One reason for May calling the General Election now, is that she knows that in the next few years, Jeremy Corbyn's position as leader of the Labour Party will get stronger. That is all the more the case, as the party is reformed, and the current machinery that prevents the rank and file being properly represented, and allows the small group of right-wing Labour MP's and MEP's undue influence is changed. May wants to call an election now before Corbyn's position gets stronger, as she says other right-wing populists like herself losing ground across Europe, and the left growing in support. She wants to give the Labour right an opportunity to ditch Corbyn, and thereby stop the party from exerting its influence. Labour activists, whatever the result of the General Election, should not allow May and the right-wing Tories to achieve that aim. Whatever the result of the election. activists must ensure that Corbyn stays.
After all, if Labour were to lose, we know who to blame. Labour's standing in the polls is a result of the continual sniping against Corbyn by the old Blair-rights and soft lefts. Every day they have put into practice the words of Lord Mandelson to do everything they could to work for the removal of Corbyn. Every day they have continued to blur the electorates view of where Labour stands, now, by continuing to blather on with the same old failed Bliar-right policies of the past, rather than stand four-square behind the party leadership. Every day, the Tory press, and the Tory mass media has been full of unelected Blair-right, spin doctors, doing everything they could to undermine Corbyn. And, of course, they are aided and abetted by old SDP'ers like Polly Toynbee, and her scribblings in the Guardian, along with dozens more of that ilk who dominate the pages of those liberal papers, and magazines like the New Statesmen, whilst pretending to be supporters of Labour.
Even on the very day that May announced she was going to call the election, one of these same Blair-right MP's, John Woodcock came out to attack Corbyn gratuitously, saying that he could not and would not support Corbyn for Prime Minister. Had that been a left wing MP, who had said that in respect of Blair, the NEC would have jumped on them straight away, bringing disciplinary action to have them removed. Instead, today, we have a still right-wing dominated NEC, voting to prevent local parties from being able to deselect mavericks like Woodcock, and instead giving all of these right-wingers a free pass.
Labour should have put an amendment to the Tory motion to call the election, saying that it should be held in August, so as to give every party an equal opportunity to undertake their own internal democratic procedures to select candidates, to prepare manifestoes etc. That would have ensured that, at least we went into this election with candidates that more reflected the actual party of today, rather than the party of several years ago, prior to the Corbyn revolution.
The failure of Corbyn and the party leadership to do that, could turn out to be a serious mistake. The right will move, if Labour lose the election to remove Corbyn, and without the McDonnell amendment being passed, they would make it impossible for a new left-winger candidate to be even on the ballot for Leader. And once they have achieved that, as has always happened in the past, the right will not make the same mistake of conciliating their opponents that Corbyn and Momentum have made.
With an existing right-wing majority on the NEC, they will move quickly to suspend and close down, branches and CLP's, and to expel anyone they see as an opponent. They will stop the McDonnell amendment even being put forward let alone passed, They will act to carry out the coup they attempted last year, but now from a position of power.
The first step in preventing that is for Labour activists now to organise to win the election, and as Paul Mason said yesterday on Newsnight, Labour can win this election. We have half a million activists, Corbyn has always had more support than the polls suggest, which is one reason that May is refusing to debate him in a TV debate. But, that organisation to win the election - and remember the reason the Tories are in a mess over election expenses in respect of the last election, is that they are moribund at grass roots level, they effectively have no activists in much of the country - must also go hand in hand with organisation to build the activist base within the party, in preparation for whatever comes after the election.
If Labour loses, it will be the fault of the right, and activists must then be ready to take the action needed to deal with that cause of the defeat. It will mean rebuilding the party root and branch from the ground up. It will require all the old right wing functionaries at branch, CLP and higher levels of the party being cleared out, along with right-wing councillors. We need people in these positions who will fight clearly on principle against the attacks that the Tories will launch, not people who only want to occupy a position as a career, and offer only Tory-lite policies as an alternative.
We need to pass further democratic reforms at party conference to reinstate mandatory reselection of MP's, and we need to ensure that we then move quickly to deselect the right-wing MP's that will have brought such a defeat about, not just over the last two years of their carping, but as a result of the previous 18 years when they advocated and in government implemented Tory-lite policies that led to workers losing faith in Labour as any kind of real alternative to the Tories.
When Kinnock lost the election in 1987, he did not resign, but stayed on as Leader to fight the 1992 election, which he also lost. When Harold Wilson lost in 1970, he did not stand down as leader, and went on to win the two elections in 1974. If Labour loses there is no reason why Corbyn should stand down, when that loss will not have been his fault, but will be wholly down to the actions of the right-wing within the party. Activists must make it clear, here and now, that whatever happens, Corbyn stays, so that the changes started in the party can be completed, not rolled back. That is the basis for Labour moving forward to win in 2020, or 2022, whenever the next election follows.
There is however, every reason why Labour can win this election. The Liberals were already mostly destroyed at the last election. Everyone knows that they are no different to the Tories. Farron has spent more time already attacking Labour rather than the Tories, and has said he is open yet again to going into coalition with the Tories. Even those who want to oppose Brexit, should vote Labour rather than Liberal, because the Liberals have no chance of making any difference. Even if they trebled their number of seats, they would have only 27 seats. A vote for the Liberals is not only a vote for the Tories because every Liberal MP will simply bolster the Tories as they did between 2010-2015, but because nearly everywhere, a vote for the Liberals simply detracts from a potential Labour win. Anyone who wants to oppose Tory Brexit, must favour a Labour Government over a Tory Government, whereas the Liberals have no chance of making any impact.
Moreover, another reason for May calling the election now is that the reality of Brexit and the Brexit negotiations is beginning to bite. The Pound has made a short term rally, but it is headed steadily downwards, sending inflation steadily upwards, as Britain heads for stagflation. Real wages are already falling, and the UK economy has been sustained only on the basis of levels of private household debt, now back to the levels seen just ahead of the 2008, financial meltdown. The next few weeks will see Britain's impotence in the Brexit negotiations highlighted, whilst its economy begins to tank. May hopes to preempt that, but its possible that voters will already see that the economy is heading into crisis, before the election takes place.
I do not favour Leaders debates, which merely lead in the direction of personalising politics, and turning it into a cult of celebrity, but May's refusal to debate with Corbyn also shows her weakness, and Corbyn's strength. In the Labour leadership debates, no one had heard of Corbyn until the campaign began. It was the campaign, and hundreds of meetings and debates around the country that led to the Corbyn surge. May will be aware of the same thing happening with Bernie Sanders in the US, and with Melenchon in France in recent weeks.
Moreover, May, like cameron before her, never answers Corbyn's questions in Parliament. She relies on pre-scripted responses, whatever the question, and a series of jokes and insults. Whenever she has to make a response on something that has not been prescripted, she stumbles and fumbles. That is why she doesn't want to take part in a live debate, where she would have an hour of such stumbling and fumbling exposing her as a weak leader, unable to think for herself on her feet. Labour should take every opportunity to expose that weakness, during the campaign.
As Dennis Skinner said, in 1974, Ted Heath called a General Election in similar conditions, thinking that he would win, in the middle of a Miners Strike, on the basis of the question who rules. At the start of the campaign he too had a clear lead according to the polls, and of course, the traditional Tory arrogance meant that they believed that voters would support him rather than a Labour party supporting the miners. He was wrong. Labour won. We can do the same again.