Over the weekend, Dan Hodges, a right wing commentator, who claims to be ex Labour, wrote a piece stating that Owen Smith had lost the Leadership election. Essentially he argues that relying exclusively on his alleged superiority in winning an election is bogus, because he can’t. His argument was that while many Jeremy Corbyn supporters are maybe prepared to compromise to win the next election, they are not prepared to compromise to lose. This is pretty insightful for Hodges. What he and many in the PLP underestimate is the massive anger felt by many of the 200,000 Labour Party members who fought the 2015 general election being asked to concede the political offer to an inadequate front bench, an eventually demonstrably inadequate manifesto and an inadequate campaign. In his own words, Hodges says,
… There are a large number of Labour Party members who do understand the party needs to win power. Many of them – maybe even a majority – would be prepared to compromise on some of their principles if they thought it would deliver their party a victory.
But what they are not prepared to do is compromise those principles for another defeat.
That’s probably about right, although arguing about the size of the investment budget is not a debate about principle and neither is which currents within Keynesianism one supports.
The other significant contribution over the weekend, was that of Sadiq Kahn, the Labour Mayor of London. One should read his statement, but it comes down to the same argument, Jeremy is unelectable and so he is going to, and we should also, support Owen Smith. The problem is that Smith is not believed when he says he supports the same policies as Corbyn, he is certainly not believed when he promises to stand up to the massed ranks of media pressure and industrial lobbying that will descend upon any radical Labour Leader or Prime Minister. If we don’t accept Kahn’s analysis that Smith can win, why would we change our vote and support him.
Some of Smith’s supporters are rehashing their “Greater Mandate” argument supplemented this time by the argument that Kahn’s a winner. Kahn’s victory was won by a united Labour Party. His mandate belongs to us all. It can’t be used for or against a faction.
However, another reason we should read Kahn in his own words is that he pointedly undermines the argument about Entryism.
Some of the reactions to Kahn’s speech are no less acceptable for being expected (and for having taken so long to come to the fore), but those for whom self-victiming has become the tactic-du-jour, the booing of his name at a Corbyn rally in London is an excuse to smear the Left, a behaviour they adopt with alacrity. I said that part of Corbyn’s success is that he channels the anger felt by members about being let down by the Leadership last year, Kahn & Smith may have chosen the same wrong side in that this is about the PLP vs. the membership.
Here’s hoping the membership wins, and that Corbyn and those around him listen.