What next for Labour?(non-leadership discussion)

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Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture
What next for Labour?(non-leadership discussion)

The important question for Labour is not so much who will be elected as leader, it's the policies, communications strategies and approach to internal party governance the party will adopt as leader.

No matter who is elected leader next, none of those things will be handled in the same way as they were under the current leader.

This is a thread to post what you think Labour should stand for after this, and how it should be governed after this:

Here's my take, for which I welcome constructive critique:

Clearly, The exact way things were done for the last four years did not lead to victory.  Which is why no one is calling for the party to do things in exactly the same way.

The ways things had been done under the 1997-2015 leadership would not work, either, as proved by the election results in 2010 and 2015 years in which the party approached elections in exactly the same way it approached them in 1997, 2001, and 2005 and slumped to a miserable 30% of the vote, while losing its old bastion in Scotland due to the arrogant, dismissive attitude the party took on the questions of devolution or independence for Scotland-Labour opposed both, and in then Indyref discredited itself by neither supporting independence , calling for "devo max" as an alternative to independence, or even running a distinctly Labour campaign for a "nay" vote, but instead joining an elitist "all-party" campaign for the "Nay" that came across even to may pro-"Nay" Scots as pompous and overbearing.  Independence was narrowly defeated, but the Labour strategy there was the cause of the Labour wipeout in 2015.

So, in truth, nothing in the past is a valid guide to what SHOULD be done in the future.

Labour will not gain voters in the next election by anathemizing the leaders leader and policies of the last four years, or through mass suspensions or expulsions of that leader's supporters-a group which are still the majority of the party, btw-or by banning any organizations.  Nobody out there in the electorate will cheer if the party takes vengeance on its base, and no votes will be gained.  And it goes without saying that if Labour goes back to being nastily antisocialist again, it will die out, as that would mean the party had chosen to stand for nothing and would obviously cease to have any reason to exist.

By the same token, it will not gain any support by keeping things done in exactly the same way.

Whoever leads it will need to defend herself or himself immediately against unjust personal attack.  The party will need to create a "rapid response" team to address any such smear. 

That leader, whoever it is, will also need to be willing to impose some forms of discipline on the PLP, to make it clear that any MP who attacks or attempts to undermine the leader on a personal level, or attempts to force that leader to stand down, especially during general election campaigns when a leadership change isn't possible, will face suspension or possible deselection.

The PLP owes that leader and the party a public apology, will need to admit that it bears at least partial responsibility for the negative public perceptions of that leader and for the defeat which could have been avoided or at least minimized in magnitude had the PLP treated that leader and the Labour base with some level of respect-and will need to pledge that, even if the next leader is not to its liking-as the next leader probably would not be in a free and democratic vote, since most of the party is socialist-it will never treat that leader or that leader's supporters in the same way as it just did the supporters of the outgoing leader.

On internal party governance-Labour needs to adopt Open Selection for all sitting Labour MPs-the only sector of the party which really opposes Open Selection is the PLP itself, whose members feel they are entitled to automatic reselection for life by Divine Right or something.  

There needs to be restoration of full control over candidate selection to constituency parties and restoration of full control over policy to the party conference, not the leadership.   

The policies Labour stood on in 2017 and 2019-with the exception of the pointless concession forced on the leadership to accept a second referendum on the EU-were and ARE popular, and in the main do not need to be abandoned.  The voters never hated the actual policies.  The main problem was that too many of them were announced, and too many were announced too late.  Over the next four years, the policies can largely be kept-the voters weren't and aren't demanding that Labour go back to Blairism, and the 2010 and 2015 results, combined with the pathetic 10,006 votes won by Change-the Blairite party-in 2019 prove they never will-but there should probably be fewer of them headlined during the campaign.  There are no issues on which a policy further to the right would serve the party better. The three nationalization pledges-water, electricity, and the rails-have to be kept in the manifesto, as nothing to their right can in any sense be called Labour, just as the only truly Labour policy would be a totally public and fully-funded NHS free at the point of sale.  There have to be some things which are sacred or Labour becomes nothing at all.

The big change needs to be a commitment to a massive-and to be in any way effective, openly socialist-economic revitalization program for Wales, the North the North East, and the Midlands.  The big reason those reasons are and will always be Leave is that backing Leave was the only way available to those regions to express their opposition to the policies which have choked them to death economically since 1979.  The wounds were inflicted by Thatcherism, left untreated by Blairism, and expanded and infected by EU economic constraints.  Labour has to be prepared to address that if it is to reunite the party and retake the heartlands, and Labour can never win another election if it writes off the heartlands by returning to Blairism-the voters there will not be impressed by more flag-waving and it will make no difference to them if Labour goes back to fetishizing the Union Jack and some now-extinct notion of "Britishness".  To get the heartlands back, and to have any chance of preventing Scotland from leaving the Union, Labour needs to make it clear that it will never go back to anything of the dismissive, elitist "Cool Britannia" era-to a "Labour" government which treated voters in the now-extinct "middle England" as if they-and the most reactionary and elitist of their attitudes-were all a Labour government cared about.

To do this, Labour must speak with a Northern voice-but a socialist Northern voice, not a hateful, reactionary northern voice that spends more time attacking socialists than Tories.  

Labour must do this while connecting with the anti-xenophobia values of the Remain areas-and while getting Remain voters to accept that the EU issue is settled.  If Labour Remainers aren't willing to do that, they need to be willing to take the lead in pushing for the Wales/Midlands/North/North East economic revivalist policies and to admit that they were wrong in equating support for Leave with ignorance and bigotry when it was never as simple as that.

The choices made now need to be constructive, not vindictive.  Chewing out the socialist majority of the party and forcing large numbers of people representing that majority is no answer.  Neither is spending more time attacking socialists than attacking the Tories.




If centrism was the way to win millions of voters back, how comes the Lib Dems lost a seat and their leader this GE? Truth is Labour pledged to respect the referendum result, u-turned on that commitment and lost badly as a result. Other factors are small fry compared to that.



"Is there really any difference between Blairites and Corbynistas? Both lots ignored the working class and both are basically anti-Brexit if not anti-British. All are part of the internationalist metropolitan elite."




Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

josh wrote:

If centrism was the way to win millions of voters back, how comes the Lib Dems lost a seat and their leader this GE? Truth is Labour pledged to respect the referendum result, u-turned on that commitment and lost badly as a result. Other factors are small fry compared to that.


Furthermore, if going back to "the centre ground" was anything like the answer, how do we explain that Change, The Independent Group, the party whose platform is exactly what Blairites want Labour to go back to, took 10,006 votes in the whole of the UK?

Or that every former Labour MP who defected to Change-most of whom then defected from Change to the LibDems or stood as center-right independents-went down to overwhelming, often humiliating defeat?

If there'd really been an appetite for centrism, wouldn't at least one of the defectors have dared to stand down from their seat and fight a by-election for their old constituency as a Change or LibDem candidate?  None of them.  Even.  Tried.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

NDPP wrote:

"Is there really any difference between Blairites and Corbynistas? Both lots ignored the working class and both are basically anti-Brexit if not anti-British. All are part of the internationalist metropolitan elite."


"the internationalist metropolitan elite"?  Do you NOT know what that sounds like a 1930s right-wing code phrase for? How soon 'til you bring the phrase "rootless cosmopolitans" out of the basement and be done with it?

The reason most urban Corbyn supporters backed Remain-and this was the only reason, because none of them saw anything social democratic in its economic priorities-was that they saw that stance as the only way to defend immigrants or oppose xenophobia.  Lexit advocates never addressed how to fight xenophobia and bigotry and how to protect immigrants and refugees in a post-EU world.  Would you not agree that that should have been addressed and damn well needs to be now?   

Most of us get it that the North and Northeast voted Leave on anti-austerity and anti-establishment grounds.  They had every right to do so and yes, Labour should have stayed with its 2017 position on the referendum.   But Lexit people have to address the legitimate points Left-Remainers have about protecting immigrants, refugees, and BAME Britons from majoritarian xenophobic retribution, especially since Brexit now seems to be a settled issue and the question is only when, not if, it happens.


Of course there are still people who think that our current flock of arrogant super rich should be introduced to the concept of the Propaganda of the Deed.

Perhaps we should attack only the deputies who make laws against us, the judges who apply those laws, the police who arrest us? I do not agree. These men are only instruments. They do not act in their own name. Their functions were instituted by the bourgeoisie for its own defence. They are no more guilty than the rest of you. Those good bourgeois who hold no office but who reap their dividends and live idly on the profits of the workers’ toil, they also must take their share in the reprisals. And not only they, but all those who are satisfied with the existing order, who applaud the acts of the government and so become its accomplices, those clerks earning three or five hundred francs a month who hate the people even more violently than the rich, that stupid and pretentious mass of folk who always choose the strongest side — in other words, the daily clientele of Terminus and the other great cafés.



Resorting to drive by smears of Brexiteers as anti-immigrant racists or bigots was a colossal policy failure for Labour UK last time round and will be again if they are stupid enough to repeat it. The fact is most surveys and polls overwhelmingly suggest UK attitudes to and treatment of immigrants to be far more positive not less than other European states. Also, unlike many EU countries, there is no populist anti-immigrant party represented in its main legislative chamber. I have long been posting on the abysmal conditions of migrants in the EU. Want to take a guess as to how many dead Africans there are now at the bottom of the Medi vs the English channel?

The real problem for UK Labour is how they reconcile their support for a fundamentally anti-democratic, neoliberal, and yes, racist, supranational prison-house,  with an urgent existential struggle for political resuscitation and survival. The main division is between the people who see their nation-state as an essential tool of democratic accountability and pro-EU liberals who believe in a politics better done  through unaccountable relationships between international elites. Demonising once again a majority of voters as racists, bigots or fascist xenophobes is not only false and wrong but a sure prescription for failure and certain political death for UK Labour.


Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

I totally agree with you that Brexit supporters should not have been collectively smeared as racists and xenophobes by Labour and wasn't in any way defending that strategy.  I'd say it reflects the weakness of the position Corbyn was in-holding the leadership, but never quite holding it securely enough to be able to stop the wreckers and saboteurs in the party.  It was that position of weakness, I suspect, that made him feel he could never discipline the bad actors in his party and could not withstand the Remainer pressure to agree to the second referendum-a concession the saboteurs repaid him for by continuing to denounce as "not good enough".

There is a legitimate need for Lexit people now to demonstrate how they can create actual protections for refugee and minority rights in the UK on a UK-only basis.   

As to there not being a nationalist, anti-immigrant party in the British Parliament-I think Boris Johnson's iteration of the Tories fits the "nationalist, anti-immigrant" bill to the letter.


On the General Election 2019


"Get Brexit Done' was the battle cry of the Tory party in the general election 2019 whilst Labour was prepared to offer anything but this one simple demand. That three-word slogan was enough. A decisive victory for the Tories, who now have an 80-seat majority, seems to have finished off Project Corbyn and smashed a hole in the so-called 'Red Wall' of Labour-held northern parliamentary constituencies. In a bizarre display of triumphalism The Times proudly declared that the Tories were now the party of the working class.

'Boris Johnson's election victory has transformed the Conservatives into the party of the working-class, opening up double-digit leads among the poorest families in Britain...The Labour Party, under Jeremy Corbyn became the preserve of the well off and well-educated...' (Matt Chorley, 'General Election Results: Working Class Switched to Tories,' The Times, 17 December, 2019). A majority of 80 seats gives the Conservatives a 'stonking mandate' to quote Boris Johnson. Labour won the fewest seats in the House of Commons since 1935."


Further Thoughts on Labour's Brexit Tragedy: Guest Post by Deborah Maccoby


"...The election campaign didn't have the excitement and fizz of the 2017 election campaign. This wasn't just the awful winter weather. I think everyone knew in their hearts that Labour was going to lose and in a way deserved to lose. As David Broder points out, in an article entitled 'Labour's Brexit Stance Defeated Corbynism Months Ago,' the soul of the Corbyn movement had become corrupted by caving in to the agenda of the middle class elitest Remainers. A radical socialist movement can't survive if it betrays the working class.

I've reached the point at which I am glad now that there wasn't a hung parliament. It is far better for Labour to lose disastrously and now have an opportunity to understand what happened and recover its soul than for Corbyn to have cobbled some kind of coalition government with the Lib-Dems and SNP that could never have worked, would have been irrevocably committed to holding a second referendum and would have permanently destroyed everything the Corbyn movement stood for..."


Mayor of Palermo Accuses EU of 'Genocide' Against Refugees


"Politician who fought Mafia says Europe will face 'second Nuremberg' over policy..."

So much for the supposed superiority of EU refugee policy and practice.


George Galloway on Brexit & UK's Political Future (and vid)


"Anya Parampil spoke with former MP George Galloway about Britain's impending exit from the EU, the future of UK politics in light of the Labour Party's devastating loss, and the smear campaign against Jeremy Corbyn."

An excellent analysis.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

In any case, NDPP, Brexit is a settled thing.  It's going to happen.  What I've been saying here is about trying to get to a process of dialog and reconciliation between Brexit supporters of humane views and good will and Remain supporters o humane values and goodwill.  Both sides in that have things they need to work on and things they need to offer to each other.

I hope you can accept that that's a valid effort, and give me the benefit of the doubt on what I'm trying to do here.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

(self-delete.  dupe post).


Mandatory re-selection a must:

For all the talk of wanting to create a member-led organisation, something Labour’s ‘democracy review’ had promised, this hasn’t happened. The nadir for that was the leader’s office parachuting favoured candidates ahead of the election – cancelling the very trigger ballots it had preferred to mandatory re-selection only a year earlier. Where members democratically chose the ‘wrong’ person, as with Sally Gimson in Bassetlaw, the NEC stepped in to replace them. This is neither a ‘new’ politics nor a democratic one.

If the next leadership persists with such instincts, it will fail. Many of the half million members the party happily points to will walk away, while those that stay will feel less inclined to participate. In the event of that, and electoral failure thereafter, the right could sweep in and decimate the left for good. A purge will likely be avoided this time, but failure thereafter could only make it all the more intense when the axe finally falls.

This is all very predictable – as was the Corbyn project’s failure once the leader himself rejected mandatory re-selection. Furthermore these conclusions, particularly on the need for mandatory re-selection, are not the result of purity but pragmatism. Within hours of winning, Corbyn’s successor will be subject to attacks from the press. While this is acceptable, (or rather inevitable) the participation of their colleagues adding a veneer of credibility is not. The day the new leadership takes office, several dozen MPs will begin to undermine them – and if political headwinds emerge, such as next year’s local elections – momentum would quickly gather. Many in the media wish to completely obliterate any Corbynite legacy after the last four years and I suspect every by-election and opinion poll will quickly be viewed as a plebiscite on the new leadership. Here you can see how another coup would unfold – unless the party adopts mandatory re-selection, the only guarantee of party discipline.

Speaking to the Guardian yesterday Starmer talked of ‘bringing the party together’ – but what McDonnell and Corbyn discovered is that in the absence of specific mechanisms that is meaningless. As a Labour member I’ll only be voting for the candidate who guarantees mandatory re-selection. That’s not because I’m indifferent to the issues that matter, but because I recognise that without it the left will not be permitted to lead at all – whether or not it wins internal elections.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

I suspect that Corbyn stayed away from Open Selection because he feared that a large number of de-selected Labour Right MPs-and it goes without saying that a large number of such figures had made themselves vulnerable to that due to their arrogant, disrespectful and sometimes downright abusive treatment of both towards Corbyn and the rank-and-file of the party who stand with the ideas Corbyn's leadership victory represented-would stage an SDP-style breakaway.   Change UK was clearly founded to be the basis of that breakaway.  What Corbyn SHOULD have done is to let Open Selection go through at the last Labour conference, once it was clear that Change UK was collapsing and the LibDems were also not going to be SDP 2.0 due to the disastrous and utterly incompetent leadership of Jo Swinson-who, unlike Corbyn, lost her own seat and was unable to get any of the former Labour MPs who defected to her party elected.

Sean in Ottawa

Ken Burch wrote:

In any case, NDPP, Brexit is a settled thing.  It's going to happen.  What I've been saying here is about trying to get to a process of dialog and reconciliation between Brexit supporters of humane views and good will and Remain supporters o humane values and goodwill.  Both sides in that have things they need to work on and things they need to offer to each other.

I hope you can accept that that's a valid effort, and give me the benefit of the doubt on what I'm trying to do here.

This should be the emphasis. It does not look like it can be even here.


Maybe Labour should now fully support establishing PR?

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

As to the question of whether Labour was "patriotic" enough...the question is, what does Labour need to do to prove it is "patriotic"?  Does it have to be just as militarist as(or more militarist THAN, as in Blair's case)the Tories? Does it have to see other peoples and other countries as being of lower value as places and people?  Does it need to defend what the Empire did to the world?  Or is what's really needed simply to convey a visceral love for the people of the UK and the possibilities of what the place could be?  

Does patriotism have to be a willingness to kill, or can it be a willingness to make life in the place where you exist as something that can be made gloriously better for all?