Eamonn McCann: It’s Corbyn or catastrophe for British Labour party
Blair’s sidekick Alastair Campbell has lately decided that things have become so fraught that he must intervene to save the party which he says he loves
Jeremy Corbyn during a rally in London earlier this month. Photograph: EPA/ANDY RAIN
The British parties with most to lose if Jeremy Corbyn wins the Labour leadership are the Scottish Nationalists and the Greens. Labour voters deserted the party in droves on May 7th, out of disillusion with politics in general and their own party in particular. The SNP fought on an anti-austerity, anti-Trident platform, outflanking and out-campaigning an old party with tired ideas.
In seemingly rock-solid Labour areas of Glasgow where no Conservative has been seen alive in decades, “natural” Labour supporters – from veterans dreaming of John Maclean to students looking for a light in the dim – felt a surge of hope at the stirring rhetoric of Nicola Sturgeon, dismay at the plodding discourse of Jim Murphy.
Across the UK, the Greens took 1.1 million votes, but, under first-past-the-post, won a single seat. In contrast, Labour took 232 seats at 40,290 votes per seat. All anecdotal and exit-poll evidence is that a large slice of the Greens’ increased support came from voters who had opted for Labour last time around but now wanted something different.
ContendersWhich of the four leadership contenders is most likely to attract these “lost” voters back? The question answers itself. Contradictorily, the prospect of a mass, insurgent Labour campaign sweeping the country in 2020 appears to the old sweats of Blair years as an appalling vista.
Blair himself laid it on the line in a speech to New Labour lobby group Progress on June 22nd: “I wouldn’t want to win on an old-fashioned leftist platform. Even if I thought it was the route to victory, I wouldn’t take it.” His commitment to Labour is clearly conditional – a fact which doesn’t appear to discourage Blairites from chorusing that Corbyn has proven himself disloyal by defying the Labour whip in 400 Commons votes. On virtually all these occasions, he was refusing to support policies which ran counter to the policies on which he and other Labour MPs had been elected. Who or whatever it is that the Blair group wants Labour MPs to be loyal to, it isn’t the Labour Party.
Blair’s sidekick Alastair Campbell has lately decided that things have become so fraught that he must intervene to save the party which he says he loves. On Monday, he announced “with absolute certainty” that Corbyn could not lead Labour to victory. “Every piece of political intelligence, experience and analysis tells you that (Corbyn) will never be elected prime minister.”
Of course, Campbell’s political intelligence, experience and analysis had told him with absolute certainty in 2002 that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction which could be unleashed against British military bases in Cyprus at 45 minutes’ notice, and, in 2003, that Saddam was hugger-mugger with al-Qaeda and planning major terrorist attacks against western countries. (The dossiers issued by Blair and Campbell containing these wild allegations designed to lure the British people into war can, for the sake of clarity, be referred to as, respectively, the “sexed-up dossier” and the “dodgy dossier”.)
The 2003 compilation included distorted chunks of an article in an academic journal by Ibrahim al-Marashi, a young Iraqi lecturer in California.
Asked a few years later why he hadn’t sued the dodgy duo and their associates for misuse of his material, al-Marashi replied: “The ramifications of two governments making an argument to invade a sovereign country based on evidence that was essentially taken from a journal, in my opinion makes the thought of money meaningless.”
Now there’s another concept – meaningless money – which would bewilder Blair as he jets around the globe hiring himself out to the sort of dictator who boils political opponents in oil.) Is it possible that Blair and Campbell haven’t cottoned on to the fact that their behaviour in relation to Iraq still ranks high in the list of reasons voters shy away from Labour?
OppositionHave they not grasped that the swell in support for the SNP and Greens has been generated, in part at least, by disgust at the lies which fell from the lips of New Labour as they strove to deliver Britain to Bush’s war. Corbyn’s consistent opposition to the war is one of the reasons hundreds of thousands, including a considerable number who had supported and even stood for other parties a few months ago, are cheering him to the echo at fervent rallies that spill onto the streets.
Sure, a Corbyn-led Labour Party might well split. But the splitters are at least as likely to find themselves in the political wilderness as those have held hard to decent Left ideas which, articulated by a decent man who betrays no sign of personal ambition, now resonate across Britain, including those swathes of Britain lost by Labour in May.
It’s Corbyn or catastrophe for Labour.