20 April 2017

Labour Can Win if Corbyn is Bold – the Key Issue is Poverty and the Transfer of Wealth

John Woodcock Must Not be Allowed to Stand

There is no reason that this scab should be a Labour candidate

It was Harold Wilson who said that a week is a long time in politics.  Seven weeks is a political eternity.  Theresa May has taken a gamble that her 21% lead will hold.  It is a gamble that she may yet come to regret.

There is only one direction that her lead can go and that is down.  Once her lead falls then a snowball effect can take over.  What is essential is that Labour marks out the key areas on which it is going to base its appeal.  The danger is that Corbyn is going to continue with his ‘strategy’ of appeasing the Right and appealing to all good men and women.  If so that will be a recipe for disaster.

No election is guaranteed to be without its surprises.  Theresa May is a cautious conservative.  She is literally the product of her background, a conservative vicar’s daughter.  Reactionary, parochial and small-minded, she is a bigot for all seasons.  What doesn’t help is that she is both wooden and unoriginal.  The danger is that Corbyn tries to emulate her.
The key question is whether or not Corbyn can rise to the occasion.  Over the past 18 months his performance has been little short of dire.  There is point in pretending otherwise.  The question is whether he will rise to the occasion as he showed glimpses of doing during the leadership election last summer.  There has been a conscious strategy of appeasing the Right in the hope that they will come to accept Corbyn’s leadership.  This has resulted in his passive acceptance of a witch-hunt.  When Labour’s crooked General Secretary, Iain McNicoll was busy digging into members’ twitter feeds last summer in the attempt to suspend enough Corbyn voters to swing the vote, Corbyn said nothing.  After he won he blew his best chance to get rid of this disloyal toad, a man who did his best to keep him off the ballot paper.
Labour's recent policy announcements are still inadequate to motivate Labour's base
Even Jesus, with whom Corbyn shares his initials, didn’t allow the gospel of love to prevent him from driving the money lenders from the temple with whips.  That should be the approach to MPs like John Woodcock.  Woodcock says there are no circumstances in which he will vote for Corbyn as Prime Minister.  Fine, but the Labour Party has elected him leader with just that in mind.  Woodcock should therefore be left to either join the Tory Party or stand as an independent.  On no account should John Woodcock be a Labour candidate at this general election.

Corbyn’s inability to call out the ‘anti-Semitism’ witch-hunt has symbolised the problems with his leadership.  It has always been the traditional response of supporters of Israel to attack supporters of the Palestinians as ‘anti-Semitic’.  There is no mystery about it.  You only need to google ‘anti-Zionism = anti-Semitism’ to understand what the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel have been playing at for the past 18 months when they alleged that there was a problem with ‘anti-Semitism’ in the Labour Party.
The Guardian's only concern is to attack Labour under Corby
Unfortunately Corbyn forgot where he had come from and everything he once espoused on Palestine under the guidance of  a kitchen cabinet of Seamus Milne, James Schneider, Lansman et al.  Corbyn has done the exact opposite of what was required.  He has compromised with a Right which will accept nothing less than his head.

Corbyn’s only hope lies in outflanking Theresa May and setting the agenda.  For example Corbyn’s recent policy announcements including calling for the building of 200,000 houses including 100,000 council houses.  I can remember when Labour under Harold Wilson in the 1960s called for the building of ½ million houses yet the housing crisis now is far worse than 50 years ago.  Another recent policy announcement is that nationalisation of the railways will be enabled by preventing  renewal of existing franchises.  That will take 15 years.  In other words it will never happen.  Labour needs to pledge an immediate renationalisation.  Within one year the entire railway system in this country will be unified. 

The National Health Service is another major issue but it has never been an election winner since the Tories have always professed that it is safe in their hands.  That means that it is not enough to pledge meaningless figures.  There has to be a pledge that not only will private involvement will be reversed but that contracts will be statutorily cancelled.  As regards PFI (Private Finance Initiative) contracts which are bankrupting the NHS, thanks to New Labour, there should be a pledge that these financial instruments will be cancelled, that the contracts in question will be statutorily reversed saving billions of pounds.

Already the contours of the campaign are becoming clear.  Brexist is going to be a major issue and the Lib-Dems are going to make gains on this issue.  Labour at the moment is in the worst position of all.  It is effectively supporting Theresa May.  In the House of Commons Corbyn laid down a 3 line whip that people should back May’s invocation of Article 50.  I know that Corbyn agreed with Tony Benn’s position of withdrawal from the European Union but it should now be obvious that this has led, not to a socialist revival but the growth of UKIP and narrow and nasty chauvinism and racism.

I somehow doubt that Corbyn is capable of drawing the necessary lessons but Labour should make it clear that it is the anti-Brexit party, but from a position of opposition to a free market Europe.  In other words a position which says that we disagree with Europe’s espousal of free market capitalism but we are also opposed to Theresa May’s ideas of a low tax Britain, some kind of offshore tax dodging island off Europe. It is essential that the Lib-Dems do not corner the anti-Brexit market.

To those who say this will be disregarding the vote against Brexit, I have only one answer – rubbish.  People didn’t vote for leaving the single market, increasing unemployment, higher inflation etc.  They voted against what they perceived was an establishment which has pauperised them in the past 30 years, which has deindustrialised Britain and created a ‘flexible’ Labour market.  They saw, quite falsely, immigration as the cause of that impoverishment.  It is Labour’s job to point to the real causes of poverty.

Which brings me to the major theme that Labour should employ.  Instead of swapping useless and meaningless statistics about the deficit and national debt, Corbyn should simply call their bluff.  If the goal is about reducing the debt then why cut taxes for the rich?  What is really happening is a transfer of wealth from the poorest to the richest.  Austerity is the means by which to do that.  Corbyn should vigorously argue that a society where the top 10% own 50%+ of the wealth is one in which the needs of ordinary working class people are subordinated to the market and the needs of the rich.

Corbyn has a number of advantages.  For a start we can say to Labour voters tempted to vote Lib Dem that the announcement that the Lib Dems won’t support a Labour-led coalition under Corbyn means that they will, in the event of a hung parliament, go into coalition with the Tories, i.e. a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for the Tories.  Secondly  in those few seats where a Green candidate can make a difference to Labour winning or not, like Brighton Kemptown, we should do a deal.  In Brighton it should be that Labour will stand down in Brighton Pavilion to give Caroline Lucas an easy win in return for the Greens standing down and explicitly backing Labour in Brighton Kemptown.

And one other thing.  Corbyn and Labour should tackle head on the major theme of the BBC at the moment – Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’.  He should admit that as a result of a systematic attack on him by the media and the BBC, that opinion polls are negative.  He should therefore go onto the attack against not only a conservative dominated press, the Guardian included, but a BBC in thrall to Conservative politics, witness the fact that Nigel Farage has a monthly appearance on Question Time.

There is everything to win if Labour has the courage of its convictions.

Tony Greenstein 

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