Jeremy Corbyns recent appearance on the BBC program “Question Time” was heartening for many Corbyn supporters. Despite the clear evidence of consistent media bias against him, Corbyn was at last able to bring part of his message to the wider electorate.
There was little doubt who “won” this debate. Corbyn came across as calm, erudite, policy focused, witty and engaging. Owen Smith appeared to be reading from a tired, well-worn script of bias, slur and negativity.
In stark contrast, Corbyns message of hope really stood out.
However, predictably, there were still some Smith supporters banging on in support of their candidates risible performance.
Putting aside the futility of this, in the face of clear evidence to the contrary, there are however a number of “lines” that Smith supporters consistently maintain.
These are valid concerns in my view. So let’s address them.
Only An Elected Labour Government Can Stop The Damage Caused By The Tories.
I agree. I do understand and empathise with this supposed reason for voting for Smith. However, to support Smith, in response to this concern, relies upon a false assumption. Namely that Smith can win a general election and Corbyn can’t.
There is little or no evidence to substantiate this view. The Smith camp rely heavily upon an extremely subjective and highly questionable interpretation of the poll data (see below.) However they fail to acknowledge more substantial evidence.
Firstly Smith is offering very similar polices to Corbyn. His argument has always been that Corbyn lacks the “leadership qualities” required to unite the party and win elections. This is an incredibly vague argument because there is no clear definition of what “leadership qualities” actually are.
So, given that Smith appears to largely agree with Corbyn on policy, from this perspective, Smith is no more likely to win a general election than Corbyn. This renders a leadership challenge based upon policy differences ridiculous.
So the Smith camp must focus upon their claims that Smith has the right “qualities” to unite the party.
This act of uniting the party of course relies entirely upon your view of what the Labour Party is.
Certainly Smith enjoys greater support from within the PLP. However strong vocal support from the Party “big guns”, with the exception of Ed Milliband, has been notably lacking from his campaign.
On the other hand if you consider the Labour Party to be a coalition of the left in which the members play a key role, it is Corbyn who undoubtedly enjoys by far the greater level of support. This is a very important factor for electoral success.
Activist support is key because no Labour leader can ever win a General election without a strong, committed, activist movement behind them (see below). Corbyn has this in abundance. Smith does not.
So Smith’s camp suggest that he, unlike Corbyn, possesses the required “charisma” and oratory skills to take on the Tories and win over the wider electorate.
But Smith has just been hammered by Corbyn in both the hustings and now twice on national television. As a supposedly charismatic leader, who attacks Corbyn for his suggested lack of “presence”, it is patently obvious he is actually unable to compete with Corbyn in these debates.
Smith has been consistently beaten by Corbyn on the “charisma” front.
But don’t take my word for it. In a recent poll of its readers, the right wing media champion the Daily Telegraph have given a resounding victory to Corbyn. At the time of writing he is “polling” at 57% with just 19% in favour of Smith.
The Smith camp state that, in order to win a general election the Labour leader must be able to broaden their appeal and reach out to more than just traditional Labour voters.
So that would include Telegraph readers then?
To be fair to Smith supporters Telegraph readers aren’t really the swing voters who they say Corbyn is unable to connect with.
They state that, for electoral victory, Labour must regain those voters who have abandoned Labour in recent years. Especially in the Northern English heartlands and Scotland.
The problem is that those swing voters in Northern England are the ones that abandoned Labour to vote for UKIP and Brexit. So Smith’s main policy difference between himself and Corbyn, namely that of holding a second EU referendum, is hardly likely to win them back.
By contrast Corbyn is willing to accept the democratic will of these vital swing voters.
Scotland looks like a harder nut to crack post Brexit.
Smith supporters claim that his EU referendum policy will appeal to them. The problem is that regaining the Scottish vote looks to be far more of a challenge than fighting UKIP in Northern England.
The UKIP vote is collaping (according to the polls) and there is little or no appetite for a second independance referendum in Scotland. So if possible, rather than theoretical, electoral success is the aim, Corbyn appears to be the more likely candidate once again.
Then we come to Smith’s activist problem.
Jeremy Corbyn has attracted hundreds of thousands of previously disengaged activists to the party. That is a fact that cannot be disputed.
They have not rallied under Smiths banner. Worse than that, due to the divisive nature of the contest and the perception amongst Corbyn supporters of attempts at vote rigging through dubious disenfranchisement by the PLP, few if any Corbyn supporters will fight hard for Smith.
These people are either returning, previously disillusioned Labour voters or new, hitherto unmotivated voters. So Corbyn’s appeal to the left cannot be legitimately questioned. It is not reasonable to suggest that Smith commands the same level of support mongs the core labour vote.
So once gain, simply to hold the core vote together (which would alone would be insufficient to win an election) Corbyn has an advantage on Smith.
Under recent leadership the Labour Party has suffered a series of crushing electoral defeats and dwindling membership. Corbyn is the first Leader for some time to buck that trend.
Now I fully accept that there is a pressing need to convert activism into votes. Prior to Labours self-destruct lunacy, there certainly was evidence that the turnaround amongst the wider electorate was well underway (see the discussion on polls below.)
That progress has now been largely thrown away by the PLP coup. But, with a massive, highly motivated activist base, it can quickly be recovered, given the opportunity.
What is certain is that the left cannot expect to achieve electoral success without the support of a large activist base. This has always been the case.
The right wing media have historically been an obstacle for the left. This is as true today as it has ever been as the recent study by the London School of Economics has highlighted.
Activism has been key in every single electoral victory that Labour ever achieved. Indeed the Labour Party itself stems from its activist base.
I understand that Smith supporters want a Labour government that will undo the damage being wrought by the ideological austerity of a brutal Conservative regime. However the accusations that Corbyn supporters don’t want the same is stupid.
But to claim that Smith has a better chance of General Election success is not borne out by the evidence.
Simply put, without a sizeable activist movement behind them potential Labour Prime Ministers have no chance.
The problem Smith has is that he doesn’t have one.
The Polls Indicate That Corbyn Cannot Win and Labour Are At An All Time Low.
Aah the polls! Clearly they show that Corbyn is lagging way below the required level of support necessary to win a general election. At the time of writing (12/09/2016) this is beyond dispute.
The question is why?
The Smith camp have interpreted the data in a very odd way. Apart from the fact that we have recently seen how innacurate polls can be (they were wrong about both the 2015 lection and the EU referendum) their interpretation is utterly flawed. Indeed what the polls show, more than anything, is the damage they themselves have done to the Party.
That being said, if I have a serious criticism of Corbyn supporters it is their frequently unfounded rejection of all the poll data. Actually I think, in doing so, they are missing a very important weapon to use against the Smith camp.
Not all polls are biased and many do use empirically sound research methodologies. It is perhaps a little short sighted of some Corbyn supporters to simply reject poll data out of hound.
Smith supporters are eager to point to this as “proof” that their man is the candidate more likely to win a General election. Yet, in their over reliance upon polls, they are actually undermining their own argument.
Analysis of the polls actually, far from bolstering their argument, utterly destroys it. Labour, not just Corbyn’s, is tanking in the polls. It is when we analyse the reasons why that the Smith campaigns argument falls apart completely.
Firstly the polling shows that in April 2016 Labour, under Jeremey Corbyn, had between a 3-5 point lead over the Tories. What’s more Corbyn himself held a 7 point personal rating lead over his Tory counterpart Cameron.
This was amazing given the relentless media bias against him and the undermining tactics of his own PLP. Let us not forget that Corbyn has never enjoyed the support of his PLP colleagues.
The Smith camp claim this isn’t true but all the evidence points to a plan to undermine his leadership from the moment he was elected party leader.
As soon as Corbyn won in September 2015 many of his own MP’s and party heavyweights started spinning against him. For example the day after his victory the newly elected deputy leader Tom Watson and behind the scenes powerbroker Peter Mandelson were both raising the potential of a coup against him. They both said that the coup shouldn’t take place, but to openly discuss a likely coup in the media the day after his election was clearly designed to undermine Corbyn from day one.
There is also further evidence that the Blairite PR company Portland Communications were frantically spinning in the media against Corbyn as soon as he was elected leader.
So Corbyn’s poll lead in April was remarkable given the almost complete lack of support he had in both the media and within his own parliamentary party.
So when did these poll ratings start to dive?
As we can see they started dropping in the build up to the EU referendum. With Labour arguing strongly for remain it is notable that Labours drop in the polls corresponded precisely to an increase for UKIP support in Labours Northern English heartlands.
However post Brexit we see the Labour party’s ratings suddenly plunge considerably.
There can be little doubt that this plunge started as Hilary Benn led the planned PLP resignation onslaught. These resignations were designed to inflict maximum damage upon Corbyn. They were drip fed into the media on an hourly basis to ensure it stayed headline news for as long as possible. For the Smith camp to claim this was not the case is frankly absurd.
Of course damaging Corbyn, at that point, also meant damaging Labour. Yet Smith supporters refuse to accept any of the blame for the damage their divisive coup has caused, not just to Corbyn, but to the party itself.
So now the Smith camp point to Corbyn and say “look at the polls, look what you have done to the party.” Yet when we actually do look at the polls we see a very strong correlation between their own actions and Labours disastrous poll ratings.
Of course this is not to say that Corbyn is entirely blameless. Clearly the Corbyn team have a lot of work to do to get the message out to wider electorate. However, in order for him to start redressing the imbalance the Labour party must unite behind him and start using the party machine to promote its policies and advocate for its leadership.
What it has done instead is the exact opposite.
Margaret Thatcher once said that her greatest achievement was Tony Blaire. Right now it’s pretty obvious that the Theresa May and the Tories are reaping the benefit of her legacy as the Labour right continues to destroy Labours electoral chances.
To think that any swing voter would be attracted to a party that is in open conflict with itself is preposterous.
Yet once again, if we look at the polls (which the Smith camp are so keen for us to do) we can see that there is reason for Corbyn supporters to take heart.
Aside from the evidence which proves media bias (see previous links) it is also clear that the British public do not respond well to being lied to. As “project fear” so clearly illustrated during the EU referendum, negative campaigning no longer seems to work with the electorate.
A recent Yougov poll shows that 51% of the British public believe that Corbyn has been treated unfairly, and if there’s one thing we Brits hate it is a lack of fairness.
This clearly indicates that, if the PLP stopped trying to undermine its democratically elected leader but rather started fighting the Tories, there is the potential for a rapid swing back in Corbyn and Labours favour.
What right minded voter, beyond staunch Labour supporters, could ever support a party plagued by such terrible internal chaos? One that has completely absented itself from standing up for their rights at precisely the moment they needed it?
The claims that the polls “prove” Corbyn is unelectable actually demonstrates nothing of the sought. What they demonstrate is that the British public are sick to death of the Labour Party’s lack of cohesion and failure to hold the Tories to account.
A fact which is predominantly the fault of the PLP coup and the Smith campaign. Thir argument tht Corbyn has “caused” the plummet in the polls is completely cynical. The tanking in the polls is undoubtedly due to their activity.
Which leads us to another of the Smith camps cynical, often stated point.
Corbyn Supporters Have Abandoned People In Need Because They Are Ideologically Wedded To Dogma Rather than Reality.
The Smith camp often claim that, by supporting what they have called an “unelectable candidate” (which isn’t true as we have just seen) Corbyn supporters are effectively abandoning the working class. Condemning them to the continued attrition of crushing Conservative rule.
They suggest that, because we believe in socialism and support a socialist leader of a democratic socialist Labour Party, we are not concerned with winning elections. Thereby abandoning our responsibility to fight for the rights of the people the Labour Party represents.
So let’s take a quick look at the Labour Party status quo that the Smith camp want to continue.
Blaire’s Labour did some good stuff. Most governments in power for 10 years or more can manage that. Minimum wage, Sure Start etc.
But that of course is not the true Legacy of Blair’s government. It is a legacy that ultimately fractured the left entirely and allowed successive Coalition and Conservative governments to rule with less than 37% of the vote.
Corbyn is reuniting the left.
Under Milliband, in a misguided bid for power, Labour continued its attempts to appeal to the centre right/right electorate. By advocating less austerity but still pursuing austerity, Labour has abandoned the working class to a great extent.
The result of this has been to drive traditional Labour voters to the extremes of voting UKIP or Nationalist. Many others were left with the option of protest voting Green, spoiling their ballot or not bothering to vote at all.
Unbelievably the Smith camp are actually arguing for a continuation of this approach. Despite that fact that it evidently does not win elections for Labour in Britain any longer.
Unlike the Smith camp, Corbyn supporters genuinely do not see the value in simply winning power by defending “austerity” and the primacy of free market “control.”
That has achieved nothing save ever greater inequality and the political marginalisation of the millions.
As a result you get UKIP gaining Labour votes in its English heartlands and Nationalists winning in Scotland.
Therefore the Smith camps whole point about power is a tenuous one. What Labour have essentially been doing, knowingly or not, is propping up a particularly pernicious form of free market capitalism at the expense of the working class.
Take the NHS for example. Sure the Tories introduced the “internal market” but it was Labour who brought forth the legislation which dismantled the NHS. It was Labour who crippled it financially through PFI’s.
If Smith supporters care about social justice, as they claim, what is the point of supporting any party, no matter the colour, that stands on this kind of policy platform? Corbyn supporters see none. Better to fight for policies that will genuinely bring about the necessary change.
So Corbyn voters support the repeal of the Health and Social Care Act, support the suspension and renegotiation of PFI repayments. They support the renationalisation of our core industries and infrastructure. They support the redistribution of wealth from the few to the many.
It is not because of some blind ideologically faith but rather because these are the only policies that will actually save the NHS, protect essential services and tackle inequality.
The tokenism offered by Smith won’t.
Then we get to undoubtedly the most illogical argument of the Smith camp.
Corbyn Lacks Leadership Skills And Is Unelectable As A Result.
Clearly, given the evidence of both the hustings and his recent national television appearance on Question Time, Corbyn is the more authentic of the two.
Voters (not just Labour members) can see this. In fact, as we’ve just evidenced, recent research shows a consensus amongst the electorate that Corbyn has never been given a chance. There is a voter backlash just waiting to be ignited.
Corbyn has a sizeable activist base behind him ready to take his message to the streets. He also has a policy platform that evidence shows has broad populist appeal. Despite the almost complete lack of support from within the PLP during his brief tenure he has led campaigns that have defeated the Tories on a number of issues.
- Placing economic alternatives to austerity firmly on the political agenda.
- Massively increasing the Labour Parties membership to record levels.
- Placing renationalisation of some essential services back on the agenda.
- Forcing a Tory U turn on the deplorable Saudi prison contracts.
- Forcing a Tory U turn on school academisation.
- Forcing a Tory U turn on £4.5 billion pound welfare cuts.
- Forcing Tories to abandon major elements of their budget.
- Forced government to intervene in the steel industry.
- Won 4 Mayoral elections (including Bristol.)
- Increased voter share in Oldham and Tooting by-elections.
- Forced Tory U turn on disability benefit cuts.
- Encouraged the Fire Brigade Union to re affiliate with the Labour Party.
Not only that but, no matter what rubbish the Smith camp claim, Corbyn led a “remain campaign” that convinced more that 60% of Labour supporters to vote for remain. This is far better than any other remain campaigner achieved. To say he failed to lead on the issue is patently absurd.
All of this has been achieved under his leadership. Despite all the backstabbing, plotting, undermining and media smear campaigns being run by the Smith campaign, PLP coup leaders and their corporate backers.
Just imagine what the Labour Party could achieve under Corbyn if the Parliamentary Party actually supported him.
So for Smith supporters to suggest that Corbyn lacks leadership skills is beyond pathetic.
His presentation skills are better than Smiths. His ability to inspire support is better than Smiths. His policies are more coherent than Smiths. He’s more personable, better at community engagement, more erudite and wittier than his opponent.
But, most importantly of all, he believes in what he says. He always has. His voting record proves that. He has maintained his principles throughout his political career. Smith, with his dodgy, corporate lobbiest background, certainly cannot compete with this.
What is even more illogical is that the current problems the Labour Party face, the entire reason the Smith camp claim they exist, namely the chance of winning power, has been systematically eroded by their own actions and their petulant refusal to support their own democratically elected leader.
Something, I’m sad to say, that will undoubtedly continue beyond this utterly futile leadership election. Smith won’t of course, he is the sacrificial lamb. But the architects of the plot remain.
If the party had United behind Corbyn (rather than undermining him from day one); if the party had attacked rather than created anti Corbyn spin; if the party had focused upon fighting Tory policies by offering better ones (as Corbyn himself urged in his acceptance speech) maybe Labour could have converted it’s April lead in the polls into a genuine, socialist opposition fighting the Tories for power in 2020.
But no! At the time when the country needed Labour to be strong the PLP plotters and the Smith camp decided to rip it apart. Why? Because they refuse to accept the democratic legitimacy of the vast majority of their own comrades who don’t agree with them.
As for the PLP coup MP’s, they have placed their own interests first. They’ve elevated their careers above their party and are selfishly protecting their comfortable lifestyles to the detriment of the people they should represent but don’t.
I really hope, post this election, that Smith supporter, along with a significant number of PLP MP’s will stop undermining their own party and put up a fight against the Tories.
But this time, instead of trying to be like them, let’s actually oppose them.