JEREMY CORBYN’S critics continue to undermine him in their attempt to win back the Labour Party to the policies which lost the Party the last two General Elections. Although Corbyn has now won two all-member votes, in the summers of 2015 and 2016, it seems that there are still some MPs and a minority of party members who want to re-run the vote until they get the result they want.
Yesterday we saw the mainstream media pushing the idea that Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey was getting fed up with Corbyn – an idea which McCluskey was quick to refute. Today, the Fabian Society – a small society affiliated to the Labour Party and which enthusiastically embraces the New Labour policies of Tony Blair – has revealed its own concerns. The timing is intended to make it appear as if the opposition is growing. The criticisms are likely to be a weekly occurrence until May 2017, when there will be local elections across the UK (not in London). They are intended to discourage people from voting for Labour so that the results are depressed – at which point Corbyn’s critics will blame Corbyn for a poor result and then mount a third leadership challenge.
In the run up to the 1997 General Election, Tony Blair and his sidekick Peter Mandelson decided that Labour could not win a General Election and began talking to the Liberal Democrats about organising a coalition after the election. Their fears were unfounded: Labour went on to win a landslide victory. However, the belief that Blair only won because he was prepared to contemplate a coalition lived on – with many of his supporters believing this was the only way to win. A more likely cause of Labour’s landslide, however, was that Labour was offering a genuine alternative to a run of harsh, right-wing Tory Governments which seemed to have run out of steam. Their majority slipped at each election as they failed to deliver that alternative once they reached office.
The Fabians’ concerns are based on this misunderstanding: they claim that Labour is too weak to win a general election and should aim for a coalition with the Scottish and Welsh Nationalist parties. Any such coalition would founder very quickly: although the Welsh Nationalists have a set of progressive policies, the Scottish Nationalists’ policies have more in common with the Liberal Democrats.
The approach of calling for coalition at the next General Election is unlikely to win many of the council seats up for election in May. It is also unlikely to win a General Election. If the Fabians really want to learn lessons from the 1997 victory, they should recognise that it was won because Labour offered an alternative and a hope that there could be a better future.
Responding to the Fabians this morning, the Labour Party promised that Jeremy Corbyn will be heading up a campaign to put across Labour policies over the next few months. It remains to be seen whether Labour’s MPs will back him in that endeavour.