Thursday, 30 July 2015

Labour leadership: Corbyn to storm in?

So they say. The party membership, as so often in its history, has gone bonkers. Now I am not so sure that Corbyn will in fact storm in to the leadership of the Party That Prefers Opposition, as party elections are carried out in the Alternative Vote system, so while it may appear that Corbyn has a majority of first preferences, that may quite well not add up to 50%, and second and third preferences may give it to Andy Burnham, or indeed one of the others. Incidentally it is Yvette Cooper who has made the best joke of the campaign so far, calling the candidates "ABBA" - the blonde one, the dark one, the bearded one, and the other one. *Resists temptation to use pic of ABBA in this post* and anyway they are super-strict with their legals, and it's actually quite hard to download a free-to-use picture of the Swedish foursome that is any good.

Yes. The bonkers party. It is well known that the activists - those who attend the monthly General Committee (GC) meetings, the GC being the sovereign body of a constituency or other local party, are almost all clinically insane, and those that are not are swiftly hounded out, and routinely denounced in the local media. Read Robert Conquest on Stalin's years in power, as I am currently doing, and you will recognise your GC. It is also well known that the "grass-roots" members (this means the mad ones) prefer being in opposition. They HATED Tony Blair, and they HATED the 13 years of Labour government we had from 1997 to 2010. There were HORRID things like the minimum wage, like money for working families, like free TV licences, like - oh, please yourselves. I was a Labour MP for eight of those years, and not once did anyone at the GC say it was a good thing that we had the minimum wage, or Sure Start, or any of the other goodies Tony Blair as Prime Minister and Gordon Brown as Chancellor made sure the people had. No. But they moaned and carped and nitpicked endlessly, mainly about foxhunting and the Middle East. After a while it got so that Jewish members had to stay away, as they were howled down whenever they tried to speak. It was that bad. And this was in the late 1990s, when the economy was pretty strong, when my constituency had zero structural unemployment, and when the world was a bit more peaceful than it appears now.

What a waste. In the good years - yes, the Blair years, or go back to the Wilson years if you are old enough, those years when we had Labour governments - the party right up to the top was pointlessly distracting itself with petty infighting, persecution and bullying. The whips bullied, not the rebels, but the loyal backbenchers. Ann Taylor and Hilary Armstrong as successive Chief Whips took particular pleasure in this, and where are they now? Oh yes, in the Lords, being smug on £300 a day. Taylor in particular is rather stupid, well you'd have to be to think Roy Hattersley was hunky at any time in history. Local parties persecuted, not the corrupt and the racist (all parties have those) but hardworking councillors and MPs. And no one cared. The great resource the party had in those days, its people who were not part of corrupt cabals but who worked hard as volunteers for the cause, or who had been elected because the British people wanted a Labour government led by Tony Blair, whether Labour members liked that or not, was wasted. Most of us came through it more or less in one piece. Some did not. Margaret Moran is a broken woman. Fiona Jones is dead. Anne Moffat was deselected by a small cabal of corrupt men (there is always a small cabal of corrupt men, the trick is not to let them take charge) and the party leadership laughed in her face.

So let's bring it down on their heads. I disagree so profoundly with most of what Jeremy Corbyn has to say that it's not even worth my while deconstructing any of it. But part of me says - serve them right. Destroy the party. You might as well, now that between Gordon Brown and the mad GC men you've contrived to keep Labour out of power for at least a generation, if not for ever. Scorch the earth, and start again.

And the people, in all this?