With the Labour Party moving to the right ahead of the
next General Election I have met a great number of unhappy local members recently
some of whom have left the party and are looking for a new 'home'. Others
intend to stay and fight for the policies they believe in, so I was interested
in last Saturday's talk by Mike Phipps of Brent Central CLP about his book 'Don't
stop thinking about tomorrow - the Labour Party after Jeremy Corbyn'.
The meeting was chaired by Alex Colas, Brent CLP Political Education Officer
who posed several questions to Phipps before wider contributions and questions
from the small audience. Several ex-Labour councillors were in the audeince but no current councillors.
Taken together Phipp's answers produce a narrative:
After the 2017 General Election although Labour lost the result was treated by the party as a victory because of its high vote for Corbyn's policies. Instead, the party should have analysed the missing demographics in its vote. Corbyn's rejection of personal attacks on rivals meant that he failed to address Johnson's dishonesty. The left no longer controls Labour Party policy but the right, bereft of policies of their own, are dipping into the left's.
Starmer has developed an unpleasant, imposed regime but Labour can win the next election. The scale of the crisis means that you can't have a 'steady as you go' strategy - the crisis needs something more radical. In the recent local elections, the areas where Labour was most radical were the ones where Labour did proportionally better. The move to the right means that Labour is losing graduate voters and the core vote is in danger.
Policies on housing, green transition and the NHS are important, but the real battle will be overfinancing them. The problem is that Labour is not committing to any more money. Will Starmer hit the rich or change the commitment?
The left needs to go on the attack over the money.
Differences between Welsh and Scottish Labour and UK Labour are widening with separate approaches. I don't support an alliance with the Liberal Democrats because of past history and thinks a trick was missed with the Greens in 2019.
The Corbyn leadership was a once in a lifetime moment. More than 20,000 came into the party and about the same number have gone out. Some have stayed and got involved in local government, others have stepped back, and some have got involved in other parties. If Starmer fails to win a majority at the General Election, it is likely that the party will become factional.
The issue of the anti-semitism label should have been killed off immediately but Corbyn was poorly advised by his Comms people. After 2017 he should have brought in top-notch staff with a Chief of Staff committed to his agenda. Instead, the staff had too many agendas of their own.
Contributions from the audience were varied. Phipp's responses in brackets:
The fake allegations of anti-semitism were a step too far for me and I have kind of given up on parliamentary politics. Starmer is not challenging the establishment. I am despondent beyond measure. [Starmer is to the left of Blair on many issues. Labour began to lose votes under Miliband because of pro-Palestine policies. They should have been more aware of losing those votes. Surveys showed Labour voters queasy about Starmer.]
You said that you thought Labour would win the General Election. It is not likely to be an overall majority, and this strengthens the case for PR. What is the position of the local party on PR? [Brent Central CLP narrowly passed a motion in support of PR. Personally in favour. Labour for PR doesn't punch its full weight and trade union support for PR has been more important. Unfortunately, after the last experience I don't think a Referendum on PR would be won.]
I am opposed to Starmer because he is not a good lawyer. His record shows (e.g., Menezes shooting) that he has no moral sense regarding the big issues.
The reason for decline is the decline of trade unions. Need to build them up through developing single union across the sectors - multiple unions as in NHS means government/employers can divide and rule. Class politics should override identity politics. I know others won’t agree but immigration should be opposed for class reasons as was initially the case with trade unions - it lowers wages and employers are therefore in favour. [Research evidence is that immigration does not depress wage levels.]
John McDonnell gave a well-received talk here at the Learie Constantine Centre across parties. What is his role now and could the left coalesce around his leadership, particularly on economics. [Since Corbyn and McDonnell are following their separate interest of international issues and economic policy now. McDonnell is part of the old generation and there is a new generation from the Miliband era such as Richard Burgon. Such a person is more likely to come from the centre, rather than the centre-left.]
Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow - Mike Phipps, OR Books