The problem with the Corbyn strategy

A Labour party preaching anti-austerity might find self-satisfaction in being right, but it is naive to imagine that this will lead to victory


With Jeremy Corbyn currently ahead of his rivals in terms of CLP nominations, the Labour leadership contest has taken an unexpected turn.

Corbyn’s uncompromising ‘anti-austerity’ stance has certainly tapped into some Labour members’ discomfort with the direction taken by their party in recent years. If these misgivings predated the 2008 fiscal crisis, the resulting austerity effectively brought to a head criticisms many had of New Labour.

Indeed, one reason Ed Miliband won the leadership in 2010 was his promise to move the party on from the Blair-Brown years. Yet Miliband’s course disappointed many on the left who believe that by 2015, the man the right-wing press dubbed ‘Red Ed’ merely offered the country ‘austerity-lite’.

A Corbyn-led party seems to be popular with a significant number of Labour members, or at least with that minority who attend CLP nomination meetings; but how likely is it that it will resonate with enough voters to deliver victory in 2020?

Corbynites have a ready answer: if we say it they will come. According to them, a resolute anti-austerity position will draw back to Labour those who voted Green, SNP, UKIP, and perhaps even Conservative in 2015.

They also point to the large number of non-voters: apparently many of them told pollsters they would support Labour but somehow got lost on the way to the polling booth. Corbyn, so this argument goes, will give such people a positive reason to vote Labour.

This at least has the merit of being a coherent strategy. It is also an approach that has a long lineage on the left. In the 1970s it inspired those who wanted to wrest control of the party from parliamentary leaders they believed were mired in reformism, who cut government spending and allowed unemployment to rise in the seemingly futile attempt to make a flawed capitalist system work.

Why did Labour keep losing elections, they asked? Why was Thatcher riding high? It was because the party did not offer voters a decisive alternative. Corbyn was at that point a keen supporter of Tony Benn who argued that Labour needed to base itself in trade unions and community groups so as to inspire a rainbow coalition of the oppressed.

In 1981 Benn wrote that, due to influence the left exerted in the party by then,

“Election campaigns have become platforms from which democratic socialism can once again be preached, reinjecting into the consciousness of the people some of the values on upon which any society claiming to be socialist must depend.”

Corbyn in 2015 (like Benn in 1981) proposes what political scientists call a ‘preference shaping’ strategy. Instead of ‘preference accommodation’ – that is, finding out what voters want and trying to convince them Labour is best qualified to deliver it – the left wants to change what voters want, to persuade them that an anti-austerity party is in their best interests.

But how will a Corbyn-led party do this? Is an approach based on messianically ‘preaching’ the message and mechanistically ‘injecting’ the right values into people’s minds going to work in 2015?

Benn spoke at a time when half of those employed were members of a trade union, when talk of establishing workplace party branches seemed almost realistic. And still, Benn failed to generate much of a popular response.

But this is the same approach Corbyn appears to embrace, despite the fact that only a small minority attend meetings and demonstrations, most of whom will already be convinced of the need to oppose austerity.

Standing on a platform and shouting so that those at the back can hear might be part of an honourable tradition but it rarely works. Corbyn needs to do much more than this.

That the austerity message has become embedded is revealed by survey after survey. To take just one example: according to research commissioned by the TUC, 42 per cent of those who considered voting Labour in 2015 but who in the end supported the Conservatives did so because they thought Miliband’s party would spend too much money and could not be trusted to run the economy.

Individual elements of Labour’s 2015 programme were popular, policies a Corbyn party might well embrace, such as ending non-dom tax exemptions, imposing an energy price freeze, levying a mansion tax, introducing a real Living Wage and reducing university tuition fees. But in 2015 this wasn’t enough, because voters did not consider them to have a credible position on austerity.

If Labour come up hard against such views there will likely be only one outcome for them in 2020, and it won’t be pretty. ‘Shaping’ strategies rarely work on their own: it took the small matter of a world war to get Attlee into office in 1945. Yet the fiscal crisis of 2008, widely touted by the left as the moment when the people would finally abandon neo-liberalism, saw the majority move further to the right.

A Labour party preaching anti-austerity in such circumstances might find self-satisfaction in being right, but given what we know about public opinion it is naive to the point of irresponsibility to imagine this will lead to victory.

Most successful parties combine preference accommodation with shaping: they seemingly appease in order to ultimately change opinion. When he first became Conservative leader, David Cameron went out of his way to demonstrate he was in touch with the public: remember ‘progressive’ Conservatism? Since being in power, however, the Conservatives have assiduously shaped opinion.

Look at what Osborne has done with the Living Wage: he has taken a popular idea then used it against those who should have benefited in order to serve his wider neo-liberal agenda. Corbynites will hate to hear this, but New Labour did the exact same thing from a different political direction.

Blair was elected in 1997 promising to keep to Conservative spending limits, but won reelection in 2001 having convinced a once-sceptical public that a massive increase in government spending on schools and hospitals was actually ‘investment’.

Accommodate-to-shape is a difficult trick to pull off – and New Labour benefited from a discredited and divided Conservative government – but it is the only one that has any hope of working. With Corbyn’s three rivals offering variations on this strategy, he needs to indicate how – beyond speeches to already convinced audiences – he will engage with those who currently imagine some dose of austerity is necessary for their hopes of prosperity.

Steven Fielding is Professor of Political History and director of the Centre for British Politics at the University of Nottingham.

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47 Responses to “The problem with the Corbyn strategy”

  1. Matt Booth

    Good article to post on “RightFootForward”.

  2. Tamerlane

    “I have no answer to the valid points made here, oh I know what to do I’ll call him a Tory, Corbyn will DEFINITELY win then!!!”

  3. Skiamakhos

    Part of the problem is that Labour from Kinnock onwards has been trying to quietly distance itself from the union movement while still happily accepting their money. If Labour turned round & said “Actually trades unions are a bloody good thing – look at all the things trades unions have won for you in the past!” & started urging members to join trades unions & be active trade unionists, then you might start to see this vicious cycle of Labour disparaging unions, people seeing unions as less relevant, people leaving unions reversed. We might get Labour recruiting for unions & unions recruiting for Labour. We have the latter already but Labour have in the past let the side down.

    We need to get unions into SMEs more – we have the battles of the 1920s to fight all over again thanks to Labour’s rightward drift. Most people are no longer in unions because unions have been gradually squeezed out. It’s not just the reduction in the public sector – unions used to be a thing in the private sector too, but they stopped getting involved when private sector staff got sacked or bullied or had accidents. PCS let me down badly when this happened to me back in 2006. When unions stop fighting for workers’ rights they become an irrelevance – even a liability.

    Unite are trying to reverse this: they have a fighting fund so if you need to go to a tribunal they will pay for your legal expenses. There are now all kinds of fringe benefits to joining Unite, like discounts on holidays & car insurance, so even if they don’t have collective bargaining rights over salaries in your workplace it is still worth joining. They’ll stand up for you if things go wrong, and it’s cost-effective due to all the perks & discounts they get you.

  4. Matt Booth

    So we shouldn’t try to remove the vile austerity form society because it won’t make the electable. If they aren’t going to reverse austerity, then they don’t deserve to be elected.

    The Labour Party need a national disaster for the Tories to fumble in order to have even the slightest chance of getting to office again. Let it be known that when Labour spend the next 10 years out of office, it’s because they didn’t take a stand against Austerity immediately in 2010. There’s also a good chance they’ll elect Burnham or Kendall, then they’re fucked.

  5. UnrepentantBennite93

    This is the second anti-Corbyn article by Mr Fielding in the span of a week.

    Once again, it involves a caricaturing of Labour’s left position and a seeming desire to give up progressive politics altogether.

    First of all, what is politics about if not trying to convince people of your view? It’s not about shouting, “Well, you’re wrong!” in the face of the electorate and then storming off to your room. That’s a complete caricature of the left’s position (I accept though, that caricatures are often born from a grain of truth).

    And the second point leads on from the first: politics isn’t about being right, it’s about being convincing. But with Corbyn we could be both.

    Ignoring his massive appeal with left voters (heck he might bring in the 1/5 of voters intending to vote Labour that stayed in on polling day), he is proposing progressive alternative solutions to the problems that Tory voters are concerned with. You want a decreased welfare bill? Well, then pay people a fair, living wage. With that they won’t need tax credits subsidising unjust pay. Combine this with a radical reform of the housing market to enforce fairness, you’ve got a reduced housing benefit bill as better wages and fairer rents plug the gap between the cost of living and wages. This is Corbyn’s message.

    My question to Mr Fielding and supporters of the other candidates (or just the simple anti-Corbyn reactionaries) is this: what is it about good quality jobs, a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work and a just housing market that scare you? And moreover, what about those things do you think will scare the electorate?

  6. hesychast

    These constant appeals to pragmatism are all big on understanding politics for the wider electorate but lack any empathy with Labour members. As if you have to be careful and pay attention to the needs of one electorate but not another. I’m convinced that whilst you might be able to point at the left of the party and call them out as yoghurt knitters it isn’t them that is making the numbers up.

    You need to inspire optimism in the party as much as if not more than in the electorate and all articles like this along with Liz Kendall does is tell them they can’t really have any of the things they want to fight for. That might work if we were a hairs breadth from winning – but real realists know that isn’t the case…. So what would you rather be hung for? A lamb or a sheep?

    I think the way this campaign is being run underlines the need for the party to fully reform. Its full of numbers and arch knowingness and realism and good PR and totally lacking in any understanding of how to connect with electorates within or outside the party. The party machine that won in the 90s might be choking the party now.

  7. Gaz Lewis

    What’s with all these far-leftists living in complete denial of the financial crisis and shouting down anyone slightly more centrist than their seemingly ridiculous unreformed brand of socialism?

    Corbyn, first of all, is a twat.
    Most importantly, however; is that his politics do not seem to be from the planet as the rest of us.
    You can not be completely anti-austerity in this climate. SOME cuts need to be made. Get over it.

    And stop calling anyone a tory and a right-wing fascist for realising both left and right have their short comings and balanced the two. Seriously, grow up ffs.

  8. Mauro Andrade

    With Kendall, yes, they would be well and truly buggered. Burnham’s pretty useless but he’s not that bad!

  9. keggsie

    You can not be completely anti-austerity in this climate. Yes you can. SOME cuts need to be made. No you don’t.

    Austerity has NEVER worked except for the rich. I’d suggest educating yourself first before name calling and spouting rubbish. Austerity is about hurting people for the benefit of the better off not about economic credibility. If you think I’m wrong then I’d suggest you have that conversation with Paul Krugman

  10. Skiamakhos

    “Grow up” says the man who goes right to calling Corbyn a twat. Riiiight…

  11. Skiamakhos

    Quacks like a duck, swims like a duck, lays duck eggs, probably is a duck…

  12. TN

    The only reason you call him that (I’ve seen your posts on Facebook LFF page!) is because he doesn’t parrot the Hasbara propaganda the neocons love to hear.

  13. Fouche101

    “Most successful parties combine preference accommodation with shaping”. Dull jargon, but the kernel of the article. it implies compromise, so is repugnant to the true believers, who despise the voters and refuse to be tainted by their vulgar, materialist views.
    The intolerance of the general response to a sane article comes as no surprise. As a Blairite of the right I look forward to the crushing humiliation in 2020 of a Labour led by Corbyn or even Burnham.

  14. Philip

    “Yet the fiscal crisis of 2008, widely touted by the left as the moment when the people would finally abandon neo-liberalism, saw the majority move further to the right.”

    Why did the left swing fail to materialise? Because the Tories blamed the crisis on Labour overspending — a total and complete lie, of course — and Labour, in their now perpetual state of spineless disarray, accepted the (unequivocally false) narrative.

    That doesn’t mean that the remedy is ‘old left’ tub-thumping but that isn’t what Corbyn is doing — and ‘accommodate-to-shape’ isn’t what the Labour right are offering either. All they have to offer is total and complete capitulation — again…

    What a shock, then, that Labour’s left are finding their voice.

  15. Gaz Lewis

    No, you can’t. Join the real world before telling someone to educate themselves you utter idiot.

  16. Gaz Lewis

    Correction. I’ve called Corbyn a twat and I’m now calling you a twat.

  17. Gaz Lewis

    Right. I’m really going to take you seriously after using the words ‘hasbara’ and ‘neocon’ with no relevant context.
    Any other buzzwords you’d like to throw at me?

  18. Skiamakhos

    Well, you’ve convinced me. Your persuasive power knows no limit.

  19. The Great and The Good

    In terms of arguing against austerity, agree with Fielding’s argument – up to a point. The issue is less that it’s too ingrained, and more that those who oppose austerity haven’t yet found a suitable narrative in which to put their anti-austerity message. One of the Tory’s biggest strengths at the last election was their simple, understandable and on the surface logical (though actually very misleading) narrative, and their powerful household based analogies when it came to austerity. If we’re to ever argue against austerity, we need to find an alternative narrative with alternative analogies to explain our economic arguments in a way that isn’t overly abstract, as it is at the moment. If we forge that narrative, then we can really take on the Tory economic lies. Then a “shaping” strategy might actually work.
    I disagree, by the way, with Fielding’s assertion that shaping arguments are impossible – yes, Attlee was in a rare position, but Thatcher managed to change the consensus too without the help of a huge war, shifting Britain from social democracy to neoliberalism, and Cameron and Osbourne managed to significantly build up much of the deficit fetishisation that goes on today – so it’s not impossible for us to do the opposite.

  20. keggsie

    I’d suggest getting a book out of the library about Keynsian economics rather than falling for the Hayekian neo liberal economics that got us in the mess in the first place. Ever heard of John Maynard Keynes. He was the bloke that every gvt since WW2 till 1979 that any credible economist followed. Thatcher being a self centred cow followed Hayek and Ayn Rand as did all the other stupid politicians in Europe. End result global financial crash in 2008 culminating in Greece today and the deliberate austerity being imposed on the people of this country.

    Name calling only proves you to be the idiot. Forgotten the suggestion to have a conversation with Paul Krugman. I’d suggest you do that.

  21. Graham Coupe

    While I am no expert on political or social history, didn’t Labour spend on schools and hospitals because they are in such a poor state through the tories lack of investment ?

  22. Graham Coupe

    It is a real shame is that the contenders are such a wishy washy, insipid bunch that they cannot help but make Corbyn look good. Forget the election, Labour needs to sort itself out and the likes of Liz Kendall are not the way. They are far to distant from the grass roots.

  23. stevep

    Yes, Keynes was the foremost economist of the 20th century.
    if the USA had followed his recommendations at Bretton Woods instead of nicking his ideas and bending them to suit the dollar, we would be in a better position now. Even the Chinese are carefully re-scrutinising hi BW proposals.

  24. Ken Bell

    The problem with this argument is that it is predicated on the notion that people in Northern England, say, will continue to vote Labour even though the policies offer them little or nothing. The idea is that they have nowhere else to go, so will continue taking whatever scraps Labour offers them as part of its drive to give a good feast to Nuneaton.

    This wheeze will work until people wake up as they have in Scotland. You can forget Scotland from now on as it is an SNP fiefdom. They offer people hope for the future and benefits whilst they are waiting for that future. Sooner or later Northern England will create a similar party and then where will Labour be?

  25. stevep

    The Title of the party should give people a clue. Labour. The party set up by and to represent working people. That includes retired working people.
    This means that notionally, Labour should be the party to represent the vast majority of us, for we all have to work to “earn” a living, unless we were born into wealth and land.
    Labour lost touch when they panicked after the 1983 election. They seemed to believe the propaganda directed against them: “The longest suicide note in history”- Labour 1983 manifesto.
    “Militants running the party”.
    “Nuclear disarmament would leave our country open to soviet invasion”
    Etc. Etc.
    The 1983 manifesto was carefully considered and democratically voted through. The militants as they were tarred, were committed party activists. Nuclear disarmament was more relevant in 1983 than it`s ever been in history.
    With the Kinnockite purges of party activists, Labour lost impetus and started it`s long drift to the right to appease focus groups and commentators who argued that “the Left” belonged in the 1970`s and they shouldn`t argue the point. moving on was deemed more important – does that argument sound familiar? Tony Benn was one of the few who argued otherwise.
    After 1992`s defeat Labour had another panic and moved further to the right and unnecessarily ditched core values.
    We have a Labour party today that is afraid to argue or stand up for anything in case it upsets someone.
    Meanwhile, the Tories, unafraid to be radical, are laying waste to our country.
    Labour needs to wake up and realise voters don`t mind radical policies. People want a clear alternative to current politics, not just Tories or Tory lite parties and manifestos.
    I know there are people who will argue the point differently, but unless Labour distances itself from Capitalism, the party will wither on the vine and die.
    Then the vast majority of the people in the UK will have very little representation.

  26. Darren Cahil

    I think it is an expression of demoralisation more than anything. My point against Fielding’s logic is that I still think it is correct to win over people to the principle of democratic socialism, to transform the Labour party into a partisan of the working class. The option put forward by Fielding is that of a lesser evilism of a right-wing Labour party counter posed to a right-wing Tory party does not help us, it leads to demoralisation of the working class to put winning elections, above that of winning over less class conscious workers, better to stay as a principled opposition, rather than win power and then implement policies of another class, just ask Greece how that’s working out?

    Because in 2015, the Blarite formula of ‘promising to keep to Conservative spending limits, but’ winning ‘reelection in 2001 having convinced a once-sceptical public that a massive increase in government spending on schools and hospitals was actually ‘investment’’, will not work in a post ‘Great recession’ of 2008. After the China stock market wobble, the world capitalist system is looking more unstable. The fact is Osborne and co showed their weakened confidence in the global economy when they talked about “red flags” in the global economy in the pre-election 2015 period.

  27. Nick

    I don’t see why not ? whats the point of living in a country that goes out of it’s way to make the lives of the sick and disabled kill themselves or to die through DWP negligence?

    just because the uk government dislikes like many other countries the sick and disabled it does not mean to say that all of the people do because they don’t

    half the people may say yes to their demise but Corbyn needs to fight their cause if he were to become leader on behalf of those that do support the sick and disabled

    otherwise this group of people will be wiped out over the long term along with other groups of people so the country will need someone like Corbyn to fight their corner because no one else is that’s for sure

    If it means labour staying in opposition and Corbyn keeps some sick and disabled people alive to my mind that will be worth it because the elderly are living longer and that will be the next tory cut to come along and that’s to get rid of this large group of people

  28. Perry525

    If you repeat something, over and over eventually, people come to beleive it.
    The Torys repeat the same lies over and over, why is there no challenge from Labour.
    What is wrong, with correcting these lies, instead of letting them go unchallenged?
    Many think Labour didn’t want to be elected in 2010 and 2015 – because they didn’t try hard enough.

  29. Asteri

    New Labour and the Blairism that this website loves was invented purely for people who are basically right-wingers but think they are too cool and “edgy” for the Tories.


    If the Labour Party think moving to the left will get them elected then they should honour the Stasi.
    Britain is a wealthy country. MILLIONS OF WORKING CLASS have moved on and into the middle and upper middle class bracket. They hold the key during elections. People move on and forget about the struggles their granny went through. Labour cannot just claim to represent a minority but must appeal to everyone or end up in total oblivion. Look what has happened in Scotland we now have the Tartan Tories anti trade unions in charge. The SNP will vote against Westminster anti trade union reform because they can and it will not affect them. They will blame the Tories although silently agreeing with them.

  31. cuthbia

    Did anyone ever tell you that you have a way with words?

  32. RoyB

    Much of the analysis in this article is so poor that it really does surprise me that the author is an academic. To take just one example. “Yet the fiscal crisis of 2008, widely touted by the left as the moment when the people would finally abandon neo-liberalism, saw the majority move further to the right.” The crisis was not “widely touted on the left as the moment when the people would finally abandon neo-liberalism.” The Labour Party, in particular, failed to defend its record in office and, almost deliberately, allowed the Tory myth of “Labour’s mess” to achieve the status of gospel truth in the popular mind. A coomon enough trick on the stage, the Tories pulled off the best political conjuring trick of all time by successfully blaming Labour and welfare recipients for the failures of extreme capitalism. Sleight of hand: distraction at its very best! No wonder many people believed the lies iterated to the point of nausea when Labour seemed to accept them. There was a huge failure of political nerve and nous by Labour so that even when neo-liberalism was crushed under the weight of its own excesses, kept alive only by vast injections of public money, Labour couldn’t bring itself to finish off the benighted creature. The reasons for this failure are not that obvious but could include the possibility that many in senior positions in the Party simply believed in neo-liberalism and thought that there was no alternative. Personally, I think that this is the most likely reason. The Party had simply become, in its upper reaches, captured by the prevailing orthodoxy, despite the number of serious economists arguing for a plausible alternative. The most obvious line of attack would have been the “responsible capitalism” touted iniially by Ed Miliband but then dropped and not developed. Why did this happen? Again there seems to have been a colossal failure of political nerve. Labour would rather run with neo-liberalism with a, slightly, human face than posit any realistic alternatives. Then, there is no great evidence that “the majority moved to the right.” Certainly many shifted to UKIP. Again the distraction technique was similar to the Tories, but targetted at those who couldn’t face voting for the class enemy: blame the EU and immigrants. A common technique of neo-fascists everywhere. It’s the Jews! It’s the Trade Unions! It’s anybody but me! In recessions, people easily become fearful and UKIP played on this fear, again with no effective contest from Labour. I am driven to believe that the main reason for the survival of neo-liberalism is down to the political failures of Labour: its “leaders” were simply not very good at politics. In countries where the left had a more convincing atrack, the people certainly don’t seem to have swung to the right. The figures suggest a pretty even left: right split in the UK. Scotland, Wales and the English Cities all went left. The South of England and the English fringe towns went right. Result: inconclusive. Tories on 25%; Labour on 21%, bruised but not down and out. Though if it continues along its centre right trajectory as suggested by the Professor, I doubt it will survive beyond 2020 as it will have become an irrelevance in people’s lives.

  33. keggsie

    He also shows a distinct lack of understanding of economics.

  34. Ian Laite

    This is a deeply patronising attitude – “yes anti-austerity might be intellectually sound and supported by Nobel prize winning economists like Krugman, but the plebs will never understand it and cannot be moved by rational argument.” Pragmatism is to insult the populous for being irredeemably stupid and intransigent!!! We cannot expect them to accept a case that isn’t being properly made! It is wrong to self censor for fear of failing to win the argument and thereby lose power. Both the powerful intellectual anti-austerity case and the equality case need to be made loudly and clearly.

  35. SteveHogan

    Professor Fielding should look at the SNP in Scotland to see why his argument is wrong. They have managed to attract many hitherto non-voters on an anti-austerity platform. These are people who in the distant past would have been solid Labour but felt abandoned. The SNP has provided hope and that has helped the build a movement. Corbyn’ strategy is akin to that. He wants Labour to be a movement again.

  36. Dan

    Unless the Tories majorly cock up, to the extent the press turn against them, a top down extreme right of centre Labour message will not win the next general election.

    Labour must not alienate its grassroots it must inspire them to be a movement that wins hearts and minds in the face of establishment capitulation to Tory propaganda.

    Corbyn can lead that movement will the others, especially the Oxbridge lot, follow and support him?

  37. stevep

    Maybe Labour`s accepted Capitalism and doesn`t want to try too hard.
    It`s galling, but explains a lot.

  38. Labouring Life

    Looks like a simplistic answer, sounds like a simplistic answer is a simplistic answer. Adam Curtis the documentary maker (Bitter Lake) often reiterates the point that we have been encouraged to see good guys and bad guys and people in a dire situation and the good guys promote the idea that they will get those in the dire situation out of it by some simple mechanism. Anyone who opposes this is a bad guy.
    Everyone around us even corny is promoting this story, and its wrong.
    The reality is Corbyn has some sound ideas and ideals, as do they all but the practical purpose is to put them into practice and it will not be simple as Syriza discovered. We need to engage in the philosophy of complexity and the debate around policy ideas and ideals must be a complex one. Real change is going to be engaging with this complexity, the complexity of 21st century global economy where social democracy is in a decline, where governments have less power, where trade Unions do not have large memberships outside public services. I could go on but perhaps Ill write it not an article and post it somewhere else. Open your minds however much you want their to be a nice easy simple answer it isn’t simple as the world is moving so fast we can barley keep up.

  39. Nick

    At the end of the day the conservatives policy’s are very easy to put together any fool could do it

    The hard part is to be statesman with a caring attitude towards the sick and disabled and disadvantaged plus to be seen a leader on the world stage

    All Jeremy Corbyn needs to undertake is to be not so severe on the weakest leading to their death for Jeremy Corbyn that should be an easy undertaking and should be applauded and then just tighten up on those that are out to scam the country like the big bankers and businesses that don’t pay there taxes etc and the rest should come quite naturally to him which in turn will inspire others to follow him

    As for the conservatives they only ever work in closed selfish fashion they like a small state with no responsibility’s or liabilities wherever possible they are more in tune with Liechtenstein then the uk

    Liz Kendall and co can only offer Luke warm Conservative polices at best and as i say any fool could do that but it’s not in the country best interest you need to get real and create a country around the 70 million mark and not like the conservatives that would be very happy with a population of only 10 million and standing on their own two feet

  40. Cole

    Labour were right to panic after 1983. The election was a disaster, and they were almost beaten by the SDP/Liberals. A Corbyn leadership would be even less successful that Michael Foot.

  41. Cole

    But Labour has never been against capitalism even under leaders like Attlee. It is – or was – a social Democratic party.

  42. Digger52

    The Tory press, think tanks, corporate backers and politicians put an
    enormous amount of effort into shaping the public’s perception of the role of the state and the importance of enhancing the power of the rich.
    They do not accommodate to shape, they propagandise relentlessly and with vast resources to construct a consensus view which suits them. So terrified are they of any alternative perspective they have to fabricate reasons to attack the BBC, the unions etc just in case. Professor Fielding’s premise is false.

  43. Neil6432

    I’m frankly amazed at the great understanding of economics shown by all the dedicated Socialists here. They must spend all their time down the library reading books and stuff (if the Library hasn’t been shut to save money that is) It really does makes me wonder why on earth every Socialist government we have had has left the country virtually bankrupt resulting in the nasty Tories having to make cuts to ‘clean the mess up’?

  44. Aron Cox

    There seems to be such a focus on Labout winning the next election, Peopel say Corbyn can’t win so we should ignore him, we need to keep to the right of waht we actually believe as that’s what people voted for last time.

    My problem with this is we’ve not had a credible left-leaning set of policies for some time now, so the people don’t know what anti-austerity is, the people don’t know what a non-right wing immigration policy is, the people don’t know how much we spend on our military and what it gets us, the people don;t know about issue of priacy vs security, the people don’t know how increasing taxation on the rich or business or just collecting the proper amount would change things, etc, etc.

    The answer it seems to me is not to stay just to the left of the Tories in order to gather up as many people as possible and therefore win an election, because then you are still a Tory government, albeit slightly to the left of the real one. The answer is to get good ideas, to explain and sell those ideas, to convince people you are right and to hope people like them and will suport you. We need ideas, we need proper alternatives to the Conservative ideas, and we need to prove they are the right ideas for the country.

    Stop pandering to the perceived views of the voters (which you are mostly getting from a right-wing press, and from voters who haven’t actually heard any left-wing policies for many, many years), and shape the conversation. Polling needs to go away, have some convictions for once!

    That’s why people are supporting Corbyn, he is finally offerening a set of real differences to the Tories and I just don’t understand why he isn’t being celbrated as someone who is making a difference and who may just perhaps bring Labour back to where it should be, left of centre.

    It’s not always about winning, have some principles, and shape the country!

  45. Blinkered | Paint By Numbers Politics

    […] excused by an unwelcoming media. While he rightly raises points about the damages of austerity, his electoral strategy is backwards. The movement left in 1974 and 1983 are associated with drops in Labour’s share of the vote, when […]

  46. Andy

    I’m a bit late to this party and am responding now because Prof Fielding has just referred me to this article as an example of the ‘rational criticism’ that Corbynistas are apparently incapable of following; he told me that Corbyn is ‘beyond rational criticism’.

    Comparing Corbyn’s (assumed) agenda with Tony Benn’s in 1981 is somewhat misleading. The last time a partially Bennite agenda was put before the electorate was in the 60s so is hardly relevant to a question of whether Corbyn is likely to be successful. I can only assume that bringing Benn up is a form of rhetoric designed to paint a negative picture of Corbyn and to shoot down the list of ‘coherent’ reasons for supporting him that Prof Fielding had previously provided. It’s not very convincing nor particularly rational in my view.

    There are still many, many rational arguments available to argue against austerity. The Chancellor of the Exchequer convinced the electorate of the need for austerity by claiming, among other things, that without it our economy would be like that of Greece, ignoring that Greece is in the Euro while we have our own currency. He did this while reducing taxes for the richest and for big companies. So it is quite possible to convince enough people of irrational bollocks, should it really be so difficult to convince people of something a bit more evidence based? Is it really so irrational to try once in a while, what prof Fielding describes as a ‘shaping’ strategy? I personally believe that is has to be, otherwise our political system will be reduced to two parties essentially standing for the same thing, begging for votes on the basis of little more than their claimed management ability.

    I think Miliband’s problem was that he came across as promising all things to all people, he did to me at least. People are likely to be sceptical of such an approach. Corbyn won’t do that and has shown no signs of doing so so far. He has come up with original ideas such as people’s quantitative easing and has considerable wiggle room in moving the tax burden back to the rich and closing avoidance loopholes. Miliband seemed almost embarrassed by the mansion tax, he should have been shouting about it from the rooftops. Myleene Klass should have been put firmly in her place and reminded that the only reason she was against it was because her accountant had told her to be.

    I think Labour always has an uphill struggle to get elected no matter who is their leader. There is a prevailing culture among many that the Tories are the default party of government and in order to deserve a vote Labour has to come up with something blindingly new and/or different, rather than demonstrating they are the least-worst option. There is also the small matter of media bias. Corbyn probably has as much chance of success by offering something genuinely different as does yet another Blairite merely promising another neoliberal small state with a few of the sharpest edges smoothed off, while still throwing the disabled benefits claimants under a bus of course.

    It does require a small amount of hope of course, maybe this is the irrationality that Prof Fielding has so little time for.


    To say that Labour is for the working class is the biggest misnomer imaginable. No party has done less for the workers in history, in fact the In Place of Strife bill proposed by Barbara Castle and Harold Wilson had it become law would have restricted workers’ rights more than any other legislation in history. In fact, it caused one of the biggest dock strikes we have ever known when they found out its implications.

    In contrast, Edward Heath’s Industrial Relations Act gave workers more rights than they had ever had. The trouble was it gave the unions back to the workers, which neither the Labour Party nor the union leaders wanted.

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