With Jeremy Corbyn resoundingly returned as Labour leader, Getintothis’ Jono Podmore considers why powerful vested interests are so keen to brand him as unelectable.
So yet again the election of the unelectable has happened. On Saturday September 24 Jeremy Corbyn was declared the outright winner of yet another distracting and divisive Labour Party leadership contest.
Overall Corbyn won 61.8% of the vote – Owen Smith 38.2%: just over a third, which is not much cop for a candidate whose policies were by and large identical to his opponent, so reducing his entire platform to his electability. The natural born winner loses miserably at the first hurdle. Lucky he never had to face a General Election.
The electorate in this vote can be broken down into three segments: Labour party members, Affiliates (Union members) and Registered Supporters who were charged £25 to vote. Corbyn won with all 3 groups by a landslide: members 59%, affiliates 60% and registered 70%.
Another interesting set of figures to appear is the number of members and affiliates who didn’t get to vote: of 551,000 members, 265,824 didn’t – or couldn’t – vote. Nearly half. Of 183,451 affiliates, just 121,517 managed to vote.
One of this number who couldn’t vote was Jason Williamson of Sleaford Mods. His lyrics using the full on vernacular of austerity Britain are published and available to all of us, we know who he is, the language he uses and his point of view. As Jason is a member of the Labour Party, someone was given the task of scrolling back through his twitter feed to March (three months before the leadership election was called) and found that he referred to Dan Jarvis, Labour MP for Barnsley Central as a “posing cunt”. Gotcha! No vote for you, Jason! Muzzled by a democratic party.
True – people such as Dan should be able to go about their daily business without being called a cunt by members of their own party, but to take away someone’s democratic right to vote, a right he has earned by paying his membership fees, for stepping over this line many months before the line was drawn, is more in keeping with the totalitarian Trotskyite nightmares peddled as criticism of Corbyn, than anything Corbyn and Momentum have managed to perpetrate themselves. Nevertheless those photos Dan has on his website with that big gun are rather tasty. Phwoar!
So despite putting hurdles in front of new members, deemed more likely to be Corbyn supporters; despite the unending anti-Corbyn bias in the media; despite so much of the party machinery and finance being in the hands of the Labour MPs who objected to Corbyn’s leadership; despite a whole summer of campaigning on the issue of his inability to win, Corbyn has won. Not just won, increased his mandate in every section of the party electorate. And poor Owen The Electable.
He can now stop putting on the pretences that wore so thin and go back being unelected elsewhere in the party. But of course it wasn’t just poor Thingy The Electable that lost, it was the MPs that initiated this leadership challenge – the coup – and the grandees behind them: Mandelson, Campbell, Blair and Kinnock that have all lost. Business and banking friendly men in suits with a trail of losses behind them all screeching about electability. Demonstrating again their supreme ability to summon disastrous losses out of thin air, even among their own members. Kinnock is the absolute master of this, expertly managing to snatch defeat from the jaws of certain victory in the open goal of the 1992 general election.
By now millions of words will have been published about this latest Labour leadership election, never mind about the whole story of Corbyn’s continued rise and the derision in the press – including my own XXXmas message 2015, but there are a few more general points worth looking at.
After over a year of press covering Corbyn and Momentum, the ceaseless journalistic disgust appears in many corners to have developed into nothing short of a psychosis. Perfectly reasonable, intelligent, liberal journalists, and the publications they write for, have debased themselves over the Labour Party leadership. Calm and intelligent investigation has been replaced by trawling through the twitter feeds of trolls who might have shown support for Corbyn at some point to find evidence that all his supporters are foul mouthed, vicious, bullying, racist, totalitarian, *insert whatever scares you most*. Fragments of tweets from random unaffiliated sources are the best they can come up with, so attention goes to extracting single lines out of context from publications by tiny organisations that may (or may not) be “infiltrating” the Labour Party membership.
It reached a jaw-dropping zenith last month. First there was this opinion piece by Barbara Ellen in The Guardian. I’m all for a spot of hyperbole here and there as readers may have noticed, but to print this witless invective during an election campaign is abominable behaviour. The Guardian hasn’t stooped so low since it threw its weight behind the Liberal Democrats in 2010 and ushered in this era of feckless government and austerity as a cover for the dismantling of the welfare state to be sold off to the highest bidder.
And then, a journalist friend of mine said the result of the leadership election “felt like watching a family member die”…
So what are the sources of all this irrational hyperbole?
Here are a couple of ideas worth considering:
In an interview back in 2008, Professor Noam Chomsky enlightened a young Andrew Marr as to the subtle ways the apparently liberal media in the West in fact functions like a totalitarian propaganda machine:
The juicy stuff is around eight minutes in, but the whole thing is definitely worth watching. The Wikipedia page on the Propaganda Model is another good introduction.
In the interview Chomsky paraphrases George Orwell who stated in a preface to Animal Farm the kernel of the propaganda model:
“Unpopular ideas can be silenced without any force… The press is owned by wealthy men who have every interest in not having certain things appear, but second, the whole educational system from the beginning on through, gets you to understand there are certain things you just don’t say”
As “the father of modern linguistics” Chomsky knows how language can be used and abused so he’s to be taken seriously.
I’ve seen this subtle control of the press functioning more clearly in the last year than at any other time of my life. Across the board, the journalistic culture reviles Corbyn and people like him. When challenged, the objections get more far-fetched and personal and it becomes clear that Corbyn has simply said the “things you just don’t say”. So he must be ridiculed – in the same way a young journalist would be ridiculed. It’s a peculiarly macho thing too, lads ganging up on the idiot who didn’t keep to the unwritten rules that define their social group.
There’s another psychological mechanism behind this bizarrely exaggerated loathing of the “conceited, clueless backbench-lifers, peddling everything from pungent whiffs of anti-Semitism, sexism and other forms of bullying and discrimination to meaningless “neo-hipster” drivel, delivered with sub-zero political acumen?” – as Barbara Ellen would have it.
Projection is one of the Defence Mechanisms of the ego identified by Sigmund Freud and used throughout his work. In a nutshell, if you can’t face something about yourself: a behaviour, a longing, a failure, then you project that onto someone else and accuse them of it.
Imagine you were a Labour MP that really went for the Campbell/Mandelson/Blair worldview and profited from it greatly. Then you started losing. Then the 2008 crash happened and you stuck your fingers in you ears and pretended it was still Blair’s glory days, splashing the cash “in partnership” with business!! And you kept losing and losing. 2010. 2015. No more Scotland. And then Corbyn arrived. You can’t face it, so you project your own failings on to him – UNELECTABLE you wail! The press agree because your failure is their failure and before you know it there’s a mass psychosis of unelectable politicians and minor journalists adding more failures to their lists in the deluded belief that they are the only ones who know how to win.
…and all the while an unelected Prime Minister sits in No. 10….
This whole drama with all its gut-wrenching hyperbole and cataclysmic threats will actually pale into insignificance as the global picture of this period develops.
For example take a look at Germany. The SPD, the German equivalent of the Labour Party, were in power roughly at the same time as the Blair government, in a coalition with the Green Party from 1998 to 2005 under the leadership of Gerhard Schröder. Like Blair, Schröder decided the way forward for social democracy was to cut ties with socialism and to be business friendly, inducing “incentives” to the poor such as the Harz IV Scheme, one aspect of Agenda 2010 – the biggest programme of cuts in German social security since the war. These cuts (aka reforms) of course also opened the door to greater private involvement in social services so, of course, the money men were rubbing their hands.
And what happened next? Here the parallels with Labour get even stronger. In 1998 when they offered a socialist alternative to Helmut Kohl’s CDU (the equivalent of the Tories – the party of Angela Merkel), their share of the popular vote was 41%. Now, as they have trodden the business friendly, poor-incentivising, welfare-cutting path of their British comrades, they are scraping together around 25% – sometimes hitting as low as 23%.
The swing to the right of the social democratic parties that happened in the 1990s has made them unelectable from 2008 onwards – and we’ve been left with incompetent right wing governments running single party states. It’s obvious – but our parliamentary Labour Party and their friends in the press are simply in denial. What worked in 1997 and 1998 to lever the left into power simply does not work in 2016, and we see that demonstrated over and over again.
The Labour Party leadership debacle resulting from losing two general elections, the Brexit vote, the rise of Trump, the punishment of the poorer nations in Europe are all aspects of the same issue – how the economic and political structures of the West can’t cope with the game changing nature of the 2008 economic crash.
Alistair Campbell and his acolytes both in the party and the press want to go back to running the Labour Party on the successful model of the victory of 1997. Sorry Pal, too late. The world has changed – and so has the electorate. In fact, as far as the UK is concerned, he has been part of that change: “the person, above all else, who actually created a political environment where no-one believed a word a politician said”, as shadow chancellor John McDonnell pointed out to him on BBC Question Time on September 15. That political environment has cost Labour 5 million votes since 1998.
The ideas that trickle-down economics and austerity are simply ideological vehicles to facilitate redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich, and that the 2008 crash was down to unscrupulous traders and bankers exploiting a deregulated money market supported and facilitated by our governments, are no longer considered the ramblings of the loony left – they are accepted truths in popular culture.
Here’s a meme for example:
Even Hollywood has got on board. The Big Short with its stellar cast including Brad Pitt tells the story of how a few traders actually saw through the unscrupulous and unsustainable financial bubble that triggered the 2008 crash, using figures from popular culture to clarify the financial jargon to reveal the fragile and irrational basis that so much of the world’s capitalist system is based.
The crash that this brought about has subsequently lead to the austerity programme in the western world, cutting adrift an entire generation in order to line the pockets of the rich. Creating an economic model where corporations can pay laughably small amounts of tax and tiny wages as the state subsidises them, even paying off their bank’s debts for them under the guise of quantitative easing. That is the end of Capitalism as we understand it – for the big players it’s not a market anymore.
But still it’s “business as usual” for our political classes to deny or side-step these facts. Like our sleepwalking propagandists in the press, one simply doesn’t say it. If you do it’s ridicule and political suicide – you become unelectable.
So who do you vote for if the alternatives are Blue business as usual or Red business as usual – when all the time you’re seeing your society torn apart and your income wither?
Corbyn isn’t business as usual – so, for the moment at least he keeps winning. But what’s really scary is Farage isn’t business as usual either, and neither is Donald Trump. The hideous Brexit vote, the true impact of which is yet to be felt, was largely a protest vote. People know the status quo is an unsustainable mess and our politicians refuse to acknowledge this in fear of losing their backing in the financial sector – so the electorate vote against the establishment and open the door to racist, selfish sociopaths, the likes of Farage and Trump.
There has to be a coherent vehicle for these disgruntled and confused people to get behind which will honestly acknowledge the current state of our social and economic structures and present ways to protect the population from the worst that the unregulated markets and the corporations that thrive on them will continue to deliver. We need to build an infrastructure including housing, health, transport, finance and communications, which is run for the benefit of society rather than the financial benefit of shareholders.
Hopefully now that the Labour Party has given its “not business as usual” leader such a clear and unequivocal mandate, at least here in Britain we can finally start that process without hamstringing ourselves with the ghosts of the 1990s, and perhaps our friends in the parliamentary Labour Party and the media can each take the time to find someone who will guide them through their psychological issues with their failings, and make their lives a little more constructive.