By Bill Walther, Lewisham Deptford CLP delegate
What am I supposed to say to all those who are on the left but don’t know who to vote for?
Tell them that the whole left really must get behind Rebecca Long Bailey.
But WHY? … They’re worried that she’s not electable, not ‘prime-ministerial’…
Okay, I’ll try to answer your questions using RLB’s actual words as much as possible: So you think Boris Johnson appeared prime-ministerial! Someone who is poor on detail will have problems facing a Northern, confident and smart woman with hundreds of thousands behind her. People grow into their jobs you know. People seem to want leaders who take bold action and seem to be taking on the establishment. People will respect a new face with a new popular message of hope.
But is she electable? We’ve got to WIN you know. That’s all that matters!
Boris Johnson of all people got elected! No, she’s the most electable candidate because her policies are popular, and she has the credibility to win back Leave voters also – she’s associated with the popular parts of Corbynism – the manifesto policies and not with the parts that were unpopular in many areas of the country. Many people didn’t vote because of Brexit and the demonisation of Corbyn. The other candidates have not explicitly backed the whole manifesto, you know. They are vague and spend most of the time simply describing the up-hill challenge and endlessly talk about ‘listening’. People say Starmer is electable because of his poll ratings now, but most people don’t know anything about the candidates. Poll ratings change all the time. It all depends on what WE as a movement do. It’s about who will listen to the left.
But surely, she’s the continuity candidate? The media will bash us with that.
Yes, she is, in the sense that she’s associated with the popular aspects of Corbynism. Voters have not made up their minds. That all depends on what we do over the coming period. Continuity is good if it means that the left has a chance to take our most popular policies and develop an overarching narrative together with slogans that resonate as strongly with the public as ‘get Brexit done’. Rebecca says that ‘the idea that the electorate rejected socialism is bollocks.’ You don’t just rip up what we campaigned for and return to triangulation that mirrors what people are saying in focus groups.
Surely, we must really listen to people and not put our heads in the sand?
Of course we must and this is a key aspect of Rebecca’s plan – she talks about it all the time. This is why she constantly mentions the need for a democratic revolution that starts inside the Labour Party. If we can’t democratise our party and empower and educate our members then how can we do this for the whole of society? These are not new ideas, but they are ideas that have been ditched by centrists and would be again. This would result in disillusionment and one more round of the left trying to build alternatives outside of the Labour Party. On the other hand, a win for RLB would enthuse thousands of members as we recruit thousands of new members and educate and train them to become salespeople for socialism.
Yes, Becky isn’t afraid to use the ‘s’ word! That means that we’ll all start using the ‘s’ word, which will be an exciting mass political educational activity as we openly use the term in the media – but also in the new forms of Labour movement media that she’s advocating. There are millions of socialists who don’t know they are socialists, because of all the distortions and lies in the bourgeois media.
That’s all very well, but what people care about is what’s going to happen to their lives not the Labour Party! Give me an example, this all sounds too idealistic!
Well one of her key themes is democracy. The collective democratic control of schools so that they are no longer in the hands of unelected academy trust bosses. Then there’s the policy that only she is promoting to repeal all the anti-union legislation so that ordinary workers have a strong voice at work. What about her raising of the issue of stress at work and the right not to have to answer emails after work?
Okay, okay but can the Left back someone like her – isn’t she just a fake left?
She’s the only candidate who didn’t undermine Corbyn! We must take people at their word. We also must allow people to change their views – and keep to them. She has talked about ‘a fundamental and irreversible shift in wealth and power in favour of working people’… NOT just alleviating some of the worst symptoms of extreme poverty…surely that’s important? She is NOT just talking about the last election but about the failings of the last forty years, way beyond the austerity of the last ten years. She understands that the problem of our broken democracy. Broken by the corporate elite and professional political class who have spent four decades pursuing THEIR project with no real popular support. If Starmer or Nandy is elected we’ll be turning the clock back to 2015, ditching our radical manifesto and continuing with soft neoliberalism. She’s talking left, so we’ll hold her to account, but opting out of supporting her is a total cop-out, a luxury only the most detached ‘socialists’ can afford.
Maybe we’re just being too ambitions. Maybe people don’t care enough and are too individualistic and cynical?
You’re mistaking the symptoms for the disease. Both austerity and Brexit functioned like some great big black ball of Velcro that rolled along attaching itself to lots of working-class conservative ideas. It is so easy to find scapegoats and be nostalgic – you don’t have to think much. With a socialist leader we’ll come up with new narratives and frames that educate our people about our own history – she talks about us ‘walking on the shoulders of giants’ and using ‘hope as the fuel of progress’ – you don’t hear that from any of the others! Remember that the triangulation of 2010 and 2015 gained us a lower share of the vote than 2019. We’ve been losing voters for decades…
But isn’t this just talking to ourselves and being a protest movement, not a government in waiting?
What’s the point of a government in waiting that isn’t brave enough to defend ordinary people? If we don’t believe we can change society, we might as well pack it all in, as Rebecca says. It’s protest that gained us the right to vote and to every improvement in our lives. She reminds us that it is our people who fought for every decent aspect of out society. Sure, any candidate can say these things, words are cheap, but do they choose to? Are they confident in our ability to empower our class or have they already half given in to a return to soft Blairism? Why is Rebecca the only one to attack forty years of neoliberalism? Because a majority of the PLP still believe in some version of it. Why is she the only candidate to back open selection? It’s not because she wants aggro in the PLP, it’s because it is the democratic and socialist thing to do to allow talent to be recognised and not have have a job for life.
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