At risk of giving away the ending, the Labour Party is probably done for.
Assuming the polls aren’t fantastically wrong and the British people haven’t lost their minds, Jeremy Corbyn is heading for defeat on June 8. The potential scale of the routing is being described as ‘historic’, since it looks set to be unparalleled and because it might well consign Labour to the history books.
However, as a cheerful pessimist I offer a ten-point plan for rebuilding Labour after the General Election. Some of it is common sense (and will thus be alien to the average Labour member) while other parts are radical. But when you elect Jeremy Corbyn as your leader — twice — you don’t get to criticise anyone else for thinking outside the box.
1) Expel Jeremy Corbyn. Don’t just remove him from the leadership, tear up his membership card. He’s never belonged in the Labour Party anyway and has brought it to the brink of destruction. Showing him the door would be a powerful symbol that the party is truly sorry for inflicting him on the country. Labour are a soppy bunch, in truth driven more by sentiment than socialism, but they will have to be brutal. Any hesitation, any pity shown Corbyn, will be taken as a sign that Labour hasn’t learned.
2) Deselect hard-Left MPs and boot out Momentum activists. Those responsible for the Corbyn clown show should not be given the opportunity to repeat the experiment down the line.
3) Pinch the Tories’ leadership election rules. Jeremy Corbyn only made it onto the ballot in 2015 thanks to the bare minimum of 35 MPs nominating him to ‘broaden the debate’. To prevent such people plunging Labour into disaster again, the party should replicate the procedure for electing a Tory leader: MPs whittle down the field of candidates then put the final two to the membership. This concentrates the mind and underscores that members are selecting a candidate for Prime Minister, not making a statement against the political system or the wicked neoliberal world order that cruelly makes food cheaper and has put a big-screen TV in every home in the land.
4) Have a Clause I moment. Tony Blair’s ‘Clause IV moment’ was for the most part a public relations exercise. By 1995, it was clear that ‘popular administration and control’ of industry was off the table and since at least the Wilson years ‘common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange’ was observed more in the breach. What Labour needs today is a Clause I moment, an overhaul of the objectives listed in its rule book. ‘Organising and maintaining in Parliament and in the country a political Labour Party’ has made no impression on the Corbynistas, who openly profess their preference for purity in defeat than compromising to win. Clause I must be rewritten: ‘The Labour Party is committed above all else to winning elections. Only with power can we bring about the changes we wish to see.’
5) Back the independent nuclear deterrent. Labour has and will never win an election when its commitment to Britain’s defences are in doubt. Jeremy Corbyn is an opponent of Trident and has allowed doubt to fester as to whether Labour’s nominal pro-Trident position will be reflected in the manifesto. To make matters worse, his sympathisers have already voted for Scottish Labour to take an anti-nukes stance. Labour’s constitution should be amended to confirm the party’s belief in nuclear disarmament only on a multilateral basis.
6) Support the Union. Too often Labour, from Jeremy Corbyn on down, has sent mixed messages about Scottish independence. This ambivalence has come with a heavy price for Scottish Labour, whose leader Kezia Dugdale has put in a shift trying to convince Unionist voters that Labour isn’t soft on separatism. Adding a new line in the rulebook would be helpful here too but the real task is changing the UK constitution to a federal system, complete with an English parliament.
7) Don’t play patriot games. Labour must learn to talk about Britain with pride but should beware the temptations of jingoism. Loving your country and wanting the best for it is patriotism. Waving flags and stirring sentiments for political gain is nationalism. Labour should be a patriotic party but never a nationalist one.
8) Run anti-Semitism out of the party once and for all. Even Labour’s sharpest critics could never have imagined the party of Manny Shinwell and Ian Mikardo would become a gutter of Jew-hatred, conspiracy theories and unhinged antipathy to the State of Israel. Labour’s alienation of Britain’s Jews at a time of rising anti-Semitism, a time when the community should have been able to rely on Labour, is a moral stain that may never be scrubbed away. But the party could begin its penance by taking an unequivocal stance in its constitution:
The Labour Party is committed to the existence, security, and wellbeing of the State of Israel. The Party will actively oppose anti-Semitism in all its forms and whatever its origins, including campaigns to boycott, sanction or divest from Israel, its citizens, institutions, or goods; subject Israel to a discriminatory standard; or in any other way delegitimise Israel. Opposition to the continued existence of the State of Israel is incompatible with membership of the Labour Party.
9) Get over Tony Blair. The former Prime Minister still divides opinion ten years after departing Downing Street. Some recognise him as Labour’s electoral superhero, rescuing them from the political wilderness — investing in public services, lifting children out of poverty, and liberalising attitudes on sexuality along the way. There are many others for whom his legacy will be one word: Iraq. Whatever your view, harking back 20 years is no way for a political party to go about winning elections. Stop lamenting the most successful Labour Prime Minister ever and set about finding the next one.
10) Get over yourselves. The Labour Party isn’t all that and few on the outside care about it. Labour is a party of political anoraks trying to talk to a country that would rather watch Britain’s Got Talent. Spend some time with ordinary people, listen to their concerns and aspirations, and learn to talk to them in a way that doesn’t sound like a Dalek just back from a management training course.
That’s my plan. And if all else fails, get Diane Abbott a job counting the votes at the next election. Labour would win by a landslide.
When the Nationalists swept Labour from power in Glasgow last Thursday, I resolved to give them a chance. That lasted about as long as an SNP generation. On Saturday, Gavin Lundy, national communications officer for SNP Youth, declared on Twitter: ‘No more Union Jacks over City Chambers’.
My initial thoughts were:
1) There goes my dream of staging a production of HMS Pinafore in George Square. I had even penned an SNP-friendly number, ‘He is an Englishman (And So are Some of My Best Friends)’.
2) No one bring up the ‘Union Jack’ vs ‘Union Flag’ debate. I’d rather go through another independence referendum.
3) Wait, there’s an SNP Youth? One separatist gang is bad enough without having a Bugsy Malone wing for budding Paul Monaghans.
On a serious note, Glasgow has worked hard to leave sectarianism in the past. The SNP should think carefully before injecting Belfast-style culture wars into local politics. Put out more bins, not flags.
Vladimir Putin (the wee Russian fella on the horse) was accused of helping Marine Le Pen in the French election after her rival Emmanuel Macron’s emails leaked online. Surely Putin’s skills could be put to better use. I’ve been locked out of my old Yahoo! account for three years. He must know a couple of lads who could help with that.
Originally published in the Scottish Daily Mail. Contact Stephen at firstname.lastname@example.org.