Dear Blairites, dear Corbynistas: Open letters to both.

gettyimages-547077382.jpgJeremy Corbyn // Getty Images

Dear Blairites, New Labour factionists, John McTernan, etc etc:

If you will indulge me in a little smugness for a moment: It wasn’t meant to be like this, was it? You were supposed to offer us a convincing humanoid that could “unite” the party that you disunited. You were supposed to rig the election in favour of this uniting android by purging those who refuse to vote for him. You were supposed to get Corbyn out, come hell or high water. What you did instead was a comedy of Shakespearean proportions.

Your candidate was a gaffe-prone sexist and former corporate lobbyist who justified his attacks on female politicians as “banter” and justified his work for Pfizer as part of left-wing espionage. Your red-scare purges against “Trotskyists” and “entryists” could not compete with the enthusiasm of new members. Your attempts to discredit your democratically-elected leader by wheeling out former leaders like Tony Blair (war criminal) and Neil Kinnock (two-time election loser) were largely ignored.

This really hasn’t been your year, has it?

I myself am one of the “Trotskyists” that you purged during the first leadership contest. I paid my £3, made a serious effort to learn more about Labour, and even considered joining the party as a full member. But I barely had a chance to burn my copy of The Permanent Revolution before you kicked me out. When the coup sprang up and you raised the fee to £25 in an attempt to keep out low-income voters (how’s that for being a “party of the people”?) I decided to refrain.

Why? Because even if I managed to escape the McCarthyite purge, I began to wonder whether I wanted to be associated with a party that is so hell-bent on rejecting its legacy. I have sympathized with Labour ideals for all of my adult life, and yes, I admit I find myself further left than most Labour MPs, but it is not just Tory and UKIP voters that you should be welcoming. You should be encouraging people like me to stay.

A vote is a vote, and you need people of all different stripes to be convinced of your programme. You still haven’t got my vote. The next few months will determine if you ever will again. Think carefully, as you no doubt plan your next vote of no confidence. I and others will be watching closely to see how you behave, and we have just as much say in this election as the right-wingers that you obsessively court.

Above all, bear one thing in mind: Part of the reason that Ed Miliband lost last time was not because he was seen as too left-wing (quite the contrary, he was a mild socialist at best), but because he failed to take a stand and stake a claim to an ideology. What did Ed Miliband stand for, exactly? Nobody remembers, nobody cares. But with Corbyn, you know what he stands for, what he plans to do, and who he is beholden to. You have an enormous opportunity to harness limitless enthusiasm inside and outside of your party. You have wasted it twice. Making that mistake for a third time would be grave indeed.

Many people don’t like what Corbyn represents, but few voters have much respect for those who scheme from the shadows either.

Dear Corbynistas, Guardian readers, John McDonnell, etc etc:

This leadership contest has been something of a Pyrrhic victory for us. On the one hand, our chosen candidate now has a renewed mandate to lead the party, and thousands more people have signed up to take part. Naturally, this attempt to democratize a political party was always going to ruffle some feathers, but we at least have some breathing space to take stock and plan our next moves.

Divisions within political parties are as old as political parties themselves. I know many of you are probably feeling very bitter and angry towards Owen Smith supporters and Blairite MPs. I share your anger, and I agree that something has to be done so that we don’t find ourselves in another leadership election next year.

But we must tread carefully, my friends. I would love nothing more than to kick out every Hilary Benn and Chuka Umunna within Labour’s ranks, to seize back control of the party and enfranchise millions of people through expanded welfare programmes and investment. Sadly, this is not entirely possible, at least not yet. There will always be centrists and right-wingers within the party: it’s how you manage them that matters.

Implementing mandatory reselection and bringing back Shadow Cabinet elections are both hot topics right now. I support these measures, provided the second one gives party members, not MPs, a vote in who sits in the Cabinet. Corbyn is once more extending an olive branch to hostile MPs in order to unite the party, but so far they have thanked him for it by undermining him whenever possible. He should not repay them by giving them another chance to do so through cabinet elections. It should be members who decide how their party is run, not self-appointed gatekeepers.

While Corbyn handles the administrative side of things, our job is to mobilize, organize, and demonstrate. Teresa May’s government is devoid of any mandate whatsoever, and at a time when we should have been focusing all our efforts on shutting her down, we had to busy ourselves with this coup nonsense instead. So many wasted opportunities, so many missed chances. But now that the coup is over, we must build a grassroots opposition to Teresa May, alongside Corbyn’s governmental opposition.

This must be done at a local level to win the hearts and minds of those unconvinced by or unsure of Corbyn’s message. Without you, on the streets with leaflets and facts in hand, Corbyn is left with interviews on The Andrew Marr Show. As we are well-aware, he is hardly given a fair hearing in the press, and if this continues, we will never convince those whose only sense of politics comes from the 6 o’clock news. We have to reach people who do not attend rallies or demonstrations. We have to go knocking on doors.

Time will tell if a better Labour Party is on the horizon. For now, we can celebrate, but we ought not to see this victory as the final nail in the coffin of New Labour. There is still much work to be done to get Corbyn into No. 10, to manage the stranglehold that Blairites have over the party, and to start helping people again.

 

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