By Corinna Lotz
The blame game following Labour’s election defeat is destructive. Seeing Labour MPs using the mainstream media to make poisonous attacks on Corbyn is an ugly spectacle.
Defeat was not about one or two people but about a long legacy of neglect and economic downturn.
Nor was the outcome simply down to working class voters who cast their votes for the Tories. Blaming the people for their leadership is to throw up one’s hands in despair.
It was about leadership – but not simply the personality of one or two leaders, however much the media has focused on that.
Corbyn’s supporters in Westminster were in a tiny minority from the start. And his enemies used that against him from Day One. The Labour leadership was riven from top to bottom and the socialist element was under constant fire from the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP).
There was a failure of strategy to deal with the Leave and Remain divide within the party and the country at large.
The parliamentary party was in favour of remain and it put huge pressure on Corbyn, eventually getting a second referendum into party policy. Tom Watson, Keir Starmer and others followed in the footsteps of New Labour’s spin master Peter Mandelson to undermine Corbyn at every turn.
Corbyn and his group were well intentioned and principled in their own way but they could not deal with the crisis within their party posed by the Brexit vote.
Not only that, his inner group of advisors – the “four Ms” of Milne-Murray-Mcluskey-Murphy – failed to deal with mistakes and wrong positions – i.e. over the Salisbury poisonings and anti-Semitism.
It didn’t take rocket science to see that Brexit was Labour’s Achilles heel. The Tory enemy in the shape of Dominic Cummings took advantage of this to win the election.
It was clear that Cummings would use the Leave vote in the North to Johnson’s advantage.
Johnson dealt brutally with his opponents in the Tory party. Corbyn’s opponents in the PLP were able to spread poison and division due to the “broad church live and let live” strategy by which he and those few who were on his side in the PLP hoped to pacify opponents.
It was not Corbyn’s “fault” but the failure of reformist Labourism. Milk and water pacifism and top-down government spending don’t convince those who have had nothing.
After all those years of neglect, first under Blair and Brown’s New Labour and then after Cameron and May, people who had not voted before took the chance to express their contempt for the ruling elite who told them to vote Remain.
Thinking these issues could be addressed with high spending on the NHS and re-nationalisation was to believe that voters in Labour heartlands were only concerned about economic and health issues and not the future of the country as a whole.
Actually they wanted not only to be seen as existing but also that their voices, their pain and anger actually mattered
It is about democracy – not as an abstract ideal but what it comes down to in people’s lives. What motivates people are not only or simply questions of welfare, economics and health
It’s whether they count at all. Whether their existence is even recognised. Whether their problems and feelings are taken account of. After the Brexit vote, one Northerner Leaver said “we didn’t seem to exist”.
In a sense ignoring people’s aspirations was also true of Scotland whose national aspirations were ignored by Labour, even at the expense of wiping out all but one Labour seat in the country. Without the Scottish MPs, Labour didn’t stand a chance of winning.
Pacifism may appeal to some middle class voters but not the people who have to struggle to survive and at times actually enjoy landing a punch on their opponents.
Johnson’s gaffe-prone brutish image had more appeal than a sedate man who is polite to his enemies.
Now with Johnson driving through a hard Brexit, it’s the turn of the millions of Remain voters to feel disenfranchised as well as Scotland where the SNP won 48 out of 59 seats.
So what now? Representative parliamentary democracy has broken down and Johnson will be even more destructive.
It’s time for a 21st century vision of socialism where people can participate in determining their own future, free of state supervision and control.
A network of mass citizens assemblies, facilitated by democratically-controlled digital and social media, can offer a way forward. This would be part of a democratic revolution to re-found the defunct parliamentary system that is powerless and unrepresentative.
Before the election we campaigned for the Labour Party to go outside Westminster and work for local assemblies and for a new citizen’s sourced constitution. We insisted that Scotland should have the right to decide its own future. This should be the basis of a re-founded Labour Party.
A democratic revolution is needed and it should be the rallying call for a re-formed Labour party.