New Statesman | Election 2017: what should you do if you support Labour but can’t stand Jeremy Corbyn?

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I’ve had a lot of conversations about Jeremy Corbyn with fellow Labour supporters. Well, arguments, really. A lot of the kind of arguments that devolve into apoplectic stammering, mutually hostile blinking, occasional tears and, in one case, mimes. Back during the 2015 leadership campaign, I angrily told a Corbyn-backing friend that his candidate would be an electoral disaster for Labour. In reply, he smiled and acted out setting off the plunger on a stack of dynamite. For a lot of Corbyn’s supporters, his victory was the moment to rip everything up and start again; to tear down all the apparatus of New Labour, and write a new origins story where Tony Blair never happened.

It didn’t quite turn out like that. For one thing, Corbyn the radical didn’t materialise: most of his policies could have sat comfortably in Miliband’s manifesto (if they weren’t there to begin with), and where his values did diverge from recent Labour history, they sometimes came as an unpleasant surprise to his base. Take, for example, Corbyn’s attitude to the EU, manifested in a Remain campaign to which he brought all the vigour and pep of an exhibit in Bodyworlds – no shock to Bennite old lags, but a grievous insult to the younger idealists of his coalition.

Read the full post at the New Statesman

BBC Radio Wales – Good Morning Wales | Did Jeremy Corbyn’s conference speech unite his warring party?

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After an extraordinary summer, it’s back to normal for Labour – a normal that includes a leader the MPs have no confidence in, MPs regarded as traitors by a large mass of the party, and anti-Semitism of the grossest kind voiced by an ally of the leader in one hall while that same leader declared “zero tolerance towards those who whip up hate and division” in another.

Tom Watson delivered a speech the moderates loved urging Labour to own and celebrate its Blair-Brown record, Jeremy Corbyn delivered a speech his supporters loved that included a barely-veiled attacked on Tony Blair, and Clive Lewis delivered a speech that Seamas Milne rewrote seconds before delivery to alter a key section on Labour’s approach to Trident, in a striking illustration of how loyalty to Corbyn is repaid. (If the rumours are true that Milne is about to head back to journalism with his diaries in hand, then the relief of Labour’s front bench could soon be lost in a swell of muckraking.) Owen Smith delivered no speech and is presumably just glad it’s all over.

I was on BBC Radio Wales this morning, talking through what Labour’s new normal means in the second age of Corbyn – follow the link below for the item.

Listen on iPlayer (from 00:10:26)

BBC Radio Wales – Good Morning Wales | Labour leadership election closing

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Voting in the Labour leadership election closed at midday yesterday, with it looking very likely that a Corbyn victory on an increased majority will be the result announced at conference this Saturday. I was on BBC Radio Wales yesterday morning to talk about where this leaves Labour. Does it have any prospects as a party of government under Corbyn? Can the soft left and centre hope to regain control of the party? And is Labour ever going to confront the political fragmentation of the Union?

That last is a question I’ve been thinking about a lot, partly because I think Labour’s difficulty with articulating a positive idea of statehood, and consequent vulnerability to to electoral pressure from nationalists, is probably intimately connected to the left’s susceptibility to anti-Semitism (and, given Dworkin’s analysis of the conceptual intimacy between anti-Semitism and misogyny, its sexism too). I haven’t thought this through entirely yet, but since Labour looks in no danger of pulling itself together imminently, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of time to work on it. Anyway, follow the link below to hear me on Good Morning Wales.

Listen on iPlayer (from 00:05:55)

BBC Radio Wales – Good Morning Wales | Labour leadership debate

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BBC Radio Wales invited me on this morning to help dissect last night’s Labour leadership debate – the first in a series of nine face-offs between Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith, and one that set a combative tone for the contest to follow. With Smith pitching himself as “the socialist who can win” as opposed to Corbyn as “the socialist who can’t”, policy differences crystalised in some hard fought scraps about Tribent, the EU and anti-Semitism in the party. Did either of them do enough to change Labour voters’ minds?

Listen on iPlayer (from 00:07:20)

BBC Radio Wales – Good Morning Wales | Labour Party leadership race

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The Labour Party continues to be ridiculous, and BBC Radio Wales continues to ask me on to talk about it. Yesterday, Labour Party donor and Corbyn-critic Michael Foster lost a High Court bid to overturn the NEC’s decision that Corbyn should automatically have a place on the leadership ballot. Follow the link below to hear me discuss that, and what it means for the deep divisions in Labour, with host Oliver Hides

Listen on iPlayer (from 00:43:00)

New Statesman | Jeremy Corbyn is a risk the middle-class can afford to take

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I know I’m middle class, because the day I needed to claim benefits and burst into tears because the queue was too long and I knew I would be going home without the money to pay the overdue electricity bill, the security guard took me aside and told me that if I came back early the next day, someone would be able to see me. I know the family in front of me were not middle class because the buggy they were pushing was a lesser brand than the one I was pushing, and because they were smoking, and because they had strong Sheffield accents, which I heard when they started to remonstrate with the security guard about the special treatment they (rightly) suspected I was getting. I hurried away, their threats to give me a good slapping echoing behind me.

Read the full post at the New Statesman

New Statesman | Let’s be alarmist: Brexit could take us back to the very worst of Europe’s intolerant past

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Things must be atrocious when, as a Labour supporter, you end up yearning for the Michael Foot era. Yes, he was to the left of the public in an electorally untenable way. Yes, his presentation made him a sitting target to a hostile press. Yes, he led Labour to defeat. But he wasn’t Corbyn. He understood that the Labour Party exists to win power and put itself in the service of the country. He was principled – something that means a bit more than “committed to endlessly calling Tony Blair a war criminal”. He respected Parliament as an institution, too, and when he finally lost his MPs’ confidence after the 1983 election, he went.

He was a great speaker, writer and intellectual too. My favourite of his lectures is published in a 1983 pamphlet called Byron and the Bomb. In it, he makes the seemingly unlikely claim that poetry should be one of our first resources in opposing nuclear weapons: we must “grasp and imagine what a nuclear holocaust might mean . . . we must use our imagination in a way that has not been attempted before”, he writes.

If politics is to be more than glorified management, it demands people who can imagine better possible worlds and work out how to get us there. It demands people who can see absolute hell coming as well, and help us to avert it.

Read the full post at the New Statesman