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Yet more on Jeremy Corbyn August 30, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Speaking of bizarre, here’s an odd piece by Nick Cohen in regard to the British Labour Party contest. I’ve always thought, and I know I’m not alone on the site in this respect, that in relation to a range of matters Cohen, whatever his approach in regard to Iraq etc in the 2000s, was fairly on the nose. Perhaps less so in recent times.

It’s very curious because it seems to echo other strands of thought, as with this:

But maybe there are good as well as shabby reasons why Corbyn’s past has failed to detach supporters from his cause. Until now the hypocritical, and in my view despicable, strain of thought that Corbyn represents has been dominant in the universities, the arts, political comedy and much, but not all, of the left-wing media. In what passes for liberal culture it is commonplace to condemn Western crimes while ignoring or excusing the crimes of anti-Western regimes and movements. But, politically, what artists and academics think has had little effect. The attitude of a British government that puts arms contracts before human rights in its dealings with, say, Saudi Arabia mattered far more for the glaringly obvious reason that it was in power and the Left was not.

And:

Not just Corbyn and his supporters but much of the liberal Left announce their political correctness and seize on the smallest sexist or racist “gaffe” of their opponents. Without pausing for breath, they move on to defend radical Islamist movements which believe in the subjugation of women and the murder of homosexuals. They will denounce the anti-Semitism of white neo-Nazis, but justify Islamist anti-Semites who actually murder Jews in Copenhagen and Paris. In a telling vignette, Corbyn himself defended a vicar from the supposedly liberal and tolerant Church of England who had promoted the conspiracy theory that Jews were responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

Discussing it with the person who sent me the link we wondered how much longer Cohen would self-describe as ‘left”…

When the far Left shades into the far Right, I am tempted to hug the centre and treat it as our best protection against the poisonous and the deranged. Respectable commentators have urged Labour members to do the same. They failed to understand that in Labour’s case the centre ground is as polluted as any derelict site.

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1. An Cathaoirleach - August 30, 2015

BBC Newsnight had an interesting piece on Friday 28th August, using two focus groups of former Labour voters from two target constituencies that they failed to win. (Nuneaton and Croydon, electors aged 30 -50)

The view of the participants from the separate panels on Corbyn was very similar, and very bad news for the UKLP. While focus groups have limited use, the similarity of the comments were striking. He is not going to attract such people towards the UKLP.

The post election UK polls are showing a very similar pattern as was reflected in the GE 2015. The Right/Centre Right received 57%, then and two recent polls show a similar figure. The breakdown may be different, but the total figure remains the same. The UK appears to be a conservative country, you can choose whether this is with a small or large “c”.

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sonofstan - August 30, 2015

That’s still no argument for the LP to be a less capable version of the Tories. Instead of meeting the voters where they are, persuade them that there is a better version of themselves, and the country, available. That’s what Labour did in their heroic years – and what Thatcher did, come to that.

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Michael Carley - August 30, 2015

Just that, and I think Corbyn is the only credible leader of opposition as well as of The Opposition: he can engage with the movements and the unions in a way nobody else can. The people who say Labour needs power to be able to do anything don’t have a strategy, or even recognize the need for a strategy, for the next five years. Corbyn does, even if implicitly.

What the Corbyn surge reminds me of a bit is the 2003 Stop the War march. There was a huge movement that came from apparently nowhere (I was organizing transport from Bath and didn’t eat a dinner uninterrupted for three weeks because of the phone calls coming in from people who wanted to go to London) but it dissipated quite quickly after the invasion went ahead, in part, I think, because it was people who had not been involved in political action before and thought a demo would be enough.

The people who are supporting Corbyn now, from my experience, are very often activists already and even if they are young or relatively inexperienced, they have a realistic view of what it takes to win campaigns. I think a Corbyn win could help unify those movements, which are largely workplace or community based, into a coherent mass opposition which can do the heavy lifting for a few years. That seems to me the way we might show people a better version of themselves, and demonstrate some possibility for political, rather than purely parliamentary, action.

The other three candidates simply cannot offer that.

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Aonrud ⚘ - August 30, 2015

We keep seeing the relationship between voter position and party position treated as unidirectional. If X% of the electorate voted right last time, then the only way to get those votes is to reflect that with right-wing policy. But that completely ignores the influence parties can have on political discourse. It’s a pretty basic point, but seems to be ignored by a lot of the press on Corbyn.

Also, always worth remembering that the current UK government won the votes of less than 25% (i.e. 36.9% on a 66.1% turnout) of the electorate.

Even with no change in turnout, it can’t be assumed that the 66% who come out in 2020 will be the same people.

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An Cathaoirleach - August 30, 2015

Aonrud, I don’t understand your point. The only votes that can be considered are those cast. The 2015 turnout was of course 1% higher than 2010 and was a massive 5.1% ahead of 2005. The UK Conservatives received 630,000 more votes than they received in 2010. Indeed their 2015 performance gave them nearly 1.8M more votes than Lab received in 2005. There is also the little matter of the 3,881,099 UKIP votes.

If anything, the higher the turnout, the more likely the Conservatives are to win.

By the way, today’s Com Res gives the Centre right/Right a massive 59%. The publicity for Mr. Corbyn does seem to working!
http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/9470

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WorldbyStorm - August 30, 2015

Surely what Aonrud is saying is that voters are persuadable. Otherwise there’d be no flux in voting patterns across years and it would have been impossible for New Labour to win back Tory inclined voters to them in 1997.

Of course one has to consider the votes most recently cast. But not simply in the sense that a right leaning voter in 2015 is per definition going to be a right leaning voter in 2020. Nor that the only way to bring a right leaning voter from 2015 to the LP is to lean yet further right.

Otherwise surely the logic would be we all pack up our tents and go home because the only direction in political activity will be ever rightwards.

Moreover, the centre right is splintered itself. It’s not impossible that under new management the LDs will do better next time out and that could be problematic for both Labour but also Tories. The issue of Scotland may be ameliorated by further years of SNP government with increased support for the LP.

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fergal - August 30, 2015

Five years ago I never thought 45% of Scottish people would vote for independence, never thought sinn fein would be up to 20% and beyond in opinion polls, never thought a small left wing Greek coalition would win a national election, never thought that Podemos would even exist, so who knows what will happen in Britain in five years time….

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Aonrud ⚘ - August 30, 2015

That’s pretty much what I was after, Wbs 🙂

The way it’s assumed that Labour necessarily must shift rightwards implies that the electorate is some fixed formation around which the parties simply position themselves in varying ways, but of course there’s a two-way interaction between the two.

That’s not to suggest it’s an easy task, but there is definitely a more dynamic relationship there than parties simply reflecting an immutable electorate. As you say Wbs, voters are persuadable. Also, there are new cohorts each election etc.

Regarding the turnout, Cathaoirleach, I mentioned it only because 25% of the potential electorate voting Tory paints a different picture from an entrenched conservatism across the board. I didn’t mean to suggest the 34% who didn’t vote are necessarily some untapped left electorate, or that turnout increases would necessarily benefit Labour.

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Aonrud ⚘ - August 30, 2015

Also, that 25% is an entertaining figure to remind the Tories of as they try to require the unions to get 40% (of eligible members regardless of turnout) for strike votes to be ‘legitimate’.

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An Cathaoirleach - August 31, 2015

Aonrud – I take your general point, but there is no evidence that the majority of people in the UK are unhappy with the current situation or likely to become so.

Deeper analysis of political trends suggests that the UK Labour Party is deeper trouble, becoming more and more isolated from large selections of the population, perhaps reflected by the vote for the UKIP.

I can only imagine where they will be after a couple of years of debate pre – EU referendum. An UKLP under Corbyn will be like a demented dog chasing its tail through such a campaign.

In that regard, This Blessed Plot: Britain and Europe from Churchill to Blair by the great English/Yorkshire recusant, Hugo Young, should be compulsory pre-reading for the disaster Cameron is bringing down upon the UK, but particularly the UKLP.

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WorldbyStorm - August 31, 2015

Just off topic Higo Young was whether one liked his opinions or not a great writer. The Hugo Young Papers are a fantastic read.

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eamonncork - August 31, 2015

I read a very good book recently by the American historian Rick Perlstein, The Invisible Bridge, which deals largely with the 1976 US Presidential election when Ronald Reagan emerged as a significant national force for the first time. It’s striking how even as he continued to perform well in primaries, most pundits tut-tutted about how he was simply unelectable given that US politics was converging on the centre ground.
Similarly Thatcher was told that the only way the Tories would win an election was to embrace One Nation conservatism and that a move to the right would be disastrous politically. Once more all the respectable pundits agreed on this.
The point to be taken, I think, is that bold politicians can reshape the idea of what is acceptable electorally to the public. I’m not sure how effective Corbyn would be but I don’t accept the notion that politics is moving ever rightwards and that Labour must tack in that direction. Thatcher, and Reagan’s, great insight was that their parties could never hope to beat the opposition on their home turf, hence Heath’s series of defeats by Wilson, and that they had to offer something new, something which in fact they believed in rather than pretended to believe in out of electoral expediency. One of Miliband’s major failings was that he always looked shifty because he was obviously chasing voters rather than offering them something.
In a way the great tragedy for Labour was the death of John Smith. The Major government was an absolute sitting duck in 1997 and would have been defeated by any Labour leader, even Kinnock. But Labour had been out in the cold so long and were so grateful for the victory that they regarded Blair and the entire New Labour project as the only way to go. Had Smith stayed, a more traditional Labour would have won that election and, probably, given the Tories internal strife another couple without having to make a huge shift rightwards.
I’m not entirely convinced by Corbyn but the argument that Labour must shift right makes little sense to me. Why vote for Pretend Tories when you have Real Tories to vote for. And incidentally Cameron and Osborne have also moved away from the centre and given the lie to the idea that consensus politics is the only way to go.

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WorldbyStorm - August 31, 2015

So true re Smith. And Reagan. BBC has some of the Alastair Cook podcasts from that period and it is very clear he was an outsider for an extremely long time. Speaking of outsiders I always thought Nixon a fascinating character.

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eamonncork - August 31, 2015

Lots about Nixon and his Watergate downfall in The Invisible Bridge. And even more about him in Perlstein’s previous book Nixonland which deals with the 1968-1972 period. I’d highly recommend both of them.

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Michael Carley - August 30, 2015

And here’s Keith Flett on pressure from without, the labour movement as a movement, not only a party:

https://kmflett.wordpress.com/2015/08/30/tony-blair-jeremy-corbyn-and-labour-history/

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Alibaba - August 30, 2015

Tony Blair calls on party members to come to their senses and reject the “Alice in Wonderland” politics of Jeremy Corbyn.

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/aug/29/tony-blair-corbynmania-alice-in-wonderland

Typical of Blair to go Through the Looking-Glass.

Previously Neil Kinnock remonstrated that the surge in support for Corbyn was orchestrated by the “Trotskyite left and the Telegraph right”. A pejorative term for Trotskyists, of course, who happen to be the largest far left groups in Britain and who haven’t called for vote for Corbyn via Labour Party membership.

Looks to me that massive increase in support comes from anti-austerity activists of various political hues, as well as disillusioned Labour party veterans. Corbyn has called for a “grassroots movement”. An excellent idea, I think, especially if it challenged the right wingers in the Labour leadership and involved trade union labour movement orientation. I agree that Corbyn could unite the disgruntled oppositionists: the very prospect that the right wing would despise. Fair dues to the progressive forces going down the rabbit-hole.

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eamonncork - August 30, 2015

Kinnock still reprising his greatest hits. Hard to blame him I suppose when it was his courageous willingness to follow the right wing line on Militant which made Labour so electable that they won both the 1987 and 1992 general elections. Corbyn’s enemies are nearly the most impressive thing about him in this campaign.

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sonofstan - August 30, 2015

It’s great the way Blair keeps showing up to remind Corbyn voters exactly what they are voting for, and aganst. You’d think the other three candidates would get him to shut up.

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Michael Carley - August 30, 2015

Looks to me that massive increase in support comes from anti-austerity activists of various political hues, as well as disillusioned Labour party veterans.

Round my way, that’s exactly true, and many of them are the same people.

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eamonncork - August 30, 2015

In a way Corbyn is a tabula rasa on which the entire argument about the drift of the Labour Party to the right can be inscribed. The debate is so heated because it’s not actually about him at all, he’s merely a symbol.

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Que - August 30, 2015

That’s why it’s the potential to be something special ( fingers crossed) because its a wider moment. Corbyn is a nexus like all good revolutionaries he channels and focuses something that has been building.

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2. EWI - August 30, 2015

Discussing it with the person who sent me the link we wondered how much longer Cohen would self-describe as ‘left”

There’s a traditional career choice here and in the UK (Rabitte, Cruise O’Brien, Orwell and such) for abandoning all principles and becoming what you once hated. In the US, they even have snark for it which neatly describes the unique selling point involved: “even the liberal New Republic…’.

Of course, there’s decreasing returns as you need to compete against younger examples, so at some point the increased violence in your rhetoric is going to force you to exit the Grauniad perch and finally take up residence at your natural home in the Telegraph or the Daily Mail.

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Michael Carley - August 30, 2015

Renegades can never relax: their old friends won’t talk to them, and their new friends never quite trust them, so they have to keep upping the ante.

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3. Jim Monaghan - August 30, 2015

I find happily enough the Corbyn thing surprising. I though a left in British Labour was impossible. Though fat chance here.
http://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article35728

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4. Mick Fealty - August 30, 2015

Test.

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5. Mick Fealty - August 30, 2015

If the centre isn’t available to you, you’re screwed. I think that’s what means. And it isn’t for Labour.

Corbyn is winning because the others are pragmatists mumbling into their cold soup.

Most Labour folk I meet these days have already set their minds and their plans for what happens after the next (they believe) lost election.

That’s based on the reasonable calculation that Scotland is gone from the left camp for a long time. Possibly for good.

That makes winning in the south imperative for a Labour victory. In the south (outside London) they don’t particularly like the unions never mind the Labour Party. The idea that seats that were marginal Lab Con this time are likely to go solid blue for Corbyn next time is far from an abstraction.

That’s what’s really putting the wind up the moderates. I agree Corbyn is a tabula rasa for both his critics and his supporters. And maybe the fixed term will give the party the shelter they need to have a meltdown. But other parties are already discounting Labour as serious players for the next year years. That leaves the stories in charge of a lot of sweeties in the sweet shop.

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Michael Carley - August 30, 2015

Can’t agree (and I am neither a Labour member nor a signed-up supporter). The other three candidates are offering variations on the last twenty years of Labour policy, presumably in the hope that some small shift one way or another will get them over the line next time out. The world has changed. Even if Corbyn fails to lead Labour to victory, the party has to take the chance on him, because they have already been annihilated on the old approach.

What is interesting to me is to see the possibility of Labour, even where I live which is not “natural” Labour territory, having a large number of activists available to knock on doors, and campaign and do the things you have to do to build a movement capable of winning an election by changing the culture.

If Labour does not elect Corbyn, it is dead anyway.

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Mick Fealty (@mickfealty) - August 30, 2015

As I’ve mentioned here before I have a crafty fiver on Burnham but I suspect Labour is already heavily committed to Corbyn, so I don’t think you have too many worries on that latter score.

People I speak to (inside and outside of the party) think Labour can safely be discounted for the next ten years. And I’d agree with them, at least as a direct threat to power.

That may be a folly. The calculation is that five year fixed terms work solely in favour of the incumbents. But whomever is landed with executive power is cursed with an impaired cognitive process.

The Tories are well into their 18th year of losing their ‘natural party of government’ tag reaping the benefits of having had to re-think their politics from ground up. Thatcherism, “but not as we know it Jim”.

The Blairites are impatient. The better of them see the poor getting shafted without relief. But a long rebuilding phase is probably inevitable and the return to bottom up conversations mean it will take (a very) while before they return to office.

Corbyn is Howard Dean without the challenge of an 18 month primary campaign. And unlike Dean he’s not going to lose and the party won’t get their Obama reward out of it.

As for Scotland, the SNP have changed the question. No one there cares about leftist politics any more. What they mostly care about is breaking the link with England, or keeping it.

Between the Tories, UKIP, the SNP and its own complacency the UK left is bust for the foreseeable. Cornbyn is just the consolation prize.

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sonofstan - August 31, 2015

‘No one there cares about leftist politics anymore’

That’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever read here. Scotland is currently the only part of the Union where there is a functioning social democratic consensus.

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Jack Jameson - August 31, 2015
Mick Fealty (@mickfealty) - August 31, 2015

Not dumb, just not conventional to say it.

But what’s driving the left in Scotland (it does exist) is the democratic deficit of the UK set up, rather than a left or a social democrat agenda.

The SNP is currently the sole power in Scotland, and it is successfully building its new hegemony in the footprint of Labour. That does not make them social democrats.

The policy track suggests they are both centralising and centralist in their instincts with little appetite for looking at some of the more difficult social issues in Scotland.

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WorldbyStorm - August 31, 2015

Are you absolutely sure Mick of that? This research from Lord Ashcroft of former LP voters who were trending to the SNP in April suggests otherwise.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/generalelection/general-election-2015-labours-similarities-to-the-tories-explains-why-scots-are-voting-snp-says-lord-ashcroft-10207817.html

Also is it possible you’re eliding the SNP and SNP voters? Your original comment was that no one there (Scotland) cares about leftist politics. It is possible the SNP doesn’t, though some of its reps and members clearly do, but it’s much less sustainable I think to argue that no one in Scotland cares, not least those who shifted en masse from the BLP to the SNP.

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Jolly Red Giant - September 1, 2015

Scotland is voting SNP largely because the SNP are austerity critical while implementing austerity because ‘we have no choice’ and blaming the Tories for it – sound familiar?

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sonofstan - August 30, 2015

Scotland hasn’t gone from the left camp; it just isn’t voting Labour

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Paul Wilson - August 30, 2015

Yes the Scottish electorate have switched over a 40 year or so period to a party that abandoned irredentist nationalism and adopted the type of Social Democratic policys that the Labour Party began to abandon. Beyond conceding Devolution which gave the SNP a chance to put their programme into effect no one in London seems to have seen the obvious.

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6. plutodewdrop - August 30, 2015

All those talking about the centre ground are to be regarded with suspicion. The traditional left/right spectrum that they implicitly cite has been made redundant by 3decades of thatcherism. They are either uniformed spoofers or deliberately peddling the neoliberal line.

Here i actually agree with Tony blair’s most recent piece. There is in fact 2 mutually incompatible “realities”. There is the reality of the spectacle whereby people are cosseted from the harsh world of foodbanks, benefit cuts, precarious work, precarious housing and so on. Any impression of it is completely mediated thru the spectacle.

Their strategy is they have to appeal to the aspirational types on the periphery of the spectacle in order to save a heavily mediated, if not completely othered, but always passive and docile working class. This becomes a self fulfilling prophecy whereby they have to increasingly shaft the working class in order to appeal to the aspirational types to get enough votes to throw crumbs at the working class.

The other reality is the direct harsh experience of neoliberalism. Those on the receiving end are getting larger and larger everyday. As this happens those aspirational types on the periphery get more insecure which means if they are your political horizons, then you have to double down on your support for them, in effect you become the defenders of the spectacle in a way the traditional right (who only care for profit) don’t have to. This will further alienate your working class support.

The antidote to this is a genuine working class movement. The labour party badly needs some organic intellectuals and to do this they need to attract younger newer members. Corbyn seems to be doing this. I think he will fail in the long run as the pressure will be there to compromise with the neoliberals for the sake of ‘unity’. The best thing he could do is purge the blairites completely if they refuse to split.

If they dont manage this then the future is irish labour. Of course for varying different – if not unique – reasons here in ireland the process was accelerated and labour will thankfully be wiped from the face of the irish political scene soon. In england the historical inertia behind lab will see it thru a zombie half life before its swallowed up by a new left coalition of nu-trotksyist, Green, nationalist forces.

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Paul Wilson - August 30, 2015

plutodewdrop I think that sums it up in one. Like the Guy Debord. If Corbyn wins he will come under intense pressure from entrenched intrests in the LP. This will be particuarly the case with most MPs. The only way round this is to recruit a large number of new members and also to win the support of Trades Unionists. It is ironic that a process designed by the Blairites to involve non activist, once a year, fireside Fusileers might backfire on them.

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7. Roger Cole - August 31, 2015

I don’t know if Corbyn will fail if he is elected leader of the British Labour Party. He might, but it is not some sort of guarantee. After all the policies he is advocating are fairly standard social democratic values He is not calling for the creation of a British Soviet.

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WorldbyStorm - August 31, 2015

Yet, Roger. Yet. 😉

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eamonncork - August 31, 2015

The Soviet will be declared the same week as Sinn Fein’s ’emergency republic,’ as part of BALLS (Bearded Apparatchik’s Labour Left Strategy).

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8. Que - August 31, 2015

So ahm Corbyn like supports Osama bin laden ! Like wow!

Great to see the Telegraph misquoting like crazy. Look Corbyn shouldn’t have called shooting Osama a tragedy even in the context of yet another death being a tragedy. It’s just a move without any benefit.

Much more interesting than this non story is the sense that the Tories are going to be able to much more strongly define themselves against Corbyn. Labour under Corbyn can actually differentiate themselves but the reverse is true also.

Osborne can do that in a very ideological way as well.

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9. Gewerkschaftler - September 1, 2015

I do wonder what he’s going to be able to achieve, after his election (assuming that occurs), with practically all the Parliamentary party against him and presumably most of the full-timers in the party against him. I hope he has a plan and plenty of energy…

It’s a shame that there’s no younger (preferably female) figure willing to represent the Bennite tradition in the English and Welsh Labour Party.

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