Continued from yesterday’s post.
As I mentioned in the part one of this blogpost, it is not I that changed my views but the other half. Rather than paraphrase and quote him, I thought it best if he wrote what made him change his views.
The views of my other half:
I watched “Labour: the Wilderness Years” on the back of my attendance at my first ever party-political event: a Jeremy Corbyn campaign rally. I had found him to be an inspiring speaker, who spoke from a place of conviction rather than a carefully edited script. His views on many issues aligned with mine and I felt that at last I had seen a politician that I could rally behind as they led their party – my party? – and the country towards a bright new future.
Three weeks later, and I find myself hoping that any of the other three candidates wins. So what’s changed? At the outset, I want to say that I still admire Corbyn for the principled stances he has taken on many important issues over the years. I hope that he has many more years in Parliament ahead of him, so that he can continue this work.
What’s changed since I watched the documentary is that I now understand why so many senior figures in the Labour Party from the 1980s are horrified at the prospect of a Corbyn victory. Not because they don’t care about the same issues that he does. Not even that they necessarily disagree with his positions on those issues. But because they know that the British public disagrees with him.
The footage of Tony Benn speaking at rallies in the early 1980s was particularly alarming, as it provoked strong feelings of deja vu from the Corbyn rally I had attended. He shared some of my views. Like Corbyn, he expressed them passionately and eloquently. He argued that although the public might not initially agree with the left wing, once they heard their arguments stated clearly, they would change their views and adopt left-wing positions on a range of issues. (Hear, hear, I thought.) He pointed to the large numbers of people attending their rallies as evidence of a political sea change in the electorate. But – and this is the key point – they were wrong. Not necessarily in their positions on key issues; rather in their belief that the public were sympathetic.
As the documentary showed, in the run-up to the 1983 General Election, the right wing of the Labour party decided to allow Benn and the hard left to present their manifesto in unadulterated form. And the electorate roundly rejected it. Although I sincerely wish that it were otherwise, there is nothing to suggest that anything different would happen today. Most alarmingly, Benn’s supporters were very clear that being right in principle was more important than winning elections. At the level of the individual this is undoubtedly true, and even at the level of a protest movement. But for a political party that seeks a democratic mandate to change the country for the better, winning elections is essential.
Hattersley summed up the lesson of the 1980s when he said that he believed Labour had let down the poorest people in the country by condemning them to live under 18 years of Tory government. No matter how well meaning the left wing of the Labour party were or are (and I don’t doubt their sincere desire to improve the lives of the poor and the marginalised), failure to win elections means that Tory policies not Labour policies were implemented.
I urge everyone who plans to vote in the Labour leadership election to watch the Wilderness Years before casting their ballot.
There is much that I and the other half still disagree on yet one thing we do have in common is how moved we were by Roy Hattersley. In each programme, he was as consistent as Corbyn. It was clear the responsibility he felt towards his constituents. The poor and vulnerable, who elected him time and time again and for whom he could do nothing stuck in opposition in a party riven by factionalism.
My Other Half Again:
As wiser people than me have said, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.
This post was originally published on the Labour Teachers website.