Saturday, September 12, 2015

So raise the scarlet standard high

Welcome Crooks & Liars Readers!

Updated version correcting an idiotic error called out by commenter Brett at NMMNB:
Photo by Justin Tallis/AFP via Arte.
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne is teddibly concerned for the unfortunate British Labour Party, which has just elected "hard-left" Jeremy Corbyn to the party leadership:
I can’t help noticing that, for most of my childhood and early adult life, a succession of Labour Party leaders reformed the constitution of the Labour Party. Neil Kinnock did, John Smith did, Tony Blair did, to make sure that it was more rooted in what the British people wanted. And it does seem, as an external observer, that a generation’s work has been unravelled in the space of 12 months.
If he thought they were so great I wonder why he didn't vote for them. I mean, isn't he British people himself?

Over in America at the National Review, ex-British Thought Leader Charles C.W. (Cruel World) Cooke is even more upset:
This is an absolute disaster for progressive politics in Britain. A disaster. In the last forty years, the Labour Party has won only three elections, all of them under the leadership of the moderate Tony Blair. Blair’s key insight into the British public was that it would tolerate a certain amount of government intrusion, but that overtly socialistic parties would be destroyed at the polls — “annihilated” in his memorable words. That having learned this lesson Labour has seen fit to choose a leader who is to the left of Michael Foot defies all belief....
The man’s a red – and proud of it. 
We know how important it is to Cookie that progressive politics should thrive in Britain. He must be inconsolable. (He also knows "red" means something different to his 80-year-old American readers than it does to UK Labour voters. Why the New York Times and their Red-Menace correspondent Steven Erlanger seem unaware that "hard left" is an antiquated propaganda term I don't know.)

As a matter of fact, in the last 40 years, the Labour Party has lost six elections, and only once under the leadership of a politician of the "hard left" tendency, sweet old Michael Foot (he was 70) in 1983. Other than that it was once under "capitalist realist" (i.e. neoliberal) Sunny Jim Callaghan, twice under Neil Kinnock, trying like a Democrat to seem less left than he naturally was, in a gray flannel suit and a de facto war with the party Militants throughout his time as leader; once under Gordon Brown trying for an inconceivable fourth-in-a-row Labour term and handicapped by public disenchantment with the party under Tony Blair, the privatization program, and the Iraq War, which he could hardly criticize, having been chancellor the whole time—
Of the five million votes that Labour lost in its 13 years in power, four million went awol under Blair's leadership. It wasn't so-called "Middle England" that deserted the party. According to Ipsos MORI, while middle-class professional support for Labour declined by five percentage points between 1997 and 2010, support among skilled workers plummeted by 21 per cent. (Owen Jones/Independent)
—and once under poor Ed Miliband, defeated as much, I continue to insist, from the left (Scottish National Party and Greens) as the right, along with the chronic lack of voter enthusiasm (since turnout began to be measured there was never since 1922 a general election in the UK with turnout under 70% until Blair's second victory in 2001 with a dismal voting rate of 59.4%, and it's been under 70% in every one since, though it's getting better). So Cookie's argument is just entirely empty; the success of the SNP and Greens this year shows indeed that voters in a lot of constituencies are delighted to come out for an openly leftist candidate.

Indeed you could argue that the "annihilation" he's talking about, in the 1983 Foot contest, when Margaret Thatcher won a huge 144-seat majority with 42.4% of the vote, happened not because the voters preferred the Conservatives—they clearly did not—but because Labour's disloyal right wing walked out and started its stupid Social Democrat–Liberal alliance and confused the public. And please note that it was they, the Liberal Democrats as they are now called, not Labour, who eventually committed effective suicide (decades later, after a long illness, when they ran as members of a Conservative coalition and saw themselves reduced from 57 to 8 seats in the 2015 election).

That's my biggest fear about a Bernie Sanders candidacy, by the way; not that the public would reject Sanders's program, which is hardly radical compared to Corbyn's, or even that the media would make him sound like the second coming of Eugene V. Debs, which they certainly would, but especially that the Hedge-Fund Democrats, the people who fund candidates like Andrew Cuomo and Charles Schumer and Dianne Feinstein and Ron Wyden (hey, thanks, Dianne and Ron, for voting the right way on the Iran agreement, not often I get a chance to say something nice about you and I don't want to miss the opportunity), will jump off the train if Sanders is nominated and attempt to push some kind of No Labels campaign for some unspeakable candidate like Harold Ford to guarantee the election of JEB! (the media attempt to destroy Sanders being just one part of this large corporate effort). I would also expect in the event of such a terrible thing that Hillary Clinton would, unhappily but firmly, back Bernie, just as I expect Bernie to back her.

In the case of Jeremy Corbyn and a renewed Labour, though, I think it's a little early to go around making predictions one way or the other. The next general election doesn't come due until 2020, for one thing, and that's a long way away. It's clear that his program is in part "rooted in what the British people want" (including the most socialist-in-the-strict-sense part of his program, re-nationalization of public goods like the railway system), but the public won't necessarily know that if the newspapers refuse to tell them. All the same, though, it's nice how the party seems to have cottoned to the idea of bringing out younger voters as part of a solution to their long-term difficulties, and it could be that they really know what they're doing.

Stay tuned!

More at Lawyers Guns & Money.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

And update: The Times runs a piece in which Steven Erlanger manages to use the term "hard left" only once, and in scare quotes, ending up, naturally, with dreamy thoughts of a new center party, as "not inconceivable" (in the original Erlangerese)—if Labour won't split maybe the Conservatives will!

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