Comment: The Tories are walking all over Labour – Corbyn must act

Labour continues to send a signal to the public that it doesn't know what it believes in

David Cameron and George Osbourne at Northern Rock Conference


The Conservative faithful continues its annual conference in Manchester today. Events so far have served only to highlight the hole in which the Labour Party now finds itself.

Let’s start with the issue of tax credits. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies the government’s proposed living wage would offset just ’27 per cent of the drop in household incomes from the impact of net tax and benefit reforms.’

This should be natural Labour territory and we should be seeing the party leading the campaign against the tax credit reforms announced in the Budget. Yet it is opposition from within the Conservative Party which is proving more effective and which is most likely to lead to some sort of comprise arrangement.

Yes, it’s just one issue, but it shows a failure of the new Labour leadership to speak to the issues which voters that decide elections care about most.

Why has the party been so silent as George Osborne slowly but surely pinches so much of the Labour manifesto – a living wage, full devolution of business rates and the establishment of a National Infrastructure Commission?

The audacity of Osborne, who yesterday described the Conservative Party as the party of labour and stole Aneurin Bevan’s  words – ‘we are the builders’ – has been possible only because Labour has seen its flag lowered over the cherished centre ground.

This is not to say that principles do not matter; but the reality that those around Jeremy Corbyn must grapple with is how to turn his left-wing rhetoric into an enticing ‘one nation’ programme for government – one that brings middle and lower earners together.

It is a programme that needs to speak to people’s aspirations and hopes, and properly address their fears that Labour can no longer be trusted to look after their taxes and provide proper national security.

Last night was a reminder of the problem Labour now faces. As the prime minister was in the conference bubble celebrating an election victory, Jeremy Corbyn was reduced, somewhat sadly, to addressing protests that will do nothing to change government policy.

To make matters worse, he did so alongside Terry Pullinger, deputy general secretary of Communication Workers’ Union, who argued that Corbynmania ‘almost makes you want to celebrate the fact Labour lost the election’.

Such words are profoundly depressing, and speak volumes about those for whom the comfort of opposition is somehow preferably to being able to do things in government.

We have rightly seen many Labour MPs tweeting about how depressing such words are, but it is time for Jeremy Corbyn to take a lead, to disassociate himself from such sentiments and make clear that for Labour to succeed the party must be in power. He needs to show a desire and eagerness to win which has so far been lacking.

To cite just one example: Labour now finds itself in the position where it either backs the renewal of the nuclear deterrent, putting Corbyn in a very difficult spot, or it decides to reject it, leading to mass resignations from the shadow cabinet. Tothe public thismust look farcical.

The reality is that Labour is currently a mess. It is failing to properly stand up for its legacy in government and it is failing to take the Tories to task on crucial policy issues.

We know that many in the PLP remain deeply unconvinced by the Corbyn leadership. The question now is how long will they wait until they move against it.

EdJacobs is a contributing editor at Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

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46 Responses to “Comment: The Tories are walking all over Labour – Corbyn must act”

  1. robertcp

    This article is Blairite rubbish. It does not mention that the pre-Corbyn leadership abstained about the cut to tax credits.

  2. Jerome Orff

    In fact the Tory drive to grab the so-called middle ground is not due to the presumed vacuum left by self-important blairites losing power… it is the very real effect of a true opposition. Tories want to give the impression that they are moving leftwards from their most rabidly rightwing tendencies under Mr. Piggie Cameron towards a more electable platform for their next leader. (The public will not tolerate another extreme government with a paper thin mandate from less than 25% of the electorate!) These are early days, but the Corbyn Effect is here to stay, and it already begins to drive current Tory government policy! Whatever next?

  3. patwin

    Corbyn has acted by voting against the cuts.
    Blairites need to act by getting behind their leader and forming an opposition to represent their members!
    Stop the divide and rule suggestions that the PLP will move against Corbyn. That in itself is helping the Tory Party!
    Take on board why your current leader was elected by 59.5% of the voters INCLUDING full members and start acting accordingly.

  4. bishblaize

    Seeing the news unfold yesterday was depressing – Osborne announces a huge step towards regional devolution and the cross party National Investment Commission. Meanwhile Corbyn addresses a few thousand students to complain about the rights of postmen.

    The image was striking – the Tories are the party of serious Government, Labour are the party of opposition (in every sense). The Tories are for big ideas, Labour are for quibbling about the details. The Tories set the agenda, the Labour Party follows.

    Sad times.

  5. Omoba Oladele Osinuga

    The article is spot on. Labour needs to realise that it can only win the general election by articulating its narrative to express its achievements in government and challenging the Tory mantra that it is the party of those on welfare. Labour needs to appeal to the masses beyond its core base, it goes just beyond Corbyn’s message. Voting against wellfare cuts is the easy option without offering a credible affordable alternative on welfare benefits that gets people back to work, Labour’s message of just opposing cuts just wouldn’t cut it.

  6. Chris Kitcher

    Jeremy Corbyn addressed a larger audience last night than the whole shower of Tories in Manchester.
    I cannot see the reasoning in your assertion that the Tories are seeking to capture the centre ground. Their policies, that I have seen emerge from Manchester, are so far to the right they could be confused with Fascism. I suspect that Corbyn is allowing them sufficient rope by which to hang themselves and then will put them in their place after their rabid ideas have been torn to shreds.

  7. Barry Hearth

    for many years the Blairites ruled Labour with an iron rod, dissent was severely dealt with, now that the left are in the ascendency they promise to wreck or leave the party.
    Austerity doesn’t and wont work, most people will just end up worse off, the banks destroyed economies around the world, and as in Greece they are still trying to rule the world.
    Time for change, ir you can’t accept that then maybe you’re in the wrong party.

  8. leslie48

    The Corbynite honey moon is now over and the fully paid up members of our party awaken to a cold morning reality. A party whose votes are in very serious decline, who have deserted the centre ground to clever Osborne, and whose image is categorised as ‘hard left’ by all the media and moreover which has deserted so many of its traditional working class voters.

    The solution is bleak as we have become under JC and his clan a party of two irreconcilables as the hard Left and the most Leftist Unions have taken over more or less the leadership contest structures. The social democratic and moderates are in despair at the inactivity and passivity of the rest of the Labour Party.

  9. leslie48

    Indeed at this rate ‘a divided party’ to escape the hard leftist unelectable Corbynites looks appealing at times as the nation condemns our party for deserting the centre ground and keeping Boris, George and David in power for the next ten years of our lives. That’s the reality and we will fight to save this party from those who are dropping our vote dramatically.

  10. Lovejoy

    Corbyn is not the greatest of orators. Opposition to the tax credit cuts seem to come from Boris Johnson and the Sun on Sunday! Nevertheless with New Labour the ‘centre ground’ was further and further to the right, whereas now it will be somewhere centre-right. Labour needs to unite behind their leader or ditch him (which given the size of his mandate, would be an affront to democracy). We must do everything we can to pressurise our MPs to speak out against tax credits being slashed. My own MP is on the front bench, so will act in accordance with the chief whip’s instructions, but backbenchers can speak their minds!

  11. leslie48

    Rubbish they were just re-elected by the public on their manifesto and now have a majority over Labour of 99 more seats than us ; do you really believe the average voters in Eng&Wales will let Jeremy Corbyn take over Her Majesty’s Government in 5 years time and become our UK prime minister? Precisely that’s why the bookies give it ten years before a Labour return. Moreover the Tories were ‘perceived’ as a centre party by many even though they are not, they were 6.5% ahead of Labour on election day, some polls now put the Tories at 12% ahead which will deliver large Conservative majorities similar to Tony Blair’s. God helps us from this hard leftist madness.

  12. bishblaize

    Good grief. That is truly delusional.

  13. jimgardner1973

    I see no real evidence of the Conservatives “walking all over” Corbyn or the Labour Party. I see and hear plenty of media commentators telling us that this is what’s happening, while turning a blind eye to the fact that just since Jeremy was elected Cameron has approved the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, who used them to commit war crimes in Yemen. But as for actual policies for which Labour cannot offer viable alternatives to, the Tories are unimaginative and blissfully ignorant of how unpopular they are with people who didn’t vote for anyone in the last General Election – i.e., the very people who joined our party to support the new leader.

    My girlfriend is a pale blue Tory – that’s to say she habitually votes Conservative because from a young age her parents have been well off financially and firmly in the traditional Tory demographic. She watched Jeremy’s interview on the Andrew Marr show, last week, and hand on heart admitted that there wasn’t a single thing he said which she disagreed with.

    So I put it to her like this; “You’re in the voting booth. You have no idea who the Tory candidate is, what he or she stands for, what he or she has said or done for your constituency in the course of the last parliament, or their stance on key issues which matter most to you. Do you a) Vote for them anyway, or b) Vote for the Labour Party candidate who you recognise from the local news, agree with their position on issues which directly affect you, and trust that they would work hard for your area if elected?” Her answer was that she would consider voting Labour in that situation, but wouldn’t dare tell her parents or family.

    This is what we’re up against over the next 5 years. It does us no good whatsoever to post well-meaning, if a little backward looking articles to the echo-chamber blogs, even if the views being expressed are sincerely held. The media is stacked against us enough as it is. They take one look at comments like this, and assume we’re running scared – held hostage to what Boris Johnston today called “Social Media Trots”. The BBC, ITV, Sky and others are line astern with this sort of received opinion about who we are, why we joined Labour, and what our agenda actually is.

    As a political consultant at The Public Affairs Company, Ed Jacobs knows this only too well — as it is literally his job to spin the narrative to the mainstream press that we, the so-called ‘Entryists’, pine for Michael Foot, expect something for nothing, and drink so much ethically raised vegan goat’s milk we have no idea what the ‘real world’ is — as if the only way to define the world is in the vocabulary approved for us by those who claim to know what’s best, how this should be achieved, and where to pigeonhole anyone who points out the Thatcherite DNA coursing through the veins in this way of thinking.

    The problem is not that our leader is on the left, it’s that the ruminators and self-appointed opinion-formers within the Party are subjugated to the idea that we can only win another election by cleaving to the right. This may have been the case when the only outlet for our message was controlled by the Murdoch dominated press, and London-centric Ya’Ya’s who view the rest of the UK as another country. The author of this article needs to wake up to that fact, listen to Tom Watson, and get a job he’s good at.

  14. steroflex

    Ed, think of the tremendous national debt which costs an awful lot of money that could be invested in our country and its infrastructure. Then there is the challenge of the EU which is rapidly morphing into a Federal Republic with an unelected government. Then there is fracking which, of course, if forbidden although it might bring an awful lot of jobs to working folk. Then there is the enormous difficulty of house building where even the colour of the front door is planned by the Council. Then there is the scandal of our schools where, because of fear of Paedos, men find it very dangerous to venture in. Result: no decent sport every day, no male teachers to understand what boys need, no challenge and lots and lots of mental health problems (the acronyms EBD, ADD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, RQE, hyperactivity) and Ritalin. Universities are spewing out unwanted graduates heavily in debt and very angry (look at the Manchester riots outside the Conservative Conference). Then there is the decay of our town centres. Then there is the tight control of most of our industries including the railways. Finally the madness of the Green Lobby in Brussels has caused electricity prices to soar. When Redcar closed – not a murmur from anyone on the left. They should have been furious with the Greens!
    While all these challenges are simply not being met, the Labour party bleats on about more hand outs to everyone who has a vote. If some leadership could emerge – even to get us out of Europe – the Labour Party would sweep to victory. There is an open goal, actually.

  15. steroflex

    Comrade, brother Jeremy has asked us to be kindly and nice. “Piggy Cameron” is duly noted and we will be in touch about the reorientation seminars.

  16. steroflex

    The Labour Party is finished. Industry and Methodism are both long dead (it was Mrs Thatcher wot done it). When the Conservative Party splits over Europe as it will in 2017, the Blairite wing will be on home ground and the loony left will drift off, no doubt, with the Greens and what then remains of the SNP.

  17. Chris Kitcher

    Don’t be so negative, over 40+ of your 99 seats were far the left of Millibands labour. The morons that compose the great british public will not accept the rabid right wing Tory policies and with Jeremy at the hea th nastiness of their policies will be xposed over the next 4 years.
    Just watch the Tories lead dissapear as their policies continue to kill people we will see the UK population start to reject them.

  18. steroflex

    Why the support for tax credits? Why not reduce the tax, the bureaucracy and the power of the state for once? Has anyone dared to ask that or is thinking also forbidden?

  19. steroflex

    “they could be confused with Fascism”
    So they supported attacking France and UK, starting World War Two, handing Jews over to the gas chambers and dropping a lot of bombs on London?
    What a lazy thoughtless remark! Comrade Jeremy would be disgusted!

  20. steroflex

    I warmly support this. The feel good factor has been Labour’s downfall in the general election. It is time for some thought and some really sensible repentance leading to change and success. God knows, there are enough challenges to be met besides pretending to care about other people’s misfortunes!

  21. Chris Kitcher

    Don’t be such a twat. They are ready to bomb Syria and have done fuck all to stop executions in Saudi and America. In addition Idiot Duncan-Smith is killing UK citizens with his welfare reforms. What more examples do you want of the Nazis driven Tories?
    Not thoughtless at all it’s Tories like you that believe what the lying bastards in the Tory party tell you.

  22. Cole

    Blimey. Orders have been issued from the new comrades. They demand obedience, or else.

  23. Cole

    Dream on. The arrogant and self indulgent Corbynistas will almost guarantee a large Tory majority in 2020.

  24. Cole

    As usual with the Corbynistas, any criticism is denounced as ‘Blairite’ or ‘Tory lite’. Paranoid, intolerant and insulting.

  25. Fouche101

    To understand what it feels like to have a broken left foot in a plaster cast, read the other comments.
    A formerly serious party of government has turned into a fractious, irrelevant rabble.

  26. JAMC

    The audacity of Osborne, who yesterday described the Conservative Party as the party of labour and stole Aneurin Bevan’s words – ‘we are the builders’ – has been possible only because Labour has seen its flag lowered over the cherished centre ground.

    Are you kidding me? No matter how much time he spends wearing a hi-vis jacket and hard hat, Osborne attempting to steal a soundbyte from Bevan, devoid of all context, inevitably descends into a shallow, cartoonish joke. The only thing the conservatives know how to construct is abject misery for the many.

    The conservatives can say whatever they like – and they’ve always been able to say whatever they like. You claim implicitly that Corbyn’s perceived abandonment of the centre (something I don’t agree with BTW, I think the centre itself has moved leftward and the country as a whole is increasingly polarlised around two extremes) allows claims like that made by Osborne to be more believable. That’s not how we go about determining the truth of who built what – and who intends to build what.

  27. robertcp

    Corbyn did not get my first preference but I think that he should be given a chance. People like Ed seem to have decided not to give him a chance.

  28. Lovejoy

    We are on the brink of a new recession – as Clinton said “it’s the economy stupid!” There is no guarantee that Corbyn will still be leader in 2020 – his post is not for life.

  29. Lovejoy

    I’d sooner support a proper living wage and rent controls – can’t see that happening any time soon.

  30. Lovejoy

    There were rumours Corbyn would make it easier to replace the leader – an excellent idea methinks.

  31. leslie48

    You got it the wrong way ISIS are beheading and massacring unbelievers and that includes Brits on the beach. The spread of ISIS is the greatest threat to stability along with massive exodus from Syria. ISIS is an army we cannot allow victory to: there is no real alternative.

  32. Mike Stallard

    Piss, bottie, wee wee, bum!
    I suppose that is the kind of language which University Graduates use nowadays…
    leslie says it all below.

    PS. You have not advanced any convincing arguments and you do have to ask yourself whether that was the kind of remark that Mr Corbyn would have approved of.

  33. Harold

    Labour is a broad church and must remember this, winning elections at any level is what the Labour Party is for, if the intention is to protest fine but join a single issue group. It helps no one to cast the Party as aiming for the left or the centre, as the Tories have spotted you can do both. A wide range of policies which improve the lives of people will be supported they do not need labelling. The only people who win from the left/centre/right argument are the Tories, UKIP and the Lib Dems. I have always believed Governments lose elections not oppositions win them, the two main issues are also the Economy and the Economy. You could add voters do not support split parties.

    It is not just having alternative policies it is the articulating of them to a large audience and engaging them, people need to be able to discuss what a Party intended to do and why. Which means other members of the Labour Party need to speak up not attacking other members but targeting the Tories every time.

    I once lived in a safe Tory, predominately working class Tory, where there was a great need for an opposition the Tories held all positions of power, the Lib Dems were the official opposition but ineffective with people voting for them because they were not Tory. The Labour Party had lost all the seat they once held, regularly did not stand in by elections and when it did came last. The main reason was because they spent most of their time fighting each other, the local Council would inevitably make mistakes, one Tory Ward had 50% of the rented properties below the National minimum standard for habitation, these events were never challenged by the local Party, who were too busy fighting each other. Few people ever joined the local Party, elections went unchallenged and the people who needed active Labour support got none.

    The first big test is the elections next year and the Party must start now setting out why voting and voting Labour does make a difference.

  34. Chris Kitcher

    After 5 years of Tory Nazism people will be begging for some good socialist policies. When Corbyn becomes PM we can all hold our heads high once again.

  35. Chris Kitcher

    A recession this time caused by the Tory Nazis? They have no idea how to manage the economy their only interest is in reducing the state and making money for their backers. Typical bloody Nazis.

  36. Chris Kitcher

    And the west continues to kill people by more subtle means such as boycotts arming barbarians like the Saudis and spreading dissent in third world countries, not to mention crippling them by debt repayments which kill thousands of innocent people everyday.

  37. treborc

    For Christ sake parliament has not even started yet for Corbyn, yet here we have another attack on the bloke before he even starts.

    Look like this place needs to change it’s name to the right foot forward.

    I suspect you would have been happy with whom Kendall

  38. treborc

    For god sake you never stop, we want Blair we want Blair, but Blair has gone get over it

  39. Lovejoy – It would wreck Osborne’s chances of winning the election in 2020 – it’s hard to proclaim you are a great chancellor when the economy collapses.

  40. Lovejoy

    Labour thought moral virtue would carry them over the threshold…

  41. Cole

    Actually lots of us neither want Blair (or his acolytes) or the hard left Corbyn.

  42. Cole

    It’s likely that he’s already lost Labour the next election. He’s – predictably – a total disaster.

  43. Cole

    When you accuse people of being Nazis – unless they actually are – you’ve lost the argument. The Tories may be very nasty but they’re not fascists. They’ve not locked up or shot their opponents.

  44. Chris Kitcher

    Not yet unless you count the people killed by Idiot Duncan Smith and his reign of terror on the poor and vulnerable.

  45. robertcp

    Labour’s support is about the same now as before his election, so his predecessors must have also been disastrous.

  46. Andrew

    I am utterly disgusted with So called Left foot forward! Have you been taken over by Murdoch? Quite frankly if I have to read any more crap like this you can shove it!

    Andrew Bryant.

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