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Video debate: Has Corbyn changed politics?

Hilary Wainwright, Liz Davies, Stephen Bush and James Schneider discuss Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party

February 23, 2016
32 min read

The Wedge is a new Youtube debate show, produced in collaboration with Red Pepper. Watch the first episode here. There is also a transcript below.

Tom Walker: Has politics changed since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader?

Liz Davies: Yes. First of all the Labour Party has become an anti-austerity party. There’s definitely fights in the parliamentary Labour Party over foreign policy and Trident and so forth, but there seems to be a clear shift—a consensual shift—towards anti-austerity politics. That wasn’t the case before Corbyn became leader.

Back in July, Labour was abstaining on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, principally abstaining because it supported the cuts to the benefit cap, which is a hugely wicked thing in itself. Now, post-Jeremy, at conference, everyone—Tom Watson downwards—was proclaiming anti-austerity. They’ve been opposing the Welfare Bill. The House of Lords, as we know, defeated the Government over tax credits. George Osborne has come back and stuck those cuts into Universal Credit, that’s an ongoing battle, but the Labour Party has become anti-austerity. That’s a huge, huge change.

The other huge change is the respect for Jeremy Corbyn, as a non-traditional politician, that you get amongst most Labour Party members and voters.

James Schneider: I think politics has changed hugely. I think what we can imagine as being possible is what has really, fundamentally changed. I think we can begin to think about a very, very different society from the one in which we live, and many things that have not been up for debate—in some cases ever, or in some cases not for a very long time—are now up for debate.

Tony Blair, in his last speech to conference as Labour leader, said something like: there’s only one rule in politics, there are no rules, you make your own rules. I don’t think he necessarily lived by that, and I definitely don’t think the party thinks that. They’ve got a very clear set of rules how they think the party should operate. But I think what he said is true, and I think we now have an opportunity to try to reimagine what the Labour Party should be for and we can try to engage the Labour Party with the rest of society.

Stephen Bush: I’m going to be the dissenting voice and say no. So far, what’s happened is exactly what we would expect from history. You have a Labour right discredited by election defeats, and perceived to—or having actually—failed in office. The only real difference between the Blair-Wilson models is that Wilson was criticised for not being sufficiently vocal in opposition to Vietnam; and Blair is criticised for support of the Iraq war. But once again you have a right of the Labour Party on its back, a left of the Labour Party resurgent and on the up within the party. The big difference, of course, is that it looks unlikely that the party will split in two this time. So the question is whether that alone is enough to avoid a repeat of the historical trend in the 1950s and 1980s.

Hilary Wainwright: I think that there is underlying change. It’s a potential, we don’t quite know—it’s like a new dynamic. The party has opened up, and in a way the people are back into politics. The Tories have always treated people—the mass of working people—with contempt. New Labour took them for granted. But people are not stupid and people can see the growing inequalities, the sort of material contempt with which they’re treated.

Jeremy has given that expression and it’s unusual because his anti-career politics—he’s very determinedly not a career politician—has meant that it’s not a movement about him. That’s not just his sort of modesty, he’s created a space into which people can move. In that sense I think his claim to be championing a new politics is maybe more important than his reclaiming the Labour Party. Tony Benn was very much about reclaiming the Labour Party. Jeremy, I think, is about a new kind of politics. The question is whether the movement that lifted him to office—because he’s in office but not power—whether that movement can be a resource for changing politics more generally.

Tom Walker: Do you see Corbyn as a sort of rerun of Labour moving to the left, Bennism, these kinds of things; or do you see it as a new and distinct phenomenon?

James Schneider: I think it’s both. There are definitely the internal dynamics within a political party that has its own structures, and then there’s a dynamic that fits more broadly into changes in society and the economy. I think Stephen’s analysis of the right being on its back, leaving space for the left to come forward, the centre ground within the party being able to go to the left—I think there is quite a lot to that. But I think we are also in a very, very different society.

The Bennite model, as far as I understand it, was that you had significant amounts of working class power in the country, through the trades union movement. It was highly active and the desire was to make the Labour Party able to be the expression of that power. I think what is new is that that power is significantly diminished, and part of this process is opening up the space again—opening up spaces plural, so that popular power and working class power can be reinvigorated. That then has a relationship with the Labour Party, which is new, I think. It’s different from the early 1980s variety.

It’s new but it’s not entirely new. The Labour Party has always been—or when it’s been at its strongest—it has been a movement, it has been embedded in communities, it has been campaigning. In some ways it is just about returning it to that, but acknowledging a changed political economy, and cultural changes that have taken place. The way I see it is that it’s the best traditions of the Labour Party, adapted to a changed reality—which Jeremy Corbyn has allowed us to think about as being possible.

Hilary Wainwright: I agree with you in general James, but I also think that it does it require a very radical shift in how we think about organising. That, in a sense, the Labour Party came out of the trade unions so it came out of a pre-existing organisational form. But now, there is working class struggle, particularly around housing and around what is happening to public services, but there’s not yet an organisation. So I think that Momentum, particularly, it’s really important that it is actually about a new way of organising. That sometimes means a much more enquiring kind of politics where you go out into the community and you find out what’s there. You start from the assumption that people are intelligent, people are social, there’s bound to be networks and ways of informally organising. We must enquire into what people are thinking, what people are doing, how people are already organising—and then how the Labour Party can be a resource for that. At the moment I see a bit too much of “We’re carrying on the Bennite project, so what we must do is get a resolution to party conference, we must deselect MPs.” That’s a minority but it’s one that needs to be not just marginalised by rules, but argued with in terms of what’s happening to society.

Tom Walker: Liz, what do you think about this balance? Is this about the Labour Party—an internal struggle within the party—or is it about communities, movements, networks?

Liz Davies: It’s about both. It’s absolutely right that the Labour right has felt very much on its back as a result of two sets of election defeats. The whole raison d’être of Blairism, the thing that would be repeated over and over again would be: “This is what wins elections.” That’s now been proved to be wrong. I think one has to be careful about historical analogies. I can’t think of an equivalent to Jeremy getting elected. There’s never been a back-bench MP suddenly elected almost overnight as leader of the Labour Party. There’s never been a one-member-one-vote ballot in the way that we had, or indeed the opportunity for people to join during the campaign and sign up. So it seems to me to be completely unprecedented.

Stephen Bush: But if you hadn’t had the trade union general secretaries casting their votes to stop Tony Benn winning the deputy leadership, he would have got a bigger mandate than Jeremy did. I suspect one of the reasons why Jeremy was able to get on the ballot was that MPs understood the system had changed, but they hadn’t quite realised. The only difference, I would argue, between what happened in the 1980s and what’s happening now, is that the shock absorbers within the party establishment, they had given away. They hadn’t quite thought about the consequences of giving it away this time around.

Liz Davies: That’s right, but I think the crucial difference is actually the political environment in which all these things are happening. In 1980-81 neoliberalism was just beginning and it was being piloted by Thatcher and by Reagan—it had already obviously been piloted in Chile and so forth—but it was just beginning as a political world force. Frankly, it was winning, and it kept winning for a number of decades. One could argue it’s still winning because we’re not in power. The Tories are in power, they’re making cuts and have a very clear anti public-services agenda. So the struggle within the Labour Party was also part of the struggle against Thatcherism—which came to its most ascendant in 1985 with the defeat of the miners—so it has to be seen in that light.

Now, maybe—heaven help us—we’re still in that historical era and neoliberalism is just going to carry on making strides across the globe for the next couple of decades. But I hope not, and I think we see the cracks in neoliberalism. Globally we see a whole load of opposition from the left to neoliberalism—and that’s the big difference. If now is the chance to defeat neoliberalism, then the election of Corbyn is part of that.

Tom Walker: Stephen, do you think people here are on to something? Or do you think we’re in a little bit of a left bubble—not quite getting what’s going on out there in the Labour Party?

Stephen Bush: I do think that there is a left bubble within the Labour Party. I have an iron rule that I never listen to Radio 4, partly because it’s good for my blood pressure. I only ever listen to music radio. People forget that for political parties to be successful they have to be breaking into those two minute slots with a clear message about the future.

Also, I’m a great fan of going back through the New Statesman archives. In 1979 people thought the right was on its back—the political right, not the right within the Labour Party—and it turned out to have a capacity for regeneration. Neoliberalism is in crisis, the model of social-democratic parties up until the financial crisis was this kind of Faustian pact with the financial services sector, and now the money isn’t coming that doesn’t work either. But neither does the kind of unadulterated version, that the right prefers, work. However, the historical trend is their ability to regenerate and their ability to use us-versus-them politics, and their ability to play on security fears—it’s much stronger than we’ve historically given them credit for.

Liz Davies: The right is very strong, definitely, as you say, the political right. But those of us who are socialists try and spend our lives struggling against that. I’m not saying it’s going to work this time, but I am saying that this time feels different to the early 1980s, because of the broader political forces and therefore it might work.

Tom Walker: Let me just ask Hilary, how far do you think this is about the financial crisis, neoliberalism? One thing a lot of people have said about Corbyn is that—yes, it’s a left thing, but it’s also part of this anti-politics, or anti-politician, feeling. They see him as the antithesis of the career politician. He’s absolutely someone who’s stuck to his principles, being in Parliament all these years. He’s not like one of these people who goes straight from university to a think tank, parachuted into a safe seat. How do you think all of these factors interact with each other? Can you see this as just being about neoliberalism?

Hilary Wainwright: I think it’s about the consequences of neoliberalism on people’s daily lives, against the background of what they can see happening in the City and the gross, unequal consumerism. I think the financial crisis leads people to feel angry but powerless, and he isn’t expressing power. He’s not promising power, but he does express the sort of ethics that people share. He’s got the humane view of society that millions of people share. I agree that the right’s also appealing to values about security and so on—but there are these other values which are appealed to by Jeremy. They are much more to do with helping your neighbour, an ethics of peace. I think in a world that’s become so uncertain, so unequal, then that rock of humanity is very appealing. Because he isn’t a career politician he expresses the possibility that ordinary people can do something. The problem is how to turn that into a political force. But I think it’s more potent than a charismatic leader, in a way.

Tom Walker: Let’s talk about some specifics, particularly because we’ve got James here from Momentum. One of the big patterns of everything that’s happened with Corbyn has been these daily media attacks. It feels like a lot of those recently have focused on Momentum. You’ve been accused of being everything under the sun. So I thought we could get from the horse’s mouth, what actually is Momentum?

James Schneider: Momentum is a grassroots network that came out of the Corbyn campaign which is trying to do some of the things we’ve been talking about here. It’s about building the Labour Party so that it’s more open and more participatory, and can function more like this kind of movement—this network that Hilary was talking about. It is also to reach out and organise and mobilise alongside, or with, campaigners and activists that are already operating. It’s to build community-embedded activism, and organising, so that we can make changes within our society and shift things, we hope, in a more progressive and democratic direction—and also move the Labour Party in that way.

Tom Walker: So what’s the balance there—because everything you were saying was about reaching out, and then you said “and also shift the Labour Party.” Is it that way round for you?

James Schneider: They’re the same process. This dichotomy between the ‘in’ and the ‘out’ is, I think, a false one. The Labour Party isn’t this entity that is totally separate from the development of popular power in the labour movements, or social movements. The idea is that we’re trying to develop this, develop those movements, enhance and help those movements, and bring the Labour Party more towards them. It’s not a split organisation. That process has to run together because we need to develop popular power. We need to develop the social forces that could change the country. The Labour Party has to be those forces’ political wing and it has to be able to win. So those two things can’t be kept apart.

Tom Walker: Stephen, that sounds very reasonable, where do you think all this fear about Momentum comes from?

Stephen Bush: It’s partly that one of the positive things about Jeremy Corbyn’s election is that people have rejoined the Labour Party who have left—some of whom do have sinister intentions in terms of their local parties. That has been a big problem for Momentum—the SWP, the Socialist Party, various groupings on the far left. Obviously, if you are part of Labour’s social democratic tradition you are not going to be relaxed about that. There is also historical paranoia about institutions within the Labour Party. It’s the same whenever someone sets up a new group. Look at the abuse Compass got for wanting to broaden out to the Greens, to the SNP, to the Lib Dems.

Hilary Wainwright: I think also we’ve got to recognise that it is, really, about Jeremy. We’ve got to start from the fact that the right, including the right in the media—and with New Labour there was always a very close relationship between parts of the media and Mandelson and New Labour, it was really cultivated—they’re incensed by what’s happened. They thought, a bit like squirting flies, that they’d got rid of the left. It was crushed, it just didn’t exist. So the fact that it’s actually burst out in this way—not just a strong showing but actually won—is kind of a nightmare. I don’t know the inside stories, and you probably know more, but it’s as if they’ve been searching, grasping, for any opportunity to get at Jeremy.

So I think that it’s more that. Because a lot of the fear about the SWP and Socialist Party—they’re not in the Labour Party. If you talk to an SWP person, the last thing he or she wants is to be involved in dealing with an MP. They simply want to be building a movement. So it’s a sort of scaremongering, red-baiting. The whole atmosphere is becoming a bit McCarthyite. Cameron, the media, and the Labour right feeding each other. Cameron’s slur on people supporting Jeremy over Syria as being terrorists, it feeds into this idea that Momentum is full of all these evil small sects. That’s the other thing to recognise, as much as I respect—or have respected—some people in the SWP and the SP, actually these organisations are very small and quite discredited in some areas. So we shouldn’t be getting into a lather about them.

Liz Davies: I want to come back on this word sinister. I’m even less respectful of the SWP and the SP than Hilary is, frankly. But they’re not joining the Labour Party, they’re turning up at the odd left public meeting to cause trouble. They’ve had the wind taken out of their sails by the fact that the left in the Labour Party was resurgent and, as Hilary said, the right didn’t expect it. But most of us didn’t expect it. I had written off the left in the Labour Party for the last 15 years and I’m rather pleased that I was wrong. So suddenly we’ve got this huge shift and it’s left the ridiculous so-called revolutionary left parties a bit high and dry. I think we should just ignore them. The point about sinister intentions is—I was disturbed by the use of that word sinister—I mean, I don’t think people are going around talking about deselecting MPs. But equally, MPs have to be accountable, both to their local electorate and to their local parties.

Stephen Bush: But people are going around talking about it. I’m sorry, that is a fictitious statement.

Tom Walker: Do you just mean the Socialist Party?

Stephen Bush: Let’s take Labour Representation Committee’s meeting in Waltham Forest, where you have people talking about naming the councillors who had supported Jeremy, and how it’s important to get councillors who represent our values. Which is fine and proper, and you can say: “What’s wrong with that?” But you cannot say that and say that people are not talking about deselections. They palpably are. It is fine for a membership to want to remake the parliamentary party so its candidates look more like its values, but in that case you’re talking about deselections. So this idea that you cannot hold those two things together—either you want to have a conversation about reshaping the parliamentary party or you don’t.

Liz Davies: It’s not a national conspiracy. There’s nobody sitting in a bunker going, “We’ll target them and them and them”, and sending out the orders and they get targeted. That is nonsense.

Stephen Bush: No one’s saying there’s a national conspiracy.

Liz Davies: The rulebook doesn’t allow for that. In the rulebook, which you probably know better than I do, there are a number of very difficult hurdles and triggers to go through before an MP can even be subject to the deselection process. If a sitting MP ends up in that position, that the deselection process actually ends up happening, that’s because they have lost the confidence of local party members, not of Momentum—let alone of people who aren’t in the Labour party who might be leafleting from outside. It actually means that they’ve lost the confidence of local party members, and responsibility for that is on the MP.

Tom Walker: If I understand the distinction correctly it seems like—yes, there are people individually in local parties talking about this kind of thing …

Stephen Bush: As there are always.

Tom Walker: As there are always, but Momentum—the central accusation seems to be that the purpose of Momentum is to organise these deselections and that’s just not the case.

James Schneider: There is a fundamental misunderstanding of what we’re about. I think that stems from the 20 year disregard of the Labour Party being something that organises with people.

I think the Labour Party is three things. It is personnel, the people who are elected to represent other people at different levels. It’s policies, which are agreed through its various processes. Then there are its culture and practices. The traditional “we’ll change the party” model seems to always focus on the top: we’ll change all the personnel, then somehow the policy will change a bit, then somehow we’ll become a more kind of democratic, participatory party, it’ll sort of work that way round. Which I think is exactly the wrong way round. We need to be making the Labour Party more open, participatory and democratic, more embedded in communities, more engaged with social movements. That will make its policies more like people’s policies, and through time people will come out of those movements who will be the new representatives of the party. But it should go that way round so that it’s on a sustainable footing. The other way gives us a short term civil war, and we don’t do the fundamental changes which is actually what we’re all about.

Liz Davies: And if party members are raising a particular point, for example whether or not Britain should be involved in bombing of Syria, then MPs will listen to their party members and some of them will change their mind. That’s just as successful a result for peace as changing the personnel. It’s about arguing the politics and it’s about accountability.

Tom Walker: I wanted to raise that actually, the question of Syria in particular, but also some of the other successes like tax credits. It almost got lost slightly because all the stuff suddenly broke out about Syria. But the fact that the tax credit cuts were essentially defeated—withdrawn by George Osborne, I know there are various caveats about shifting money around—but still, that seems to me to be quite attributable to the Jeremy Corbyn Labour Party.

There’s also, of course, the Oldham by-election which we were told for weeks was going to be a complete fiasco and UKIP might win it, but then it was a storming victory for Corbyn. It makes me wonder, can the Labour Party—can Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party—win the election in 2020? Can we keep going, pretty much like this, doing what we’re doing, and Labour win the 2020 election?

Liz Davies: Yes. I mean, nothing’s guaranteed. Assuming it stays the same, it will be a very heavily fought election—and the right, by which I mean the Tories, might win. This is a real, frankly, a class struggle between the Tories and an anti-austerity and, I hope, pro-peace Labour Party with Corbyn as the leader. That’s very clear.

What was also clear in the summer is that the other three candidates could not win the General Election. Jeremy Corbyn stood head and shoulders above them in terms of appeal to the electorate, and we’ve seen that with the YouGov poll about party members—the respect for Jeremy that happens when he goes out into the country. The Oldham West by-election, which everyone had written off, Stephen made a very good point on the blog: that possibly Labour Party members had started to get anxious about the result because the campaigning had been so targeted and everyone was out talking to undecided people and therefore weren’t meeting firm, stalwart Labour votes. I thought that was a very good point indeed. But Oldham was a fantastic result and it shows, at the very least, that Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t lose elections. I would put it much more positively that that—that actually he is an election vote winner.

Hilary Wainwright: And also public opinion is very much in favour of a lot of what he stands for. On nationalisation, over 60 per cent want the railways brought into public ownership, want the energy companies brought into public ownership. So actually I think a lot of the commentariat and the right of the Labour Party—let alone the Tory right—don’t have an understanding of public opinion and don’t respect public opinion. But also, I think the Tories, it’s as if they’re always looking over their shoulder now because Jeremy has brought public opinion, and the people, back into politics. Osborne has to worry about what public opinion is. I think that was reflected in both the tax credit issue and the bombing of Syria—that actually public opinion now has a much more palpable impact on MPs because there is a voice giving it really clear expression.

Stephen Bush: The problem is we’ve been here before. We’ve had a situation where the bulk of Labour policies are popular with the public but there’s something about the overall picture they don’t like. It’s too early to say. Taken in isolation, in Oldham, the seven per cent increase in the vote is relatively bad compared to the high point of the Miliband by-elections, 2011-13. However, it’s better than the low point. So if it turns out the Oldham West vote increase is the worst by-election of the Corbyn era, then that would augur quite a good result. If it turns out it is the average, that would augur a slightly worse result. If it turns out it’s the best that would augur a landslide.

Tom Walker: But it did seem like UKIP basically ran it as a referendum on Corbyn. They had big pictures of Corbyn on all their leaflets—don’t vote for him, he’ll put your security at risk, all of this sort of stuff. So that was very much out there in this by-election.

Stephen Bush: The thing is, voters understand the difference between elections. One of the things I found surprising was that every activist I talked to was miserable. My instinct is it was Labour’s northwest team. Every activist I talked to about Wirral West was miserable and Labour won that too.

I also just think that in the media we’re so used to the fact that UKIP are racist and a bit incompetent and they have all these awful councillors, and we’ve kind of written it off because it’s become a meme in the same way that Nick Clegg’s unpopularity became a meme. Then at the election it turned out Nick Clegg’s unpopularity was still a very powerful electoral force. I suspect with UKIP the fact that they give off this scent—in Oldham you have people who feel their town has only just been rescued from the taint of the BNP. What we’d underestimated is the strength of that bit of the populist right, is happily much weaker than we thought it was.

Liz Davies: And that’s cheering isn’t it.

Tom Walker: James, is it a case of one swallow doesn’t make a summer, what do you think?

James Schneider: We obviously can win the 2020 election, but you said “just going on like this.” I don’t think we can kid ourselves that we’re now on this wonderful trajectory and everything is going to be fine. There is an absolutely enormous amount of work to do.

I agree with Liz. I don’t think if any of the other candidates had won we would have had a chance of winning. Although, of course, things can happen. History happens, things happen, there could be an enormous crisis. The Tories could completely combust. There are ways. But we wouldn’t have won through a positive change that we ourselves would have made.

So I think there’s a huge amount to do. We have to get better, especially in changing discourse around things—for example, the security attacks. We need to change security around from the idea that if we bomb a country we’re increasing our security—to being around our security, our homes, our jobs and our communities. If we are going to win though, we’re going to have to do a huge amount. The Labour Party’s got 400,000 members or so now. It needs to be many, many more than that. It really needs to be a mass party. It really needs to be organising and mobilising and empowering and politicising people. If we do that, yes, then I think we will win. That is the beginnings of the trajectory we’re on, but there’s a long way to go.

Hilary Wainwright: One additional thing, I think we haven’t discussed Scotland and I think obviously that’s crucial electorally. I think there, we’re waiting to see what Jon Trickett—who’s been given the job of working on the constitution, and he’s opened it up in the spirit of the new politics—I think he and Jeremy have got to take some initiative. Personally I think they’ve got to be starting to talk about a federal Britain, because they’ve got to both have a real dialogue with the Scottish movement that’s supporting independence.

Tom Walker: I’m going to have to stop you there Hilary because that’s all we have time for. But we do still need to do the one minute rule. Everyone—as they did at the start—gets their one minute to sum up. So a minute each just to tell us if there are any stray thoughts that you would like to get in or a conclusion.

Hilary Wainwright: I suppose the Scottish example brings up the fact that I think somehow—and this isn’t a criticism or that I’ve got an answer, but—Jeremy needs to find a way of not just being a presence. He needs to actually, really be rallying the people, the public that’s listening to him. So some initiative, like for me on Scotland and the constitution, something that is taking new politics into really, really challenging the British state. That means thinking about a federal Britain, thinking about proportional representation, and real devolution to English cities and regions. That’s one thing. I think also on his areas of real strength like housing, some initiative that really gives a national platform to all the people that are fighting around high rents, around the privatisation of council housing. I think there’s got to be a little bit more initiative that gives people a lead, so there’s a movement but it has got a slightly more definite leadership. That, in a way, will help beat off the attacks from the right.

Stephen Bush: The argument with the SNP I think Labour is having is how you achieve social democracy. You can argue about the SNP’s commitment to social democracy. I would say it’s only skin-deep, others would disagree. But the way that you win that argument is by proving that you can deliver social democracy by winning in England and Wales. Because the SNP’s argument is that you can’t have social democracy in England and Wales so you need to leave the United Kingdom. The only way you can do that is by winning over some of the 11million people who voted Conservative. Ultimately, we presumably all believe that, of that 11million, at least ten million would be better off under Jeremy Corbyn in Number 10 and John McDonnell in Number 11, than they would under the current leadership of the country. So it shouldn’t be that hard. It shouldn’t be something the left shies away from—trying to persuade at least eight million of the ten or 11million Tory voters people think would be better off, that they should vote with their interests. That spirit of 1945, one of my favourite election posters: “Everyone, yes everyone will be better off under a Labour government.” Ecumenical, open minded and getting together a big, big tent for a Labour victory—and I think we are some way off from it, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be achieved.

James Schneider: I think that’s absolutely what the project has to be. I think that from that 1945 government we had 30 years or so with the Labour Party at the heart of that process, making society more democratic, giving people more power. Now we’ve had 30 or 40 years of people having less power and society becoming less democratic. Now that system is in some sort of a crisis. I think, we on the left, have to try to work out what are the institutions within a shifted political economy that are going to give people power; and that are going to give people more control over their lives individually and collectively. That is a project that will benefit, yes, everybody, and our task is to mobilise and organise so that we can achieve that. So we can actually say at the next election: life will be better for practically everybody when Labour wins.

Liz Davies: To keep on the theme of the 2020 General Election, I think what we’ve seen from the last two election defeats—particularly 2015—is that Labour can’t win by going to the electorate with an economic policy that is Tory-lite. I don’t mean that in a sort of slanderous, scurrilous way—but one which essentially says: “we accept the public spending plans, bedroom tax is a bit much and we’ll get rid of that”, a couple of iconic things we don’t like. That doesn’t work, it falls between two stools.

It seems to me that a Corbyn-led Labour Party can appeal to three sets of electorates that haven’t voted Labour in 2015 and 2010. One is the voters that went to the left, principally in Scotland, because the SNP portrayed themselves as an anti-austerity party. I agree with you, I think it’s skin deep, but there was that alternative. The Green vote went up too. So he can appeal to existing left votes who stopped voting Labour, or never voted Labour, because of Blair. He can appeal to the people who stopped voting Labour but didn’t go anywhere; or younger people who just never voted Labour, but didn’t even vote—who were disengaged by politics. We’ve seen that Jeremy—you’ve made the point—that he can be seen as the anti-politician politician. Then I think he can also appeal to enough Tory voters in England, in the southeast and so forth, those seats that we need to get—on the basis of public services and how investment in public services benefits everyone. I think sufficient numbers of Tory voters can come over to Labour on that message.

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Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University

This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback

Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein

Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up

Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement

‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic

Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden

There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright

Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones

‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression

Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death

‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum

The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes

Naomi Klein: the Corbyn movement is part of a global phenomenon
What radical writer Naomi Klein said in her guest speech to Labour Party conference

Waiting for the future to begin: refugees’ everyday lives in Greece
Solidarity volunteer Karolina Partyga on what she has learned from refugees in Thessaloniki

Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers

Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project

Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power

What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains

The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme

Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it

The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going

A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism

Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase


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