What Went Wrong - 2019
Open Letter to the Parliamentary Labour Party
I am a pensioner, therefore, as I’m sure you know, one of the poorest in Europe. I have been a member of the Labour Party for most of my working life. I am not nor ever have been a member of Momentum or Progress or Militant or Tribune or any other subset of the Labour Party (unless you count the Co-operative Party of which I am Branch secretary). I am one of the countless footsoldiers who have canvassed and leafleted and door-knocked and stood in the rain at sad High Street stalls and, more recently, liked and shared and retweeted on your behalves throughout many many local and national campaigns.
Here’s the essence of my message to you. Show a little respect.
Many many of us, out there in the dark winter weather of the recent election, strongly supported Corbyn/McDonnell and what we considered to be the well crafted and sensibly costed Manifesto they steered into being. You may have your own views about the Manifesto, but there isn’t very much evidence to suggest that any of you are much more intelligent than any of us.
You may also have your own views about Corbyn/McDonnell themselves, but many of us, including myself, have met and shook hands with these guys and liked the fact that they listened and liked what they had to say. There is likewise no evidence to suggest that any of you are any better able to assess character than any of us.
My point is this. By bad mouthing Corbyn/McDonnell and/or the Manifesto, you are not only bad mouthing us, but you are also insulting our intelligence.
And for what purpose? We are all grieving at the terrible outcome of the election, but how is insulting our intelligence going to improve things? Corbyn/McDonnell have, as anticipated, already done the honourable thing and fallen on their swords. What more do you want? What satisfaction can there be in kicking someone who refuses to kick back? You may want to “distance yourselves” (presumably to please the corporate media), but you are also distancing yourselves from us. I don’t think I am alone in saying that any potential “leader” who panders to that media by opening with character assassination of the previous incumbents will immediately lose my support.
My advice would be to hold fire on the “I told you so” and simply get on with the job, as we are all now having to do, of deep and considered analysis pointing to strategic recovery without the abandonment of key principles.
Neither you nor we can, at this point, be absolutely certain about what went so badly wrong. Our respective intelligences will draw us towards some highly subjective preliminary conclusions (see mine below if you can be bothered), but no one, despite all the trumpeting posturings, can have any real grasp of an objective truth. There can be no doubt that there is a desperate need for in-depth analysis, but how can any intelligent person possibly think that pre-empting that analysis with trumpeted posturings to the corporate media will improve things for the Party?
They, the corporate media, are loving it of course and, if personal aggrandisement with the added possibility of advantage in the upcoming leadership race is what you’re after regardless of the damage to the Party, then you’re no better than the idiot Johnson.
If I were in your shoes, I would be supporting the dedicated party workers in their grief. Many of us still feel devastated and demoralised. Why antagonise and attack? Why indulge in hindsighting and gloating? The “healing” that even the idiot Johnson has acknowledged is required nationally, is also needed internally. Do something. Address this. It’s not all about you. Help us. Stop talking AT us through the corporate media. Come out to the constituencies and thank us for our efforts. Stop telling us that you know all there is to know. Listen to us. Accommodate us as we vent our anger and frustration and hurt.
what was good - a subjective analysis
The Manifesto (complete with costings!)
What a clarion document. For the first time in UK political history there was a consistency and transparency to what is in effect (or should be) a contract between voter and votee. So much more than simply a list of facile promises, it even compelled the idiot Johnson to attach a half hearted attempt at costing his own shopping list of half-truths and outright lies.
It was clear too that many academics and economists could see that it made sense and added up, but of course this got nothing like the serious media coverage it deserved.
Speaking personally, I felt elements of this were a bridge too far for the current voting climate, but I loved it, supported it, and fought for it. It was clear from 2017 there were strong resonances with the UK public. Untainted by brexit, I believe this clear, well constructed document would have won many more minds.
Party membership has shot up with the advent of Corbyn/McDonnell, with a massive influx of enthusiastic young. This was especially demonstrated locally with teams of young people turning up, at their own expense, from other no-hope constituencies to help in our winnable with the canvassing and leafleting. They were such an inspiration to us older dogs, and such a pleasure to work with.
Likewise voter registration shot up in the same period. Again, especially among the young people. They, in their thousands, were indicating an overwhelming disgust with the mindless corporate values driving us all to "austerity" and even extinction. They are the ones who will be left with the eco-systems we have so thoroughly trashed.
what was bad - a subjective analysis
the ghost of Cambridge Analytica:
I and many others thought we still had an advantage on social media because of our large numbers, but, clearly, we were wrong. The corporates have already made massive subliminal inroads here such that the SM arena is now almost as rotten as the press and the passive telemedia arenas.
I'm in a must-win marginal, and yet, the only heavy hitters we had come by, despite continual requests from Region, were JC himself, McDonnell, and Raynor. Where in the name of all that's holy were the rest of you?
Where was that famously vociferous Remain vote? Surely any intelligent remainer could see that the only hope was with the Labour promise of a second crack of the whip. Surely that would be a much preferred option to the idiot Johnson's inevitable blundering no-deal exit. And surely the Lib Dems, the other party of austerity, could be seen to be facile and unprincipled with an obtuse and ignorant leadership changing course with every breath of wind change.
In the hands of trusted billionaires and etonians, what could we expect but the worst. And we got it, in spades. Amidst unreported outcries from academics and non-corporate-puppet journalists, the fear, hatred, and outright lying surpassed all previous levels. This national abomination of the supposed 4th estate is a disaster for an already compromised democracy. Most notable among their "achievements" were:
anti-semitism: Even you PLPers must surely wonder how in the name of hell they ever got this one to stick. More than any of you, JC has always been at the forefront of the fight against bigotry and racism. More so than any other MP in the House. He has been head and shoulders above all of you in this respect. As Alexei Sayle said, “What could be more obscene than an anti-racist being called racist by racists.” This alone should have set alarm bells ringing through the empty corridors of the UK journalistic mind if not your own. What a complete and utter travesty that such a grotesque perversion of the truth should have had any traction whatsoever, let alone be a decisive belief in the minds of many voters. Goebbels himself would have been profoundly impressed and overcome with admiration.
terrorism: So he spoke to the IRA when they were still the bad guys. But, as we and the corporate media know, so did loads of other people of good character and intention. And we and the corporate media know this helped pave the way for the Good Friday agreement. But the corporate media completely buried any hint of balance on this, and most of you stayed silent or even, despicably, joined the hue and cry.
immigration: Fear and hatred. The big seller of newspapers. On and on it goes, whoever the Labour leader might be.
"Where’s the money coming from?" : Trumpeted daily despite that clarion Manifesto, fully costed for the first time in UK political history. But of course, it only drew the reading classes. For everyone else, it had to be “interpreted” by the blundering, compromised corporate UK journalistic mind - which meant mis and dis information on an industrial scale and, despicably, supported by many of you.
lack of coverage of JC events: How many crowded rallies went unreported as the corporates trotted dutifully along behind the Johnson train to record cute and humorous sound bites (carefully avoiding too much outright laughable instances unless social media picked them up first). Rallies are largely outdated because of modern comms tech, but in fact, they were extraordinary events - full of enthusiasm and hope and friendship.
brexit: The vociferous remainers in the Party chose to castigate Corbyn/McDonnell (largely through the corporate media) for being "indecisive". For heaven's sake. Were you completely unaware of the Labour working class strongholds voting overwhelmingly for Leave? How could a responsible leadership possibly ignore that? In fact, I thought Corbyn/McDonnell made a skilful and sophisticated attempt to make the build up to the election NOT about brexit, but I think time ran out and the corporate media were banging the drums of fear and hatred from very early on.
A mid winter election is never going to be happy for Labour. And the weather itself came out in support of discouraging canvassers and voters alike. Our advantage of being people driven was much more seriously eroded than the corporate-driven tory campaign. So, as premeditated by Dominic Cunning - the Pete Mandelson of overt toryism (Pete being the Mandelson of covert toryism), into the valley of death we rode. Many of us on the ground knew that, aided and abetted by a listless PLP, this was going to be a massive additional burden to bear.
Recently murmurs of something we all quietly and reluctantly suspected are beginning to surface. We now know the referendum was a fraud, but have the creeping tentacles of corporate intervention at last reached into the very mechanics of our democracy? Given what else they own and control, can we really rest assured that they haven't tampered with this last line of defence?
The Common Interest vs Privilege
In the co-operative movement (my natural setting) one of the tools we use to assess events or personalities or trends or whatever is to visualise a linear spectrum with “the common interest” at one end and “privilege” at the other. Taking any example, we discuss where along that spectrum a particular item might be placed.
For example: The royal family might be loved by elements of the common stock, but most would agree that it serves privilege much more than it serves the common interest. Accordingly, it would be placed towards the privilege end of the spectrum. Or take Legal Aid. Most would have to agree that this would most serve the common interest as privilege already has all the legal support it needs. Or corporate control of mainstream (and, increasingly, social) media. Having this in the hands of tory owned corporations certainly doesn’t serve the common interest but is blatantly beneficial to privilege.
With this in mind, where on that spectrum do you think you stand? Do you think you’re nearer the common interest than JC? More specifically, do you think attacking JC’s supporters does anything but serve the interests of privilege?
© 2019 Deacon Martin