Dear Labour Plotters
I’m not quite sure how I should address you – in a way I’m sorry to have chosen the word ‘plotters’, but after a little thought it seemed the best word, because what you seem to be trying to do does look very like a plot. Other words have been used – ‘coup’ is perhaps the most common – but ‘plot’ seems the best. Or at least I hope it’s the best, because ‘plot’ suggests there might actually be a plan behind your actions, a plan more than just ‘let’s get rid of our leader, and everything will be better’ along the lines of the Leave campaign’s ‘let’s win the referendum vote, and everything will be better’ plan which seems to be unravelling with remarkable speed since the hideous and momentous events of Thursday and Friday.
Of course I understand why you have not yet revealed the details of your plan – revealing those details might defeat the plan itself – but I do hope it’s a good plan, because you really need one. In making that plan, I’m sure you’ve taken full account of the need to persuade the Labour membership (including me) that your plan is a good one for Labour, and indeed for the country. I’m also sure that you must have learned all the right lessons from both last year’s Labour leadership contest and last week’s referendum. I do hope so, because from the outside it is a little hard to see that you have – but that may well be because all your plans are, quite justifiably, kept nice and secret from the rest of us.
Last year’s Labour Leadership contest
The thing is, last year’s Labour leadership contest was quite something, and I do wonder if some of you aren’t still smarting from it so much that you can’t see what actually happened. Jeremy Corbyn didn’t just win that contest, he absolutely thrashed all his opponents. It wasn’t just a victory, it was a crushing victory. That victory was produced by a great number of things and has been subjected to a good deal of analysis – but one key part of it was how abject the campaigns of his opponents were. They weren’t just bad, they were useless. So the first lesson that I’m sure you must have learned from the contest is not to campaign on the same basis as last time. And, to admit to the failure of last time’s campaigns.
Most of all, what I’m sure you’ve realised is that you can’t just turn back to the members and say ‘look, hasn’t Corbyn been useless, we were right all along, and you made an awful mistake in electing him’ and then expect them to smile and say ‘yes, you were right, and we were terribly stupid last year’. People don’t like being told they’re stupid – regardless of whether they have been stupid or not. If your approach to replacing Corbyn is based entirely around convincing Labour members that they got it wrong last year, then your plots and plans are doomed to the same kind of abject failure as the last time.
I’m sure you realise this. I hope you do. I really hope you do, because if you don’t, all you’re doing with this plot is causing even more damage to the Labour Party at a time when the Labour Party is needed more than ever. To have driven the results of the EU referendum off the front pages just a few days after its momentous result is quite something – a depressing something.
The next Labour leader
I am sure your plans include plans for Corbyn’s replacement – and I understand in a way why it is not at all clear who that leader might be. I can understand why no-one would want to show themselves right now – but it is a little strange to stage a coup without any idea of what the regime after that coup would look like. The ‘leave’ campaign may have had no plan of any kind after winning the referendum, but at least we knew that it would probably result in Boris Johnson becoming Prime Minister – after all, that was the only reason he chose ‘leave’ over ‘remain’. With your plot, no-one seems to know who you’re planning to put in Corbyn’s place – but given the amount of time you’ve had to work out your plan, I’m sure you have an idea. Whoever it is, I assume it’s not someone that Corbyn defeated so easily last time around, or someone whose main claim to fame is having made a speech that had the Tory benches roaring in applause in favour of military action. With the Chilcot report due very soon, that might not be a very good look.
I hope that whoever you have in mind for the next leader is able to engage with both the Labour membership and the electorate – because both are needed. It’s no good being ‘electable’ if you can’t convince your own party to support them – and as some of you point out on a regular basis, it’s no good getting the support of the Labour membership whilst not being ‘electable’. It’s hard to be both – but whoever you have waiting in the wings to unveil as the next Labour leader and future Prime Minister needs to be able to do both. I look forward to seeing who they might be – and how they can meet both of these requirements, whilst providing something new and different.
The EU referendum
…because new and different will be needed. Last week’s referendum can be interpreted in many different ways, but one thing it wasn’t was an endorsement of old politics. The idea that there was a consensus around the current Tory approach – elite austerity – has been shattered, so an approach based on the assumption that we need to accept that would be self-destructive at best. Many voters last week believed they were voting for more funding for the NHS, for example – there was a reason that particular lie was on the side of that bus. This gives Labour a real chance – a chance that would be lost if we simply went back to what was offered last time around by all the candidates except Corbyn. Labour needs to offer hope and a way forward – but a way forward not based on lies, on hate, on fear. I’m sure you all realise this, and will share your vision of this way forward at some point soon.
Whilst the EU referendum offers an opportunity in this way, it also offers a huge trap – the trap of how to address people’s concern over immigration. Labour should be under no illusions that immigration was the critical issue in the referendum. It wasn’t a coincidence that the polls shifted towards ‘leave’ when Farage put immigration on centre stage – people are genuinely concerned about it. Many really believe, despite all the evidence, that immigration is what has caused the problems with the NHS, with housing, with education, with crime and so forth. The trap here is to accept their beliefs rather than addressing those beliefs. Silence is not an option – that much should be clear to everyone – but neither should sinking into the kind of populist xenophobia that UKIP uses and that the ‘leave’ campaign harnessed. It is equally useless – indeed counterproductive – to just tell people they’re wrong (just as you will find if you try that approach on Labour members who voted for Corbyn last year). If Labour had been strong enough and brave enough to take this issue on a decade or more ago, we might be in a very different situation – but it didn’t seem to matter so much back then, so it was all swept under the carpet. It can’t be any more.
There isn’t a magic bullet here – on immigration, or on replacing Corbyn. Both require intelligence, imagination, and a proper plan. Something new and something better has to be offered. On immigration, something real has to be offered to deal with the real problems that are being blamed on immigrants – and not just vague promises. On replacing Corbyn, you’ll need to convince us that you have something better to offer – a new leader that can inspire us, as well as fulfil the ‘electable’ requirements. Given the coordinated nature of your apparent plot, I’m sure you’ve got someone waiting in the wings.
I look forward to their inspiring appearance.
A Labour Member.
19 thoughts on “Dear Labour Plotters”
One thing which may happen, is the next ‘Leave’ campaign, which is the end of the U.K as we know it when Scotland leaves to couple up with the E.U and Northern Ireland merges with the Republic. The sad thing for me is that ordinary, working people in England and Wales were conned into voting for right wing extremists in huge numbers. It is the sunset song of the ramshackle edifice known as the U.K. Ireland may well be united at last and Scotland can take it’s place in Europe and the world as a Social Democratic country welcoming new citizens making their home there. Labour can never overcome the built in bias towards the default party in power in England and the habit of deference to the elite,the undemocratic House of Lords and the unelected monarchy. The S.N.P were right all along.
Sent from my iPad
Your claim that the masses were conned in to voting for rightwing spies does not chime with the facts, notably that a large number of educated leftwingers, myself included, voted ‘Out’ because we recognise that the EU itself is a threat to the UK based on the fact that ‘austerity’ and neoliberalism’ are baked in to the Lisbon Treaty – a Treaty by the way this nation signed under Labour and without a referendum to endorse it.
I mention the Lisbon Treaty, austerity and neoliberalism because both Westminster and Brussels engage fully in these practices, practices that actually undermine communities, countries and lead to blow backs, be it anti-immigration or racism.
A honest international democratic socialist equipped with all known facts, facts denied the UK electorate by both the ‘Remain’ camp and ‘ Leave’ camp could only come to one conclusion, namely that the interests of our nation and those of the other EU member states – that is our peers within them – was best served by opting out, or at least voting in sufficient numbers for the EU Elite to perhaps change its tune and embrace either the Confederal Project President De Gaulle favoured in the 1960s, or the Social Europe construct Jaques Delors promoted in the late 80s and early 90’s, neither of which is of interest to those wielding power.
If we are serious as electors and Labour Party supporters its time to accept that neoliberalism and warmongering are our combined enemy and that many who support these are to be found in Westminster, Brussels, Washington, Berlin and globally. A vote ‘Out’ does not make us ‘Little Englanders’ nor racists, rather its a statement that many pose an unaccountable Elite hell bent on destroying our communities wherever they are.
I seriously urge you all the read the works of Prof. Steve Keen and Prof. Richard Werner. At the same time I urge all readers to oppose the neoliberal coup being attempted within the Labour Party, a Party that decided to ignore its core voting constituents in favour of mammon and violence, the violence of which has resulted in the European refugee crisis – but of course all the working class and all who voted ‘out’ are racists according to those who openly supported and engaged in the activities that have led to our present crisis.
Well Said thank you…
Scotland , the pipes the pies are calling . . .
Scotland leaves to couple up with the E.U thas a no no then eu sais no to scotland ops but the nhs was killed by tony blair and now the cons will finish the job of the sale off but the cons starved the nhs of its billions vile telling all they pumping monies in only to go to those american and french companies
Reblogged this on The lovely wibbly wobbly old lady and commented:
An excellent article by Paul Bernal
I see no sign that they’ve given any thought to the Labour Party membership, or to the affiliated unions, for that matter to the Labour Party’s rules and constitution. It’s all happening in the Westminster bubble.
Something needs to change – the party will still need intelligence, imagination and a proper plan if Corbyn stays – but this is the worst possible way to do it.
Reblogged this on Lindas Blog and commented:
Very nicely put!!
Those members of the PLP would be very ill-advised to ignore those whom they are elected to SERVE.
The Labour Party belongs to all party members.
I’m not at all sure this particular bunch of one trick ponies are even capable of thinking beyond the Westminster bubble or considering opinions other than their own. For the most part their political careers and ascent within the party have taken place entirely within the era in which the party membership were by and large viewed by the leadership as little more than useful (if somewhat toxic) idiots who needed either banging into shape or drowning out. I doubt the last year has in any way changed this view any more than it has lessened their egos or equipped them to deal with the unfolding fallout from the depressing leave vote.
As you suggest, the party above all needs imaginative thinking to move forward in a way that fully takes account of the sentiment underlying Corbyns election and the country’s current political shambles. Unfortunately the chances of finding the qualities needed within the PLP look vanishingly small.
And vanishing further minute by minute, it seems.
Blair’s arms are long and seem to reach out into every corner. The quick the Blairites leave, the better. The MPs who failed to convince their constituents of the folly of leaving are the culpable ones.
They should fall on their swords, but guess what? They prefer to play the ‘it was his fault’ game instead of accepting responsibility. Angela Eagle has just quit, blaming Corbyn for her decision.
I’m not sure I want people representing me who don’t have the bottle to say, well, actually, I thought about and decided I WANTED TO LEAVE. The putsch will fail and democratic sense will prevail. So now, why not get on with the job in hand – giving the Tories a hard time … oops no, we’d prefer to squabble amongst ourselves and so when that fails, say it was someone else’s fault. HE MADE ME DO IT … don’t think so
Reblogged this on Mark Catlin's Blog.
Good post Paul and I’m glad to see that you picked-up on, as I see it, a major issue in all of this, a total lack of any planning by the plotters or the conservative party. What is it about politicians that makes them believe there is a wilderness north of Watford Gap? Cameron was so confident that the vote would go his way that he didn’t bother to plan for a possible Brexit. Where do you think George Osborn has been for the last couple of days? But let’s look on the bright side, Dodgy Dave is gone. My worst nightmare is that queen of the zombies Theresa May gets his job. When all is said and done Boris is not elder statesman material.
Another issue is that people actually voted out because they believed it would stem the tide of immigration. Why was no one told that this country cannot survive without immigration? Do they know for example, that many immigrants are recruited for jobs here? Do they know that two thirds of European immigrants have degrees? Something similar applies to Syrian immigrants, why else would Angela Merkel welcome them in? The immigration problem has been created by inept governments failing to provide the much needed housing and services. They then compound the problem by starving local authorities and blaming the immigrants for the very problems the politicians created.
Something very strange was happening as I watched TV yesterday and I’m afraid I have to blame education. We had teenagers shouting that Brexit was unfair. “Why should the elderly decide our future?”. Has no one told them what the phrase ‘democratic vote’ means? For the record it means that everyone votes on an issue and the side of the argument that gets the most votes wins. It has nothing to do with the over fifties! It has to do with asking yourself what benefit, if any, has been as a result of joining the EU? If you can’t think of anything you vote to leave. It’s as simple as that!
The level of knowledge involved is breathtakingly small for far too many people. The media has played its part in ensuring the ignorance remains, of course – and we in the education world share our part too.
Thank you Paul for writing this piece of good sense. The gossip is that Lisa Nandy is being put up as a challenger. Not sure that it’s the right time for someone with such a small baby but that’s her decision if she takes it.
I completely agree with you that ‘The level of knowledge involved is breathtakingly small for far too many people. The media has played its part in ensuring the ignorance remains, of course – and we in the education world share our part too.’ The only thing that Tony Blair got right was Education, Education, Education – the difference is that I believe that whereas he wanted the ignorance to remain.
I was saying before this that the Blairites cannot just expect to rehash their 1997 formula and I believe the Brexit vote confirmed this. It was always based on treating the provincial working-class vote as if it were in the bag, and appealing to the aspirant middle class in the suburbs and shires – “Essex Man” and “Worcester Woman”. Being part of the EU benefited those classes; it is now clear that working class people don’t feel it benefited them and Labour can’t rely on their votes any longer. I believe that all the problems associated with the EU are really linked to UK government policy, but these policies have to change radically – we need to rebuild our industries rather than treat them as a nuisance and rely on imports, for example – and the Blairites (and Tories) have never acknowledged this. They are not radical and their policies are toxic now. They are no more likely to win an election than Corbyn is.
Excellent post Paul, I would like if I may to add a post script of my own just so that it is clear to the aforementioned plotters.
If your plan is to be David Cameron in disguise, with or without a skirt, can I tell that we fell for that when John Major made the seamless transformation into Tony Blair. It didn’t take long before we realised that the only distinguishing feature between the two men was the colour of the tie, everything else was the same. Policies were the same, the winners and losers were the same and even the actions on the global stage were the same as they both Prime Ministers followed a bush into the desert. If that’s the plan let me help you here; tear it up now because we will not be making the same mistake again.