I’ve held off discussing the Labour Party leadership. I’m a (lazy, non-activist) Green Party member and I vowed after Iraq, after various other Blair/Brown betrayals, that I wouldn’t be voting Labour again. It’s been easy: I live in Speaker Bercow’s constituency, so Labour don’t even stand here and it hasn’t been an issue. As an old leftie, I always hated Blair, and considered Brown to be a lucky chancellor and an inveterate tinkerer. He blew it with me when he bailed out the banks. Given their behaviour since, given the media and political narrative that ensued, that blamed overspending and not bad lending for the near-collapse of the world economy, I still think he (and everyone else) was wrong to bail out the banks. Investments can go up as well as down.
Right now, we could be living in a post-capitalist, post-neo-liberal world, instead of this shitty austerity-riven, blame-the-poor, punish-the-weak, welfare-for-the-rich dystopia.
Miliband was the wrong leader to succeed Brown. A zero charisma, zero ideas, empty suit, slightly weird adenoidic who was a bacon sandwich photo opportunity waiting to happen.
Which leads us to here and this leadership election between three more empty suits and a man in a jumper. I said at the beginning that Corbyn was destined to be another Michael Foot.
I liked Michael Foot. One of the few politicians I’ve ever heard speak (at a CND rally), I considered him a decent, highly intelligent, principled man. I loved him and his donkey jacket, and I watched him destroyed by our almost-wholly right wing media as the Labour Party (always a coalition of competing philosophies and interests) disintegrated around him.
Labour. Never quite so radical as they were in 1900 and 1945, they’re an amalgam of socialist societies, career politicians with no principles, right wing trade unions, and left-wing firebrands. In the post-Foot era, the left was shoved aside and the Party was stewarded by a series of increasingly right-wing leaders into a position to win big in ’97.
So here we are and here we are and here we go, as the Quo said, and the cycle is set to begin again. Or is it?
Did you just see what happened. Every. Single. Major. Media. Outlet. They were all against him, especially the Guardian, publishing think pieces and opinion pieces and news pieces, seeking to pooh pooh the very idea him, the unelectability of him, the very Michael Footness of him. Never has there been such a clear and blatant effort to exclude a candidate. The very Labour Party itself wrote to many of its own life-long supporters (such as journalist/comedian Mark Steel) and forbade them from voting for him. And still he won. He won bigger than Blair, and he won fair and square, even among established and traditional Labour Party members.
A collective delusion, a close-your-eyes and wish for it, a doomed enterprise. All of this. For the next five years it will be A Very British Coup all over the shop, and the press and the BBC and the rest will be at him and all over him seeking to kick him to death before the 2020 election. It’ll be Michael Foot and the donkey jacket and the Cenotaph all over again.
Or will it?
Because you know what we didn’t have in 1983? Twitter. We didn’t have the means to construct a counter-narrative, to fact-check their lies and hand them their asses, over and over again. With Foot, all that old CND lot, there was never the power to fight back to organise, to mobilise, in the way there is now.
I used to sit at union meetings back in the 80s, and listen to the lefties bemoan the state of the Labour Party, the old “Labour Party compromisers”, the frequent betrayals. Nobody ever hates the Labour Party so much as their most passionate supporters. And for all these years, these years since Kinnock, the idea that the Blairites might be toppled, that New Labour might be given the boot, that anybody with any socialist ideas at all might ever get onto the front bench let alone into the leadership seemed like the purest fantasy. The Labour Party was lost to us, and some of us joined the Greens.
But there he is. Not just winning, but winning bigger than Blair. Dare to dream?