Dear disappointed Blairites
We appreciate you are disappointed and no one would hold that against you. You’ve made it clear throughout the campaign you didn’t want Jeremy to win. It would look a bit odd now if you told the world he was the best thing since sliced bread. For those of you who have born your disappointment with dignity, and a proud determination not to become a destructive force within the party, we applaud you. You are the true party loyalists. Sadly though, there are some who have leaked despairing letters to the press, retweeted right wing tabloid smear stories against Jeremy Corbyn, or even worse, written them. One MP told a fringe meeting at conference our party is f****d because Jeremy Corbyn is now leader. When you do these things, you not only make yourselves look bad, you play right into the Tories hands.
Maybe that doesn’t worry you. You are rich compared to most people. A Tory government probably benefits you personally, but that’s not true for the vast majority of people in the country. For the million people reliant on food banks, for the disabled having their support cut at every turn, for the public sector workers with their shrinking pay and slashed pensions, and the young, with no hope of a decent home or a decent job, a Labour government is their only hope. When you turn your disappointment into a determination to undermine the Corbyn administration at every turn, it’s those peoples lives you are treating with contempt.
You say Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable, but if you constantly brief and snipe against him, that may well become true. Parties seen to be fundamentally split never win. Is that your aim? We sincerely hope not.
Unfortunately you seem to have learnt very little from the Miliband administration. Those of you who backed David for leader, could never quite let your disappointment go. Rumors of discontent with Ed as leader and possible leadership challenges, fed into the right wing narrative that Ed was a weak leader, hard for the party to bear. We, the members, never forgot or forgave your disloyalty.
When we lost in May, we were stricken. It was all we could do to drag ourselves out of bed the next day, let alone appear polished and perky in a tv studio, stamping our own wrong headed and hasty analysis on why we’d just lost, and eagerly putting our hats in the leadership ring.
Yet that’s what some of you did. The hard truth is, you’ve read many things wrong. You’ve read why we lost the election wrong. You’ve tried to make your analysis fit your politics. You’ve ignored the shift to the radical left in other counties that have had austerity imposed on them. The U.K. is no different. Under a PR electoral system, the green surge may have become a green landslide. A large percentage of the 37% who didn’t vote, would have voted, and they would have voted for an anti austerity party.
The people of Britain are crying out for change, though you might not have noticed that in your cosseted lives. We, the Corbyn movement – made up of police officers, teachers, small business owners, the unemployed, students, journalists, doctors, the disabled etc, etc, etc, are merely a finger in the wind of that change. We haven’t been air dropped in from a strange left wing planet where people see things only through a left wing filter. We are bog standard normal people. But we are sick of growing inequality. We are sick of seeing our children stressed about student debt. We are sick of living in a society where decent homes for our children are so unaffordable they are stuck living at home well into their twenties, or even thirties. We are sick of worrying about the support available for our frail, elderly, sick, or disabled loved ones, or ourselves. We are sick of being told our tax credits, pay and pensions ‘have’ to be cut to pay for a banking crisis we did not cause, while at the same time hearing taxes are being cut for the most wealthy. There are so many things we are sick of, too many to list here.
Yes, 24% of the total potential electorate voted Tory, but that means 76% didn’t. Those are the votes that are up for grabs, and yes, even some Tory votes too. You argue how we, the Corbyn voters, are different from ‘normal’ people because we are more left wing. But as Owen Jones rightly says, most people don’t think in terms of left and right. They think about policies that either help or hinder their lives. What they struggle with is incongruence. For all Ed Miliband’s best intentions, the message he put forward to the country in 2015 was confused. We have a cost of living crisis, he said, so we are going to freeze public sector pay and child benefit.
The energy price freeze, the ban on zero hour exploitative contracts, the scrapping of the Non Dom status – suggested Ed had brave radical instincts, but there was something holding him back, and that something was you. You are one of the primary reasons we lost in 2015. Your determination not to rattle the right wing media and woo Tory voters, is why 2 million naturally Labour inclined voters, in the end didn’t bother to vote. It’s one of the reasons Scottish Labour voters, even those who voted no to Scottish independence, voted SNP for the first time in 2015, and the continual undermining of the Corbyn administration by the right of the party risks us losing them for good. It’s why so many Labour voters gave the Greens their vote, despite knowing they could never win, and why we lost votes to UKIP, who craftily posed as the party of the workers. We weren’t offering enough hope to keep those voters with us. Yes, being more radical might cost us some votes to the Tories, those Labour voters who switched from the Tories to Labour under Blair, but there is a very good statistical chance we will win back more than we lose. And yes, we will incur the wrath of the Mainstream Media, but we’ll inspire a huge and energized grassroots movement to campaign on social media and in the streets to counteract it.
At the end of the day, we’ve tried it your way for several decades now. Your middle ground policies, yes, won us three elections (though many would argue we would still have won in 97 with a more radical left agenda…and that much of your success was down to timing), but ultimately lost us millions of voters and now two elections in 2010 and 2015.
Give us a shot. Let us try it our way. Help us. Put your disappointment to one side to become loyal activists and MPs. That way, if we lose badly in 2020, we won’t be able to point the finger of blame at you.
A growing movement
By Michelle (Chelley) Ryan