The Nasty Party?

A Corbyn victory could end the Labour party, and set the wider labour movement back decades. Part of the following article is based on the fact Corbyn’s electoral strategy is fundamentally flawed, part of it on the dangers Trade Unions face with a Conservative government, and part of it on why Conservatives cheer Corbyn.


Without a credible Labour opposition, the Conservatives have no restrictions from 2020. Until 2020, the Conservatives have to wrestle with an incredibly slim majority, which will no doubt throw up some interesting results. Expect some grass-roots right wing social policies, and restraint when a revolt is on the cards.


Far more alarming is the position it puts the unions in. Corbyn has already embraced far left unions, some not Labour affiliated. The TUSC-affiliated RMT has pride of place on his website, and he’s enjoyed the fanatical support of the various other non-Labour affiliated union bosses. Corbyn has simultaneously said things that worry unions that haven’t backed him.


Individual unions must therefore make a very important decision. Do they get closer to Corbyn and retain any influence they have in politics? If so, ideological unions are the perfect target for Tory attacks- unions that fight for ideology rather than their members are anti-democratic. If they move away from Labour, they gamble on the future direction of the party. There is a good chance a Corbyn victory gives the Conservatives the perfect excuse to attack the unions.


That gamble is made far more risky by what Labour is becoming. Foot’s 1983 defeat, and the subsequent 15 years in the wilderness, came because Labour were seen as economically incompetent. Smith and Blair were able to turn the party’s fortunes around after 1992 by addressing this weakness, but playing on one particular strength: Labour were never seen as the nasty party. At the most left wing, Labour were simply seen as wrong.


A Corbyn victory changes that. If Corbyn himself is a good guy or not is irrelevant. He has too many connections with those that aren’t, and his most fanatical followers are completely toxic. Those who screech ‘Tory’ at people they disagree with, blame any bad press surrounding Corbyn on either a Blairite/Tory/Zionist conspiracy, or send death threats to fellow Labour members have no redeeming qualities, and have not been denounced by Jeremy himself.


In fact he’s encouraged this kind of behaviour. ‘The grass roots will rise up’ to oust those that disagree with him, apparently. If you question why a backbencher is inviting horrible people to parliament or giving money to Holocaust deniers, you’re a Tory. In many CLPs across the country already, not supporting Corbyn means you shouldn’t be listened to.


When the press start properly mauling Corbyn for his rampant anti-Americanism and insistence that every evil in the world must only be denounced in connection to a western ill, Labour won’t look like the nice party. When he gets angry in an interview because he refuses to denounce ISIS or the IRA in their own right, those outside the hard-left bubble will just see an angry man completely detached from reality. The Conservatives are cheering because, from 2020, they can do anything they want and, until 2020, use Corbyn as an excuse to push a right wing agenda. Actual Conservatives are jumping for joy; the Labour party may soon be the nasty party.


And that’s the problem. The effects of this election will significantly beyond one parliament. A Corbyn victory may well make Labour unredeemable for a generation, and allow the Conservatives to pummel the wider labour movement to death. We’ll have had 15 years of Tory rule before anyone can try to do anything about it, and potentially another decade to come. If Corbyn’s favoured version of the ‘grass-roots’ do keep the PLP in line, and purge the centre from the party, Labour may fade into angry insignificance.