Corbyn has won, the fundamentals are unchanged, non-Corbyn PLP must fill policy vacuum
Posted on 24 September 2016 | 6:09am
Ok first things first. WHOOSH BREAKING NEWS … Jeremy Corbyn has won and probably by a considerable margin.
In the hope some of the broadcasters read this – thanks for your interest in my views but today is not a day to pee on the JC parade. So thanks for the bids, but no I won’t be rushing to studios in London or Liverpool or anywhere else.
However nor should anyone imagine that the basic fundamentals which led to the failed challenge have changed. Indeed the real danger is that Corbyn takes his victory as a green light to continue as he has done since becoming leader in the first place.
Let’s be clear what that means. It means talking the talk of ‘reaching out’ while in most actions and deeds making clear that the real loathing of the Corbynistas is for non Corbynistas in the Party, not the Tory government. It means trying to deselect people like Peter Kyle, the one MP who won a seat from the Tories last time out. It means a shadow cabinet and PLP getting frustrated once again at the lack of leadership on policy making and decision making. It means further moves to policies, positions and a style of politics that are likely to alienate rather than attract people we need to attract to have any hope of power.
It means the consolidation in the Party of a hard left that has always seen Labour either as an enemy or as a vehicle for its own politics, not a force it wishes to see in government. It means more sway for the posh boy revolutionaries who call a lot of the shots in the ‘social movement’ being built around Corbyn. It means the boosting of the confidence and standing of the party within a party that Corbyn is keen to promote and is holding its rival conference in Liverpool this week. It means continuing denial about our dire standing in public opinion. It means continuing to attack New Labour as being all about spin while desperately portraying poll deficits as leads, council election failures as successes, profound disunity on policy and politics as agreement.
As to what happens now a lot depends on how Corbyn and his supporters react to his win. The pre-victory signs have not been good. He and his supporters will take this as vindication. It is fine to call for unity. But it has to be clear what we are being asked to unite around. As Labour MP Kerry McCarthy pointed out this week, he needs to start setting out policies that go beyond a slogan that fits on a T shirt. We all believe in equality of opportunity. We all believe in ending the housing crisis. We all believe in making sure everyone can go to a good school. We all believe in supporting the NHS. We all believe in strong communities. The question is what are the economic and other detailed policies that are going to deliver on these noble goals?
As we saw on Question Time last week it suits the Corbyn-John McDonnell agenda to portray New Labour as having been about nothing but spin and Iraq. One of the most radical and broad ranging list of achievements any government can boast dismissed as of little or no significance because it doesn’t fit the McDonnell-Momentum spin.
That being said the non Corbyn side of the party which continues to dominate the PLP also has to react in the right way. Above all that means going beyond saying simply that he is not up to the job and is never going to be elected Prime Minister. It means providing a policy debate and a policy agenda that goes beyond the platitudes so far. Some MPs say that is impossible whilst Corbyn is leader and John McDonnell is shadow chancellor. It is not. It is difficult. But not impossible.
In the end politics is about policy and ideas as well as the organisation which has helped Corbyn win again. Whether those who either refused to serve in the shadow cabinet in the first place, or left when they realised Labour was going nowhere under Corbyn, decide that is best done inside our outside the top table team – that is a matter for them. The signs are that despite his long held ‘belief’ in annual shadow cabinet elections among the PLP, Corbyn has gone off that now.
But though the Labour talent pool is not as deep as we might like there are enough people there to start commanding the policy debate in a way they failed to do last year. That has to change. Because I fear that very little else will.