Tuesday, 15 September 2015


In 2010, I voted for Ed. Well, actually, I voted for the other Ed, for I was a Broonie to the end. But by the time I did so it was clear that my second vote, for one bro or the other, was the important one.

To be honest I didn't cast either of my Eds votes with any great enthusiasm. It was more that neither was David. For David was Blair. And Blair was Iraq.

And Iraq was unforgiveable.

I read with interest the Lord Ashcroft focus group report. Patently it reflects that Corbyn has no chance of winning a General Election. Which is why I didn't vote for him.

But, let us be clear. Sure there were lots of £3ers whose loyalty to the Labour Party, or anything,  is, at best, ephemeral. Sure there was some dodgy dealing when it came to affiliated members. But Corbyn won among full members of the Labour Party. Peter Kellner's research seems to indicate that he probably won among Party members of more than five years standing. Even if he might have, among that group, ultimately faltered after transfers, nobody doubts that he won a plurality.

And the reason was Iraq.

Not actually Iraq but what Iraq represented.

The vast majority of Labour Party members knew Iraq was a mistake. Obviously we have within our ranks a peacenik cadre who think any war is a mistake. That appears to include our current leader. But most of us don't take that view. We are certainly for the use of military force. But only when it is for a justified purpose and reasonably clear as to its objectives.

And we simply could not see the justified purpose of Iraq. Or, in so far as it seemed to have objectives, agree with these objectives.

But even that wasn't the point. The point was that something opposed by the vast majority of Labour Party members; that something opposed in their hearts by a majority of Labour MPs; that something which the second most important figure in the Party (Brown) could send coded signals was not his doing; that this something happened anyway.

For the iron grip of New Labour was such that the Party's view was irrelevant. And worse still that for anybody even at the very top of the Party to dissent was instant political death. When Robin Cook resigned he did so in the certain knowledge that he wouldn't be back. Any back bench MP, no matter how able, joining the rebellion, knew that doing so would end their career. Forever. You can't help feeling the younger Miliband was only saved from this fate by not being an MP. That is, of course, assuming he would truly have voted with his conscience if he had actually been there.

It would be an interesting exercise, if you could, to go back to that 2003 PLP and ask them, unattributally, how they would have voted in a genuinely free vote. Not hiding behind the "if we knew then" formulation but, truly, what was their view at the time. My feeling is that even among the "Red Tories" there was nothing like a majority for participation. For all of these people had been elected as Labour MPs. And nobody achieves that imprimatur without some feeling for our Party. And the Party's view was more or less unanimous. But they knew that dissent was suicide.

In Scottish terms there was the march. I was on that march. It was a great day. Possibly the last great march of my lifetime. NUS Scotland reunited over several generations. And now able to afford a good lunch afterwards. But where were my comrades of twenty years standing? Jack, Wendy, Frank, Pauline, Jackie and so many others? They were at the march's destination, inside the SECC. For Blair was there and as MSPs they were expected to stand beside him. Or die. Who knows, perhaps if I'd been an MSP I'd have made the same call. Although I can't help feeling that last September the 15% who got the blood and soilers to their 45% were incubated that day.

And then of course we, Party majority opinion, after Iraq, were proved right. And yet, under the iron diktat of New Labour, even that could not be acknowledged. No matter how patently true subsequent events proved it to be.

But, and I emphasise the but, the long term significance of this was not really about Iraq. It was about the disconnect between the leadership of the party and the opinions of the thousands of activists who had worked to get them elected which that represented.  Iraq was just the lightning rod.

And, twelve years on, Corbyn has proved to have been the earth to that lightning rod.

Almost all the post election analysis has been about why Corbyn won. But, at least as importantly to those of us who haven't given upon the Labour Party altogether is why the others lost.

None of them offered any role to the wider Party except followship. To the right for Liz; straight on for Yvette and whatever the day of the week the polls suggested for Andy.

Corbyn, if not perhaps many of his ultra left allies, suggested that we let a thousand flowers bloom. It's hopeless politics in the real world. But he wasn't appealing to the real world. He was appealing (as it turns out very appealing) to the Labour Party.

He won't last.

But let us be clear. If next time round any of the contenders stand on a platform of "I'll be your leader and you'll shut up" then they'll suffer the same fate as Andy, Yvette and Liz.

For we remember Iraq.


  1. I might have voted Yes because of Iraq.
    It was an insult to the intelligence how it was justified.
    I went from, 'these warmongers are getting away with this', to, 'they've got away with it'.
    Even though it was not justified, in my view and that of the majority in Labour (I wasn't a party member at the time) it went ahead anyway. It was a lesson in power and its exercise.
    Indyref was my chance to get revenge for Iraq - to make the powerful pay at the hands of the powerless. That might have pushed me Yeswards.

    In the end the case for Independence as put by the main proponents was as much if not more of an insult to rationality. I'd have been cutting my nose off to spite my face - worse in fact.

    Standards such as these are what keep me from supporting our nice, well meaning, elderly uncle, supply teacher Leader - much of the new positions seem to be occupying a political space in a region around that of natjob zoomery. It would be no surprise to hear of BBC protests and the establishment of Newsnetcorbyn and Business for Jezza.

    We need to do better than this.

  2. Speaking as an Islington North resident and one who did actually join and vote for Jeremy and paid the reduced union membership fee after voting loyally for labour since I've been able, I really have to agree with you.

    The final straw for many others who finally felt they had to vote for Jeremy was the decision by Harriet Harman to abstain on the Welfare Bill, the details of the bill did not matter, after attacks by the Tories on the NHS, the BBC, legal aid, and then to see Harman when faced with attacks on the welfare state she said we won't oppose it, Corbyn did what a labour MP was supposed to do and opposed the Tories when they threatened the welfare state, many people thought "finally, someone who will act as opposition to the Tories instead of agreeing with them mostly."

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