Zoe Williams offers some good advice to UK Labour in this mornings Guardian:
The extent of the electoral loss in Copeland is a dead end: it was an open-and-shut disaster. There is no media conspiracy to make it seem worse than it was, no historical or psephological reading that can mitigate the loss, nor any mileage in balancing it against Stoke and calling it quits. But the hyena-like circling of the carcass of Corbyn’s plan is morbid; the delight of making his allies account for the defeat, then laughing at their wild answers, merely feeds the stubbornness and sense of siege that is keeping Project Corbyn alive.
Even for a journalist who has perfected the snear as weapon par excellence, it’s still a sound line of argument, and very much in line with the logic of George Lakoff’s advice to drowning US in our latest Friday thread:
Criticising Donald Trump is likely saying “don’t think of an elephant” (I wrote a book called Don’t think of an Elephant) where Nixon said “I am not a crook”. You negate something and it makes people think of it. It strengthens the people you are arguing against.
When Labour cannot think of how useless their current leader is, or how dangerous it might be to replace him with a Blairite, every other consideration goes out the window:
As magnetic as they are, the downside of these debates is that they obliterate the agenda, leaving nothing on it but one irreconcilable item. We have a government that can talk about nothing but Europe, and an opposition that can talk about nothing but Tony Blair. If you wanted a Labour party that was not just united and electable, but also creative and generative, where would your attention be?
Some Constituency Labour Parties (CLP) are now doing workshops on placard making. The political party founded to contend for power with the British establishment is now reduced to a protest movement, negating the very purpose for which it was founded. This retreat from seriousness is a contributing factor in the Copeland defeat (‘it was a marginal’ says McDonell), and the too narrow escape in Stoke (which by the deputy leaders own logic has now been rendered marginal).
Williams pinpoints the key weakness identifying only failure in the Blair era (when Labour was shipping historically numbers of votes in Copeland):
What does Blairite even mean any more, in this party? His worst errors – Iraq, PFI, financial deregulation – are repudiated now by everybody, give or take Peter Mandelson, and his successes nobody will talk about, for fear of being allied to the failures. Since there is no such thing as a Blairite, it would be better to judge likely successors by what they say and do, whereupon you’d worry more about how close Umunna’s views are to those of George Osborne, you’d notice that Jarvis says and does almost nothing, and you’d recognise a lot of issues on which Starmer is actually to the left of Lewis – and hopefully then question how useful this shorthand is.
The contrast with how Fianna Fáil handled their own contemparenious catastrophic failures in government could not be starker. Apart from apologising for his party’s poor helmsmanship, Michael Martin kept his own counsel for 18 months aware as one senior party source told Slugger at the time ‘no one wanted to hear from them’.
That period of contrition coupled with a subsequent series of government missteps has allowed FF to reconnect with its past achievements in a way that Corbyn’s short and catastrophic period as leader makes profoundly more difficult for U.K. Labour.
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