Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Labour Leadership Election: No More Heroes.

with 28 comments

Image result for no more heroes strnagklers


“ The symbolic unification of the group around an individual – and here I agree with Freud – is inherent in the formation of the formation of a ‘people’.”

Ernesto Laclau.

“..a collective will cannot be constructed without some form of crystallisation of common affects, and affective bonds with a charismatic leader can play an important role in this process.”

Chantal Mouffe. (1)

“The big story of the election was not that the Conservatives imploded, but that Labour pulled off the most stunning surge in British political history”. Alex Nunns concluded The Candidate (2018 edition) by saying, “Inside the Labour Party the election result destroyed the three pretexts used by Corbyn’s opponents to justify their recalcitrance: that he was unelectable, incompetent and not a leader….As for leadership, Corbyn not only inspired millions of new voters, he had changed the political weather. “(2)

Hailing the “ascendancy of the socialist left in Britain” Corbyn adviser Andrew Murray warned of the threat of a “culture war” on the left, “rancid identity politics”, and “Brexit derangement syndrome” from those opposed to Boris Johnson’s hard right Brexit. He took comfort, “polling figures aside” – Labour’s 2019 European election disaster – at “establishment panic at the prospect of a Corbyn-led Labour government”. It is said that the Leader’s office, LOTO, believed that a last minute surge, replicating the rallies and enthusiasm of 2017, would push the Party forward. (3)

Labour Saints and Heroes.

In the Observer yesterday Andrew Rawnsley suggested otherwise (A keep-it-dull campaign is a risky way to win the Labour leadership). . In the Labour leadership campaign none of the contenders have the courage to say it was madness for Labour to fight the election with the most unpopular leader in the history of polling. This is the truth they dare not utter for fear of offending those party members who still worship of the shrine of St Jeremy.”  While Rebecca Long-Bailey and others are said to have expressed some doubts over the holy relics, it has been left to Alan Simpson to express the view that the “corridor cabal” around Corbyn, the cadres and structure running the leadership operation, was deeply flawed.

It would be unkind to dismiss the hopes placed by large numbers of people in Jeremy Corbyn. A better way of looking at this would be to question whether left politics needs “charismatic leaders”, not as symbols, but as power-points dominating politics. Thomas Carlyle considered Hero Worship the opposite of the Sceptical World, and the Hero, “a son of Order” who recognises the “necessity of authority”. Left-wing Heroes in the Twentieth century included one “strong daring man”, who bridled in a revolution more radical than the one placed under halter by Carlyle’s hero, Napoleon. Even Saints have not fared well, as Latin America and decolonised societies indicate. The “gift of grace” is not widely seen as a quality that helps left governments achieve their goals. (4)

Political Logic of Populism.

What Laclau called the “political logic” of populism appears to favour those who appeal to the authority of the sovereign nation. If the British Conservatives’ dabbling in populist rhetoric has dampened down after their victory the rise of national populism in Europe continues. Left political adventures in “constructing the people” against the Oligarchy have reached an impasse in France. Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France insoumise (LFI), a “point de rassemblement”, that is a rally, not a party with a democratic internal structure, looks set to remain on the margins. Appeals to patriotism, a revolutionary trait we are instructed by Jacobin’s European Editor, have fallen on deaf ears. As in 6,3% of the vote last year in the European elections. The uncontested leader of LFI’s humble adoption of Chantal Mouffe’s lessons on charismatic leadership, tempered by virtue,  continues regardless. By contrast the evolution of Spain’s Podemos into a democratic, collegiate, radical left party, standing as Unidas Podemos and prepared to compromise with their rivals in the Spanish Socialists, the PSOE has borne fruit – if a reduced electoral score at 12,9%, after a split with Mouffe’s friend,  Íñigo Errejón whose Más País got 2,4% (Podemos had 21,2% in 2016). (5)

In the era of the people it is perhaps better to deal with real individuals than with the forces of destiny. Labour leaders need popularity, they need radical fire, and they have to have a platform than can inspire the membership, from elected officials, activists, to card-carriers. They have to reach out to the public. In the era of the people they should, perhaps, like Podemos, appeal to individuals. That is, with reasonable not charismatic, appeals. If Keir Starmer is the front-runner in this contest for Labour leader one can say that all the candidates have taken this approach. This Blog backs Starmer but…No more heroes…..



  1. Page 100 Ernesto Laclau. On Populist Reason. Verso. 2005. Page 70. For a Left Populism. Chantal Mouffe. Verso. 2018.
  2. Pages 376 and 382. The Candidate. Jeremy’s Improbable Path to Power. Alex Nunns. O R Books. 2018 Edition.
  3. Postscript. The Fall and Rise of the British Left. Andrew Murray. 2019.
  4. On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History. Thomas Carlyle. J.M Dent. 1926.
  5. De La Vertu. Jean-Luc Mélenchon. L’Observatoire. 2017. L’ère du peuple. Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Pluriel. 2017.

Saints have

28 Responses

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  1. I can’t see myself being as hopeful and enthusiastic about Starmer as I was about the highly popular Jeremy Corbyn, but I might still vote Labour with Starmer as Leader depending on what his policies are and how good a manifesto they come up with.


    February 10, 2020 at 1:41 pm

  2. Not everybody’s who’s met Corbyn likes him.

    Though most of his politics were excellent there were the kind of problems sketched above, amongst others.

    Andrew Coates

    February 10, 2020 at 2:07 pm

    • I must admit I never met Corbyn personally but from what I knew of him he ticked all the right boxes from my point of view in terms of his views and political beliefs, (right down to having an allotment and being a vegetarian!) and I don’t recall that ever happening before with any other Political leader in my adult life.


      February 10, 2020 at 2:15 pm

  3. This is interesting,

    “By 2019, the Labour Party’s Brexit position seemed designed to alienate Leavers and Remainers alike. Corbyn’s proposal for a soft Brexit encountered the criticism that although creating less economic disruption than a hard Brexit, it would leave the UK subject to EU rules in which it would no longer have any say, thus resulting in a loss, not gain, of control. In addition, Labour Leavers impatient to get Brexit over and done with were offered the prospect of yet another period of negotiations with an uncertain outcome. On the other side, the position offered nothing to Labour Remainers. The debacle was amplified by Labour MPs who voted in parliament for the Tory Brexit deals, leaving Labour Remainers in their constituencies – probably the majority of Labour voters even in predominantly Leave constituencies – with no one to vote for.

    Then there were Corbyn’s advisors who opposed a confirmatory referendum or People’s Vote on the grounds that the result of the 2016 referendum embodied ‘the people’s will’. It is entirely in accordance with the politics of the far right that they would represent the result of the 2016 referendum as embodying ‘the will of the people’. What is astonishing is that so few challenged this. According to the electoral commission, 72.2 per cent of the electorate voted in the referendum. Of this, 51.9 per cent – i.e. 37.4 per cent of the electorate – voted to leave, and 34.73 per cent of the electorate voted to remain. So, the leavers were a minority of the electorate as a whole even at the time of the referendum, since 27.87 percent did not vote. In this referendum, above all, 16- and 17-year-olds should have been allowed to vote, since the results would have the longest-lasting impact on them, but they were not. Saying that Brexit represented ‘the will of the people’ amounts to saying that 34.73 per cent of the electorate who voted to remain, 27.87 per cent who didn’t vote, and the 16- and 17-year-olds who were not allowed to vote are all non-people. This is a common tactic of the far right – ‘only those who agree with us are part of “the people”’ – but should have been challenged vociferously by anyone who believes in democracy.

    In addition, there were the multiple ways in which the Leave campaign acted illegally, including breaching spending limits.[11] A whistle-blower who was formerly an employee of Cambridge Analytica commented that if it had been an election, such irregularities would have invalidated the results and made it necessary to rerun it.[12] Brexit is arguably more important than an election since its results define the future for much longer, yet even among Remainers, hardly anyone made this point. Evidence of Russian meddling in the Brexit referendum created an even stronger argument for a People’s Vote. Indeed, the involvement of Donald Trump’s then campaign manager and chief strategist Steve Bannon as well as Russian state media and oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin in providing material assistance to the Brexit campaign suggests that the referendum result represented anything but the will of the British people.[13]

    Yet Corbyn’s advisors as well as some Lexiteers, rather than making these points, opposed even a confirmatory referendum until the ‘Brexit-embodies-the-people’s-will’ propaganda was too entrenched to challenge. In fact, their position throughout was a weaker version of Johnson’s ‘Get Brexit Done’. Their contention that Labour lost because it supported a People’s Vote is contradicted by the fact that Labour lost over 2.5 million votes while the Tories and Brexit Party picked up just 335,000, and Labour lost almost twice as many voters to the Liberal Democrats, Greens and Scottish National Party as the 700,000-800,000 they lost to the Tories and Brexit Party. In January 2019, officials from Hope not Hate and the TSSA union had presented Corbyn with polling evidence that in the event of an election, Labour would get a lower share of the vote in every seat in the country with a pro-Brexit position than it would with an anti-Brexit position, but the warning was dismissed. Corbyn’s U-turn from his original position destroyed his credibility, and his personal rating slumped to -50.[14] Can you trust a leader who in 2016 argues cogently that Britain should stay in the EU and a few years later changes his tune? The advisors who recommended such a shift played a significant role in trashing Corbyn’s reputation, because it convinced many progressives – precisely the people who were less likely to be swayed by the right-wing media – that he was untrustworthy.

    Some Remain voters who had abandoned Labour drifted back after it announced its support for a People’s Vote, but others did not. Some didn’t vote at all. Leavers preferred to stay with Johnson’s more consistent position. By contrast the SNP, which had a social-democratic programme and consistent Remain position, gained votes and seats at the expense of the Tories. If Corbyn had argued consistently for a confirmatory referendum on any Brexit deal and promised to campaign for Remain, it is entirely possible that Labour could have done the same.

    This article is lengthy and has to be read in full

    What are the Lessons of the UK Election? On two underemphasised factors

    HENSMAN Rohini.


    Andrew Coates

    February 10, 2020 at 2:24 pm

    • I think I must have been one of the few people who didn’t let Brexit influence my electoral decision, as I didn’t even vote in the Brexit referendum and have no major opinion either way on Brexit. I thought there were far more important things at stake in the election, such as poverty, Social Security, re-Nationalization, ending Austerity, properly funding local Councils, etc.


      February 10, 2020 at 2:33 pm

  4. Guess how many new buses Boris Johnson has promised, 4, yes four thousand!

    Guess how many Corbyn the radical promised, if elected? 3, yes three thousand!

    So how radical was Corbyn? Not much it would seem.

    Steven Johnston

    February 11, 2020 at 9:54 am

    • @ Steven

      Boris lies through his teeth. He’s also promised loads of hospitals and thousands of Police officers, all lies of course. But if you want to put your faith in a lying Rightwing extremist that’s up to you.


      February 11, 2020 at 10:55 am

  5. Please don’t tell moma I’m a politician, she thinks I play the piano in a whorehouse!

    Dave Roberts

    February 11, 2020 at 10:04 am

    • @ Steven

      Labour didn’t get elected, but I don’t doubt that they would have fulfilled that promise and found some way of paying for it out of the vast amount of money they would have saved elsewhere, by ending Universal Credit for example. But don’t worry about hypothetical situations, Don’t worry about how Boris is going to pay for a bridge to Northern Ireland. just keep on slagging Labour off and remaining uncritical of the Tories, at least you’re showing your true colours and we all know who’s side your on.


      February 11, 2020 at 12:40 pm

  6. Does that bar me from joining the Keir Starmer cult of personality?

    Steven Johnston

    February 11, 2020 at 12:50 pm

    • Surely you wouldn’t betray your idol Boris Johnson, Steven.


      February 11, 2020 at 1:13 pm

  7. I hope you wouldn’t betray yours either, Jeremy Corbyn, by joining the current Labour party personality cult.

    Have you ever considered a financial contribution to Momentum? To help keep his legacy alive.

    Steven Johnston

    February 11, 2020 at 1:17 pm

    • Sadly I’m not in a position to make a financial contribution to anything.


      February 11, 2020 at 1:20 pm

  8. There is no shortage of non-financial contributions from you. Still, you’d have to be brain dead to give money to Momentum. What have they ever done for the working class?

    Steven Johnston

    February 11, 2020 at 3:29 pm

    • What have you ever done for the Working Class?


      February 11, 2020 at 3:37 pm

  9. Sorry, have I ever asked for £3 a month from the working class?

    Steven Johnston

    February 11, 2020 at 3:55 pm

  10. More great news for you lefties! Boris Johnson has given the green light for HS2.

    Trains + Government spending = Ecstatic lefties.

    Steven Johnston

    February 12, 2020 at 10:00 am

    • I think Hs2 is a phenomenal and unnecessary waste of money. We don’t need faster trains, we need a reliable but affordable service, comfortable trains that arrive on time and don’t cost a fortune for a ticket.


      February 12, 2020 at 12:14 pm

  11. Oh, well the RMT are backing it and they disagree with your analysis. They don’t think it’s wasteful and actually want more money, not less, spent on it According to them, the skills that are needed to build the Hs2 are exactly what this country needs.

    Steven Johnston

    February 12, 2020 at 12:39 pm

  12. HS2 will bring lots of highly-skilled, well-paid jobs. What’s not to like, trev?

    Ms Jones

    February 12, 2020 at 1:00 pm

    • @ Ms Jones

      How will it bring highly skilled jobs? And if it does then that’s fine for those who are highly skilled, which I’m not. What we need are more good quality, well paid, unskilled jobs, as in my experience there is a national shortage of those.


      February 12, 2020 at 2:57 pm

  13. Maybe he could get a job there and earn enough to chuck Lansman a few quid a month!

    Steven Johnston

    February 12, 2020 at 1:57 pm

  14. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “It is welcome news to finally see the government recognise the benefits that high-speed rail will bring and commit to the HS2 project.

    Manuel Cortes, general secretary of transport union TSSA, said that “clean and green” travel is vital for “connecting and turbocharging economies across the Midlands and the north,” and Mick Whelan, general secretary of train drivers’ union Aslef, argued that HS2 is “part of the solution to climate change.”

    Steven Johnston

    February 12, 2020 at 3:45 pm

  15. Building a super-fast railway is a highly-skilled job, is it not? It goes without saying that HS2 would also bring lots of lower-skilled highly-paid jobs. I thought you would be all for that, trev. Jeremy Corbyn most cetainly would be.

    Ms Jones

    February 12, 2020 at 3:51 pm

  16. The unions are behind it too. What’s not to like? The government will pump £100+ billion into the economy.

    A left-wing dream come true and on trains too.

    Steven Johnston

    February 12, 2020 at 3:58 pm

    • Would be better to just re-Nationalize the railways.


      February 12, 2020 at 5:11 pm

  17. But would the workers there be paid enough to chuck £3 a month to Momentum?

    Steven Johnston

    February 12, 2020 at 5:35 pm

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