Owning The Outcome

2064This is my first post in a while, and it’s only fitting that it should be on the subject of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership victory.

I spent much of yesterday inexplicably arguing with Yes campaigners who, first, don’t accept that this is a defining moment in politics and, second, who refuse to see that the Labour Party has actually done what we wanted it to do, albeit only the members thus far.

They have hauled the party back towards socialist ideals. They have responded to the general election defeat in exactly the manner we wanted them to; by annihilating the leadership pretensions of the Red Tories and the remnants of the Blairite wing.

I am thrilled at their victory. It is an enormous endorsement of the politics of change we saw sweeping Scotland during the referendum campaign. In a very real sense, this is our victory; we were part of what made this landslide happen.

Corbyn did not simply scrape over the line either; he was elected by every single section of the party structure. He has an enormous, unquestionable, mandate to change things.

The Parliamentary Party he leads is a different creature entirely, of course. It doesn’t accept that this mandate exists. It believes it is the ultimate arbitrator of what Labour ought to do.

This is the last spasm of their political culture. It is in ruins today, and they are the survivors of this meteor strike only insofar as they are still, at the moment, standing up. But the effects of it are going to lay waste to them. By the time the next election comes around, the PLP will be radically changed. It will either have been hollowed out or it will have destroyed its own leader.

If it’s the former, he has a shot at rebuilding the party into something resembling what it ought to be, and what it once was. If it’s the latter, the party itself will have imploded, ripped to pieces by its own elected MP’s.

The political consequences of that are usually pretty devastating.

A number of them have already pinned their colours to the mast and said they don’t want to serve in a Corbyn cabinet. In some ways this is good; it will allow him to assemble his own team and to do things his own way.

There was talk of some of them agreeing to serve “but only if”, trying to shackle this guy right out of the starting gate, but that appears to be dead in the water. The “thinking” now, if you can call it that, is that the left must be made to “own the defeat.”

I laugh at the notion.

It’s fanciful rubbish, and they know it, but it’s the only card they have in the deck, and so they’ll play it for all it’s worth … not much, as we’ll see.

See, before now, the left in Britain was ridiculed, because, as the story goes, the last time it put its ideas front and centre it suffered a catastrophic defeat, in the election of 1983.

Those of us with political nous understand that the ’83 election was much more complicated than it’s been made out, ever mindful of the truth that before the Falklands War Michael Foot and the Labour Party had a rock solid opinion poll lead.

This followed the SDP split and the Liberal pact, and that, along with the national war fever, contributed to the loss.

It’s often forgotten that the Tory votes total fell in that election, by around 700,000. It’s one of many facts that never gets brought up in the discussion. The creation of the SDP was what assured that defeat; at the very least they exaggerated the scale of it, making it far larger than it ever ought to have been. At worst, they prevented an actual Labour majority.

It’s the Gang of Four, not the left, who bear the historical responsibility for the 1983 result.

Those of us who’ve studied this accept that.

Nevertheless, the idea has been allowed to take root that it was Labour’s “far left” policies which were responsible, and that myth – that outright lie – has contributed to the paucity of political ambition in this country for well on 30 years.

Corbyn’s election should be an opportunity to put all the big arguments front and centre again, to open up a true and honest national debate about where we’re going as a country, about what we want from it, what its values should be.

Instead, his ideas are going to be opposed by a phalanx of special interests inside and outside Westminster, including the Labour Party itself.

And with that in mind, there’s simply no way that Labour’s careerist MP’s can stand back and “let the left own the defeat.”

That would only apply if they allowed left wing politics to frame party policy. But they won’t.

They’re already lining up to criticise Corbyn before he’s even got his feet under the table and some of them will fight tooth and nail to keep him in his box.

So the left will never get to put its prospectus forward, although that is what the rank and file membership clearly wants to happen. Corbyn will be savaged by his own back benchers, who will make it as near to impossible for him to lead as you’ll get.

What kind of narrative do you think that will result in?

It’s them who’ll own any catastrophe and the left will have a “knife in the back” legend to rival all others.

If Corbyn’s people have any sense at all, they’ll commission and publish polling showing support for every one of the “loony left” economic and social policies he espouses.

At the same time, Tom Watson has inadvertently given Corbyn his window to propose a national debate on NATO expansion and the retention of nuclear weapons. I have always believed that when those issues were discussed rationally, openly, factually that there would be a sea change in public attitudes towards them and that is exactly what we’re going to get.

So, imagine Corbyn’s team has the political nous to do that, and I’m sure they do and I am certain that they will.

Then imagine the PLP opposing those moves.

The party fragments.

Dissent becomes all out civil war.

The PLP shackles its own leader, refusing to support a single one of his proposals … or they despose him.

In doing so, they will destroy any prospect of a new, progressive, course for politics on this island.

They’d be counting the costs of that for a generation or more.

Those of us who’ve lambasted the PLP as “Red Tories” would have a martyr and a symbol which would endure from now until the last Labour rosette had been cremated on the bonfire of history. There would be an eruption of anger, and especially here in Scotland where Jeremy Corbyn’s political ideas already command widespread support.

The PLP destroying him would be the final insult to millions of Scots.

I don’t see how the union could survive that, even in the short term.

It’s no coincidence that Nicola picked yesterday to announce – finally – that the Holyrood manifesto will include a timetable and “trigger mechanisms” for another independence referendum.

The writing is on the wall.

I’m going to write in more detail about the impact this election will have on Scotland later on, tonight or tomorrow, but for the moment I want you to ponder on what Labour’s MP’s are actually contemplating … and think about how that helps the independence debate.

Scotland has nothing to fear from Corbyn’s election … and everything to gain.

There is hay to be made here, friends … whole fields worth of it.

There is no negative outcome here for us, if we play it smart.

(I’m a full time writer who depends on the goodwill and support of my readers. If you want to support the work the site does, you can make a donation at the link. Many thanks in advance.)

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6 comments to “Owning The Outcome”
  1. Fine and Interesting article as usual.

    It’s odds against but I hope Corbyn actually succeeds and gets through to PM, struggle though that would be. The British state is rank but England and Wales need it. If it goes as far as the next general election it will depend as ever on how many in England will vote and vote for a Corbyn lead labour program. Got a feeling that will be the killer of the union right then

    Scottish Independence will still stand whether he is successful or not, without Independence Scotland will remain a country without control over its own affairs.

  2. Excellent article James. The only thing which could restrain the PLP from ousting Corbyn is the fear of deselection, and that factor is not to be underestimated. But make no mistake the will is there, and the establishment will stir and if needs be bankroll any credible coup attempt.

  3. Very interesting post and analysis. In 1983 I turned 18, joined the Labour Party and got to vote for the first time. I then spent (too) much of the following decade arguing the received wisdom of “the longest suicide note in history” was/is fallacious and a deliberate construct of the Right. By 1992 I had tired of the bullying culture, the mendacious equivocations and the perfidious expediencies, and left the party. I’ve never voted for them since.

    I genuinely wish Jeremy Corbyn well but, frankly, don’t reckon his chances. That said, I’ve learned not to be certain of anything in politics, especially after the last few tumultous years. Expert opinion never saw the 2008 crash, the 2011 SNP landslide, the 45% Yes or the 56 Nationalist MPs, and no-one – no-one at all – at the start of the summer predicted Jeremy Corbyn would be Her Majesty’s Leader of the Opposition by its end.

    A significant part of the SNP success has been built on palpably growing anger at the naked venality of Westminster politics and the poltiical class. Corbyn represents an equally pure expression of that feeling so who knows how far it will take him, his party and the UK? The Tories are far more fragile than their present hubris might suggest, and any economic disasters on their watch will see them fighting like cats in a bag as their much vaunted credibility is prey to uncontrollable currents emanating from a bloated, nihilistic financial sector. The likely decanting of the Palace of Westminster may also prove highly symbolic if people see those crumbling foundations sink even further into the Thames mud.

    Who would benefit – SNP or Labour? An alliance of both along with Greens and others? UKIP riding on a blowback from the EU referendum? All bets are off, folks, but one thing I would say: The Independence Movement is going to have to articulate a clearer, bolder, more inspiring vision of a new Scotland – otherwise others will seize the moment when it comes.

  4. Here’s the thing: as a Scot and a Nationalist (the local and democratic option for us), I’m happy that Corbyn won the leadership contest. Whether he can convince sheeple in the English electorate to vote him into office remains to be seen – as does his likelihood of cooperating with the SNP. Having been betrayed once too often, I’m not holding my breath. If England doesn’t wake its ideas up soon, I’ll be pushing for Indy by any means necessary.

  5. Corbyn won, and that can only benefit Scotland. No matter what happens now, we can play it to our advantage,

    Folk have ‘The Fear’, imagining many will return to Labour, but that ship has sailed. We can’t unlearn all that we now know, and having acceoted the advantages of indy, we recognise that any positive changes to UK gov would last only until England votes Tory again.

    Unless Corbyn delivers true federalism, with each country equally represented, there will be no going back.

    We have nothing to fear, and everything to celebrate. Gaun yerself Corbyn. Let’s stick it to the Tories 🙂

  6. I commented on a Friends Facebook page. He had posted -: “Yippee for the election of a leader who is determined to give Scotland absolutely no new powers…”

    My reply -: “That maybe true Sean, but the next months and years will be interesting regardless. If he gets absolutely mauled by the right wing press, it may open some peoples eyes that the UK is lost as a social democracy.

    If not, some may realise we can have whatever the UK moves towards, only better and faster!”

    I think Corbyn is potentially good for the UK, but also the independence movement.

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