Whilst the rest of our media fawn over Jess Phillips’ wildly misconstrued quote about knifing Corbyn in the front, not the back, I took to analysing one very overlooked statement from her interview with Owen Jones.
The statement that really struck me was ‘”I would do anything I felt was going to make the Labour party win the next election”.
Phillips’ loathing for the Tories is without question, and nobody can question the majority of Labour MPs in their willing pursuit of ousting the Conservatives from power. It is understandable that some can feel such hatred of the Conservatives that they feel it necessary to do ‘anything’ to get them out and Labour in.
But, such emotional reaction is the lifeblood of right-wing politics, as opposed to the left. The Conservative ideology is based on short-term, reactionary policies, using peoples’ fears, about the economy, national security or immigration for example, to surreptitiously dissuade a voter from siding with Labour for fear of an even worse reality than under the Tories.
Doing ‘anything’ to oust the Tories is not a well thought out strategy; it’s one that inevitably leads to sacrificing your principles in the hope of consolidating your grip on power. This is not the Labour way. As much as they despise the Tories, and all the misery and poverty they sow onto our country, doing ‘anything’ to get rid of them is not the answer.
Under Tony Blair, Labour won three consecutive general elections, and nobody can doubt that a lot of the policies to emanate from these years were beneficial to the country – the minimum wage, statutory holidays and the Sure Start initiative, to name but a few.
However, conversely, some of Blair’s policies have also created a massive black mark against the Labour brand. Policies that continued Thatcher’s economic neo-liberalism – with unfettered and deregulated financial capitalism, and a blind mystical faith in the power of free markets – policies which, across much of the globe, contributed to the financial crash and subsequently stained Labour’s credibility on the economy.
The other catastrophic mistake of Blair’s reign was undoubtedly the Iraq war. The UK saw the biggest protest in its history as one million people marched through London in opposition to the invasion. Ten to fifteen million people marched across the world in defiance to the Iraq war, yet the biggest single coordinated protest in history was ignored with blithe nonchalance by Blair and Bush.
The scars of these two catastrophic mistakes still sit squarely upon Labour’s forehead for all to see. And both were policies that suited the interests of the establishment rather than the general public.
The elections lost under Brown in 2010 and Miliband in 2015 should have been the wake up call that Labour required to evolve the party beyond the ‘do anything for power’ policies of the Blair years. It’s was glaringly obvious to the former Labour supporters that voted for other parties at these elections that Labour had discarded its principles in favour of holding power. Yet the Blair philosophy still holds firm in some corners of the party, despite it being a failed ideology.
Now Labour have a new leader in Jeremy Corbyn, a leader with fresh ideas and a huge legion of youngsters who support him. Youngsters who, previously, were apathetic to politics, due in part to the perceived ‘two-party’ system where there was almost nothing to choose between Labour and the Tories.
With such obvious and sizable support from the new generation, Labour’s MPs should have been delighted, enthusiastic, and optimistic that Corbyn could put a much needed Labour-evolution into practice, for a modern, socially-evolving world. However, despite accusations that Corbyn’s policies are stuck in the past, it’s actually the pessimistic Labour MPs that fail to unite behind their new leader who are stuck in the past.
And here’s why;
The Guardian reported in 2010 that Blair’s Labour had struck a deal with Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp before the election in 1997. A deal which saw Murdoch’s vast media empire switch allegiance from Conservative to Labour for the first time in its history. Subsequently, the media coverage given to Blair’s ‘New Labour’ was immensely different to the reception awarded to Corbyn.
Also, with the continuance of Thatcher’s neo-liberal economic policies, Labour’s stance was entirely conducive with the thinking of Murdoch, and those who run the media and alter our perception of reality with their words. Blair’s policies essentially kept the money at the top, and the media lapped it up, and expected the public to obediently nod along.
Corbyn’s stance is entirely different. He is seeking to redistribute wealth in a fairer way, and there is an obvious correlation between the negative media attention and the potential that Corbyn becoming Prime Minister would result in the establishment elite, media barons and the like, finally being made to pay their fair share in tax.
It isn’t about policies, it’s about perceptions.
It is clear that this negative media attention is feeding pessimism in Labour MPs, as well as a section of members. It is understandable for them to think that if Corbyn continues to receive a barrage of negative attention from the press, then Labour’s chances of winning the next election look slim. However, Labour MPs know that Corbyn will not change his policies, and they know the media will not change its tact in attempting to discredit him.
If the media portrayed Corbyn in a positive light, would the dissenting Labour MPs really be having so many doubts about him? If The Sun’s front page spread praised Corbyn for promoting peace, for giving a voice to the vulnerable and needy, or for being a genuinely amiable man with hugely beneficial policies for society as a whole, would they still be calling for his head?
Times are changing, yet the Labour Party is still wracked with pessimism. Newspapers are no longer as powerful as they once were. And with alternative news and social media altering perceptions daily, and truly fighting for the people of this country, rather than the benefit of corporate profits, there is every chance that at the next election, it won’t be ‘The Sun wot won it’, it’ll be the people that won it.
Labour MPs need to forget about the past and realise that media perceptions are not reality. There genuinely are huge amounts of support in the UK for Corbyn and his policies, despite the voracious attempt by the media to demonise the man.
Labour MPs know that Corbyn’s Labour will never have the backing of our mainstream media, but this is no reason to discard your principles in favour of ones that purely benefit the rich and powerful.
Everybody associated with Labour wants to see the Tories kicked out. But they must do it the right way this time. Or perhaps, the left way; the true Labour way.