Monday, 9 September 2019

Corby-Wan and The Rabble Alliance

When an aged, Alec Guiness, as Obi-Wan Kenobi, led a fractious bunch of misfits against the Empire, he had the benefit of using “The Force”, not to mention the much more tangible matter of having the script writers on his side. An aged Jeremy Corbyn, has neither The Force, nor the script to his advantage. Corby-Wan is simply put in the position of leading a rabble alliance comprised of fractious, self-centred politicians, wholly lacking in principle, and with no strategic vision, further than, for most of them, saving their own careers and ambitions.

We saw last week, the true nature of that rabble alliance. The media seem afraid of even mentioning the most likely tactic that Johnson will use, come October 19th, so as to keep his promise not to ask Brussels for an extension of Article 50. That is that, come October 19th, having spent 5 weeks electioneering, virtually unhampered by parliamentary or other scrutiny, he will continue that electioneering, by declaring that he will resign, rather than ask for such an extension. As already a minority government, he will advise the Queen that she should call upon Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the official opposition, and head of a PLP comprising 247 MP's, to form a government. Because the Queen acts in accordance with the constitution and convention, she will do so, because to refuse Johnson's resignation, or to call upon someone other than Corbyn to form a government would cause a constitutional crisis, in which the Queen would be dragged into politics, at a time when the Epstein scandal, and other events are calling the Monarchy into question once again.

But, as soon as the Queen invites Corbyn to form a government, the fun really starts. Swinson has said that she will not support Corbyn as Prime Minister. The reason given is that Corbyn does not command a majority amongst the rabble alliance. But, that is a circular argument. Of course, if some of that rabble, such as the Liberals, the Chukas, the independent Tories et al, do not support Corbyn, then he will not have a majority. The answer to that is for them to support him, as the SNP and Plaid have said they would do. But, the real reason that the Liberals will not back Corbyn is because they know that having done so, their own prospects for winning seats at the forthcoming election will be severely diminished. Corbyn's pro-Brexit stance over the last three years has driven hundreds of thousands of Labour voters away from Labour, and back into the arms of the Liberals, Greens, Plaid and SNP. The last local elections, and the European Parliament elections were the clearest indication of that. The Liberals have developed delusions of grandeur that, if Corbyn continues to be seen as leading a Labour Party that is lukewarm in its opposition to Brexit, then they will continue to see the Labour vote flood to them, giving them even the prospect of overtaking Labour as the main party of opposition. That prospect is far more important for the Liberals than stopping the Tories No Deal Brexit.

That the rebel Tory MP's would not support Corbyn in such conditions is not surprising, because most of them are merely in transit to retirement, a cushy job in the City etc., or to a new life in the Liberals themselves, where they hope to join some of their former colleagues, in continuing their lucrative parliamentary careers, riding under different colours, which is not a problem for people for whom, in the words of Groucho Marx, if their principles do not suit, they have plenty of alternative principles they can adopt instead.

But, its not just Liberals and Tories that are loathe to give support to Corby-Wan as leader of such a rabble alliance. All of those Blair-right MP's that, for the last three years, have been trying to get rid of Corbyn by votes of no confidence, leadership challenges, referral of the party to the EHRC over allegations of anti-Semitism, charges that Corbyn himself is a “fucking anti-Semite”, and so on will not want to see him ensconced in Downing Street. For them, the opposition to Corbyn becoming Prime Minister, even as caretaker, is manna from heaven. It means their co-thinkers, in the Liberals, can act as a means of implementing a coup, within the PLP, that they themselves have proved incompetent to achieve, over the last three years. If they can force Corbyn to agree to one of their number fulfilling the function of leader of the rabble alliance, instead of Corbyn, they will have achieved their aim, of removing Corbyn as Leader of the Labour Party, completely by-passing the half million Labour members from any say in that process. Corbyn's days as Labour Leader would be over, and the Corbyn project would follow quickly after it. Again, the Blair-rights are far more concerned with that than preventing a Tory No Deal Brexit. Its one reason they have always preferred the idea of a cross-class, pro-EU second referendum, rather than, a General Election, in which Labour could fight for progressive social-democratic policies, including the internationalist policies in relation to the EU, that build European workers solidarity on the basis of the EU, but against the conservative social-democratic (neoliberal) policies that guide it.

The weekend was just another example of the unprincipled nature of the rabble alliance. On Sophie Ridge On Sunday, Shami Chakrabarti was asked about the fact that Labour MP Diana Johnson, in Hull is to face a reselection meeting, following a trigger ballot. Chakrabarti began reasonably enough by pointing out that a trigger ballot did not mean that MP's would be deselected, but she failed to point out that MP's do not have a god given right to hold their seats. It should not be necessary for their to be trigger ballots for MP's to face selection meetings. Labour councillors have to face selection every time their seat is fought, and lay officials have to be elected every year. In fact, MP's, who have a very privileged and responsible position, in the party, as its public face, its means of representation in parliament, not to mention their lucrative salaries, should even more be subject to democratic accountability, on a regular basis, by the party, which puts them in those positions.

Instead, Chakrabarti intimated that the NEC might intervene to overrule local party democracy, particularly if time to a General Election became tight! In other words, the NEC would simply nominate candidates and impose them on local parties, often, thereby, simply giving a free pass to all those right-wing Labour MP's like John Mann, Caroline Flint, Ruth Smeeth, Gareth Snell, et al who have not only undermined Corbyn over the last three years, but who have also voted with the Tories in an attempt to push through a reactionary Brexit deal, as well as to all those Blair-right MP's that have launched no confidence motions, leadership bids, and charges of anti-Semitism against the Labour Leader, in order to undermine him, and the majority of Labour members. In fact, Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings have shown the way that Corbyn should have acted over the last four years, by getting shut of all those dissident elements from the PLP, and ensuring that democracy was infused into the party, enabling local rank and file members to get rid of all the dead wood, and select candidates that reflect the current party membership, and who are prepared to fight on its principles.

The fact that the media can even intimate that there is something amiss in Labour MP's being subject to democratic processes – and Johnson's expulsion of rebel Tory MP's, and their deselection by their local associations means they now have to extend this horror to conditions in the Tory Party – is not surprising, because it simply reflects the thoroughly decadent nature of the polity, and the incestuous relations in which all of life is seen as reflected through the lens of an extremely closeted world in which journalists are politicians and political advisors, and politicians and political advisors are journalists, each swapping seamlessly from one role to another. They see this world as eternal and natural, where politicians hold their positions by right, never to be called into question, other than every five years, and then only for a minority, in marginal seats, who if they are unfortunate, have to simply switch roles to journalist, or political advisor, lobbyist, or whatever, until a safe seat becomes available. For the rest of us, there is no role in this process other than to stuff envelopes, man phone banks, tramp the cold, wet streets, and otherwise to know our place.

What is throwing that media, and all the Liberal luvvies, is precisely the fact that the mythical centre-ground of politics has disappeared. The Tory Party has not moved decisively to the Right, and the Labour Party decisively to the Left for purely subjective reasons that the members of those parties have had some overnight conversion. It has happened because society itself has become polarised, divided into two great class camps confronting each other, each based upon different material interests that have sharpened in the period after 2008. The liberal luvvies – not just here, but across the globe - complain that the centre-ground voters have nowhere to go. This refrain is repeated endlessly by the epitome of this liberal world view, Fareed Zakharia on CNN, from whose set, David Miliband is never absent for many weeks, but the truth is that those centrist voters themselves now constitute a small minority, and they have had a home to go to all along. In 2010, 2015, and 2017, for example, in Britain, they had the Liberals to vote for, its not that the centrists have no home, but that, if anything, the homes that the centrists now have, are way too big for their family! 

Unlike Corbyn, and the Labour Left, Johnson/Cummings have acted to cut out the cancer from their midst. They have expelled the centrist Tory MP's that reflect the bygone era. In getting rid of 22 MP's, it has been a relatively limited surgical operation. Those 22 will quickly be replaced by new hard right, Tory MP's, selected by their local associations, 80% of whose members back a No Deal Brexit, seek a sharp right turn, and are prepared to see the United Kingdom broken up, and economic hardship imposed, in order to obtain a No Deal Brexit, and to create the kind of full scale free market competition they desire to further their own interests, with the state utilised to provide them with protection against the demands of workers, and protection from foreign competition, of the kind that the EU symbolises. Its no surprise at all, therefore, that Johnson's standing in the Tory Party is enhanced, and that amongst all of the Tory core vote, the Tory party is winning back voters from the Brexit Party, whilst the Labour Party that flounders in its pro-Brexit stance, continues to wilt.

Cummings/Johnson must not be able to believe their luck. Their problems were these. 
  • Johnson could not have pushed through a No Deal Brexit, before an election, because he knows it will be catastrophic, quickly resulting in his government being brought down, the Tories destroyed, and a rapid application for re-entry into the EU.
  • Johnson could not ask for an extension of Article 50 prior to a General Election, because to do so, would have destroyed his position inside the Tory Party, and would have seen a flood of Tory voters to the Brexit Party, which would have made it impossible for the Tories to win the election.
  • Johnson had to be seen to be vehemently pursuing No Deal – even though he could never have implemented it and survived – whilst doing everything possible to not have to implement it, prior to an election.
  • He needed a General Election prior to having to implement a No Deal, so that he could claim the mantle of the Faragists, consolidate the Brexit vote behind the Tory Party, and allow the fractious, unprincipled and divided nature of the rabble alliance, to do its work in showing them up to have no clue, to be undemocratic, and for the divisions amongst them to split the anti-Brexit vote, so as to allow the Tories to romp home with 35-40% of the vote. 
Labour has given him pretty much all he wants. Labour and the rabble alliance also know that, if Johnson were to ask for an extension to Article 50, he would be finished. They thought, therefore, that they had come up with a cunning plan to force him into it, by passing the Benn Act, and simultaneously refusing to agree to a General Election prior to that. If ever there were a classic example of parliamentary cretinism, this is it. Having come up with this cunning plan, they have spent the last week trying to avoid seeing the obvious flaw in it, which is that, they have given Johnson all the time between now and October 19th to strut the political stage as the champion of the people, standing heroically against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, slung against him by an unholy alliance of discredited Tories, sandal wearing hippy Liberals, and “Marxists”, all of whom are acting to thwart democracy and the will of the people, not only by opposing Brexit, but even by refusing to allow a General Election!

His Chancellor has announced the end of austerity, and we can expect, in the next few weeks, of an unofficial General Election campaign, that there will be plenty more unfunded spending commitments from the government, the equivalent of the kind of Keynesian fiscal stimulus that Oswald Mosely proposed in the Mosely Memorandum, in the 1930's, that was backed by the likes of Nye Bevan. It will be almost impossible for Labour to oppose the fiscal stimulus proposals that Johnson puts forward as he steals Corbyn's economic clothes. But, as an unofficial election period, and with parliament prorogued, Labour will have no effective means of challenging or scrutinising any of these proposals, giving the government a massive propaganda advantage. 

They are trying to find endless ways in which Johnson might be brought before the courts for having flouted the Benn Act, now including the idea that he might write a second letter in a personal capacity saying he doesn't really want an extension to Article 50. But, of course, Johnson will do none of that. It would be seen as side-stepping the issue, and side-stepping a fight. As I've been saying for over a week, Johnson's strategy is straightforward. Having used the large public stage of the EU Council on 17th - 18th October to proclaim his dying determination not to ask for an extension of Article 50, Johnson will then state that rather than ask for an extension, he is resigning as Prime Minister. He will go to the Queen, and ask her to invite Corbyn, as leader of the official Opposition, to form a government. She will comply because that is what the constitution and convention requires her to do,

Corbyn will then have to take responsibility for forming a government, and for asking for an extension of . But, no sooner than Johnson can get his MP's into parliament, he will put down a motion of no confidence in the Corbyn government. It then becomes a question of timing. Will Corbyn manage to write the letter to the EU requesting the extension, before his government collapses. For collapse, it is surely bound to do. Swinson and the rebel Tories have said they would not support a Corbyn government, so if all of Johnson's Tories vote against it, and even if the Liberals, and rebel Tories simply abstained, the no confidence vote would be carried. Corbyn would be in office for a fortnight, whilst the Liberals, rebel Tories, and possibly the Blair-rights tried to put forward an alternative. However, under those conditions, its inconceivable that any Labour MP is going to vote for some other candidate, because they would be signing their own political death warrant, with CLP's in the process of trigger ballots for reselections.

So, in essence, Johnson will have been given around 6-7 weeks of almost uncontested electioneering time up to 19th October. He will be able to parade himself as champion of the people defending Brexit, and democracy, as the other parties try to frustrate both. He will show them up to be an unprincipled, disorganised, fractious rabble that has brought the country to a state of chaos. Having resigned on a point of principle on October 18th or 19th he will then have only to wait another fourteen days before the Corbyn government collapses, and the rabble alliance are unable to bring forward an alternative. At that point, a General Election must be called, so Johnson gets his way.

He will not have had to implement a No Deal Brexit that he knows he could not have implemented prior to an election anyway. He will be able to blame the demand for an extension on Corbyn, and the rabble alliance, or even better, Corbyn will not have time to ask for the extension before his government collapses, and so Johnson will even more be able to ride to the rescue as the bringer of law and order. Labour's Brexit position has gone from bad to thoroughly bizarre. They now want a Labour government to spend weeks negotiating Labour's fantasy Jobs First Brexit, which in any case is unachievable, but then to call a referendum in which they would argue not for the deal they have just negotiated, but for Remain! With the forces ranged against Johnson/Cummings being such an unprincipled disorganised rabble, unable to organise the proverbial piss up in a brewery, with the the Tories now at around 35% in the polls, and undoubtedly increasing, as they suck back the Brexit Party votes, and with the anti-Brexit vote thoroughly divided between a Labour P,arty itself floundering and divorced from reality, totally absorbed in parliamentary cretinism, Johnson/Cummings must not believe their luck at the gift that is being presented to them for the upcoming election.

The pundits are musing over the possibility of the Liberals regaining their vote share, which given Labour's totally bizarre and nonsensical, not to mention mostly, thoroughly reactionary stance on Brexit, is highly likely. But, that rise in the Liberals standing will be at the expense of Labour not the Tories in most places, other than possibly the South-West, and South-East. Even in the South-West, the heavy Leave vote is more than likely to translate into a Tory vote than a Liberal vote in current conditions, where Brexit dominates. And, in industrial areas, where the large majority of the Leave vote came from Tories, and the large majority of the Remain vote came from Labour voters, Labour's confused pro-Brexit position, is again likely to see the Liberals gain at Labour's expense, which by splitting the vote, could let the Tories in, in a large number of seats.

By focusing on opportunist politics, of trying to triangulate between Remain and Leave voters, itself based partly on Corbyn's own continued attachment to economic nationalism and Eurosceptism, as well as the reactionary nationalist views of Labour right-wingers willing to accommodate to anti-immigrant sentiment, Labour has wasted the last three years chasing a chimera, rather than putting forward, and mobilising a social movement around a progressive, social-democratic, and thereby necessarily internationalist position of scrapping Brexit, and fighting for reform of the EU alongside our fellow workers, socialists and social-democrats. Similarly, by being absorbed by parliamentary cretinism, and parliamentary manoeuvre over the last few weeks, Labour has embroiled itself in a web of unprincipled alliances and machinations, the effect of which will be to seriously rebound on it. 

Labour should have, all along, committed to revoking Article 50, if it were elected to government, and should have voted accordingly over the last three years, mobilising a social movement outside parliament to that effect. It would have, thereby, put itself in an unassailable position for the upcoming General Election. It would have killed off the Liberals, Greens and Plaid, and created the conditions for winning back support in Scotland against the SNP. Corbyn would also, thereby, have cut the legs from beneath a convenient part of the Blair-rights opposition to his leadership. It would have facilitated the process of democratising the party, by enthusing the rank and file membership, enabling the right-wing and Blair-right MP's to be cleared out, and new progressive candidates put in their place. Instead of parliamentary parlour games, Labour should have said openly that if Johnson carried through a No Deal Brexit, he would have to bear responsibility for its disastrous consequences, and Labour would mobilise with the TUC to defend workers from those consequences. They should have taken him up in his call for a General Election, and fought that election on the basis that they would revoke Article 50, passing retrospective legislation to do so, if required. They could, on that basis have rallied all of the anti-Brexit forces and votes behind them, which is the only way a hard Brexit Tory party can be defeated in any forthcoming election.

They have failed to do that, in which case, the likely consequence is that Johnson will win the upcoming election, Labour will be badly defeated, the Blair-rights will launch another attack, and the Corbyn project could well itself die along with it.

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