JR Max Wheel
28 September 2017
The finale of the Labour Party conference in Brighton with its triumphalist rhetoric has shown, at least to true believers, that the party has found new energy and direction. Corbyn has surprised most critics that he is able to appeal across a much wider spectrum of British politics than one would have believed possible for an avowedly left-wing opposition leader. This is another populist movement, feeding off the backlash and division sown not only by Brexit, but also the sense of deep frustration and anger which has flickered on and off since the crash of 2007/8 and its subsequent austerity policies. It is easy to blame struggling public services on highly constrained public finances.
This is socialism dressed up in a way, which cleverly targets disaffected groups and exploits their grievances, but also highlights areas where many mainstream voters also feel distinctly uncomfortable, whether it be the housing crisis, cost of higher education, the badly implemented Private Finance Initiatives contracts (PFIs) or poorly performing privatised services, energy, railways and Britain’s most notorious sacred cow, the NHS.
Behind the scenes is a grouping of activists typified by Momentum, but strongly backed by the Trades Union, this vociferous group have effectively seized control of the Parliamentary Labour Party, its MPs and embedded it in the membership, now some 600,000. Momentum claims membership alone of 200,000 through 120 regional groups. The Governance of Momentum is via a National Coordinating Group of 26, which must include, BAME, women members as well as regional representation. It effectively sets the agenda claiming its legitimacy from its democratic base. Looked at another way, this group has made a highly successful power grab from the MPs, who will have to respond to this new Politburo. Unsurprisingly, Unions which have felt marginalised since the reforms of the 1980s are also committed to a grass roots led campaign to get Labour elected on a programme which by any standards is an extreme left-wing one. It is an anti-business, pro-worker, large State model which it sees as both necessary to counteract the excesses of the 1990s and 2000s, to rub out all vestiges “New Labour”, now seen as a revisionist aberration. This, despite the fact that New Labour was arguably the Party’s most successful period in winning 3 elections, a feat that no Labour administration has ever done before. Momentum has been skilfully “managed” by media savvy political wannabes like ex-BBC Newsnight reporter Paul Mason and control freaks like Seamus Milne, son of ex BBC Director General and with the usual upper-crust educational background of Winchester and Oxford. Momentum carries within it all the hallmarks of class warfare, and committed Marxism. It elevates disaster economies like Venezuela as an example of the people struggle and refuses to condemn terrorist outrages.
That the Party should have attracted such a large membership is an odd mix of opportunistic cultivation of the youth vote, depressingly often those whose views are understandably naïve and untutored, those who have a deep-seated loathing of capitalism and anti-establishment intellectuals, like Guardian columnist and author Owen Jones. The Corbyn Labour Party can exercise via its membership effective control over selection of candidates and even deselect them. There has always been an undercurrent of left wing politics in Britain as in most countries, it has rarely amounted to anything. This time it is different. Use of social media allows dissemination of ideas cheaply and simply. In a period when “fake news” has become the norm and main stream media is often a megaphone for over mighty Press barons, the failure to expose and challenge the Labour Party for what it has morphed into, is utterly lamentable.