Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Labour: The Left Debates Thursday’s Election Results.

with 20 comments

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Morning Star Calls Labour Leader ‘No-Hope’.

The Labour leadership must offer a more progressive and bold policy platform if it is to recover after a dire night for the party across England, senior party figures warned today, opines the non-Labour Morning Star. A long list of gripes, groans and demands follows.

“The Labour leadership must offer a more progressive and bold policy platform if it is to recover after a dire night for the party across England, senior party figures warned today.

Sir Keir Starmer has come under fire from the left after Labour suffered a crushing defeat in the Hartlepool by-election, with a number of key council seats being lost to the Tories as well.”

And,

…..

Momentum co-chairman Andrew Scattergood said the result was a “disaster,” calling for a left-wing vision for the party.

He said: “A transformative socialist message has won in Hartlepool before and it would have won again.

“Starmer’s strategy of isolating the left and replacing meaningful policy with empty buzzwords has comprehensively failed. If he doesn’t change direction, not only will he be out of a job — but the Labour Party may be out of government forever.”

Sir Keir Starmer has come under fire from the left after Labour suffered a crushing defeat in the Hartlepool by-election, with a number of key council seats being lost to the Tories as well.

Momentum co-chairman Andrew Scattergood said the result was a “disaster,” calling for a left-wing vision for the party.

He said: “A transformative socialist message has won in Hartlepool before and it would have won again.

“Starmer’s strategy of isolating the left and replacing meaningful policy with empty buzzwords has comprehensively failed. If he doesn’t change direction, not only will he be out of a job — but the Labour Party may be out of government forever.”

David Osland/Osler who unlike the Editors of the Morning Star is a Labour member, writes,

The day Hartlepool found somewhere else to go

But it’s fatuous to get into games of factional yaboo sucks. The decline in Labour’s working-class support is structural and dates back decades. Analyses that focus largely on either Corbyn or Starmer are grossly facile.

Some 60% of the Hartlepool electorate didn’t vote. Labour urgently needs to give them a positive reason to get behind our party

Mike Phipps a Labour activist, comments,

Hartlepool – what went wrong?

Mike Phipps

Investment and jobs that can stop the exodus from the town became important electoral issues. Pragmatically, this persuaded many voters to support the Tories, as the party in power, with the capacity to deliver tangible benefits to the area.

The operation of this US-style “pork barrel politics” by the Tories seems to be part of a more general tolerance, if not enabling, of corruption, where decisions are made not on a basis of merit, but according to who you know.  Hartlepool’s Labour candidate, Paul Williams, described this approach as a “protection racket”.

Sienna Rodgers noted: “The overwhelming feeling I got from the residents was a sense of deep cynicism towards all politicians – one that Boris Johnson is benefiting from. Nobody I spoke to was bothered by Tory sleaze because they reasoned that such behaviour could come from any party.” On Keir Starmer: “The Hartlepool voters I met either didn’t know who he was or expressed disappointment.”

Survation opinion poll ahead of the election found that only 31% of respondents felt favourably toward Labour, and only 22% had a favourable view of Keir Starmer, indicating that the leader was more unpopular than the Party. Why was this?

A truly unifying strategy would find a bridge between Labour’s growing number of metropolitan supporters and the old Labour heartlands outside the cities, focused on economic recovery, green jobs and properly funded public services. It’s not rocket science: it was the basis of Corbyn’s 2017 appeal, before the division over Brexit derailed the strategy.

It will require building a coalition of supporters to rival the Tories, not emulate them. The likely landslide by which Manchester mayor Andy Burnham will get re-elected shows what is possible. It also underlines that a return to the politics of Tony Blair is not remotely feasible in a country transformed by urgent needs – in relation to housing, the environment, the economy, health and much more – that the Tories are incapable of addressing.

Paul Mason pitches another take.

Keir Starmer must face the truth: he needs the left to win

The penny has finally dropped. With Labour’s abject defeat in the Hartlepool by-election, the loss of council seats in working-class areas – both to the Conservatives and to the Greens and progressive nationalists – and a clear majority for independence in the Scottish parliament, Labourism faces an existential crisis.

…….

. Or you build a cross-party political alliance to maximise the effectiveness of the progressive vote, currently split across Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens, the SNP and Plaid Cymru.

Tendance Coatesy says,

Both Mike and Dave point in the right direction by underlining the long-term unravelling of the working class vote for Labour. Apart from the existence of a Tory vote by workers going back to the time Disraeli (Angels in Marble: Working Class Conservatives in Urban England, by Robert Mc Kenzie and Allan Silver, 1969) the drop in working class participation in the Labour Party (as activist members and as councillors) was signalled in The Decline of Workingclass Politics. Barry Hindess.(1971) Hindess also noted, “the electorate are now less likely to vote out of a sense of class solidarity and more in terms of a sober calculation of material avantages.” (Page 189).

Hindess observed a growing “instrumental” attitude towards politics . This might describe the acceptance of of what Mike Phipps calls ‘pork barrel’ politics. Nevertheless the way in which a section of the electorate admires Boris Johnson, cronyism, and dissembling,  suggests that ideological glue is needed to stick this alliance together. A dose of the deference of the 19th century Angels in Marble, the patriotic glow of Brexit populism, and a willingness by some voters to admire national neoliberalism, is at work. The tolerance for top-level corruption suggests parallels to the way which Silvio Berlusconi kept hold of power as Italian Prime Minister for 9 years. As Donald Trump was later to prove some people admire a wheeler-dealer, the man who can make money for himself, they would think, can help us all make money.

As observed de-industrialisation has undermined the trade union based support of the left across Europe many regions. A book which this Blog has discussed, Retour  à Reims by Didier Eribon (2009/2018) suggests one result,

The left ended up abandoning talk of the “working class”, a political concept through which people could experience fellow feeling with others in the same boat. After the turn in the 1980s and 90s towards talk of individual rights and responsibilities, by contrast, this idea of group feeling, indeed of fraternité, had been atomised. And what took its place was the cynical exploitation and fomenting of anti-immigrant attitudes by the far right, which brought the working class back together but this time under a mood of hostile nativism rather than economic solidarity. The National Front, Eribon asserts, was now “the only party that seemed to care about them, the only one, in any case, that offered them a discourse that seemed intended to provide meaning to the experiences that made up their daily lives”.

Steven Poole

Yet the issue of working class political identity has itself been caught up in the identity politics of the right, which we can see in the UK, from Blue labour patriotism of Paul Embery to the pro-Brexit Red-Brown front Spiked. These confusionniste forces use it as a wedge to divide people into the rooted working class and the rootless cosmopolitan left. Only a few commentators have explored the character of the new working class.

There is still a sizeable working class in Britain today, but it has significantly changed. The occupations of heavy industry, which formed the bedrock of the British working class for a century, have given way to a multitude of jobs in today’s economy. Four in five jobs are now in the service sector. Many of those jobs do not pay enough for people to make a decent standard of living and meet their rising costs. And the people being employed to do them are different, too.

This new working class is made up of people living on low to middle incomes, employed as cleaners, shop workers, bar tenders, teaching assistants, cooks, carers and so on. It is multi-ethnic and much more diverse than the traditional working class. It makes up nearly half the population. Despite significant social and economic progress in the last 40 years, it turns out that we didn’t all become middle class. In fact, as wages and living standards continue to be constrained, it is entirely possible that this new working class will become yet more sizeable.

To win power, Labour must understand the new working class Claire Ainsley.

The last thing Labour needs is an alliance with the more borders Scottish nationalists, whose plans for a frontier with England will create as great a division as Brexit and would have equally damaging effects. I would not relish having to show a passport to visit the land of many of my late father’s family. The experience of European nationalist parties, like the Catalan independentists who gained the support of Nigel Farage, (Who in Europe supports the Catalan secessionists? Leaders of far-right movements are making use of the crisis in Catalonia to attack the EU. El Pais 2017) indicates that these movements are out for their nations, and above all the interests of their politicians. They are not progressive.

Few people are going to listen to the Morning Star, which gives a prominent platform to the Communist Party of Britain a small group that stood candidates, to little effect, in these elections. Many of its articles seem more in tune with that section of self-identifying left that is gloating at Labour and Keir Starmer’s set-backs.

The Momentum demand for a “transformative socialist message” may be putting it too far – that is as a means to win elections. But Dave Osler’s call for a “positive message”, echoed by Mike Phipps and Paul Mason’s ideas on a building a coalition of support (without Mason’s belief that there’s something progressive in More Borders Scottish nationalism), look like some ways forward. Still you cannot help but feel that what Labour needs is above all a strong “umph”: a real push for progressive policies on a green ecological strategy, social issues, and equality.

The Woke Wars continue:

Written by Andrew Coates

May 8, 2021 at 11:07 am

20 Responses

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  1. Reblogged this on Tory Britain! .

    A6er

    May 8, 2021 at 11:13 am

  2. “the electorate are now less likely to vote out of a sense of class solidarity and more in terms of a sober calculation of material avantages.”

    I would agree that is unfortunately true. The life transforming eye-catching offer Mason speaks of might consist of a lower State Pension age (or early access to State Pension for older unemployed) and/or free Broadband and replacing Universal Credit with Unconditional Basic Income.
    You would still have to overcome the problem of the 60% who feel so alienated and disenfranchised to vote for anyone.

    trev

    May 8, 2021 at 12:29 pm

  3. You can’t really disagree with the headline, though. Starmer is peculiarly useless, and the result was a wipeout in England and Scotland. Now opposed by McDonnell on the Left and Adonis on the Right!

    Boffy

    May 8, 2021 at 1:59 pm

  4. New political party Burning Pink – who wish to replace government with citizens’ assemblies – is putting three candidates forward in next month’s Ipswich elections.

    Sue Hagley and Jennifer McCarthy are set to stand in the Ipswich Borough Council elections in St Margaret’s Ward and Westgate Ward respectively, while Tina Smith will stand in the St Margaret’s and Westgate Division for Suffolk County Council.

    Sue was, in her very brief career as a Corbynista, Ipswich CLP Women’s Officer.

    Votes this week: Sue Hagley (BPP) 40. Jennifer McCarthy (BPP) 38, Tina Smith (BPP) 168.

    Andrew Coates

    May 8, 2021 at 2:47 pm

    • Burning Pink ?! Sounds like a Kpop band !

      Iainf

      May 8, 2021 at 7:22 pm

  5. FYI!

  6. Labour need to become like the enormously successful Democrats in the States and build an all encompassing left of center movement that covers all bases. That means uniting with the Greens and the Lib Dems. That will mean breaking the link with the Unions. Sure Unions can still fund Labour (as American Unions donate to Democrats) but there should be no fornal organizational link. They also need a name change too (Progress Party ?!). The Tories have remade themselves. Labour need to too. The Hard Left can go off and build a little cult if they want. However it needs to be stated that the Democrats encompass both AOC and the Squad and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin. All these people are adults. The British Left could learn a lot from America.

    IainF

    May 8, 2021 at 5:28 pm

  7. Too much left-wing energy has been expended on sniping at or mocking Starmer and too little on building struggles, educating for class politics – and fighting for clear left-wing, pro-working class policies which can begin to rally the labour movement.

    Andrew Coates

    May 8, 2021 at 7:02 pm

  8. And, for pure serendipity, and following up a previous Tendance post, here is the result of the heated Chessington South by-election which saw 13 Raving Loonies fighting each other (and TUSC) against a hegemonic Lib Dem incumbency. They scrabbled for single digit votes, including TUSC, whose identified Red Foco in the ward had probably gone away for the weekend……………

    From Kingston council’s returning officer; Andrew MacKinlay of the Liberal Democrats has been elected to Kingston Council after the Chessington South by-election results were confirmed today (Saturday 8 May). Cllr Mackinlay won 1,387 votes, ahead of nearest competition, Sue Towner of the Conservatives, who claimed 1,278. Labour’s Charles Bamford finished third with 451.

    Voting results for Chessington South by-election:

    Achenbach, Baron Von (The Official Monster Raving Loony Party) – 8
    Akintoye, Michelle (Kingston Independent Residents Group) – 378
    Bamford, Charles St John (Labour Party) – 451
    Brunskill, Undertaking Director (The Official Monster Raving Loony Party) – 16
    Chinners, A.Gent (The Official Monster Raving Loony Party) – 12
    Coily, Captain (The Official Monster Raving Loony Party) – 13
    Corinthian, Casual Count of (The Official Monster Raving Loony Party) – 6
    Cramps, Colonel (The Official Monster Raving Loony Party) – 14
    Dodd, Duke Diddy (The Official Monster Raving Loony Party) – 8
    Lucky, Landlady (The Official Monster Raving Loony Party) – 2
    Lulham, Adrian Thomas (The Green Party) – 139
    MacKinlay, Andrew Stuart (Liberal Democrats) – 1,387
    Newt, Kingstonian (The Official Monster Raving Loony Party) – 6
    Pither, Lady Dave (The Official Monster Raving Loony Party) – 2
    Rover, Landlord (The Official Monster Raving Loony Party) – 3
    Savastio, Italo Marco (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) – 7
    Squatch, Sam Joshua (The Official Monster Raving Loony Party) – 1
    The Radical Recyclist, Rev. Robbie (The Official Monster Raving Loony Party) – 1
    Towner, Sue (Conservative Party) – 1,278

    David Walsh

    May 8, 2021 at 7:10 pm

    • Top Gumshoe David’s reporting hitting the Newsstands:

      Andrew Coates

      May 8, 2021 at 8:40 pm

  9. I don’t get it and think the main discussion is based on a very misguided basic assumption.

    It is the confusion of the industrial workforce with the working class, which are terms on very different levels. The industrial workforce is a group that can be determined by sociological means. Simply those working in the industrial sector. Working class only has a negative determination: those who do not possess their own means of production. Which is a much bigger group, because a) not all means of production are industrial ones, and b) the service sector, which in many cases doesn’t need them, is dependent on their existence. People working there are not a separate class.

    Which means that the thesis of the “new working class” is wrong. It only looks “much more diverse than the traditional working class”. It always has been that diverse, but the praised feeling of working class solidarity didn’t allow this to be recognized. Unions where inherently homogenizing forces, suppressing that diversity, painting the image of “the working class” male and white.

    The better parts of the marxist left always knew this confusion, and the reason why they played along with it was the thesis of the progressive role of the industrial workers. In short: As the industry is the core power of capitalist rule, being able to stop it is the power to overthrow that rule.

    This thesis proved to be wrong. Being identified with the power of industrial production made the workers identify with that power. So they became a proud, which means nationalist, racist and sexist, part of the state. Work changed from something they where forced to do to something they wanted to be. Which is why the industry was able to increase it’s productivity not only with technical means. Proud workers are much more exploitable.

    During this process, the left forces stopped playing along with it by forgetting what they had played. They dropped the idea that the power of the industrial workers is a negative one, borrowed from the power of capital. They turned to the idea that being able to organize as workers is a positive source of power itself. (This way of thinking also took ground because it made supporting the eastern block much easier.) This idea is terribly wrong, because it takes mass psychology within the unions as it is and supports their homogenizing drive.

    The confrontation of “working class” on the one side, and identity politics on the other, is the result of that history. It happens now, because de-industrialization took the capability of homogenizing from the industrial workforce. So those who want stick to those “good old times” can only connect to the individual side of it: The sexist, racist and nationalistic identity, it produced as effects.

    That is what happened in all industrialized countries, an no political strategy will change that, as re-industrialization is neither on the menu nor something to wish for. So please stop to call for unity of the working class. It only calls for imaginary power, and that is the case for the sovereignist fantasies of the right. It is explainable why that “working class” fell for Brexit.

    jm

    May 8, 2021 at 8:12 pm

  10. This version of 1970s socialism that the left keep trying to sell, has about as much interest, or relevance to today’s working-class, as a black & white television. And not suprisingly, no-one wants to buy it.
    People have moved on, but the hard left have not.

    George M

    May 8, 2021 at 11:12 pm

    • I preferred the 1970s in many ways. At least there were no Jobcentres or “Work Coaches”, no New Deal or Sanctions, no Universal Credit, no computers, no CVs, no jobsearch b.s.

      trev

      May 8, 2021 at 11:30 pm

    • Correct. A lot of the Left’s thinking in UK is like the political equivalent of Nylon Shirts and Flared trousers. The way Blair won in 1997 was to embrace aspiration and to appeal to people who wanted to make their lives better under the existing system. Today the Labour Left sees everyone as an oppressed victim. It is incredibly dismal and depressing. No wonder people are rejecting it

      IainF

      May 9, 2021 at 3:27 am

      • This seems to me the exactly wrong way to get out of the mess, because those “better lives” “under the existing system” didn’t show up. Which was very obvious to happen from the start, so it is much more plausible to interpret that those promises where ways to learn to accept and internalize the power of society.

        And maybe it the result of this strange diagnosis: “Barry Hindess.(1971) Hindess also noted, “the electorate are now less likely to vote out of a sense of class solidarity and more in terms of a sober calculation of material avantages.”

        What else is “class solidarity” supposed to be based on if not on the sober calculation, that material advantages in a capitalist society are only gained if competition is rejected at least a little bit? If those two don’t add up, solidarity becomes a misguided feel well program on the one hand and resentment against “the wealthy” on the other.

        And regarding “incredibly dismal and depressing”: People don’t reject being described as “oppressed victims”. That’s what all that nationalism is about. They think being victims of the EU, of foreigners and of feminist culture wars and so on. What they don’t accept is that this oppression is the result of their own government and their own action. What they aim for is belonging to a group which is supposed to execute the oppression, and the less they do belong to one, the more they fantasize about “we the people”.

        jm

        May 9, 2021 at 8:53 am

  11. You got what you wanted. Labour committed to a second referendum in 2019 and Sir Keith as leader along with marginalisation of the left inside and outside the Labour Party. You looked the other way as the Tories dithered and delayed on Covid as the bodies piled up. You looked the other way as dear leader adopted increasingly authoritarian, nationalist stances.

    You can’t complain if you are slaughtered at the polls now, after all the work you have put in to getting exactly this result.

    What are the options now? Blame the working class or rethink.

    Eric

    May 9, 2021 at 8:58 am

    • Who are the “you” in that reactionary little whinge, Eric?

      Jim Denham

      May 9, 2021 at 10:23 am

      • Don’t worry Jim it’s not really a criticism of your one true revolutionary organisation unless you happen to recognise yourselves in it. Frankly I just don’t care about the AWL.

        The Starmerite soft/centre left are more significant than you. Their hopelessly complacent Labourite house of cards have come tumbling down. Enjoy the moment.

        Eric

        May 9, 2021 at 1:39 pm

        • “The Starmerite soft/centre left are more significant than you”: bloody hell, Eric, I hadn’t realised that! Thanks for the tip-off, though I must confess this revelation has come as a truly crushing blow.

          Jim Denham

          May 9, 2021 at 6:16 pm

  12. Take the working class for granted and get wiped out. Get doubly wiped out if you try to reverse referendums that you signed up to. These are the rules now.

    Starmer can’t revive Blair’s politics without it crushing him. It’s deeply weird watching certain “left socialists” backing him as he tries to do just that.

    The only way forward for Labour is to painstakingly rebuild trust from the ground up. They’re not going to do it. They haven’t the politics to do it but even more so they haven’t the commitment to do it. The future of the Labour Party is of arrogant complacency and reckoning. True in the Corbyn years, doubly true in Starmer’s year.

    Eric

    May 9, 2021 at 2:16 pm


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