Analysis comment

Sanders video shows how to beat Boris – and the UK left must learn or risk being bypassed

Parts of UK left risk repeating Hillary Clinton’s mistakes that let Trump win. Sanders shows how to communicate with working-class voters

The confirmation of Boris Johnson’s status as front-runner in the Tory leadership race, when his 114 nominations – almost three times that of his nearest rival Jeremy Hunt – has the left rightly looking to attack Johnson’s credibility. There is no shortage of material.

But the UK left risks making a similar error to those committed by Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump – attacking Johnson on the areas that most offend them, while Johnson’s appeal and message bypasses them entirely.

Clinton used three main tacks against Trump:

  • Trump is a sex pest
  • Trump is a racist
  • Trump only serves the rich

Criticisms of Johnson along these lines are entirely merited – as they were about Trump – but risk failing to find traction with the large section of the population primarily looking for a candidate who seems to address their concerns directly.

By contrast, Bernie Sanders’ 2019 campaign against Trump – and for the Democrat nomination to fight him – use an entirely different tone and route, as this campaign video published in April shows:

Sanders addresses Trumps racism but, like the rest of his message, it is framed around meeting the felt needs of working-class people, in their language and on their terms – and highlighting Trump’s failure to live up to his promises. Sanders doesn’t castigate them for believing Trump – he takes over those promises and Sanders’ supporters show how he has what those watching really need.

The same lesson is on show in this country in the failure of remain campaigners to reach, let alone convince, working-class leave voters. On the contrary, by talking down to them and insulting both their intelligence and their integrity, remainers alienated many working-class people and entrenched them as opponents.

Those same people, angered by the dismissive attitude of the ‘elite’ telling them they are fools or bigots, are likely to be receptive to Johnson’s pitch in the early stages at least – unless the left learns and bypasses him to reach people, instead of allowing him to bypass us.

Ironically, one politician who has shown one good example of the right approach this week has been Jess Phillips. Left-wingers rightly point out Phillips’ many flaws – but in at least one tweet she engaged with working-class people in terms they would relate to and showed how Johnson is a fraud:

Labour supporters need to learn the Sanders lesson and do likewise. Johnson’s weaknesses, such as the funding he receives from health privatisers and his privileged background, are many. If we learn from Sanders and talk to working-class people about what matters to them, Johnson’s lack of authenticity will be his undoing – and Corbyn’s abundance of it will see him in Downing Street.

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    1. Here’s the message that the “Left ” needs to be broadcasting , LOUD AND CLEAR , and keep repeating it again &again&again , till it sinks in to those who are working class that t voting for a Tory and thinking that Boris is just some jokey nice lovable rouge get the message , they ain’t and never will be , one of us , for us , with us , support us , or be in any way shape or form looking after our well being.
      Only a DS Labour Govt lead by Corbyn can do that

      Share this everywhere you can , its the best most hard hitting 2 min speech I’ve heard for a long long time , just spectacular in it’s impact .

    2. Skwawkbox, you talk about the failure of politicians to respect the intelligence of the working class voter and then you praise this kind of bullshit populist nonsense – what could be more patronising than

      “Boris Johnson would not live down your street, he would not let his children go to school with yours, he does not hang out where you hang out and he would not be your friend.”

      Obvious to a child.
      Imagining there could be anyone reading that who’d think “Oh, yes, that’s a good point. I hadn’t thought of that…” is so patronising as to be laughable – even the toffee wouldn’t swallow that and Boris says he always swallows.

      If you want to “go low’ – if you want to out-Trump Trump or out-kipper Farage you’re going to have to do better than them at what is their stock-in-trade.
      I’d just remind everyone that responding to rabble-rousing with rabble-rousing can only escalate, and that that’s not what socialism’s supposed to be about.

      Still, if that’s what you think is best, I’ll dig up the pitchfork and service the steamroller.

    3. The tiresomely predictable comments from the “usual suspect” Remainer fanatics and paid Trolls on this item is priceless. Skwawkbox publishes an article with the perfectly rational message that Labour must not piss off its vital working class voter base by focussing only on its middle class Remain and other virtue signalling obsessions, and demonising that same working class voter base as stupid “knuckle -dragging racists” if they dare to support Brexit, if it hopes to win power – and the Trolls explode with indignation that Skwawkbox , unlike them, actually wants Labour under Jeremy’s Leadership, to WIN a General Election ! Steve Richards’ completely content-less abusive response to Skwawkbox’s carefully justified , fact-based, argument , of ” patronising BS”, sums up the intellectual bankruptcy of the Remainer Trolls so well.

      1. “Boris Johnson would not live down your street, he would not let his children go to school with yours, he does not hang out where you hang out and he would not be your friend.”

        What part of her audience, Penelope, do you think would be unaware of those facts – and if the answer is “no part” then she’s patronising them as surely as I’m patronising you.
        Now do you see, Dear?

  1. jess mouth al-feckin-mighty phillips going on about boris not being your friend?

    Remind me again? Who’s her mate? ‘jakey’ mogg, innit?


    1. The Toffee (597) 14/06/2019 at 6:56 pm

      Remind me again? Who’s your Leaver mate? ‘jakey’ mogg, innit?

      1. Says chuka – Who’s best mate will be someone else next week.

        Christ but you’re boring. Try again, only try a bit harder next time….On second referendums, as well as on second thoughts – don’t bother.

    2. If theres one thing I’ve learnt since joining up its take the bits that help the cause, puritanical obssession will only lead to infighting. If we get any sort of socialist government here it will be a miracle. Yes lets hope Jess gets challenged and kicked out by her members but right now when she does say good stuff we would be stupid not to use it

  2. Here’s a Sanders speech from just a few days ago. Wednesday, June 12, 2019
    Watch Bernie Sanders Deliver Speech on Why Democratic Socialism ‘Only Way to Defeat Oligarchy and Authoritarianism’
    “We must recognize that in the 21st century, in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, economic rights are human rights. And that is what I mean by democratic socialism.”

    1. Well – One small step for fuckwits; one giant leap for Farage.

      … such are the consequences of brainless chants.

      You really think that just shouting at Phillips is what big boys do?

  3. Trump, Johnson and others of their ilk get their support by being surrogate thugs for those who’ve been conditioned to hate others, often by their very surrogates, but who haven’t got the opportunity or guts to attack their perceived enemies personally.

    Even when those who’ve been duped realise they’ve fallen into a trap, they are often too stubborn to admit it and carry on regardless. A bit like some of the Lexiters who haunt this blog, outraged by those who disagree with them.

    1. And not a mention of zionism…

      ‘Outraged by those who disagree with them’? is it?

      Oh, I see.

      There was me kidding meself all this time that it’s not because you disagree, it’s because your arguments are fucking useless, your excuses are pathetic and your tactics are borne of the infant school playground.

      1. The Toffee (597) 14/06/2019 at 7:35 pm · ·

        “There was me kidding meself all this time that it’s not because you disagree, it’s because your arguments are fucking useless, your excuses are pathetic and your tactics are borne of the infant school playground.”

        Projecting your own shortcomings onto others won’t make them go away.

      2. SteveH 14/06/2019 at 7:44 pm
        Projecting your own shortcomings onto others won’t make them go away.

        There it is again: ‘I know you are, but what am I?’

        As I said, borne of the infant school playground. I’ve
        already admitted I’ll gladly give you a rise if you continue with the same tactics…You seem to enjoy milking it so you can then play the victim and/or claim your precious moral high ground.

        Says more about you than it does me. One thing to note, though…Your moral high ground stance won’t win you a remain vote, nevermind a second referendum. 😀

      3. The Toffee (597) at 7:35 pm

        Time will tell. We are still in the EU until we actually leave, if we ever do.

      4. That’s quite right, plums.

        And 17 million will ALWAYS be MORE than 16 million. And if those 17 million are denied, don’t come crying when they turn nasty after being wilfully ignored.

        Voting for falange is just trifling precursor of what will happen if you continue your incessant bleating. Ignore the messge at your own peril, because I will happily point the angry in YOUR direction when they feel the need to vent their spleens.

      5. SteveH 14/06/2019 at 8:19 pm · ·
        The Toffee (597) at 8:15 pm

        FFS – Grow up.


        Wassamarra? Dawning on ya that the scenario I’ve painted might actually carry some credence, is it?

        Thought it was brave remainer types (like you) what gave us the NHS & welfare state?

        Didn’t think you’d be scared of a baying mob who’s democracy YOU tried to deny… It’s possible they wouldn’t need me to point you out; the smell of your shitted pants’d grass you up.

      6. Good job knowing there’s a word “borne” toffee minor, but in this instance “born” was correct.
        Since educating others seems to be today’s theme…

      7. Oops, yesterday’s theme.
        The fuck happened to Friday?
        Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking crack…

    2. Johnson actually gets his support from people who see him as a great communicator. He speaks to their liberal conservative, nationalist world view and has nothing to do with hate…..but you only w
      rote that so you could tack on the stupid childish sneer at ‘lexiters’.

      1. Linda, so Alan Sugar, the Zionist (that’s for The Toffee) who condemned Boris in no uncertain terms, now sees him as a great communicator?

        Of course it’s not just because Sugar hates Corbyn because Corbyn supports the Palestinians is it?.

        Come off it Linda.

  4. Funny to see the trolls sneer, when this is so accurate. I followed the US election, and I’ve watched as the left here obsess over Johnson’s ‘attributes’ – forgetting that Tories love a liar, love someone who gets one over on the workers, and love a man with single-minded ambition and no morals.
    I think it’s stupid to make campaigns personal anyway, it makes us feel better, but doesn’t get us anywhere.

  5. Is the current rift in the US Democratic Party similar to the fractures seen within the Labour Party?

    So, what’s the difference between Warren and Sanders?

    …….For Warren, the solution to our economic ills already exists in well-regulated capitalism. “I believe in markets,” she said in a recent podcast interview. “I believe in the benefits that come from markets, that two people coming together, or two companies, or a company and a person coming together to exchange goods and services, yay.” Warren believes today’s socioeconomic ills are the result of high concentrations of power and wealth that can be resolved with certain regulatory tools and interventions. If corporate chief executives and financiers behave badly, she says, we should jail them — no special rules for the rich. If companies grow so large that they exert undue control over our markets and our lives, the government should break them up. If companies ignore consumers and employees to benefit shareholders, eliminate their incentives with regulatory curbs.

    But for Sanders, those solutions come up short. For a number of reasons — alienation and disengagement among the electorate, and the extraordinary power of big business and finance over government — he doesn’t believe that even the cleverest, most uniformly applied regulations will solve what he views as a political and economic crisis. Instead, he aims to transfer power over several key segments of life to the people — by creating a set of universal economic rights that not only entitle citizens to particular benefits (such as medical care, education and child care) but also give those citizens a say in how those sectors are governed: in short, democratic socialism. And that means building a movement, not just a presidential campaign.
    When I spoke to Sanders earlier this week, I asked him why he’s making democratic socialism a mainstay of his campaign when the term seems to scare away so many of his like-minded progressives. “A lot of people in this country have given up on the political process because they hear a lot of politicians saying good things,” Sanders told me, “but somehow or another that change never happens. You know, in my sleep I could write a speech which says got to do this, got to do that — but how do you really do that? You need a political revolution where millions of people are prepared to stand up to the power structure of America.”
    For Sanders, the programs he’s advancing — Medicare-for-all, free public college tuition, universal child care and pre-K — aren’t just meant to help struggling Americans; they’re designed to bring millions of disaffected citizens back to politics and mobilize them to protect what Sanders calls their “economic rights.”
    Sanders continued: “The powers of the corporate elite are such that we cannot . . . bring about the real profound changes I want to see — unless there is the involvement of millions and millions of people in the political process.” And that means building a distinct, mobilized political movement with its own identity and independent energy.
    None of that will be easy, especially when Sanders is no longer in a two-person race and others are borrowing his policy ideas, if not his overall goals. But for those who see our political moment as a crisis greater in breadth and content than a few unenforced or misbegotten laws, Sanders’s wide-ranging, historical approach may have greater appeal on its second try than its first.

    1. There’s the desirable and then there’s the possible.
      If we’re going to kill neoliberalism it either has to be done all at once in revolution or it has to be done subtly, a little at a time – and we have to at least appear to offer some benefit to the majority of rich people – the middling-rich, not the 1%.
      Stabilising markets to avoid costly crashes offers benefits to all but the disaster capitalists, among whom are some of the bankers since the last crash turned out so well for them.

      Casino markets attract gamblers, gambling is addictive and addiction breeds recklessness – the opposite of what global economies or the middling rich need and not too hard a concept to sell to the leaders of nations one would think – particularly immediately after the next global financial crisis.

      Reckless gambling in the markets comes from the need to repeat the rush of the quick win – the endorphin high that some get from fixed-odds betting terminals or the junkie gets from the needle.
      Removing that rush by enforcing fixed term investments – or using tax to achieve that end – would be a good start.
      Investment returning to real business development or infrastructure projects instead of the casino would actually benefit society.

  6. Good article!,The simple message can somtimes be the most effective.The simple Invention that we all could have invented often sells the best.Even Philips can occasionally get it right.

  7. The point this article makes about Jess Phillips’ tweet is correct.

    I strongly recommend this book that deals with this subject:

    The Johnson speech is particularly impressive given the fact that it was largely motivated by opportunism rather than principle. Johnson had consistently opposed civil rights. After becoming president, he could not be sure that he would be the nominee in 1964 and that is why he decided to support civil rights.

    In private, he continued to use racist language about African Americans.

    1. But Johnson is vaccous – even some Tory MP’s know that if you probe him he has no depth and exposed he comes out with some petty joke or big word to try to create the impression of high intellect?
      Ken Livingstone described Rump Fed Boris well when Johnson was London Mayor, as “A lazy tosser!”
      Johnson wasn’t leave or remain but went for the former in the end to appeal to the Tory rank and file to try become Tory Leader and PM.
      Despite the result dividing generations, regions and even families it didn’t matter to Boris and perhaps his mantra is What’s Best for Boris?
      Oh and when Gove had stuck the knife in Boris’s previous leader campaign Boris was to describe Gove as “Having pyschopathic tendencies!”
      He really is a political lightweight but being advised by Trump the Barbarians Team hre soon realised that being outrageous actually appeals to the many barbarians in the Tory party and a significant number of its voters.
      The Tory Party is split between the majority Neo-Liberal capitalist nationalist legal thieves and the minority Neo-Liberal globalist capitalist legal thieves and Johnson who is nothing but a politcal opportunist, for now has aligned himself with the nationalists.
      My views are well known on now accepting Leave but it amused me how during the Referendum Campaign the German Stock Exchange (The Bourse – it is not a chocolate bar Boris) was hoping to merge with the UK stock exchange and even we socialists could see how Neo-Liberal Capitalism would have hoped to benefit from this (abandoned after Brexit) but this was not even on Johnson’s radar; he is really way out of his depth but some would argue is a good CONservative CON artist and that is what they hope for, they pray for, a skilled CON artist to CON working people who they know really create the wealth and make society work.
      The rich and powerful recognise that theirs is the REAL DEPENDENCY CULTURE – they are totallly dependent on millions of working people in every country turning up for work on Monday!
      So Boris, Muslim women who cover their faces are not letter boxes, they are human beings,and perhaps it could be suggested that you have the intellect of an amoeba?
      Boris the Barbarian Bugger Off!

  8. Bernie Sanders, for all his throwing around of the word ‘Socialism’, is not a socialist, he is an American, a liberal capitalist.
    The Americans successfully buried Socialism after WWII. If we imitate the likes of Sanders we will bury it in this country too.

  9. I’ve intentionally posted this link without comment, please watch and draw your own conclusions about what her CLP should do.

    Dame Margaret Hodge

    Britain’s opposition Labour party should be in buoyant mood. The ruling Conservatives are in a Brexit meltdown, currently looking for a new leader and languishing in the polls. But far from taking advantage Labour is also haemorrhaging support: accused of incoherence on Brexit and a failure to confront a corrosive internal strain of anti-Semitism… Stephen Sackur speaks to Labour MP and former minister Margaret Hodge: does she think her own party leadership is fit for office

    1. This programme has always been virulently anti-Corbyn.

      You may recall an appearance on the programme a few years ago by Bomber Benn.

      Time to re-name the programme ‘Hard-right Talk’.

  10. What’s the NEC doing about that treacherous poison Dame Maggie Hodge?I am a Labour party member and ex councillor ..If I sank to that level of abuse and treacherous behaviour I would be shown the exit door.The question must soon be asked if the NEC fit for purpose ,and why the double standards we have all seen..start the Purge ,Time is running out for our party.

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