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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  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    “the nuclear weapons with which Israel has been threatening the world”


    To be contrasted with the often-repeated claim (including on here) that the State of Israel would collapse overnight if it were not for US financial and military aid?

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    “Lysias: I think you are glossing over the fact that societies now are enormously bigger and more complicated than a Bronze Age community in the Peloponnese.”

    A point which I believe I have made on a couple of occasions on here…


    “Individual small countries like Scotland and Ireland — or Greece or Spain or Iceland! — could also adopt”

    But I believe the story peddled so far has been that it would be a wonderful system for big states like the UK and USA ?

    Has the story changed?

  • lysias

    The USSR did collapse, very close to overnight.

    The USSR had — and its successor state the Russian Federation continues to have — many nuclear weapons.

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    As Ba’al says, there has been a lot of gloss splashed around.

    I should put this question to our friend from over the water, if he could be persuaded to leave aside the history lesson and his sterile theorizing and get down to brass tacks:

    if the 500BC Athenian system is so obviously desirable, why is it that not a single “modern” state – very big, big, small or very small – anywhere in the world has ever tried it, never mind adopted it?

  • lysias

    I was asked how to get to a version of the Athenian system. Part of my answer was first to adopt it in small stages, and then let people judge it by its success, or lack of it.

  • lysias

    Why has it not been adopted? In my country, it was the property-owning class who forced the adoption of the U.S. Constitution, when they thought democracy and the poor had become too unruly in the newly independent states. I suspect the same has been true everywhere else.

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    “The USSR did collapse, very close to overnight.

    The USSR had — and its successor state the Russian Federation continues to have — many nuclear weapons.”

    Point of the above?

    One assumes that our transatlantic (?) friend is not suggesting that the Soviet Union collapsed because US financial and lilitary aid was withdrawn?


    More generally: one can make allowances for the fact that our friend might be feeling lonely and in need of a chat with his European cousins but should not certain minimum standards be maintained?

  • lysias

    Woody Holton, the son of a former governor of the state of Virginia, has described this history in his book Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution.

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    “I was asked how to get to a version of the Athenian system. Part of my answer was first to adopt it in small stages, and then let people judge it by its success, or lack of it.”

    Your story has nevertheless changed. You are much less affirmative than when I took you up on the point and you did not say anything about individual cities and/or small countries trying it out first.

    And you owe an answer to the question appearing at 16h40.

    Do you believe that the system you are so enthusiastic about has never been tried out in the modern world simply because no one thought about it until you turned up on here?

  • lysias

    My point was: the fact that a country may be economically fragile and need aid (and I do not recall ever making that point about Israel myself on this forum — I am not sure it’s true) does not prevent it from threatening the world with nuclear weapons, still less from its possessing those weapons. I see no contradiction.

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    “Why has it not been adopted? In my country, it was the property-owning class who forced the adoption of the U.S. Constitution, when they thought democracy and the poor had become too unruly in the newly independent states. I suspect the same has been true everywhere else.”

    Ah, the property owning class, eh?

    What was it that Ba’al wrote a little earlier? Could it have been:

    “In which – page57 – …lack of remuneration realistically enabled only RICH MEN to participate fully in the democracy at the highest level. It was these men who ran for the higher offices of state and who controlled Athens through regular public speaking in the Assembly”

  • lysias

    My long posts — and you objected to their length — were precisely to answer Ba’al’s point. And I think you will see he retreated from that point as a result (Ba’al can object, if I’m wrong), in the end relying instead on his question about how to get there.

    Can you read?

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    “My point was: the fact that a country may be economically fragile and need aid… does not prevent it from threatening the world with nuclear weapons”

    Could you supply a little chapter and verse for the claim that Israel is threatening the world with nuclear weapons?

    PS – I’m wondering whether Hitler didn’t come out with something about Jews being a threat to Germany in particular and the world in general……?

  • Mary

    The Liebour Party. aka The Nasty Party

    On the Medialens Message Board

    ‘Labour Whips’ Punishment Beating For Corbyn Backers
    Posted by Sir Michael Mouse on June 25, 2015, 3:55 pm

    ‘Labour whips dealt out a “punishment beating” to several MPs who nominated Jeremy Corbyn for leader, by whipping the vote for select committee chairmanships against Corbyn-backing candidates.’[email protected]/u-qVVt2tKPrArA

    Story appeared on Guido Fawkes site. Nothing on MSM.’

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)


    There is now a new thread and therefore I shall not be commenting any further on the “points” you made earlier on.

    Those “points” demonstrate once again that it is perfectly possible for a (allegedly) highly educated person to be a complete fool.

  • Mary

    My O/T deleted on the new thread was about Mhairi Black getting a first class honours politics degree from Glasgow. I said well done to her for that as well as becoming an MP. I was so pleased but new Mod did not see it.

  • lysias

    Samson Option:

    In 2003, a military historian, Martin van Creveld, thought that the Al-Aqsa Intifada then in progress threatened Israel’s existence.[29] Van Creveld was quoted in David Hirst’s The Gun and the Olive Branch (2003) as saying:

    We possess several hundred atomic warheads and rockets and can launch them at targets in all directions, perhaps even at Rome. Most European capitals are targets for our air force. Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: ‘Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother.’ I consider it all hopeless at this point. We shall have to try to prevent things from coming to that, if at all possible. Our armed forces, however, are not the thirtieth strongest in the world, but rather the second or third. We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen before Israel goes under.[30]

    Martin van Crefeld isn’t just any academic military historian. He has been an adviser to the Israeli military.

    Since Israel has never admitted having nuclear weapons, it delivers its threats in indirect manners, like through academics.

  • Jon

    Thanks for the clarifications Macky; yes, we’ve been talking slightly at cross purposes! In referring to racism and white supremacism I was referring to Charleston in particular. I had the same attack in mind when I expanded on the atmosphere in the US that permits this sort of violence to breed, but some of the points I made could apply to a number of the incidents you referred to. You’re certainly right we should be trying to connect the dots.

    There seems to be a themes of disillusionment and a loss of masculine power in American society, which often seem to have explosive consequences when intermingled with untreated mental health difficulties. One could say the same of the Columbine massacre. Did you see Michael Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine”? He draws some very interesting connections, in particular that this disaffected industrial town has little choice of employment but Lockheed Martin, whose business is the legitimate [sic] killing of people abroad, and he seems to suggest that the scale of this normalised murder isn’t healthy even for the people building the weapons.

    The arms dealer puts up a PR man for the camera, who – of course! – shifts uncomfortably at Moore’s childlike questioning, which ably implies that the chickens have come home to roost.

    My wide-ranging set of themes I listed earlier, which could be employed to explore aspects of the harsh and unforgiving culture that gives rise to these acts of brutality, might imply that the problem is so intractable it is not possible to know where to start. However, I think (American) society should try – where would you start? I tend to return to one of my pet topics, the media; I believe the toxic mechanisms that after the event tried to reduce the importance of racism, are operating in that mode all the time. Colour and class privilege – especially on the news channels of the hard right – happens in the culture-distorting mass media every day.

  • lysias

    Sounds like Janner may end up being prosecuted after all. Telegraph: Alison Saunders: My Lord Janner decision could be reversed: Director of Public Prosecutions suggests she will accept the outcome of a review if her decision not to prosecute the Labour peer is overruled:

    Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, has conceded that if her decision not to prosecute Lord Janner with child sex offences is reversed by a formal review she will abide by that ruling.

    She insisted that she stood by her view, based on medical reports, that the former Labour peer was not fit to stand trial because he has Alzheimer’s disease.

    However, her stance appeared to have softened since previously declaring that she was not afraid for her decision to be challenged as she was confident she had got it right.

    However, the article ends with a very puzzling statement:

    Lord Janner denies the allegations against him. His family have said he is “entirely innocent of any wrongdoing”.

    If he’s incompetent, how can he be said to deny the allegations in the present tense?

    There’s further reporting about Janner in the new Daily Mail: Lord Janner and the paedophile ring at his son’s elite school: Labour peer’s link to institution where teachers abused boys. The evidence linking Janner to pedophile teachers at University College School, Hampstead is all merely circumstantial, and so I will not repeat it here. But it is definitely worth reading about and considering.

  • Mary

    She Who Must Be Obeyed issues final orders

    ‘EU Talks Over Greece Debt End Without Deal
    German Chancellor Angela Merkel tells EU leaders there must be a debt deal with Greece before financial markets open next Monday.’

    and Agent Cameron is Junckered and realizes he will not be able to satisfy the right wing anti-EU wing in his partei.

    ‘EU Vote May Happen Before Treaty Change
    David Cameron accepts he may not get other European leaders to agree to the treaty changes he wants by the in-out referendum.’

    A picture paints a thousand words.×530.jpg

    Sky News website.

  • lysias

    I was thinking before last weekend that it was like the weekend before Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, and that Monday of this week would be like the Monday when they did go bankrupt. Didn’t happen. There was a brief surge of optimism. But next Monday may be like that day, if they don’t reach a deal.

  • Villager

    25 Jun, 2015 – 7:39 pm
    My O/T deleted on the new thread was about Mhairi Black getting a first class honours politics degree from Glasgow.”

    Good. As I’ve told you before, the saying goes “There is a time AND place for everything.” Very glad to see you learning in your old age. Means anarchy still has a chance.

  • Villager

    25 Jun, 2015 – 3:18 pm
    The Obama administration opposes any Security Council consideration of a United Nations report on last summer’s war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

    How arrogant and disrespectful can one country be, America constantly throws its weight around within the UN,and the UN hasn’t the gumpton to do anything about it, god help Europe if these spineless UN leaders,give into the USA’s demands over TTIP.

    We challenge the very mechanism which created it, John Kirby, the State Department spokesman, said Tuesday, a day after the report’s publication.

    And so we’re not going to have a readout of this, he said. We’re not going to have a rebuttal to it.

    We’re certainly going to read it, as we read all UN reports. But we challenge the very foundation upon which this report was written, and we don’t believe that there’s a call or a need for any further Security Council work on this.

    Where is your cmoment Mr Postman?

  • Macky

    Lysias; “If he’s incompetent, how can he be said to deny the allegations in the present tense?”

    Or as pointed out at Medialens;

    “Why is he able to contribute to law-making process in the Lords, but unable to face law himself?”

  • Mary

    Just one comment of mine was deleted for being O/T and loads of yours Villager for being …… 🙂


    ‘Very glad to see you learning in your old age’

    What is my exact age then Villager and how do you know O Krishnamurti disciple? Telepathy?

  • Mary

    Obama will be mourning today in Charleston where nine American citizens were shot dead. Obama has had hundreds, probably thousands, of citizens of other countries killed, shredded and burned. Another hypocrite.

    America is broken.

    Confederate Flag Debate While Merchants of Death USA Corp Elite Burn Us Down

    In the piece read Frederick Douglass’s marvellous words quoted below.

    ‘Banks-Militarists-Politicians-Elite. What does this red-white-blue fifty star July 4th loving country really represent now, 2015?

    Try it out, 1852, Frederick Douglass – July 5th. Think it is relevant this year? State budgets stalled. Basic human and social services gutted? An event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, held at Rochester’s Corinthian Hall. It was biting oratory, in which the speaker told his audience,

    “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.” And he asked them, “Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day?”

    What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

  • Mary

    They are on their way! Bravo!

    26 June | Freedom Flotilla | news
    More than three boats, with more than 50 crew and passengers from about twenty countries are prepared to reach the port of Gaza and call on the international community to open it

    This year’s mission, organized by the Freedom Flotilla Coalition against the blockade and the siege of Gaza, is about to sail to highlight the violation of the rights of 1.8 million Palestinians living in the world’s largest open-air prison.

    The Israeli government claims that there are ‘unauthorized boats trying to illegally enter Israeli territorial waters’. There are no ‘unauthorized boats’, only an illegal and inhumane blockade; the UN has recently called to end it and Freedom Flotilla III sails to challenge it, without any need or desire to enter Israeli territorial waters. This fact is highlighted by the practices of Israeli naval forces against previous sea missions, which have intercepted all boats since 2009 in international waters, headed towards Palestinian waters off Gaza, never towards Israel or Israeli waters.

    Freedom Flotilla III is invited by Palestinians in Gaza through various organizations that work for a relief of the thousands that were left heavily wounded, homeless, jobless, and displaced after recent Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip. We also have among our passengers Dr. Basel Ghattas, Member of the Israeli Knesset, who called in an open letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu to allow our mission to reach the port of Gaza.


  • Ba'al Zevul

    My long posts — and you objected to their length — were precisely to answer Ba’al’s point. And I think you will see he retreated from that point as a result (Ba’al can object, if I’m wrong), in the end relying instead on his question about how to get there.

    No such luck, I’m afraid. Imprimis, I raised the question of how to get there before we went into the details of Classical civilisation. (Bronze Age was a putdown too far, I admit). Your answer: gradually. I think I was looking for a little more detail, but let it pass, if you wish.

    Quite apart from the complexity of modern socio-economic structures, and the fact that to finance your agora, you need to gamble huge sums of someone else’s digital money on the prospect of people on the other side of the world repaying their mortages, we don’t have the one essential commodity on which the Athenians relied. Slaves. Round which I think you dodged suspiciously rapidly.

    About a third of the Athenian population were slaves. Under our rather improved system, they would today be cleaners, nurses, miners and McDonalds burger jockeys. Slaves had no rights: they couldn’t vote, and they had no influence over their condition (miners were public slaves, and a shift in a silver mine with pick and shovel, under duress, can only be imagined). If a master beat a slave half to death, as he was entitled to under Athenian law, and the slave objected, the master had to bring the case against himself. The slave had no access to the courts.

    One of the major problems today is inequality. In Athens it was gross, structural, and the state could not have functioned without it.

    Gradually would indeed be the best approach. Very gradually.

  • doug scorgie

    25 Jun, 2015 – 8:31 pm

    “Sounds like Janner may end up being prosecuted after all.”

    I hope so Lysias but I doubt it.

    If he really is suffering from dementia the “powers that be” will be happy to drop him in it by having an inquiry.

    If he is not suffering from dementia, the same powers that be will not want the case to reach a court.

    Perhaps he will conveniently and in a timely fashion, “kick the bucket” like Leon Brittan.

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