Labour in Crisis: A Statement from the ILP

The Labour Party is in mortal danger and the post-referendum crisis that now engulfs it genuinely threatens its very existence as a viable force in British politics.

Jeremy Corbyn could face a leadership election contest, a process that threatens to tear the Party apart in the run-up to a possible General Election in the autumn or the spring. Should he be re-elected it is likely that a number of Labour MPs would then break away. Should he lose, there may well be other splits.

Brexit imageIt all amounts to a catastrophic scenario for a Party under serious threat in its ‘heartlands’ from a surging and insidious UKIP. However inadequately the Party may have represented the weakest in society over recent years the prospect of its marginalisation is horrendous.

It is true that Corbyn does not possess some of the qualities conventionally expected of a leader of a modern political party; a lifetime of dissent fosters qualities of persistence and doggedness, which he has in abundance, but not necessarily the attributes needed to manage and lead a complex organisation. Nevertheless, it should not be forgotten that his first Shadow Cabinet was broadly based when he could have chosen a different course.

The challenges facing a Labour leader – any Labour leader – are colossal. The Party is in a historic crisis, assailed on all sides; it’s a crisis that goes far deeper than the leadership. No-one can underestimate the profound difficulties it faces in connecting with a disillusioned electorate whoever is leader. Indeed, to lay all the blame for the loss of the referendum at Corbyn’s door borders on ludicrous; the seeds of that revolt were sown a long time ago.

And yet, even given this difficult context, the Corbyn leadership’s performance in and out of Parliament leaves much to be desired and there are few signs of its anti-austerity message getting through to the electorate, nor of the ‘new kind of politics’ which Corbyn and his supporters so loudly promised. The upsurge in membership and enthusiasm around Corbyn’s election held out hope that a genuine grassroots, broad-based movement for change could be built around the party, connecting it with the wider community. Less than 12 months on, that hope appears to be dwindling rapidly.

In addition, Corbyn’s contribution to the referendum campaign should have started earlier and could have been more incisive. It was inevitably overshadowed by the media’s coverage of Tory in-fighting but the reported disruptive actions of some around him are a cause for concern.

Party principles

Therefore, we have to ask, not so much ‘who’ would replace Corbyn, as ‘what?’. For all the sound and fury, there has been remarkably little reflection by some of his opponents and former colleagues on what kind of political programme Labour should adopt.

Blairism is utterly bankrupt and while few of Corbyn’s critics can or should be dismissed as ‘Blairites’, the alternatives on offer in the 2015 leadership contest manifestly failed to inspire anyone. Corbyn’s critics have yet to come up with a political platform which offers something more than this.

Corbyn was elected by the membership with a mandate to lead the Party into the next General Election. His leadership is certain to be tested in another contest. If in the process Labour’s broad church collapses, the consequences will be incalculable.

All of this leaves us in desperate need for calm voices and considered statements. Unfortunately we hear calls from such figures as David Blunkett for the Momentum group to leave, and from some on the left for the wholesale de-selection of sitting MPs – neither offer a way forward and both represent the kind of provocation we can all do without.

Therefore, the ILP is reiterating the call it made during the leadership election campaign last year for all sides to commit to a set of principles that allow us to debate openly and fraternally, to find a way to rebuild the Party and challenge the Tories without tearing ourselves apart.

These principles include a commitment to sustaining Labour as a broad church: it is this character that gives it potential to have wide popularity and electoral appeal, and to serve as a vehicle for social justice.

It includes a commitment to pluralism, mutual respect and comradeship.

  • Pluralism is vital to recognising that all of us have the right to argue our politics within the Party.
  • Mutual respect is fundamental to accepting that other people and groups have the right to hold and voice different opinions to your own.
  • And comradeship is critical to the Party’s commitment to its common goals, ones we all hold despite our differences.

We also need to renew our commitment to democratic participation within the Party and an openness to those outside it. This is the fundamental basis on which the Party must rebuild, reconnect and again seize the political agenda.


  1. John Buckell
    12 August 2016

    I think the ILP’s statement – “Labour in Crisis” – is spot on, and right to refrain from espousing Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership outright. The present situation is more complex than that.

    After Corbyn was elected as leader last year, I had misgivings, but desperately wanted him to succeed. He clearly did not find his new role an easy one and made several mistakes, which was understandable – after all, he had little preparation for it. More serious was his lamentable failure during the referendum to present a convincing case for remaining in the EU. However, his election resulted in an unprecedented increase in Labour’s membership and a new spirit of hope in the party. I was appalled by the actions of his opponents in the parliamentary Labour party immediately after the referendum. An opportunity to attack the Tories for the disaster they created was lost. Instead we have the present divisive leadership election and all that has flowed from it.

    If Corbyn wins, as he probably will, we shall still have the problem of a conflict of mandates – Corbyn’s from the membership versus the MP’s own mandates from the electors in their constuencies. But in reality this is only the symptom of a deeper crisis which stems from the failures of the Blair/Brown governments, the disillusion they caused, and the loss of a connection with Labour’s traditional voters. Corbyn is good at identifying those failures and enthusing left-wing activists, but can he present a democratic socialist alternative capable of appealing to the wider electorate, including the wider Labour electorate?

    I’m trying not to despair at the present disunity. We all have more in common with other party members, of left, right and centre, than with Tories or far left groups outside the party. The diversity of views in the party is one of its greatest strengths. Whoever wins the leadership election, we should all unite behind him. It is most disappointing that Owen Smith has said he will not serve in a Corbyn shadow cabinet if Corbyn wins. The shadow cabinet should include people from all wings, (as to his credit Corbyn has done), and at least 50% women – including in the top jobs of Chancellor, Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary. MPs who tried to oust Corbyn must support him if he wins, and be prepared to serve to the best of their ability in his shadow cabinet. There must be no hint of deselection of MPs for differences of opinion.

    So when the ILP advocates respect for opposing views it is not about being nice – it is a political necessity to keep the party united and effective. If the party splits, as seems all too likely, there will not be two Labour parties – there will be no Labour party worth the name, no credible democratic socialist alternative, no political representation for the interests of working people, no effective defence against more Tory attacks, because the trade unions can’t do that on their own. This is the real issue in this election.

  2. Kenneth Curran Snr
    26 July 2016

    I feel David Connolly is correct, if the differences between the PLP are to be resolved it has to be done by dialogue, tolerance and respect to enable the Labour Party to remain as the democratic socialist alternative to capitalism. Those people who have raised their concerns about Corbyn have all raised matters of a personal
    nature. His beard, he doesn’t look like a leader, he is to laid back, he doesn’t listen. None of these complaints mention ideological differences between Corbyn and the PLP, yet I believe there are quite different ideologies separate Corbyn from the PLP.

    Those members of the PLP who first raised the question of Jeremy Corbyn’s suitability as Leader were not just challenging him, but the election itself. They may not publically be prepared to say so, but their stance suggests that they do not want ordinary party members involved in leadership elections. That in my humble opinion makes it a fundamental ideological division of opinion, however up to the present they refuse to tell us what the real reason for their complaints. If Corbyn wins the new leadership challenge perhaps elitists will remove themselves.

  3. Kenneth Curran Snr
    24 July 2016

    It gives me absolutely no pleasure to write about the problems facing the Labour Party today. I am very sorry for young people who have recently joined the party believing the Party has the wish and desire to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few, where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe, and where we live together, freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect.

    Can I suggest all of the PLP should go away and spend the rest of the summer writing out the words on the back of their membership cards 3,000 times like teenage students who have only recently reached puberty and are having all sorts of problems managing their newly discovered status? The PLP, ever since Jeremy Corbyn was elected as Labour Leader with a huge majority, has been in hormonal overdrive. It’s high time they grew up and faced the fact they do not represent the views of Labour’s members, who do the foot slogging at election times, or indeed many of Labour’s traditional supporters.

  4. Harry Barnes
    20 July 2016

    This is my latest email to the General Secretary of the Labour Party. I don’t expect a reply.

    “On 15 July you emailed me to say that nominations by MPs and MEPs for the position of Labour leader would be open until noon on the 21 July. You now tell me that the nominations have been closed. But surely those MPs and MEPs who (a) have not yet nominated anyone and (b) nominated Angela Eagle (who has withdraw), should be given until noon on the 21 July to be able to nominate a further candidate if they wish to.”

  5. Kenneth Curran Snr
    19 July 2016

    Jeremy Corbyn is the product of single issue politics where your political energy and vision is very intent. The
    other side of that coin is your concerns are concentrated upon that which you know. Until recent times the
    politics of single issues were more prevalent in London which of course has always been his stomping ground.
    I do not think Jeremy has a wide enough grasp of all of the UK. He lacks an understanding of the industrial
    North its customs fears and attitudes moulded over generations. He along with many others in the Labour Party
    in particular those within the Westminster Bubble why so many folk in Labours traditional heartlands turned
    elsewhere in order to address their concerns. As a retired activist I serve as Chair of the Manor & Castle
    Development Trust in Sheffield. While much work has been done in the area to improve housing and the
    environment, we regrettably have 3rd and 4th generations of unemployed males. The Educational system has
    completely failed the white working class, I do not think that the frustration of the post industrial population of
    the Northerner is understood Sth of Watford. Jeremy Corbyn standing on the high moral ground on issues such
    as Trident and nuclear weapons, and immigrants get his attention, the post industrial North has waited 30 years
    to receive the full attention of Westminster and the Single Issue warriors of the South. We urgently need
    Constutional Reform! regards Ken Curran

  6. Kenneth Curran Snr
    19 July 2016

    My good friend Harry Barnes, perhaps in his desire for Labour to reach a settled position over Nuclear Weapons
    forgets that all that really happened at the Commons Debate on Monday 18th July settled nothing. Labour
    demonstrated just how divided we are as a Party over the question of nuclear weapons. The issue represents a
    major political road block which so far we have been unable to remove or find a way around. We can attempt
    a few carefully worded sentences to form Conference Resolutions that may actually become Policy. However if
    we cannot remove the road block the questions will remain. From Jeremy Corbyn’ s Moral High Ground he fails
    to see the concerns of those people who at present are very economically dependent upon maintaining Britain’s
    Nuclear Weapons. Surely Corbyn is not so hung up upon his high ideals as to not being aware of the concerns
    of the Workers at Barrow & Furness, Faslane and Rosyth who’s jobs would be lost if we end our commitment
    to maintain our Nuclear Weapons. Corbyn and his supporters need an economic plan in order for the workers
    to be given alternative employment to enable them to retain a reasonable standard of living. I am not the first
    nor shall I be the last to state that we cannot run a political party upon a perpetual reiteration of our ideals of
    where we stand. The road block referred to earlier in reference to Nuclear Weapons will only be removed when
    Labour presents sound Economic & Social Policies which are designed to support people while at the same time encourage them to move on in their lives in the knowledge that there is a social and economic safety net.
    As things stand I am unable to say who I shall vote for, or even if any of the Leadership Candidates are worth
    supporting. In my humble opinion, the level of what I regard as political common sense within the Labour Party
    has never been so low. I joined the Labour Party in 1946 at 15yrs of age.

  7. Harry Barnes
    18 July 2016

    Now that we have got the Trident vote out of the way, here is a development of my points 3 and 4 above.

    The candidates for the leadership should be pushed to come to an agreement to stand by Labour Party policies as these have been (and will come to be) agreed by Labour Party conference. This does not unreasonably bind them. They should be free to suggest changes that they would like to seek in future conferences’ policies, whilst sticking by what has been established in the meantime. Furthermore, leaders and the PLP can still have a say about the priorities, timing and the detail when acting on conference decisions. They also will often have to act on new and passing items, without having specific conference guidance at the time. This is currently the case (until the coming conference?) on policies over the leaving the EU.

    Most of current conference policies formed the basis of our last election manifesto. Any alterations, additions or elaborations (eg. on Syria) have only emerged so far from last year’s conference. Most of conference policies arise (of course) from the work of the Policy Forums. Prior to the general election, I summarised these in a number of blog items. These can be found via links to this item – They should form the basis of Labour”s current parliamentary approach until subject to later conference alterations.

    It is also possible for candidates to press for the further democratisation of the Labour Party. It is also a difficult approach for candidates to argue against when facing the votes of the membership in a leadership contest.

    I hope that we can press such a line. It could be a position which any candidate could find it difficult to reject in current circumstances. If the argument is that we have just lost a general election on these overall proposals, then I am afraid they are the policies as they exist at the moment. If changes are sought, then the party’s internal procedures will need to be pursued.

  8. Kenneth Curran Snr
    18 July 2016

    Just like the former Communist Bloc countries during the late 1980s found it impossible to stem the tide of capitalist consumerism, like wise democratic socialists suffer because of the subtle and insidious methods used by the advertising industries of capitalism. Some of these organisations would sell snow to the Eskimo’s if there are profits to be made. As a consequence of the lack of effective regulations we allow economic rape to take place on a grand scale.

    The subtlety and deviousness of the professional lobbyists constantly undermines democratic government. MPs, government ministers, and civil servants are constantly prevailed upon to give up any scrap of information that could help their masters. The ease with which some MPs are seduced by the environment of parliament is a major factor in the MP seeing themselves as a cut above the people who voted for them. The sad saga of the parliamentary expenses scandal has not disappeared from the public mind.

    Democratic socialist parties across the world are subjected to pressures too numerous to mention. However I believe the democratic socialists have failed, and this certainly applies to the Labour Party in the UK. This is the failure to bring forward proposals to bring some control over the behaviour of businesses so that both workers and consumers would benefit from them. Just this week, while we were scrabbling about over Party leadership, the Prime Minister Theresa May declared her wish to have 2 members of staff on the boards of private companies. This was an issue Labour could not muster the courage to propose it in its last manifesto.

    Labour has become increasingly timid while at the same time the system was making people poorer. Each time the market fails democratic socialist parties just tinker with the mechanics of the system, rather than properly
    addressing the reasons why the system behaves as it does. Each time the market fails or is dysfunctional it is the poor and mainly Labour voters who suffer most. When Labour offers jam tomorrow in order to get elected and
    for whatever reason fails to deliver, they just hammer a few more nails in Labour’s coffin. We need jam today.

  9. Ernie Jacques
    18 July 2016

    Of course, it is desirable for politicians and members of all persuasions to operate to abide by the ILP principles of pluralism, tolerance, comradeship and respect. And we should add the missing link, democracy, based on one-person-one-vote without the gerrymandering and use of machine politics for personal advantage that has blighted the Labour Party for decades, if not from day one – a party where discrimination against minority views and non-conformity is routine and where nepotism has been the preferred route to a safe seat for life for the privileged few, aka Blair, Mandelson, Straw, Kinnock,

    But just like praying at Sunday church for good behaviour and for the end of nastiness, sin, greed and crime, etc, and for people to live by the Ten Commandments, it is a lovely wish list that it isn’t going to happen anytime soon, and certainly not in today’s Labour Party – a Labour Party that loves democracy as long as the plebs agree with the status quo brigade and do as they’re told.

    Yesterday we even had wannabe leader Owen Smith MP saying he wants a second EU referendum and that it would be tempting to not trigger Article 50 and block Brexit, and this despite huge numbers of traditional labour voters (70% plus in the northern heartlands) turning their backs on the Labour message and voting leave. Some might think that a tad undemocratic following on from being told that one-member-one-vote is OK for some, but only if you’ve got a spare £25.

    Some of our MPs and polite society should get into the real world when it comes to making noises about coercion and intimidation and bullying, especially as they have helped govern and build a society where ordinary people are routinely bullied each and every day at work, where homeless people are moved on by the authorities and police daily just for being homeless, unwashed, smelly and an affront to the eyes of civilized society. The truth is, most MPs and large sections of British society simply don’t care about UK citizens living precarious lives and on the margins, unable to afford a decent home, pay sky-high rents and energy bills, reliant on charity and food banks. For many it’s a case of out-of-sight-out-of-mind but please don’t complain and use bad language.

    So when people express anger about their predicament or even vote the wrong way, aka Brexit, it’s laughable and shameful to accuse them of being racist or confused or just plain thick. In truth, they are no different from the middle classes and polite society and are simply reacting to perceived unfairness and are voting in their own self-interest, because that’s what we all do and what politics is about. So if someone arrives to undercut your pay rates and/or takes a job that you could and would do you (be you PAYE or self-employed) you are likely to get a bit miffed and, just like the middle classes who don’t want the great unwashed and plebs moving in next door and spoiling their views and undermining their way of life, they too act accordingly.

    So if Labour implodes it won’t be because it failed the ILP’s code of practice test but because it no longer represents the interests of the very working class constituency it was created to represent in Westminster. For most of us, then, it is like a great big black storm howling overhead, interesting, but nothing we can do about it. All we can do is cross our fingers and hope the damage with be minimal and that Jeremy Corbyn can survive and keep the flame of social democracy and democratic socialism burning, in some way, shape or form.

  10. Ian Barnett
    16 July 2016

    I do not believe that “the ILP should simply endorse Corbyn”; neither do I “have the certainty of those who think unequivocal defence of Corbyn is the answer to Labour’s historical crisis”.

    He is however an unequivocal democratic socialist and surely he merits some degree of support on this alone?

    There is an argument for supporting him simply on the ground that he has been abominably treated by the PLP.

    Where is the credible alternative? Examining the voting records of the two other contenders is not edifying.

    Last year I believed that Corbyn was the best of the candidates on offer. Burnham (who began as the front runner, let us remember) and Cooper had virtually nothing to offer except more of the same with perhaps a little tweaking of the tone controls. Kendall did actually have a few ideas but would have taken the party even further to the right.

    I still believe that – of the candidates on offer right now – Corbyn is the best. I would certainly consider an alternative. I agree that the party is bigger than one man, that this isn’t all about Corbyn. But they’re going to have to do better than just “Not Corbyn” which is really all they’ve had to say so far.

  11. David Gee
    16 July 2016

    Rise like Lions after slumber
    In unvanquishable number,
    Shake your chains to earth like dew
    Which in sleep had fallen on you-
    Ye are many – they are few.

    The times they are a changing.

  12. Harry Barnes
    15 July 2016

    Labour Party members whose email addresses are correctly recorded by the Labour Party should now have received a communication from their General Secretary saying that normal and scheduled CLP (and Branch) meetings are postponed until after the completion of the leadership election – which takes us to the eve of the start of the annual Labour Party Conference. Whilst I think that this overall move is a democratic disgrace, how can we make the best of a bad situation ?

    For the General Secretary also says that as an exception we can have CLP meetings to (a) support a nomination for the leadership (which I assume can only take place after the close of nominations themselves at noon on 21 July) and (b) for essential annual conference business. From (b) I assume that we can seemingly have a meeting to submit a contemporary and/or emergency resolution to Conference.

    But we then have a problem, where would the contemporary and emergency resolutions come from, unless they have already been submitted? Not from branches or from a CLP’s EC as these seem to have been closed down until 24 September. Perhaps they could come from affiliated bodies only – which I grant is rather unlikely to happen. Could contemporary and emergency motions, however, be moved from the floor of the above form of specially convened constituency meeting? Would we even be allowed to mandate our conference delegate if we could only find out what is on the conference agenda?

    Perhaps a constituency meeting restricted to considering support for a leadership nominee and to consider the above conference issues could be authorised by the regional office of the Labour Party – under the complexities of the General Secretary’s ruling. Given that we are into a holiday period, such a meeting might not be able to be called until early September.

    But we should clearly make use of the limited avenues of inner-party democracy which remain open to us up to Party conference. The lessons of the current shambles then need to shape future constitutional and political changes in the Labour Party – given that Labour by then still remains a feasible avenue for the advance of “democratic” socialism.

  13. Harry Barnes
    14 July 2016

    I have sent the following email to the Labour Party and have received a formal acknowledgment which tells me that they are rather busy at the moment ! If I receive a reply I will let you know.

    “When are we likely to receive an email from the central Labour Party giving an official time-table of events in the lead up to the election of a new leader – which seems to involve a period of the abolition of normal Branch, Constituency, Executive and All-Member Meetings ? Along also with an explanation as to why this has been done. Plus a further explanation as to why members can’t get together to draft Contemporary and Emergency resolutions for the Annual Conference, nor to mandate their delegates. And what if we have key local issues to pursue via our local Labour Party structure such as local fracking proposals? Yet those who are also members of affiliated bodies are free to do these things via this secondary structure, thus giving some clear advantages over others. If we can manage without a specific structure for Labour Party Members for now, could this become a permanent provision in the future?”

    “Pluralism, tolerance, comradeship and respect” have normally been characteristics of my Branch and CLP; although it sometimes got a bit heated in the days of the Clay Cross Rent Rebellion some 44 years ago. But even that never led to punch ups. I wish the NEC had some faith in us and others. What is needed during a leadership contest is the healthy dialectics of debate. If they are a bit short of this at the moment in the PLP, they should not assume that the rest of us are intolerant.

  14. David Connolly
    13 July 2016

    Now that the Labour Party is about to enter a Leadership election it seems to me that, contrary to the views expressed by Ernie, Graham and Jonathan, the ILP’s position, far from being ‘irrelevant’, is actually more pertinent than ever.

    As is blindingly obvious, the next few weeks in the Party have the potential for ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ of the nuclear variety and if this happens those left standing will have the job of saving whatever they can from the rubble. With a strong chance of a general election in the spring, and with UKIP breathing down our necks in a swathe of seats in the north of England, this is a profoundly disturbing prospect. An intolerant, nasty, destructive and highly personalised leadership election will surely turn all our worst fears into reality, something we should all strive to avoid. Ernie says, ‘What will be, will be’. I only wish I could be so relaxed about it all.

    So you can denigrate the ILP’s case for pluralism, tolerance, comradeship and respect as old hat if you wish but the truth is that these qualities are vital if the Party is to have any chance of saving itself from oblivion.

  15. Graham Wildridge
    11 July 2016

    Just before you start a new post, as I have requested, I have one question.

    The ILP NAC’s “pin-up” boy a few years ago was Jon Cruddas.

    Where has he disappeared to in the recent debates?

  16. Graham Wildridge
    11 July 2016

    The Thirty Years’ War?

    What are you talking about?

    Are you mocking the opinions that don’t fit in with your own?

    Time for a new post, I think, when the Labour Party NEC decides whether or not to exclude Corbyn from the Leadership ballot.

    If the NEC dares to exclude Corbyn then the answer is don’t leave but do “write in” on paper ballot papers.

    P.S. How would anybody be convinced of the Leadership credentials of Angela Eagle on the basis of this performance

  17. Jonathan
    11 July 2016

    I think Ernie nails it when he says the problem is that left and right don’t actually have the same goals anymore. It’s perfectly ok to have a big tent if you’re all on the same side and want similar things. The problem is there’s some in the PLP who are more committed to “free trade” than people. I disagree with Ernie when he says they’re all personally corrupt even though I believe their ideas are.

    Look, I’d be on the right of any genuine centre left party but in Labour I’m next along to the far left. It’s bizarre.

    On the question of the Peace of Westphalia suffice it to say that it established a modus vivendi for SEPARATE states in the same region.

  18. Will
    10 July 2016

    Thanks again for your comments.

    With respect to Graham I would simply note the disappointment that was registered in a couple of posts above that more support wasn’t given to Corbyn in our statement, so I was partly responding to that.

    As to Jonathan’s comment, I agree with much that you say about economics. As for the Thirty Years’ War, I’m afraid I can’t resist a long and slightly silly diversion.

    The Thirty Years’ War was a phenomenally destructive war in Europe which only ended in 1648 with a succession of peace treaties including at Osnabruck and Munster – what is generally referred to as the Peace of Westphalia. Among other things the war had been in reaction to the Holy Roman Emperor’s attempt to impose religious uniformity. One interpretation of the Peace was that it was a collective agreement between the combatant states asserting the superiority of public (that is state) authority over all others, and led to a number of principles as to how those states would live together within Europe. These included aspects of mutual recognition, diplomacy and non-interference. Though it’s disputed among academics, many see the Peace of Westphalia as the foundation of the modern European state system and indeed, our international system is still often called a Westphalian system for this very reason.

    What the Peace of Westphalia and subsequent developments led to was a means of establishing political order within and between states that didn’t continually descend into bloody conflict over opposing fundamental religious beliefs – a modus vivendi if you will. Ok, that’s stretching an analogy much too far, but you see my point.

    Around the same time – and in reaction to both the Thirty Years’ War and to the English Civil War, which ended a few years later – Thomas Hobbes wrote his famous Leviathan. In it he also argued that there was a need to fashion some kind of political order if anything else in society was to be achieved. Without it, he argued there would be ‘no place for industry, culture, knowledge, arts, letters or society’ (I paraphrase). And though, thankfully, people’s immortal souls aren’t at stake – as was believed to be the case in the Thirty Years’ War – without some means of living and disagreeing together within the Labour Party, its future will very likely be ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’.

    Best wishes,

  19. Ernie Jacques
    10 July 2016

    And who would disagree with Will Brown that a broad church and tolerant Labour Party with wide appeal is anything but desirable. To my mind, no-one in the ILP needs reminding that being a democrat means (if not welcoming) tolerating alternative viewpoints and accepting that sometimes you might be on the losing side. Throughout my decades as a Labour Party member, I and many like-minded colleagues, have hardly ever experienced getting our own way or winning policy debates.

    So we don’t need lectures on democratic protocols, tolerance, inter-personal relationships and the importance of comradely debate, cos we’ve being doing it all our lives. Likewise, we know all about living in a conservative culture, and the lack of mass support for social democracy and left-wing policies, which Labour, along with the press and the Tories, has historically helped to shape and fashion. So while we don’t need lessons in being good losers, some people in suits, ties, expensive outfits with posh voices and with prefixes called Lord, Dame and Right Honorable, most certainly do.

    Also, you don’t have to be Mystic Meg to forecast that a fractious party led by rebellious MPs and Labour Lords and careerists relentlessly bad mouthing and plotting against their own leader, and having little appeal to or commonality with its traditional working class base, is unlikely to be seen as an attractive proposition come election time.

    But the question that Will and others fail to address when promoting the broad church, is its limits. Or is it limitless and therefore vacuous and meaningless? In the beginning most of us will have signed up to some form of social democratic agenda and that’s fine and as it should be.

    But what about those who climb to the top of Labour’s greasy career ladder and end up taking the corporate shilling and leading the country into a costly and illegitimate war, or who have long since ceased to be social democratic in any meaningful way, having embraced free market economics, and being in the pay of any number of autocratic regimes worldwide, dodgy multi-nationals and oligarchs in a rapacious drive to join the plutocrats and become one of the super-rich?

    Is it not legitimate to question their role in maligning their own democratically elected leader and for starting a civil war, and fanning the flames of division between MPs and members? A membership whose only crime was to elect the wrong person – how democratic is that, Will? And is it really an act of immaturity and self-indulgent leftism to then criticise the way this man and his Westminster acolytes have corrupted and debased the concept of democracy, morality, decency and the Labour message?

    Equating the victim (Corbyn) as being somehow equally responsible as his tormentors for Labour’s existential crisis is to my mind weirdly Orwellian and Kafkaesque, and akin to blaming a victim of abuse as somehow responsible for their own beating-up and mental agony.

  20. Jonathan Timbers
    9 July 2016

    I agree with Will on two points.

    1.We live in a conservative culture where a left wing Labour party cannot win general elections. It follows that we must build a centrist platform which creates an appetite for a more radical policy agenda.
    2. Two left parties would do badly under our electoral system and even under PR there would still be a need for a moderate left party to attract support away from the right.

    I would go further and say that a radical left agenda should not be socialist in its traditional sense. Socialism failed because socialist economics was wrong both as an analytical tool and as policy. The state cannot deliver the economic growth we must have to escape austerity.

    The answer is not socialism but capitalism (or post capitalism, if you follow Paul Mason) instead of the crooked game we play now. Our economy is failing. It is reliant on capital inflows from a variety of sources, not all of which are bona fide. The state needs to facilitate a flourishing entrepreneurial society, which is why the debate on basic income is so important.

    The Labour Party has two wings, neither of which is electable: the one because it clings to socialist rhetoric and the other because it has little to offer except a record of economic failure and its own misplaced self-belief. The only bright spot is the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, who seems open to ‘the new economics’. His role is critical to the renewal of the Labour party. On the other hand, he still has links to a sectarian ultra left which means that from time to time he commits huge political blunders. He is at his awful worst when he tries to ‘joke’, as his memorable exchange with Osborne over the Autumn statement demonstrated. I fear he cannot face facts when they don’t suit his politics. But let’s see…

    Unfortunately, the PLP is so caught up in the Westminster bubble they are not interested in any of this. As the reaction of Hilary Benn to the Chilcot report showed, some of them will not even admit that they let their country down on a scale not seen since Suez or the Munich agreement, even though it’s plain to see and now an established fact. It was the PLP who broke ranks with the leadership and the party membership. I suspect that they don’t care if the party splits. They would rather get rid of the £3 selectorate and start again, failing in the way we have all become accustomed to.

    Under the circumstances, the ILP’s call for a ‘debate’ is like trying to sort out the Thirty Years War by bringing the warring parties together for a theological seminar. It is neither historic nor necessary. It is irrelevant.

    A little while ago I wrote an article on this website suggesting that only time would tell if the Corbyn leadership is a stage in Labour’s renewal or its decay. It seems more like the latter, but there is still some hope. It is for the party to admit its mistakes and commit to the new economics. Those who can’t do this, should go.

  21. Graham Wildridge
    8 July 2016

    This is a personal response.

    I do not think that Will actually read carefully the earlier comments.

    I did not see anywhere in those contributions that the ILP should endorse Jeremy Corbyn.

    But Will does identify the crucial issue that the ILP has long called out: “We also reject the Labour right-wing solution that Labour should simply accommodate to this reality [the conservative nature of the electorate]. We argue that to do so simply reinforces that which we need to change.”

    I think that is exactly what everyone who has written so far has said. Don’t you?

    Will likes to talk positively about Labour’s broad church. But how broad can you get? Aren’t we at breaking point?

    It is clear to me that the pluralism and tolerance that Will propounds is not in any way reciprocated by the right-wing of the Labour Party and specifically the Corbyn-resister MPs.

    As always, we can rely on comrade Harry Barnes to wisely suggest a way forward. But there is no glimmer of hope that the MP insurgency would accept that compromise.

    I shall repeat my previous post:-

    The rift between, on the one hand, the majority of members’ policy preferences and what is clearly necessary in the second decade of the 21st century and, on the other hand, what many MPs falsely believe they must cling to in order to be re-elected, just has to be resolved.

    I can’t predict the outcome of that resolution. Can you?

  22. Will
    8 July 2016

    Thanks for your varied responses to the statement. This is a personal, not an NAC, response.

    In case comrades think we have gone soft in the head, I just want to point out that the principles we have reiterated are not about being nice. They are based on more hard-headed considerations.

    First, Labour’s major asset is that it is a broad church on the left of the political spectrum. As we said back in September, this is what has given it electoral appeal and made it a viable, potential vehicle for social justice. The principle that this should be respected is therefore designed to preserve this role and potential. A split party under the current electoral system would be a catastrophe – neither would prosper. Even under a reformed electoral system a broad appeal might well be an asset that is worth fighting for. If that is accepted then we have to accept pluralism within the party and we have to accept that people in the party with radically different views from ours have as much legitimacy to be there as we do. And for the broad church to survive, this has to be a genuine commitment to pluralism on all sides.

    Second, if those ideas are accepted, then we have to have some modus operandi – some common, agreed basis for co-existence, dialogue and debate. Perhaps above all our principles are aimed at creating a basis on which discussion, debate and decision making can take place. This is no easy thing to do, and cannot be reduced to being nice to each other (though we might note that the current leader – though seemingly few of his supporters or opponents – does purport to be in favour of a ‘kinder, gentler politics’). Indeed, creating the basis on which significant political oppositions can exist within a single political community is a fundamental issue in politics more generally, with few simple answers.

    Third, if we wish for discussion, debate and decision making to be democratic, we must actively – and I mean actively – welcome other points of view from our own. The few genuine die-hards in the PLP who never accepted Corbyn’s victory, as well as those Momentum supporters who declare they will quit if Corbyn loses a leadership election, are both guilty of a lack of commitment to democracy, in these terms at least. Being a democrat means welcoming the fact that others disagree with you and accepting that you will lose some of the time.

    And to those who say the ILP should simply endorse Corbyn I’d say this. For many, many years, there has been a broad division between left and right. The left believe that Labour should adopt an unequivocally left-wing platform and an electorate that has shown limited interest in it will come running and sweep it to power. The right have argued that the electorate is much more moderate/conservative than this and argue Labour should instead move rightwards to gain centrist voters. These fault-lines continually reappear, as seen, for example, over issues such as immigration.

    While some in the current stand-off – on right and left – clearly adhere to versions of these older left-right positions, others are less easily placed. Some – both in the PLP and more widely – perceive a much more complex and difficult crisis facing Labour. Others who have little or no commitment to Labour, simply celebrate the decline they see coming (with, I’d say, little serious critical attention to what will fill its place).

    I do think it must be nice to have the certainty of those who think unequivocal defence of Corbyn is the answer to Labour’s historical crisis (with the concomitant denunciation of his opponents as… well, you are no doubt eager to fill in your own blanks).

    But it might be well to recall that the ILP’s position has never been in alignment with either of these prognoses. We agreed, and still do, with some of the right’s analysis of the conservative nature of the electorate and therefore reject the idea that Labour could be successful in the short term on a left-wing platform. But we also reject the right’s solution that Labour should simply accommodate to this reality (and did this long before Blair enacted this strategy so successfully). We argue that to do so simply reinforces that which we need to change.

    Indeed, such is the state of flux, so volatile are the political currents in which we exist, that even those long-standing ‘right’ and ‘left’ positions may cease to have as much purchase as they have hitherto. In these circumstances, open, comradely and pluralist debate is not soft-headed, confused nor a cop-out, it is a historic necessity.

  23. Jonathan
    6 July 2016

    I think the analysis is spot on. The problem with the moderates, so called, is that they haven’t got a distinctive policy platform or political narrative. Rather than confront that truth, they’ve undermined a weak leader whose politics they despise.

    No-one should be under any illusions about Corbyn. Even his closest supporters wanted to replace him before the next general election. He is no leader. But they (ie. the LRC) want to do it in their own way to preserve a radical policy platform.

    The problem with the piece are the recommendations. We’ve gone beyond being nice to people. And whilst I wouldn’t propose a purge, serious thought should be given to deselections.

    The ILP needs to be thinking about how the Left operates with two parties not one, and the many questions that arise because of anti-immigrant feeling and the appeal of UKIP.

  24. Graham Wildridge
    5 July 2016

    I’ll describe a cartoon image used many times before – a personified PLP of Corbyn-resisters holds a revolver to its head declaring: “Do exactly as I say or I’ll shoot!”

    How has it come to this?

    It’s because they hate the Labour Party for having elected Corbyn. And they hate themselves even more for having put Corbyn on the ballot paper and for having created the election mechanism that enabled the Corbyn victory.

    This cabal of “Labour-ish” MPs aren’t bothered about holding the Labour Party together. They believe against ALL evidence that they know best. They’ll force a split if that’s the only way to get everything they want. Full state funding of political parties, and preferably parties without any members to bother them, has long been the ideal for most of these pampered Parliamentarians.

    The ILP Statement correctly says: “Blairism is utterly bankrupt and while few of Corbyn’s critics can or should be dismissed as ‘Blairites’, the alternatives on offer in the 2015 leadership contest manifestly failed to inspire anyone. Corbyn’s critics have yet to come up with a political platform which offers something more than this.”

    And yet the Corbyn-resisters do nothing to address this political lacuna. Do they even understand that the hole exists? They blunder on and, even with a big majority of MPs backing them, are incapable of effecting the coup that has been in the planning since the day Corbyn was elected.

    The ILP call to BE NICE won’t reach the ears of these failed plotters.

    Whatever deal is being stitched up, concealed from the Labour Party membership, by union general secretaries and some leading figures of the PLP terrified by the cliff edge on which they are teetering, will not work.

    The rift between, on the one hand, the majority of members’ policy preferences and what is clearly necessary in the second decade of the 21st century and, on the other hand, what many MPs falsely believe they must cling to in order to be re-elected, just has to be resolved.

    I can’t predict the outcome of that resolution. Can you?

  25. Harry Barnes
    5 July 2016

    See here for a revamp of my last comment, with a relevant photo –

  26. Harry Barnes
    5 July 2016

    Easier said than done, but both the parliamentary Corbynites and their opponents among Labour MPs needed to have made an accommodation – namely, that parliamentary policy should be based on the Manifesto which we stood on at the recent General Election, as drawn from the Policy Forum procedure. This should only have been adjusted as the policy shifted (perhaps under new procedures) at coming Party Conferences.

    This need not have meant that Corbyn and others could not, in the meantime, have recommended changes in direction, but that until any change in party policies were achieved at Conference they needed to vote in parliament in line with established party positions. New issues (such as the response to the coming Chilcott Report) could be left to unwhipped positions – until a line was later taken up by Party Conference.

    If Corbyn’s critics force a leadership contest, then we need to press this approach upon all the candidates. Those who do not agree should not get our vote. Then if Corbyn remains leader without a contest, this is also how we should act, with various ex-members of the Shadow Cabinet accepting current vacancies under this new concordat.

  27. Ernie Jacques
    5 July 2016

    I agree 100% with Ian Barnett when he says he is disappointed at the lack of ILP support for Corbyn.

    Since Jeremy was elected leader nine months ago, the behaviour of most Labour MPs has been undemocratic, shameful and more akin to playground bullies screaming abuse because they don’t like change and cannot get their own way – it’s a millions miles away from the “pluralism, mutual respect and comradeship” principles trumpeted by the ILP in the wake of the blow-back from Labour in crisis.

    And for the ILP to effectively sit in the middle and to try and carve out a third way is, to my mind, beyond disappointing (as Ian puts it) but is craven, as well as being inexplicable, coming from an organisation with a proud history and with a perspective and policies focused on bottom-up democracy, power to the people and antipathy to the status quo.

    Because in truth we all know that Labour’s existential crisis has precious little or nothing to do with a man called Corbyn who is said to lack charisma and leadership qualities and everything to do with his opposition to neoliberal economics and his anti-austerity and anti-war messages, and the threat this poses to the traditional ways of doing politics. In short, the Labour elites and fixers will be big losers should Jeremy Corbyn and the Momentum project be successful.

    Of course, the likely outcome is that the establishment machine, big money and the Labour Party MPs will be successful in forcing Jeremy to resign in exhaustion, or that Angela Eagle will stand, win and re-establish the status quo. But if this happens the losers, as always, will be the membership, plebs, democracy and everything the ILP stands for.

    So if Jeremy does withstand the harassment, the daily personal abuse and pressure from his party opponents and fixers, will the ILP take a “holier-than-thou” approach by siting on the fence or even backing Angela Eagle, a fulsome supporter of the war in Iraq, bombing Syria, Trident and weapons of mass destruction, who along with 184 others failed to oppose Osborne’s cuts to child tax credits and the household benefit cap?

    And when it comes to the referendum campaign and Jeremy Corbyn’s blame for the Remain defeat, what are we supposed to make of these statements made recently by wannabe Labour leader Angela Eagle:

    13th June: “Jeremy is up and down the country, pursuing an itinerary that would make a 25 year-old tired. He has not stopped. We are doing our best, but if we are not reported it is difficult.”

    27th June: “Under your leadership, the case to remain in the EU was made with a half-hearted ambivalence. I have come to the conclusion that you are not the right person to lead the party we both love.”

    Someone who seemingly loves the status quo and holds strong views on crucial policy issues that are inimical those of the ILP and its historical mission – she’s an MP with ambitions, yes, but with integrity, not.

    So come-on ILP, no more weasel words, get off the fence and support Jeremy Corbyn in his hour of need. And what will be, will be.

  28. Ian Barnett
    3 July 2016

    1. Whatever one’s opinion of Corbyn as a leader, his treatment by the PLP has been nothing less than appalling. Shadow cabinet resignations in the media timed meticulously every two hours? Did no-one consider the seriousness of the damage this would inflict on Labour? The ringleaders should at least be censured.
    2. It is plain to see that if there is a leadership contest Corbyn would be re-elected by a large majority. This is why every attempt has been made to procure his resignation rather than challenge him in a ballot, which attempts continue.
    3. If reports are to be believed, party membership has increased by something in the region of 60,000 since the attmpted coup alone.
    4. There is no obvious alternative leader, no Denis Healey waiting in the wings.
    5. It has been made quite evident that there are those in the PLP who will not accept the verdict of the party in choosing Corbyn and who have plotted to overthrow him. What reason(s) do we have to believe that they will not continue to do so?
    6. Even Conservative voters have been impressed by Corbyn’s calm dignity throughout this sordid affair.

    Corbyn is a democratic Socialist in the historic tradition of the ILP and the pre-1994 Labour party. His performance has not been perfect by any means- neither was any other leader’s. I am disappointed that the ILP is not more supportive.

    (The writer is not a ‘Corbynite’ but, like Corbyn, a democratic Socialist in the historic tradition of the ILP and the pre-1994 Labour party. The writer is a LP member and not a member of Momentum or any other internal LP group.)

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