In response to Owen Jones ‘Questions for Jeremy Corbyn’

I am not a journalist and am not paid and don’t have unlimited time for this sort of thing, so please excuse less than perfect writing.
I’ve done my best to add links where relevant and cite my sources and research.
If I’ve missed anything please let me know.

This is what I have to say in response to the Owen Jones blog post “Questions all Jeremy Corbyn supporters need to answer”.

1) The opinion polling
The polls were wrong about Kinnock and they were wrong about Brexit.
We will just have to wait and see if the outlook is as glum as the polls predict, and remember that “Corbyn Labour polls as well as Miliband Labour, and rather better than Brown Labour in fact”.

In particular in the current climate of media bias against Corbyn and his supporters, polls need to be treated with a certain amount of scepticism.
In May 2015 the Telegraph reported that the British Polling Council was investigating “bias” across the board”. Judging by the LSE and Media Reform reports, it seems doubtful that things have improved much since then.

And of course, the polls reflect the Labour party feuding and splitting – and I would argue that it is the refusal of the PLP and some of the NEC to get behind their democratically elected leader that has brought this about. They deserted Corbyn, not the other way round.

Owen Jones asks “How will the weaknesses that existed before the coup be addressed?”
I think the biggest weakness before Corbyn was the takeover of the Labour party by an internal right wing faction with massive private funding,  secretive membership and links to private finance and corporate wealth.

MPs, especially Labour MPs, are supposed to serve the electorate, not private or corporate interests.

2)  Where is the clear vision?
This seems really obvious to me.
Corbyn’s vision can be summed up in 2 words: Social Justice.
In my view – and clearly it is shared by many – Corbyn puts that vision across with clarity and simplicity.
No sound bites, no media posturing, no swagger, no aggression.
He is authentic, principled and honest.

Owen Smith, in contrast, has the swagger and the soundbites – and the name dropping – Aneurin Bevan his favourite.
But no matter how loudly or how frequently he declares his radical socialist principles, his rhetoric consists entirely of either parroting Corbyn’s policies or shouting about how Labour’s priority is to defeat the Tories and get into power.

Smith reeks of spin and opportunism.
Pro Austerity, pro Trident, an abstainer on welfare cuts, an ex-corporate lobbyist who’s just hired a corporate lobbyist to manage his leadership campaign.

Angela Eagle was no better. Serious questions  were raised about the legitimacy of her initial selection as an MP, she narrowly escaped a no confidence vote in her own constituency. She condemns Corbyn for “condoning” abuse and accuses his supporters of violence, abuse, homophobia and misogyny on spurious, or certainly tenuous, grounds, whilst excusing Owen Smith’s recent misogynistic comments on Theresa May.

The only clear vision that Owen Smith – or indeed Anglea Eagle – present to me is the vision of more careerist, corporate-friendly right wing spin.
No thanks, I prefer Corbyn.

3) How are the policies significantly different from the last general election?
Again, this seems really obvious to me.
Miliband lacked the courage of Corbyn’s convictions.
Although he was criticised for losing Labour the election by being “too left wing”, this was not at all the case. Rather, Miliband was too eager to appease the right.
To give one example, he was at pains to portray Labour as tough on immigration, a strategy that did nothing to win over the right wing vote but  – as reported in the New Statesmandid succeed in alienating many Labour voters:

Increasingly rancorous language about migrants and benefits has done nothing to secure Labour’s increasingly alarming position in the polls. If anyone can be said to have “won” from the party’s vituperative rhetoric, it is the surging Greens.

Corbyn isn’t trying to play both sides. From his opposition to Trident, his refusal to accept the case for PFI, his pledge to renationalise rail and mail, his promise to invest in manufacturing,  infrastructure, housing and health, and to scrap tuition fees, to his refusal to accept the excuses over Iraq – Corbyn’s policies are socialist.

Labour hasn’t followed a socialist agenda in decades – there’s the difference Owen.

4)  What’s the media strategy?
As I said before, Corbyn doesn’t do sound bites or media posturing.
And he doesn’t need to.
People are actually impressed by his integrity, his fortitude, his sincerity, his moral principles.
A number of recent studies have exposed the staggering bias against him in both the broadcast and press media.
This “dirty tricks” campaign of smears, slurs, and selective and inaccurate reporting make it difficult to see how Owen Jones – who actually works in the media – can suggest that Corbyn himself is in any way responsible for the negative coverage.

Corbyn was actually pretty impressive in yesterday’s Cardiff TV debate with Owen Smith.
Smith is the slick talker with the ready answers, but he fails to convince.
Corbyn lacks the media savvy. But people respond better to the very fact that, unlike Smith and all the other politicians, Corbyn isn’t acting – he means it.

5)  What’s the strategy to win over the over-44s?
I have to say that the claim that Corbyn is a youth-only phenomenon isn’t borne out in the photos and videos of his rallies showing thousands of people including large numbers of the over 44s. Nor is it only the under 44s supporting him on social media, in comment forums and in CLPs.

Owen Jones says that older Britons are the most likely to turn out to vote, and increasingly likely to vote Conservative, and he may be right – he doesn’t give any sources for this.
But of those older people who are not confirmed Tory voters, there are many who abandoned Labour feeling Blairism had abandoned them.
These same older voters are coming back to the party under Corbyn, because he is talking the politics of true – not  blue -Labour.
The party that was named after work and for workers has for 20 years been seen as hand in glove with big business and private wealth, and I think there’s a strong argument that Corbyn changing that is winning over older Labour and ex-Labour voters, not driving them away.

6) What’s the strategy to win over Scotland?
Scotland have already voted for radical change by deserting New Labour and voting in the SNP. They will not vote for Labour again if they do not see radical change in Labour.

As blogger  Thomas G.Clark says:

In 2015 Labour lost 40 of their 41 seats in Scotland and it’s telling that the Labour campaign manager who oversaw the most catastrophic collapse in British electoral History (John McTernan) is backing Owen Smith to replace Jeremy Corbyn.

Scotland may not vote for Labour anyway – they may go for independence, or they may reject a Labour party so riven by division and infighting as to damage its credibility as an electoral force.
I agree that this is the case by the way, but I don’t think ousting Corbyn is the remedy.
I think the PLP and the NEC need to get behind Corbyn and knuckle down to the job of being a united party fit to win an election.
Ousting Corbyn in my opinion would be the nail in the coffin of Labour in Scotland.

7) What’s the strategy to win over Conservative voters?
This one makes me really angry.
It is exactly this – the years of Labour kowtowing to Tory policies and the attempt to win over Tory and Ukip voters – that has forced droves of Labour voters to desert the party and many to give up voting altogether in desperation at the lack of a real alternative to the right.

20 years of Labour mimicking the Tories has destroyed Labour’s credibility as a party of opposition and remade it into a paler, weaker reflection of “the Nasty Party”.
Anti-immigrant, pro-big business, pro-private finance, anti-welfare.
For god’s sake, why bother having a Labour party at all?

Labour might be surprised by the popular support out there if they stop chasing conservative voters and try engaging with the rest of us.

8)  How would we deal with people’s concerns about immigration?
Another one that makes me angry.
Immigration has become the bogeyman because successive Tory governments – and their corporate masters – like it that way.
It deflects attention from their unscrupulous selves and their unscrupulous policies.
Labour has for years either stood silently on the sidelines or worse, has jumped on the bandwagon and cheered the scapegoating on while the media fanned the flames.
Corbyn has indicated that he would put a stop to the exploitation of low paid migrant workers which has a knock-on effect on indigenous wages and employment.
Sensible and fair.
Other than that, Corbyn’s refusal to engage in the sordid opportunism – not to mention the vicious nastiness – of the dominant anti-immigrant rhetoric, is dignified, just and admirable.

9) How can Labour’s mass membership be mobilised?
Owen Jones talked about this in a recent Guardian piece, where he suggested that Labour members need to go beyond promoting Corbyn as leader and start engaging directly with the wider community, offering practical support with things like credit unions and food banks.
I have no argument with that, but it seems obvious that at the moment, because of the PLP coup, the closure of some CLPs, the spurious legal challenges, the threat to split the party  and the media dirty tricks campaign, Labour members have enough on their hands just fighting off the attempts to oust their democratically elected leader.
Labour members should be commended for their tenacity in the face of all this opposition, not scolded for not working hard enough, or not doing it “right”.

When the leadership challenge is over and the PLP get behind the elected leader, the half a million Labour party members will be able to concentrate at last on creative, rather than defensive, measures. In the meantime I agree that there is something significant that Corbyn supporters can do right now:

If everyone who supports Corbyn challenged people they know in person to consider the fact that they are a Corbyn supporter and contrast it with the “brick lobbing bully” stereotype, it would be a great way of illustrating that the mainstream media are pushing a dishonest agenda.

These are my answers Owen Jones.
I’m disappointed and to be honest a tad suspicious about your change of heart and particularly your newfound confidence in Owen Smith.
I hope to hear what you think of the points I’ve raised.

 

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