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