Seb Cooke comments on the battle for the Labour leadership.
Owen Smith has been chosen as the single candidate to face down Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership race. He is de-facto the establishment candidate. He faces major problems but will try to overcome these by shutting down democracy in any way possible.
On the day that Corbyn was shown to have a huge lead among Labour Party members and after the numbers that have been mobilised to support him, Smith was appointed as the ‘unity’ candidate. As such, this feels very much like it’s the slick politicians versus the people. Add to this the media onslaught against Corbyn and the extremely wealthy people who are now in favour of Owen Smith, and this is now an us against them battle. In the wake of Brexit, where a majority ignored the ruling class stability message which will be a central theme of Smith’s pitch, this strategy has no guarantee of success.
Also, the people who will now try to position themselves at the front of Smith’s campaign, were only yesterday saying that Eagle wouldn’t give in, and only on Sunday saying that Labour needed a ‘strong Labour woman’ leader and pitching this against the apparently ‘aggressive’ Corbyn gang. But they’ve so quickly given in without much of a fight, to a person who claimed normality meant heterosexual family life, and who once told Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood that she only got on TV because she was a woman! What happened to the strong values? This just screams opportunism and dishonesty, two things that people are sick of in politics. Owen Smith is now their candidate, so all this washes off onto him.
He has since been trying to make out that he’s some kind of left wing Labour radical. This is obviously not true; he’s got all the qualities of a Blair-like right winger and a CV to match, and this morning was fighting against his own past as a lobbyist for a major Pharmaceutical Corporation that favours NHS privatisation.
One of the most brazen claims he made was that the Tory reversal on Tax Credits was his personal victory. This despite the fact that he abstained on the welfare bill under Harriet Harman. This really does insult people’s intelligence and treat them like they’ve got the brain of a goldfish when it comes to politics. No surprise this, because it’s exactly what the majority of the PLP and the elite they socialise with actually thinks.
He then claimed he’d make Corbyn the Labour ‘president’ if he wins. Again, this is political arrogance operating at a cosmic level. It’s incredibly insulting to Corbyn and his supporters. After having been part a failed coup to unseat a leader with a huge mandate, he now has the brass neck to offer him a pathetic title. The aim of this is to belittle Corbyn rather than appeal to his supporters. Let’s hope it backfires in the way that so many slick political media strategies are at the moment.
This leadership election contest will not be fought on equal terms. The media as shown in studies recently is overwhelmingly anti-Corbyn. This is especially true of the supposedly left-liberal institutions of the BBC and the Guardian. They don’t just hate him, they are threatened by the political movement that wants real change.
The media war will be overwhelmingly weighted towards the candidate of the right, Owen Smith. This will then be used to say that Corbyn has a problem with the media etc, whereas it’s more a case that the media have a problem with Corbyn. This is where the right will try and fight the contest, because they think it gives them a better chance of winning. Banning CLP meetings, excluding 120,000 + members and barring union affiliates in the same way was about reducing the pro-Corbyn electorate, but also about trying to narrow the way the contest is fought and bully members into accepting the right’s method of debate (i.e through the traditional media). This is why there has also been a campaign against the use of social media; because it favours the mass participation in politics that benefits Corbyn. The right want to bully people out of participating in politics by smearing the left as aggressive or sexist or homophobic or anti-Semitic.
The only way to effectively counter this is to not be bullied, and through action constantly assert the right of ordinary people to be involved in politics. This means having mass pro-Corbyn rallies up and down the country like the ones that took place last year, and bringing in wider social movements such as Black Lives Matter, the junior doctors dispute and NUT members into those events. It is only through engaging with this wider political struggle that Corbyn can beat Owen Smith by a huge margin, and in doing so build a force that can challenge our ruling class who are trying so hard to silence us and force us to pay for their crisis.