Gerry Hassan: A people’s revolt in Labour but where will it end?

03/08/2015
CommonWeal

Gerry Hassan writes for the Sunday Mail on the rise of Jeremy Corbyn and the consequence for Labour and Scottish politics if he were to be elected as leader

‘THE Labour Party has gone mad’. ‘It has abandoned its senses’. ‘This is a summer of insanity’.

These and suchlike comments made about Jeremy Corbyn are now familiar refrains in the Westminster mainstream. Before that this disdain was targeted northwards – asking ‘has Scotland gone mad?’

Jeremy Corbyn’s rise and emergence has caught the Westminster bubble by surprise, but isn’t hard to fathom. The other three challengers are dire. What passes for Labour stars are sitting it out. Labour members are dismayed and angry at the state of the country and direction of their party. They want it to stand for something.

They want their leader to be authentic, genuine and true to the party’s traditions and history. Corbyn is the only one providing any distinctiveness and talking straight. It doesn’t matter that his political platform is a bit vague, harking back to 1983, and seems based on promising a better yesterday which is now unattainable. It is also unimplementable and unelectable.

A revealing exchange took place this week on ‘Channel 4 News’ between author Will Self and former Blair adviser John McTernan. The latter stated that ‘politics is about power’ and that Labour wasn’t just a debating society; instead you ‘had to gain power to aid social change’.

Self responded by commenting, ‘it is no use saying politics is about power, that is a political class point’ and that ‘cleaving to the middle ground’ resulted in a politics lacking in positive values.

This balance between power and principle, embodied by Self and McTernan is a long one. They talked past each other. Neither could see that they had half an answer, and that the other was half right and wrong, just like themselves.

This has time immemorial been Labour’s predicament, through the myth of Clause Four and beyond. This was set up to give the pretence that a party set up to represent organised labour and working people was a party of socialism. This was, Labour minister Richard Crossman believed, a deliberate illusion – to give the appearance that Labour was a socialist party to activists, when it wasn’t and never had been. Tony Blair did the terrible thing of being honest and abolished the Clause – and the illusion. Many have never forgiven him since.

Some are now raising a ‘Red scare’ and even the spectre of Militant Tendency which hasn’t existed for over twenty years. Then there is the notion that if Corbyn wins, the elite can either just ignore it, or topple Corbyn. Some even say who needs grass roots members, preferring the ultimate vision of New Labour as a member free zone like Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.

Click here to read the full article at Gerry Hassan’s blog.

Picture courtesy of Jasn