Friday, 22 July 2016

LABOUR LEADERSHIP CONTEST BECOMES 2020 GENERAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN - JEREMY CORBYN'S MASTERSTROKE

Louise was upstairs watching TV as she quilted and alerted me to the press conference. Our leader was launching his leadership campaign. That feels oxymoronic ... Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader last year so why is he having another leadership campaign? Well, the Parliamentary Labour Party - more precisely, the majority of the Labour MPs in the House of Commons - has passed a vote of no confidence in his leadership. You probably know much of the rest of the story. My point here is to say how impressive and how confident Jeremy appeared in this fifteen minute launch - and to explain why I and hundreds and thousands others will be returning him to his rightful place as our leader, our figurehead for our beliefs about how this nation of ours should be governed. Do listen over the coming weeks as he spells out what Labour will be doing in government to rescue this stricken land from a decade of nasty Tory misgovernment.

Let me address a key accusation against JC. He has not been, is not, and never will be, a good leader.

Jeremy Corbyn - leader of the Labour Party


I'll begin by referencing the political point that we anti-neoliberals will always return to: governmental oversight of a national economy is very different from family management of a household economy. Keynesian assumptions bind us together on this matter; sound economics blend beautifully with our humane and civilised beliefs that people matter and should never be sacrificed on the altar of rugged individualism and trickle-down falsehoods. We can and we should borrow and even create the money that will drive the wheels of industry, trade and commerce.

Now, imagine a family-run business making ice-cream that has expanded successfully, employs over one hundred people and whose management board is filled by three generations of the same family and a healthy representation of non-family members with varying expertise. The board also includes a handful of members of the workforce. Word has spread; this precious institution has become a byword for good management practice and social scientists are queuing up to study their management strategies and leadership styles. People reference this ice-cream dream business as a text book illustration for good leadership.

Then imagine, there is a tragic air crash and all the family members of the board are wiped out in a single moment. A distant cousin who has never gained access to the higher reaches of the firm before now finds herself, as the sole surviving family member left in the business, the managing director.



But she has a very different set of ideas about how to make the best ice-cream - and wins the support of very few of the board members. Tensions erupt. To make matters worse, the word from the local  reps is that her recipes for ice-cream are already well-appreciated in the remote region from where she hailed. There are murmurings against her. Then a plot. The word on the block is clear. She is a poor leader. She lacks the skills that will unite the company.

In name it is the same ice-cream company. But in reality it is not. The product has changed. Her attempts to be the classic good leader have been thwarted at every turn by those in the company whose lives have been turned upside down by the trauma of the family air-crash and now the ignominy of having an upstart push a new - and increasingly popular - line of ice-cream. This deplorable new leader is bad news. She is the weak link - although everyone agrees she is actually a rather nice person.  She must go.

Is she to be condemned for her inability to unite these hurt and threatened survivors of a company in crisis?  Or do we accept that we are not comparing like with like. The ice-cream company pre-air-crash is not the same institution as the one after the distant cousin took over. In my analogy, the national  economy is not the same as the family household economy. Good leadership can only be judged in its context.

I am sure you can join up the dots of the argument for yourself, here on. The Parliamentary Labour Party - and many constituency Labour Party executive committees - have a way of doing politics that is well-grounded and is based on the idea that the Party must remain at all costs electable. (Unfortunately, this way of doing politics has led to General Election defeats in 2010 and 2015 - a problem!??)  Such institutions associate JC and his policies with un-electability. Being anti-austerity will not win enough votes to bring Labour back into power. (Cue, I think, to flag up the loss of 40/41 Labour seats in Scotland to the explicitly anti-austerity, anti-Trident SNP in 2015.) Therefore JC must be removed. He is a diminished and inadequate leader who is stopping us from being popular with the general public and most of the media. Being too different costs votes.

Regrettably for the PLP and others who share that mind-set, JC has emerged as a respected authority figure for over one hundred thousand people who are embracing an anti-austerity, anti-Tory agenda. A different constituency; a different kind of 'institution'; a different definition of what constitutes good leadership. And yet the same Party.



I leave you with this image of the front and back cover of 'The Road to Corbyn', my political fantasy. In a couple of weeks or less, you will be able to buy it for yourself. You can order it direct from my website.