Nicola Corbyn and the Myth of the Unelectable Left 1168


The BBC and corporate media coalesce around an extremely narrow consensus of political thought, and ensure that anybody who steps outside that consensus is ridiculed and marginalised. That consensus has got narrower and narrower. I was delighted during the general election to be able to listen to Nicola Sturgeon during the leaders’ debate argue for anti-austerity policies and for the scrapping of Trident. I had not heard anyone on broadcast media argue for the scrapping of Trident for a decade – it is one of those views which though widely held the establishment gatekeepers do not view as respectable.

The media are working overtime to marginalise Jeremy Corbyn as a Labour leadership candidate on the grounds that he is left wing and therefore weird and unelectable. But they face the undeniable fact that, Scottish independence aside, there are very few political differences between Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon. On issues including austerity, nuclear weapons, welfare and Palestine both Sturgeon and Corbyn are really very similar. They have huge areas of agreement that stand equally outside the establishment consensus. Indeed Nicola is more radical than Jeremy, who wants to keep the United Kingdom.

The establishment’s great difficulty is this. Given that the SNP had just slaughtered the Labour Party – and the Tories and Lib Dems – by being a genuine left wing alternative, how can the media consensus continue to insist that the left are unelectable? The answer is of course that they claim Scotland is different. Yet precisely the same establishment consensus denies that Scotland has a separate political culture when it comes to the independence debate. So which is it? They cannot have it both ways.

If Scotland is an integral part of the UK, Jeremy Corbyn’s policies cannot be unelectable.

Nicola Sturgeon won the UK wide leaders debate in the whole of the United Kingdom, despite the disadvantage of representing a party not standing in 90% of it by population. She won not just because she is clever and genuine, but because people all across the UK liked the left wing policies she articulated.

A Daily Mirror opinion poll following a BBC televised Labour leadership candidates’ debate this week had Jeremy Corbyn as the clear winner, with twice the support of anyone else. The media ridicule level has picked up since. This policy of marginalisation works. I was saddened by readers’ comments under a Guardian report of that debate, in which Labour supporter after Labour supporter posted comment to the effect “I would like to vote for Jeremy Corbyn because he believes in the same things I do, but we need a more right wing leader to have a chance of winning.”

There are two answers to that. The first is no, you don’t need to be right wing to win. Look at the SNP. The second is what the bloody hell are you in politics for anyway? Do you just want your team to win like it was football? Is there any point at all in being elected just so you can carry out the same policies as your opponents? The problem is, of course, that for so many in the Labour Party, especially but not just the MPs, they want to win for personal career advantage not actually to promote particular policies.

The media message of the need to be right wing to be elected is based on reinforced by a mythologizing of Tony Blair and Michael Foot as the ultimate example of the Good and Bad leader. These figures are constantly used to reinforce the consensus. Let us examine their myths.

Tony Blair is mythologised as an electoral superstar, a celebrity politician who achieved unprecedented personal popularity with the public, and that he achieved this by adopting right wing policies. Let us examine the truth of this myth. First that public popularity. The best measure of public enthusiasm is the percentage of those entitled to vote, who cast their ballot for that party at the general election. This table may surprise you.

Percentage of Eligible Voters

1992 John Major 32.5%
1997 Tony Blair 30.8%
2001 Tony Blair 24.1%
2005 Tony Blair 21.6%
2010 David Cameron 23.5%
2015 David Cameron 24.4%

There was only any public enthusiasm for Blair in 97 – and to put that in perspective, it was less than the public enthusiasm for John Major in 1992.

More importantly, this public enthusiasm was not based on the policies now known as Blairite. The 1997 Labour Manifesto was not full of right wing policies and did not indicate what Blair was going to do.

The Labour Party manifesto of 1997 did not mention Academy schools, Private Finance Initiative, Tuition Fees, NHS privatisation, financial sector deregulation or any of the right wing policies Blair was to usher in. Labour actually presented quite a left wing image, and figures like Robin Cook and Clare Short were prominent in the campaign. There was certainly no mention of military invasions.

It was only once Labour were in power that Blair shaped his cabinet and his policies on an ineluctably right wing course and Mandelson started to become dominant. As people discovered that New Labour were “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich”, to quote Mandelson, their popular support plummeted. “The great communicator” Blair for 90% of his Prime Ministership was no more popular than David Cameron is now. 79% of the electorate did not vote for him by his third election

Michael Foot consistently led Margaret Thatcher in opinion polls – by a wide margin – until the Falklands War. He was defeated in a victory election by the most appalling and intensive wave of popular war jingoism and militarism, the nostalgia of a fast declining power for its imperial past, an emotional outburst of popular relief that Britain could still notch up a military victory over foreigners in its colonies. It was the most unedifying political climate imaginable. The tabloid demonization of Foot as the antithesis of the military and imperial theme was the first real exhibition of the power of Rupert Murdoch. Few serious commentators at the time doubted that Thatcher might have been defeated were it not for the Falklands War – which in part explains her lack of interest in a peaceful solution. Michael Foot’s position in the demonology ignores these facts.

The facts about Blair and about Foot are very different from the media mythology.

The stupid stunt by Tories of signing up to the Labour Party to vote for Corbyn to ridicule him, is exactly the kind of device the establishment consensus uses to marginalise those whose views they fear. Sturgeon is living proof left wing views are electable. The “left unelectable” meme will intensify. I expect Jeremy Corbyn’s biggest problem will be quiet exclusion. I wish him well.

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1,168 thoughts on “Nicola Corbyn and the Myth of the Unelectable Left

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  • John Spencer-Davis

    I could not agree more with this analysis,

    As far as I am aware, Jeremy Corbyn is by a wide margin the preferred candidate for the leadership of the Labour Party among ordinary Labour Party members, whereas only 18% of Labour MPs who backed a candidate wanted him. I really think that speaks for itself.

    Kind regards,

    John

  • Pan

    Thank you for this excellent article, Craig.

    (But did you really mean to put “Nicola Corbyn” in the title?)

  • Ishmael

    Yea, well i’m not so sure left wing politics exists much in reality. Many concentrated power party’s have supporting left wing policy’s before, some actually happen.

    But the critical factor is always the people behind it. I think there is a lot of political and personal idolisation that your involved in here, that I don’t like.

  • Kenzie

    Many moons ago I used to work for the “Social” in Paddington’s Praed Street and Jeremy’s brother Piers was a constant thorn in the side of the Management. He was a representative (founder, possibly) of what was then a Claimant’s Union and he made damn sure that everyone got what they were entitled to. If Jeremy has half the tenacity of his brother, he’ll do well. By the way, does he still do weather forecasts?

  • AAMVN

    Exactly. Left wing policies are very popular with the ‘hoi polloi’ which is why their ‘betters’ do not allow them to be advanced.

  • Richard R

    Couldn’t agree more. I haven’t voted for Labour since ’97, and only reluctantly then given how obvious Tony’s leanings were, but Jeremy Corbyn could persuade me to return to the fold…

  • Phil

    The Tartan Tories are nothing like the Red Tories! Nor the Yellow Tories!

    The SNP:
    -Pro NATO
    -Pro monarchy
    -Extremely relaxed with the likes of Murdoch

    Yet still somehow in the eyes of Craig “a genuine left wing alternative”. Jesus, is that what left wing means.

    You don’t have to be a conscious gatekeeper to redefine and limit reasonable discourse. Hilarious.

  • AW1983

    It’s a fascinating analysis and it’s worth taking a look at marginalisation in the US too as it demonstrates how the media can operate in order to silence dissent. I should point out that the media silences ANY dissent to the neo-liberal orthodoxy and, in the interests of not appearing as a ‘biased lefty’ my case study in the US is Ron Paul.

    Ron Paul ran for the Republican nomination for president in 2012 and was doing incredibly well in the polls, easily keeping up with Mitt Romney, and filling halls at university campuses. Yet on several news stations his name didn’t even feature against the likes of Romney or Gingrich, even when he was ahead of them. He was just lumped in with ‘others.’

    Now, we all have to ask, why would a libertarian like Ron Paul be a threat to the ‘establishment?’ My own view is that we don’t have a ‘free market’ economy and a libertarian would have a canny ability to point that out better than any socialist could because they actually want a free market and would introduce reforms to make change! Our economy is as controlled now as it was in 1979 (Trade Union members have less freedoms for example) but the focus of whose interests the economy is run have shifted.

  • Mary

    Another good Labour MP is Simon Danczuk who will not let the subject of sexual abuse of children lie quiet. It will not bring Janner to justice but he has secured a debate on the CPS next week.

    Simon Danczuk raises Janner decision in House of Commons
    18 June 2015
    http://www.rochdaleonline.co.uk/news-features/2/news-headlines/96430/simon-danczuk-raises-janner-decision-in-house-of-commons

    ‘Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Danczuk said: “The whole House will be aware of the recent decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions not to prosecute Lord Janner for alleged child abuse owing to his apparent ill health.

    “May we have a debate on this decision, and will the Leader of the House offer any advice on why Lord Janner can retain his seat in the other place, writing laws, when he is apparently unable to face the law himself?”

    Responding for the Government, the Leader of the House, Chris Grayling, commended Mr Danczuk’s campaigning on this issue saying that, “he has done as much as anyone to bring this matter of great national concern to the fore”.

    Mr Grayling added that MPs would have a chance to raise concerns about the CPS in a debate next Tuesday and that “I am sure that the messages from that debate will be listened to very carefully”.’

  • ------------·´`·.¸¸.¸¸.··.¸¸Node

    George Galloway has issued an update on “The Killing$ of Tony Blair.”

    In a nutshelll, progress has been slow due to editing, licensing problems, and the continuing stream of evidence for Blair’s crimes which needs to be incorporated. However, the production team have decided to draw a line on new evidence and so post production should now speed up.

    Video update:
    https://vimeo.com/131133335

  • Dave Lawton

    @Kenzie 9:36 am

    “Many moons ago I used to work for the “Social” in Paddington’s Praed Street and Jeremy’s brother Piers was a constant thorn in the side of the Management. He was a representative (founder, possibly) of what was then a Claimant’s Union and he made damn sure that everyone got what they were entitled to. If Jeremy has half the tenacity of his brother, he’ll do well. By the way, does he still do weather forecasts?”

    Yes Piers still does weather forecasts I remember Piers when he was involved in the
    squatting movement and Rough Tough Cream Puff Estate Agency

    http://www.revoltagainstplenty.com/index.php/archive-local/120-once-upon-a-time-in-notting-
    hill.html

    http://www.weatheraction.com/

  • deepgreenpuddock

    I remember an incident prior to the election in 1997. Blair was given some kind of public approval by a ‘high tory’. Can’t remember the details but it was the kind of tory who was a deeply embedded member of the establishment. I am tempted to say Willie Whitelaw but I think that is wrong.

    It was as if Blair’s credentials and values had been put through some ‘national interest slide rule’ and found to be sufficiently in keeping with those of the establishment, and therefore he was electable.

  • giyane

    Classic Craig. Brilliant analysis

    This is O/T but it relates to the BBC and it happened yesterday so it will soon be forgotten:

    You would imagine that the BBC Radio 4 and World Service ( I don’t have a TV ) would be at least neutral about such a phenomenon as Islamic State. But WS has continously broadcast magazine programmes in the middle of the night about the favourite food the Daish fighter’s Missus likes to prepare for hubby after a hard day cutting off hands and heads.

    Yesterday, like the whisperings of the devil/ shaytan a BBC commentator slipped into the dialogue (I’m not sure if I can trace it again) that the Kurdish Peshmerga had been accused of genocide against Arabs. Let’s get this straight. Last year Islamic State attacked the citadel and mountain of the Yazidis, a weird religion unconnected to the monotheistic traditions with a bit of mountain worship Ba’al please note.

    The Kurdish government fulfilled its obvious responsibility to defend its citizens of whatever religion or race and it defended the Yazidis. but the Peshmerga discovered that 80% of those attacking the Yazidis did not belong to Islamic State but were in fact local Arabs. Far from committing genocide and promoting nationalist expansion of its borders Kurdistan has consistently tried to prevent genocide and has paid a heavy price.

    Kurdistan lived through the Iran Iraq war and its people will never accept a war of nationalistic expansion. US and UK politicians are lying through their teeth.

    The question about the BBC is relevant to this thread. Why does the BBC use subliminal advertising techniques, dropping a sentence of absolute lies with no other discussion or balance, into a conversation about something else?

    Answer because the constant dripping of misinformation into the news will eventually convince the unattentive listener of the truth of the subliminal message being fed to them while they are trying to catch the news of world events.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    Triumphantly headlined in Lebedev’s Evening Standard (VOB – Voice of Boris)

    http://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/voters-want-next-labour-leader-to-be-like-tony-blair-poll-shows-10328384.html

    Disregarding the presentation of someone who has only just got onto the ballot as ‘trailing’ – straight spin – the conclusion that a substantial proportion of Labour voters are looking for another Blair is extremely depressing, and would suggest that the proposition that ‘Blair won elections’ has been swallowed uncritically. The propositions that a chimpanzee with a red rosette would have won in 1998*, that subsequently Blair’s majority dropped steadily, and that he bailed out in time to avoid a narrow defeat, having spotted the world economy was going tits-up, have not been presented with sufficient force.

    Add to that the Tory media see the invocation of Blair as a turnoff for a useful number of Labour voters, whatever the poll says, and will probably pretend to support the reblairing of Labour.

    It’s that old dilemma, do you stand for something and strive for it or do you discard what you stand for in order to be elected (and discover that you can’t find our principles again when we’re in)

    SNP please copy.

    *it’s notoriously my opinion it did.

  • nevermind

    A resumee of party politics as it is manipulated in a country that ignores facts and makes up the daily consensus as it sees fit.

    Why ever did you not feel able to mention that Andy Burnham, his closely guarded vested interests in the NHS, as well as his foI membership make him the most likely candidate chosen. Add to that the most favourable of political assets here in Britain, a youthful boyish face and grin and you have an new red Tory puppet on a string.

    Was this written on the plane or waiting for one.:)

    With your analysis over Michael Foots treatment by the MSM I fully agree

    ‘ He was defeated in a victory election by the most appalling and intensive wave of popular war jingoism and militarism, the nostalgia of a fast declining power for its imperial past, an emotional outburst of popular relief that Britain could still notch up a military victory over foreigners in its colonies. It was the most unedifying political climate imaginable. The tabloid demonization of Foot as the antithesis of the military and imperial theme was the first real exhibition of the power of Rupert Murdoch.’

    If I remember rightly they made fun of the way he walked and that Gordievsky rumoured him to be a Moscow spy, all sorts of stuff was thrown at him.

    A typical traditional liberal MP at heart, he was staunchly anti nuclear, he must have done his nut in when Labour turned turtle on the issue.

  • Iain Orr

    Most comments so far are not much more than “I agree with Craig” – a dangerous pattern, to which only Phil is the exception. However, Phil’s examples of SNP lack of radicalism are only, I would argue, signs of choosing sensible battlegrounds and timing – the reasons why Bruce won at Bannockburn and Napoleon (a fine radical in many ways) lost at Waterloo. The two key issues on which Jeremy Corbyn needs to be able to win majority support among voters in the Labour leadership election and the public during the life of this parliament are Immigration/ Migration and the EU. On both he has already provided in recent interviews and the debate on Newsnight more thoughtful contributions than other Labour candidates and the PM.

    Getting these issues right matters because both are central to a better appreciation of which wider policy options on the economy this and any future government has or does not have. But to expand on that here would be to go a bit too muich off-topic, so I will wait until Craig opens up these subjects in his own blogs.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    Correction to above –

    It’s that old dilemma, do you stand for something and strive for it or do you discard what you stand for in order to be elected (and discover that you can’t find your principles again when you’re in)?

  • David

    Yes, didn’t Margaret Thatcher say she could work with Blair, and later visit him at number ten?

    A great post Craig! I agree with everything you have said.

    It shouldn’t matter to anyone that their vote was not for the winner, except disappointment that they will be represented by someone with views which differ to theirs. They have expressed their preference which is the important point. The desire to be on the winning side is a very corrosive aspect of our politics, and is encouraged by the MSM. The hardest thing today is trying to think things through to arrive at an independent viewpoint, based on such facts as are available, and to discount all the propaganda and lies. I am not a particularly clever chap, but I am amazed at the number of people I meet whose opinions are the mirror image of what was in yesterday’s Daily Mail!

    If Jeremy Corbyn is to win, the rest of the current “top ” people in the Labour Party would have to stand down!

  • Wodan

    The Falklands war did delegitimize the Argentinian military junta and South American juntas in general (a military regime that can’t win the wars just aren’t fulfilling its purpose). Britain aside, without the defeat the South American left wouldn’t possess the strength it has over the last 20-30 years.

  • giyane

    Jeremy Corbyn needs to understand that male manual workers are now not mostly employed in factories but are self-employed or worse. Nicola Sturgeon convinces me that she understands the real world and Ed Miliband also, but Jeremy Corbyn’s female competitors don’t appear to have moved mentally beyond an air-conditioned office.

  • Abe Rene

    Scotland did vote for the left – the SNP took the place of Labour. Equally Scotland voted to stay in the UK. Therefore the two are compatible.

    England tends to be right-leaning, which is why Tony Blair had to introduce a dash of blue into his party to get elected – he still wasn’t as successful as John Major, but he did a skilful job to get elected three times.

    Jeremy Corbin might succeed in Scotland, but in a general election I suspect he would lose unless he had something like Attlee had in 1945 -the NHS. I can think of something – AFFORDABLE HOUSING!

  • Krief

    As I understand it, the idea of #ToriesForCorbyn is not so much to mock him, as because they genuinely believe that if he is nominated, Labour will have shot itself in the foot.

    Leaves me hoping it does happen, just to find out who’s right…

  • giyane

    Iain Orr:

    “..to which only Phil is the exception”

    Iain, you are not yet in my category for Charles Crawford wherein just the name gets me grinding my teeth, but you are very close.

    There’s nothing commendable about Phil’s comment. Craig has done a superb analysis of the state of play of UK left politics. The SNP is playing in the context of Queen and Country as UK members of parliament. when Craig tried to knock them tweeding up for the Queen, i knocked him down for the same foolishness.

    The battle of Waterloo has got nothing whatsoever to do with anything, unless you are comparing the arch Zionist USUKIS hegemonist David Cameron with Napoleon, and if you are saying that, why not say so in plain English?

  • giyane

    Monteverdi

    Of all the things I cannot stand it is a woman who befriends my enemies and opposes my principles living with me as my wife. Do you think Daily Mail readers are shallow enough to buy this tripe?

  • Mary

    Jeremy Corbyn will be cheered to hear of this.

    Swedish ship to Gaza
    Posted by The Medialens Editors on June 19, 2015, 8:25 am

    Marianne of Gothenburg left her home port at 7 pm on Sunday 10 May. The trawler, which has been jointly acquired by Ship to Gaza Sweden and Ship to Gaza Norway jointly, departed for a voyage of almost 5000 nautical miles towards the eastern Mediterranean and the blockaded Gaza Strip.

    Marianne will join other ships to form “Freedom Flotilla III”, a peaceful, nonviolent action to break the illegal and inhumane blockade of the Gaza Strip.

    On its way Marianne will call at many European (ports) and will serve as a focus for demonstrations and manifestations against the blockade. The first three ports will be Helsingborg, Malmö and Copenhagen. Subsequent ports will be announced at a later time in Media Releases.

    https://shiptogaza.se/en/Pressrelease/marianne-headed-gaza-today

    A petition has been set up to allow people to sail in spirit with the ship. See:

    http://www.alternativenews.org/english/index.php/special-reports/gaza/872-act-sail-in-spirit-with-gaza-flotilla

    ~~

    Gaza, Gaza, Don’t you cry. We will never let you die.

  • giyane

    Wodan

    Well you’re the second person ever who has convinced me of the usefulness of Mrs Thatcher to world politics. The first one was a lecturer and a socialist.
    Your woad would not be Tory woad , I take it.

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