But the Tories are still worse.
There are quite a lot of frustrated articles out there about the future of the Labour party. They range from the broadly accurate to the deranged and, as far as I can see, they all miss some of the most important points. So, despite my best efforts, here is my take on what needs to be done to rescue the Labour party. Gods help me.
The first thing is that both the left of the party (hereafter occasionally referred to as the Corbynistas, a word I use without malice, I actually quite like it) and the more mainstream wing of the party (hereafter referred to as ‘the more mainstream wing of the party.’ Stop calling them Blairites, it’s inaccurate) need to admit that they are both at fault. Yes, that includes you, Nick Cohen, and you, John MacDonnell, and you, David Miliband, and you, Diane Abbott… the list goes on. The left has been furious with the direction of the party for decades now, with many good reasons and, arguably, many poor ones. The mainstream wing of the party had grown hopelessly, laughably unimaginative and complacent, fiddling at the edges of their own threadbare ideology without doing anything about the anachronistic, neo-liberal rot at its core. Of course Corbyn won, he offered to represent the ideals of millions of people, and the other candidates had absolutely nothing. They are all competent politicians but they really were offering Tory-lite policies, all of them were calling for slightly less austerity instead of none. None of them offered a big, desperately needed change to the way our financial industries are run. None of them offered anything at all to the North. Corbyn said the right things and, I still think, meant them.
But then came the EU Referendum and Corbyn’s dismal Remain Campaign. Even now some of you reading this will be saying that he did his best and campaigned hard; stop. I did not see him at any point talking positively about the EU. I did not hear anything he had to say about the EU during the entire campaign. He barely talked to the press, stayed away from the airwaves, held some impressively large rallies with thousands in attendance but, and I hate to point this out, ‘thousands’ is not enough when you need to engage with an electorate of sixty million people.
So parliamentary Labour party members seized their opportunity to get rid of him, as well they probably should have. They resigned en masse from his cabinet and forced him to hold a new leadership election. Their standard bearer would be Angela Eagle, for a few minutes, before it became Owen Jones. And he was rubbish as well.
Corbyn won easily, and I voted for him both times. So did my girlfriend at the time. Some of you are nodding at this decision, some of you want to smash your computer screen. Calm down. It felt to me, at the time and with good reason, that the parliamentary Labour party had been briefing against Corbyn, sabotaging him and openly displaying disloyalty and why the hell should anyone reward that? He hadn’t had a chance to actually do the job and now they were trying to get rid of him. The hopes of more than half of the Labour party had been placed in him a scant few months earlier, and the contempt in which those hopes were held by the PLP was scathing, snobbish and infuriating. Angry yet? If not you’re not a Labour party member.
It’s only after all this that the scales have fallen from my eyes.
This is what both sides need to understand; I am bitterly, brutally disappointed that I can’t continue to support him as leader. Nobody should be crowing about this. Nobody should be continuing to support him. Nobody should be angry with anyone for failing to keep the faith with him. I still don’t doubt his principles, I think he’s got an extremely difficult job, and he’s not up to it.
A party leader who never speaks to the press never speaks to the people. You don’t like the mainstream media? Neither do I, but a lot of people do and those people have votes and the right to be informed. A new leader need not speak to the Mail or the Sun, but they should speak to someone at some point. The Canary doesn’t bloody count.
A party leader who allows the conservatives to get away with holding the rights of EU nationals ransom, like a bargaining chip, can’t do the job. A party leader who only uses a three-line whip once, and that to help the government drive us off the article 50 cliff, isn’t acting in the interests of the country or the world. A party leader who isn’t absolutely wiping the floor with these risible, shambolic Tories every time he steps up to speak can’t do the job. He has to go.
‘And what then?’ as most Corbynistas would immediately say. Well you get a new leader. It should probably be Kier Starmer, he’s brilliant, of the left, principled and capable of actually speaking to the public. Bookie’s favourite is Clive Lewis, who would be fine. Not inspired, but fine.
There are, no doubt, rather a lot of nodding heads in the mainstream party camp, rather a lot of raised voices in the Corbynista camp. Fine, you’ll all be yelling in a minute, because the Labour party also needs to do a swift U-turn and rebuild its manifesto pretty much from the ground up.
These are the policies that are good and true, and mostly not even controversial:
– Remaining in the EU. You’d pick up as many votes as you lose with this one so stop having a flap. We need to stay in the EU, Labour needs to use the vast army of members it’s gathered to go and tell people why it’s good. Yes it has problems, no I don’t like it very much, but I honestly don’t trust the UK government to guarantee the rights the EU gives me. And if you’re saying we can remain in the EU you’ll be able to form some other policies because your entire workload for decades won’t be figuring out bloody Brexit.
– Tax the rich, stop austerity. This isn’t even complicated, poor people are not at fault for the banking crisis of 2008 that started this whole mess and they shouldn’t pay for it. Wealth disparity is vast, they can afford to pay more. Nobody, anywhere, should personally own a billion dollars.
– Invest in the North. Find industries that work up there and build some of them. Not wind farms or some half-formed idea about ‘reindustrialising,’ something new. Most likely many new things. Yes, this is a bit of a wash of an idea but I’m not an economist, I just know that leaving people to slowly waste away is vile and turning back the clock is impossible. Massive investment is needed now, jobs are needed now. Find a way, or at least start talking about it seriously, the political silence around this is scandalous.
– Give hospitals the money they need. The Tories are not doing this, and they are claiming that it’s somehow the fault of the NHS structure, some inherent facet of the public sector that’s leading to this crisis. It’s not, it obviously needs money to function.
– Stop sanctioning job seekers for being late to a meeting, get rid of disability assessment tests.
– Burn everything owned by Serco, Capita, G4S, and every incompetent parasite company like them to the ground. Scatter the ashes. Salt the earth.
Does this win the next general election? Maybe, if you have someone capable of speech to talk about the policies and win the argument. I might even go so far as to say it probably would win, it’s big, it’s new, it’s not too extreme, basically it’s not nearly far enough to the left for me. But it would win. And Labour needs to win, it needs to stop these Tory bastards from wrecking absolutely everything. Scotland is gone, you know that? It’s not in doubt, within ten years Scotland will have left the UK because Tories buggered it all up. Personally, I think that’s fine, but the fact that Tory incompetence has ended the union beggars belief and the Labour party still would lose seats if an election was held tomorrow. A lot of people on the left seem to have a strange fondness for this state of affairs, but the Tories in power are a nightmare and the only real way to stop them is to get Labour into government. You’re all wrong, calm down, stop shouting and read this again. Keep reading it. It’s not just the other side. This does include you, all of it does, don’t kid yourself that it doesn’t. Stop swearing at each other, stop blaming each other, stop dredging up the past, stop sniping, unite and save this country from these reckless, fanatic, dangerous Tories. You’re running out of time.