Corbyn has a long way to go before he can spend any political capital on dealing with his NI rebels

Interesting piece from Siobhan Fenton in the News Statesman looking at the decision of the local UK Labour Party in principle to stand for elections in Northern Ireland… Siobhan calls it a ‘crisis’ which it might be if anyone in the broader Labour party takes notice…

The Northern Irish branch are currently inviting local people to come forward as potential candidates and describe themselves as “snowed under” with interest. Labour’s neglect of and disinterest in Northern Irish members for decades means that many issues have gone unresolved and rebellious intent has been left to embed itself deeply. Now that the branch have broken ranks after decades of frustration and inaction, it may be too late for Labour to stop the momentum without major dissent and a fractured party.

On the scale of things, a few members running for the Assembly next May (in which – barring huge and unforeseen events –  they are highly unlikely to win anything) is not likely to be seen as one of the Labour leader’s more pressing problems.

Winning the London Mayoral office (a major and key reason why Cameron has delayed yesterday’s scheduled Heathrow announcement) and preventing the party Scotland hurtling through the floor. As Aiden Kerr notes, the latest Holyrood poll puts them

…on a lowly 20% and 19% of the constituency and regional vote respectively. On these figures they would return to the Scottish Parliament in May with 25 MSPs, 12 fewer than their worst ever showing in 2011. The SNP would in contrast win 50% and 46% of votes earning them 72 MSPs.

He warns too that the voters that are left to the Labour party aren’t really a great match for the Corbynite leftists (that wing has swung decisively away to the SNP)…

The Labour Left have badly misjudged the Scottish electorate if they believe that all you have to do win here is to adopt a manifesto of 50 shades of Socialism. The key to the SNP’s success has been middle class subsidies not tax raids.

If higher taxes and a relaxed attitude to the constitution is what Corbynism is in Scotland then it will suffer, and suffer badly. The tide is yet to turn. Scottish Labour have less than a 150 days to marshal the waves. At this point Corbynism looks set to sink in Scotland.

Without Scotland, England (and the UK) is a one party political playground for the Conservatives.  Ditto Scotland for the SNP. I doubt that Mr Corbyn, much as he may disapprove of his Northern Irish rebels, will spend too much time worrying about them this year.

The Labour party is now awash with new volunteers and activists throughout the UK. Aligning that great enthusiasm with the hopes and fears of a much broader, more febrile and far less political electorate will take a lot longer longer than the next one, two or even three regional elections.

  • mjh

    Is there any evidence that the Labour party throughout the UK is now “awash with new volunteers and activists”?

    It seem logical that a multiplication in membership would lead to a multiplication in the numbers prepared to raise funds, deliver leaflets, knock on doors and serve on committees. But I heard one MP interviewed who claimed that he had emailed the hundreds of new members in his constituency three times about taking part in party activities but had received only a handful of replies, with even fewer actually showing up. All the work, it seems, was still going to have to be done by the same old-faithfulls.

  • chrisjones2

    Labour in England and Wales is now a fractured shambolic mess and the election of Corbyn can only accelerate its demise.

    On every level Corbyn is utterly unsuitable as a leader.

    He comes from a history of factionalism. Internally he has surrounded himself with a rag bag of failed dissidents from the 1970s 80-s and 90s whose ideas the electorate long ago rejected and who are irredeemably drawn from the Westminster Bubble. Several of these – like Livingstone and Abbott – provoke internal fights and dissent almost every time they open their mouths. They are serial problems and he cannot shake them off – indeed he doesnt want to

    The rest of his ‘strong supporters’ are careerist who were once Blairite then Millibandite but have now seen the light of real socialism and, like Burnham and Thornberry, will support Corbyn to the end – ie until the next opportunity arises. They also fail to – what shall I say – exude an air of Ministerial competence?

    Corbyn has appalling judgement. Every MP is bombarded to write letters to courts supporting constituents. But most would think twice about doing so to support an alleged Somali refugee charged with allegedly targeting very elderly pensioners , stealing £600k of their savings and sending the proceeds to support Jihadis in Syria. But Jeremy managed to do that! Whoops

    On bombing Syria he came within an inch of destroying his own cabinet and promoting a schism in his party and left a number of his own MPs facing death threats and abuse from his claimed supporters

    Financially the party is a wreck and its donors are walking away leaving him and it more and more in hock to the Unions. Unless things change it could well go bankrupt

    All of this will not continue until the next election. Either he will go early in 2016 or the party will split as soon as some of the moderate rats realise they cannot go on and decide to gnaw their way out of the sack.

    The only reason that the Conservatives haven’t eviscerated him already is that they are happy to see him there hollowing out and destroying Labour from within. As many have said – it was the best £3 they ever spent

  • Great news about that MP. It looks like his local Labour party has not learned how to engage volunteers as done successfully in the USA, the SNP and parts of the GPEW. You don’t just email, you telephone them to come to a social.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Not a single quote, comment, or remark from either James Corbyn or the Labour Party Press Office.

    The vast majority of this thread is about Scotland and Labour’s struggles there. Are we supposed to believe that the Labour Party standing in Northern Ireland is going to be the panacea that is going to fix its Scotland problem?

    And why shouldn’t Corbyn put a lower populated constituency like NI lower down the agenda, should he ignore his English, Welsh and Scottish problems?

    Should Labour NI ignore its party’s English, Welsh and Scottish problems?
    Because the rest of the UK is 33 times bigger at the end of the day.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Pretty much sums up why I would not involved in representational politics and probably will never be.

  • chrisjones2

    They seem to be all online denigrating and trolling the former members. Corbyn has made it a magnet for every loon and left wing nutter

  • Korhomme

    Could you be an independent?

  • Korhomme

    Corbyn may well be unsuitable as a leader; but you must explain how and why so many voted for him. Did he articulate views with resonate with so many? If so, why are these views so unsuitable?

    (No, I’m not sure I can fully explain this paradox either, nor fit it into ‘normal’ politics.)

  • 23×7

    Sounds like you’d feel right at home.

  • Ernst Blofeld

    Alot of orange men stood as labour candidates during the big dockers strike at the start of the 19th cent…my God how easy the protestant people of this country have been duped since then

  • Ernst Blofeld

    Chris I find it hard to believe that you think that any of these MP’S make any decision until there told to by the bureau

  • Kevin Breslin


    Doesn’t change the game, you just get a free go to pick your teammates.

  • NMS

    Surely you mean 20th century!

  • Croiteir

    Did you miss the recent by election?

  • Croiteir

    If the London HQ plays it right they will say nothing and do nothing. Let the local buckoos run for election first. If they fall on their faces at the ballot box let them fall on their swords thereafter. Tell them to go away for breaking the rules. If they do well then support them. Nothing to lose and everything to gain.

  • chrisjones2

    No not at all. Local candidate who was a from the centre ground of the party and fought a moderate campaign and kept Corbyn at arms length all through the campaign. His main opponent was the UKIPers and 30% of the vote was Asian that was always coming his way

  • chrisjones2

    He was supported by thousands who voted against the incumbents. They expected to win GE15 and were destraugtht that the voters didnt agree and thought that Milliband was a loon

    He was supported by the Unions who want power without responsibility

    He was supported by then s of thousands who paid £3 to help consign Labour to the dustbin of history

  • chrisjones2

    Dont get confused …..thats the SNP, SF and the DUP you are talking about …in fact most parties where the name ends in ‘ist’

  • Pete

    The by election was a very safe seat.

  • Granni Trixie

    If indeed claims of LPNI having 1700 paid up members is true I would be surprised.

  • Ernst Blofeld

    Yes brother 20th I’ve a few grolsch in me the night …

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “He was supported by then s of thousands who paid £3 to help consign Labour to the dustbin of history”…

    Numbers Chris, rather than carefully constructed media myths. I suppose the “Green Surge” was all Torys too!

    You’re not answering Korhomme’s question, are you?

  • Croiteir

    Increased vote?

  • Croiteir

    So it all existed in a non-Corbyn bubble then? – aye right

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Corbyn has never really cared about Northern Ireland and he won’t start now. His views on the province are those of someone emotionally disengaged from its people.

  • Slater

    The problem is Corbyn supports a united Ireland (and partition elsewhere in Europe) so long as the others supporting the policy are anti-British, anti-American, anti-West and/or anti-imperialist.
    In the event, he will hide behind the SDLP have the Labour franchise position, and the Tory/FO view, held since Gladstone’s time, that London has to be a referee in Northern Ireland, not a player.
    That got us 45 years of unionist misrule from 1921 followed by 45 years of war so it is obviously a success.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    I agree with Mick; in fact I’d go further. Fenton’s article is ridiculous. The threat by some marginal activists that they will start losing elections in public, rather than continue in obscurity, is hardly a “crisis”, let alone “major dissent and a fractured party”.

    I’ve lost count of the number of Labour parties that have been launched in Northern Ireland. Back in 1989 there were actually two different Labour candidates in the European election. During the Mitchell talks in 1996-98 a “Labour” group slumped over the finish line with 0.85% of the vote, and then promptly vanished. What is new this time?

    Surely the hypothesis that Northern Ireland voters are desperate to vote for mainland parties was tested to destruction by the fate of the Tories (1.3% in May, less than 0.1% in West Belfast) and the related UCUNF disaster of 2010?

    I suppose wishful thinking remains a powerful motivator; but it doesn’t get you elected.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Since you live in Belgium, in your opinion how does the Socialistische Partij Anders and Parti Socialiste relationship work out in the end?

    Many have suggested nationalist/unionist left-to-right spectrum might be better route to “normal politics” than simply having big house/big church nationalist/unionist parties with big house collectivist Alliance party.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    It was easier for politics here to go the route they did because of the 85%-90% geographical differentiation. Anywhere outside Brussels there are candidates either from Flemish parties or from the equivalent Francophone parties, but not both. It’s usually easier to have both parties of a particular brand, or neither, in the federal government because their values tend to be similar. Having said that, the current government includes the Flemish Christian Democrats but not their Francophone equivalents, and the PS were in the Leterme/Van Rompuy coalitions without sp.a.

    As I’ve said before, I disagree profoundly with this notion of “normal politics”. I think the voters have also repeatedly delivered their verdict on this. Those who talk about “normal politics” actually mean “English politics” – not Scottish or Welsh, where Labour and the Nationalists compete for the top spot, with Tories, Lib Dems and Greens duking it out for the lower rankings. Most Northern Irish voters know Scotland at least as well as they know England, and can spot the difference between “normal” and “English”, in politics or anything else.

    So there is no “better route”. Just like everywhere else, Northern Ireland will define its own “normal”. You and I may not like it, but that’s the way it is.

  • Granni Trixie

    Please will you explain what you mean by “big house collectivist Allance party”?

  • Granni Trixie

    On what are you basing the “not really caring” Corbyn assertion – and I ask this because I know little about him other than reports/images suggesting that he is captured by SF narratives.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Well the accusation of non-“social democrats” joining the SDLP sometimes applies to Alliance members who aren’t political liberals/constitutional agnostics.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The Tories, Labour and UKIP pretty much bury the English Democrats on the Tudor Rose question.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    I’m not aware of the “Tudor Rose question” in this context. I have only come across it as the theory that the Earl of Southampton was really the illegitimate son of the Earl of Oxford and Elizabeth I.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    Good question, not really answered!

  • MainlandUlsterman

    His support for SF is/was ideological, was my point, because he sees them as basically a revolutionary left wing party, that (excitingly for frustrated middle class Citizen Smiths) does what some on the very hard left would like to elsewhere. So he had a kind of intellectual support for what SF purported to be. But not caring enough to spend any time looking into whether they really held the values they claimed. SF can talk the talk of course and for people like Corbyn, that’ll do nicely – “no thanks, I don’t need to hear any more”.

    In the face of the reality of what the Republican Movement was in those years – a grotesquely cruel, yet somehow self-righteous, ultra-nationalistic killing machine – a well-meaning person could only follow them if they were supremely disengaged from the feelings of the vast bulk of people in Northern Ireland. Outside the ten per cent or so of core Republican true believers, it’s fair I think to say pretty much everyone else hated them. Corbyn might have discovered that had he shown any interest in us as people (and I include unionists and nationalists there – the SDLP weren’t nationalist enough for him either). He had very little interest.

    If someone can point me to where he’s written something insightful or intelligent about Northern Ireland, I’ll take a look. All he seems to have done is gratefully ingested whatever the Republican line of the day was – troops out, armed struggle, British must withdraw etc then when SF decides to pursue the peace process, hey presto, there’s Corbyn spouting the same Orwellian sh** they spout. He seems a decent man towards his own constituents, which suggests he wasn’t really switched on when it came to us. I’ve said it elsewhere, he’s a little Englander really. It’s ironic how the hard left in England, for all their ‘internationalism’ and embracing of ethnic diversity (which I admire them for) often have a condescending and ungenerous attitude towards the non-English parts of the UK. In their un-thought-through way, many of them default into an odd form of self-hating English nationalism. They are an odd bunch.

    Sorry for the habitual long answer btw.

  • Granni Trixie

    Sorry, still not clear to me what you mean. What I can say with confidence however is that APNI comprises people coming from diverse positions – who perhaps assume they have more in common than they actually do.. It is hard work to make the party gel as a cnsequence – but that’s another story.

  • Granni Trixie

    I appreciate your expanded answer.

  • Kevin Breslin

    My nickname for the whole “EVEL” agenda, given the Tudor Rose is the generic symbol for England.

  • kensei

    And they also pretty likely to be familiar with the Southern system, at least on the Nationalist side. There again you have PR and a multi party system, and to boot the two main parties aren’t really all that split over left-right ideology.

    There are a lot of people who are very vocally fed up with the sectarian split. There are a large number tuned out of politics altogether. But the vats majority are happy to carry on voting along those lines, for whatever reason.

  • TruthToPower

    Politics is primarily about deciding how finite resources are acquired and distributed. The English model is pure as this is what it does. However in NI, we do not have such a polity. If I am a left wing unionist who abhors violence past, who do I vote for? If I am a free market nationalist Catholic who do I vote for?

    Such voters have to choose from a limited menu and are forced to vote for parties who put nationality above economic choices.

    That’s why NI, Bosnia Herzogovina ( a Frankenstein entity if there ever was one. Just let Republika Srpska join Serbia for goodness sake. ) and Belgium are political basket cases whereas England is not.

    There is a difference between being normal and being used to dysfunctionality

  • Nicholas Whyte

    “The English model is pure”

    If that’s your starting point, we’ll have to agree to disagree.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Agree entirely, I think there is some Anglo-American dogma that politics can reduce to two parties, simply because it has been a long time since it was anything but a two way system. However you can look at Canada in that Anglo-American hinterland as a great example of a third party putting the cat among the pigeons.

    Unionism and nationalism didn’t fall from the sky, it was seen as the only means that minority groups (and both are minority groups in both the UK and island of Ireland context) acquire any self determination over economic choices. Until people realise this has very little to do with flags and culture and more to do with the reality this small part of the U.K. as it stands either has to work to network on the periphery or graciously submit to a majority which excludes it then practical politics is impossible.

  • Hugh Davison

    Yes, then there was a possibility of Labour establishing roots in the working class community of Belfast as they did in Dublin. Unfortunately sectarianism intervened (I won’t go into an analysis of the background to that: Let’s just say other interests felt threatened by the prospect of a united working class). The concept of a UK Labour Party operating in this part of the UK is just a little surreal, to my mind (apologies to any who think it’s a runner).