Corbyn’s Calling us Home

‘Jeremy Corbyn might represent our views, but if we want Labour to return to power he isn’t the right man.’

This was the tweet that broke the camel’s back. After reading it I was faced with two options – either write an article on why it wound me up, or scream long and hard into a cushion – I opted for the former. So here goes.

The argument against the potential electoral success of Jeremy Corbyn as labour leader can often be summed up in three words, ‘Remember Michael Foot.’ So let us remember Foot.

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After Michael Foot’s election as leader in November 1980, Labour enjoyed significant poll leads of between 9 and 15%. Understandably, the departure of Roy Jenkins et. al. in March 1981, knocked public confidence in the party, and poll leads dropped to a four or five point average – but labour kept a steady lead, under Foots leadership, until the Falklands war in the spring of 1982.

The patriotic fervour unleashed by the Falkands’ conflict gave a huge boost to both Thatcher and her party. Riding on the crest of a nationalist wave – which ‘thanks’ to a split left vote Labour could do little to stop – Thatcher won a landslide in June 1983.

So what does all this mean for the comparison between Corbyn and Foot? It means there were factors afoot – pardon the pun – in 1983, unique to that time, that meant whether on the right, left or centre of the party, 1983 was not Foot’s year.

What the establishment have cleverly done, is blame Foot’s defeat on his left wing manifesto, in the same way they have falsely but cleverly blamed the financial crash on Labour’s profligacy. With the help of their friends in the media, Tory lies quickly embed themselves in the public consciousness, rather like a splinter that is never removed, and as a result, the public have brought into the myth that left wing equals electoral defeat. What an ingenious Tory strategy this is. What better way to keep socialists out of power than to convince the socialists to ditch socialism. That way whether Labour or Tories are at the helm, the good ship Brittania always roughly heads in the same direction. Any minor detours along the way can be quickly corrected when the ship is safely returned to Tory hands. No wonder Thatcher claimed new labour was her greatest achievement, an unusual moment of candour.

The Tories are well aware of what might happen if a real socialist, like Corbyn, wins power. They only have to look back at ’45 and their blood must run cold. And no doubt they’ve had a long hard look at Foot’s 1983 manifesto and breathed a sigh of relief they’d had such a lucky escape. They know full well, had Foot won in 1983, progressive tax policies would have reversed, and staunched, the growth in inequality. Homelessness, and housing bubbles, would have been avoided. Utilities and railways would have stayed in state hands, and North Sea oil revenues wouldn’t have been squandered on tax cuts for the rich. The so called ‘longest suicide note in History’ was in fact a prescription that would have spared ‘the many’ a lot of pain.

Should I have ever met the tweeter behind the tweet, he or she would likely have warned me against voting Corbyn, not just because Foot lost, but because Blair won. Like many other Corbyn supporters, I’ve heard this argument time and time again. Blair won three elections, is the general gist of this argument, so that’s the model we need to adopt to win. Well I don’t agree, and here’s why.

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Blair was of his time – just as Foot was of his – a unique time when Britain was bouncing along happily inside a credit and housing bubble, a bubble none of us could imagine would burst in the spectacular way that it did a decade later, a bubble that made people feel falsely well off. As a result aspiration was the buzz word of the time. Then there was the relatively recent demise of the Soviet Union, which had damaged the confidence of the left, and the fact Labour was opposing a stale tory government, 18 years long. And there you have it, the perfect recipe for Blair’s stunning electoral success in 97. What Blairites/centrists are less keen to explore is the aftermath of that victory.

Between 1997 and 2010 Labour lost five million core voters, and general election turn-outs fell off a cliff. People didn’t just stop voting Labour, they stopped voting full stop – a collapse in support that ultimately lost us Scotland, and put a rocket booster under UKIP, the new political home for so many ex labour voters.

Under Blair the flame of socialism was all but snuffed out, but with Jeremy Corbyn as our new leader, the flame is burning brightly again; and like a fire on a cold winters night, it is calling us home.

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By Michelle (Chelley) Ryan

 

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38 comments

  1. Pingback: Corbyn’s Calling us Home | Nagara
  2. W Stephen Gilbert · October 30, 2015

    Good, sound analysis. You’ll find a related argument in my book ‘Jeremy Corbyn – Accidental Hero’ which comes out in the first week of November.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Nick Jamieson · December 28, 2015

      It’s “good” and “sound” providing you think old-style apologism for Communism, which is how I read the weasel words “the relatively recent demise of the Soviet Union, which had damaged the confidence of the left”, is the way forward in the 21st century. The author has still not come to terms with the fact that the implosion of Really Existing Socialism did not merely affect the confidence of those in the UK who had at very least had a soft spot for it if not actively being its fellow-travellers. It actually destroyed the case, moral and intellectual as much as material, for Socialism as a way of organising a society and an economy. Unfortunately some hardcore ideologues, like Corbyn and the author, had such quasi-religious faith in the old belief system, impervious as usual to contradictory evidence, that they remained true believers. But many others accepted the reality that had finally been exposed by the demise of the Eastern Bloc and moved on politically. Suggesting that the future of Labour lies in going back to thinking the Soviet Union’s only failing was to be a bit of a blow to the confidence of British leftists and that there was not much else that that system’s moral and economic bankruptcy told us is outrageous as well as electorally suicidal, frankly.

      Like

      • Simon · December 29, 2015

        The Soviet Union was authoritarian communist not democratic socialist. The post 1945 Labour governments are a much closer examples of how a Corbyn lead government might achieve what is best for the majority of UK citizens rather than the elite.

        Like

  3. castor80 · October 31, 2015

    Good stuff well observed.

    (Suggest “candour” as correction for “candidacy” at end para 6).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Graeme of Wales · October 31, 2015

    Good essay. I remember Michael Foot and 1983 very well. He was a good man and had The Falklands effect not been in the ether he would have won. But, most importantly for me is that if you read the SNP Manifesto for the 2015 election where they did so (unexpectedly) well it could have been ‘lifted’ from the LP Manifesto of 1983 and written by Michael Foot himself. People may not have been ready for it then but they sure are now thank God!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Weeredfox · December 28, 2015

      what utter toss re SNP manifesto 2015. What progressive taxation have the SNP brought in – none. Low tax is what they do best. In 8 years at Holyrood, the SNP have not brought in a single policy of redistribution.Instead they have took money that could be used to help those on low income and have gave the middle and upper classes freebies! The SNP took the Labour manifesto of 2015 and watered it down with slogans such as “best for Scotland”. Neo liberal nationalism.

      Like

  5. nearlydead · October 31, 2015

    Reblogged this on nearlydead.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. John Wragg · November 1, 2015

    Cogent article that requires wide distribution

    Like

  7. Per Verse Poetry · November 1, 2015

    Ok, but Corbyn is not Michael Foot and I think that to compare him is a mistake. Hopefully a mistake the Tories will make as well.

    Like

  8. YorksLass · November 6, 2015

    Excellent analysis. Now do one for Harold Wilson, who I believe Corbyn and his policies are closest to.

    Like

  9. petermartin2001 · December 27, 2015

    Reblogged this on Modern Monetary Theory: Real Economics and commented:
    I don’t often re-blog. But I’ll make an exception for this!

    Like

  10. Stephen Wagg · December 27, 2015

    Nice article, Chelley, with some telling points. I must take issue, however, with the reference to Blair’s ‘centrist position’. By any rational yardstick, Blair and the ‘New Labour’ project were very right wing and certainly to the right of the Major administration. This was shown in: the marginalising of the trade unions; the reckless Private Finance Initiative, destined to cripple the public sector; continued privatisation of health services; tuition fees; relentless attacks on teachers; the assault on disability benefits; the widening gulf between rich and poor; and the illegal invasion of Iraq. Blair governed to please the Daily Mail and Labour candidates were carefully vetted by Campbell and others for any unwelcome left wing views. If there is a political centre in the British parliament now it is what Tariq Ali calls ‘the extreme centre’. Corbyn and his ideas are certainly growing in popularity and that’s heartening. But, as things stand, the electorate isn’t his main problem; his own MPs are.

    Liked by 1 person

    • chelleryn · December 27, 2015

      Fair comment, but I was referring to new Labours first term, when they felt they had to present a slightly more radical front as a carrot to the core voters; voters they subsequently lost.

      Like

    • chelleryn · December 27, 2015

      Forgot to add, my hubby’s bought me the extreme centre book for Xmas 🙂

      Like

  11. Harry · December 27, 2015

    Is that photograph of Michael Foot actually him, or somebody playing him in a film? Very good quality either way!

    Like

  12. John Smith RIP · December 27, 2015

    An interesting article. A couple of things spring to mind. Firstly, as someone says in the comments, Corbyn is not Michael Foot. Michael Foot took over shortly after a Labour Government which had been in power – four years apart – since 1966. Unlike Corbyn, Foot had 6 years of Government experience behind him and had been a major player in the Labour Party for the best part of 35 years when he became leader. Corbyn simply doesn’t have either the experience of running a major Government department, or of organising the party. That didn’t matter with Blair, because Blair surrounded himself with professionals, like Jonathan Powell and Sally Morgan, who was followed by Ruth Turner. Sadly Corbyn’s aides aren’t of the same quality or professionalism.

    There is a huge job to be done to oppose the things this Tory Government is doing. When it comes to substance Corbyn is spot on. But his ability to communicate that to the public is hampered by foolish stunts (Mao’s little red book anyone) which probably seem hilarious to the group of men surrounding him, but backfire badly.

    Many of the MPs who are most unhappy, and are therefore most vocal in their concern, have spent their political careers on message, following the leader. They struggle when there is no central message, when there is no leadership. A lot of people are clear that they like Corbyn (though not many of those who follow him) but they’re concerned that the lack of professionalism in opposition will mean he couldn’t deliver a General Election victory, and he couldn’t deliver in Government if somehow he did persuade the voting (and non-voting) public to back him.

    Finally, where your analysis falls down worst is in the failure to consider Ed Miliband. In England, if not in Wales and Scotland, Miliband was perceived (by those same voting and non-voting public) to be a much more left wing leader than Brown or Blair. He was rejected, and Cameron wasn’t. Far from being a reflection of the voting public, Corbyn is instead a howl of rage by those on the left that the public still doesn’t want to listen to them.

    Then again I’ve just spent five years knocking on doors for a terrific Labour candidate take on a privileged Tory ass in a constituency with a Labour council, only to see said Tory ass increase his majority, the first time a Tory has held the seat for a second term in 50 years. So what do I know about what the public does and doesn’t want?

    Like

  13. natasha4mp · December 27, 2015

    this is some of the best discussion I’ve been party to recently, – but the thing I hear a little too often is that we must change the Tory voters into Labour voters (got told this by a Labour Councillor last week) and I feel it is the non-voter and the young voter who are so disenfranchised from what they see as “politics” that they see no difference between the parties. Quite accurate probably, but it may be time to understand what Corbyn sounds like by comparison, and not just to the young.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. PoliticswithCharlie · December 28, 2015

    Nicely written 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Franklin Scrase · December 28, 2015

    The other Tory deceit following Foot’s defeat has been to delegitimise debate about Britain’s assertive (aggressive) foreign and defense policy.

    Like

  16. Barry New · December 28, 2015

    Something I would like to mention is John Smith. We all ahd high hopes that he would lead labour to victory and I believe he would have. Tony Blair was in the right place to win the following election but it would have been better with JS.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. kencharleslong · December 28, 2015

    Great blog. I have linked this through Facebook Bring Back News To The BBC page. Ken Long

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Michaelk · December 28, 2015

    Though I agree with most of the sentiments in the article, I’m not sure about the rest of it. Hope that doesn’t sound too harsh? Where to begin? Firstly, even after the Falkland’s War, or was it just a neo-imperialist pantomime for a new age? the Conservative’s only managed a meagre 43% electoral support in the following ‘landslide’ election. In most European democracies this wouldn’t have given them the parliamentary power, the seats/votes, a thumping majority over everyone else combined, allowing them to push through unpopular policies against the will of the majority. But I suppose that’s the ‘beauty’ of the UK system, it’s almost a form of inverted democracy, where the electoral support of big parties is exaggerated into huge majorities whilst the support for smaller parties is ‘artificially’ reduced, millions of votes transformed into a one or two seats. So all vote don’t carrry an equal weight on the electoral scale, and this bizarre system is called… ‘democracy’!

    I, personally, don’t rate Corbyn very highly as an effective leader. I think he should attempt to mobilize a coalition of the large anti-Tory majority in the country and focus on winning a majority of the votes cast in the next election and then challenge the legitimacy of the Tories if they win the most seats and a majority in parliament, despite ‘losing’ the popular vote. The anti-Tory coalition could then simply not turn up and leave the Tories to sit alone in parliament as the majority whould ‘go on strike’ because the Tories are benefitting from a system that resembles a kind of permanent coup. Futhermore I think the democratic majority should consider setting up a rival parliament somewhere else, in Manchester or Liverpool and directly challenge Westminster for political legitimacy, after all they would represent the overwhelming majority of the electorate, so why meekly accept the result of a system that’s rigged?

    Like

  19. Bryan Hemming · December 28, 2015

    Some good observations but, like many other commentators, you omit to mention the role of Neil Kinnock. It was Kinnock’s battles, with what the corporate media still insist on calling the hard left, that helped ease a hard right poster boy like Blair into power. The same scare tactics used back then are being used once again, against Corbyn this time.

    I also take some issue with this statement purely on frustrated personal grounds:

    “Blair was of his time – just as Foot was of his – a unique time when Britain was bouncing along happily inside a credit and housing bubble, a bubble none of us could imagine would burst in the spectacular way that it did a decade later, a bubble that made people feel falsely well off.”

    I assure you that there were many of us who could imagine the the credit and property bubbles bursting only too clearly. In our minds it would be the inevitable consequences of the bank deregulation of the 1980s and 90s and the irresponsible lending that followed. And now we can imagine the next almighty crash all too vividly.

    The idea that inflation in the RPI is nearly always a bad thing, whereas unfettered, inflation in the property market is always a marvellous thing, seemed as patently ridiculous to us then as it does now. Unfortunately, the rest of you didn’t listen. The fact Osborne still isn’t listening is very disturbing indeed.

    The reason there hasn’t been another massive slump in the property market so far is mainly due to both the banks and government propping the market up with money they don’t have, as usual. On cloud number nine, they will expect the rest of us to cough up when it all goes topsy-turvey once more. Even the most optimistic financial punters are betting on imminent financial meltdown as being the most likely outcome of loony money policies. In blind pursuance of the self-fulfilling prophecy module global speculators have used to plunder the world’s finances so successfully up till now, they have forgotten that money is nothing without something to buy.

    Yet deep down, they do know that mortgages will have to bear some relation to incomes sooner or later, and that they can’t rely on rigging the markets forever. But, by not having made gradual adjustments over time to bring the two more into line with each other, they have only succeeded in postponing the biggest crash ever for a little longer. In doing so they have ensured it will be the most horrific financial disaster ever witnessed.

    Like

  20. Marra · December 28, 2015

    You can’t keep shouting “GO JOIN THE TORIES” and “IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT LEAVE THE PARTY” then complain when people do just that and go establish another party. And you can’t complain if you threaten MPs with deselection and they respond by defecting to that party. The SDP was established, in part, because the Labour Left made it unbearable for them to stay in the party. and until the Labour Left take responsibility for that then they are destined to repeat history: initiating another party through their own hostility.

    Like

  21. HYUFD · December 28, 2015

    Actually by October 1981 Gallup had the SDP ahead on 40% with the Tories second on 29.5% and Labour third on 28%, Mori had the SDP ahead on 40% with Labour second on 31% and the Tories third on 27%. By March 1982, a month before the outbreak of the Falklands War, Gallup had the SDP and Labour tied on 33% with the Tories just behind on 31.5% while Mori had the Tories ahead on 35% with the SDP second on 33% and Labour third on 30%
    http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/voting-intention-1979-1983

    Like

  22. Harry Seeing Red · December 28, 2015

    Blair didn’t win the election, Major lost it. And this istrue of most GEs. The sitting party gets complacent, allows rotten apples to stay i the barrel,and then wonder why the lose office. None of them understand Machiavelli. If they took the time to actually read The Prince they would understand how to stay in office. Blair ultimately failed because he ignored Labour’s core working class supporters. Him, Mandy, Kinnock et al formed themslves into a fiefdom more interested in self agrandissment than socialism.

    Like

  23. iang · December 28, 2015

    I honestly think most of you commenting here need to wake up and look at electoral history and real facts not hopes and wishful thinking. Labour on probably its most left wing agenda for years was rejected significantly in 2015 under Ed, that is a fact . Why is it thought that going even more to left under a leader who has no experience and acts like he is still in student politics and surrounds himself with people like Livingstone, Abbot and NcDonnell is the way to go. I want Labour to succeed as much as anyone and to do this it must be able to win swing seats in England and regain ground in Scotland. Corbyn is highly unpopular in Scotland and does anyone truly think Labour will win middle England seats with Corbyn, NcDonnell and Abbot as the leadership faces of this party.
    I think everyone here wants a Labour victory in 2020 , to do this we must be pragmatic that Britain is generally a centrist voting nation and fashion let off centre policies that can attract swing voters. The route of further left means only being a party of protest and to compare with Foot , yes he was ahead in the polls pre 1983 , Corbyn even at this stage is well behind , that is very telling . Please wake up and recognise 2015 tells us what will happen in 2020 and probably worse if a lurch leftwards continues

    Like

  24. Nick Magill · December 28, 2015

    The article is well written but I am afraid it makes a jump from historical facts to political pleading.

    1. The author writes “Labour kept a steady lead, under Foot’s leadership, until the Falklands war in the spring of 1982”.
    This is simply not true. Labour were on about 50 points and were about 15 points ahead in the polls for a month or two after Foot’s election; by the end of 1981 it was about 3 points. I.e. the lead ebbed away consistently in the period between Foot’s election and the Falklands war.

    2. “Riding on the crest of a nationalist wave – which ‘thanks’ to a split left vote Labour could do little to stop – Thatcher won a landslide in June 1983.”
    It would have been very possible for Labour to stop a split in the left vote. The left of the Labour Party mounted a campaign to take it over at every level. This included Tony Benn’s running for deputy leadership in 1981 and the constant threat of centrist MPs being deselected. The split in the left vote was entirely avoidable for Labour.

    3. “What the establishment have cleverly done is blame Foot’s defeat on his left wing manifesto.”
    Like it or not, the party that offered unilateralism, increased income tax, nationalisation, and controls on the movement of capital lost in 1983 lost by a huge margin. To beat the Tories we have to persuade people who voted Conservative last time that they should come over to us. The 1983 manifesto suggests that such policies are not effective in this regard.

    4. “Between 1997 and 2010 Labour lost five million core voters… People didn’t just stop voting Labour, they stopped voting full stop.”
    Up until 1997, Labour had never won two consecutive full terms in government – therefore the record from 1997 to 2010 was exceptional. The fact is that Labour has been a serious force in parliament for 109 years but only 33 of those have featured Labour governments. We cannot blame Blair for this.

    Like

  25. JonRos · December 28, 2015

    Your analysis of the polling data is inaccurate. Foot enjoyed a brief honeymoon period in the opinion polls after his election until the beginning of 1981, polling at and above 50% and although the Limehouse Declaration did knock the parties popularity, it is untrue to claim – as you do – that he maintained a steady lead thereafter.

    In fact Labour’s position became progressively weaker and weaker from the start of 1981, before the formation of the SDP. The party fell significantly behind the SDP in the winter of that year and was almost neck and neck with the Conservatives – not the steady four or five point lead you claim.

    The party recovered briefly at the start of 1982 – as did the Conservatives – moving to around 35% before beginning to fall again. By the start of the Falklands conflict Labour had dropped about 5 points from it’s position at the start of the year, before it fell behind further (the jingoism of the time an obvious factor).

    Post-Falklands Labour’s position actually recovered (polling increased to 35% at the start of 1983) and the Tories support fell away slightly. However, they recovered and Labour fell by the wayside, losing about 8 points during the General Election.

    This tells the very simple truth of the matter: that when faced with a choice the electorate decided on Mrs Thatcher, rather than Michael Foot.

    (Polling data: UK Polling Report, 1979-1983 Polls)

    Like

  26. Pingback: Corbyn’s Calling us Home | de Frémancourt
  27. Julia Larden · December 28, 2015

    Agree very important to point out the error in the amazingly still oft repeated claim that Blair won three times so all we have to do is be like Bliar and ta-da Labour will (by implication) (1) Be in for ever and (2) Be able to run a fantastic socialist government preforming brilliant redistribution and solving the problems of the vulnerable and the poor, having won on a Blairite manifesto and with a Blairite cabinet. This is of course appalling bilge,not least because Blair was delivering none of this, instead driving the country ever rightward and loosing voters hand over fist with each successive election.

    I think it is also worth pointing out that Corbyn is not like Foot because he is nothing like Foot. Another great national myth which has been building for 32 years is that Foot was incredibly left-wing and which of course frightened all those poor fragile left-wing allergic voters off. Except that the truth was different. It often seems forgotten now that Foot supported the Falklands War. (Can anyone imagine Corbyn doing that?) Foot opposed the nationalisation of the top 25 companies: a policy supported by Tony Benn, who wrote in his diary that Foot was ‘fake left’. Foot gave way to his deputy, Dennis Healey over the issue of nuclear weapons. Healey threatened to resign from the deputy leadership two weeks before the 1983 General election unless Foot agreed to retain the old Polaris submarine system whilst rejecting the new Trident one. Both the Labour left and (as I know and well remember) CND went into a campaign with the most appalling fudge of a position on nuclear weapons which was very difficult to explain. Foot’s policies were a hard to sell mess because he himself was too terrified to commit to a left-wing and anti-nuclear agenda. Yet if I had a penny now for every ill-informed idiot who is desperate to tell me that Labour lost the 1983 election because of Michael Foot being too left-wing and because Labour opposed nuclear weapons …

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  28. Pingback: the worst meme in politics | Jade Azim
  29. thealturnativist · January 4, 2016

    Interesting blog post. However, I believe there are wrong assumptions you have made. 1. 1945 was not the election of Socialism but of Keynesianism. There was nationalisation but there was still opposition towards Communism. 2. A ’45 moment was creative by one event; World War 2 that made people more favourable to Socialism; Ironic because the Left hates war. War makes people supportive of Socialist policies and towards solidarity. It is unlikely that peaceful solidarity can be achieved. Besides World War 2 made the economies of UK, Germany, Japan, USSR and USA run on essentially command economies like Socialism. 3. To believe that the Tories are quivering because of Corbyn is wishful thinking. The Tories are well in front.
    If Labour wants to win, then it has to win over Tory and UKIP voters. That is remaining unlikely with Corbyn in charge

    Like

    • Nick Magill · January 5, 2016

      Spot on.

      Just to add one thing: there were 10 million people employed in the war effort in UK in 1945, and other work needed to be found for them pretty quickly. The effects of WW2 were unique.

      Like

  30. jag37777 · January 8

    Can’t argue with that. Good stuff.

    Like

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