Ousting Corbyn won’t solve Labour’s core problems

Though the Labour party is in desperate need of a new leader, its real problem is that since Blair it hasn’t known what it is as a party.

For Labour supporters or just anyone left of centre, the current state of the party is enough to make you weep. It has a leader wildly out of his depth and without the support of an overwhelming number of MP’s (not just Blairites as the Corbynistas keep insisting). More troublingly there is no obvious leader in waiting with any chance of unifying the deeply fractured party. Angela Eagle, the likely unity candidate would be unlikely to fare much better then Jeremy Corbyn in a general election.

jeremy-corbyn
Time to go

Furthermore the party is losing support in key areas. The north, once a Labour heartland, is becoming increasingly hostile to the free movement of people and there are signs that vast swathes of traditional working class Labour voters may prioritise immigration and start voting for UKIP. There were already signs of this during the EU referendum. Polling suggests that 37% of Labour voters voted to leave, and Sunderland, a Labour powerbase, voted to leave by an astonishing 61% to 39%%.

Though Jeremy Corbyn’s apathy towards the Remain side and his general incompetence as a campaigner explains some of why Labour voter were swayed to Brexit, the blame cannot be laid squarely at his door: working class concerns over the effects of mass migration (long swept under the rug by the parliamentary party) and the well packaged lies of the Leave campaign were what really clinched it for leave.

Labour’s predicament in the North is eerily reminiscent of the Democratic party in America. The Democrats swept the ‘solid south’ as recently as 1960, but lost it to insurgents like the Dixiecrats and Barry Goldwater after Democrat Presidents John F Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson supported civil rights legislation that alienated the racist, staunchly segregationist south. Today, the South votes overwhelmingly Republican.

The parallels between this situation and that the Labour party is facing in the North is uncanny: a working class power base lost by a left wing party because it began to favour more socially liberal policies. But the similarities run deeper than that. One of the reasons why Lyndon Johnson (a Texan Democrat) wanted the South to accept civil rights was not just that he saw their implementation as the moral thing to do, but he also saw the South’s obsession with opposing it as a barrier that prevented the much poorer region from joining the prosperity and progress of the rest of the United States.

If the north allows immigration to be the biggest factor in deciding how it votes (ie for UKIP) it will only become more impoverished and economically deprived, and the economic north/south divide will only become more pronounced. UKIP is not the party of the working man, in the past it has advocated for a flat tax, and Nigel Farage has openly called for an insurance based health system to replace the NHS.

But the loss of support in the north is just a symptom of the party’s wider issues, the core of Labour’s problems is that it can’t work out what it is as a party anymore. While the MP’s and electorate have made it clear it could not win elections (and would therefore be obsolete) as a socialist party , the alternative, a return to Blairism, seems equally bad. While Blair achieved some legislative gains during his time as prime minister, he was largely a ‘Tory-lite’. Abandoning genuinely left-wing principles and embracing neo-liberalism just to win an election would be a disservice to a party with such a proud history, and would leave it electorally vulnerable in the north that the Blair/Brown administration let down so badly.

To win back support in the north labour must do three things:

Unite around a credible leader – Jeremy Corbyn cannot and should not lead Labour into the next general election, that much is clear. The problem is that there are no obvious leaders in waiting or viable alternatives waiting to succeed him. Potential candidates like Chuka Umunna or even a resurgent David Miliband are too far to the right of the party membership and would struggle to appeal to the northern vote labour so desperately needs to regain.

Listen to concerns over immigration – Labour cannot ignore the issues its core supporters have with immigration. It must show it cares about people’s concerns and provide real solutions, by promising an actual living wage and enforcing labour laws to stop the slave-like exploitation of migrant workers.

Labour must continue to be a liberal and accepting party that makes the case for immigration and explains to its voters that key public services like the NHS are sustained, not overwhelmed by the taxes EU migrants pay and the job vacancies they fill. Though it may be tempting to adopt a ‘pull up the drawbridge’ rhetoric, that would not only be a destructive policy in practice, but adopting it in a campaign would kill its support in more metropolitan places like London and Scotland.

The issue of immigration, may, oddly enough, be settled sooner than it would appear. Theresa May is the most likely person to succeed David Cameron, and though she has expressed a strong opposition to current levels of immigration, she would be unlikely to receive a Brexit deal restricting the free movement of people. To do this would almost certainly require an exit from the single-market, something which even the most anti-immigration Tories know is economic suicide.

That would leave a situation with both major parties having to accept free-movement, even if it was the issue that ensured Leave their victory.

Find its soul – There is no point in power for power’s sake, Labour is not as pragmatic and power hungry as the Tories, it must know what it is before it appeals to the British electorate. This may involve a split, with a socialist party under Jeremy Corbyn and a separate, Center-Left party under different leadership. But there is a viable alternative. If Labour becomes a Social Democratic party, as it was under Attlee and Wilson, it could not only unify the party, but also win it an election. A member of the party’s soft left could appeal to both the socialists on one extreme in the party and the blairites on the other. This was a position that Ed Miliband tried, and failed to adopt. But though he didn’t have the leadership or timing to bring the party together, a lot of his ideas were sound.

potd_miliband_baco_2918111k
Right vision, wrong person.

And, though he was branded as ‘Red- Ed’ by a largely hostile media, polling shows his positions on key issues like nationalisation and a higher top rate of tax were far more in line with the opinions of the electorate then David Cameron’s. Although Ed Miliband feared rejecting austerity would lose him the election, it was probably his lukewarm middle of the road approach that lost it for him; to beat the Tories Labour must offer a distinctly different plan for governance.

Though Corbyn offers that, he does so in a divisive and electorally suicidal way. To keep the party together and win an election Labour must replace Jeremy Corbyn with a Social Democrat. Unfortunately, they seem in short supply at the moment. It is bleak times ahead for the Labour party and with it, the left as a whole.

 

 

Agree? Disagree?

Do you think Jeremy Corbyn should resign? If so, who should replace him?

 

Comment below and have your opinion heard.

 

 

13 Comments Add yours

  1. Don Royster says:

    We could send you Trump. In fact, please take him off our hands.

    Seriously you are right about the Republicans inheriting the blue collar white vote in the South. The reason for the rebellion among Labor voters is probably the same as the one the Republicans are having among its white blue collar voters, them called the Reagan Democrats.

    For the last twenty years, many of the so-called Conservative radio talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh have been race-baiting their listeners, blaming their audience’s economic poverty on African-Americans and illegal aliens. The reality is that the Republican elite have taken these people for granted, as has the Democrats have taken the African-American voters for granted.

    The Republican Party was following the mantra of free trade, lower taxes and smaller government. (Seems the Republicans have not had a new idea since they came up with trickle-down economics.) In the meantime, blue collar workers have seen their jobs leave the country for places with much cheaper labor and people’s wages have not risen to keep up with the cost of living.

    With the 2007-2008 economic meltdown, even the well-off lost their jobs. The only jobs available to them were minimum wage jobs. The average American has been left with huge debt and lower wages. The cost of everything except their wages has been going up.

    The answer, to deal with global commerce, would have been to create a massive re-training for blue collar workers so they could participate in an economy that has left them out. Also fund huge infrastructure project to give people jobs while they re-train. But no Republican seems to get that. Bernie Sanders was the closest. That was why he received so many younger voters. Young people are graduating from college now, floating in a sea of debt.

    If the next President and the next Congress don’t address this, I am afraid that 2016 will look like kindergarten.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. oraimes says:

      Well said, though the political situation looks bleak in the UK at the moment, I’d take it over what you have in the US any day.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Don Royster says:

        It’s looking more and more like the crazies have taken over here. As far as the UK is concerned, I don’t think it has to be the end of the world. Depending on how it’s negotiated, it could be a win-win for everybody. If neither side wants to play gotcha. It could still be negotiated where Britain and the EU allow for the free flow of trade, Britain is able to control its immigration, and Europeans can work in Britain and the British can work in Europe. I kind of look at the vote saying that many Brits don’t like someone faraway mucking things up when they can muck things up themselves.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. oraimes says:

        I wish I could have your optimism, I see a very bad deal being negotiated and a bleak future for the UK at least in the short-term.

        Like

  2. Francis Boyle says:

    I would just like to point out that this article is out of date has a fatal flaw in making one major assumption without evidence. It is not a great idea to start talking about the way the Democrats lost the South in America, because the US is about to elect a female Democratic President (unless an asteroid hits the earth or Yellowstone Park goes up or something of that order takes place) whether the ‘South’ likes it or not. What I’m saying is that things change in politics. The Labour Party may (and I repear may) lose the North of England although the article fails to take into account that the Labour voters are known to have voted to ‘Leave’ merely to send a message to Westminster that they feel unheard by the MPs there, but without realising what a desperate thing they did (thanks to the ‘nothing will change except…’ message of the Leave campaigners). It is unlikely that they will vote UKIP because if he has been watching the news lately, there is every chance that there will not be a UKIP to vote for! However, Labour may simply change its main stamping grounds (as the Democrats did), at least at first. It also fails to have grasped that the very things he suggests that the Party should do are actually part of the announced policies of Jeremy Corbyn who is well aware of what the Party needs to do before the next election. The unelectability of Jeremy Corbyn has simply become one of those phrases that everyone eventually believes because it is repeated so often, without much fact to back it up (Trump is trying the same tactic in the USA). The writer shows all of the traits of someone who gets his information from the BBC News. And as a former lecturer in Social Science I must correct him. Attlee regarded himself (and to all and intents and purposes was ) a Socialist in the way that Jeremy Corbyn is. And he describes Tony Blair inaccurately as a ‘Tory-lite’, he wasn’t; he was a text-book Social Democrat. Harold Wilson refused to be labelled and merely referred to himself as a ‘pragmatist’.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Linda Vaux says:

    Total horse shit.

    Like

    1. oraimes says:

      Well said, very eloquent.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Linda Vaux says:

        It was concise, but nonetheless true. We do not need a new leader.

        Like

  4. Kevin Harrison says:

    Who are you to tell (500,000) of us that we need a new leader?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. oraimes says:

      Its an opinion, I’m not telling you to do anything. Also, Jeremy Corbyn has the support of far less than 500,000 members and many of the new people joining the Labour party are doing so to get rid of him.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Simon Lock says:

    The party is not in need of a few leader, the leader we have is doing just fine. What it needs to replace is the divisive minority of right wing Blairites who happen to be at the top, and who are therefore in a position to squeal loudly to the media when they feel their snouts being pulled away from the trough.

    Like

  6. tompjparkin says:

    A very interesting read. I think its right for you to have separated Corbyn as a leader and his anti-austerity agenda.
    From my experience of Labour politics, Corbyn did so well in last year’s leadership election because the party membership could see the difference between style and substance. (There was more to being leader than smiling at a television camera and wearing the right kind of suit.) None of the other candidates quite got this – which is why Corbyn got 59.5% of the vote. it seems Corbyn will get 60/70% of the vote until someone with both qualities comes along. What do you think of Hilary Benn as an alternative ‘soft labour’ leader?

    Like

    1. tompjparkin says:

      (At the moment, I think i’d vote for Jeremy Corbyn again)

      Like

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