Open(ish) Thread on Labour Leadership Election

by Harry on August 11, 2015

It looks like I’m going to be out 100 quid — when the first poll came out I bet my dad (a Labour Party member of much less long standing than lots of people assume, but, still, long enough that it would be entirely decent for him to vote in the election) that Corbyn would not win — that, once faced with the actual decision, people who say they would vote for him, would pull back. The latest yougov poll shows Corbyn winning on the first round, and Peter Kellner says “I would personally be astonished if Mr Corbyn does not end up Labour’s leader.”

Personally, I have found the newspaper reporting and media commentary about the leadership election entirely unenlightening. The frequent comparisons with the 1980s are idiotic: Corbyn does not represent, as Benn (who never stood for the leadership) did, a massive socialist movement within and outside the party that had been building for 2 decades. He also lacks any, let alone extensive, leadership experience in government or opposition: many of the people who will, apparently, vote for him, did not know who he was 3 months ago. Only 5 years ago the (more impressive than Corbyn) leftwing candidate was eliminated almost immediately in what was, effectively, a two-horse race between two candidates who shared a last name and were — in terms of the political views (though certainly not their political or leadership experience or abilities) — almost identically right of the center of where the party has traditionally been. I agree with the frequently made point that it is hard to see a Labour Party led by Corbyn winning a general election outright (though it might have a chance of increasing the number of seats, by eating into the SNP bloc in Scotland): but whereas in the 1980s plenty of people believed that if only it were left wing enough Labour could win the next general election, I don’t think anyone believes that this time. Brian Eno can plausibly say that “unelectability” is not an issue in this leadership race because, absent developments over which the Labour Party has no control (eg (an unlikely) further surge of UKIP support splitting the right-wing vote enough to deprive Tories of massive numbers of seats) it is so difficult to see any of the candidates (or, frankly, almost anyone in the Parliamentary party) leading Labour to outright victory, and not difficult to see at least two of the candidates being worse.

So. I’m not telling you who I would vote for (its many years since I was, briefly, a member of the party, and although the distinctly odd voting system seems to allow anyone in the world to vote, I’m not going to), and I’m certainly not telling you who my dad and step-mum will be voting for: but I am curious what it looks like on the ground, why people are voting for Corbyn, what people think will happen in the next 2 to 3 years, etc. Please be polite to one another in this forum — I don’t mind how rude you are to each other in party meetings, because I don’t believe for a second you will be as rude as people were in the 80’s).

BY the way: without gooogling, can you name the last time the the candidate who was unambiguously the most left-wing became leader? Its been a very rare event.



JohnD 08.11.15 at 2:51 pm

On the last question without googling I would have said Foot, although I suspect that’s the obviously wrong answer as there were a lot of properly hardcore socialists in the senior Labour ranks in those days.

From a long-term perspective, one of the interesting things about a Corbyn candidacy is that the olden days his literally-worst-in-Parliament loyalty rating (as measured by the number of votes he has defied the whip on) might well have been a disqualifier, as party discipline was a major attribute that even ordinary members would have cared about. Instead I’ve seen it mentioned by a lot of activists on Twitter as evidence that he would be a good leader, as he always has his own view and sticks to it. This kind of say-it-like-it-is really seems to be on the rise, on the right as well as the left (Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, Nigel Farage).

It will be interesting to see how the longing for this kind of style (which can be very appealling if the person is on your side of the debate) can be squared with running a successful political party. It seems to lead to either
1) a hypocritical outcome where only the leader is allowed to say what he/she likes (UKIP and Nigel Farage) which leads in turn to other senior party members being very dissatisfied or
2) a cacophony of views from the party which leads fairly rapidly to irrelevance and oblivion (more or less what happened to the Pim Fortuyn List in the Netherlands aftern Fortuyn’s assassination and their first election victory)

How do the popular left parties in southern Europe like Podemos and Syriza manage this?


Anspen 08.11.15 at 3:12 pm

Part of the problem, I would argue, is the rather odd reaction of parts of Labour, including the other three candidates, to the lost election. The idea that a party that loses an election in a parliamentary system (especially when it is mostly a two party one) “simply [can] not tell the public they were wrong” is very strange indeed. As if an election doesn’t just decide the MPs but the actual truth. Apparently 30.4% of the voters were also simply wrong.
The idea seems to be that the only way to win the next election is to win over Tory or UKIP voters, which seems rather strange. Why would they go for Tory/UKIP-light when they can vote of the real thing? A cynical person might almost imagine that people arguing this way are more concerned with not moving toward the left than of winning the next election.
Similarly I can’t quite understand the general certainty in the media that a Labour party with Corbyn as its leader (or more precisely with a more left leaning program) couldn’t possibly win the next election outright. Far too much will depend on the actions of the Conservatives in the next 5 years (or sooner if the 12/6 seat majority erodes as it did during Major’s prime ministership). Many of the so-called “hard left” ideas Corbyn espouses are quite popular. And the Osborne’s plans, if enacted would hurt vast swaths of the electorate.
Which is not to say a Corbyn lead Labour would be assured victory, there are after all the voices strongly opposed to an even marginally left wing government gaining power both within and without the party. And Corbyn’s popularity has relatively little to do with his actually abilities to lead either the party or the opposition/government. It is quite possible his trajectory will resemble that of Ian Duncan Smith’s tenure as leader of the conservatives. However even if he is forced to resign in disgrace, after a similar two years, it would still leave Labour several years to find a better alternative.


MPAVictoria 08.11.15 at 3:25 pm

“Many of the so-called “hard left” ideas Corbyn espouses are quite popular. ”

This. This. THIS!!!!

Left wing ideas are invariably popular when honestly described to the public. The great thing about the internet/social media is we may FINALLY be able to shift the death grip that the right wing press has had on elections for the last 40 or so years.


Lynne 08.11.15 at 3:37 pm

“Left wing ideas are invariably popular when honestly described to the public.” This is true of feminism, too.


Salem 08.11.15 at 3:42 pm

Gordon Brown was unambiguously the most left-wing leadership candidate in 2007.

I don’t understand the defeatism re: 2020 – you’d think the Conservative majority was 120, not 12. They will inevitably spend a lot of political capital in this Parliament, and will likely no longer be able to rely on the immense charisma and personal popularity of David Cameron. Most likely the leader will be Osborne, who cuts a very different figure. Fairer boundaries will hurt Labour, but an overall gain of 20 seats in England is the minimum expected. Meanwhile the SNP has clearly overreached; it will lose maybe 20 seats at the next election, which Labour is best positioned to win. So a minimally competent Labour Party (ha!) would get perhaps 270 seats in 2020 just by natural political wind-down.

With strong leadership they should be able to beat that – being the energetic voice for Unionism in Scotland, representing the moderate middle of British politics that is skeptical of the Tory agenda but recognises the need for public sector reform and for the government to live within its means. Will that be enough to win the next election outright? No, because governments lose elections, oppositions don’t win them. But if the Tories have trouble on Europe, or economic headwinds are strong, then such a Labour Party would be strong contenders.

But Corbyn has poisoned the well. I still don’t think he’ll be leader, but his effect on the leadership campaign has forced the other candidates into the mire to try and combat him. It’s not that the marginal voter will remember the leadership campaign, but Burnham will find it very difficult to lead the Labour Party from the electoral centre when he has promised the activists something else to get their votes.


Salem 08.11.15 at 4:00 pm

The idea seems to be that the only way to win the next election is to win over Tory or UKIP voters, which seems rather strange.

If every single Green voter had switched to Labour, they only pick up a handful of seats – thanks to, the Green vote was almost perfectly calibrated not to hurt Labour. If every single SNP voter switched to Labour, the Conservatives still have a majority.

The reason that people say the only way for Labour to win the next election is to win over people who voted Tory, Lib Dem or UKIP in 2015 is because that is the clear mathematics of it. The voters Labour needs went for parties that are, in the language of Corbyn, pro-austerity.

Why would they go for Tory/UKIP-light when they can vote of the real thing?

Because not everyone who voted Conservative is a dyed-in-the-wool activist? (The same is true for Labour…) Because they don’t necessarily want “the real thin” they want a party that represents them, and speaks for their values and where they want the country to go, which none of the parties do well. Right now the best approximation may be the Tories, or Lib Dems, or UKIP – but not ineluctibly so. Lots of the Tory and UKIP voters in 2015 voted for Labour in the past, and they could be persuaded to do so again.

The Fabian Society report should be required reading. I myself live on the boundary between two Lab-Con marginal constituencies, one of which changed hands in May. Almost everyone voted either Labour or Conservative in both seats, and there are dozens of similar seats up and down the country. How are Labour supposed to win or hold these seats except by appealing to people who would otherwise be tempted to vote Tory? And how can Labour win an election without winning these marginals?


Thomas Beale 08.11.15 at 4:01 pm

People in the UK and I would say most countries, at least in the West, are sick to death of tribal politics. Tribal politics creates/attracts politicians who simply cannot think straight – they automatically defend the party identity with meaningless spin-doctor crafted rhetoric, and become combative in discussions on that basis. They have no positions of their own. Liz Kendall during all her appearances during the May election comes to mind.

When we see these people – e.g. on Question Time – most viewers instantly switch off. We know exactly what they are going to say. We know they are completely insincere, and have no ideas.

The politicians who get at least an engagement from the public are those who speak thoughtfully and sincerely. This includes people like Vince Cable, the sadly departed Charles Kennedy (who, while probably drunk on a pre-election QT appearance still made Kendall look stupid), Nicola Sturgeon, Yanis Varoufakis, but also people like Galloway and Farage and Marine le Penn – all of whom have some variety of thought-out position, however repellent some may find it.

I think that the public have largely woken up to the fact that there are two classes of politician: those with whom you can discuss actual content, substantive issues, and those with whom you cannot. The latter type are now understood as more or less noise-makers with no ideas of their own. The young particularly can detect BS and dissembling at 100 yards, and have no tolerance for it.

I think only one kind of politician has a future in the long term, at least in proper democratic and internet-enabled states: those who can think, do think, and will have authentic conversations with the electorate.

Whether Corbyn has any real ideas I don’t know, but he does speak his mind, and comes across as reasonably thoughtful and measured. So he already has a huge advantage over the others – people are actually listening to what he says.


Ed 08.11.15 at 4:15 pm

This is in response to Ansen. Going after UKIP voters makes absolute strategic sense for Labour, and makes considerable ideological sense, unless you think EU membership/ support for the EU elite is core Labour value (it isn’t, particularly on the left of the party). UKIP got 12% of the vote in the last election, up from 3%. Alot of these voters are either former Labour voters themselves, or the sort of working class voters that Labour should be targeting. And UKIP is imploding. Their voters will be up for grabs. Do you really want the Tories to grab them?

You are probably confusing UKIP voters with UKIP party leaders and activists?

UKIP voters and SNP voters are are easier to get supporting Labour than Tory voters and the remaining Lib Dem voters, probably somewhat easier than getting non-voters to both participate and vote Labour. As it happens, this strategy is much more compatible with going left ideologically than doing anything Blairish. As i stated earlier, the Labour left has been consistently less enamored of the EU than any version of the Labour right.


harry b 08.11.15 at 4:18 pm

Salem –ha! Yes, I guess you win. I forgot there was an election for him, I thought it was a coronation. I meant in a contested election. And its not Michael Foot (Peter Shore — not clearly to the left of Foot, but not clearly to his right either)

I wasn’t being defeatist, exactly: just expressing skepticism about 2 of his opponents’ abilities to lead them to victory. And, whereas if Corbyn wins, I doubt he will still be leader in 2020, I expect Burnham, Kendall, or Cooper to remain leader till after that election. Although the Tories have a small majority of seats, the right won a majority of votes, for the first time since… I don’t know when… and while I hope you are right about the SNP I’m not convinced (and, ironically, I think Corbyn has a better chance of winning back Scottish seats).


JohnD 08.11.15 at 4:53 pm

Hang on – Brown was (briefly) up against McDonnell who was/is way more left-wing, wasn’t he? Re Foot/Shore, both were quite left-wing on economics but Shore was strongly anti-CND, which was a big left-right marker at the time, so I would still say Foot.

The wildcard is that I cannot remember for the life of me if Bryan Gould was left or right of John Smith in 1992….


harry b 08.11.15 at 5:19 pm

McDonnell didn’t get enough MPs to be on the ballot.
Fair enough about Shore, I suppose, but on pretty much everything else he was as left as Foot, and Foot was (like Ed Miliband) always less left in practice than in rhetoric. Gould was to the left of Smith (though Smith was, like David Miliband, more left wing in practice than in rhetoric. Still, I think his canonisation depended on him dying young).

There’s an earlier election where it is completely clear that the clearly most left wing candidate won….


Finn 08.11.15 at 5:26 pm

It is true that it would be a tad hypocritical of Corbyn to demand that MPs vote according to the whip when he had defied it so often himself. But any MP who actually used that logic to defy the whip would be a shit.


JohnD 08.11.15 at 5:29 pm

Well I finally looked it up (thank you Wikipedia) and was a bit surprised…it’s before my time but it’s interesting that that person is rarely cited as a left wing success story – although I guess he was, in retrospect


Jim Buck 08.11.15 at 6:22 pm

Harold Wilson


harry b 08.11.15 at 6:28 pm

Well done!


Stephen 08.11.15 at 6:49 pm

Surely Wilson was neither left nor right-wing, only a committed Wilsonist?


djr 08.11.15 at 7:18 pm

Generals spend their time thinking about how to fight the last war, so it seems that politicians spend their time thinking about how they could have won the last election. In many ways it’s easier than figuring out how to win the next election, and, being a purely theoretical exercise, avoids actually having to do anything.

As noted by Salem, Labour couldn’t have won by getting SNP, Green or Lib Dem voters to vote Labour. But as well as the people who voted Tory or UKIP, there were also 16 million people who didn’t vote at all. I have no idea which set of votes would be easier to obtain, but I remember reading that percentage turnout amongst people who preferred Labour was lower than amongst people who preferred the Conservatives. For completeness, for 2020 there are also several millions of current 13 to 17 year olds.


Phil 08.11.15 at 8:25 pm

Wilson, as a very junior minister, resigned from the Cabinet together with Bevan, over the introduction of NHS charges; according to Paul Foot this gave him undeserved left-wing cachet ever after, even though he described his motivations as different from Bevan’s.

Thanks, djr, for mentioning turnout. From 1970 on, the number of non-voters – reverse-engineered from the published turnout figure and the number of votes cast – never went above 12 million till 1997; an odd aspect of the Great New Labour Landslide was that the rise in Labour voters, compared to the previous election, was much smaller than the rise in non-voters (1.9 million vs 3.3 million). The non-voter figure went up again in 2001 – to 18 million, almost as much as the Labour and Tory votes put together – and it’s never been below 15 million since then. So if a Corbyn-led Labour Party saw a significant rise in voting, predicting how all those people would vote would be even harder than it was in 2015.

As for why people are voting Corbyn, here’s my story. I’ve been aware of Corbyn for a good long time, thanks all the same; I’ve always thought he was pretty much a good thing – very reliable on security & counter-terrorism issues – but a bit of a Campaign Group type, quiet, earnest variety (probably the best variety of CG type). I was pleased he got on the ballot, in the spirit of flying the flag for the Labour Left; I didn’t think of him as the next Labour leader at that stage, and I very much doubt he did either. To begin with I was delighted at the way his campaign started to take off, but also surprised and, if I’m honest, slightly amused – poor old Jeremy, bet he wasn’t expecting this… I signed up, though, and bunged the Corbyn campaign a fiver when they asked; it seemed like a good idea to keep up the momentum.

Then there was the welfare vote, and Harman’s awful, craven line about listening to the British people. I think that was the biggest boost Corbyn could have asked for; it wasn’t just the fact that he was the only candidate willing to oppose a vicious and mean policy, but something deeper: a sense of if not now, when? Let’s not forget that the welfare bill rolls back New Labour policies – we’re not talking about collective ownership of the means of production here. So the decision to abstain, however clever it may have been in the world of parliamentary eleven-dimensional chess, was met with anger, incredulity and impatience: if Labour doesn’t oppose that, what’s it for?

And then there’s this vote that they’ve seen fit to give us. Well then. They want to know what we want? Now, they want to know what we want? Shall we tell them?

So that’s part of it: I support Corbyn because (a) I’m an old leftie anyway and more importantly (b) when it comes to pushing for Labour to move to the Left, I really feel the time for holding back has gone. Another really important element is (c) the reforms to the party, and the party’s policy-making structures, that Corbyn’s advocating (and will continue to advocate even if he loses): a party that makes policy from the membership up could do a lot to revitalise British political life, which could do with a bit of revitalising (see above re: turnout).

We’re now into a third stage: the stage where it actually looks as if Corbyn’s going to win. Can I see him as a party leader? Yes; I think he and Tom Watson, in particular, could make rather a good team. Would he get crucified by the press? I guess so, but I have to say they’ve been remarkably forbearing up to now; it may be that they’re saving the good stuff till later, but I think it may just be that they’re not quite sure what to do with him. Would he have trouble with the parliamentary party? Indubitably – which is why I’m voting for Tom Watson. Could he win the next election? If the party doesn’t tear itself apart, and if the mobilisation continues, and if opposition – genuine opposition – becomes a way of life for the Labour Party, I wouldn’t rule it out (and neither would Kenneth Clarke). Even if Labour didn’t win under Corbyn in 2020, I don’t believe they could win under Burnham or Cooper – and I’d much rather they spent the next five years shifting the political spectrum to the Left than acquiescing in Osborne & co shifting it to the Right. As I say, I really think the time for holding back is gone.


Peter K. 08.11.15 at 8:32 pm

As an American who is ignorant about UK and Labour politics, but more knowledgeable than most Americans which isn’t saying much, I would vote for Corbyn. The Labour strategy of portraying themselves as Conservative lite in favor of austerity lite hasn’t worked and besides austerity lite doesn’t work as a policy.

It’s not clear cut, but the SNP won by being anti-austerity and the Liberals lost by enabling austerity. In the U.S. Obama went along with austerity and deficit reduction rhetoric and lost Congress to the Republicans. Labour needs to be anti-austerity and “pro-growth and government investment” and spin the media narrative that way. They need to move the Overton Window towards policies that really “work.” I believe Corbyn’s policies would work much better than the Blairites’.

I’ll admit that concerns about “electability” are justified, but the long-term goal (or medium term goal) should be to change the narrative and dialogue so that politicians like Corbyn are electable to leadership postions. National Nurses United just backed Bernie Sanders despite questions about his electability.


Layman 08.11.15 at 8:42 pm

“In the U.S. Obama went along with austerity and deficit reduction rhetoric and lost Congress to the Republicans. ”

This bit is certainly not clear cut. Republicans have a structural advantage in Congressional elections; that structural advantage is emphasized further in mid-term elections; and mid-term elections usually hurt the party in the White House anyway. Obama certainly spent too much time trying to compromise with crazy people, but it’s not at all clear that this is why the Republicans won the midterms.


christian_h 08.11.15 at 8:59 pm

If Labour continues on its current course it will go the way of PASOK and certainly will not win in 2020. More crucially, if it did survive (unlikely in my admittedly far away view) and eventually gained government again it would not make much difference on any issue of importance. Corbyn as leader will upset the apple cart, which is unambiguously a good thing.


Bruce Wilder 08.11.15 at 9:03 pm

I, too, view this from a great distance.

Questions of style, electability, and finding an alternative to “there is no alternative” neoliberalism cannot be separated from the deep corruption of the political process that Blair and Brown presided over. It has never been a simple problem of messaging for Labour — the party is now dependent on a base of financial and media support that differs little in class terms from the Tories, even if their actual electoral support has a different outline. Corbyn answers the problem of integrity in his person, but not the problem of systematically shaping a foundation for a Left, that doesn’t make it dependent on the very interests it must oppose, if it is to be Left. For the reasons JohnR cited in the first comment, I find it hard to believe that Corbyn will prove to be an effective leader. It is like waking up to deterioration of the ecology that has resulted in the extinction of the dinosaurs, while there’s only one dinosaur left, and wondering why that lone remnant dino cannot displace the packs of wolves and swarms of rats that have taken over the landscape. It is more sensible a response to corruption that cheering the gilt-edged but tactless Donald Trump, but not likely to be any more effective a populism.


Peter K. 08.11.15 at 9:42 pm

@19 Layman

Yes I agree with about the mitigating factors you mention, but I bet if Obama had seen a strong recovery they could have taken Congress in 2014. The recovery was incredibly weak in part because of the austerity forced on the economy by the Republicans.

Yes unemployment came down from 10 percent to around 5.5 percent before the Nov. 2014 election, but those number don’t reflect how bad the recovery has been for most people.


Metatone 08.11.15 at 9:43 pm

I’m really glad Phil @17 has posted here.

He’s written some excellent blog posts on the issue of turnout (esp. non-voters) and the impact of minor-party performance on UK election results.

I would say that those blogposts are much more required reading for understanding what happened in the last election and what may happen in the next than the Fabian document recommended by @Salem.

Crucially, Phil’s work lines up with the best analysis of the failures of the polls. Generation Rent didn’t turn out the way they did in 2010. Older generations did.

The Fabian report is utopian and ignores the media landscape. Blair won on the back of a deal with Murdoch. Without that, the reasonable policies of the Fabians will get just the same “Red Ed” (“Red Liz, Yvette, Andy”) treatment as we saw this time around. It’s boring, but without the Sun you aren’t going to win over Northampton North with “slightly slower deficit reduction” and “productivity improvement policies.”

I’m a “none of the above” so far, because I’m not sure Corbyn has the tactical ability or the team to use the leadership to good effect on the Overton Window – and I’ve seen no sign that any of the other 3 have read or understood anything about turnout, or about how “competence” is defined by the media.

The next election will be dominated by the relative (slow) recovery, which will give Osborne plenty of room to bribe the Tory vote. There is no opposition policy that can match up to that – where do you make an “economic competence” case that hangs together _and_ allows you the room to out-bribe Osborne with existing Tory voters? Thus, any scheme to vote the Tories out relies on appealing to people who didn’t vote Tory – and while you can peel off some UKIP voters by hammering immigrants, peeling off SNP votes needs some left-of-centre rhetoric (if not substance, dammit!) and then you need to get into the murky question of why people who didn’t vote did not and what might appeal to them. I’ve seen nothing from the Fabians or the “Serious 3” to suggest they are ready to undertake that kind of questioning…


Greg 08.11.15 at 10:07 pm

Phil just about sums it up for me.

It feels like we’ve reached a moment where the right thing to do is also the smart thing to do. To the extent that I’m left scratching my head seriously wondering what passes for intellect and imagination among the Labour establishment. We had a humiliating defeat about ten minutes ago and people are still fixated on the 80s? They’re not even fighting the last war.


engels 08.11.15 at 10:39 pm

Agree with everything Phil said apart from supporting Tom Watson (smells like Blairite sabotage)


Anspen 08.11.15 at 10:45 pm

I greatly doubt going all anti-EU will convince the average UKIP voter (why go for the copy when you can vote original strength). As Ed says at #8: the only realistic way of convincing those voters to vote Labour will be a program that is attractive on other issues. A full on switch to Brexit would hardly be convincing. Plus I would argue that policy positions should not be made purely (or even mostly) based on how to win elections.

While a stronger showing in Scotland wouldn’t have meant victory for Labour, the weak result there has been the main cause of the “Labour lost enormously” spin. Yes, after 5 years of a fairly unpopular government you would expect a better result, but it was hardly the huge defeat it is made out to be. After all Labour actually increased their share by 1,5 points. And while UKIP increased its vote by 9,5 points, the Conservatives increased only marginally, while the Libdems lost 15. That would seem to indicate more of a chain of voter movements (Libdem->Tory->UKIP) than a direct one from Labour to UKIP. I’m rather curious how 2010 voters changed their votes. The German media usually have figures on where votes moved relative to the last elections the night of the election. Is there anything like that for the UK?

Meanwhile some 34% of the electorate didn’t go to the polls at all. Some of those are unlikely tovote under any circumstance, but convincing a few percentage points of them to come out would make a huge difference (not to mention a high turnout being an important part of a healthy democracy). And this will not be achieved with soft triangulation. I would argue that a lot of the fervour that has arisen around Corbyn’s campaign has less to do with the man himself (though his unproduced style has certainly helped) than with his positions.


Frank Wilhoit 08.11.15 at 11:06 pm

The job of the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition is to stand up in the Commons, day after day after day after day after day, and tell the Government that they are wrong — and, if it is useful to do so, why they are wrong.

Corbyn may, or perhaps I should have said “will at least sometimes”, do this. None of the other leadership contenders would do it at all.

In a US context, each of you would rush to be first to tell Democrats that if voters are given the choice between a real Republican and a fake Republican, they will take the real Republican every time.

Well, if voters are given the choice betwen real Toriea and fake Tories, they’ll take the real Tories every time.

This is not hard. Quit making it hard.


Placeholder 08.11.15 at 11:32 pm

@6 “If every single Green voter had switched to Labour, they only pick up a handful of seats” What, like, 6? ’cause Cameron has a majority of 12.

Considering the argument that 2020 because Labour must gain votes from the Tories and they can’t do that by moving left, I say this is an attitude derived from an attitude that reflects a voter pattern that ended a while ago and is sustained by the current dominance of the two-party system in the US. But even in Canada, the voters are defying the FTPT model to split between three or four parties and that’s now what’s happening in the UK and it changes what Corbyn can and can’t do. In any case, the assumption that the two biggest centre parties represent the norm and normal people switch between them according to triangulation must be revaluated in light of these facts:

1: Most MPs did not get a majority of the vote in a majority of the seats, therfore the Conservatives did not get a +50% of the votes in +50% of the seats. This was a democratic issue in 2010 that lead to the AV referendum – it’s still true. But Labour do not in fact ‘have’ to take Tory votes.
2: The 2015 Tory vote stratified by class – it gained votes among the A and Bs and lost them among the Cs and Ds form 2010, but Labour gained votes in a broadly flat manner. Vote movements between the two, as they happened, were not symmetrical.
3. If normal people are swing voters that must mean normal people don’t vote Lab/Con. When polled, Conservatives overwhelmingly say they won’t vote Labour and vice versa.
4. UKIP voters support nationalisation and price controls at rates similar to Labour voters, not Conservative voters, so nationalisation. So there is evidence Labour voters aren’t limited to SNP, Plaid, Lib Dem and Green.

@Anspen: here is a website that tracks voter movement. Overwhelmingly, net movement is to and from the newer parties, not between Labour and Tory.


NomadUK 08.12.15 at 12:07 am

Well, I paid my membership fee and I’ll cast my vote for Corbyn. At the same time, I can vote for Bernie on the other side of the pond. I don’t know that I’ll have enjoyed casting a couple of votes so much since before Paul Wellstone picked the wrong time to catch a flight.


Peter K. 08.12.15 at 2:17 am

@ 30 Wow I hadn’t thought about Wellstone in a long time.

Phil @ 18 discusses the welfare bill. That’s how I felt about Clinton doing welfare “reform” with a Republican Congress. It’s as if Labour is following in the Democrats’ footsteps. Even now as welfare “reform” has been shown to have increased poverty rates, leading Democrats like Obama defend it when they discuss it which is rare. Basically they don’t talk about it. They believe it was a good electoral move for the Democrats even as they equivocate about the increase in poverty.


christian_h 08.12.15 at 5:36 am

Looking at Australia – UK – Germany and a lesser extent the US (the polities I have at least minimal knowledge of) I think there is a pretty consistent story to be told about “third way” centre-left politics: in the first stage, the right wing of the centre left party crushes the left, opportunistically taking advantage of the real shifts in the balance of class forces occurring as a result of the end of the long post-war boom. In the second stage, the newly neo-liberalized party wins an election, based on a combination of more progressive attitudes on social issues, a reaction to conservative overreach, and quite simply coming across as cooler than the stodgy right-wing; in this stage, the “new centrist” approach actually does attract educated bourgeois voters, and recovers some petty bourgeois voters that were turned off by the previous leftist orientation (there seem to be major differences in detail between the different polities here, with the US in particular standing out due to the non-class based nature of the Democratic party and the dominance of the issue of race). In the third stage, the newly wishy washy formerly centre left party hangs on for one or two more elections, while bleeding voters that used to be counted among their core support. Finally, we came to stage four: the third way crowd has managed to completely hollow out the traditional party structures, so when they lose an election – as will of course happen – the party is now frankly f****d – not standing for anything but winning anymore, losing develops a destructive force.

At this point it seems to me the party has to be blown up; it might continue in a diminished form (like the SPD in Germany), or it might collapse suddenly (as PASOK in Greece or Labour in Scotland). Voting Corbyn leader offers a better chance of causing the necessary explosion, so it’s the right thing to do.


Igor Belanov 08.12.15 at 7:05 am

The basis of the ‘Corbyn phenomenon’ is the fact that Labour members and sympathisers had effectively made a pact with the Blairites and party establishment whereby they would hold back their left-wing enthusiasm and agitation in return for electoral success against the hated Tories. The last two elections (and arguably 2005)have demonstrated that the Labour right is unable to keep its side of the bargain, thus removing the inhibitions not just of the Labour left but many centrist members and trade unionists as well.

The anti-establishment momentum in British politics also should not be underestimated.


Anspen 08.12.15 at 10:41 am

@Placeholder: Thank you, that was indeed what I was looking for. Interesting that 2% of former Labour voters did move to the Conservatives, a higher share than I would have assumed. The split in LibDem voters is strongly in Labours advantage, which shows that a lot of the parliamentary result is more the result of the voter allocation than on actual vote. There where quit simply a lot of LibDem-Con marginals and far fewer LibDem Labour ones.

@christian_h: A good analysis of the Third way path, however I would argue that there can be/was some good in some of the movement: some reorientation was needed in many cases. The problem arose, as usual, as something that had worked in the past (move a bit to the centre on some issues) kept being employed, regardless of usefulness (see also: privatization, tax cuts, explosions in summer blockbusters).


Jonathan Hallam 08.12.15 at 2:14 pm


I’m expecting that Corbyn will be the next labour party leader and I’m hoping he’ll be the next Prime Minister. I think his campaign for the Labour leadership has energised young voters, and they’ll turn out for him in large numbers at the general election. Turnout in 2015 was only 66.1% after all, and aside from the Greens, who had little realistic chance in most seats – but in Brighton Pavilion, where Caroline Lucas won from the left, turnout was 71.4%.

Count in some votes recaptured from UKIP and some seats from the SNP, and some English voters not afraid of Labour being ‘dragged to the left’ by the SNP since Corbyn-Labour and Nicola-SNP will likely be running on similar platforms, and Corbyn has a fair chance of leading at least a Labour-led ‘rainbow coalition of the left’.


harry b 08.12.15 at 2:24 pm

Further to JH at 35: One thing I have wondered is whether, under Corbyn, a loose anti-Tory electoral pact with the Greens, the SNP (who might have incentives in some seats) and even the LibDems. It would be hilarious, but unprincipled, to add in UKIP to that, and I am not suggesting it.


djr 08.12.15 at 5:32 pm

Jonathan @ 35:

Young voters energised by a different approach to politics, getting away from the tired old cliches? That’s what they said about Blair in 1997 and Clegg in 2010 as well. In the end, young voter turnout was low.


engels 08.12.15 at 6:23 pm


harry b 08.12.15 at 6:41 pm

Can’t Alistair Campbell tell Tony that if he wants Corbyn not to win he should keep his mouth shut? Or come out in support of him?


engels 08.12.15 at 6:58 pm

Since he also weighed in—surely to similar effect—it’s genuinely baffling what either of them can be thinking.


Salem 08.12.15 at 7:28 pm

What I find most fascinating is the level of self-deception. Some people think Corbyn is ideologically right, and others that he’s wrong. And some people think he’s electoral poison, and others that he’s electoral gravy. But while there are plenty of people who say “Well, my heart is with Corbyn, but he’s just unelectable, so I can’t vote for him,” I have yet to meet a single Labour moderate (or Tory, or Lib Dem, or UKIPper) who thinks he’s electable. The only people who think Corbyn is electable are his ideological partisans. Surely that should tell you something. And as for what he’s offering:

Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t offer anything new. This is literally the most laughable of all the propositions advanced by his camp. Those of us who lived through the turmoil of the 80s know every line of this script. These are policies from the past that were rejected not because they were too principled, but because a majority of the British people thought they didn’t work. And by the way, they were rejected by electorates round the world for the same reasons.

Can anyone seriously argue with a word of what Blair wrote here? It’s not just that Corbyn promises electoral disaster (although he does), it’s that if, by some miracle, he were to win the election, he promises national disaster too. And that’s without going into the matter of his “friends”.


harry b 08.12.15 at 7:33 pm

I think Campbell might calculate that it is at least possible that he could be dissuading Cooper and Burnham voters from putting Corbyn as their second preference, and that its unlikely he would be pissing those same people off enough to provoke them into putting Corbyn first. If Blair makes the same calculation about himself, he’s seriously deluded (not necessarily about the first bit, but the second bit); and he’s obviously NOT that deluded, because the whole piece is written to people who hate him.

Oh, it occurs to me that Campbell wisely waited till the registration period was over (or almost over), before commenting, presumably to avoid provoking more Corbyn-supporters to register.


Guano 08.12.15 at 7:54 pm

As reported at 40, Campbell and Blair have been in full panic mode in the Guardian on successive days. The hyperbole is similar to what we heard before the run-up to the invasion of Iraq and the effect is, similarly, to make many people suspicious. Given that many people think that they should have slipped away and kept a low profile after they resigned from government, there is a great deal of annoyance that they are taking such a high profile. Labour doesn’t appear to have come to terms with some of the horrors of the Blair era (like the invasion of Iraq and the authoritarian policies); people like Burnham and Cooper (like Brown and Miliband before them) don’t seem to have the nerve to say that those actions were wrong and appear to hope that they will just be forgotten. But Blair keeps reappearing telling the party what to do.

Also, the constant repetition of phrases like “Tony Blair won three elections” simply piles the votes up for Corbyn. There were some good things in the 1997 and 2001 manifestos, and some good legislation was passed pre-2001. In practice the second New Labour government was authoritarian and Blair began to try to accelerate a reform agenda that was undefined but in practice, was mainly about privatisation of public services. So it isn’t really logical to say that the Blairite agenda is popular because, when it really emerged, New Labour started losing votes.


Anspen 08.12.15 at 7:56 pm

Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t offer anything new. This is literally the most laughable of all the propositions advanced by his camp. Those of us who lived through the turmoil of the 80s know every line of this script. These are policies from the past that were rejected not because they were too principled, but because a majority of the British people thought they didn’t work. And by the way, they were rejected by electorates round the world for the same reasons.

Shorter Blair: Don’t vote for this guy, because he is in favour of something old. Unlike kowtowing to the rich or “free markets”. Those ideas are definitely brand new.

And a good old bait and switch. Those ancient ideas where rejected by “the electorate”. Which of course is everlasting and never changes its opinion. Even though more British voters chose Labour in 1983 than voted for the Conservatives in 2015. And of course an idea once rejected by the electorate is thereby proven to be unworkable. Don’t those silly left wingers realize the only way to fight for social democratic ideas is by ruling as mild Tories?

The hysterical froth the right wing of the Labour party has worked itself into is quite something to behold. On a slightly related note: why do people continue to claim “Blair won three elections”? While factually correct I have distinct memories of him needing an intervention from Gordon Brown to win the 2005 one.


Guano 08.12.15 at 8:00 pm

“Can anyone seriously argue with a word of what Blair wrote here?”

Blair is setting up a series of straw men. There is a great deal of sensible politics to the left of Tony Blair.


Guano 08.12.15 at 8:05 pm

#44 “While factually correct I have distinct memories of him needing an intervention from Gordon Brown to win the 2005 one.”

Yes, the 2005 election was a bit of a mess and, if the rumour hadn’t gone around that Blair would soon be gone, the majority might have been cut even more.


engels 08.12.15 at 8:06 pm

I have yet to meet a single Labour moderate (or Tory, or Lib Dem, or UKIPper) who thinks he’s electable.

Labour leadership race: Jeremy Corbyn could be the next Prime Minister, says Ken Clarke


engels 08.12.15 at 8:12 pm

These are policies from the past that were rejected not because they were too principled, but because a majority of the British people thought they didn’t work.

9 charts that show the ‘left-wing’ policies of Jeremy Corbyn the public actually agrees with


Stephen 08.12.15 at 8:14 pm

MPA Victoria: “Left wing ideas are invariably popular when honestly described to the public”.

For some values of “invariably” and “honestly”, and for some values of “left wing”.

It’s the latter that bothers me more. Look at some current ideas in the UK: membership of the EU, for example. I think there is a good case to be made for saying that the EU’s effects have varied from mediocre to catastrophic. Is that a left wing or a right wing idea? Surely there are people from across a broad spectrum who would agree.

Or Scottish independence: the SNP government has allowed cuts in the NHS (while in England expenditure rose) and has militarised the police; and their policies for an independent Scotland must involve an increase in taxation, a decrease in Government spending, or both. On the other hand, they’re ferociously anti-Tory. Are they left or right wing?

As for the other matter: in the former Soviet satellites, left-wing ideas were incessantly described to the public with no interference from the local capitalist press (which was not allowed to exist). When the Soviet armies departed, very few people agreed with left-wing ideas. Why was that?


engels 08.12.15 at 8:15 pm

Nothing like a turkey shoot. Got any more, Salem?


Stephen 08.12.15 at 8:18 pm

Engels@47: on nationalisation, there’s a good case for saying that natural monopoly services should usually (there are exceptions) be in public ownership. This doesn’t seem to be being argued. Why not?


Igor Belanov 08.12.15 at 8:47 pm

This contest shows just how much the existence of the Labour Party has relied on self-restraint or lack of self-dignity on the part of its left-wing. I’ve never known the Labour right criticise the Tories like they’ve slated Corbyn over the past couple of months. The test will be whether they continue to sit and take the punishment if Corbyn doesn’t win.


Daragh 08.12.15 at 9:14 pm

Salem above has already noted Corbyn’s friends. There’s also his decision to host programs on Press TV, the propaganda arm of a pretty nasty reactionary theocracy. As to my special subject, when the Ukrainian people mounted a popular revolution against a corrupt kleptocracy last year, they faced a militarised reaction from a chauvinistic, state-capitalist and imperialist power (even before the annexation of Crimea – the massacre of protesters on the Maidan was likely instigated, or at least encouraged, by Russian security services.)

Corbyn responded to this turn of events by regurgitating Moscow’s talking points on the situation and claimed the annexation of Crimea was basically NATO’s fault. I don’t think these are the arguments of a principled, albeit misguided man of the left. In fact, the most charitable interpretation that can be granted to them is that they’re the arguments of an uninformed dilettante who shouldn’t be let anywhere near the leadership of a serious political party.


Metatone 08.12.15 at 9:58 pm

If the “Serious” candidates want to peel people away from Corbyn, they would do better to actually outline some meaningful proposals, with a serious plan for:

1) Revitalising membership and finances of the Labour party.
2) Addressing future challenges like ongoing urbanisation, productivity problems in the economy, the ongoing over-bloating of the finance sector, a future for the public services that doesn’t just read “Oooooh, markets are more efficient, that’s the ticket.” etc. etc.
3) How they are going to get Murdoch onside – you don’t get to do the Blairite “we’ll be serious and commit to George’s cuts” and get any credit for it if you can’t get the media backing.

Now I’m not saying that they have to have everything worked out – but if they can’t show they’ve thought about things like this, then their claims to be more electable are just a claim, a posture. And while posturing is a vital part of General Elections, winning over a party membership takes a bit more groundwork.

You don’t get to hector people into being more realistic if you can’t do the brass tacks of realism. And so far, Yvette, Liz and Andy have failed repeatedly on that score.


Metatone 08.12.15 at 10:13 pm

To expand a bit on my last post – I’m profoundly angry with the “centre” of the Labour party for being so damn incompetent. That means Liz, Yvette and Andy and their teams.

An in-party election is not a General Election, this is an electorate interested in politics. You have to provide them with something to get their teeth into. Instead they’ve got sucked into concentrating on the negatives of Corbyn at the exclusion of providing a meaningful vision for the party. The media love the negative slant – but it’s not doing anything for the candidates or the party…


Bruce Baugh 08.12.15 at 10:18 pm

This piece tells me that the median potential voter in the UK is 46 years old. That in turn tells me that this median voter was quite possibly not eligible for ’80s elections, particularly not Thatcher’s first or second elections, and in general wasn’t a meaningful part of the “electorate” voting then. Many of us have actually changed our minds on important matters as well as trivial ones in the intervening decades.


nick s 08.12.15 at 11:40 pm

I’m with Phil, mostly.

re Frank Wilhoit @28

The job of the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition is to stand up in the Commons, day after day after day after day after day, and tell the Government that they are wrong… Corbyn may, or perhaps I should have said “will at least sometimes”, do this. None of the other leadership contenders would do it at all.

Here’s where I quibble slightly. There’s opposing as in being shouty in PMQs, and opposing as in votes. The Tory majority is not a large one, and its perceived power post-election is slowly giving way to reality: it is the job of the main opposition party to identify a dozen vulnerable Tory backbenchers on every issue and make them suffer for their votes while keeping the other opposition parties on board, or pick out a handful of awkward-squad right-wingers and see if they can be persuaded to demand more from the government.

Corbyn has been an on-off rebel in the division lobbies his entire career. I’m not convinced he can maintain party discipline. Should he win, his deputy needs to be someone who’ll wield the Labour whip against the disgruntled Blairites.


Gregor Sansa 08.13.15 at 3:48 am

Daragh@53 landed some hits. Salem, not so much.


nick s 08.13.15 at 4:02 am

Daragh can certainly offer guidance on what it takes for a political party to be removed from a position of power into near-annihilation by the voters.


Igor Belanov 08.13.15 at 6:49 am

@ nick s

But you have to understand that, from Daragh’s viewpoint, the Lib Dems were the only thing preventing the Tories from instituting a Nazi regime. They fell on their swords to save us all.


Dipper 08.13.15 at 7:15 am

As a former labour party member, I’d say Corbyn is a good choice. By the time of the next election he will either have proved his worth as a leader or he will have gone.

I don’t think the left in the UK has ever come to terms with the financial crash. Blair thrived in a period when free-market economics was the undisputed route to generating wealth for everyone. Post crash that is no longer the case. The lesson of the crash is that all that business activity relies on a functioning banking system, and that a functioning banking system ultimately requires the people to stand behind it. What price the people should demand for giving their support to the banking system and wider business activity is a critical question for the left. Corbyn is the one who has come closest to asking these questions. The others have taken the standard view that the financial crash was simply a matter of bad people doing bad things, and that once they have all been dealt with it is back to free-market business as usual.


engels 08.13.15 at 7:52 am

claimed the annexation of Crimea was basically NATO’s fault

Crazy stuff


Chris Bertram 08.13.15 at 8:58 am

I’m not a Labour member or “supporter”. As I voted (and advocated) a vote for the Green candidate in my constituency, I didn’t feel entitled to register.

I wouldn’t vote for Corbyn even though I share lots of his values and positions.

As a former “entryist” in the 1980s, I can say that the stuff about entryism this time is nonsense. Even in the 1980s the upper estimate for organized members of the far left in the UK was 15-20,000 max. The group of which I was a member (IMG, then various name changes) never exceeded 900, and it was one of the larger groups. The numbers following Corbyn swamp anything any outside parties could put together.

I’ve been aware of Corbyn since the 80s and the days of London Labour Briefing, which is very much the milieu he came out of.

Though I’m wary of ideas about “leadership”, parties do need leaders in the modern era. They need leaders who can come across as authoritative as the despatch box and convince people on TV. They need leaders who can hold together a very divided party, broker and make compromises, and exert authority over their MPs. I don’t think Corbyn is that guy.

I don’t think Corbyn could win an election even if, per impossible, the PLP rallied behind him. But it isn’t going to. He didn’t have enough support in the PLP to reach the nomination threshold on the basis of MPs who actually supported him (and the latter group is a tiny proportion of Labour MPs).

If Corbyn is elected leader, what is going to happen? Most of the PLP will refuse (either openly or with some degree of caution) to recognize his authority. They will not serve in his Cabinet. There might be an open split, with some MPs going off to other parties, there might not. Probably there will not be and we’ll have a few months of ineffective leadership and infighting before there is some pretext for the PLP to declare no confidence in Corbyn. Then Corbyn and his new “base” will face a choice, to split, form a new party (perhaps in formal electoral alliance with the Greens) or knuckle under and revert to their traditional role. I predict the latter.

None of this is Corbyn’s fault. Fault lies with the generations of SPADs and androids who are represented by the other candidates. Of those, Cooper is the only one who I can see as a credible leader of the opposition. Kendall is a joke and Burham has reacted to Corbyn by making unthought-through pledges to do things on the hoof.

In short, there are no good outcomes here, and many disastrous ones. Labour is f****d.


Guano 08.13.15 at 9:00 am

There is a profile of Corbyn in the Guardian today, 13th August (the Guardian is doing profiles of all the candidates). An interviewee makes the point that there were two events that gave a push to Corbyn’s profile:-

– the attempt by people associated with Blair to push Labour even further to the right immediately after the General Election
– the failure of Labour to oppose the Tories’ Welfare Bill.

I would add another: the hysterical response to Corbyn’s candidacy in certain quarters has pushed many people to come off the fence.

There was an interesting article in the Guardian by Larry Elliot a few days ago, which makes an important point. The failure of the other candidates, and the rest of Labour, to express certain views has reached the stage that they are afraid to say things that are true and which are in Labour’s own defence. They apologise that Labour crashed the economy, even though it isn’t true. It appears that Labour is supposed to criticise itself, unjustly, because that is what the median voter in the median constituency thinks (or it what certain newspapers say that the median voter in the median constituency thinks). We’re getting into Orwell territory here and, in response, people are crossing the road to shake hands with someone who isn’t trapped in this strange logic.

(2000 + comments, but maybe of interest to CT readers)


Guano 08.13.15 at 9:23 am

# 63 Yes, quite. Labour are in completely unknown territory here. However Labour has been heading into trouble ever since they failed to remove Blair when WMD failed to appear in Iraq (or possibly since the failed to challenge his bizarre assertions about WMD in late 2002). Apparently only Brown could remove Blair, and which made it seem like a grudge rather than a move to remove someone who had made a disastrous decision.

So Blair and his supporters never went away, and appear to continue to exert significant influence.


Igor Belanov 08.13.15 at 11:16 am

The whole problem is the concept of ‘electability’. We’re not talking about the mid-1990s here when there was a clear three-party system and Labour could also count on the third party taking votes from an unpopular government. There are forces pulling on opposition parties to move in all directions if they want to try and capture votes for short-term gain. In this sense there is no reason why Kendall, Cooper or Burnham would win votes rather than Corbyn, in a certain sense they might even lose them if they adopt the kind of lukewarm non-opposition they offered over the Welfare Bill.

IMHO, the collapse of the New Labour project under the weight of two election defeats and the contradictory shifts in opinion that make it difficult to identify whose votes to chase/retain have made the Labour Party unsustainable. The support that Corbyn has achieved is remarkable when compared to the weakness of the Left inside and outside the Labour Party over the past thirty years. They can’t afford to appease the party’s establishment again just in order to save a spurious unity.


faustusnotes 08.13.15 at 11:24 am

If he does become PM, I hope he repays Blair for this disgraceful act of treachery by doing what should have been done years ago: charging him with war crimes and sending him to the Hague.


FBH 08.13.15 at 12:25 pm

I actually think going left is a solid electoral strategy for labour.

Labour’s problem last election was that it was unable to keep progressive voters, and it was unable to get its base to turn out. Scotland left labour not because of nationalism but because it had gone too right wing. Renationalization of the railways and the like is overwhelmingly popular with white working class voters of the kind who currently vote UKIP.

Labour’s problem at the last election was not “We’re not enough like the Tories.” which is what seems to be what they’re offering. It was that there was no reason to vote for them. Time and again labour refused to be left wing, and it lost them the election.


Layman 08.13.15 at 12:49 pm

“The others have taken the standard view that the financial crash was simply a matter of bad people doing bad things, and that once they have all been dealt with it is back to free-market business as usual.”

Even this view is lightly held, since hardly any of the ‘bad people’ have been ‘dealt with’ anyway.


engels 08.13.15 at 1:03 pm


Anspen 08.13.15 at 2:24 pm

If he does become PM, I hope he repays Blair for this disgraceful act of treachery by doing what should have been done years ago: charging him with war crimes and sending him to the Hague.

Slightly off-topic but a government can’t simply send someone to The Hague. The ICC has to prosecute first and it can only do so if :
a) there is enough evidence (naturally)
b) The crime was committed by someone from or in the jurisdiction of a signatory country.
c) the country itself is incapable or unwilling to prosecute said individual.

If the Chilcot inquiry every publish its results, and if it contains evidence that Blair decided to go to war without a direct threat to the UK and if the Crown Prosecution Service then decides it will not go after Blair, then and only then could the ICC start proceedings.

All which is quite unlikely, international politics being what they are. Which is a shame, not just because as far as public records show, Blair should at least be prosecuted, or because even a failed trial would keep the fear of justicein the heart of many a warmongering leader but also because it would show that the ICC isn’t just a western show prop that only goes after African warlords.


nick s 08.13.15 at 4:27 pm

In short, there are no good outcomes here, and many disastrous ones. Labour is f****d.

Perhaps that nice Ed Miliband could be persuaded to run the show for a while. (Less flippantly, the current mess it’s a sign that he should have stayed on for at least a short while.)


Phil 08.13.15 at 5:15 pm

Anspen @71 is right to say that Blair isn’t going to the Hague any time soon, but wrong about the reasons. Any signatory govt can refer a suspected war criminal to the Hague for prosecution, particularly in a case where the war criminal’s own govt is not prosecuting. The problem is that, although the founding charter of the ICC includes the crime of waging aggressive war, that offence hasn’t yet been defined in detail; it’s a placeholder, awaiting the outcome of a future (and as yet unplanned AFAIK) international conference. Blair *could* be prosecuted for crimes in the conduct of the Iraq war, but that’s not likely to happen for a variety of reasons.


Daragh 08.13.15 at 5:32 pm

Chris @63 – a very principled and eloquently argued stance. I hope that your conclusions are wrong, but I fear that they aren’t.

Engels – Just because Mearsheimer (and for that matter, Walt) continue to insist that Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine is simply the latest example of the essential correctness of neo-realism, doesn’t mean that they actually know what they’re talking about regarding post-Soviet politics.


Cian 08.13.15 at 6:45 pm

Daragh – whereas calling the Russian government a ‘theocracy’ demonstrates that you do know what you’re talking about?


novakant 08.13.15 at 7:19 pm

Well, Press TV is based in Tehran, so half a point to Daragh, but the explanatory value of the word “theocracy” is rather limited when applied to Iran and one can’t help but wonder if the term isn’t used for rhetorical effect rather than to help further understanding of the country and its politics which happen to be quite complex.


christian_h 08.13.15 at 10:54 pm

Daragh pointed out that Corbyn is arguably wrong on some things. True. Where he is wrong, or where a debate can be had that he is, it is fair to be critical. What is not acceptable is to argue that because Corbyn is wrong on X this means you must vote for people who supported the invasion of Iraq, or voted to triple tuition fees, or think spending billions on Trident is the way to go, or make excuses for racists (“justified concerns”).

Chris Bertram’s position I do not understand. If Labour is doomed (and as I wrote earlier I agree it is) what good does it do to prolong the suffering by voting for the best business as usual available as opposed to gambling on blowing business as usual up?


js. 08.13.15 at 11:35 pm

Just wanted to say — Thanks to Harry for posting this and to Phil and others for posting very helpful comments. As someone who’s not very knowledgeable about the topic, I’ve found this thread really helpful. Also, this probably comes as less of a surprise to British readers, but I’m a little dismayed by how thoroughly New Labour the Guardian has been, as in their endorsement of Yvette Cooper today. I mean, I know a little bit of the relevant history, but it’s just not ’97 anymore.


engels 08.13.15 at 11:58 pm


Igor Belanov 08.14.15 at 7:06 am

@ js

If you think the ‘Guardian’ is bad then avoid watching the BBC. Their pro-establishment line is so openly biased they’ve pretty much come out to tell people to vote for anyone but Corbyn.

@ engels

Well done for discovering that quote Fred.


kidneystones 08.14.15 at 4:19 pm

Corbyn is the best news the Labour party has had in a long, long time. We can be sure Corbyn is going to fight for the Chilcot report’s publication with a fire that no other candidate can replicate, one of the many positions the public actually supports. All familiar with the career ambitions of the professional political class know that Corbyn’s most dedicated enemies are Labour fat-cats. It will be exceedingly interesting to see how well he dispatches them, or sets them against one another. My hope is that he puts the current gang on notice – half will not be on the front bench this time next year. Harriet? This is what a feminist looks like? It’s going to be a great big bun-fight. Contra Chris, Labour comes out ahead no matter who the leader is in 18 months. Corbyn will force a discussion and an airing of issues that’s long overdue, and without which Labour truly is dead.


Anspen 08.14.15 at 4:53 pm

Blimey, they’re really in complete panic mode over at Labour HQ and affiliate media, aren’t they? Not only are they dragging up Gordon Brown after finally realising Blair is the worst person to convince the Corbyn voters (not that Brown is likely to do much better), the Guardian is giving tactical advice on how to (possibly) stop Corbyn and now they are down to <celebrity endorsements (or celebrity disapproval as may be the case).

I also love Jim Murphy saying Scottish Labour should stick to his strategy instead of moving in the direction of Corbyn. Because apparently nothing says success like losing all but one of your Westminster MPs.

Phil @73: That is indeed true, I stand corrected. Looking a bit into the matter I see that not only will the ICC not be able to pursue crimes of aggression until at best 2018. Every member country has the ability to say they are excluded from that part. You would almost think some European politicians want to be able to bomb foreign countries without any risks to themselves.


engels 08.14.15 at 5:00 pm

“Corbyn will force a discussion and an airing of issues that’s long overdue, and without which Labour truly is dead”

Well said. Another immediate positive is the effect it’s already having in forcing others in the party leftward (eg. Burnham).


Salem 08.14.15 at 5:08 pm

It says a great deal about where Labour is as a party right now that some of the members would prefer to take their lead from former leaders like Brown and Milliband, untainted as they are by success or popularity.


kidneystones 08.14.15 at 5:15 pm

@82 Quite right. I took a good look around. They’re hedging their bets. It’s like reading Daily Mail coverage of Farage. They can’t bear him, but realize a substantial block of readers are sick to death of the poseur class. Andy et al seems to be digging himself an extremely deep hole. Attacking the ‘credibility’ of the individual the public evidently prefers isn’t going to be easy to walk back. The Guardian endorses Yvette, I think, a smarmy safe play. They need the Labour reader. Greens, the SNP, and to a lesser degree UKIP, have real cause to worry. I hope he takes it.

@83 Cheers. You must be delighted!


harry b 08.14.15 at 5:30 pm

the celeb endorsement link is broken — is it steve coogan supporting, or opposing, corbyn (quick googling doesn’t quite nail it down)?


Marc 08.14.15 at 6:13 pm

This is profoundly depressing. The Tories are a nasty lot, and from the outside it appears that Labor is engaging in a sort of circular firing squad instead of rethinking matters. If Labor elects someone regarded by the majority in England as an extremist, is there anything stopping the Tories from calling an election and getting a blowout majority?


Stephen 08.14.15 at 7:08 pm

Engels@83: rather to my surprise, I find myself on the whole agreeing with you.


engels 08.14.15 at 7:47 pm

Glad to hear it, Stephen.


harry b 08.14.15 at 9:23 pm


actually… yes, the coalition passed an act which makes it impossible for the PM to call an election. Either there’d have to be a vote of no-confidence, or 2/3rds of the MPs would have to call for an election. Both are very unlikely.


Haftime 08.14.15 at 10:42 pm

Or pass an act that revokes the original act, which would need a simple majority (unless someone knows different). Not that that is particularly likely.

The link above is:
Steve Coogan is pro-Burnham. Because he thinks Burnham is both radical and electable.


js. 08.14.15 at 10:52 pm

Maybe Corbyn could get Damon Albarn to endorse him. It’ll really be like the ’90s all over again!


ZM 08.14.15 at 11:59 pm

To be honest, as I am not a UK citizen, my favourite thing about the 2015 UK elections was Bez from The Happy Mondays standing for election. I never would have guessed that in the 90s


Dipper 08.15.15 at 6:21 am

@82 yes. Scotland is the issue that hasn’t been properly discussed.

– There is no way a labour party in its current incarnation can win in Scotland.
– If the labour party cannot win in Scotland then there is no way it can form a majority government and will need SNP support.
– There is no way England will vote for a party that will allow the SNP into government. as proved by the late swing at the last election.


djr 08.15.15 at 11:03 am

Scotland really isn’t as critical as you suggest. Not only did Blair win a majority of the English seats in his three elections, but in 1997 and 2001 Labour MPs from England and Wales had more than half the seats in the entire HoC.

While I don’t think that Labour needs SNP support to govern in the future, it was certainly the case in this election that a Labour majority looked unlikely and a Lab+SNP coalition looked like it could have happened, and the Tories and right-wing press scaremongered this for all they were worth. Saying that the Scottish people’s chosen political representatives can’t be legitimately part of a government seemed to be chasing short-term electoral gain at a cost of weakening the union.


Anspen 08.15.15 at 11:12 am

True, but with the boundary changes it will be harder for Labour to win seats in England. Besides, it makes sense to go for seats that are (at least somewhat) more to the left compared to the average English seat.


djr 08.15.15 at 3:36 pm

It doesn’t matter whether it’s hard or not, to win in 2020 Labour need to take seats off the Tories in England. Otherwise the Tories will still have a majority whatever happens in Scotland. As a matter of political strategy, choosing to go left to capture votes from the SNP would be a mistake.


Richard Cottrell 08.15.15 at 3:53 pm

In response to Marc, the Fixed Term (5 Years) Parliament Act passed by the Coalition. Except in extraordinary circumstances, and Corbyn winning the election for the Labour leadership would not be one of them, Cameron cannot go to the country until 2020. If he loses his narrow majority, he would have to soldier on. If anything Corbyn as Labour leader would cement Tory rule without any need for snap elections, irrespective of the fixed term law.


chris y 08.15.15 at 4:05 pm

Marc @87: A circular firing squad is the natural resting position of the Labour party and always has been.

Richard Cottrell: If Cameron loses his majority he may be subject to a vote of no confidence, in which case an election would ensue if he couldn’t cobble a coalition together.


Salem 08.15.15 at 4:14 pm

Cameron can’t use the prerogative powers to call an election on his personal say-so. But as long as he can get his MPs to go with him (and why wouldn’t he?), he easily call an election; just amend or repeal the Fixed Term Parliament Act.


Metatone 08.15.15 at 4:19 pm

@djr – to repeat Chris B; Labour is f!d.

If you go to the left, you don’t gain the floating voter in the marginal Tory constituency.

If you go to the right, you will lose more seats to the rise of UKIP in the North and Midlands. (Indeed, many of the close seats lost by Labour this time around had a clear element of loss of votes from Labour to UKIP – Ed Balls’ constituency is the canonical example.)

Of course this doesn’t appear to make sense – UKIP isn’t a left-wing party on the face of it – but they are a protest party and good at attracting different votes in different places.

Now you could push to the right and hope that the EU referendum leads to the implosion of UKIP – and that may potentially be the best bet. But it’s only a bet.

(One of the signal failings of those to the right of Corbyn has been to pretend that they have the silver bullet, when it’s clear that there is a hard problem.)


Joe Perry 08.15.15 at 4:53 pm

Surprised no-one has mentioned this yet:

Seems to call the Corbyn unelectability line into question quite seriously.


chris y 08.15.15 at 5:19 pm

Of course this doesn’t appear to make sense – UKIP isn’t a left-wing party on the face of it – but they are a protest party and good at attracting different votes in different places.

Then the trick for Corbyn would be to reclaim the protest vote for Labour without losing the pseudo-Tories on his right. It would be a good trick if he pulled it off.


Stephen 08.15.15 at 5:21 pm

Though Corbyn’s heart is sometimes in the right place (after all, he did vote against Bush’s and Blair’s fathomlessly stupid and dishonest Iraq war) he does have trouble with financial numbers. See the blog of Jolyon Maugham QC, a fairly serious tax lawyer, for a dispassionate analysis of why Corbyn’s numbers don’t add up.

Maybe it’s not fair to call them Corbyn’s numbers. He seems to have taken them wholesale from Richard Murphy, a retired accountant whose contact with reality is sometimes debatable.


kidneystones 08.16.15 at 1:35 am

@104 and others. Your critique of Corbyn is spot on. Yet, as Farage, Trump, Syriza and others have shown, voters are not looking at people of clear opinion as fonts of pure reason, or for infallibility. Corbyn will not be doing the numbers when/if he becomes Labour leader and then perhaps leader of the UK. What people are sick to death of are a permanent political class who are also permanent spongers on the tax-payer tit, whether it be through publicly funded think tanks, political offices, or government employment. Corbyn can expect to lose as many, or more, arguments than he wins. What Corbyn supporters, I suspect, are betting on, is that Labour will have real debates and fights about the future of the UK, debates that will reflect the will of various constituencies. The outcome of these debates is very much in question. Labour will have to get it right, or lose again. A great many of Labour’s problems stem from refusing to allow ordinary people a part in political decisions – Alastair Campbell’s insulting demeanor and remarks towards those wishing for an opportunity to vote on EU membership, after Labour’s historic defeat, stand out.


Metatone 08.16.15 at 9:09 am

Today Corbyn is trailing proposals for training, small businesses and entrepreneurs.
They aren’t perfect, but they are a great example of what the other 3 have failed to do – actually try putting something out there to speak to people currently not voting for him.

This is why the mainstream candidates make me so angry – they have been so inept, so Corbyn is winning through a combination of a bit of authenticity and a bit of competence at getting elected…


Metatone 08.16.15 at 9:11 am

The procedure is, you win the party election and then you move to the centre.

Corbyn, we fear, will not move to the centre – but the others fail at the strategy of winning the party election. That is serious incompetence.


Stephen 08.16.15 at 9:22 am

kidneystones@105: the record of the Syriza government is not a good advertisement for the effects of a Corbynesque combination of enthusiasm, clear opinions and inability to understand numbers. But as for his candidature provoking Labour supporters to argue about important issues, that can only be beneficial.


Daragh 08.16.15 at 10:21 am

Metatone @107 – that’s a depressingly accurate summary of the situation.


kidneystones 08.16.15 at 11:19 am

@107 Evidently you believe that 2014-15 represents some kind of Labour renaissance and that the public would actually flock to the professional politicians and less successful oxbridge toffs who populate Labour’s front bench were these twits better at dissembling.

@108. Stephen, you miss the point, I fear. Corbyn’s candidacy is not a coronation, or the election of a Pope, or even vindication of his politicies, but rather a healthy move towards character and democracy. Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell, Chuka, Yvette, and Liz all have less respect for people like you and I than even David Cameron and the conservatives. The public rightly recognizes this contempt even when it’s veiled, hence the wailing. The entire left-wing ‘establishment’, and let’s be clear – this is an establishment like any other – bent only on perpetuating and promoting the interests of that elite cabal, is shitting bricks precisely because Labour might actually start to stand for something, once more. Re: Syriza’s errors, we don’t know yet what the outcome in Greece will be.

One thing is clear health tourism is going to be a critical issue Check this out:

“Nigel Farage said that health tourism was cheating those entitled to NHS treatment from receiving the best possible care. Farage argued that visitors to the UK should have their health insurance checked at the border and be banned from Britain if they cannot cover their NHS care. Farage said that other countries made the checks and argued it was time for the UK to do the same.”

Actually, the quote is from Frank Field, chair of the Labour parliamentary group on migration.

Corbyn’s success is the product of a decade of establishment Labour self-interest, censorship and cynicism. No wonder Labour elites are terrified.

Mr Field, Labour MP for Birkenhead and former Minister of Welfare Reform, said: “We run a National Health Service, not an international aid service.


Chris Bertram 08.16.15 at 11:58 am

“One thing is clear health tourism is going to be a critical issue”

Do you have any evidence for this remarkable claim?


kidneystones 08.16.15 at 12:33 pm

@ Hi Chris. I knew that would twist your knickers.

Why don’t you email Frank Field and ask him directly? You can call him a bigot and a xenophobe for broaching the topic while you’re at it. That’s your default tactic to bully dissenters into silence, well-documented here. Not going to work much longer, I fear.

British people are eminently fair-minded and welcome immigrants. A points-based immigration policy and controlled borders is normal behavior in dictatorships like Canada, Australia, and Japan. You don’t want to let people have that discussion for reasons that entirely escape me.

I suspect what really bothers you about having a Corbyn candidacy is that a great many potential Green supporters are going to rally to Corbyn’s side, should he win. Why not declare your fear and self-interest for once. Both are palpable.


djr 08.16.15 at 12:37 pm

How to be a successful left-of-centre party is clearly a hard problem.

New Labour was an attempt to solve this problem in the context of 20 years ago: post-Thatcher, post-winter of discontent, post-Cold War. The question for the leadership election is how to do it for today, having learned the lessons of the Blair years.

Corbyn and supporters seem to me to want to reject Blairism in totality. But can that be done in a way that doesn’t also abandon the “winning elections” part? Is there a way to get the good (minimum wage, improving living standards for the bottom 10% shown on the graph in Daniel’s recent post, progress on social change such as gay rights) without the bad?


novakant 08.16.15 at 1:09 pm

Yeah, Thatcher fanboy Frank Field is the man to renew the Labour Party!


Chris Bertram 08.16.15 at 1:16 pm

@kidneystones I didn’t bully anyone or call anyone a bigot or a xenophobe, I merely asked for evidence to support a claim that you (not FF) made. Incidentally, if you were better informed on the subject, you’d know that the UK already has a points-based immigration system.


engels 08.16.15 at 1:51 pm

“get the good … shown on the graph in Daniel’s recent post”

Does it show that? I thought it showed little difference between last years of Major and Blair: rising median incomes and static inequality, already at a high level post-Thatcher


kidneystones 08.16.15 at 1:57 pm

@ 115. Chris, you routinely suggest that discussions of immigration betray/confirm xenophobia and racism. These are the acts of a cynic, a coward, and a bully. Your ludicrous assertion that immigration into Britain from the EU is controlled by a points system similar to that employed by Canada, or Japan, is similarly cynical and dishonest.

Re: FF. You’re right. The health tourism claim set up the Farage ruse, but you know that, don’t you. Lots of Labour supporters want a discussion about immigration, one free of accusations of racism and xenophobia. Corbyn’s unapologetic embrace of open discussion is going to allow that discussion to take place. Bet that scares the daylights out of you.


engels 08.16.15 at 1:58 pm

“Is there a way to get the good (minimum wage”

This is easy to determine: is anyone proposing to scrap the minimum wage? Answer: no.


engels 08.16.15 at 2:04 pm

(And ditto gay rights, which moved forward in US, Ireland, etc – crediting Blair/New Labour for that is Al-Gore-invented-the-internet territory…)


Chris Bertram 08.16.15 at 2:17 pm

@kidneystones “Your ludicrous assertion …” No, my assertion was that the UK has a points-based immigration system. And so it does, for non-EU migrants. EU migrants are, of course, beneficiaries of a common labour market. Similarly, Australia has a point-based system for those migrants outside the zone of countries with whom it has similar arrangements, hence the ease with which New Zealanders can work there.

By all means call me a “cynic, a coward and a bully” and any other insults you like, but if you carry on like this, you’ll soon find Crooked Timber is closed to you as a forum.


djr 08.16.15 at 2:21 pm

You’re right, all of those things would clearly have happened in John Major’s third term. Now that we have them, why bother having a Labour party at all?


kidneystones 08.16.15 at 2:25 pm

@ 120. Thanks very much. Your post makes your fidelity to the truth and to fair-minded discussion on all topics crystal clear. Enjoy the elections!


engels 08.16.15 at 3:05 pm

“why bother having a Labour party at all?”

Er – to oppose Thatcherism instead of pink-washing it? Sounds crazy I know…


djr 08.16.15 at 5:01 pm

Oppose it as a party of protest, or oppose it by winning elections?

(And, as I said previously, if you think the answer is the second one, and that Corbyn won’t achieve this, how to get that without all the bad stuff that we got with Blair?)


Igor Belanov 08.16.15 at 5:10 pm

As Labour’s recent antics over the Welfare Bill have made clear, the party’s current de facto leadership wouldn’t change anything if it did win the next election, and Tony Blair actually said that he wouldn’t want to win an election with left-wing policies. The ‘pragmatists’ within Labour are struggling like hell to try and win an election in their own party.

So I think we can see that the ‘electability’ argument is a bit of a red herring. What the centre and right of the Labour Party are really worried about is losing face and favour with the establishment.


engels 08.16.15 at 5:21 pm

“Oppose it as a party of protest or oppose it by winning elections” 2 “if you think the answer is the second one and that Corbyn won’t achieve this” I don’t. HTH


Stephen 08.16.15 at 7:01 pm

Chris re kidneystones: all right, I can see why you’re annoyed. But it would clarify things enormously if you would explain what exactly your position is on immigration. (You might say, look at my posts over many previous years, that’ll make things clear: but for those who don’t have the leisure to do that, could you clarify, please?)

It seems to me that there are a range of positions as far as the UK is concerned:
1) No more immigration should be allowed.
2) Some more immigration should be allowed, but with more strict criteria than now.
3) More immigration should be allowed, and we’ve got the rate about right.
4) Much more immigration should be allowed, with less strict criteria than now.
5) There should be no obstacles to immigration.

Similarly, with regard to the current illegal (unauthorised? undocumented?) immigrants, there is a range of options:
A) All illegal immigrants should be sought out and sent back.
B) Some egregious illegal immigrants should be sent back, but we shouldn’t look too hard and should turn a blind eye where appropriate.
C) All immigrants, legal or otherwise, should be welcomed.

I don’t know what your opinions are on these matters. Could you explain?


kidneystones 08.16.15 at 9:28 pm

@126. You’ll like this, I think, from Gordon Brown via the Mail

It had been suggested that Mr Brown…might back Yvette Cooper’s leadership bid but that did not materialize. Mr Brown said Labour was ‘grieving’ following the general election defeat. He added: ‘We are grieving and it hurts. And I’m not here to attack any individual candidate. And I’m not here to say abandon your high ideals.

See? Brown, Blair, Campbell and their fellow travelers are the ones with principles. Seems like Brown couldn’t bring himself to Corbyn’s name.

Shape up, will you?


engels 08.17.15 at 12:21 am


Chris Bertram 08.17.15 at 6:40 am

@Stephen No, because this isn’t my thread, and immigration isn’t the subject of it. I asked kidneystones to give some evidence for one claim he made (see #111 above). I wasn’t intending to derail the thread, nor to provoke a stream of personal abuse.


Vasilis Vassalos 08.17.15 at 7:00 am

“Yet, as Farage, Trump, Syriza and others have shown” I can’t think of a more damning thing to say about SYRIZA. You forgot LePen by the way.


VeeLow 08.17.15 at 5:30 pm

Guardian editorial by David Milband (who, uh, “writes here in a personal capacity”)–& he endorses……Liz Kendall. I’d summarize his arguments, but there aren’t any.

(OK, maybe “OMG Tory dictatorship foreverz!” would suffice.)

The commentariat, is, well, less than entirely persuaded….


Stephen 08.17.15 at 8:23 pm

Chris@130: the thread is, as I understand it, about candidates for the Labour leadership, to which opinions about immigration are not entirely irrelevant. But if you don’t want to take that further, I understand.

I hope you don’t think I have been contributing to a stream of personal abuse.


Stephen 08.17.15 at 8:24 pm

Veelow@132: by writing of “Tory dictatorship” you are, I hope unintentionally, belittling the sufferings of those who have endured actual dictatorships.


Igor Belanov 08.18.15 at 7:08 am

I think Veelow is paraphrasing the daft arguments of the likes of David Miliband rather than giving an analysis of British politics.


kidneystones 08.18.15 at 3:13 pm

Should Corbyn win? I say yes, if principles count. What will happen should Corbyn win is becoming clearer. Granted that it is not all clear that Corbyn will win, but should Corbyn win several things will happen.

Liz Kendall will flip-flop and call for a forensic investigation to find out who precisely voted for whom. Good to see her true colors emerge.

Yvette Cooper will be leader in waiting as the Labour elite devote all the energies to destroying Corbyn’s personal and political life.

Andy Burnham looks to do well after claiming he’s ready to embrace ‘large swaths’ of Corbyn’s positions.

David Cameron will pretend to care about something or other and ‘demonstrate’ leadership. Losing to Cameron, again, should have been enough for even the densest to understand that someone like Corbyn is the only way forward for Labour.

There will be debates on all the big, taboo issues, such as health tourism – whether unemployed youths can be forced to work (no), and, of course, very likely a free vote on EU membership. Green issues will be a major part of the Labour for the first time really, and Britain will be rethinking all its defense and foreign policy commitments.

(Cheers, Stephen!)


novakant 08.18.15 at 4:41 pm

The UK government estimates the cost of “health tourism” with “deliberate intent” at between £20-100 million. And if you want to add those who are considered to “take advantage”, a category which includes expat British citizens going home for treatment, you can apparently add another 50-200 million.

So “health tourism” all adds up to £70-300 million, if the government is to be believed – the NHS budget 2013/14 was £95.6 billion so that is somewhere between 0.07-0.3%.


novakant 08.18.15 at 4:46 pm

PS the last time I went down to Marylebone the predominantly Arab and African “health tourists” there were spending small fortunes for ridiculously overpriced private care.


kidneystones 08.19.15 at 5:46 am

@ 137. Good point and well supported. Best, free of any suggestion that raising the question implies racism or xenophobia. This seems by far the most effective way of responding to questions/concerns. I wonder what you think about this from the Independent:

“The majority of UK graduates are being forced into jobs which do not need their talents, according to a newly-published study. Research for the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development), which represents human resource managers, shows 58.8 per cent of UK graduates have ended up in non-graduate jobs – a figure exceeded only by Greece and Estonia….The report’s findings emerge as UK universities are about to enrol a record number of graduates this autumn following the Government’s decision to lift the cap on the number of students universities can recruit.”

I support free universal access to education through extension schools, etc. However, I believe access to universities should be restricted on the basis of skills and that promotion and graduation should also be difficult to achieve.


tomsk 08.19.15 at 11:22 am


You’ve spent the thread claiming on unspecified grounds that health tourism is a hugely salient issue, and novakant seems to have shown rather convincingly that it’s trivial in the wider NHS context. Perhaps you’d care to respond to this? Rather than continuing this bold but puzzling foray into university admissions policy, I mean.


kidneystones 08.19.15 at 12:26 pm

@ 140. I’ve responded to novakant and I have no opinion on health tourism.

My position is that all topics, including health tourism, should be discussed in precisely the terms novakant employs, free from accusations that broaching a topic confirms hidden racist views. Why is this important? Because Labour elites did their level best to suppress and demonize labour voters concerned over immigration, health tourism, and abuses of the NHS. In an Observer poll taken just prior to the last election 48 percent of the UK public favored UKIP’s position on immigration over that of the Labour party, which enjoyed 12 percent. Now, I’m certain that you can do the maths and determine that part of UKIPs 48 percent came from Labour supporters unhappy at being told that Labour would not permit British voters to vote on EU membership. This decision, taken by Labour some two years ago had catastrophic effects on Labour policy. Confronted steadily by polls indicating British voters, including Labour supporters, were increasingly unhappy at the Cameron government’s ability to predict and control the number of immigrants from the EU. Rather than take a strong moral stand defending immigrants rights, Labour instead made two very bad cynical decisions: imitate Cameron and become the party of Tory-lite and brand any and all attempts to discuss an EU vote as racist and xenophobic. That strategy had two very serious and predictable consequences. Rank and file traditional Labour voters in the north objected strenuously at being told by the London/Oxbridge elite that as British citizens, they had no right to vote on EU membership, because the London elite had made that decision for them. North of the border the SNP were quick to point to the Tory-lite policies of modern Labour to a community of voters in Scotland, traditional Labour supporters, who had much more in common with Corbyn. So, at election time Scottish Labour supporters deserted the party in droves. South of the border, Labour defections to UKIP and the Greens cost Labour in key constituencies. Even after the defeat Campbell and company were still sneering at Labour supporters who wanted an EU referendum. Only when the internal polls came out did we have the three failing Labour leadership candidates copying Corbyn and arguing for an EU referendum, about two years too late.

Health tourism is a core part of UKIP’s message:

Novakant presents the sensible and effective response to Labour voters’ anxieties. Don’t insult the fearful and the anxious – listen carefully and (for some, the really hard part) respectfully to “white van man.” Present the facts and keep the lines of communication open, rather than shut.

Does any of this make any sense to you?


Chris Bertram 08.19.15 at 1:35 pm

@kidneystones “Because Labour elites did their level best to suppress and demonize labour voters concerned over immigration…”

Whereas in fact, here’s Yvette Cooper in 2014

“On the other hand some liberal commentators seem to think talking about immigration at all is reactionary, and concern about immigration is irrational. They give the impression that immigration is all and always good, and should all be encouraged.”


“Let’s be clear, it isn’t racist to be worried about immigration or to want immigration reform.”

Not to mention the Ed Stone and the immigration mug.

People have been whining that they’re “not allowed to talk about immigration” since the 1960s whilst not stopping talking about it, and Labour politicians, far from suppressing such talk, have been in the forefront of it.


Igor Belanov 08.19.15 at 1:41 pm

Yes, and Labour support for membership of the EU is based, rightly or wrongly, on the idea that it is economically beneficial for industry and a valuable source of funding for depressed areas, rather than because the party is pro-immigration.

There is also a perfectly good argument to be made that there is no need for a referendum on EU membership and that it would essentially be an opportunistic sideshow.


kidneystones 08.19.15 at 3:40 pm

@143 Irrespective of any argument you or I may wish to make about the need for a referendum on EU membership, Labour’s leadership promised to deny voters this referendum prior to getting hammered this year. After getting hammered, all three establishment candidates have now decided to support an EU referendum.

My position stated here and in the aftermath of the election is that opposing the referendum in the two years prior to the election led Labour to make some extremely poor policy decisions Tory lite, because they wanted to be seen as being tough on immigration, whilst keeping the doors open – leading to policies such as denying legal immigrants certain rights. These Tory lite policies drove away traditional Labour voters in Scotland, alienated others who moved to the Greens, and did not do enough to satisfy Labour voters concerned about immigration, who migrated to UKIP.

Corbyn offers a real choice for Labour and real hope that there will be an honest, fair, and optimistic discussion about immigration, about EU membership, green issues, about university fees, Trident, and the rest that would/will never have taken place the same way had/should the others win.

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