I treat Jeremy Corbyn and his henchman John McDonnell’s claims about the so-called “new politics” with the suspicion that deserve. It is not quite contempt yet, but it wouldn’t take me long to reach that point. The twosome’s friends, past and present, suggest anything other than a “new politics”. Take, for example, PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka. He’s a close ally of McDonnell despite coming from a left wing political viewpoint that makes McDonnell look like Nick Clegg. And he has cleared out all and any opposition and alternative points of view in the remnants of a union that is all but bankrupt financially and intellectually.
This is the world of political fixers, of purity, of slogans and rhetoric, of intolerance and bullying and abuse. And look where it has taken PCS: next stop oblivion.
The point about Corbyn is that it is not just that vast swathe of the electorate who voted Tory last time who need to be persuaded to support him: it’s me, too. I am by nature, by instinct and by conviction one of what is commonly regarded as the “soft left”. This, according to the friends of Jeremy, makes me “Tory lite”, “Blairite” and “right wing”. I do not particularly care about the type of labelling that emanates from the hard left – I’ve put up with it for a lifetime in the labour movement and the Labour Party – but I do wonder how it looks to others, the type Labour needs to attract.
In terms of the electorate, I am of the left. I cannot remember the actual percentages but not am I of the left, I am in the second most left wing group in the land. That seems odd since I regard the likes of the late John Smith as representing the type of politics that reflect my outlook. Smith was hardly of the hard left, but left he was.
Tony Benn, who was my MP in my early years in the Labour Party always said that Labour was a “broad church” of opinion. I never thought he actually meant it given the type of Labour Party he wanted but that’s by the by. The suggestion from John McDonnell is exactly the same. But he needs to show that he means it and I am not sure he does.
I do wonder if many of the Labour members who gave us Corbyn (and Brownite union fixer Tom Watson, to be fair) have even begun to consider how they need to attract millions more people to support the party. No one has bothered to carry out a review of Labour’s electoral disaster in May, the party has just carried on as if nothing happened.
None of this is to say, categorically, that Corbyn cannot win in 2020. I would say it is extremely unlikely but if a week is a long time in politics, what is four and a half years? Whilst a Corbyn premiership seems unlikely at this moment, who knows what might happen after the Tories tear themselves apart over Europe and then in the succession of Cameron? And what of Ukip, when the referendum on the EU is a thing of the past? Do they just carry on as the BNP in blazers (that’s how I see them already) or do they simply fade away?
We’re stuck with Corbyn and no one is going to try and force him out. He will live or die, politically, by events, as they say. However, I go back to the original point: he does not need to merely attract those who do not call themselves “Labour”, he needs to attract those of us who already do. This will not happen until he calls of the attack dogs from the likes of Momentum and the nasty side of Labour represented by the likes of Ken Livingstone. The abuse, the threats, will not play well with those being abused and threatened and it will certainly not reach out to the millions of extra voters Labour needs.