Labour goes for a ride with the “crazy, mad, wild-eyed, big-bottomed anarchists!!”

So 183,541 registered supporters paid their £25 to vote, most of them, for Jeremy Corbin. Owen Smith now sits at 9/2, ie still odds on to lose. And the first estimates are impressive, but confirm Smith is still pushing a heavy boulder up the hill.

The high re-admission cost hasn’t deterred dedicated Corbynistas from making sure their greybeard anti-hero wins the day. Corbyn for his part smells victory and is already preparing the napalm needed to smoke out the Blairites (the new term for all and any dis-loyalists in the PLP).

The British left (in general), it seems, needs to relearn the lessons of 30 years ago: ie that if you abandon the political field to the Conservative party, they will take it without even a mild gesture of thank you in the rear view mirror.

My first landfall in Britain was just after the 1983 general election.  Degsie Hatton was the socialist prince of Liverpool at the time. Before long the whole country was in gridlock over the miners strike, which rapidly segued away from the mines into a national call for Thatcher’s head.

It took another 14 years for a much less radical Blairite left to dig its way out of that tragically failed confrontation with Mrs Thatcher.

Unappealing as they may be, it’s hard not to sympathise with the plotters. There will be little or nothing left of the British Labour Party by the time they get it back. Mr Corbyn is but the latest symptom of cancer that’s been eating Labour since that fateful decision in 2003.

It’s been in full self-hating mode ever since Iraq: the best lack any idea of what remains of their mission; the worst are full of Yeatsian ‘intensity’. The negativity of holding a second leadership campaign in a year was inevitable.

But the venom aimed at Angela Eagle was both shocking and effective. Jimmy Leach:

The abuse is anecdotal and unacceptable. The negativity around Eagle is almost relentless. Sixty percent of mentions around her were negative, and only 15% positive. With those sort of numbers, you begin to suspect either an organised campaign or a culture of Groupthink.

The atmosphere generated in the party between the Corbynistas and ‘the rest’ (the ‘Blairite scum’, you know) has created a malevolence in tone which has made debate toxic and made a victim of Eagle.

Her perceived faults are laid out in full, and in detail, for social media audiences to pick over. The claims have varying degrees of veracity, with 6% claiming she’s dishonest and 17% claiming she faked the vandalism of her office — while, oddly, a further 7% accuse her of failing to control her supporters.

But as Jimmy also notes:

…if Labour is to survive in a recognisable form, then someone has to rise above that, to generate a positivity that survives the abuse and to have policy messages which people can actually hear over the noise.

Diane Abbot has already led the charge against the last man standing, Owen Smith on radio. Apparently working as a lobbyist for a Big Pharma company is on the list of banned activities for a Labour MP. Mr C’s defence of that attack was bizarre, to say the least:

In a sign of rising confidence that this second leadership election is all but in the bag, Mr Corbyn has put his recalcitrant MPs on notice that he wants full reselections after boundary changes are expected to further cripple a Labour party which is already 100 seats behind the Tories.

The logic is clear enough. He wants the party remade in the image of the membership and subservient to the views of the membership. Paul Evans wrote about the history of such moves over Labour’s history. The same self loathing is evident:

In the early 1950s, Richard Crossman quoted Roy Jenkins complaining that “…every force of demagogy and every emotion is against us. In the constituency parties, which are now opposition minded, the Bevanites have it all their own way. I suppose that one must wait for the tide to turn, as it did in the 1930s, from the Opposition-mindedness of 1931 to constructive politics.”

More than a decade in opposition followed. In the early ’80s, after the perceived betrayals of the Wilson / Callaghan governments, this opposition-mindedness was again rampant.

Something will take its place, eventually, but not before Mrs May has (with the help of UKIP and probably the Greens) reduced Labour to a rump. In already calling for an election Corbyn has made it easy for a Tory PM, who could do with a mandate for the difficult task of Brexiting.

(For those who point to Carl Rove’s clever 2004 campaign of getting out the base as a parallel for Corbyn Labour, please note that whatever his private misgivings about the EU where, right now a large chunk of Labour’s base is on Mrs May’s side, not Mr Corbyn’s).

Then, finally, someone may emerge from the left who a plan to fix some of the damage that anything up to ten years of unopposed Tory government will inevitably wreck. Not because they’re Tories, but like Blair’s administration, it is what unopposed.

Anyone read Zadie Smith’s piece in NY Review of Books yet?

It suggests to me that that the British left needs to re-find its centre. It’s just not necessarily in bl**dy Islington!

*Note that the title was stolen (with grateful thanks) from the very end of the Young Ones final episode.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • Pete

    So Corbyn doesn’t want “big pharma” doing medical research… Utterly mad.

  • Korhomme

    The triumph of ideology over reality?

    What is Labour for? A party of protest, or a party of government?

    Many of Corbyn’s ideas are appealing; this is where ‘gritty pragmatism’ enters, to put (some of) them into practice.

  • Skibo

    Mick, i cannot understand where you are going with this. “Then, finally, someone may emerge from the left who a plan to fix some of the damage” Problem is the parliamentary labour party is actually looking for someone from the centre to step forward.
    The groundswell of those who have joined the labour party seem to be on Corbyns’ wavelength. They are the people who will tramp the streets knocking the doors. That is what the party needs.
    Unfortunately the working class have been hoodwinked by Margaret Thatcher into thinking when they buy their own houses that they are middle class and strive to be conservative and better than what they have come from.
    Like my old Dad would say, “if you have to take your coat of to go to work, you are working class”
    Time people realised that the Conservatives are after one thing and that is to protect the highest tax payers and spread the load down the wage bracket onto those who can afford it least.
    Every time Conservative thinking comes to the fore, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. i include Tony Blair in that also.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Socialism has a future but it is a future envisioned by William Morris and Ruskin not Marx and Trotsky: in other words it is bottom up not top down. The Labour Party has a future: but it will be a future defined by whichever minority group obsessio eventually dominates: for the working class have abandoned it.

  • Declan Doyle

    There is an almost perfect storm forming for Scottish and Irish nationalism.

  • Obelisk

    Maybe part of the issue is the fact that the ‘British’ left is stretching itself too thin. And by British, we of course mean English because the left in Scotland feels to be in rude enough health.

    Maybe, with the diverging political cultures opening between Scotland and England, Labour and the Liberal Democrats should over their coming time in the wilderness work out a political platform appealing to the English rather than the British as a whole.

  • Abucs

    I think a bottom up approach will take a huge change of mindset for most declared socialists. But i agree it would be a beneficial change.

  • chrisjones2

    Yes …both will be wrecked for another generation

  • chrisjones2

    He must want it done by barefoot doctors in thatched cottage hospitals producing holistic socialist solutions that will support the workers -when they are not on strike

  • Obelisk

    I’m christening this the Titanic spirit. The inability of some Unionists to recognise a threat that’s right in front of them.

    Not the inevitability of the threat mind you, it’s existence.

    Mike Nesbitt recognised the danger when he stated Irish Nationalism was being reawakened after all.

    You, seemingly, can’t. Does naming the danger make it any more real than it is? Or if you stick your head in the sand do you really think it will go away?

  • Declan Doyle

    Maybe, maybe not.

  • The company Owen Smith worked for has continually campaigned for more private work in the NHS, and has been fined in the USA for withholding data on trials that produced negative results. So we need to make sure the research takes place in the public sector, even when paid by pharmaceutical companies.

  • aquifer

    Asking committees and civil servants to make big risky financial decisions sounds a bit mad, but using the data buried in the NHS to find out what works makes utter sense. e.g. Unpatentable natural substances and medicines with expired patents may cure people very well.

    Do I trust Corbyn to make a hard decision about releasing sensitive medical data or to spend money on expensive middle class people analysing it or to allow UK companies to make global money with the results?


  • aquifer

    How might the electorate or people who know something about the area they work in participate in this?

    Or an employed Belfast ‘socialist’?

    Labour rejected state funding for political parties who could facilitate a productive and inclusive political process, so this likely to end in lowest marxist common denominator groupthink in the local branches, followed by a purge from either the left or right.

    The Labour left rejected deep thought in favour of good old British empiricism, ‘what works’ (getting a parliamentary majority again). They could be paying for this neglect of their mental faculties for a long time.

  • hgreen

    Good grief. Now people are accusing Corbyn of being a luddite. Is there anything else we’ve forgotten to accuse him of?

  • hgreen

    Other medical research departments exist. Don’t worry big pharma will continue to do research if there’s a profit to be made.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    ‘Titanic Spirit’. I like it.

  • MalcolmRedfellow

    I’ve seen it attributed to Harold Wilson (who, in any case, was never averse to purloining a good line).

    Jim Callaghan (who knew such things) puts it into the mouth of Morgan Phillips, the Labour Party General Secretary from 1944 to 1961.

    Either way, it says more, and more succinctly than either terence patrick hewett or myself:

    The Labour Party owes more to Methodism than to Marxism.

  • Biftergreenthumb

    “the venom aimed at Angela Eagle was both shocking and effective”

    Corbyn has had nonstop venon aimed at him from his election at labour leader. We’re constantly told he’s incompetent and unelectable. That his supporters are bullies, infiltrators, Trots etc. You just described Corbyn as a “symptom of cancer”. Painting Eagle as a victim in order to justify the continued abuse of Corbyn is hypocritical.

    “He wants the party remade in the image of the membership and subservient to the views of the membership.”

    Imagine that! A party that represents the views of its members? Insanity! What is this a democracy?!

  • MalcolmRedfellow

    I’m assuming that Mick Fealty’s aside about Zadie Smith in the NYRB is not her opener (about London schools) but her second-placed item on:

    Two days later the British voted for Brexit. I was in Northern Ireland, staying with my in-laws, two kindly, moderately conservative Northern Irish Protestants with whom I found myself, for the first time in our history, on the same side of a political issue. The shock I’d felt at the school gates I now felt in front of their enormous telly, as together we watched England fence itself off from the rest of Europe, with hardly a thought about what this meant for its Scottish and Irish cousins in the north and the west.

    … in Northern Ireland it was clear that one thing it certainly wasn’t about, not even slightly, was Northern Ireland, and this focused the mind on what an extraordinary act of solipsism has allowed this long-brutalized little country to become the collateral damage of an internal rift within the Conservative Party. And Scotland! It’s hard to credit. That two supposedly well-educated men, who have presumably read their British history, could with such utter recklessness throw into hazard a hard-won union of three hundred years’ standing—in order to satisfy their own professional ambitions—appeared that morning a larger crime, to me, than the severing of the decades-long European pact that actually prompted it all.

    “Conservative” is not the right term for either of them anymore: that word has at least an implication of care and the preservation of legacy. “Arsonist” feels like the more accurate term. Michael Gove and Nigel Farage meanwhile are the true right-wing ideologues, with clear agendas toward which they have been working for many years. The first had his sights on the Trojan horse of “sovereignty,” from inside of which empty symbol an unfettered deregulated financial sector was supposed to leap. The second, who resigned on July 4, seemed to be in the grip of a genuine racial obsession, combined with a determination to fence off Britain from the European mainstream not only on the question of freedom of movement but on a range of issues from climate change to gun control to repatriation of immigrants.

    I find it hard to argue against any of that.

    The last time the English establishment (and that’s where the problem began, not with the PBI who merely exercised a vote) did anything like this — which amounts to kicking over the table in the hope the cards fall better — was when they invited a Dutch invasion and take-over.

  • Biftergreenthumb

    “So Corbyn doesn’t want “big pharma” doing medical research… Utterly mad.”

    Regardless of Corbyn’s view, it’s not “utterly mad” to think that medical research should be publicly funded.

    If research is carried out by private companies for profit then the various companies are in competition with each other. This means they do not share their data. We therefore end up with duplication of effort. Whichever company wins the race gets a patent and gets to go to market rendering the efforts of the other companies wasted. However, if research carried out through universities or other publicly funded institutions the data is made publicly available and teams share their results and so don’t duplicate effort. Collaboration can be more efficient than competition.

    As well as this private companies will understandably want to make a profit off whatever drug they invent and patent. Life saving drugs are often unaffordable in poorer countries, the governments of which won’t be legally able to make generic versions of the drug as the pharma company owns the patents. meaning that poor people don’t get access to the medical treatment they need.

    When research is carried out by private companies for the sake of profit they understandably invest their time a recourses in profitable areas. This means that resources are priorities based on the desires of the rich rather than the needs of the poor. So for example each year more money is spent on researching baldness cures than research into malaria.
    It makes complete sense to think that medical research should be publicly rather than privately funded.

  • hgreen

    Yes the cancer phrase was either plain nasty or simply a poor choice of words.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Jim Callaghan and George Brown were both lovely people

  • terence patrick hewett

    I rather think that the sell by date of the Union has been passed Malc. The forces of empire and the industrial revolution which kept it together are no longer there so emergent nationalism of the 4 nations will in the end do for it. Federation is to me the only passage to keep it together.

  • Abucs

    It seems to me that socialists tend to want complete control over so many things – wages, prices, housing, welfare, even language etc etc and then they claim there will be a utopia.

    I would like to see them create a utopia at the council level, or at a regional level first based on business, self sufficiency and people working together for a common cause. Then they can make the case for the rest of the country.

    It seems at the local level and regional level all the socialist policies are about getting money from somewhere else in a cry of ‘equality justice’ which fails because of resistance to theft, basic maths and the nature of people.

    Let’s see if a type of local socialism can put runs on the board first instead of this really divisive mindset that wants complete control of the whole country to take other people’s wealth from productive sectors.

  • kensei

    Are you seriously trying to tell me that the Blairite vision of the future was Angela Eagle? Utterly useless and a candidate put up to shunted out prior to the next election. And given the right wing press, a Labour Leader that can’t deal with venom is a dead letter – it’ll be a 100 times worse heading into an election.

    As for reselection and section, its not clear to me that

    * A united Labour party wouldn’t be doing better, even if they were united in a more left wing direction

    * That Corbyn has really fine much worse than Miliband, as yet, given the relative state of play

    * UKIP aren’t a busted flush, post Brexit

    * Anyone can predict what will happen in the next 2 months in this climate, much less the next number of years

    But all the biblical talk of the end of the Labour Party is hot air. The worst that is likely to happen is that Labour take a spanking, Corbyn resigns and Labour goes in a new direction with some of their demon’s worked out and more harmkney between members and representatives. That’s the healthiest thing.

  • the rich get richer

    There seems to be a lot of them about . Big numbers joining the Labour party and going by recent opinion polls it may be better to listen to those willing to join parties……

  • mattwardman

    Do you have some evidence that Corbyn is:

    a – Competent?
    b – Electable?

  • Biftergreenthumb

    He’s been elected as an MP in every general election since 1983. He won the labour leadership with 59%. The biggest mandate that any leader has ever won and more than all the other candidates put together. Labour’s membership has increased since he became leader to over half a million. Over 180,000 new members joined last week alone. They have won 4 by elections since he became leader. They won London Mayor as well as mayoral elections in Salford, Liverpool and Bristol since Corbyn has been leader. 63% of labour voters voted to Remain in the EU referendum. David Cameron could only get 42% of conservative voters to vote Remain.

    That’s pretty successful by any standards.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Me too!!! Unionism had about another two elections to work out how to accommodate a probable united Ireland (or the evident probability of one) but with this iceberg they will have to change even faster. The Belfast Agreement always relied on the idea that much could be simply taken for granted with British and Irish membership of the EU, now there is no anchor to stop drift into unforeseen possibilities.

    I’m just waiting for someone to suggest the partition of partition to squeeze a few more decades out of the original mistake for Antrim and Down.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    It helps to have some family awareness of the origins of Labour in the days before all Socialism became theoretically Marxist. Real (not caricatured) Anarchism (“mutual aid”) and Syndicalism both ensured a bottom up approach.

  • SeaanUiNeill
  • Reader

    David newman: So we need to make sure the research takes place in the public sector, even when paid by pharmaceutical companies.
    That doesn’t follow. Instead, how about a mandatory register of trials, to be filled in at the start of a trial and updated afterwards? Great for preventing companies sweeping results under the carpet, and great for facilitating meta-analysis.
    Big pharma needs more scientific accountability, not more bureaucratic accountability.

  • Abucs

    Any concept of mutual aid requires mutual agreement and consent. Otherwise it becomes totalitarianism and theft.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I simply can’t begin to imagine how “Mutual” Aid could be other than mutual and consensual.

    Most current Socialism is simply a victim of the success of Bolshivism and the Marxist colouring it has given to every brand of socialism. Kropotkin was writing in an era when Marxism was simply one single thread within a multiplicity of Socialisms, and his thinking is profoundly at odds with the Social Darwinian thinking of winner/compulsion which drives both Capitalism and its Marxist mirror.