danny phillipsDanny Phillips says Jeremy Corbyn has achieved a great deal to which his opponents seem to have no answer, and sets out ten key challenges to Owen Smith and his supporters.

 

I realise this is self indulgent and too long. So let me say 3 things, so I can cut to the chase.

First, I did not vote for Corbyn. I always thought he was not up to it, he would not get the discipline of the PLP, and he would get mauled by the media. There were other reasons, but let’s leave it there.

Second, I voted for Yvette Cooper. I like her politics and economics, she understands child poverty, she is principled, and it’s time for a woman. I was, though, very disappointed in all the candidates last time round, especially Yvette. My point is just to say I do not blame people for voting elsewhere.

Third, I read two articles recently. First was a letter Tony Blair sent to Michael Foot in 1982, recently reprinted in the Telegraph. It was fascinating. He was discussing many issues we are grappling with now. What struck me was the civility, the deep intellectualism, and the humour. It was also a cracking good read.  The other was an article by Owen Jones on medium.com. He set out challenges to his Corbynistas. I now want to concentrate on this.

I like Owen Jones. I disagree with him on much but it’s within the frame of agreeing with him on almost everything. Like me he wants a Labour government, and on the left, if possible.

When I read Owen’s piece, I was half-way through writing a very similar article about Corbyn. Pompously, mine was a letter like Tony Blair sent to Michael Foot. But it was not going well. Probably because I am neither Tony Blair nor Michael Foot, obviously. Reading Owen’s Jones’ piece it struck me that I should stop writing to Jeremy, and write to Owen Smith.

I realised my difficulty is that if we vote Smith the PLP might take it as a cue to retreat back to New Labour, the PLP running things, and the party machinery getting back in control. If we go back to ‘politics as usual’ it will be an utter disaster.

I therefore want to set some challenges for Owen Smith, and PLP and ABCs:

  1. How will you engage membership? It’s lazy to assume that we have been infiltrated by ‘entryists’. Look, the biggest of the small left parties, the Green Party, has 61,000 members. That’s nothing. 60,000 people joined Labour in one week!  Six times the entire SNP membership at its post indyref heights has joined us in the last few weeks. Even the ultimate entryists, Militant, had a maximum 8,000 members. Our new members cannot all come from the irrelevant Socialist Workers Party.
    The truth is, many ordinary Labour folk voted Corbyn. My guess is, like people across the world, they want something different. They are fed up with Labour leaders pitching themselves against the membership, arrogantly telling us how to behave. We are obliterated in huge areas of the UK, out of government and imploding. Times have changed, young people are educated like never before and people think for themselves. I can’t remember the last time Labour members had a meaningful debate. We get asked to vote, to campaign, to knock doors, to pick up the phone in an election. But never asked about how our country should be run.
  2. And on this, how will you increase our membership like Corbyn has? Look at our membership. Just look at it. It is extraordinary. Not since Blair’s early years have we seen membership rise like this. There are many reasons why this has happened. But you have to accept that many joined us because they are inspired by Corbyn. What is your strategy for building a membership like that? Apart from saying ‘join us’ in a passionate voice. Ed Miliband had the whole £3 idea. It caused problems, mostly for the PLP. But at least it was an idea. What’s yours?
  3. How will you inspire young people? Owen Jones challenged Corbyn on winning back older people. My challenge to you is that young people love Corbyn. Many have joined because of him. How are you going to keep them in the party, and get more of them and keep them enthused? Having and displaying principles clearly has high value in post-crash politics.
  4. What is your radical offer? People are insecure, they are fed up with ‘them’ and elites, it makes them angry. But it’s not an irrational anger. They want control. It is about identity and security. People want to associate with a cause. Corbyn offers them that. Look at what is happening around the world: Sanders, Trump, Sturgeon. I repeat: this is post crash politics. If you just copy the Tories we are doomed.

    I vote Labour. I always have and will. I voted Blair at 3 general elections. I would vote for him again, tomorrow. But even he says New Labour is over. So I am asking you, what now? We can’t just talk about equal opportunities, we need equal outcomes. How are we going to do that? Are you really going to stand tall on this one? Corbyn has and people love him for it.

  5. How will you win back Scotland? Let me put it this way: the Tories and Liberals were roughly 20+ seats for many Scottish parliaments. How are you going to make sure we go the way of the Tories who now have 30+ seats; and not the Liberals, who have five?
  6. On industrial policy, I get you will do an industrial strategy with a manufacturing base, less reliance on finance sector, and repeal the Trade Union Act,  and promise more skilled jobs. But industrial democracy is so much more. We need to cement industrial democracy in a social democracy. How do we do that?
  7. How open are you to new ideas? Corbyn seems to agree with every policy ever raised at a fringe meeting of the Green Party vegan poetry festival. I don’t agree with a Citizen’s Income or women only trains and don’t start me on homeopathy. But his openness to ideas is what people like, it gives him an excitement; it’s back to members being in control. An alternative is possible, social justice and equality are possible. My question to you is: are they possible?
  8. What’s your foreign policy? It’s too easy to trash Corbyn on this one. He clearly never thought he was going to be one election away from being a PM. But marching against Iraq is not enough. For 2 reasons. First, we all did. (And I actually did.) But second, we need to intervene across the world to make it more democratic, less dictatorial and cruel. Yes we need to stand up for the interests of UK, but ethically. How in the present real politic are you going to do that?
  9. What is your media strategy? I get that you will be a good media performer, and that press releases will go out in good time. But we can’t go on with a UK media like the one we have. Its poison. Corbyn has been treated appallingly. My beef with him is that he should have been ready -we all knew it would happen. But it cannot go on. At least Corbyn was not compromising. What will you do about them?
  10. How will you build a social movement ? Stacking a large hall is not going to win you an election. But come on, it is impressive. Blair, Miliband, Thatcher, Brown can (or could) stack halls. Sturgeon can fill the O2. It show’s you can inspire people to follow you, believe in you, listen to you. It’s almost biblical. Where Corbyn has failed is getting people to be active in the party. Ironically, they have no momentum, they just admire and go home. But that means you have to build them into an organised political force. How are you going to do that?

For all his failures, you cannot ignore Corbyn’s achievements. Some are deeply impressive and, Owen Smith, you needs to answer them. In short, you must understand why so many back Corbyn, even though they know he is not up to it. It was the leadership contender’s failure to face these challenges last time that got us to this crisis.

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14 thoughts on “My challenge to Owen Smith

  1. “I vote Labour. I always have and will.”

    You can take out every other word from the article above because all the relevance and all you need to know is condensed beautifully in that single statement!

    Who in their right fucking minds follows an organisation irrespective of what they stand for or what they say and do? Seriously who?

    What kind of people make statements like this? Blind obedience? Unquestioning loyalty? See no evil hear no evil speak no evil?

    This is where the Labour party in Scotland is! This is the Labour party in Scotland in all its unrefined glory!

    Labour first second last and always!

    And they want people to vote for them because they call themselves the Labour party and for no other reason.

    Jesus wept!

    1. The Labour Party lost Scotland because people were struggling and the SNP gave them the answer to their problems, blame the English, they were elected on a wave of anti English racism. They are now unsurprisingly going round in ever decreasing circles, they are completely irrelevant in Westminster and Brussels and all their lies are coming back to haunt them. We if independent have gone from, according to the SNP leaders a land of milk and honey to a land where there will be downsides to independence. They have lost their overall majority in Holyrood already, the project looks moribund.

  2. You have asked 10 questions after telling us you couldn’t give a flying fuck whatever the answers may be because and I quote again from above

    “I vote Labour. I always have and will”

    So what do you care what anybody in Labour let alone Owen Smith says or does? Its clearly not going to move you from your blind fanatical irreversible devotion is it?

    According to you Labour can do what they like say what they like be what they like and you will support it endorse it and vote for it anyway!

    So why bother to ask questions at all?

    No self awareness at all! This is why people just like him vote to keep Scotland condemned to be misruled from one of the most criminally corrupt and dysfunctional political systems on the planet.

  3. A good article and I would be very interested in Mr Smith’s response.

    But I fundamentally disagree with the premise that Mr Corbyn has achieved anything positive for Labour.

    Okay so the membership has increased and he draws big crowds to his rallies – so did the Bay City Rollers.

    But he has lost 172 members of our PLP, we are way behind in the polls, and worst of all, the party is tearing itself apart in an ideological battle that could yet destroy us.

    And make no mistake, while Corbyn’s competency is woeful this is not about his leadership skills, nor the professionalism of the leader’s office.

    This is an ideological battle. Mr Corbyn is willing to destroy the party – a parliamentary party, so that he and his cabal can fulfill their dream of democratic centralism. They are ultra leftists. Nothing more, nothing less. The Labour Party is NOT, and never has been a party of the ultra left.

    1. The difficulty for Susan Dalgetys position seems to be that she is out of kilter with the Labour Party as constituted by its membership.
      She is not alone, given the huge number of PLP “rebels”, who, whatever you think of Corbyn have proved utterly disloyal, feeding the media with raw meat to attack Corbyn, and appearing IN the media to disown him.
      “Way behind in the polls”? —you called it!

      This is Labours problem. It has a distinct difference of ideology, belief or whatever you want to call it, between those who used to rule it and those who do now.
      Can this be resolved? I cannot see any solution to it, now the membership have OMOV.
      Corby is a serial rebel of the Left, with a Leftist agenda which many of the PLP cannot stomach.
      He is faced with Owen Smith, who CLAIMS to believe in much of the financial and social agenda of Corbyn. But is he for real? If you think he is, I have some 9 shilling notes for sale. Give me a call!
      As it stands Corbyn will win easily, Labour will split and be in the wilderness as far ahead as anyone can see.
      There will be a Corbyn Labour Party and an “New” Labour party, which with FPTP, will diminish Labour in the same way as it did the old Liberal Party.

    2. Labour lost The 2010 GE The 2015 GE The 2007 SE The 2011 SE The 2016 SE and every council election inbetween under the leadership of right wing Blairite Tories with right wing Blairite Tory agendas and still people like you refuse to give up your grip of a party that doesn’t belong to you and a party that doesn’t want you and your worthless self serving criminal agendas.

      You people are Tories you belong with the Conservative party not the Traditional Labour party which was a fundamental left of centre socialist party created specifically to balance political representation between the haves and have nots in the UK.

      A workers party given root by traditional working union representation. Its you and yer gormless corrupt self serving right wing Tories who are out of step within Labour. A worthless unelectable PLP nobody wants because the folk who would consider voting for them already have a party to vote for.

      You still don’t get the fact that Blair only won the 1997 election because he promised to be everything he didn’t turn out to be! He won on a massive mandate to change political direction from the decade of past right wing Tory agenda under Thatcher and Major.
      People voted to get Major out not specifically to get Blair in! And during his criminally corrupt and murderous term in office he managed to lose 4 million core Labour voters to the political wilderness of the Not voting voter.

      So unless Traditional Labour reconnects to its left wing socialist electable roots you will drop below even UKIP in popularity!

      That’s where the likes of Owen Smith will take you! And hell mend you if he does!

      1. Any political party which has power brokers like the Ewing family as movers and shakers in their midst should not be accusing anyone of being Tories.

  4. As a committed Scottish nationalist since 2014, I’m generally unconcerned by the travails of the Labour Party.

    However, I popped down to England today to meet up with friends from Yorkshire. Turns out they are in absolute despair at politics down there. Members of their local Labour Party, public sector workers whose working lives have become ever more difficult since 2010, voted for Corbyn last year, desperate for Labour to win in 2020, but ever more convinced Tories will govern till 2030 at least, no matter who leads the Labour Party. Holding out for an English Nicola Sturgeon to appear from somewhere to miraculously save the day (I’m struck by how highly Nicola is held in regard by English Labour people).

    These people have absolutely no idea what to do now. They see no future for social democracy in England for a generation, and the only solution they can think of is to move to Scotland. Unfortunately, due to the different legal systems, one of them would have to retrain to find work in Scotland.

    No answers here. Just the realisation that whereas the future of the Labour Party is just an abstract, minority concern in Scotland for most of us, it intimately affects the morale of many of our fellow social democrats in the north of England. And that ostentatiously embracing Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP might be a very popular move in social-democratic England.

    1. What do you think Duncan? Is Mark Mac Conmhaoil,
      1. Confused.
      2. Visionary.
      3. Stating the bloody obvious.
      4.Stoned.
      5. None of the above.

  5. ‘Six times the entire SNP membership at its post indyref heights has joined us’ – maybe that’s because (and I thought that you would know this), Labour is a UK wide Party so a number comparison with the SNP is just ludicrous.
    (Do you happen to have the numbers for the ScotLab membership ? – no ?, maybe best not go there eh ?)

    Owen Smith – an ex PR guy for Big Pharma, yeah, that’s what Labour needs as a leader. Dear god. I can’t see Corbyn shmoozing with
    media barons an corporate types, but I can see Smith doing it – and there’s the problem…

  6. “Six times the entire SNP membership at its post indyref heights has joined us’ ”

    Really? SNP membership is still rising and is now over 124,000 – an average of over 2,000 members per constituency.

    So Labour membership has risen by 744,000? Not sure about that.

  7. Jeremy Corbyn is the nearest to my understanding of a traditional Labour Party supporter, member, MP or Leader of the preTony Blair and the subsequent Blairite wing takeover of the Labour Party. I am on the same wavelength as Jeremy as probably a lot of my fellow Scots ex traditional Labour Party supporters who for the time being are lending our votes to the SNP so as to get Scotland’s Independence. When Scotland gets its independence I think that the Scottish Labour Party will be subsumed by new real left wing party that is yet to emerge.

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