Friday, 5 August 2016

A brutally honest letter to Labour members

I wrote this for Labour Uncut on Wednesday night, about the leadership election. It's, well, from the heart.

Dear Labour member,

You probably think this is like so many emails you get from the party nowadays. But it is not.

This is a letter to you from someone who loves the party and sees it in desperate trouble.

Apologies in advance: this is going to be tough. There is not really any way to be nice about it, so here goes.

To the party’s right: you need to up your game. Owen Smith – and Angela Eagle until a few weeks ago – have made a brave stand. But you cannot let yourselves be out-organised by the Corbynites. For example, if your rally is going to get only modest support, don’t do a rally at all, do something else. If you play who-pulls-a-bigger-crowd with Corbyn, you will lose. Lay out your candidate’s stall early and don’t let their opponent define them.

Please also do not let these clowns get away with subverting your local party structure. They are organising against you and you must organise back. You cannot be nice about this, too much is at stake.

Your opponents also have generous supplies of cash, thanks to the leaders of the larger trade unions having scant accountability to their members as to where they channel their subs. You will have to be truly inventive to counter that. But you can still win and there is still all to play for.

To the hard left: I do not care about you. With the notable exception of Dennis Skinner, you have no real love for this party and would see it burn. And frankly, you are not even that sure about democracy, either. Your ideas put into action will undoubtedly end in disaster and chaos; they always do. Our mission is now to ensure you do not take our party with you as collateral damage.

To remaining members of the soft left still supporting Corbyn: you are the key. This is in your hands and, with the best will in the world, you need to wake up. You probably supported Corbyn because you thought he was nice, decent and a breath of fresh air.

But you missed an important fact: he is, and always has been, hard left. Your views and his are really not the same (and, if you would take the time to check just a few facts easily available on the internet about his past associations, you might actually begin to wonder about his decency, too. But I digress).

So, you are supporting him now not because your views coincide, but because you feel he has been put upon by the media and the party’s right, and are leaping to his defence. In time-honoured Labour fashion, you are standing up for him as if he were a potentially disadvantaged minority, as you would rightly stand up for ethnic or LGBT minorities. And probably also because you never really liked those Blairite and Brownite types anyway, so supporting Corbyn against them feels like “sticking it to the man”.

But the truth is this: Corbyn is not disadvantaged, he is the front runner, and the opprobrium he has received in the mainstream press is really a hundred per cent his own fault. When even the neutral BBC and the left-leaning Guardian – employer of his current, hard-left press spokesman, remember – starts being labelled anti-Corbyn, it’s because you’re doing something wrong.

Your continuing support for him is not only sentimental in the face of strong evidence against doing so, but it is a self-indulgence which is now threatening the very future of your party. It is not the time for protesting and sticking it to the man. This leader cannot win an election and, worse, he is busy refashioning the party in such a way that no future leader will ever have the means to, either. And if you think mass deselections in the PLP is really going to help us win the next election, you are already lost to reason.

In short, the party is dividing into two factions: Labour and Corbyn-Labour. The latter of these is fast becoming not merely a cult of personality, but a political death cult and your cross on the ballot paper will decide whether it wins.

This is no longer a struggle for the soul of the Labour party we all care about. It is a struggle for its existence.

Please think about it.

Yours in candour,

A friend and comrade

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