Owen Jones has submitted a defence of himself against some of the criticism he’s faced after publishing his Questions all Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters need to answer. I looked forward to finding evidence he’s started to recognize what he got wrong. Boy, was I disappointed. It would seem Owen hasn’t changed his mind at all. He still blames us, those who intend to reelect Jeremy Corbyn, apparently dismissing us as ultra-lefts. I am starting to think he really has made up his mind, and nothing we say is going to change it, which would beg the question of what he intends to do when, as he predicts, Corbyn will win for a second time: will he join Stephen Kinnock’s breakaway party, bankrolled by John Mills, the millionaire who financed Labour’s Leave Campaign?
I get the impression that Owen has not even been listening to us. He certainly has no idea why I think he’s wrong. He didn’t tweet a link to my original critique (Response to Owen Jones Questions), which is his right, obviously: maybe he didn’t read it; maybe he won’t read this one neither, but that won’t stop me making it available to anyone interested. Owen can hardly complain about any escalation in the rhetorical slings and arrows that fall his way if he refuses to address what we’re actually saying, as distinct from what he wishes we were saying.
Owen says the main objection to his criticism is the timing. He knows that’s untrue. I have said I wish he’d not bottled up his critiicsm for a year, but only because that’s allowed his truly awful ideas to gestate with no opportunity for the rest of us to help immunize his brain from them at an earlier stage. Maybe he’s left it too long, and he’s no longer capable of listening. That’s the impression I’m getting.
Hardly any of Owen’s criticisms that he thinks are so impressive hit home at all. Those that do basically point to problems that everybody has to tackle, and that isn’t possible when the democracy inside the Labour party has been crushed by the PLP and by Labour’s bureacracy headed by Iain McNicol. If Owen is part of the left, then he needs to help the rest of us prise open the narrow channels for debate in the party, with the 172 having wasted an entire year conspiring with the CBI’s BBC, and Rupert Murdoch’s SKY News, and the anonymous Thatcherite suits at Channel4 News. It’s not the half million members to blame, Owen; it’s the PLP, and their friends on the NEC.
As a Scot, I have to say that Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters outside Scotland would be well-advised to stop trying to intervene until you are better informed about what’s going on here. The more you say, the worse it gets for all of us. The SNP have exploited the rottenness of the Blairite machine in Scotland. They’ve been wiped out under first-past-the-post, and Kezia Dgudale takes no prisoners when it comes to Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters. On the face of it, we have precious little hope of restoring anything here. The best that can be done vis-a-vis Scotland – at least in the short term – is building up a good working relationship between Jeremy Corbyn’s front bench and the SNP’s MPs. While not united on everything, there is more than enough common ground for it to be mutually beneficial for Labour’s front bench and the SNP to intervene at Westminister to get a more effective opposition to the Tories. The national question would have to be parked, but wide-ranging constitutional changes could be agreed by Corbyn and The SNP, if there’s good will on both sides. For God’s sake, start talking about this.
Old people can easily be won easily to Labour under Jeremy Corbyn. Owen has surrendered his socialist perspective based on class, earned and unearned income, replacing it with some kind of dodgy generation game Toryism. He should know better than that.
Owen says there’s a lack of a media strategy. The problem is the PLP have usurped the media to help the Tory editors at the BBC, SKY News and Channel4 News to destroy the Labour Party. Owen Jones is surrendering to these people. Why? The chicken coup has given the Labour Party an insight into just how serious this problem has always been. Time to pick side. And Owen refuses to come down on the Corbyn’s side. This is truly bizarre. Not once, but twice he’s refusing to do that, despite all the criticism he’s received. He really isn’t listening to us. And that’s sad.
Owen says he’s terrified of a snap election. He tells us Theresa May has an incentive to call one, and she’d win a 100 seat landslide. This is where we can cut Owen some slack. I think this is genuinely what he thinks, and if he’s right his concerns are valid. But he is not right, not in the way he thinks he is. Owen is just making assertions based on polls at a time when the polls tell us precious little, and where Owen is oblivious to the weakness of Theresa May’s Tories. A snap general election is not an impossibility, but I’m not frightened of it. Why is Owen?
Owen has no idea how vulnerable Theresa May would be if she got a snap election. The Tory Party is badly split on the single market. Half her MPs would be fighting a general election to stop it; the other half fighting the election determined to get rid of Tory MPs wanting to keep the single market. UKIP would eat into the pro-single market candidates because for them reducing immigration was what Britain voted for, which is simply not the case, not the way Owen Jones thinks. Theresa May’s pro-single market Tory MPs would be wiped out under first-past-the-post. Tory civil war would be as electorally unpopular as Labour’s civil war. However, there is something Labour can do to put a stop to that. For a start there has to be discipline imposed on the 172, not if but when they lose this damaging leadership election.
Owen Jones’s pals in the PLP are threatening to operate as a ‘party-within-a-party’, sabotaging Labour’s electoral prospects every chance they get until half a million Labour members surrender and let them purge Jeremy Corbyn and every last one of his supporters throughout the party. These people are intentionally provoking their own expulsion in the hope that they can then seize on this as their excuse for splitting the anti-Tory vote. Expulsions have to be the very last resort. Nevertheless, what we are being threatened with is a long drawn-out split. And that would sap the strength of half a million members, causing the party irreparable electoral damage. The splitters will have to be taken on, and the whip withdrawn as Paul Mason rightly argues.
CLPs will inevitably pass votes of no confidence in any MP who ignores the leadership election vote. If any Labour MP continues to try to help Theresa May’s government, then they are nothing more than squatters in Labour Party offices, and will have to be evicted by the membership. Time to get a new office, mate.
There could indeed be a snap election, which is why Labour needs to prepare for one by drawing up at least the bare bones of a manifesto, and selecting candidates who are willing to accept party discipline, and the manifesto on which the election will be fought; and if the CLP can’t stomach the sitting MP, then there is plenty of new talent waiting in the wings. I had hoped Owen Jones may be part of that talent, but that’s starting to look unlikely.
Owen says that if the Tories won a snap election the left would be blamed. Not by me, they wouldn’t. I’d blame the PLP. And I’d also blame so-called left-wingers who defended this outrageously right-wing PLP against charges of neverending sabotage.
Owen concludes his defence of himself by insisting his motives are honorable ones, regardless of how much they are now called into question. Let me say that arguing he was always a sellout won’t get us anywhere. He has played an important role for the left, and that role has to be recognized. However, while Owen insists he’s fighting for the left and he’s not changed, I think he has; he’s just not aware of how much he has changed.
Which side are you on Owen? Surely you can answer that one. All indications are that you’ve joined the side to dump Jeremy Corbyn. If that’s what you’re saying then, you’ve lost all pespective. If you’re going to vote Corbyn, then in what universe does what you have been saying contribute to his victory? You know it only helps the plotters, those who have been sabotaging Labour for the last year, and who boast about how they intend to sabotage it for another year, and then another until they get the Tories back into office. You want to hand over to these people the keys to the Labour leader’s office, then to 10 Downing Street, to carry out Liz Kendall’s perspectives? Liz Kendall? Yes. For Owen Smith is fighting on an Anyone-But-Corbyn ticket.
Owen Smith has been granted the undisputed franchise to tell any lie he likes to steal Jeremy Corbyn’s vote, but then to renege on all his election pledges once the votes have all been counted. The pre-Corbyn Labour Party is a nightmare, and anyone wanting to return to that has abandoned any left-wing credentials they ever had.
If Owen Jones wants the left to succeed – as he insists he does – he won’t be working to help Owen Smith and his 172 MPs topple Jeremy Corbyn. Owen Jones is convinced he’s still left of center. But that’s not what it looks like to me anymore. Jeremy Corbyn’s shifted the center of political gravity in Britain, and his mass rallies are just the tip of the iceberg, the merest hint at the rising mood to resist Theresa May’s Tory government. If Owen Jones thinks she can raise the 24% who voted for David Cameron last year to win a truly popular mandate, then I beg to differ. To the extent that Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide is less impressive than it would otherwise be, I’ll be blaming those who merely echoed the reactionaries for not doing what reactionaries insist he has to do, like, for instance, singing ‘God Save The Queen’.
Jeremy Corbyn is a leader who is using his skills to challenge reactionary ideas. Owen Jones seems to have lost that perspective entirely, now reconciling himself to those reactionary views. At any rate, that is what it looks like from where I stand.