Do Labour Dare Hope? – Election Update

News and Politics

When the election was called, I made a number of predictions which now appear somewhat ill-judged. Foremost among these was an assumption that Labour’s vote share will likely decline before polling day. So far, the opposite has happened. While the Conservatives have been hugely bolstered by the near-total collapse of UKIP, Labour has also experienced a surge in the polls, seemingly at the expense of the Greens and more interestingly the Lib Dems and maybe also UKIP. A YouGov poll released today has the party on 38% (it’s highest since 2014) with the Conservatives down a few points to 43%. If this poll is not a freak outlier, as it still may very well be, then Labour have essentially closed within five points what was, when the election was called, a twenty point gap.

As much as I’d want this to be true, jubilation will have to wait until we get to see more polls, however, that being said, what is increasingly beyond doubt is that Labour has experienced a surge (the proportions of which are highly debatable) over the past few weeks.

The former Tory Leader, William Hague, once stated that his party has two modes: Panic and Complacency, and the latter I believe is now a significant factor behind recent developments. Personally, I don’t think that the Conservative Campaign is quite as bad as some say, largely because, just as in 2015, a significant part of it is invisible and focused on digital targeting, however, it is still pretty darn abysmal. It still shocks me that the same people behind Cameron’s 2015 surprise win are capable of running such a poor operation, although perhaps the spirit of complacency has gotten to their heads too.

I mean, gosh, where to begin? Theresa May seemingly looked at her initially giant poll lead and assumed that she could start drowning puppies on live television and still win in a landslide. She must have thought that the British public hated Corbyn and adored her so much that (perhaps as Thatcher had done decades earlier) she could get away with a number of deeply unpopular, albeit allegedly necessary, policies.

First, there was fox hunting, which is still a really big deal for some reason (I mean, honestly, aren’t schools and hospitals a little more important than the welfare of some occasionally cute mammals that shit on the lawn and eat your garbage?). Hunting is still vehemently opposed by the overwhelming majority of the UK population, and those that do like it would have voted Conservative anyway. And then there was the ‘Dementia Tax,’ a plan to fund social care by forcing the elderly to sell away their homes, as well as the end to the pension triple lock. It really shows just how certain the Tories were of victory that they dared to attack the elderly (the one part of the population that is certain to vote).

Meanwhile, encouraged by her high approval ratings, Theresa May decided to run her campaign as if it were a Presidential run. Conservative branding was stripped from party literature in the North of the country, instead replaced with talk of “Theresa’s candidates” and “Theresa’s Team,” while actual policy substance was disregarded. Last year, another female politician tried a similar strategy against an anti-establishment outsider with solid, populist, messaging… It didn’t go well. Meanwhile, the lack of returns from the overwhelming focus on Brexit has shown what I’ve believed to be the case for a while – That Brexit is nowhere near as important of an issue to most people as pundits believe. Most Britons think that that battle has already been fought and now just want the government to get on with it, and therefore Labour’s strategy of largely ignoring the issue while focusing on domestic policy was probably the correct decision.

Speaking of Labour, and of policy – To seemingly everyone’s surprise, the party has been running a very good campaign. Messaging so far has been solid, and capable of penetrating into minds of those who don’t stay up at night thinking about politics. Popular policy pledges have been consistently repeated on radio and television, and they seem to be getting through. A recent YouGov survey has asked voters about what they perceived to be the main policies of the two parties. For Labour, the top two are scrapping tuition fees and increasing NHS funding. For the Conservatives, the ‘Dementia Tax’ and “Going ahead with Brexit.” While, in the wake of the Manchester attack, the Tories still lead on issues of defence and security, perhaps Labour’s message about cuts to police budgets under the current government may also have a positive effect. Corbyn himself has done a rather good job so far, and while most voters still really don’t like him, perhaps he’s a negative factor which increasing numbers of them are willing to overlook. So yeah, to my surprise, the Labour operation has managed to find within itself a healthy dose of competence.

And then we come to the Lib Dems, the one party who seemingly had little to lose and everything to gain from this election. Personally, I expected them to make modest gains, unlike some who apparently expected Tim Farron to become the Leader of the Opposition. However, even that seemed to have been too optimistic. To the surprise of most, including myself, who expected moderate Labour voters and some pro-remain Tories to defect to the Lib Dems, the opposite has happened. Former Lib Dem supporters who voted for the Tories in 2015 have barely moved, while considerable numbers of the party’s remaining backers have switched to Labour. Now there is even talk of Nick Clegg losing his seat in Sheffield.

UKIP’s collapse is a peculiar phenomenon, and I have a strange feeling that it may not necessarily be the godsend that the Tories expect. The predominant belief right now is that those seeking to predict individual constituency results should simply take at least half of the UKIP vote and give it to the Conservative candidate. I think that’s a huge oversimplification because it completely ignores regional context. UKIP’s 2015 vote can be largely split into two groups. Former Tories who were angry about the European Union, and former Labour and BNP voters who were angry about immigration. The former group, who largely reside in the South, are obviously going to go back to the Conservatives now that Brexit is dealt with. However, the latter group, who largely reside in the North, is a far more open question. Many of those people really do not like the Tories, and never did. They are the reason that Paul Nuttall feels obliged to bang on about the NHS, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they either stick with UKIP or maybe even go back to Labour. Therefore, the result would be Theresa May piling up extra votes where she doesn’t need them while Labour clings on to its heartlands.

Now for some caveats. While current polling trends are good for Labour, actual election results are not. The local elections on the 5th of May made for grim reading, however, that was before Labours apparent surge towards the end of the month. Secondly, there is also a danger of Labour piling up votes in safe seats, as YouGov’s regional polling might suggest. Go and ask Hillary Clinton about how an absurdly unrepresentative voting system can make irrelevant one’s national support. Thirdly, once polls start predicting a tighter race, Conservative fear tactics about a Corbyn-led government propped up by a “Coalition of Chaos”, a prospect most only recently thought impossible, will be far more effective. Fourth, polls almost always overestimate Labour’s support – that may very well be what we’re seeing now. Fifth, there are still two weeks to go, so expect CCHQ and their (plenty) allies in the media to go absolutely nuts.

Perhaps that Conservative landslide which we thought inevitable might not be such as foregone conclusion after all. If Theresa May comes away with a majority similar in scope to what she possesses now, don’t be surprised to see her ousted as leader of her party even before Jeremy Corbyn.

 

 

 

 

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If UKIP can’t win Stoke, they might as well disband

News and Politics

I know my previous blog post was largely about how we put far too much thought into predicting politics as opposed to seeking to influence them, but here’s a prediction for you – 24th February 2017 will be the day we know whether the UK Independence Party can survive as a genuinely influential force in British politics, that being the day when we learn who wins the Stoke Central by-election.

After Paul Nuttall was elected as UKIP leader a few months ago, the direction he set out for his party was clear: UKIP, he claimed, would soon replace Labour as “the patriotic voice of working people”. In no uncertain terms, his hope is to replicate in the North of England what the SNP has managed in Scotland – for a torrent of nationalism to sweep away a distant metropolitan elite that no longer cares for them. Some have chosen to take this threat to Labour’s traditional heartlands rather seriously, and Nuttall certain intends to deliver.

Stoke-on-Trent is not really a Northern city, but if UKIPs political revolution can happen anywhere then it’s here. In 2010, Tristram Hunt was elected as the MP for Stoke Central, although his name should be enough to tell you that he wasn’t born there. A historian and an academic by trade, Hunt studied at Cambridge and was only selected as its parliamentary candidate for the then safe seat as a favour from Gordon Brown to Labour’s infamous spin doctor Peter Mandelson. Safe to say, he represents everything that UKIP claims to hate – a wealthy Southern academic parachuted into a safe seat he had zero previous links to. Hunt resigned as an MP earlier this month to become the director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, however, the city of Stoke itself seems to be a far greater opportunity for UKIP than the history of its previous Labour incumbent.

In last year’s referendum, Stoke voted overwhelmingly to leave the European Union. In the general election the year before, UKIP came second in the Stoke Central constituency, about 5000 votes behind Labour (hardly an insurmountable lead in the current political climate). Nuttall seems to be confident, which is why he’s standing as the UKIP candidate himself. Just so this couldn’t be clearer, next month’s by-election will take place:

  1. In a city that voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU
  2. Between the leader of Britan’s chief Eurosceptic party and a remain-supporting Labour candidate
  3. In a working class constituency at a time when Labour’s current leadership seems to be an utter anathema to anyone outside middle-class London socialists.

I’ll say the same thing I did about the Lib Dems before the Richmond Park by-election. If UKIP cannot win here under these circumstances, then they might as well disband.

Their alleged existential threat to Labour’s heartlands has been hyped up for years now. Nuttall himself has unsuccessfully stood for Parliament a number of times in Liverpool. 2015s by-election in Oldham West and Royton, where UKIP was seen as the favourite to win, instead saw his party decrease its share of the vote from the general election, while Labour increased its majority. For months, Brexit has been pitched as an issue that can supersede all else in Britain’s domestic politics. The Lib Dems have more or less proved that to be true with affluent remain voters, now UKIP must finally prove it can do the same with working class leavers, or be forever cast out into irrelevance.

 

 

 

Brexit vs Trotskyist Trump

News and Politics

Here Cometh Twenty Seventeen

2016 was the worst year ever! – Was a certain hyperbolic statement a variation on which you’ve probably heard/read somewhere over the past few months. Seems a bit odd really. I mean, let’s be honest here, anyone who says that is probably only doing so because they ended up on the wrong side of Trump and Brexit, and it’s hard to see how 2017 will fare much better in that case. That is, this year Trump will actually get to be President and the Brexit process will actually begin.

Anyway, even if one is so utterly horrified by the prospect of an orange manchild becoming the leader of the free world and by Britain leaving the European Union, I’m still not convinced that that, plus a number of high profile celebrity deaths that will inevitably continue happening in 2017, makes 2016 the worst year in human existence. It seems a bit of a pointless and arbitrary exercise, but surely if we had to pick something then one might be inclined to consider 1939 (when we entered into World War 2) or perhaps 1347 (when about half of Europe started dying from the bubonic plague). Obviously, such nonsense is merely the by-product of an increasingly interconnected world living in the age of outrage.

Brexit Means Brexit 

Speaking of Brexit, why is everyone still so confused about the single market? We’re leaving. End of story. In a world where politics still trumps economics, Theresa May has made it her mission to reduce immigration “to acceptable levels” – whatever that means. By refusing to exclude students from the annual migration quota, she’s already shown that reducing numbers is more important to her than potential economic benefit, and unless the EU is prepared to give Britain a “best of both worlds” deal (hint hint: it’s not), then remaining in the single market while rejecting freedom of movement is completely impossible.

Why is this such a hard concept to grasp? The Remain campaign had been saying for months that single market membership is incompatible with greater immigration controls, and Theresa May’s stupid “Brexit means Brexit” slogan should have left everyone without a doubt that a “Hard Brexit” is precisely what we’re heading for. If May actually supported single market membership at the cost of freedom of movement, guess what, she would have said so by now. She’s the Prime Minister of Great Britain, not a former Hobbit trying to beat Bilbo at a game of riddles in a dark tunnel under a mountain.

Corbyn 2.0

Meanwhile, the embattled leadership of the British Labour Party has decided that the best way to improve its terrible approval ratings must be to reinvent Jeremy Corbyn as some kind of Trotskyist Trump: An anti-establishment firebrand with a strategy consisting of slagging off the hostile media and appealing to an apparent surge in populist sentiment.

A few problems with that. One: I’m not terribly convinced that the best electoral strategy consists of mimicking a man who lost by nearly three million votes. Two: what demographic is Corbyn’s team actually trying to target here? You might be forgiven for assuming its working class Brexit voters, but that’s rather hopeless as long as Corbyn remains dedicated to the free movement of people (which is still seemingly the case).

Otherwise, a left-populist approach is almost certain to further alienate those defecting to the Conservatives and Lib Dems, a group which (contrary to what some seem to believe) is much bigger than those leaving Labour for UKIP. Trump managed to win the electoral college by taking traditional Democratic voters in the Rust Belt. What is Labour’s equivalent to this? They can’t take the UKIP vote while supporting freedom of movement and neither can they make any inroads into the Tory/Lib Dem vote while acting like a left-wing Donald Trump. About that…

Just like with Agent Orange across the pond, the idea is seemingly to “let Corbyn be Corbyn”, and if today’s supposed re-branding exercise is anything to go by, that apparently translates to “forget whatever you were meant to do and say something incredibly stupid in order to derail the entire media operation”. In a series of morning interviews, he floated the idea of a maximum wage cap. Why? God only knows. According to Labour sources, it was never on the agenda, and Corbyn couldn’t come up with any details when inevitably pressed upon the subject.

Therefore, something that isn’t even official Labour Party policy (although, frankly, nothing these days seems to be) essentially dominated the news agenda, as opposed to the things Corbyn was actually told by his handlers to discuss. By the time of his big speech later in the day, the idea was partially discarded in favour of merely capping excessive pay to government contractors, while previous suggestions that Labour might abandon its stance on freedom of movement were also contradicted. Great message discipline guys. Just fucking brilliant.

Honestly, I’m still a bit baffled thinking about what the whole point of all this was? It was meant to be a re-branding exercise, but Corbyn didn’t change his policy on practically anything. Not on freedom of movement, not on the single market. Meanwhile, media attention was taken away from the current crisis in the NHS, which happened to dominate newspaper headlines this morning. If you haven’t heard by now, people are dying on trollies in British hospitals… In a National Health Service which the Labour Party created, and at a time when Health is one of the only issues with which it still leads in the polls.

Presented with such an opportunity, the Labour leadership should be talking about nothing but health. Every minute of every hour they should be thinking, “Ok, how can we keep screwing the Tories on the NHS”, but no, apparently making contradictory statements on immigration and a moronic maximum wage policy is far more important.

Why My Support For Jeremy Corbyn Has Turned Into Repulsion

News and Politics

At around 11am on the 12th of September, 2015, I was sitting aboard a South West train headed from Basingstoke towards London Waterloo. Stations whizzed past against the backdrop of semi-detached houses and the occasional spot of English countryside, the latter becoming increasingly rarer and the former more frequent as we got closer and closer to the capital. Walton on Thames, Surbiton, Wimbledon… A group of ladies to my right were busy discussing their foregone summer holiday, while I remained glued to my phone, constantly refreshing BBC News. Clapham Junction, Vauxhall… Finally, the headline came: “Jeremy Corbyn wins Labour leadership contest“. Almost simultaneously, a group of young men near the front of the carriage opened a champagne bottle. The party had started.

At Waterloo, I met my friend Sam. We hugged it out, and then both said something along the lines of “Jez we did”, followed by a brief period of laughter. Safe to say, at that point, both of us were fairly pleased with the result. Later that day I decided to join The Labour Party.

Yesterday morning, on the 24th of September, 2016, Sam and I coincidentally once again found ourselves in London. It was just after 11:45am, and just like 377 days before, I found myself anxiously refreshing the BBC News app on my phone. It was soon a few minutes to twelve. I turned to Sam, “Result should have been announced about ten minutes ago”. Frustrated, I then proceeded to open The Guardian, only to realise that the people at the BBCs digital division haven’t been doing their job… “Corbyn sweeps to victory, increasing mandate“. Sam turned to me:

“Wow, you guys are so fucked”                                                                                                                       “Yeah… I know”

Last year’s enthusiasm had clearly evaporated. The only champagne bottles opened that day were at the Conservative Party Headquarters.

***

There’s a reason I chose to open with that anecdote, because details aside, I’m far from the only Labour member whose personal support for Jeremy Corbyn has made a complete reversal over the past twelve months. For some, it was his totally inadequate performance during the Brexit referendum, while for others it was a gradual realisation that the 67-year-old MP is hardly qualified to be running a street stall, nevermind Her Majesty’s Official Opposition. When Jeremy Corbyn was elected as leader for the first time, he did so with the support of members old and new. This year, according to a YouGov exit poll, those who joined The Labour Party before May 2015 voted overwhelmingly for his opponent. Buyers remorse has settled in, but while Corbyn’s detractors attempted to win by shrinking the electorate, Labour’s hard left was busy finding itself a new base of customers.

Last year I celebrated Corbyn’s victory with the full knowledge that this was someone firmly to my left. Yet perhaps in a spirit of naivety, he seemed to represent the way I wanted to see politics done in Britain. Like many others, I cringed my way through PMQs as rows of chimpanzees dressed as politicians flung insults and verbal diarrhoea across The House of Commons. Like many others, I felt somewhat optimistic about Corbyn’s line of “Straight Talking, Honest Politics“, looking forward to a time when real-world issues can be discussed in a constructive, civilised manner. Yet over the past twelve months, I’ve come to realise that Corbyn and his allies are anything but straight talking, anything but honest. Unlike some, I haven’t come to oppose Jeremy Corbyn because he calls himself a socialist, but rather because like many Labour members, I still dare call myself a liberal.

Corbyn’s questionable political past wasn’t something I was entirely oblivious to. In fact, part of my support for him stemmed from his prior involvement in the British anti-war movement (wouldn’t it be great if we actually had a Prime Minister who wouldn’t start wars in the Middle East at every given opportunity?). However, while supporters have used his past as evidence of the man’s “integrity”, to say that Corbyn’s record is questionable would actually be a major understatement. When he became leader, I hoped that he would use the opportunity to distance himself from that past, to turn a fresh page, and make amends where necessary. Instead, he stuck to his guns.

When asked repeatedly in a BBC Radio interview to condemn the actions of the IRA, a terrorist organisation that has been responsible, among many other things, for the murder of five British members of parliament, Corbyn instead chose to criticise the British Army. When asked by the LGBT network Pink News to explain the reasoning behind his paid appearances on the Iranian Press TV, a propaganda channel which has been complicit in filming and broadcasting the forced confession of a tortured journalist, not to mention one owned by a state who’s only policy towards gay people is nothing short of murder, Corbyn made no attempt at an apology; instead outright falsely claiming that his time on the programme allowed him to raise human rights issues.

When asked by David Cameron to withdraw his prior remarks calling the Islamist organisation Hamas his “friends”, an organisation whose manifesto openly calls for the murder of Jews, Corbyn did no such thing. When asked to clarify his position on the Falkland Islands, which voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to remain British, Jeremy Corbyn suggested that sovereignty should be shared with Argentina, nevermind that the only things Argentine on those islands are 600 graves and 19,000 land mines.

So Jeremy, what on Earth happened to that great leftist principle of self-determination, or does that only happen to apply to those wanting to break off from Britain, as opposed to the other way around? What happened to standing up for human rights? For freedom and for democracy?

The problem with the likes of Jeremy Corbyn is not their readiness to criticise British policy, but an outright refusal to apply the same principles to her adversaries. An eagerness to cosy up to any regime, no matter how right wing, no matter how oppressive, illiberal or fascistic, as long as they just happen to be anti-West. In 1941, at the height of The Blitz, a fellow socialist called George Orwell wrote an essay during which he criticised a certain part of the left, which he described as being “sometimes squashily pacifist, sometimes violently pro-Russian, but always anti-British”. It horrifies me to think that, after decades of trying, precisely this kind of outlook has finally taken over The UK Labour Party.

It is now a well-established fact that Corbyn happens to be about as unelectable as a cardboard cutout of Nevile Chamberlain, however, that only serves to make him incompetent, not malicious. It alone would be enough reason for any pragmatist to vote him out as Labour leader, but to do so while still respecting him as a man of principle and integrity. The problem for me is not that Jeremy Corbyn will never become Prime Minister, but that he can never be allowed to. Party loyalty can only go so far, and a blank refusal to draw any kind of moral red lines shouldn’t be seen as an admirable quality, only a meaningless display of tribalism.

The past twelve months have been an unequivocal display of incompetence, but in what can only be described as a mixture of lies, weakness and sheer stubbornness, Corbyn and his team decided to go a lot further. While attempting to explain taking tens of thousands of pounds from the hands of a fascist dictatorship, his only response was to lie and hope that no one noticed. When asked to rebuke what was, at best, his previously lukewarm attitude towards the IRA, his only response was a pathetic attempt at rewriting history. Peace in Northern Ireland, he claimed, was due to the efforts of himself and his comrades, a lie so brazen I’m amazed few in the media chose to hold him to account.

Peace in Northern Ireland was not achieved because Corbyn and his pals spoke at a bunch of Troops Out rallies and invited the IRA to parliament only weeks after it attempted to assassinate the British Prime Minister. It was not achieved, contrary to what was said by John McDonnel, because the British government was forced to the negotiating table, but because the IRA had lost its armed struggle. If Corbyn truly wanted to support a peaceful and democratic solution, he could have voted for it in parliament. Instead, he voted against. Despite what they may claim, Corbyn’s and McDonnel’s ultimate goal wasn’t peace, it was for the other side to win.

Despite his constant talk of a kinder, gentler politics, he did absolutely nothing to prevent his supporters from heckling and shouting down his leadership opponent. Debate after debate, Corbyn chose to stand idle as his attack dogs made The Labour Party appear a grotesque laughing stock on national television. When those same supporters were faced with accusations of anti-Semitism, Corbyn appointed Shami Chakrabarti to lead an independent inquiry. Her inquiry found that no big problem existed, and then Corbyn promoted Chakrabarti to the exact same House of Lords he supposedly wants to abolish. That’s not honest or straight talking, Jeremy, that’s cronyism.

On Corbyn and Cults

News and Politics

A new line of attack has been developed against the pro-Corbyn side in the Labour leadership election. His supporters, it has recently been argued, are members of a dangerous political cult, while their delusional leader lives within a giant messiah complex. Now while I wouldn’t personally go that far, perhaps some of these allegations do carry a certain degree of truth.

Firstly, let’s get one thing quickly out of the way. I do not think that either Jeremy Corbyn or his supporters are members of a cult. However, one does not necessarily need to be in a cult to exhibit an alarming quantity of cult-like behaviour, something which has become an increasingly obvious characteristic among Corbyn’s most loyal group of supporters. For what it’s worth, I don’t view this as an attack on nor an attempt to undermine the Labour Party’s current leadership. Rather, I hope to encourage some degree of much-needed self-reflection, not only among Labour members but also those of other movements throughout the political spectrum.

In order to provide some structure, and because my personal knowledge of psychology is very limited, we’ll be using a definition given by Dr Arthur Deikman, a former professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Fransisco. According to Deikman, who has written a book about the patterns of cult behaviour in American society, cult behaviour includes, but is certainly not limited to:

  1. Compliance with a group
  2. Dependence on a leader
  3. Devaluing the outsider
  4. Avoiding Dissent

It is largely the latter three that I want to focus on today.

 

Dependence On A Leader 

For obvious reasons, any successful political party leader should exhibit qualities that convince and inspire others to follow them. That might sound religious, and I guess in a way it is, but understandably every movement and political organisation needs a strong leadership figure in order to be effective. The striking difference between the majority of successful party leaders, Winston Churchill, Harold Wilson, Tony Blair etc, and Jeremy Corbyn is that while the aforementioned figures have successfully managed to win over the mainstream public, and therefore power, Corbyn is a figure who is cherished and idolised by a small fringe group, in contrast to his spectacular unpopularity with most of the British electorate.

To that group, in our case that being the left-wing of Labour party members, and that of Momentum, Corbyn is a figure practically beyond criticism. A friendly looking, sixty-seven-year-old man with the highly ironic initials J.C, The Labour Leader has, over the course of the past twelve or so months, managed to develop what is essentially a religious following, where any hint of scepticism and dissent is punished with remarkable efficiency (more on that later).

In the eyes of these hardened supporters, The Leader can do no wrong, and a constant flow of spin is developed to justify even his most controversial and inexcusable positions. Sometimes, this torrent of spin flows right into the realms of Orwellian doublethink. The Corbynistas are always the first to dismiss the reliability of opinion polls, since almost all of them question their carefully constructed narrative, however, are also quick to share and overexaggerate any polling that supports their point of view (as limited and rare as such polling is).

Clearly, this kind of behaviour isn’t just limited to Corbyn and the UK. Supporters of Donald Trump exhibit many of the same characteristics: hostility towards the media, total ignorance of opinion polls, embracing of conspiracy theories and a practically religious devotion to their Leader to name a few. Both are also the leaders of political parties who have lost their last two general elections. Both were elected to their role on a strong anti-establishment message against the most fervent advice of most other party officials. Both have shown a clear inability to carry that message into the mainstream, and both are destined to lose, badly.

Devaluing The Outsider

The tendency to create a strong ingroup vs outgroup mentality is a defining characteristic of cult behaviour, and unfortunately, one exhibited by many of Corbyn’s supporters. Politics is often about reaching out, and as obvious as this might sound, any party that actually wants to win power can only do so by convincing the type of people who don’t usually vote for them. That doesn’t, however, seem to be something that Corbyn and his supporters are awfully concerned about. Instead, their incredible sense of paranoia regarding the mainstream media has created an increasingly inward-looking movement. A movement less concerned with reaching out to the centre as opposed to increasing its own membership, not to mention creating an ideological echo chamber.

The latter is, of course, another fundamental building block for any aspiring cultist, and anyone who’s spent even a few minutes scrolling through Corbyn-friendly Facebook groups would immediately recognise the resemblance. Confirmation bias is the air these people breathe and cognitive dissonance is the ground they walk upon. Of the articles being shared, is a constant flow of “Corbyn is great”, “Corbyn can win”, “Everybody Loves Corbyn”. Among the sources, you will find names such as The Morning StarThe Canary and Socialist Worker. The traditional left-wing press, you see, has long become the puppet of corporate interests. Some critical articles are posted of course, but only for the purpose of ridicule. Meanwhile, provided is an endless supply of memes, charts and graphs, always idolising Corbyn and almost always without citation.

A strong ingroup mentality is therefore created, and those belonging to the outgroup constantly find themselves on the receiving end of ad-hominem attacks. Arguments are often evaded, rarely addressed, and usually dismissed out of hand due to the other person being a member of the said outgroup. Articles are rejected as a matter of principle due to the publication hosting them, while a colourful list of adjectives is used to describe those with an opposing point of view: “Blairite, Red Tory, etc”.

The pro-Corbyn organisation Momentum has often found itself on the receiving end of criticism, and often unjustly so. Personally, I think it is utterly ridiculous to suggest that these people are some 21st-century British equivalent of the SA Brownshirts, mainly because I’ve met quite a few of them and most were perfectly fine people. However, there is a real danger of the group becoming the kind of “party within a party” that Militant emerged as back in the 1980s.

Many of its members rarely attend local Labour meetings, choosing to instead go to dedicated Momentum ones, hence helping to create an ideological ingroup within the wider Labour Party. A separate Momentum conference is planned alongside The Labour Party conference in September. In the same city, at the same time, with Jeremy Corbyn attending. There comes a point when one should ask themselves the following question: If The Labour Party doesn’t fit in with my personal political leanings, forcing me to instead attend rival events hosted by a fringe ingroup, then why on Earth did I ever join The Labour Party? And if the answer to that question is, “to support Jeremy Corbyn”, then you really start to sound like someone who doesn’t really support the Labour Party… just Jeremy Corbyn.

Avoiding Dissent

As previously mentioned, any views critical of The Dear Leader, especially those originating from popular figures, is denounced and punished with remarkable efficiency. For a case study, let’s use the Labour Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who has recently come out in support of Corbyn’s leadership challenger, Owen Smith. As someone who nominated Corbyn for the leadership position last year, Khan has often been used by the former’s supporters as an example of Corbyn’s electability.

Victory in the London Mayoral election, they argue, was largely the result of Corbyn’s efforts, not Khan’s. That, of course, is the opposite of the truth. Labour and Sadiq Khan’s victory in London was achieved in spite of Jeremy Corbyn, and not because of him. Indeed, the Khan campaign was terrified of being associated with The Leader, whose unpopularity with the wider electorate made him a liability as opposed to an asset. At the time of writing, Sadiq Khan has a net positive approval rating of +30 among those living in London, while Corbyn’s is a net negative of -25.

Regardless, facts are secondary to many of Corbyn’s supporters, and once Sadiq Khan wrote an article in The Observer endorsing Owen Smith, a man who was previously the embodiment of Corbyn’s electability became a deceitful turncoat, and a member of the aforementioned outgroup. All of a sudden, he was “a mediocre mayor”, “a cheap bastard” and of course, “a Blairite”. The pro-Corbyn Facebook groups had a field day, demonising and casting Khan away as someone who was never really on their side anyway. As always, the array of cheap and meaningless memes started to fly all over the place… If only memes could win elections.

14051678_1198588396859215_2608159744022858544_n

Seriously, who takes the time to make this stuff?

 

Remarkably, the tactics used by Corbyn supporters to effectively ridicule and demonise other Labour Party figures share some uncomfortable similarities with all the wrong places, most notably cults and Communist dictatorships. The year is 1974, and a young, fabulously talented Russian ballet dancer by the name of Mikhail Baryshnikov is performing on tour in Toronto, Canada. One night, presumably after realising just how great life was on the other side of the iron curtain, Baryshnikov evaded his Soviet minders and requested political asylum.

Once news of the defection broke out, The Soviet Government did everything within its power to transform the once popular and revered dancer into a national hate figure. His citizenship was revoked, stories of foul play were invented and flooded into the media, while Baryshnikov’s previous achievements were rapidly discredited. Just like with Khan after his intervention in the Labour Leadership race, history was re-written and the truth quietly thrown down the memory hole.

It’s the same tactic used by everyone from American cult leaders to Soviet Propagandists to The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea. When someone leaves or defects from the ingroup, denounce, attack and discredit them until everything that person ever did was either a lie or a form of malice. Now if your goal is to run an inward-looking movement with alarmingly cultish characteristics or an Orwellian dictatorship… congratulations! However, if your trying to get a political party elected to government, well, you might want to consider a change in attitude.

If what you want is to achieve power through the ballot box, as opposed to a combination of pitchforks, firing squads and or wishful thinking, you simply cannot act as an inward looking echo chamber that is concerned more with ideological purity than it is with winning elections. As a general rule of thumb, each and every one of us should be open to opposing viewpoints and the concept of self-reflection. We have to accept that no one is infallible, and that if we refuse to accept evidence and listen to public opinion, we might not necessarily be a cult, but we won’t really be that far off from one.

 

Jeremy Corbyn’s Losing Positions

News and Politics

In the words of Erich Maria Remarque, “This is to be neither an accusation nor a confession”. In fact, it seems more like an exercise in futility, but who can blame one for trying, right? As things currently stand, Jeremy Corbyn will almost certainly win the Labour leadership contest. When that happens, the least productive thing the left can possibly do is bury its head in the sand or, probably even worse, form a breakaway party and effectively hand half of Labour’s Northern seats to UKIP.

Unfortunately, much of the recent debate surrounding the leadership contest has been inaccurately framed as a left vs right, or left vs centre, struggle. On the one hand, you have people calling all their opponents “Red Tories” or “Blairites”, while on the other, you have those who claim that only by shifting Labour to the centre can the party ever again form a Government. Now, what if I told you that both of those assumptions are wrong. What if I told you that it is entirely possible to oppose Jeremy Corbyn’s ability to lead an effective opposition while still believing in left-wing solutions to Britain’s multitude of problems?

There is a reason why supporters of the incumbent leader are accusing the challenger, Owen Smith of stealing policy ideas. Because while that particular claim is entirely untrue, most of the Parliamentary Labour Party has never really disagreed with Corbyn in terms of economic policy. Neither, by the way, has the British public. It is simply a matter of fact that most people living in the UK oppose further NHS privatisation or for that matter any increase in public sector cuts. Furthermore, most people living in the UK are in favour of renationalising the railways, and judging by the current fiasco surrounding Southern Rail, those numbers are only likely to grow. Now bear with, because I’m actually going somewhere with this.

The idea that a genuinely left-of-centre Labour Party (after all, Jeremy Corbyn was never advocating full on Marxism) cannot win a general election is simply not true. Whether they like it or not, most of the British public is much further to the left than most of them care to ever admit, and if Labour’s next election campaign is fought on hard policy substance that actually resonates with the average voter, then five more years of Tory government might not, after all, be a foregone conclusion.

It would, of course, help if we had a leadership team that knew what they were doing. However, as I said at the start, the least productive thing we can possibly do is to collectively bury our heads in the sand. Owen Jones recently wrote an excellent blog post outlining the most potent questions that Corbyn supporters have got to answer if they ever want their man to be Prime Minister. Personally, I would like to add my two pennies worth into an inherently related point. While left-wing solutions such as renationalising the railways are very popular, Jeremy Corbyn also happens to cling on to several other positions which will simply have to be dropped if he’s to ever stand a chance at the ballot box. To start with, please do me a favour and listen to this BBC Radio interview.

Interviewer: “But do you condemn what the IRA did?”

Corbyn: “I condemn all bombing, it’s not a good idea, it’s terrible what happened…”

Interviewer: “It’s not the question. The question is ‘do you condemn what the IRA did?'”

Corbyn: “Look, I condemn what was done by the British Army as well as by other sides as well”

***

Interviewer: “But if you’re a potential candidate for Prime Minister of the UK, Jeremy, it’s fair for me to push you one more time. Are you prepared to condemn what the IRA did?”

Corbyn: “No, what it’s fair to push me on is how we take the peace process forward…”

Interviewer: “What’s fair for me to ask is…”

Corbyn: “You can ask any question you like…”

Interviewer: “Are you prepared to condemn what the IRA did?”

Corbyn: “Can I answer the question in this way? We gained ceasefires. They were important and they were a huge step forward. Those ceasefires brought about the peace process, brought about a reconciliation process, which is something we should all be pleased about. Can we take the thing forward rather than backwards?”

Now, when I listen to that exchange, I hear Jeremy Corbyn trying to strike a nuanced position on what is clearly not a simple black and white issue. Unfortunately, most people living in the UK will instead hear a terrorist sympathiser trying to avoid answering what they would view as a rather simple question. The question was, “are you prepared to condemn what the IRA did?”, and what your average voter wants to hear is, yes, I fully condemn the actions of the IRA. I condemn all bombing and it’s terrible what happened. Honestly, how hard can that possibly be?

Don’t assume you’ve heard the last of that interview, by the way. Because if Jeremy Corbyn remains as leader in time for the next general election, I’m willing to bet that you’ll be hearing those exact same words played out to you in a Conservative Party attack ad. As I already mentioned, there are certain positions which, if he actually wants to be Prime Minister, Jeremy Corbyn will have to abandon; and his lukewarm attitude towards Irish separatists is just the first in that list. Here are some more:

Trident

Look, personally I am against the UK renewing its nuclear deterrent. At a time of great economic uncertainty, it’s a giant waste of money on something we’ll never actually use. In the words of Tony Benn, “We have the best defended homeless people in the world”, but unfortunately, most of the UK electorate strongly disagrees. The truth is that no one really cares that much about Trident, that is until you actually bring it up.

Part of the reason Labour lost in 2015 was because The Conservatives did a sterling job in convincing the public that Ed Miliband could not be trusted with national security. Their argument went something along the lines of, should Milliband be forced to form a coalition with the staunchly anti-Trident SNP, all prior commitments to our nuclear deterrent will be dropped as a way of getting power. Were The Conservatives wrong? Probably, but I guess we’re unlikely to find out since Ed Milliband never became Prime Minister.

The battle for unilateral disarmament is a battle long lost. Now while I understand that for many on the left, including myself, this remains a pressing issue, it’s only one in a million issues we’ll never get to see addressed if Labour doesn’t form a government. Think what you will about Trident, but even hinting at its removal is politically toxic. It causes the wider electorate to think that we as a party simply cannot be trusted to keep them safe, which is after all the number one goal of any government. Just as a gentle reminder, the last time Labour had unilateral disarmament in its election manifesto, Margaret Thatcher won a majority of 144 seats.

Immigration

Contrary to popular belief, one does not always have to be a bigoted EDL supporter to discuss immigration policy in a way that’s slightly more critical than a John Lennon album. The vast majority of traditional Labour voters are indeed highly sceptical about both ours and The Conservative’s record with regard to this issue. This is why the majority of them voted for Brexit, and why many others have defected to UKIP.

Now no-one is saying that we need to shut the borders, deport all foreigners and blow up the channel tunnel (almost no-one anyway), however, Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on immigration will have to change from what currently might as well be blanket support for open borders. Again, I’m not saying we need to go back to Millibands moronic immigration mugs or anything of the sort, but Corbyn’s team have got to find a way to reconnect with all those currently sitting in team purple.

That policy solution will probably be partly determined by whatever deal on free movement Theresa May gets from the EU, but that policy solution will have to exist. If you want to look at it from a left-wing perspective, realistically, you can either have open borders or you can have a welfare state. Now go ahead and ask yourself which one is more likely to get you votes. Furthermore, this isn’t a black and white situation. You can absolutely discuss the many merits brought on by controlled immigration while understanding that an open borders policy cannon feasibly coexist alongside Keynesian economics.

The Monarchy

Much attention has already been brought to the fact that Jeremy Corbyn happens to be a republican. Now sure, it is a little silly that 21st century Britain still has an unelected head of state, and personally I’m not even a great fan of the British Monarchy. However, and I’m sorry if this is starting to become a common theme here, the vast majority of the electorate happens to disagree. The UK as a whole is still very much in favour of keeping the Royal Family, and thankfully Corbyn has in the past stated that this is not something which he seeks to make an issue of.

Well, would you look at that… A reasonable and mature response to an issue which Corbyn knows pits him against overwhelming public opinion. Brilliant! Now if only a similar attitude could be applied to Trident the man would immediately make himself more electable. That being said, why oh why would you not sing the National Anthem? I get it, the whole thing was blown way out of proportion by the right-wing media, but when the press is just looking for an excuse to attack you, you don’t start to feed them ammunition. If you want to be Prime Minister, as I hope Jeremy Corbyn actually does, you sing the National Anthem. Seriously.

Conclusion

This really should just come across as common sense, but if Labour is to have even a little chance of winning the next election, it needs to appeal to the wider public. This means reaching out and convincing people who typically do not vote Labour, as opposed to spending your entire time speaking to rallies full of the already converted in areas which were already going to vote for you. It doesn’t matter how many people come to hear you speak in Liverpool, or Newcastle or Manchester because Labour would still win Liverpool, Newcastle and Manchester even if it’s leader was a golden retriever or the ghost of Maggie Thatcher. As I previously mentioned, the British Public at large is not hostile to left-wing solutions, quite the opposite. However, there are a number of fringe beliefs held by the current party leadership which it would be wise to separate itself from. If it fails to do so, Theresa May will find herself living in Downing Street for a rather long time.