Retaliating first: Corbyn and the honeymoon that never was

It all reminds me of my teenage ‘baptism’ into adult football.

The manager’s warning was absolutely clear “Watch out for these lot, they’re brutes. Once you’re on the pitch it’ll be easier. The Ref will be there. But if they can, they’ll kick, thump or butt you on the way out from the dressing room. They like to get their retaliation in first.”

So it is with today’s Labour Party.

The Leadership retaliations began long before the contest started, let alone the votes counted. Invoking the spirit of Henry Kissinger, a succession of Labour figures have persistently sought to justify the assassination of Jeremy Corbyn almost repeating…”The issues are much too important for the Labour(Chilean) voters to be left to decide for themselves.”

And, in the most bizarre twist of language, the assassins’ main complaint, throughout their rolling coup, was that Party members’ had been interfering with their freedom to assassinate; when MPs were only trying ‘to save the Party from itself’.

How the Right must be laughing and the neo-cons rejoicing.

The gap between rich and poor may now be a chasm. Narrow nationalist and neo-fascist parties may be swimming in the disintegration of inclusive economics. And the planet may teeter on the verge of self destruction. But Corbyn gets to cop the blame for everything.

The Loser’s Lament

Lest we forget, Labour lost the last 2 general elections without Jeremy Corbyn having much say in either defeat. Labour’s obsession with austerity-lite may have appealed to the Westminster elite but it was a political disaster across the country. This is the real problem Labour lives in denial of.

Throughout the Euro Referendum, Corbyn wanted to attack the Tories over the surrender of sovereignties to European free-trade delusions. He wanted an outright opposition to any TTIP Agreement. But his assassins would have none of it. Immigration became the default agenda, in the absence of a more robust ‘remain but reform’ alternative.

Courtesy of Greenpeace, we now know that TTIP’s ugly sister, TISA (the Transatlantic Trade in Services Agreement), currently being ushered through in secret, threatens something even more brutal than TTIP. It will strip nations and citizens of any right to put the planet before profits.

The TISA draft contains ‘ratchet’ clauses that would block the reversal of privatisation policies. So ‘goodbye’ to plans to bring the railways back into public ownership or take privatised health care back into a genuinely ‘public’ National Health Service.

Most of the carbon reduction measures nations will need, to deliver the Paris Agreement, will also be illegal under TISA. In an Annex on ‘Energy and Mining Services’, corporations will be able to sue countries that pursue measures that damage their profitability… And it will be the WTO, not the nation state, that determines the outcome of the challenge.

The boldest parts of the Corbyn manifesto are probably in his Environment, Energy and Climate section – . But any wholesale re-structuring of energy market thinking would send Big Energy racing to the WTO, demanding an unrestricted right to pollute.

It doesn’t get any better if you wanted to decarbonise financial services, or shipping or aviation. Democratic constraints on the politics of self-destruction will all go out the window.

Rage against the Machine

Is Labour outraged about this? Does it rail against the corporate feudalism TISA would enshrine in law? Does it race to the barricades to defend a right to re-nationalise services ‘in the public interest’? Is it refusing to endorse a Treaty that it will not even be legal to (publicly) reveal until 5 years after its implementation?… No, it isn’t.

Instead, the Machine rails about Jeremy. It rails about Momentum. It rails about re-selection. It rails about anything apart from the biggest political issues of our time… for these are deemed divisive.

When New Labour drew in cohorts of superficial supporters, they were welcomed with open arms; a refreshing break from the more politically demanding bedrock of active members. When Corbyn draws in tens of thousands, looking for something more substantial, they are deemed a threat to the house-trained politics that has parked Labour on the Opposition benches.

I have no doubts than Momentum brings with it the same range of defects you will find in any other part of the Labour Party. We all do. But none are on a par with the defects paraded unremittingly by the Tories. Theresa May trails platitudes into every gathering of the United Nations and Global Summits, and drips patronising ‘grammar school humour’ into the Commons. And Labour’s in-fighting has let her get away with it.

Labour MPs do not have to love Jeremy Corbyn, but they do have to back him: first, by recognising that ‘the enemy’ is not on their benches but the ones facing them, and second, by grasping that tinkering with the system will no longer avert the crises we are drifting into. Labour’s task is, to weave what we have into a stronger cloth…and within its folds construct a bigger, brighter vision.

There is nothing for Labour in the return to a divided past. But only radical transformation now stands any chance of delivering the more inclusive, accountable and sustainable future Britain desperately needs. Time is no longer on anyone’s side.

The ‘vision’ thing

As a matter of urgency, Labour must become the voice of a sea-change in global economic thinking. If the Paris Agreement is to be delivered, we have to re-configure trade around carbon footprints, embrace the consumption of ‘less’ before the production of more, and develop the skills needed for the Age of Clean (and an economics of ‘smart’).

Labour must also become the advocate of new international institutions; ones that can deliver solutions beyond the current reach of the United Nations, World Bank and IMF; using pollution taxes to pay for trans-national responses to the crises thrown up by war, drought, famine and flood.

Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t have all the answers to these challenges, but he is the only one holding the door open. Labour’s tragedy is not in having Jeremy Corbyn as its Leader, but to be saddled with a Party mindset that hasn’t engaged with big picture politics for a long, long time.

If anything needs to be kicked, it is this.

Alan Simpson Sept 2016

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