Well, there’s no putting a spin on this one: we lost. As for why, there are probably as many theories as there are stars in the sky – Brexit, media bias, the anti-semitism crisis, a more ‘extreme’ programme than in 2017 – whatever the reason, the result is clear.
I feel a sense of personal grief over this. It’s as if I had lost a very dear friend in sudden and tragic circumstances; I feel the need for a period of mourning before I can even think about anything else. But I’d like to explain in this post why I and so many others (I believe) supported Corbyn.
To understand this we have to go back to 1979, the beginnings of neo-liberal economics and privatisation. I was and remain utterly opposed to the privatisation of public services: I was and remain a believer in a mixed economy as the only way to ensure the viability of said services and to give government a hold over rampant capitalism. I believe unfettered capitalism to be fundamentally evil. The trends are well-documented and I’m too demoralised to go into them again but the rise of those few people at the top at the expense of the many at the bottom is clear for all those who have eyes to see.
This does not make me a communist. I have never believed in total state control of industry – I don’t think it works. A mixed economy was supported by all parties in the 1970’s and what is now presented as ‘extremism’ was then espoused even by one-nation Tories, a breed Johnson claims to represent but which he doesn’t seem to understand. Along with many others I was deeply frustrated by the failure of Labour, especially under Blair, to oppose this lurch to the right, and longed to see an opposition who would genuinely stand up for ordinary people.
As a man, Corbyn has been more vilified than anyone since Martin Luther King. He’s not perfect; he has flaws but, having seen him in the flesh a number of times as well as on TV and video, having continually asked myself ‘am I being duped? Is this man a charlatan?’ and answering ‘no’; my conclusion was that here was a fundamentally decent man who believed in what he was saying. I found it utterly scandalous that no sooner had he been elected, people in his own party were trying to get rid of him. There was no respect for the democratic process here. (Though people spoke out against Johnson, no such process occurred within the Tory party because they’ve always known how to stick together.)
Yes, we might have got a bit carried away towards the end (a four-day week was probably a step too far at this stage and, just and right as it was, it probably wasn’t good sense to announce that we’d help the WASPI women as this undermined our claim that all the policies were fully costed.) There was a lack of leadership over Brexit, where we should have had a policy in place in 2016, and over the anti-semitism scandal. There’s an excellent article about this here.
The extent of Corbyn’s popularity has been played down I believe, by the main-stream media, but it doesn’t matter now because we lost. However, to put Corbyn and Johnson in the same box as leaders disliked by their MP’s and unpopular in the country, is to miss a fundamental moral point: that they were morally opposites. Corbyn is a decent human being who stands up for ordinary people; Johnson is a self-serving bullshitter who cares for no-one but himself. And we’ve chosen him.
Right now I feel like a stranger in my own country.
More on that story later… in the meantime let’s be good to each other because we’re all going to need more human kindness.
6 thoughts on “Paint it Black”
The right wing media, and even the Guardian, helped by a number of Labour MPs, have spent years vilifying Corbyn, and combined with his reluctance to defend himself, let alone go on the attack, plus a confusing campaign, has given us what could be the end of democracy in England and Wales (gerrymander the constituency boandaries, weaken the impartiality of the BBC and C4, constrain the judiciary, remove 50-60 Scottish and NI MPs). As All That Is Solid implies (http://averypublicsociologist.blogspot.com/2019/12/the-demonology-of-jeremy-corbyn.html), it didn’t have to be like this, but it is.
Thelma on North Stoke very much echoes your closing sentiment (https://northstoke.blogspot.com/2019/12/balance.html).
It’s the triumph of anti-intellectualism.
It was entirely right and proper that senior Labour figures – people who had given their lives to the party and made numerous (undisclosed) sacrifices for it – should have wanted to get rid of Corbyn from the start. It was clear from his first day as leader back in 2015 that he could never be Prime Minister. I say ‘clear’ but I should add as a rider to that: clear ‘’to anyone who doesn’t occupy a left-wing bubble.’ Unwise things he’d said as a backbencher came back to haunt himi and to be used as propaganda against him. – whether rightly or wrongly, is not relevant. People like Yvette Coooper, who refused to serve in his shadow cabinet, knew all this: they could read the runes.
The 2017 election saved his skin because a lot of Remainers, including the undersigned, had no option but to vote for him. Unlike other Remainers, I have some sympathy for his position in the last parliament but his tergiversations over Brexit did him no favours and helped ensure the Remain vote was split in 2019 (though little Swinson did her spoiling bit there, too).
Yes, the onslaught from the Tories, the press and the BBC was unprecedently vicious, but what else did you expect?
As I said earlier, 2019 almost certainly represents the last time Britain will go to the polls under a democratic system – or, at least, a system that ‘is nominally democratic.
Britain, and those who have no choice but to live in it, will pay a heavy price for the toxic combination of Johnson’s egotism and Corbyn’s uselessness.
Corbyn’s most outspoken critics included Alastair Campbell, Liz Kendall and Chuka Umunna, none of whom could be said to have given their lives to the party. But in any case there was a democratic process and to attempt openly to undermine the result of that process (no matter how much you may deplore it) is not acceptable. How would it have been in 1994 if senior figures on the left had said of Blair, as Campbell did of Corbyn, that they were ‘working every day’ to get rid of him?
On your point elsewhere about Corbyn being an activist, not a leader, the two categories are not mutually exclusive. Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Aung San Syu Ki are three who come to mind who made the change from activist to leader, and there are many more. Perhaps if those who opposed him had resisted the urge to get rid of him and instead helped him to be a better leader, things might have been different.
Well, you can keep Ummuna but I personally have a lot of time for Alastair Campbell, who has devoted an exceptional part of his career to the Labour Party and was instrumental in getting one of its most credible governments elected. You may not agree, but I’d sooner Blair/Brown, for all their faults, than the three useless Tory PMs who succeeded them.
The reason Campbell wanted rid of Corbyn was because he knew the man was unelectable and could only be of benefit to the Tories. You might find it interesting to speak to some canvassers in the north and the north-east midlands about how toxic Corbyn was on the doorstep. My own (new) Tory MP has stated that he would not have been elected but for the ‘Corbyn effect’. Even had the party got behind him (as it mostly did, albeit with reservations), ti would have made scant difference. A metropolitan figure like Corbyn has very little currency outside certain parts of the capital: but then he owed his election largely to zealots who paid a fiver just so they could elect him. And, of course, among those zealots were a sizeable number of Tories, with the avowed aim of ‘Making Labour History.’ The departing Ed Miliband can, I believe, be blamed for that flawed electoral system.
As to the acvitsits you mention: their countries are very different from Britain and they came to power in exceptional circumstances. At least two of them also had experience of organising resistance at a national level against non-democratic governments. Corbyn’s experience was not the equivalent and he was a comparaitlvye small-time operator. His standing for the leadership in 2015 represented an acto of cosmic selfishness, even if the other candidates were underwhelming ot put it mildly.
However, all these arguments are a bit academic, now, aren’t they? Labour’s stuffed and so is Britain as we knew it.