ourselves as logical, rational creatures; the recent Brexit vote made it very clear that this is not the case. Many voters vote on instinct, intuition, or just first impressions. The impression that Smith gives is overall, more impressive and professional than the impression one gets of Corbyn.

Obviously, this is all just based on what I have seen in tonight’s debate. Things may change throughout the course of the contest- this is just my first impression.

However, as we know, first impressions count- first impressions last.

I voted for Corbyn in the previous leadership election, but tonight, Owen Smith made a greater impression on me than Corbyn. If he can persuade me that he is a better choice than Corbyn, then I believe he has a much greater chance of persuading the electorate to vote Labour.

On tonight’s showing, I have to reluctantly concede; that Labour would have more chance of winning the next election with Owen Smith as leader, rather than Jeremy Corbyn.

Brian Back




How we should think about Panorama’s attack on Corbyn

How should we think about Panorama’s attack on Corbyn? (For a video presentation of this article, click here: http://bit.ly/1OzzmFU)

I was absolutely disgusted by the BBC on Monday, because of the Panorama programme’s biased hatchet-job on Jeremy Corbyn. However, now that I have calmed down, whilst I am still disgusted by the corruption on display, in this establishment-backed smear story, I can now see the bright side.

The BBC’s Panorama attack on Corbyn shows that he is not unelectable.

That they should stage this hatchet-job, tabloid-style, smear-story attack on him, shows that he is actually a huge threat. It shows that the establishment are running scared, because someone is daring to challenge the status quo.

They are scared that a genuine left-wing politician may soon be leader of the Labour Party.

This would mean that for the first time in many years, left-wing ideas will become mainstream and accepted.

This would mean that first time in many years, the public will hear that there is an alternative to the unjust, unfair, and unequal society that the Tories have created- a real, viable, and much better alternative.

This would mean that for the first time in many years, the majority of the population will have a political leader and a political party that is really on their side.

This would mean that for the first time in many years, the majority of the population will have a political leader and a political party that is representing them and fighting to make life better for them.

This will mean that for the first time in many years, we will have a Labour Party to be proud of.

This will mean that for the first time in many years, there is hope.
Now, I am a big fan of Liz Kendall, and I have come to respect Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham, but the truth is; that whilst they are talented politicians, they are all only really offering incremental change, whilst doing ‘business, pretty much as usual’.

If they offered any chance of the real change we all desire, there would have been Panorama-style attacks on them. As there were no attacks, this shows that they are no real threat to the establishment and the status quo. This means that they don’t offer us enough of what we really want.

The attack was on Corbyn, because he is the only threat to the establishment.

This means that Corbyn is the only one who is offering us what we all desire; what we all joined the Labour Party for: Corbyn offers a real step change- a huge change for the better, and a huge challenge to the corrupt elites who enrich themselves, whilst impoverishing the rest of the nation.

Corbyn offers the hope and the promise of a much better, fairer and far more pleasant society- the kind of society we have all dreamed of and longed for, but never thought would actually materialise.
So, this is why you must vote Corbyn:
for all those suffering under the bedroom tax
for all those forced to rely on food banks
for all those hit by unjust and arbitrary benefit sanctions
for all those struggling to pay the bills
for all those struggling to afford housing
for all those in insecure zero-hours contracts

for all those workers in terrible conditions, who will not be allowed to strike to protect and improve their jobs and lives

for all those denied access to justice, due to cuts in legal aid

for all those forcibly moved hundreds of miles away from their families and neighbours, due to housing benefit cuts
for all those who are homeless
for all those families whose relatives died after being declared fit for work
for all those who have no hope or opportunities
for all those suffering in communities torn apart by by poverty, and the resulting crime, violence, drug and alcohol addiction

for all the good, decent people you know, who deserve a better life, in a better country- your family, your relatives, your friends, and your neighbours

for your community, your town, your city and your country

for all of us whose lives and country are being ruined by the Tories

For the only chance we have of creating a fair, just, more equal, and altogether better society,

Please, vote for Jeremy Corbyn to be the leader of the Labour Party.

Brian Back

First thoughts on Panorama’s attack on Corbyn

This is the complaint I registered with the BBC, as soon as the programme finished:

The programme was completely biased, with nothing but attacks on Corbyn and scepticism and disbelief from the presenter regarding Corbyn’s electability. Many ‘authority figures’ were brought in to deride and attack Corbyn, but no authority figures were brought in to defend him. Only his supporters from the general public were allowed on the programme to praise or support him. In the absence of any big-name authority figures on his side, this made his supporters seem deluded, as if those ‘in the know’ all supposedly ‘knew’ he was a bad choice.
The tone of the programme was completely one-sided; all anti- Corbyn. It was nothing but an establishment attack against a politician who is rocking the boat and daring to challenge the status quo.
The BBC can no longer claim to be neutral, it has shown itself to be nothing but an establishment mouthpiece; an ideological tool, spouting lies and propaganda.

I am disgusted and livid. I can’t believe I have ever defended the BBC, it may as well be Fox news, as it now seems nothing but a mouthpiece for Murdoch and other corporate elites.

Jeremy Corbyn- Britain’s Obama

After hearing so much about it, I finally witnessed the Jeremy Corbyn phenomenon for myself, at a meeting in Cardiff. And, believe me; phenomenon is the right word.

I have previously attended meetings in Cardiff with both Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham, which had audiences of up to around 300 people.

Corbyn’s meeting had over a thousand, with all seats taken and almost as many squeezed in, standing at the back, as were sitting down.

The audiences for the other candidates were polite, respectful and interested.

Corbyn’s audience was passionate and enthusiastic, at times bordering on fanatical. When Corbyn walked onto the stage, the whole crowd rose to its feet; whooping, cheering, clapping and shouting- giving him the kind of welcome normally reserved for rock stars. His speech was interrupted after every sentence, by the crowd cheering and applauding his statements, in the same way that they would cheer for their favourite song played by their favourite band at a concert or festival.

It was fascinating and amazing to watch.

I had arrived really early; partly to ensure that I got a seat, but also to give me time to observe the make-up of the crowd and talk to as many other people there as I could.

In almost equal numbers, the people I spoke to, fitted into the following groups:

  • Long-time Labour members, who felt that they were finally going to get a leader they could support wholeheartedly
  • Labour voters, who said they would now become members, because of Corbyn
  • Ex-members, who felt that (like Mhairi Black of the SNP) they hadn’t left Labour, but Labour had left them. Corbyn has drawn them back
  • Supporters of other parties, who said they would vote Labour, if Corbyn won
  • Non-voters, who had decided that they would now vote- for Labour, if Corbyn won

The main reasons given for their support of Corbyn were as follows:

  • All other politicians are all the same and are only in it for themselves; he is different- genuine, authentic and deeply passionate about creating a fairer society
  • He communicates really clearly and effectively, giving straight answers to all questions- not ducking or avoiding them, like most other politicians
  • You can trust him- he is honest and he has always shown himself to be a man of principle
  • Other politicians seem to want us to believe that there is no alternative to austerity and gross inequality; Corbyn rubbishes that idea, offering a real and compelling alternative vision, of a much fairer, more equal, and happier society
  • The Labour Party is now just another part of the establishment; with middle-class, ‘career’ politicians, who don’t represent or serve the people who the Labour Party was created for. Corbyn is a ‘real’ Labour politician, who can turn the Party back into the true ‘Party of the People’ it was originally created to be

These are all compelling reasons for his support, but they don’t, on their own, explain the almost religious fervour I saw at the meeting. The only way to explain it; is to compare it to the only other modern politician who has had the same effect- Barack Obama.

Corbyn doesn’t have the same charisma or oratory ability, but he is creating the same effect- why?

It’s because he is offering the same thing Obama offered; the same thing that people join the Labour Party for; the same thing people are always longing for, from politics:

Hope, and change.

That’s what has gained him a fanatical following and that’s why all the dire warnings and intellectual arguments are useless. His followers now have a deep emotional connection to his campaign, because of their longing and yearning for hope and change; for the fairer, and altogether better society they have always dreamed of, but never thought they could have, until now.

Hope and change:

This is the most powerful force in politics, against which, intellectual and economic arguments have no impact, because in the same way that intellectual arguments cannot dent religious faith; they also can’t dent the passionate need and desire for hope and change.

Hope, and change:

That’s why Corbyn is so popular and that’s why he will win the leadership contest. Whilst many of us may support other candidates, who are all very talented politicians, we now just have to accept that they are not going to win, as they are all seen as just offering ‘more of the same’, which stands no chance against Corbyn’s irresistible offer of hope and change.

That’s why the critics and doom-mongers are all wrong, because what Corbyn offers, is much more attractive to voters than any carefully costed and credible economic policy.

That’s why we should back him wholeheartedly, when he becomes the leader of the Labour Party, because what he offers is so powerful; because hope, and change, is what we all need and yearn for, regardless of our colour, creed, or political leanings.

That’s why he is so appealing, to such a wide range of people.

That’s why he has drawn in so many new members and supporters, many of whom had abandoned the Labour Party, were previously supporters of other parties, or did not usually vote.

That’s why he could win the next election.

Hope, and change:

That’s what gave Obama his historic victory

That’s what could do the same for Corbyn.

Hope, and change: isn’t that why you’re here?

Brian Back

What should we do, if Corbyn wins?

Let’s face it; with so little time left before members vote for a new leader, it is time that we stopped the shouting, insults and dire forecasts for the future.

It is time to face the facts.

It is time that we took a calm, pragmatic view of the possibility of a Corbyn win. Whilst we should not stop campaigning for the other candidates, we have to face the fact that a Corbyn win is a real possibility. That being the case; how should we deal with this prospect?

So far, everyone seems to be asking the wrong questions regarding the possibility of Corbyn becoming the new Labour leader.

Some have asked whether those in the centre-ground of the Labour Party should split, and start a new party, if Corbyn wins. That is not a sensible question, because forming a new party would just split the left-wing vote, thereby guaranteeing a Tory win at the next election. Also, most members would stay with the Corbyn-led Labour Party, as would the unions, so the new party would have few members or activists, and very little funding, as well as a very short life-span.

Others have asked whether the centre-ground MPs should stage a coup and force another election contest. This is not sensible either, as disunity and conflict are the biggest problems we face; problems which, if not dealt with, always spell electoral disaster, and a coup would only make things much worse. Furthermore, the next contest would probably be won by Corbyn again, but with a bigger majority, as Labour members react with fury against MPs who are seen to ignore members’ wishes.

Another big question is whether his opponents should refuse to accept shadow cabinet positions if he wins. Some big-name MPs have already stated that they would not work with Corbyn.

However, those MPs who have said that they will not work with him are surely only saying that for tactical reasons, because their main argument regarding a more centre-ground approach is that; you have to be in power, if you want to make changes. By that logic, it is obvious that accepting a shadow-cabinet post gives one the power to influence Corbyn’s policies, so they will, and must surely find a way to reverse that decision and work with him, for the good of the Party and the people it represents, who desperately need the Party to be at full strength and firing on all cylinders. Most commentators who oppose Corbyn have stated that his leadership would leave us forever ‘shouting from the sidelines’. Once again, the argument holds true regarding a shadow cabinet position- refusing a place in the cabinet would relegate centre-ground MPs to a position of just grumbling from the backbenches.

These questions have to be seen as just tactical manoeuvres in the leadership contest, which, whilst being entirely understandable in that context, have no place in any serious discussion regarding a Corbyn-led Labour Party.

Instead of these questions, we should now be asking the same question we would ask regarding any of the candidates- if they become leader, how do we win the next election?’

So, firstly, we need to consider the biggest question regarding winning the next election; is Jeremy Corbyn unelectable? The answer is: only if we make him that- by creating a self-fulfilling prophecy; by causing conflict and refusing to work with him, thereby making not just Corbyn, but the whole Party unelectable.

I have been as guilty as others, in my assessment of Corbyn; as in a previous article, I called him unelectable. Whilst that may have been understandable and ok at the start of the contest, it will not be ok if he wins. If he wins, then the Party must treat him as they would any of the others; by uniting behind him and focusing on finding a way to win the next election.

Whilst some may say that winning the next election is impossible with Corbyn as leader, this is not true.

The Left has seen a huge resurgence across Europe; in France, Spain and Greece. Whilst the overall situation may be significantly different in those countries, the electoral success of the Left in those countries clearly demonstrates that choosing Corbyn as leader may not be as disastrous as it is generally being depicted by most commentators in the media.

We need to learn the lessons from those countries; that a mass-movement, of the kind that seems to be developing around Corbyn, can lead not only to effective opposition, but also success in elections. Building on the growth in membership and the groundswell of support that Corbyn’s campaign seems to have generated, could give us a community-based movement that is easily strong enough to combat the wealth of the Tories and their devastating media power and propaganda.

However, this will not be enough on its own; we must also learn the lessons from our defeat in the election.

Polls consistently show voters agree with and want policies that promote a fairer society, but the election showed that wasn’t enough. There has now been sufficient post-election analysis for us to be sure of what is required to win back voters: a credible plan for economic growth and stability, which also shows the definite gains which will come from greater investment in public services; as well as real solutions for the issues of welfare and immigration. These are obviously massively difficult problems. Finding credible solutions will therefore require all the talent, from all parts of the Party. This once again shows the need for us to put aside the rivalries, conflicts and insults of the leadership contest, directing all our energies towards the tasks of opposing the Tories and winning the next election. Corbyn has offered the olive branch to his opponents, stating his desire to work with all sections of the Party. His opponents must accept this offer and help to create the ‘big-tent’, unified Party that is strong enough to win in 2020.

We also need to learn from the Tories. Their media strategy was hugely effective, we need to emulate it. Their policy of endlessly repeating, in every media appearance, by every Tory politician, the same message- that Labour caused the crash, did huge damage to our reputation. If Corbyn wins, a powerful and effective media strategy will be vital, to make the possibility of a left-wing Labour government seem viable and attractive to voters.

We cannot rely on many of the national newspapers, so we need to focus on developing a radio and TV strategy, that is focused on maximum exposure and repeatedly hammering home the same message; which blames each individual issue on the Tories’ failing and unfair austerity policies and then gives our superior solutions- solutions that are fairer, which will also boost the economy.

This strategy must be pursued on national and local media, by big-name shadow-cabinet members, backbench MPs, AMs, councillors and activists. Staying on-message, hammering home the same clear, direct and easily understandable points at every opportunity, will give us the chance to dominate the debate, to once again make left-wing ideas mainstream, ‘normal’ and acceptable by the whole population, pulling the political centre-ground away from the current right-wing position.

We don’t need to be concerned that Corbyn’s politics would take us back to some kind of Marxist ‘dark age’, in which we all address each other as ‘comrade’, whilst planning to overthrow the capitalist system. We can combine arguments based on fairness and social justice, with a hard-nosed, economic analysis of the problems caused by poverty and inequality: educational failure, poor health and lower life-expectancy, unemployment, crime, low productivity, absence from work, huge costs to the NHS, and an ever-increasing welfare and prisons bill.

There is a huge wealth of rigorous research evidence to back up these arguments, to ensure that our approach is seen as credible: from The Rowntree Foundation and Townsend’s work on poverty, as well as its effects on educational attainment; to The ‘Black Report’ (1980) on the class-based inequalities of health; to Wilkinson and Pickett’s ‘The Spirit Level’ (2009), and Piketty’s work on the corrosive effects of inequality, to name but a few.

This approach would enable us to appeal to people’s head, as well as their heart; to their self-interest, as well as their conscience; to voters on the right and the left of the political spectrum.

So, when we consider how strong and effective this overall approach could be, we can see that it is possible to be hopeful, rather than despondent, at the thought of a Corbyn-led Labour Party.

We can also see that it is obvious that we have been asking all the wrong questions about the possibility of a much more left-wing Labour Party.

In fact, when we consider how strong and effective this approach could be, the most pertinent question concerning this issue may be: ‘why haven’t we done this before?’

Brian Back

Labour is lost, here’s the way out

The Labour Party is lost. It has lost its way, its purpose and identity. Its MPs and members are fighting amongst themselves, rather than fighting against the Tories, or for the people it is supposed to represent.

The Labour Party is really struggling; struggling with internal conflict and confusion, struggling with the issues of how to remain relevant and how to appeal to the whole nation (rather than just 35%), whilst remaining true to its core principles. The recent Welfare Bill debacle clearly demonstrates the level of confusion in the Party regarding the problem of reconciling its core principles with the need to become more electable.

Labour desperately needs to find itself; to re-discover its purpose, to re-focus and re-brand, to re-connect with voters and regain their trust, so as to once again become the ‘natural’ Party of ‘the people’.

The way to achieve this is not through a ‘what’s in it for me?’ manifesto, with a shopping list of policies; each aimed at a separate section of the electorate. The election proved this to be not only uninspiring, but also unsuccessful.

Labour needs a powerful, straightforward and clear ‘brand’ and promise. It needs a grand narrative that is not only distinctive and true to its values, but also appealing to the whole nation.

In order to do this, to show that it is the Party of the people- of all the people, Labour needs to step back and take a wider view of our society, in order to develop a true ‘one nation’ approach and message.

Labour needs to ask itself; what cares and concerns are shared by all voters?

What is the universal need and desire of every member of the population?

What does everyone want, that only Labour can provide?

What should be our promise to the nation?

The answer is security.


Our society is characterised by insecurity: insecurity over issues of globalisation, terrorism, immigration, unemployment, poverty, crime, illness, and old age- these are voters’ primary concerns.

It was insecurity regarding the economy that drove voters away from Labour and towards the Conservatives.

It was insecurity over jobs, houses and the breakdown of community that drove people away from Labour and towards UKIP.

As the Conservatives’ election campaign clearly showed; fear and insecurity are powerful motivators. The dual ‘threats’ of the SNP and a supposedly ‘economy-crashing’ Labour Party did massive damage to our chances of success. A lack of security has been very useful for the Conservatives.

 However, many of Labour’s greatest successes came from promising and providing greater security for working people: the security of the Welfare State ‘safety net’; the security of the minimum wage.

Labour’s next leader should therefore explicitly focus on the issue of security; which covers voters’ biggest concerns. This would include policies on the following areas:

  • Security against another financial crash- sound economic policy, combining investment and deficit reduction, to keep our economy strong and better prepared to withstand shocks
  • Secure jobs– rather than casual, or zero hours contracts; jobs that are secure against the threat of outsourcing, or cheap imported labour, through stronger unions and a higher minimum wage which is more rigorously enforced
  • Secure housing: secure from the bedroom tax, or homelessness due to housing benefit cuts, and no threat from unscrupulous landlords. A programme to build much more social housing would follow from this promise, which of course would also provide a huge boost to employment figures and the economy
  • Secure health provision– protecting our health services from the threat of privatisation
  • Restoring the security of the Welfare State safety net, repairing the damage done by the Tories, which would include cast-iron guarantees on pensions, assistance during times of unemployment (whilst reinstating the contributory principle), sickness and disability benefits
  • Security from crime– always a concern amongst the elderly and the working class. Labour’s focus on reducing poverty and unemployment will inevitably mean less crime. Promising greater investment in the police force, to combat Tory cuts to the service, would also be a vote-winner
  • Security in our old age– better care provision through integrated health and care services
  • Security for our children– protecting the NHS and education, addressing the housing shortage and spiralling house prices
  • Security from terrorist attacks- through greater investment in our armed forces and police force
  • Restoring our military security– By making huge cuts to our armed forces, based on a desire to cut costs, rather than on an accurate assessment of our needs, the Conservatives have put the whole country at risk. Investment in our armed forces would also provide a huge boost to employment figures, as well as a knock-on effect to the economy. This would also be a source of apprenticeships in many skilled trades, which would of course do much to counter the issue of working-class unemployment.
  • Energy Security– huge investment into renewable energy can not only bring us greater energy security, it can help us become a world-leader in this field, thereby creating many jobs and boosting the economy. It will obviously also help us to meet the required targets and do our bit towards combating climate change. Renewable energy is the future of energy and it is where government policy must take us.

It has often been said, that the UK (and England in particular) is at heart, ‘small-c’ conservative. If that is true, then that itself indicates insecurity- the fear of change and the need and desire for things to remain as they always were. However, even though insecurity may seem to naturally drive voters towards the Tories or UKIP, as we’ve seen from the discussion above, many of the main areas of insecurity should be naturally strong ground for Labour.

A focus on security should also gain us votes from the groups we most need to win over, who we lost in the last election- the working class and pensioners.

A continual association of security, with the Labour Party, could do much to improve our reputation for economic competence.

A focus on security attacks the Tories on their home ground- issues such as crime, the economy and unemployment have often been seen as Tory strongholds; targeting these issues gives us the best chance of converting voters who chose the Conservatives at the last election.

A focus on security can therefore point out the failings of the Tories, as well as Labour’s superior alternative.


The first duty of government is the security of its people. The Conservatives have failed in this fundamental duty.

The Conservatives have made life much more insecure, for all but the wealthiest 1% of the population. Labour would make life much more secure for everyone.

Even though the Conservatives have prospered through preying on people’s insecurities and fears, they have never explicitly branded or proved themselves as the Party of security. This opens the door for Labour to rebrand itself and regain the public’s trust and support.

 ‘Labour: securing your future’

 – This ‘brand’, message and focus would enable us to remain true to our core values and core constituency, whilst simultaneously reaching out to the whole of the population, with an offer that is attractive to everyone.

‘Labour: securing your future’

– This would be a true ‘One Nation’ approach.

Security: that’s what we all want- isn’t it?


Brian Back