Subtler plans of the Labour right

Submitted by Matthew on 7 October, 2015 - 11:08 Author: Colin Foster

Luke Akehurst, secretary of the right-wing Labour First faction, hopes to bring down Labour's new Corbyn-McDonnell leadership by pressure of public opinion.

Akehurst disavows those on the Labour right who want a coup against Corbyn. Writing on Labour List (22 September), he relies on this:

"Some of [Corbyn's] grassroots supporters will go through the same painful process of awakening and political education that led to many Bennite activists becoming successively Kinnockite then Blairite in the 1980s and 1990s. Their idealism didn’t survive repeated interaction with electoral defeat and hostile working class voters on the doorstep... And people get older..."

MPs, he hints, will then move against Corbyn. And "trade unions will get fed up" because they'd prefer right-wing Labour administrations to a risk of continued Tory administration.

His model is the 1980s. But the Labour left surge of the 1980s was broken by the impact of industrial defeats and alarmed trade union leaders, not by an immovable conservatism in the electorate. In 1980-2, when Labour's leftism was at its height, Labour was way ahead of the Tories in the polls. Polls during the Labour leadership election showed Corbyn more popular than Burnham and Cooper with the general public as well as with Labour people. The left can win a majority if we argue our case.

In the meantime, Akehurst rejoices in Corbyn's "concessions related to foreign and defence policy". He says that there "the disagreements are profound ones where the two sides simply have different moral principles", whereas in domestic policy "how radical you think it is realistic and electable to be".

It's an odd contrast, because plenty of moderate bourgeois thinkers oppose nuclear weapons and NATO membership, while all are against large-scale public ownership for bigger reasons than "electability".

Akehurst thinks that Corbyn will be restrained by "advisors who have come out of the Socialist Action group and Ken Livingstone’s City Hall administration, pragmatists who are interested in securing and wielding power through compromise" (i.e. such as Simon Fletcher and Annaliese Midgley). They can, he thinks, hold off "the organisers of the grassroots CLPD and LRC networks who will want to push forward at top speed with constitutional and policy changes".

The question, in short, is whether the left can keep its nerve, draw the new young Corbyn supporters into the CLPs and Young Labour groups, and win the debates through patient explanation.

Ironically, Akehurst, a great supporter in its time of Blair's suppression of Labour democracy, concludes by welcoming this fact:

"Next year, now that it is clear that conference is again the stormy forum where Labour will decide its direction, not just a fun week by the seaside being lectured by frontbenchers, I expect that CLPs up and down the country will see hotly contested elections to be a conference delegate".

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