Though no supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, Redbrick’s Harry Tennison goes to the heart of the matter
To read the whole text by Harry Tennison, 1st year Drama and Theatre Arts Student. Theatre critic. Librarian. Centre-Left. (@Harry_Tennison) go to http://www.redbrick.me/comment/politics/owen-smith-chance-next-labour-leader/
This thoughtful appraisal appeared in the Brummie aggregator, which gives busy people a rapid overview of city news and opinion with the option of following up articles in depth by using the links. Harry writes (emphasis added):
I wonder whether Smith would be preaching the same economic message as Corbyn if it were not for the clear rejection of business-as-usual from Labour members when electing Corbyn in the first instance. In the twenty policies Smith announced, at least five of them appear in Corbyn’s list of policies. Both men want to repeal the Trade Union Act. Both men want to ban zero hour contracts. Both men want enormous scales of public investment – £200 billion from Smith, £500 billion from Corbyn. The argument is that these policies are popular with Corbyn supporters, who make up the majority of Labour members. Smith believes that by shifting himself further left, he can try to out-Corbyn Corbyn. But when this section of the membership does not find fault with the current leadership, this tactic will fail at deposing Corbyn.
This is a criticism of Smith, but it would be a criticism of whoever put themselves forward as the challenger. Corbyn remains popular and is buoyed by his supporters within the membership, as well as his beliefs. It is only a year since his election, and he can argue that this has been a successful year in which Labour have won every by-election, and numerous mayoral contests.
These have, however, come in largely metropolitan areas which tend to have a large portion of Labour voters and Labour controlled councils. Equally, the wins in by-elections have come in areas where either Labour have possessed large majorities, or the incumbent Labour MP has died. A Labour loss – given the circumstances – would have been very untoward in each of these seats.
Smith and others can argue this shows no real victory for Labour; however, Corbyn’s supporters can argue that they did not suffer as badly as the Conservatives in the council elections – losing 18 seats to the Tories’ 48 – but is not losing as badly as the opposition really any sign of victory?
Whilst Corbyn clearly cannot currently lead the Parliamentary Labour Party, and the latest YouGov poll (4th August) places Labour 14 points behind the Conservatives, he has strictly speaking not failed yet. This is what causes his opponents problems. This is all – at least for the time being – conjecture, and given how unreliable pollsters have been of late, conjecture that many Labour members do not view with much importance.
Equally, the conflict arises between the desire to establish a true socialist party, and a party that can win an election. Owen Smith believes that the current plans under Corbyn’s leadership will lead Labour not to election success, but to substantial defeat. Supporters of the leadership claim that the social movement that Labour is undertaking is more important than winning an election.
As no supporter of Corbyn myself, I view this as one of the biggest questions of this argument, and the most defining in where my support lies. The Labour Party was created to ensure that the workers, the most vulnerable and those who needed support, had a voice in Parliament, to create social change via political means.
The current Labour leadership fails to address this: instead of targeting those whose minds need changing to ensure Labour can become strong again in parliament, they gather the converted and talk about how much they hate the Conservatives.
(Ed: If Harry opts to receive JC’s membership mailings he will see that this is very far from the truth)
This is no way for the Labour Party to function: whilst we are an ineffective opposition, we are abandoning those who need us.
We have left behind the families who have been brutally savaged by Tory cuts, the disabled who are being forced to work in jobs they cannot do, and the young people who are having their futures damaged.
This is unacceptable for any opposition, and so the Leader should resign since they are unable to hold the government to account.
(Ed: or the disloyal MPs who have placed the party in this position should respect the huge support for JC and his economic message and start to work together for the common good)
Unfortunately, Owen Smith cannot lead the Labour Party to this from this leadership election. Until the tumultuous polling comes to the very real consequence of large Labour losses, the pro-Corbyn camp will have the support of the membership. But if the hard left fails to succeed now, they will surely be forced to put their hands up and say ‘you know what, we can’t do it.’
The really interesting leadership election is not this one in 2016, but the one which will follow the next General Election, whenever that is called.
Harry says that supporters of the leadership claim the social movement being undertaken by Labour is more important than winning an election; so each person should ask, when listening to people on both sides of the Labour Party, if the common good or vested interest is paramount in their minds.