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Category: Labour

New Labour 20 years on: assessing the legacy of the Tony Blair years

Written by Steven Fielding.

On the 20th anniversary of one of Labour’s greatest victories, party members are, to say the least, conflicted about the governments made possible by the election held on May 1 1997. The virtues of Labour’s longest uninterrupted period in office, based on an unprecedented three back-to-back victories (two of which produced its biggest ever House of Commons majorities) are not exactly being shouted from the rooftops.

For Jeremy Corbyn, 1997 is the stuff of nightmares: and those members who re-elected him leader in 2016 clearly agree. To them, the election is a morality tale, a political version of the Faustian legend. It represents the moment Tony Blair sold Labour’s socialist soul for the sake of a few votes. “Blairite”, to them, is a term of abuse, and Corbyn the ultimate anti-Blairite – a figure who remained true to his principles during the dark days of New Labour.

Corbynism might not actually end – even if Labour loses the election

Written by Tim Bale and David Jeffery.

Because the general election looks set to produce an impressive win for the Conservatives, its main interest lies not in the result itself but in the result of that result. The House of Commons will look very different on June 9, and the implications of that could turn out to be very big indeed. That’s especially true for the opposition.

For Labour, heading for what many of its own people fear will be a very big defeat, it’s all about who comes after Jeremy Corbyn. True, he may not step down immediately. But he is unlikely to stay for long after the party’s first post-election conference in September. There, Corbynistas hope to make a change to party rules that would make it much easier to get a left-wing successor into the contest to replace him. The aim is to require just 5% of MPs and MEPs to nominate candidates for leadership, instead of the current 15%. That would significantly shift the balance of power in these contests from parliament to party members.

Jeremy Corbyn’s first 18 months: a damning report card for the Labour leader

Written by Tom Quinn.

It has been 18 months since Jeremy Corbyn was first elected as leader of the Labour party, promising “a new kind of politics”. In September 2015, he pledged to build on the enthusiasm generated among his supporters during a leadership contest that saw him start as rank outsider before sweeping to victory on a left-wing wave.

The intervening period has not been kind. Corbyn’s tenure has been marked by factional conflict, parliamentary revolts, frontbench resignations and electoral weakness. Hardly anyone now believes Labour can win the next election. Despite the early optimism of his supporters, Corbyn already looks like being one of the most ineffective and unpopular opposition leaders in the post-war era.

2017: Where do the U.K.’s political parties stand now?

Written by Glen O’Hara.

So, it’s the New Year, and there’s a long, long list of things to get through. There’ll be the French and German elections, the onset of the Trump administration in the US, and policy questions galore. Will the UK be able to disentangle itself from the European Union without a great deal of economic pain and wasted bureaucratic energy? Will Russia be happy to trade a more muscular American foreign policy for a more semi-detached stance from Uncle Sam in Europe? Will rising interest rates slow growth? How long can China continue to fuel the world economy? All these questions will be to the fore in 2017. For now, let’s kick off the year with a review of where British politics stands right now, shall we? We can take each party in turn if you’d like.

Anthony Crosland: the future of social democracy?

Written by Steven Fielding

Jeremy Corbyn has made Labour’s social democrats strangers in their own party. Instead of pulling the levers of power, Tony Blair’s children have been reduced to watching one of their own dancing on TV. Those who voted for Corbyn, not once but twice, clearly believed they might as well have a leader with socialist principles because to them Labour’s defeats in 2010 and 2015 suggested that centrist pragmatism was a busted flush. It’s not as if there were any social democrats in Westminster able to convince the majority of Labour members that they were wrong.

The ‘Corbyn Supremacy’ will end, but it may take years and defeats

313,209 people currently hold British politics hostage.

That’s the number of Labour members who have just re-elected Jeremy Corbyn as their leader. Forming nearly 62 per cent of party members, their support is the weapon with which Corbyn hopes to bludgeon the rest of the party into final submission and take it in a dramatically new direction. And while he enjoys such support, Labour is out of contention as a party of government: the vote for Corbyn was in effect a vote for continued Conservative rule.

Corbyn wants to fundamentally transform the party so that, according to his chief propagandist Paul Mason, it becomes a radical, campaigning ‘social movement’ that will ‘engage’ with communities across the country and persuade people of the need to adopt a post-austerity, socialist course. That is also the object of Momentum, set up by Corbyn supporters after his 2015 election, and which claims a membership of 18,000, not all of who are Labour members.

Entirely as expected? What the voting data tells us about Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election

Written by Peter Dorey and Andrew Denham.

In Labour’s 2015 leadership contest, a major question had been how a rank outsider and perceived political maverick, like Jeremy Corbyn, could possibly be elected leader of a Party in which he enjoyed very little support among its MPs, and in which he had never held even the most junior Ministerial office. In the 2016 leadership contest, the main question was no longer whether or how Corbyn could win, but by what margin.

Tony Blair, Corbynism and the ‘sociological imagination’

Written by Glen O’Hara.

Since we’ve all recently been challenged to take our sociological imaginations on a journey around Corbynism, and because it’s always important to analyse what’s going on rather than just shout about what we might think of it or believe about it ourselves, the new blogging season kicks off this week with a (we hope) honest look at the belief structures behind Jeremy Corbyn supporters’ support for ‘their’ man. Since he seems almost certain to be re-elected leader of the Labour Party later in the month, this seems all the more important. Mr Corbyn, someone like him, or someone who shares most of his views and outlook, seems likely to lead Labour for a long time to come. So what do Corbynites believe, and why?

Facing a hostile press, Jeremy Corbyn can’t win – but he could at least try

Written by Justin Lewis.

It is a fact of British life that leaders of the Labour Party have the disadvantage of dealing with a fiercely partisan press with an in-built Conservative bias. But, according to two research reports from the London School of Economics and Birkbeck College/Media Reform Coalition, this antipathy has reached new levels of vitriol.

The LSE study was conducted well before the post-Brexit debacle, in the first two months of Corbyn’s leadership. This, it turns out, was less of a “honeymoon” period than a trip to a war zone. The report found that Corbyn was subject to repeated ridicule and vilification that “went well beyond the normal limits of fair debate and disagreement in a democracy”. It also said that the new leader was “often denied his own voice” and that anti-Corbyn sources were favoured over pro-Corbyn voices.

The report acknowledged that this was “not an entirely new phenomenon in the UK and has happened before in relation to other left-wing leaders from Neil Kinnock to Ed Miliband” – but the authors suggested that “in the case of Corbyn the degree of antagonism and hatred from part of the media has arguably reached new heights”.

The report by Birkbeck/Media Reform Coalition deals with the more recent period, covering a ten-day period following the wave of resignations until the report of the Chilcot enquiry. Unlike the LSE report, the researchers look at the leading online and broadcast media – the latter is subject to strict rules of impartiality.

Labour is turning the tragedy of 1981 into a very modern farce

Written by Matthew Cole.

As the Labour Party begins its leadership contest, it may be a faux pas to mention Karl Marx. But many party members must be thinking of his observation that everything in history happens twice – the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.

Take Labour’s current predicament: an elderly, leftist leader faces a new Conservative Prime Minister. He is burdened by divisions over his own competence, his policy on Europe, the economy and defence, and wrangling over his party’s constitution. Change Jeremy Corbyn for Michael Foot, Theresa May for Margaret Thatcher and have the nation enthralled by Brideshead Revisited instead of Downton Abbey and you’re back in 1981.

The Labour Party is in some ways better off today than in 1981; in others, worse. Either way, the resonance is not a good sign for the opposition in the near future.