WILL JOHN McDONNELL STAND?

According to a number of hard left bloggers, the automatic candidate that the left should be supporting for leader of the Labour Party is John McDonnell, for example, here, here, here.

More significantly, John McDonnell did quite well in the Labour List write-in poll, coming fifth with 6.7%.

While I know it is not the path to easy popularity on the left, I am going to argue that a McDonnell candidacy is a potentially dangerous distraction.

John McDonnell cannot win, and is not the leader which the Labour party needs. What is more, when he stood last time there was considerable vitriol from some of his supporters against MPs who failed to nominate John,. If that same approach is repeated (and there are already signs of it on blogs associated with LRC members) it is likely to cloud a rational evaluation of the substantive differences between the other candidates.

Quite apart from the question of whether John can achieve sufficient MP nominations to get on the ballot paper, we have to understand that at no time in the Labour Party’s history has a candidate stood for leader on politics similar to John’s.

That is because all previous leadership contenders have stood in the tradition that the pathway to radical social change lies via a Labour government, implementing policies developed by the democratric internal processes of the Labour Party, yet in September 2007, John McDonnell wrote that:

“the old routes into the exercise of power and influence involving internal Labour Party mobilisations and manoeuvres have largely been closed down. We have to face up to the challenge of identifying and developing new routes into effective political activity,”

Similarly, John McDonnell cannot expect support from the major unions given his approach to them. In February 2009, in response to the walkouts at the Lindsey Oil Refinery, an unofficial dispute, but one where both UNITE and GMB officers acquitted themselves admirably, John McDonnell wrote

“People have also learnt that working through the official structures of their trade union has been rendered largely ineffective by the persistence of Thatcher’s anti trade union laws under this Government. Increasingly they have also come t know that they cannot rely upon many of their trade union leaderships who have delivered up their unions in support of New Labour and who less than 2 years ago installed Brown as Labour leader, the evangelist for globalisation, free markets and flexible labour.

Without political representation and with limited potential to mobilise through official union channels there is no other route but to take but direct action when fear for jobs turns to anger.”

Every major union supported Gordon Brown’s election as leader, so by criticizing those union leaders, John is implying that he would not be the ally of the existing trade union leaderships were he leader of the Party.

John McDonnell operates seeking to draw the wagons into a circle around the beleaguered left of the left in the party, without seeking to build the network of alliances necessary to unite the party; to win elections; and to fight the Tories.

For example, following some MPs associated with Compass voting for the governments 42 day detention McDonnell wrote:

“I was due to speak at a Compass conference, but watching the way this group of MPs has followed the government on 42-day detention, I’ve changed my mind”

He says that some Compass MPs voting to support 42 day detention: “destroys in my view any vestige of credibility those associated with Compass may claim to have to be part of the left or part of any project to reclaim the Labour party as a progressive force.

“Compass may publish policy statements decrying the government’s policies but these are not worth the paper they are expensively published on when Compass MPs go on to vote through policies like this which fly in the face of all that socialists should stand for.

“I was scheduled to speak at the Compass conference on Saturday at the LRC/ Labour Briefing breakout session. I will not do so now. I do not want to be associated with those that are willing to support undermining the basic human rights that socialists have fought and sacrificed themselves to secure and protect over generations.”

This makes no sense at all.

He is a member of the Labour Party, and is therefore inevitably “associated with those that are willing to support undermining the basic human rights that socialists have fought and sacrificed themselves to secure and protect over generations”, when the Labour government brings in restrictions of civil liberties.

But he is saying he will not be associated with those seeking to develop a coherent left leaning political strand within modern Labourism.

How can someone stand for leadership of a party, where the majority of MPs voted to support 42 days detention, and say that he does not want to be associated with anyone who did?

John McDonnell is an admirable man in many ways. A principled socialist who has done sterling work for the trade union groups in parliament, and is a courageous campaigner against injustice. But he has the wrong politics, and the wrong skill-set to be leader of the party. As such he is not a credible candidate.

And the danger is, that some of his supporters exhibit considerable hostility towards the centre-left.

This could be damaging if there are loud voices saying that there is no difference between the other candidates, then that will obscure the arguments of those seeking a more nuanced approach to electing a leader who will provide the best context for retaining trade union influence, and returning the party towards policies that will connect with the heartlands Labour voters, while not neglecting the need for building an election winning approach to win over voters who have voted Liberal, or even Tory, this time round.

The immediate task is for the whole labour movement to involve itself in a debate about how to reinvigorate progressive politics, and break from the pernicious legacy of New Labour. The hard left has a legitimate voice in that debate, but that voice will not be listened to if linked to a Quixotic leadership bid of a non-credible candidate; especially where there is friction and hostility towards the centre-left.

Within the leadership election we have to ensure that there is an extended contest, and that the real differences between the candidates are fully explored.

60 comments on “WILL JOHN McDONNELL STAND?

  1. Ian Croft on said:

    I am failing to see the logic of seeing McDonnell as too radical and aggressive in his stances against other Labour MP’s and Labour factions while you support Respect.

  2. Andy

    This is an excellent piece, Andy. Just for the record, as co-blogger with Dave Semple at Though Cowards Flinch, I do not share Dave’s view that John McDonnell is the obvious choice (no problem with Dave setting out his stall there, as it’s clearly under his name – that’s just for clarity).

    For reasons I’ll set out at TCF when I get time, but which are well-linked to what you’ve set out on here, I’ve already set out my choice for leader (on twitter): Maria Eagle. Don’t suppose she’s read it, mind.

  3. johng on said:

    I think Andy is in danger of missing the point. There is an interesting argument to be had about whether there might be a revival of the Labour left in the coming period. I’m unsure and don’t think its an easy thing to rule in or out. But for the Labour movement (as opposed to the Labour Party) the interesting thing about all this is whether a focus can be developed which will allow for larger social and political weight to the kind of left wing consensus we need in the movement about fighting the attacks which are on the way. To argue that the only thing that matters is getting the least worse candidate elected is a narrow realism which ignores the wider context and implications of these arguments for the movement as a whole. As has been noted by Ian Croft there is also just a logical problem with this approach.

  4. jock mctrousers on said:

    You’re right. Right or wrong, McDonnell is a no hoper. But do we have to accept that it’s therefore got to be a choice between milliballs and microballs? Can’t see any of them putting bums on seats, getting the punters out etc. What if this coalition doesn’t work for long and there’s a vote of no confidence and an election in as little as a year, and no-one turns out for Labour because they don’t look like they’re serious about it? And that’s the size of it – NONE of the current crop look like they’re serious about being PM.

  5. Alfie on said:

    It is imperative that John McDonnell stands for the labour leadership, he will be the only genuine socialist candidate. He has a consistent record of opposition to the Iraq and Afghan wars,opposes anti-trade union legislation so disgustingly supported by the previous labour administration, has conducted an excellent campaign against the third runway and countless other principled causes.
    McDonnell is an advocate of the “Peoples Charter” not mentioned by Andy Newman. Nor does he mention the big majority he achieved at the election along with 19 other left candidates. To discount McDonnell on some selected quotes is spurious. It is also symptomatic of defeatism. The left must not bury its head in the stand, far from standing back it is all the more important now for the left to unite and lead the opposition against the Nu labourites who have hijacked the labour party and robbed it of its core values.
    Support John McDonnnell!

  6. Johng: “To argue that the only thing that matters is getting the least worse candidate elected is a narrow realism.”

    No, it’s realism. Andy is absolutely right. The likely victor in this contest appears to be David Miliband, an arch Blairite and neo-con. Others who could win at this stage appear to be Ed Miliband and possibly Ed Balls. The left must work to get the candidate which is in the best interests of the Labour party and working people elected. That means basically that person who could win who is a) in favour of the Labour party in its current form (i.e. will defend the union link, does not favour the dissolution of the party) and b) will adopt the economic and foreign policies necessary to rebuild Labour’s alliances.

    John McDonnell lives on a different planet. For him and his supporters this leadership race is an opportunity not to do that which can modestly be done at present, but to wage a quite inappropriate, narrow and sectarian campaign for a hard left strategy. As Andy says, he is vehemently opposed to cooperating with the centre-left, (let alone the centre!) at a time when the likelihood is that a Blairite will be elected. This is a dead end for those in the Labour party who wish to shift the party in a more progressive direction because its tactics are wildly insufficient for the task before it.

  7. David Ellis on said:

    McDonnell was absolutely right to distance himself from Compass’s craven and opportunist support for 42 days detention and New Lab’s date base state which was another reason why Labour lost so many votes to the Lib Dems.

    McDonnell and others must be heard in this debate and not ruled out in advance that would only assist the pro-war, election losing, New Labour clique that got us in this mess.

  8. David Ellis on said:

    #7 That is indeed the realism of the defeated. The left needs to ditch its cowardly pragmatism and grow some backbone. Get behind a socialist candidate not the best worst one or we’ll be forever on our knees.

  9. David, if we all get behind John McDonnell we can be certain of one thing – David Miliband will most certainly be leader. Get behind a non Blairite candidate and who knows, David Miliband might not be the leader. That’s the decision to be made. I wish it were different, but it’s not.

  10. Sorry, also just saw David that you think I espouse the ‘realism of the defeated’. So you think the left isn’t defeated? You would characterise the state of the hard left in the Labour party as healthy, robust and up for a rumble, would you?

    I think we do what we can now and we live to fight another day.

  11. I have to say that the other three candidates being mooted, Balls, Cruddas and Miliband E, all have considerable strengths.

    Ed Balls would be the best person for having a go at the Tories, and building on the elemental disgust that labour supporters have for the tories and their new whig friends.

    Jon is a particularly intelligent candidate, who understands BOTH the need to connect with the heartlands AND the need to build an election winning alliance, and is pro-trade union.

    Ed MIliband is popular, articulate and would probably break from the over-managed control-freakery of the Blair/Brown years, and allow the party to breathe a little more. Of the three he would probably be the most attractive to voters as a potential prime minister

  12. David Ellis on said:

    `Sorry, also just saw David that you think I espouse the ‘realism of the defeated’. So you think the left isn’t defeated?’

    Friendly: Well it was New Labour that got defeated and seriously shafted by Nick Clegg. They facilitated this coup with their plots and hubris claiming Milliband would be PM in a week even as the Tories and Liberals were stitching them up. But the defeat at the polls of New Labour is not the end of the matter. It is the consequences for the class and the danger this New Labour clique of warring brownites and blairites have placed it in that matters. The socialist left needs to stick a flag in the ground and present both a programme for resistance and an alternative to the utter destruction of our society at the hands of the City and its political whores.

  13. johng on said:

    Realism is a sensible doctrine for the powerful. When adopted by those who want to change society rather then adapt to it, it generally leads to embarressing stupidity. I’m reminded of Paul Foot’s little aphorism: nothing corrupts like lack of power and it corrupts absolutely. There is no point at all in a serious left refusing the game of hegenomy before it even starts by plumping for ‘realistic’ candidates, who ‘realistically’ have nothing to offer the left. The Labour movement does not exist to serve the Labour Party. Naive souls believe it ought to be the other way about.

  14. daveyboy on said:

    All Labour need to do is find a candidate representing policies fractionally (though noticeably) to the left of the tories and it’ll be business as usual, Labour will walk it, picking up all left of centre votes and a sizeable chunk of disillusioned middle-ground lib-dems.
    For those wanting something more politically radical then they’re more likely to achieve it at a local level, in the council etc. That’s where the left should now focus their ambitions.

  15. John McDonnell is excellent, I would love to see him stand and argue for socialism. He has also been a consistent friend of the green movement.

    Sadly I suspect socialists are barred from standing by the 42 MP nomination rule.

  16. ahmed on said:

    16. “All Labour need to do is find a candidate representing policies fractionally (though noticeably) to the left of the tories and it’ll be business as usual, Labour will walk it….”.

    1979 led, not to a Labour victory, but more Thatcherism in, 1983, 1987, and 1992, and, having transformed the landscape, to a continuation of Thatcherism by other means in New Labour.

    There is nothing inevitable about a Labour victory in 2005, especially starting from 29 and a series of boundary changes against it.

    What I’m hoping for from the Labour leadership is not a socialist- there isn’t one with a serious chance of even getting on the ballot, let alone wining. What I’d like is when something like the Malvinas War comes round, they won’t argue for it, the key to the Thatcher 2nd term after swingeing cuts, and not denouncing strikes against the cuts would be a step forward. And one who will fight any attempt to weaken the TU link, not argue that a LibCon attack is ‘an opportunity for the Left’

    15. At least your honest, you want us all to be unrealistic.

  17. Owen on said:

    It’s just not possible in this day and age to have a leadership candidate whose surname is Balls. I think some comrades have to face the hard facts on this one.

  18. Andy I admire your courage in putting forward this argument knowing you would be immediately taken to task by many on here.

    It gives me no pleasure but i have to agree with your analysis and believe Mcdonnell will be unfortunately an unhelpful distraction and the very narrow base that he and his supporters operate from does create a lot hostility and with in trade unions is often used for sectarian ends.

    I couldn’t help thinking that with a little bit of editing you could replace John McDonnell with Jerry Hicks in the following statement by you…………

    “A principled socialist who has done sterling work for the trade union and is a courageous campaigner against injustice. But he has the wrong politics, and the wrong skill-set to be leader of the party. As such he is not a credible candidate.”

    McDonnell won’t be and isn’t Labour Party leader or PM material and us on the left need to get real and understand that.

    Neither is Jerry Hicks General Secretary material and he won’t become GS and he is a dangerous distraction. However I do think there are some Unite organiser in training positions current available but he should realise that the competition and standards are pretty tough.

  19. johng on said:

    “standards are pretty tough”

    what kinds of ‘standards’ are these then? As to ‘getting real’ it simply beggars belief that this mantra is still being repeated after we have just lived through 13 years of the results of the movement ‘getting real’ in precisely this fashion. The phrase ‘getting real’ ought to be banned. I’m also not at all keen on daveyboys recommendation that we act radically locally and keep diplomatically quiet about what goes on nationally.

  20. I think the actual point of a McDonnell candidacy has been completely missed here. There’s a lot of talk about a grand debate about the direction of the Labour Party, but to participate in that debate we need to put up a candidate to put forward socialist principles. A leadership campaign will give us a voice in the debate, and abstaining from voicing our position as part of a gambit of a coalition with the Brownites is not acceptable.

    Further, the unsuitability of John McDonnell for the leadership (assuming that we accept your proposition) is irrelevant as he’s NOT going to be the leader.

    But let me be clear that an Ed * or Jon Cruddas victory is to be emphasised as greatly preferable to a David Miliband one

    “David, if we all get behind John McDonnell we can be certain of one thing – David Miliband will most certainly be leader.”

    I’m afraid I fail to see the causality here. There is no risk of splitting the anti-Dave vote, as the electoral system doesn’t work that way. Any campaign for John or by the LRC would emphasise matter of programme, not personality, and I highly doubt any McDonnell supporters are going to second preference Dave.

  21. Doug on said:

    Gosh, isn’t this blog getting really exciting. All this coverage of internal debates in the Labour Party. Who should be back or campaign for – tweedledum, tweedledee or dumdee.

  22. #21 Johng ……. the competition and standards are pretty tough for Unite’s organising in training positions.

    Jerry Hicks amongst other things has the wrong skills set to become a General Secretary but i recommend he considers instead putting himself forward as a Unite organiser in training.

  23. History tells us things on said:

    ‘The likely victor in this contest appears to be David Miliband, an arch Blairite and neo-con. Others who could win at this stage appear to be Ed Miliband and possibly Ed Balls

    Al candidates who have said they will continue to target welfare and that we need to think more about ‘contribution than need’ and ending the ‘something for nothing’ culture, so more neo-liberal attacks on the poorest and most vulnerable.

  24. Danny on said:

    Maybe McDonnell cant win, but he could re-establish the left as a more influential current in the party ?

    I agree with you about being able to build alliances and looking outwards etc, rather than inward and ‘circling the wagons’, but am guessing that achieving a bit of wider support for McDonnell would help his supporters be less defensive.

    Im also a bit confused about a Respect supporting blog criticising someone for threatening to lead a left split from the Labour, wasnt that what Galloway did?

  25. johng on said:

    doh! the question is whether you think we need a change in direction in British trade unionism today. Jerry Hicks thinks we do, Andy I’m not sure about on the basis of some recent posts: its safe to say that most of the kind of people who read blogs like this think we do.

  26. #25

    “Al candidates who have said they will continue to target welfare and that we need to think more about ‘contribution than need’ and ending the ’something for nothing’ culture, so more neo-liberal attacks on the poorest and most vulnerable.”

    Wefare reform is not, per se, neo-liberalism; unless you strip the term of any meaning and just use it as a bad word for anything you disagree with.

  27. The Observer on said:

    Very sad to see this blog descend to lesser evilism and not support a socialist to stand for leader. How far to the right has the Labour Party centre of gravity swung!

  28. KevinM on said:

    If we are to be “realistic” we can look at how the voters treated the various leadership candidates in the General Election. John McDonnell’s vote was up 12.2%, Andy Burnham up 7.7%, Ed Miliband up 1.75%, David Miliband down 2.73% and Ed Balls down 3.46%.

    So it looks like John has the most credibility with the voters!

  29. Tawfiq Chahboune on said:

    “And the danger is, that some of his supporters exhibit considerable hostility towards the centre-left.”

    Don’t understand, Andy. Given that the Labour Party is on the Right, sometimes more so than the Conservatives, how can McDonnell’s “supporters exhibit considerable hostility towards the centre-left”?

    The chances are that one of the Milibands will win. Two rightwingers. Most one nation Tories and and all Lib Dems are to the left of the Milibands. Perhaps we should join the Conservatives or the Lib Dems and try and influence them from within? There’s more chance of that than influencing the Labour Right.

    I’ve always respected the Conservatives, the Labour Right and the Lib Dems more so than the Left, for which I have very little respect. The Right know what they want and stand firm for it. It’s only the Left which does not have the courage of its convictions. So it supports the most rightwing government in modern history, in the stupid hope that it will be able to influence it, or because it’s somehow better for a Labour government to bring in exactly the same policies as a Tory government than allowing a Tory government to do so. I’ve always been of the exact opposite opinion.

    Until the Left has the courage if its convictions, the Right will not only keep winning, but will deserve to win. It’s amazing, really amazing, that anyone can be genuinely upset by the recent Tory win. After all, it will take David Cameron a great deal of effort to be worse than Blair or Brown. Personally, I don’t think he will. It’s almost impossible.

    The Labour Party didn’t get what it deserved – total annihilation. The trade unions should count themselves lucky. They’ll get a good kicking, but at least they won’t have to pay for the pleasure and say thank you at the end of it, as they did under Labour. If I were a trade unionist, I’d rather have my face kicked in and not pay for the pleasure, thank you very much. Perhaps that’s why so many trade unionists vote Tory. If that’s the case, then that’s an unarguable position and a morally meritorious one too, I must say.

  30. ahmed on said:

    31. This is sheer nonsense.

    Stupid politics is one thing; making stff up is another.

    There was a 1.6% swing AGAINST John McDonell

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/election2010/results/constituency/c10.stm

    There was a swing to Labour in English inner city cities and in and aound all the Scottish cities. John Mc Donnell happens to be MP for an outer London seat, and he has a big majority so the small swing against him is no disgrace.

    But the swings had nothing to do with how ‘Left’ the candidates were, Stepehn Tomms got a 7.7% swing because of Respect having to vacate the contest. Lots of the big swings to Labour in Scotland were to awful right-wingers, and so on.

  31. Oh my god how far right this site has become. You all must have your eyes on jobs in the labour party/trade union bureacracy!

  32. Matthew Stiles on said:

    This may be all a bit irrelevant anyway as it seems that John Mc is very unlikely to get enough nominations. If he does, then great and his second preferences could prove important.
    As for Tawfiq “it will take David Cameron a great deal of effort to be worse than Blair or Brown. Personally, I don’t think he will. It’s almost impossible.” Good grief. Cameron wants to raise inheritance tax threshold and make savage cuts. For all Brown’s faults his budgets were redistributive and public services, particularly health and education, improved under Labour.

  33. KevinM on said:

    #33 Ahmed – nothing is made up. What I posted was the percentage change of real people who voted for the various candidates. John’s vote went up from 20,844 to 23,377 – that’s a 12.2% increase. The calculation for the others was done in exactly the same way.

    I don’t think this is the key argument for supporting John though. I just thought the “realists” who look at the leadership contest in *purely* electoralist terms should recognise that John is not a vote loser.

    John, of course, had nowhere near the best result in this respect. For example, Diane Abbott in Hackney North had a 68% increase in her vote.

  34. #28 johng

    Who doesn’t think trade unions need to be better? I certainly think they do. Organising not just servicing individuals, fighting back and not sitting back and having a union fit for purpose and that is what Len McCluskey will work towards maintaining and delivering when he is made GS of Unite.

    Have you seen Hicks recent post on youtube? What a disappointment! His previous statements offer nothing new but serve up a lot of populist rhethoric and the same old bureactratic bashing which appeals to a very narrow section of trade union membership.

    The parallels between McDonnell and Hicks are quite obvious and this debate has been very useful in highlighting this.

  35. jim mclean on said:

    17# Is the rule not 12.5% which means this time round he would only need support from around 30 odd MPs. But as I’m not in Labour I’m not to bothered who runs the show.

  36. Tawfiq Chahboune on said:

    Matthew Stiles: ‘As for Tawfiq “it will take David Cameron a great deal of effort to be worse than Blair or Brown. Personally, I don’t think he will. It’s almost impossible.” Good grief. Cameron wants to raise inheritance tax threshold and make savage cuts. For all Brown’s faults his budgets were redistributive and public services, particularly health and education, improved under Labour.’

    Why “good grief”? It’s perfectly true.

    As far as I can tell, the raising of the inheritance tax threshold has been dropped. Would it have been so out of keeping with the last thirteen years? So some millionaires get a tax break. That’s a New Labour policy. So the Tories stole a New Labour policy that was originally a Tory policy. Good for them.

    As for “savage cuts”, every party promised savage cuts. And you can thank New Labour for putting the country’s finances in such a state that “savage cuts” are guaranteed. So don’t blame the Tories for the upcoming cuts. Blame Labour, who in any case would have instituted exactly the same cuts, give or take a couple of quid here and there. The only thing I look forward to is the sight of gormless trade union leaders thundering against the upcoming cuts. Cuts they would have backed if the leader wore a red rosette, not a blue rosette.

    As for public services, health and education “improved” under Thatcher. They “improve” no matter who is in power because of economic growth. Not that I think they’re very good. The NHS is pretty incompetent (due mostly to underfunding and privatisation, which translate as low standards throughout the service), and education is pretty close to a national joke (due mostly to underfunding and privatisation, which translates as low standards throughout the service). Cameron has ringfenced inflation-busting increases to the NHS. So you should be happy.

    Matthew, the difference between us is that you think there’s a difference between the Tories and Labour. I don’t. So I don’t make excuses for the Labour Party. Thirteen years was quite enough to show what they stood for: imperialist wars and the most extreme neoliberalism, leaving hundreds of thousands dead in the Middle East, PFI as far as the eye can see and the country with about £1.5 trillion debt. That’s some achievement. In theory it’s impossible to do. To their credit, did the impossible. Forgive me if I’m not responsive to their overtures. New Labour’s rhetoric does not interest me. The results do.

  37. #6.”It is imperative that John McDonnell stands for the labour leadership, he will be the only genuine socialist candidate. ” says Alfie.

    If McDonnell was a “genuine socialist” he wouldn’t be in the Labour party.

    A genuine socialist would not be a member of a party that was drenched in the blood of innocents, wouldn’t be in a party that supports the “free” market, that cuts benefits, that widens the gap betweeen the rich and the rest of us, that paved the way for the city to profiteer at the expense of working people and the deprived of the world, that supported the big bsiness driven EU and so on…

    Sod the Labour party. They are a con. Every bit as much as the Lib Cons.

  38. David Ellis on said:

    Tawfiq: I’m warming to you man.

    Jim: the working class are facing a series of eviscerating attacks under this new coalition. If the left in the labour party doesn’t raise its head now then it never will. Even if it doesn’t win it needs to have its programme aired with max publicity. In 18 months time Adolph Hitler would be electable in this country and the Milliband Tendency will only assist such an eventuality as they did the Clegg/Cameron coup. The left’s alternative programme and plan of resistance is essential now and must be put. The war is coming home and New Labour’s efforts to export it are over.

  39. jim mclean on said:

    OK I’ll get prepared to be blown out of the water, just spent 20 minutes researching John McDonnell, he doesnt seem anti war to me but anti Iraq war. He supports armed conflict does he not, me Im sick of workers being used as weapons by a bunch of dogmatic assholes who always sell out when they get a grasp of power. Some of those he supports have sold out.

  40. Tawfiq Chahboune on said:

    David Ellis: “Tawfiq: I’m warming to you man.”

    You’re in a very small minority!

    David Ellis: “If the left in the labour party doesn’t raise its head now then it never will. Even if it doesn’t win it needs to have its programme aired with max publicity… The left’s alternative programme and plan of resistance is essential now and must be put.”

    Exactly. If we don’t take a stand now, break with Labour, start our own Left Party (a leftwing social democratic party is what’s needed), make our arguments, take our arguments to the people, we might as well just forget it. Really, I have more important things to do: shopping for socks (you really never can have too many), watching Curb Your Enthusiasm and Woody Allen films, hunting for a place that serves decent espresso, spreading the gospel according to Louis Van Gaal, etc.

  41. Matthew Stiles on said:

    “As for public services, health and education “improved” under Thatcher.”

    Look at this article http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/02/01/labour-cuts-nhs-waiting-list-by-970000/ You will see how waiting lists grew massively from 1987 to 1997 ( aperiod of Tory Govt. I’m afraid the graph starts at 1987) and fell dramatically under Labour. Also look at the Health Service Journal http://www.hsj.co.uk/comment/leader/it-may-not-have-been-pretty-but-labour-gave-new-life-to-the-nhs/5012907.article

    “education is pretty close to a national joke” A leading Lib Dem, David Laws said this in February: “There has been a breathtaking rise in performance in education since 1997. Inner London was a basket case pre-97; ninety per cent of students were failing to get decent grades at 16 back then. The improvement’s been astonishing, dramatic, unbelievable. Money, reform, leadership, pioneering methods, one-to-one tuition have all helped. That really counts, you cannot say they’ve done nothing. Sixty per cent of pupils on free school meals in some of the poorest areas now gain five GCSEs A-C, a massive rise from 13 years ago.”

    I agree with you over PFI and the Iraq war though.

  42. Tawfiq Chahboune on said:

    “You will see how waiting lists grew massively from 1987 to 1997 ( aperiod of Tory Govt. I’m afraid the graph starts at 1987) and fell dramatically under Labour.”

    On that, a few things. Under Labour, apparently you had to join a waiting list queue before joining the waiting list! Patients were forced out of their sick beds before they were well so as to bring the waiting times down. The statistics on ill patients who were readmitted probably do not exist. In any case, let us suppose everything you say is in fact true. How was it achieved? Letting the financial sector run riot and skim some profits from the artificial inflated bubble and redirect into trhe pockets of PFI schemes. The consequences of all this mad economic neoliberalism is that we’ll have to cut the public sector to the bone for heaven knows how long. So the decade or so of “investment” will result in a decade of cuts. So we’re back to square one because New Labour refused to initiate any social democratic policies and went with neoliberal ones.

    ‘A leading Lib Dem, David Laws said this in February: “There has been a breathtaking rise in performance in education since 1997. Inner London was a basket case pre-97; ninety per cent of students were failing to get decent grades at 16 back then. The improvement’s been astonishing, dramatic, unbelievable. Money, reform, leadership, pioneering methods, one-to-one tuition have all helped. That really counts, you cannot say they’ve done nothing. Sixty per cent of pupils on free school meals in some of the poorest areas now gain five GCSEs A-C, a massive rise from 13 years ago.”’

    I agree with most of that. With the caveat that standards are so unbelievably low you can probably get an A in every subject and be barely sentient. I believe a dandelion passed GCSE mathematics last year.

  43. johng on said:

    doh! I really don’t understand this delicacy about the trade union bureacracy on the one hand and the soft left on the other. The first bunch need to be held to account, and the latter are largely imaginary and in any case couldn’t care less what any of us here think (including you and Andy probably) no matter how much you show sensitivity.

    I don’t really see what is wrong with rank and file candidates like Hicks. We need more of them.

  44. KevinM on said:

    #46 I think a rank and file candidate has to mean more than just saying you are rank and file. Surely you need to be accountable to someone. Jerry is accountable to no one.

  45. attila on said:

    The best we can hope for is ed miliband as leader and cruddas as deputy. But the AV voting system means a vote for McDonnell wont be wasted so why all the hostility to him? No reason why a socialist shouldn’t be part of the debate.

  46. ahmed on said:

    36. This is getting silly.

    McDonell’s number of votes actually went up from 19,009, so that’s a 22% rise, not a 12.2%. Normally, changes in vote means % changes. All candidates benefitted from a big increase in turnout, especially in Labour’s disaffected inner cities.

    Even Jim Fitzpatrick got a comparable swing, of 20%. As you say Diane Abbott got treble McDonnell’s increase. This was therefore not related primarily to what they stood for, but where they stood. Again as you say, “I don’t think this is a key argument for supporting John”. Or eve an argument for supporting him.

  47. NeoLefty on said:

    It’s unlikely McDonnell will stand for leader of the Labour Party.

    Even if he does he will undoubtedly FAIL.

    Tawfiq is spot on – “Every Party Promised Cuts”.

    Alastair Darling said Labour’s programme would be “Worse than under Thatcher”.

    Time to leave New Labour, there’s nothing left to save.

  48. #51 Neolefty – please do leave the Labour Party. If you or yours need any help to fill out the form please let me know:)

  49. Don’t be so utopian and unrealistic comrades – McDonnell can’t be labour leader – he has white hair! To be a party leader you have to have Young Looking Hair. And he can’t start dying it now, people will notice. If we as socialists are going to be taken seriously within the Labour leadership debates, then we have to take seriously the serious business of serious mainstream politics, which means not looking past 50 for start. Socialists, whaddarewelike?

  50. Ecolefty on said:

    I’m afraid Barry is probably correct, Ed Milliband will probably win as he will present himself as a little less right wing than his brother.

    There is no way that the excellent McDonnell is going to wine this, Labour is hardly a democraticlly run party where the grassroots can decide is it?

    Shame if we did win I might even consider joining!

  51. prianikoff on said:

    As the Socialist Campaign group is a long standing internal caucus within the Labour Party, alongside the of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy and the Labour Representation Committee, the idea that they shouldn’t stand a joint candidate seems rather ridiculous.
    They not only need to put forward a programme, but consistently challenge for leadership.

    John McDonnell seems like the most eligible person, as he has a long track record of campaigning along these lines. He needs to get 33 MP’s to nominate him under the current rules.

    The socialist left needs a candidate because:-

    1) New Labour politics have never been so discredited, but no real alternative to them is being offered by centre candidates.

    2) SCG/LRC MP’s generally achieved better than average results in the election.

    3) The election is an opportunity to put forward an alternative programme to around 1 million members of the electoral college, including affiliated unions.

    I’m not convinced by the argument that a McDonnell campaign would let in a right wing candidate.
    This situation often happens in union elections and having a choice of candidates is more democratic.
    McDonnell could nominate a second preference candidate and, under LP leadership election rules, his votes would transfer.
    I think it would be a wasted opportunity for the left if he didn’t stand

  52. John Gray seems to be happy his party promised massive cuts – John, what resistance will you be leading against the Tories/Liberals? As a Councillor and a union official will you tell your members there’s no other way – Gordon Brown and the Milibands told me?

  53. johng on said:

    why is our discussion confined to ‘who will win’? Surely the purpose of our discussion ought to be ‘what will strengthen the left?’. A large campaign for a left candidate would do much more to this end, then the election of a candidate who will inevitably shift from the right to further to the right.

  54. prianikoff on said:

    I’m also wondering if the Ed Milliband campaign is in fact a spoiler, designed to attract potential left wing votes and then transfer them to his brother.

    The Milliband tendency is a typical centrist-moving-right show.
    Balls? Hah!

    Crudas is too associated with the whole Rainbow fiasco and won’t offer any real alternative to New Labour politically.

    Now’s the time for ideological clarification, in preparation for a mass campaign to bring down the rotten ConDem coalition before it falls apart under its own internal contradictions.

  55. Graham Day on said:

    I have to agree with the main article about McDonnell, he’s spent the last couple of years burning bridges when he should (and could) have been building them. That’s not a sign of a good politician, nor is this ludicrous “shopping list” approach to politics – what, some members of a different group voted a different way on a particular policy, so you’re not going to talk to them…? Pitiful.

  56. Duncan on said:

    Good heavens what a silly article!! Of course, supporting people who oppose Labour in elections is a much more constructive approach…

    The Labour Leadership election is on a preferential system. If a left candidate could get on the ballot paper, this could only help and do nothing to hinder. It splits no votes, and allows people to vote for the candidate they support with their first preference.

    Why sections of the non-Labour left should seek to damage the Labour Left in this way, God only knows. Believe, its this anti-left, reds-under-the-bed, witch-hunt claptrap that will be quoted to justify MPs choosing not to nominate McDonnell.

    Cheers.