The Labour leadership election: my view

Hi all,

I’ve deliberately kept updates limited for a while, partly to give more space to others and partly as post-Brexit I’ve been busy myself with some non-political projects. But a number of Broxtowe Labour members have asked for input on the Labour leadership election, and some who aren’t currently members may be interested.

First, as usual, I’d like to discuss it amicably – with all that’s happened in the last few months, feelings have been getting heated. My views are simply my personal opinion, and naturally anyone is free to disagree.

There is a reasonably broad consensus on two things:

Jeremy Corbyn has a number of likeable personal qualities: he is entirely focused on improving Britain’s policies rather than personal glory or amassing wealth; he avoids personal abuse, even of people he strongly disagrees with; he maintains a steady, even temper despite sometimes considerable provocation. I’ve known him on and off for 40 years: he’s just the same equable, civil figure in private.

Labour is not at present successfully challenging Theresa May’s honeymoon, even though she has yet to actually do anything very much and the policies which worry many about the Conservatives have continued unchanged, while the post-Brexit economic outlook continues to look bleak.

The question is how far the problems relate to Corbyn personally and how far it’s due to the intensive barrage from many nominally on his own side that he’s endured since taking the leadership last year. The impression given is that the party is massively divided, and in my view the main responsibility for that are the disparate forces who have been briefing against him – first anonymously, then in public – since day 1. This isn’t to say that he doesn’t need to shoulder some of the responsibility, but he’s not actually been given a fair chance.

The reason he was elected is that his opponents last year seemed not to be offering a coherent policy programme. The sardonic comment of an adviser that our 2010 programme sounded like “Vote Labour and win a toaster” stung because it was partly true. After a range of genuinely good reforms introduced under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown which tend now to be forgotten (the Northern Ireland settlement, the minimum wage, the massive improvement in NHS and education funding, much greater attention to social reform and humans rights) and the twin disasters of Iraq and the world banking crisis, the party seemed to have lost its way. Corbyn offered a new focus on developing an alternative to austerity – which by 2016 even its architects like Georg Osborne were admitting had proved ineffective in dealing with the debt issue – and a new focus on industrial and services growth.

The challenge this year is curious, in that Owen Smith is arguing that he broadly supports the new direction; he simply feels he’d do it better. The problem with that is threefold:

  1. It’s not been evident up to now that he was particularly engaged with that: if we are following Corbyn’s policies, doesn’t it make more sense to have Corbyn putting them forward?
  2. The evidence that Labour would do significantly better under his leadership is scanty
  3. Many of his backers clearly see him as an interim solution to be replaced by someone else down the line, once Corbyn was defeated. In pursuing that, frankly undemocratic measures have been taken, first trying to prevent Corbyn from standing at all and then preventing over 20% of the membership from taking part because they’d mostly joined as they were attracted by the new approach.

If Owen is elected on that basis, I think he’ll struggle to be accepted by members as legitimate, and we’ll extend the internal feuding for a further year until another round 12 months from now. Meanwhile, the people whom we represent are looking on the perplexity at the internal battle, which is leaving Britain without an effective opposition.

Bottom line: I’ve always wanted in politics to argue for a progressive agenda with civility and reason rather than ranting and abuse. Jeremy Corbyn epitomises that spirit of “positive politics”, and I would like to stand by it.

I’m therefore voting to give Corbyn a decent chance, and I hope other members will do the same.

Best regards

 

Nick

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43 Responses to The Labour leadership election: my view

  1. Celia Billau says:

    Hi Nick
    When you say you would like to give Jeremy Corbyn “a decent chance”, why do you think he has not been able to prove himself a capable leader in the 9 months he led the party? Was this not a “decent chance” to prove himself? Also, there were 172 Labour MPs who were working in Parliament who felt he was not up to the job. Why do you think they felt so strongly about it that they gave him their vote of no-confidence?
    When you say that Owen Smith has yet to prove himself, that is not much of an argument when the current leader has proved himself to be incompetent. At least we have some certainty about that!
    I would dearly love to see the Tories challenged more effectively, and for Labour to have a chance of winning the GE in 2020, but I don’t see much hope of that if JC is re-elected as leader. I can only forsee continuing division and ultimately a break up of the party. (I can remember the days of Michael Foot!)
    However, each to their own views, but I would be interested to hear your response to the above.
    Thanks
    Kind regards
    Celia

  2. Suzanne Stephenson says:

    Thanks for this, Nick. It’s good to see something so fair and balanced. My impression of Jeremy Corbyn is as you describe, I don’t think he’s the messiah but he’s captured the imagination of many, many people who are desperate for change and there’s certainly nobody else around that can do that. If only more of your former PLP colleagues were able to put aside their – well, whatever it is that’s driving them to destroy the Labour Party! I’ve share your statement with other members of some Corbyn support groups because I find it very encouraging.

  3. Andrew Hardman says:

    Thank you Nick. It is heartening to hear positive comments for a change. Good luck in the future.

    From a Bolsover District member
    Andrew Hardman

  4. Margaret Hinchcliffe says:

    A very cogent and balanced view – and I am pleased that you are supporting Jeremy Corbyn

  5. Pat Melia says:

    Thank you so much for your thoughts and Honesty.

  6. Dave says:

    Nick, I’ve supported you, and also voted labour for all my adult life. I find your support for Corbyn bizarre. You talk up his “positive politics” but have said nothing about the rather odd Virgin train set up where he allowed himself to be filmed sitting on the floor, having already walked past empty, available seats. You either know something else about Corbyn that explains this type of odd behaviour or you are misled.
    You sent an email before the labour election last year stating your support for Corbyn. I wished to ask then but couldn’t find how to do it so will ask now. Just at what point in Corbyn’s parliamentary career did you first spot his leadership qualities?

  7. David Mack says:

    Thank you for circulating this. As a Corbyn supporter in a large group, I, and I know many others, find the onslaught we face from the main media and Corbyn opposers really hits our morale. It is the integrity and measure comment like yours that gives us a boost and the strength to fight on. I know I speak for many.
    Wishing you well
    David Mack

  8. Caroline Ffrench Blake says:

    Bravo. Jeremy Corbyn is offering the chance of a better country, a better world.

    I hope others follow you, and I wish you well.

  9. Iain Watson says:

    Nicely put.

  10. Louis Minson says:

    Thanks for that Nick. Broxtowe here, just joined Labour because of JC. Good to know that locally we’re pro-Jeremy

  11. Graham Lester George says:

    Very heartened to read this Nick. Thank you for posting it.

  12. colin dickinson says:

    thank you sir. not because you come to the conclusion (give corbyn a chance) as myself, but for presenting the leadership battle in quiet, reasonable manner without resorting to the smear tactics that many others have. if your conclusion had been to support smith you would not have diverted me from supporting corbyn but would still have had my respect. would that all politicians were debating as you have done here.

  13. Markytyz says:

    Good analysis. I despair and fail to understand the antipathy by the establishment, including most of the media and, of course, the PLP, towards Jeremy Corbyn. His speech at Kilburn echoed what I always felt were Labour values. He is an honest and principled politician who, when heard, and not filtered through the biased media, resonates with many. The Labour membership has grown exponentially, he has not lost an election despite the propaganda shoved down our throats daily . I consider myself an aware, educated woman but I am failing to understand the antagonism and feel deeply angry at the self seeking betrayal of people I had previously respected.
    Thank you for your support.

  14. Oh I love you, thank you for actually representing members.

  15. Nicki R says:

    Nick I much appreciate your very civil tone, not getting into the being on sides battle. You speak with honesty and integrity, the very same as Mr Corbyn. Thank you for that. By the way… should my ballot papers arrive in the next few days I will be voting Corbyn.. I want to give him the chance to do his job and hopefully form a decent opposition to the current incumbents who quite frankly are shamelessly killing people with their policies and tearing at the very fabric of our society… it is they the PLP should be focusing their attentions on right now not fighting with itself to score political points…. it’s no good if you don’t get elected or re selected to stand again is it,because members and voters will say get lost then. Time to start pulling together!

  16. Debra walker says:

    well said couldnt agree more ,wish there were more with the same opinion .

  17. Neil Cameron says:

    What a pleasant change to read a calm, unsensational and realistic appraisal of the leadership campaign and it’s history.
    Thank You

  18. Paul Johnson says:

    Your summary of the past 11 months Mr Palmer is in my opinion very honest and I completely agree. It is nice to see someone like yourself speaking frankly and tearing the arguments against Jeremy to shreds. What worries me as a member and speaking I believe for an awful lot of members. That the plotters of this coup are still not finished and will destroy the party we all have supported and or canvassed for many MPs who seem to have a completely different analysis and viewpoint and belief than the majority of the Labour Party members. This deeply saddens me, because if I am right the conservative have won without firing a shot and we the uk citizens who want change and real democracy will lose twofold. More conservative stripping of every worker sick and vulnerable of our human rights and right to even vote. Then secondly the right of center destroying the party from within and splitting the party. Either way we the members lose.

    Yours respectfully

    Paul

  19. Annie Weatherly-Barton says:

    What a brilliant piece. So refreshing and really lays out the essence of what is facing Labour. Very many thanks Mr Palmer. Wow! Labour really needs more people like you in its ranks.

  20. Dave Jones says:

    Nick Palmer, thank you for your assessment of the current situation within Labour. As a new member of the Party, I have been extremely dismayed and discouraged by the PLP’s negative attitude towards and stance against Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, but you have revealed that not everyone is in that camp, and there are those, like you, who are brave and principled enough to stand up and be counted. Thank you.

  21. Terry Casey says:

    Thank you Nick some common sense among the chaos. Your loss can be put down to the PLP and their agenda, they were either frightened of being seen as too progressive or they weren’t progressive at all whichever way you look at it they didn’t deserve to win, we need a different way, they won’t offer it and the members have said enough is enough, we are sticking with Corbyn, you never know there might well be a job in it for you.

  22. john shale says:

    sounds fair enough.
    At bottom he was voted leader by Labour members for a reason. If 172 can’t agree to him, then it’s they, who need to depart.
    It may be that Socialism is as dead and irrelevant as the establishment would wish.
    It may be that Corbyn can attract the right people to seed a new politics, which is not based on greed and sociophobia.

  23. Jill Murphy says:

    Thank you Nick for supporting Corbyn, it makes a pleasant change to hear this. As you say he has had a horrible time since Brexit, from his own MPs and so called friends. With the entire media against him I’m amazed he hasn’t given up but his supporters have kept him going as we all have faith in him. It’s good to hear some fair minded MPs are supporting him now.

  24. Guest says:

    Good man.

  25. Kathleen Bakewell says:

    I had begun to wonder whether there were any brave and decent Labour politicians other than those who have been close to Jeremy Corbyn from the start. Thank you for showing me that all is not lost.

  26. Koser Saeed says:

    Thank you for your invaluable insight Nick. Until now, Labour voters have be mostly left to make their own conclusions about what appears to be a aggressive, unwarranted, undemocratic and even unnecessary challenge. We need calm and impartial viewpoints and because the media seem to have a moratorium on anything remotely positive from the Jeremy camp, we’ve been forced to find our own answers. I recently researched comparative voting histories between Jeremy, Owen, Theresa May and Sadiq Khan (over a 7yr period) and it was quite an eye opening experience. I’ve posted the report on my facebook page and shared it with a number of groups and the overwhelming consensus is that Jeremy is the only credible candidate to challenge Theresa May. It also revealed some harsh truths about Theresa May that shocked quite a few people.

    I’ve sent a copy of this report to the Corbyn campaign team and I hope they can make some use of it as well.

    By the way, during my research, I found that Sadiq Khan actually almost completely abstained from voting on anything for a period of about 7yrs (with perhaps 1 possible exception). This too has shocked quite a few Labour supporters, who dont understand how an mp can decide not to vote on any of the key issues that matter to his constituents and to Labour supporters in general. Can you offer any insight into this please?

    Kind regards,
    Koser

  27. danny thomas says:

    Thankyou Nick,
    A considered and eloquent view.
    You are a credit to your constituents party memebers.
    Cheers,
    Danny

  28. Brilliant article, Nick Palmer is obviously another genuine man of the people. It wonderful to read why he is supporting Corbyn. These are the same reasons I support our leader.

  29. Patricia Thornley says:

    Your article is fair, concise and totally without bias. Thank you.
    I am 61 years old, never been a member of a political party before or an activist. For the first time ever I have listened to a man of politics who has understanding of everyday life and empathise with ordinary people and who wants to bring about change for the better. That man for me, is Jeremy Corbyn.

  30. Soodabeh Balali says:

    Thank you so much Nick.
    A breath of fresh air reading your positive message. It is nice to read an article that doesn’t contain exaggerated lies.
    God bless you.
    Soodabeh Balali

  31. Sean says:

    I’d probably challenge your “problems”…

    1) if we are following Corbyn’s policies, doesn’t it make more sense to have Corbyn putting them forward?

    No – Corbyn is deeply unpopular with the wider electorate. And if it’s about the movement, not the person, then they aren’t “Corbyn’s policies” they should be “labour policies”.

    2) The evidence that Labour would do significantly better under his leadership is scanty

    What evidence would suffice on this basis? Corbyn has quite a lot of evidence that labour will continue to decline under his leadership.

    3) Many of his backers clearly see him as an interim solution to be replaced by someone else down the line, once Corbyn was defeated. In pursuing that, frankly undemocratic measures have been taken, first trying to prevent Corbyn from standing at all and then preventing over 20% of the membership from taking part because they’d mostly joined as they were attracted by the new approach.

    Your evidence on this “backers see him as an interim solution” is, to use your words, scanty. I’m gonna give a big [Citation needed] there.
    Also, you’re equating the moves by NEC to stop new members/corbyn standing to Smith. He did neither of these things and has spoken out about it.

  32. Charleton A. Wyman says:

    I could not agree more. Hitler used to say if you repeat a lie loud enough and long enough believe shall believe it. What we have heard, even before JC was elected, was that he was unelectable, even to the fact that during the first campaign journalist would scoff at him on camera with a sneer; ”you don’t think you can win do you”, or “why are YOU standing?”. The irony is rich, but Hitler’s statement may yet come true. The mainstream media are almost daily repeating that lie, and were we back in the 1980s that lie would not only be believed but, belief in it would actually make it true, as it was for Foot and Kinnock.
    However I think as people turn to social media to avoid the scratched record of nay-sayers in the mainstream media, we may well be able to push home our support for JC through FB and Twitter, which, like a gadfly is a continual challenge to establishment power.
    Will it be enough; only time can tell.

  33. Andy Jenkinson says:

    Thank you.

  34. Glynn Smith says:

    I’m heartened that civility still has a place in this strange, new century. I agree entirely with your measured comments. I feel exactly the same about those items.

  35. Dawn says:

    Thank you Nick. This was a breath of fresh air to read after all the negative propaganda that has been going on. I think your reasons for supporting Jeremy are the same as the thousands of us who have joined the Labour Party because of the new hope that Jeremy is offering. He is being steadfast, resolute and determined whilst remaining respectful even to those who attack him. These are superb leadership qualities and an example to us all.

  36. Liz Gardiner says:

    Thank you Nick Palmer.
    I voted for Corbyn last year and will be voting for him again.
    I share your views – although you’ve expressed them far better than I ever could!
    If… if… Corbyn wasn’t standing I still wouldn’t feel able to vote for Smith who seems to me to have no original ideas and he is certainly not speaking to/for many Labour members and supporters.
    I don’t know if the Labour Party with Corbyn as Leader can win the next election and, of course, that concerns me deeply, but, a) Corbyn does, at least, have a huge mandate from the membership and b) in all honesty, not one of the other MP’s who put their heads above the parapet as leadership candidate on this occasion comes anywhere near what I am looking for in a leader. Sadly, they and their co-conspirators (because that’s what they are) are the ones who have caused this massive rift in the party. They are the ones to blame for this whole debacle.
    Thank you, again, for setting out your views, clearly and dispassionately. They’ve certainly helped clear my mind of all its useless ramblings!

  37. Graham Pike says:

    I take issue with the point made regarding the feuding continuing if Owen wins it’s illogical.
    Corbyn won last year and that is exactly what has happened and by all accounts those opposing Corbyn are determined to carry on if Corbyn wins.
    I would suggest that last year, had Corbyn been even achieved 2nd place I do not believe for a minute that he or his supporters would have contested it, demanded another election or made any fuss at all.
    They’d have been very disappointed, any growing enthusiasm gone with the belief that all was rather hopeless and business would be as usual.

  38. Addison says:

    Never heard of you before I read this post, it’s a shame there isn’t more like you.

    Keep up the good work and maybe we can derail the gravy train that MPs so desperately want to maintain.

  39. Thank you for expressing a fair and open overview of the current situation. I have recently joined the LP yet am dismayed that it feels like a ‘them and us’ battle, not what l expected given that we are all ‘on the same side’!
    I am not disaffected youth, a revolutionary old guard or troublemaker, l am a middle-aged, middle class married woman living a relatively comfortable life. But Labour hasn’t spoken to me for years, no party has except the Green’s policies on the environment and sustainability. Although l am new to being a card carrying member l am mot naive about politics. I studied A level political history and read widely about current political agendas and issues.
    Consequently l have never joined a Political Party in my life untill l heard Corbyn speak. Now l will use my energy to continue to support this honest and dignified man. I wish the rest of the PLP would do the same.
    My respect for all of them diminishes daily as they sabotage and in fight, instead of being an effective opposition.

    • Nick Palmer says:

      Very many thanks, Alicia, and while I’m replying apologies to the dozen other respondents whose replies got stuck in the system for technical reasons (I’ve just released them all).

  40. Robert Howard says:

    Good piece on the Labour List website today (6 Sept 2016). I hope you re-post it here. Would be interested in your views on how we progress when the prospect of Labour being able to form a majority government after the next general election look very slim, yet both Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith seem to rule out working with other political parties.

    I have to admit that I am strongly attracted to the idea of a ‘grand alliance’ at the next general election which will promise to introduce, at the first opportunity, PR using the system used in Scotland and Wales (it exists and works, and it wouod be crazy to advocatebye another system for England and UK general elections).

    • Nick Palmer says:

      I’d be fine with a grand alliance followed by PR, and when we held Broxtowe it was mostly through an unofficial alliance with many LibDem and Green voters. When we lost it was partly due to Green intrervention (I lost by 0.4%, the Green candidate got 0.7%), and partly due to a rather successful LibDem attempt to persuade voters that they were poised to win (the Evening Post had surveyed 20 people visiting Nottingham shops!).

      The problem would be getting agreement without putting off more voters than w gained!

    • Nick Palmer says:

      Have previously posted on the Labour leadership here, by the way, so think I shouldn’t repeat the arguments.

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