Corbyn’s Survival

I have just read an interesting piece of Matthew D’Ancona in the Guardian. He suggests that Labour MPs will not respect Corbyn and will bring him down. His concerns are fully justified.

What should Corbyn do when he wins?

He will have to introduce new mechanisms of participation in the party, with a strong online component, to enable members and supporters, at local and national levels, scrutinise and direct more closely the political action of Labour MPs.

Obviously, the representative nature of the mandate of MPs and their relationship with their constituencies cannot be constitutionally altered overnight.

However, Labour MPs and party officers will have to be very careful not to contradict the party members and supporters when working on parliamentary initiatives or when deciding the direction of their vote. Ideally, they would have to engage with them more regularly when designing party policy and the electoral programme.

What are the requirements for this democratic transformation of Labour?

a) the participation mechanisms will have to be fair, secure and accessible;

b) the engagement with the members and supporters will have to be sensible and gradual yet motivating and politically empowering, combining wisely presential and remote engagement;

c) the introduction of e-democracy in the Labour Party has to conceived not only as a mechanism to articulate decision-making and improve accountability but also as a

  • a learning process for the members, the supporters and the party itself
  • and as tool to build a community of practice.

There are have been cases of misuse of online participation, of course, but in this country we have now plenty of expertise to ensure these requirements are met.

If Corbyn and his supporters are committed to building a stronger organisation and become a movement for social change, this is the way forward (and the only way to ensure his survival as leader!)

Entryists fear not

The Labour Party is in turmoil. The New Labour establishment, and some sectors of the media, are terrified by the Corbyn-mania. The avalanche of new supporters is being exaggeratedly linked to Radical Left “entryists” and Tory trolls.

Interestingly, the term “natural supporter” has been used in some quarters to refer to the people who should be allowed to join Labour as supporters, as opposed to those who shouldn’t. This is, sadly, a term that does not help to differentiate much. Blair’s New Labour associated itself with the world of business and with highly successful, economically, individuals. More recently, Labour has shown support for many of the economic and social policies of the Tories. Hence almost anyone could be a “natural supporter” of Labour nowadays, even those who criticise migrants and benefit claimants, even those who defend austerity, or those who aren’t bothered about zero hour contracts.

Should the party do anything about people who are believed to have signed up as supporters or members with the intention of harming the organisation?

Yes, they should. Party officers can and should research cases of infiltration of people who have no loyalty whatsoever to the organisation, people who are not genuinely prepared to support it under any circumstances. If there are indications of ill motives, the party should challenge the people concerned in order to give them a chance to explain themselves and come clean (if they can). At this point it is very important to delegate this type of enquiry to local branches, as they know better the people in their neighbourhood.

What if someone is a member of a left wing organisation?

If the person genuinely wants to help the Labour Party to be a stronger and more appealing and successful organisation, the applicant should be allowed to become a supporter, even if s/he has been critical of Labour or s/he militates in another organisation. The key requirement should be simply good will.

The future 

I believe the future for the Left in the UK lies on the idea of multi-party platforms, as explained recently by Stephen Moss in the Guardian. This is the formula which has already catapulted the Real Left to the power in Madrid and Barcelona, in Spain. You can read more about it in an article I wrote for Left Unity.

If we want to stand effectively for the principles of social justice that inspired the creation of the Labour Party and for the future of our public services, our children and our environment, we in the Left need to get used to the idea of multi-layered and fluid organisational loyalties.