Analysis comment

If you ever want a working-class left leader, don’t just stay in Labour – organise and fight

Right will immediately start disempowering members if it wins

The news that party chair and ex-miner Ian Lavery will not be standing in the Labour leadership contest has triggered a wave of disappointment among grassroots members and activists – and has seen some threatening to leave the party.

But those who want ever to see a working-class leader representing genuine socialist policies cannot afford induglence or gestures now.

High on the list of priorities for the right if any of their candidates wins the leadership race will be to unroll every change intended to democratise the party and empower members – and in particular, the rules for leadership elections that give members the power that their numbers deserve.

Before the 2015 election, Labour leaders were selected under an ‘electoral college’ system that gave a handful of MPs equal voting power to the party’s entire membership. A couple of hundred right-wingers supporting a right-wing candidate could ensure that the members were essentially voiceless:

The weight of votes under Labour’s electoral college system

Could they do it?

Could the Labour right succeed in forcing through a change back to the old system? They have already tried.

In 2016, as the right lost another leadership election and Jeremy Corbyn gained an increased majority of the vote, Tom Watson attempted to push through a return to the electoral college – as part of a package of measures that would have put power firmly in the hands of right-wing back-benchers. Watson even recommended – as others have since – that the party’s shadow cabinet should be elected by MPs and not appointed by the leader.

The NEC (National Executive Committee) resisted the changes because of the short notice before the party’s annual conference – and by the following year, the Labour left had organised to ensure the balance of delegates at the 2017 conference reflected the membership.

But a right-wing leader would have the power to instantly change the balance of the NEC by appointing new MPs to represent the Shadow Cabinet, removing one major obstacle to a reversion to the old system.

All that would then remain would be to get the changes through the party’s conference – and any exodus of left members lowers the bar for the right to seize the delegate places it would need to wave through the change.

If that change ever goes through, then the right – as it surely wants to do – will be able to bar the gate forever against any genuine left-winger, especially from the working class.

If you ever want to see such a person leading the party that is supposed to represent the working class, don’t just stay in the Labour Party. Organise and fight – and don’t stop until you have what you want.

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32 comments

  1. “High on the list of priorities for the right if any of their candidates wins the leadership race will be to unroll every change intended to democratise the party and empower members – and in particular, the rules for leadership elections that give members the power that their numbers deserve.”

    But surely these changes would be impossible to enact without the support of Union leaders.

    1. Whilst the despair of Skwawkbox that Ian Lavery isn’t standing , and only the useless opportunist Long-Bailey, remains as a supposed ‘continuer of the Corbynite legacy’ , is totally merited – the idea that ‘the Left’ now has any real traction available now to resist the inevitable dismantling of the very limited gains of the short-lived ‘Corbyn era’ , is simply whistling in the dark to keep our spirits up. The Old Left Corbyn Leadership circle failed utterly to stand up to the endless sabotage of the Labour Right for four years – and that ghastly old opportunist, Jon Lansman, deliberately demobilised and de-politicised the one organisation that COULD have been the membership weapon with which to take on the Right – ie, Momentum.

      The failure of Momentum, after the Lansman Coup, to carry out ANY socialist education of our membership whatsoever, meant that the mass of ‘Corbynistas’ who entered the Party since 2015 as naïve Left-Liberals, have remained as the same naïve, politically ignorant, Left-Liberals to this day, totally incapable of taking on the Right ideologically, or winning back our lost working class heartland voters. We in fact have a mass (certainly activist) membership of Left-Liberals, not socialists in any way. Some of these Left-Liberals are quite ‘radical’ in their wish lists. ie, for a bit of nationalisation, an anti Austerity economic policy, taxing the Big companies and rich a bit more, tweaking the nose of the US imperialists, etc. But , as the overwhelming support of our supposedly ‘socialist’ activist membership at Conference for the suicidal second referendum and Remain policy in our 2020 Manifesto showed, our membership , even the ‘Corbynista fanboys and girls’ , couldn’t even grasp that the fundamental neoliberalism enforcing EU Single Market rules made carrying out a Left economic agenda quite impossible ! Political cognitive dissonance in spades.

      I repeat – the overwhelming majority of our membership, particularly our activists, are simply NOT socialists in any meaningful way – having no theoretical understanding of capitalism, or a vision of a socialist society beyond the capitalist marketplace. The core reason for this is the overwhelming middle class, relatively privileged, social background and job experience of our membership, from both our openly pro capitalist Right wing to our self identifying ‘Left’ Wing. For most of our membership the unlimited labour supply arising from the EU’s Freedom of Movement, which crucifies the wages and job opportunities of poorer unskilled and semi-skilled workers, is not a problem (in their safely immune privileged middle class jobs) – but something from which they constantly BENEFIT, via those ridiculously cheap Uber taxis, cheap delivery drivers, from Deliveroo onwards, cheap nannies, cheap polish plumbers and ever other feature of the casualised ‘Gig economy’ which helps keep the middle class lifestyle in comfort. So the Labour membership wallow in their virtue signalling enthusiasm for ever-wider Unlimited Freedom of Movement – blind to its consequences for the huge mass of workers , particularly in our old heartlands, who have abandoned Labour forever.

      None of the candidates available in this Leadership contest are worth a damn to socialists. Long-Bailey will fold within a month and tow the Right Wing Blairite line of the overwhelming majority of the PLP if elected as Leader. Face it folks – the very flukey , Leftish, ‘Corbynite’ adventure of Labour is now over – as all the mildly radical Leftish party formation, and short-lived electoral success, reactions to the 2008 financial crisis across Europe have too – from Syriza, to Podemos, to Die Linke. The Labour Party will quickly settle back into triangulating opportunism on the traditional model – but with its policy positions dragged ever rightwards by the desire to stay close to the ever-Rightward moving Tory-led ‘Overton window consensus’ . remember , ALL the current Leadership candidates around at the time abstained on that Welfare Benefits Bill, that Jeremy rightly opposed ! So they are all anti working class opportunist scum – regardless of their slippery words and promises now .

      The Labour Party’s ‘Left’ has surely exhausted the mythology of ‘winning the Party to a socialist course’ now , after the utter failure of the tepid mild reformism and organisational cowardice of the Corbyn circle during their brief Leadership role – during which not a single saboteur Right Wing PLPer was deselected or even disciplined ! It’s OVER for Labour folks. The Labour Party is a unredeemably capitalist Party with a few socialists wasting their time in it – and a very much larger number of naïve middle class , identity politics-saturated Left-Liberals , who think they are some sort of ‘socialist’, but in fact have no real fundamental ideological differences with the typical Lib Dem member.

      1. Excellent analysis. We will not get socialism in the UK unless we lead the party which after the lack of success of educating the members over the last 4 years now must be done by stealth. Now we are out of the EU we can impose capital controls and therefore by necessity movement controls. Nationalise key and basic industries and start to confiscate property and other assets from those who abuse their wealth and act in an anti working class manner .

      2. Plain citizen Another wind up from the paid troll from bowton plain tory citizen so he can have a laugh with i his Tory party mates…..get lost clown and pick up your 40peices of silver on the way out of that rats warren you come from.!

      3. For a more detailed analysis and explanation of the utter failure – under the supposedly radical PLP Old Left’s ‘Corbynite’ post 2015 Left lurch – of that ancient Labour Left strategy , ie, to beaver away to win a fundamentally pro capitalist, pro imperialist party (from its very inception – as a creation of a few trades union supported Liberal Party MPs and the British trades union movement’s always totally pro British Empire , always collaborating, trades union bureaucracy, at the opening of the 20th century ), to socialism, the very few socialists on here may find Danny’s latest Full Brexit article illuminating , https://www.thefullbrexit.com/blairite-roots-of-corbynism

        The all day-every day, four person claque of tiresome paid trolls always on here of course will simply sneer their Mandelson-supplied Tory-lite cliché abuse. But then their function is purely to submerge and discourage genuine Left discussion in their all day sea of diversionary claptrap. That Skwawkbox doesn’t simply ban this tiny quartet of constant disrupter trolls is , sadly, yet another example of the naivety of the Left in tolerating the trickery and sabotage of a well-funded Labour Right.

        Those socialists pinning their hopes on the political lightweight, Long Bailey, to continue the Corbyn Surge of 2015 onwards , are going to be sadly disappointed.

  2. The article is correct. I rejoined Labour precisely because, for the first time in decades, there is a solid, costed programme for the regeneration of Britain. There is nothing wrong with the message. That people are still joining Labour in large numbers proves it.

    The candidate who said that there was “too much” in the Manifesto is arguing for the return of the empty-headed gesture politics which failed in 2015.

    You don’t have to “sell” the entire Manifesto on the doorstep, just the part which a given voter wants to know about. Voters are quite capable of reading about anything else that matters to them later.
    .
    Not to understand something so basic is shocking and should disqualify the candidate as a serious leadership contender.

    Moving Labour to the right is to return it to the minority status it enjoyed between 2008 and 2015. It projects an image of panic and a lack of self-confidence.

    The right of the Party has proved conclusively that their personal careers and their internecine wargames are more important to them than the fate of the vulnerable or the future of our children. They dumped us.

    The combination of circumstances surrounding the 2019 General Election was unique and unlikely to be repeated. The thud and blunder of the last Parliament represents no basis for changing our message. A better messenger is what we seek.

    What’s needed now is steadfastness in the face of adversity. The fundamental question is: does the future leader have the will and the true grit to stand up for our people?

    I will vote accordingly in forthcoming leadership contest.

    1. “The candidate who said that there was “too much” in the Manifesto ….”

      The absolutely irrefutable argument wasn’t that – it was that the communication lacked focus and punch. It was about communication, not the details of policy.

      The Tories’ messaging, although based on mickey-mouse delusions like ‘Get Brexit done’, on the other hand, cut through – obviously with the aid of the bog paper press which influences sufficient voters to make a crucial difference, but also aided by simplicity.

      The communications strategy, with an overload of nonstrategic policy announcements began to undermine its own credibility. The Broadband policy, for instance, is an excellent policy – but its announcement betrayed a lack of basic strategic nous and was greeted by many with incredulity.

      Having the right policies is not a sufficient condition for winning an election. As we know.

      1. RH 07/01/2020 at 4:06 pm

        No, you didn’t get it wrong. Life is full of surprises.

  3. Squawk box…..easier said than done.I think both you and the bulk of the Labour party membership are under threat and I can’t see any chance of retrieving anything for socialism with Jeremy Corbyn leaving and the election of doom on our doorstep.Not one true socialist on offer and you know what that means for us…..witchunt and expulsion worse than we’ve seen so far……I am absolutely gutted and feel let down and used..We were looking for a hero and ended up with cowards.

  4. Joseph, the ‘hero’ was Chris Williamson and he was thrown under the bus by Len McCluskey and others.

  5. Well, of course, they will not admit it now but there can be little doubt that this is the game plan.

    That is why it is vitally important that Starmer and Philips are defeated.

    Philipps has already lied about Labour’s performance in her own constituency:

    “I can’t help but think that the fact that we saw only a tiny swing away from Labour in my seat was because of our ability to disagree well, with good humour and a shared vernacular.”

    ‘Tiny’ swing?

    The swing was 6.1% and thus cut her majority by 6,000!

    The national swing was 4.1% as the Conservative lead of 2.4% grew to 10.6%.

    So the swing in her seat was above the national average.

    This only goes to show why it would be extremely unwise to vote for her as leader.

      1. The point of my article was that her claim to have suffered a ‘tiny’ swing was false. It was not to compare with other people.

        Lavery is not a leadership contender and never made a false claim about the swing in his constituency.

        RBL: 3.9% swing in what is probably a strong leave constituency

        Keir Starmer: 1.4% swing in what is probably a strong remain constituency.

      2. Tony 07/01/2020 at 3:42 pm

        Fair enough, thanks for the clarification.

  6. And the problem is this article is that pie chart…

    Who here trusts the unions? Mandatory reselection,, remember that? Who killed that one?

    Still, they did give us Ed instead of Dave…

  7. ” a working-class leader representing genuine socialist policies”

    Note the basic common confusion displayed by Skwawkbox – between individual biography and the issue of class politics.

    Lavery, of course, is an upwardly mobile member of the middle class with a relatively brief part of his career in an indisputably working class occupation.

    1. ……..so Blair is right, we are all middle class now & the class struggle is over………in your bourgeois dreams!

  8. We have to support RBL and Burgon and not run away from the millions (likely to increase) who will suffer from the rule of the vile Neo-Liberal Tories.
    JP is mostly correct but as usual leaves us defenceless, excellent at knocking down but offers no building blocks.
    The alternative would be to leave on mass (which is what the Right wants) and form a Left Wing Democratic Socialist Party BUT history shows this leads to the political wilderness (unless major unions supported it) – the Right want the Labour brand so we shouldn’t give it up.
    We are the many, they are the few.
    I have argued we need to get out amongst the poor offering political and practical support – we could set up Labour Solidarity Committees in every town and city and act as though the Labour Party has just been formed and we build from below alongside the left behind.
    So stay and Fight against the Labour Right Wing ‘The enemies of the progress of diverse working humanity.”

  9. Questions for each candidate
    If we list them on a set day then we can vote on them
    What say you Skwawky

    1. Or do we actually have government by the unelected and unaccountable dictator Dominic Cummings.

  10. Was upset by piece I saw by a Labour member who claimed Johnson won the white working class by appealing to “white supremecy” which is an insult to the millions of us who stuck with Labour and in fact some of us are left wing democratic socialists and love diverse working humanity.
    But perhaps it is not the white working class that people should fear but some white middle class men and women like Right Wing Labour MPs “who consistently vote to bomb our black and brown (bothers) and sisters in other countries” (Radical Socialist Feminist Network, New Left Review).

  11. See some obscure committee has recommended to the Unison Right Wing Leader that they nominate Right Wing Starmer for Leader – without a ballot of their members – meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
    Starmer the architect of Labour’s defeat by arrogantly arguing for a public vote when a significant number of the working class said we have had one thank you very much.
    The truth is if anyone but RBL and Burgon get in sadly Labour is finished.

    1. Oh and sick of white working class people being vilified by Right Wing Labour when millions of us stood by Labour AND OPPOSED THE WHITE MIDDLE CLASS RIGHT WING LABOUR MP MEN & WOMEN LABOUR MPs INCLUDING THE LIKES OF STARMER – WHO VOTED TO BOMB OUR BLACK & BROWN BROTHERS & SISTERS AROUND THE WORLD!

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