I caused some consternation on Facebook this week, when in light of news reports that suggested Jeremy Corbyn might be on the cusp of being elected Labour leader I said if he won the race I would have to consider returning to the fold.
I’ve spent the better part of my life in a love-hate relationship with Labour, and I have long lamented the steady move right that saw myself and others exit the party Stage Left, as it were.
I asked those who criticised me how, in good conscience, I could contemplate standing on the side-lines, or even in opposition, when Labour, the party I had been a member of for over a decade was being led by a man who’s politics absolutely reflected my own?
My friends told me that even if Corbyn somehow won the race, he would be marginalised within his own party and boxed into a corner from which he could not get out.
In short, he wouldn’t last a year.
After two days of reviewing the reaction to Corbyn’s sudden prominence in the race I have to painfully conclude that they are right.
Labour was part of me for a long time, and I thought I would always have a piece of myself that longed to see them remade and reborn as something better.
When he was elected leader I wanted Miliband to succeed so much that I could taste it, and although I am now a lifelong convert to the cause of independence I didn’t turn my head away completely from him until the night, during the election, when he said he would rather have Cameron in Downing Street than talk to the SNP.
I felt betrayed as a socialist, as a former member and as a Scot.
It was a despicable statement, and I knew that night I didn’t care if he won or lost.
Corbyn is not Miliband though.
His political credentials and his social conscience are not in the slightest dispute.
He is “one of us”, a guy who’s stood on the picket lines and attended protest marches and who has watched the rightward movement of Labour with the same dismay and disgust as any former member.
He opposes Trident, the monarchy, is against austerity and he believes that talking with those on the fringes is better than bombing them and making them hate us even more. He is a sensible, compassionate, thoroughly decent man.
Corbyn is, in short, everything myself and others want a Labour leader to be.
He is exactly what political discourse in this country is crying out for; a party leader who will call austerity the fraud that it is and who will drive a train through the political “consensus” which has eliminated every dissenting voice, and which has had the perverse consequence of making the SNP the only genuine opposition party in the UK.
Corbyn would not just challenge this lamentable status quo.
He would obliterate it.
This is why others will never allow it to happen, and if it did they would set their clocks to destroying his leadership before it had properly begun.
The Labour Party leadership election going on in London is the most democratic ever to take place in the organisation, utilising the One Member One Vote system which I first heard Tony Blair propose, but which Labour dropped whenever it suited them.
This was supposed to erode the influence of the unions.
This was supposed to make it easier to elect one of the Blairite drones who buzzed briefly and then dropped out of the race, all but Liz Kendall, who is about as clearly in the wrong party as it’s possible to be.
Yet there are some who are already saying they won’t accept the result if it’s Corbyn who wears the crown at the end.
That he’s “too left wing.”
Too left wing for Labour.
Not surprising when you consider that even David Cameron’s government of horrible bastards has managed to outflank them there in the last month.
The reaction to Corbyn’s surge has been truly incredible and disturbing.
The right flank of Labour – which once thought it had the keys to the kingdom – has been absolutely hysterical, especially when you consider that not a single membership vote has actually been cast.
The collapse of the Blairite wing has been almost total.
It surely has not escaped their notice that those who fully espouse that type of politics are more on the fringes than someone like Corbyn now, with Kendall all set to finish stone last when the votes are counted, in spite of “party grandees” backing her almost to a person.
The writing is on the wall for these people … but still their “narrative” is the one that plays best in the media, which is not only sharpening the knives for Corbyn but has already stabbed him a few times for good measure.
I am more worried about the so-called “mainstream” of the party, those who agree with Harriet Harperson that welfare needs to be cut to the bone, that they need to be even futher to the right than now, that opposing the Tory budget sends out “the wrong message” to the country.
I mean Jesus wept. The wrong message.
I went through every single national newspaper over the weekend and the horror I feel at reading them has morphed into a grim realisation about what has to be done. Too much of the Labour Party is tainted beyond saving.
There is no fertile ground in which to sow the seeds of fresh ideas. Instead, there is a toxic wasteland in which nothing living will grow.
The activist base is about as pissed off as it’s possible to be, but that’s no matter because their voices don’t count.
The party hierarchy speak the mechanical language of the business seminar and its elected officials are gutless cowards or despicable frauds, following public opinion via focus groups and convincing themselves that “leading” involves going where the number crunchers steer you.
And it dawns on me reading all this that Labour is finished whether it elects Corbyn or not, and with that ends even the remotest chance of left of centre politics establishing itself as a serious proposition in the UK.
Senior members of Labour will not countenance the party becoming more representative of working people.
Enough of them will walk away, with some perhaps crossing the House, to make Corbyn’s position untenable from the first day.
Those who stay will try to destabilise him at every turn.
I would not wish that on him, or anyone.
It would be better for Corbyn to lose than to try and run such a fractured, colossally selfish organisation as Labour has become.
The damage of two decades of promoting careerism has taken the predictable toll.
There is no passion left, no desire to fight the good fight.
They would rather ride the middle of the road, with the occasional drag right.
They have no concept of what it means to engage the enemy in battle, to argue for real progressive ideas.
As to the media, they will not even entertain the concept, with the merest suggestion that someone who speaks the same language as millions of people in this country, and to their direct concerns, might just be elected to lead a major political party being enough to spark a melt-down.
I half suspect that Corbyn is attracting this much heat because they realise he may well be highly effective.
The Labour membership has warmed to him the more they’ve heard and it is hard not to conclude that he would have the same effect on the public.
If a joker like Farage can click with ordinary people when he is clearly a clown, an articulate, thoughtful, intelligent man with the warmth Corbyn has in abundance would be spectacular.
No matter. His grave is already dug.
The media is already fitting him up for various negative tags and one of their tactics has been to try and paint him as an extremist in the mould of Galloway.
The focus on an innocuous remark he made about Hamas is just the start.
One newspaper put him on the front page last week because he signed an Early Day Motion supporting homeopathic treatments, as if that’s some kind of lunatic point of view.
And yet part of me still hopes that he does it, that he wins the election itself, but it’s not because I hold out any hope that he can win power and change this country.
It’s because Corbyn’s impact, here in Scotland, would be electrifying to say the least.
The major losers, apart from the Blairite wing which would be routed once and for all, would be the SNP and that will certainly have dawned on the party leadership. Angus Robertson moved quickly to offer a hand of partnership to a Corbyn led Labour Party, but he has to know what the ultimate consequence of it would be in terms of his own party’s support.
They would lose ten percentage points on Day 1.
To their credit, many of them are quite open about embracing the idea nonetheless.
Because Corbyn’s leadership could make two enormous contributions to politics in Scotland.
On the one hand, he would hold the SNP’s feet to the fire and keep them honest, and push their political leadership to take an ever more radical course.
That, in itself, would cement Scottish political discourse on the left flank and would be a long term game changer.
But ultimately, Corbyn would probably be destroyed within a short space of time, partly by the media and partly by the Westminster system itself.
It would be swift and it would be brutal and the irony (or maybe not) is that the greater his impact with the public the more venomous would be the attacks launched against him, until it was all over.
The final consequence would be that the Scottish left would finally realise what some of us have long known; that it is not even so much the political parties themselves but the whole Westminster system that is the problem here.
Westminster Village is an incestuous place, and everyone in it is hopelessly compromised.
Furthermore, these problems are now systemic, and impossible to root out.
Even the right leader, with policies that appeal to the broad sweep of our country, will not succeed in changing that.
This system cannot be changed from within any longer.
Even I, who once held out hope that the left could pick the lock, come to power almost by stealth, and change things radically in one term … well even I no longer believe it can be done.
That system is too far gone, too invested in itself and incapable now of reform.
I realise that my dismay over the last few days has been most acute because I hadn’t fully reconciled myself to that yet, although I thought I had.
It’s all over now. Labour itself is an organisation without hope.
The song with which the party was once most closely associated says “whilst cowards flinch and traitors sneer, we’ll keep the red flag flying here.”
The last few days have thoroughly extinguished any flame of hope there was left.
The cowards and the traitors will be all that’s left when the dust settles on this leadership race.
The future of Labour is as a party of the centre right.
That’s where the Westminster system will drag them, whatever the membership wants, and if it didn’t then its own MP’s would gladly walk it off the cliff rather than accept that result.
I said in an earlier piece that Corbyn and the left were going down fighting, but that it was the Last Hurrah.
I wish them well, but I’ve come to the sad conclusion that he is running for the leadership of a party he doesn’t belong to any more than Kendell does.
That’s what I’ve learned in the last two days.
Labour is going down into darkness whatever happens now.
Its political class is absolutely consumed by its own survival and its own advancement.
Many of them are just nakedly in pursuit of power itself, without an iota of political conviction.
They’ve missed the subtext of the election result, and I am still staggered that they don’t get it.
The country already has an unscrupulous party of the right. The difference is that the people in it are driven by ideology, that they are “true believers” instead of simply people who are blinded by their own greedy ambitions.
The public knows the difference, and will always vote for a party that believes in what it’s doing as opposed to one that doesn’t give a shit about anything but taking power for its own ends. No-one wants to vote for a fraud like that, which is why millions of us voted SNP.
That’s neither here nor there tonight.
If we’re going to have a better country for our children and grandchildren there is only one way to accomplish that.
Labour is doomed to its own darkness.
If the Westminster system itself is beyond repair (which it is) the only hope we have is to drive a wrecking ball through all of it.
With that, I reluctantly accept the inevitability, and necessity, of what must come next if we’re to realise our ultimate goal of independence for this nation.
Labour in Scotland has to be absolutely destroyed as a political force.
Thankfully, the conduct of many of its former MP’s over the last few days, and the Scottish contingent in particular, which has learned nothing and has been pushing Liz Kendall like a drug – Alastair Darling, Tom Harris, John Reid et al, thank you – has steeled me for the task.
More on that later in the week.
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