Tony Greenstein | 23 January 2021 | Post Views:

Why did the Corbyn Project collapse? How did Labour go from near victory in 2017 to the biggest defeat since 1935?

 Review of Benjamin Pogrund and Patrick McGuire’s Left Out and Owen Jones This Land

[PM]   Reference to book by Pogrund and McGuire

[OJ]     Reference to book by Owen Jones

There has been a marked reluctance by the Labour left to ask simple questions in the wake of Labour’s defeat at the General Election about where the Corbyn Project went wrong. They seem to fear asking the questions even more than they fear the answers.

Betrayed by Laura Pidcock and Corbyn

Take the Labour Representation Committee, whose President is John McDonnell. On 12th January it held a meeting Learning the Lessons and Rebuilding the Labour Left. Admirable objectives. I attended and asked in the chat why the Campaign Group hadn’t opposed the fake ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign. I also asked why Laura Pidcock, one of the speakers, instead of defending Chris Williamson had asked him not to attend meetings of the CG.

You won’t be surprised to hear that despite putting my hand up first, the Chair Bisi Williams decided to call me last and then found out that as the meeting had run out of time I wouldn’t be called at all!

If the LRC are scared of holding elected Labour representatives to account then clearly they won’t learn many lessons. My letter to Chair Matt Wrack, Chair of the LRC, is here.

Since the defeat of Labour in the General Election two books have appeared which offer different explanations as to why Labour was defeated. One is by journalists from The Times and Sunday Times, Benjamin Pogrund and Patrick MacGuire, and the other is from the Guardian’s licensed radical, Owen Jones.

The analysis in both books is not substantively different. Both concentrate on the internal politics and dysfunctional state of LOTO (Leader of the Opposition’s Office) though Jones lays greater stress on the hostility that Corbyn faced, not least from the feral members of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Jones also sets out to correct the narrative that the Corbyn Project was solely defeated by sabotage within the Labour Party coupled with a vicious onslaught from a hostile media. To him the damage was done by internal conflict within the Project. [OJ3/5] What Jones doesn’t mention is that the campaign against Corbyn was led by his own newspaper, The Guardian, and that he had a hand in it.

Jones also believes that an additional cause was the failure to deal with anti-Semitism and reach out to Jews who (except for anti-Zionist Jews) had experienced a ‘collective trauma from two millennia of persecution.’ [OJ6]

I also intend to do a separate article on Jones and ‘anti-Semitism’ since Jones played a key part in spreading the idea that Labour had a problem with anti-Semitism. Jones made a significant contribution to the defeat of Corbyn when he had ‘a period of disillusionment before the general election’. [OJ8] In March 2017 he wrote an articleJeremy Corbyn says he’s staying. That’s not good enough’.

Tom Watson

Both books detail the treachery of Labour’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson, who when elected as Deputy Leader promised to back Corbyn 100%, saying that ‘only through unity comes the strength we need to fight the Tories’. It was one more lie from a man who had every quality of a dog except loyalty.

Watson was in league with Labour’s treacherous staff, ‘many of whom craved electoral disaster’ [OJ135]. When Sam Matthews, head of GLU was forced out, he stole hundreds of files and emails. On 27 February 2019 he met Danny Adilypour, Watson’s closest advisor, to hand over hundreds of documents. The Zionist lobby and Hodge arranged for them to obtain legal representation. It was clearly a criminal offence of theft and breach of Data Protection Regulations. [PM241] These files were the basis of the BBC Panorama hatchet job by John Ware presenting Matthews as a ‘whistleblower’.

It is some measure of the Corbyn’s inability to face down his enemies that he offered peerages to both Watson and Iain McNicol, Labour’s General Secretary who tried to prevent him standing when Owen Smith challenged him for the leadership.

Watson was only prevented from becoming Baron Watson by the House of Lords’s Appointment’s Commission because he sponsored Carl Beech’s false allegations of child abuse.

Jones lays emphasis on the Leaked Labour Report and the war of attrition waged by Labour’s permanent staff whereas Pogrund and MacGuire play the issue down as might be expected from the Murdoch school of journalism. However Jones draws all the wrong conclusions about the existence of anti-Semitism in Labour.

Shortly before Labour’s 2019 Conference Jon Lansman, proposed to the NEC that the Deputy Leadership post should be abolished and with it Watson. Although it would have been better for the Left to have challenged Watson it was a reasonable proposal. Corbyn was the originator of the proposal shouting ‘I want him out of the Shadow Cabinet and I want to abolish the deputy role’. [PM235-237]. Yet, when it came to it, Corbyn backed out. It was another example of Corbyn’s spinelessness. Naturally McDonnell the Appeaser was opposed to it. [OJ266-268]

The Failure to Devise a Political Strategy

One of the most remarkable things about the Corbyn leadership was the complete lack of any political strategy. Corbyn was buffeted by the political winds and failed to take the initiative. Within a year he had been subject to a no confidence vote by Labour MPs, which he lost by 172-40. It is to his credit that Corbyn refused to be bullied by the PLP into standing down despite, in Dianne Abbot’s words, the attempts to break him as a man. [OJ84] A major reason for his clinging on and forcing Owen Smith to challenge him was the fact that Momentum called a massive 10,000 demonstration on Parliament Green (Jones places the demo in Trafalgar Square, thus proving that he for one wasn’t there – OJ83).

Having won against Smith by an even larger majority than the first time, despite the suspension of thousands of members by McNicol, Corbyn was at the height of his power. At this point Corbyn should have called on McNicol to resign. Indeed Corbyn should have accepted McNicol’s offer to resign when he was first elected.

Even after the near election victory of June 2017 when, in anticipation of a coup, McNicol had the passes of Corbyn’s staff to Southside cancelled, Corbyn failed to call for the dismissal of McNicol.[PM21] [OJ160]

The only political strategy that Corbyn had was appeasing the Right, yet it should have been obvious that a hard core of at least 50 MPs would never accept Corbyn as Prime Minister and in the event that he had won the General Election they would not have voted for him as Prime Minister.

There had to be a strategy of deselecting these MPs yet not only did Corbyn fail to embrace such a strategy but he persuaded Len McCluskey to break UNITE’s mandate in 2018 and oppose Open Selection. With Open Selection disloyal Labour MPs could have been deselected en masse. This was the key failure of Corbyn.

Corbyn had a strategic director in the form of Seamus Milne, the former Guardian Comment Editor. Milne was the son of former BBC Director-General Alisdair Milne. He came from the womb of the British Establishment. I don’t know whether or not Milne was an MI5 operative but of one thing I am sure. He could not have served British Intelligence better if he had been a paid agent.

Both books report Milne as someone whose only contribution, apart from coming late into the office with a coffee in one hand and pastries in another, was to lead Corbyn into Labour’s disastrous Brexit strategy, if one can call it that.

On the question of the fake anti-Semitism campaign, Milne had little to contribute or suggest. His failure to devise a strategy and stick to it, instead of firefighting as the latest Zionist attack was mounted, is as incomprehensible now as it was at the time.

A Dysfunctional Office

When Corbyn was elected leader they found the cupboard was bare. LOTO had been stripped of its furniture and computers. Even the keys to the door didn’t work! Not surprisingly it took some time to get everything in order.

However with the help of what is called Short money from the Treasury LOTO soon employed a considerable number of staff. I estimate at least 30-40.

Far from getting their act together, LOTO degenerated into squabbles, personality conflicts, empire building and ego trips. Karie Murphy was brought in to sort things out as Chief of Staff but rather than ensuring a smooth running office she became part of the problem. ‘Often chaotic, under Murphy’s aegis the atmosphere of the leader’s office had become poisonous.’ [OJ271] Laura Murray, the Stakeholder, led the charge to the right over ‘anti-Semitism’.

Murphy forced Corbyn to sack the Chief Whip Rosie Winton, although Corbyn was unable to tell her outright her fate. [OJ122] But who was her replacement? Nick Brown, Gordon Brown’s boot boy, the man who is now demanding an unconditional apology in return for the restoration of the Whip. If someone like Ian Lavery had been appointed he could have removed the whip from a dozen Blairites and saved their parties the need to deselect them. It took Boris Johnson, who dispatched 21 rebels at one go, to demonstrate what effective political management is about.

Murphy provoked two staff rebellions over her bullying and intimidation including hounding out Corbyn’s Asian PA Iram Chamberlain because she was held guilty over MI5’s refusal to give her a parliamentary pass. She also had the audacity to attend a meeting at MI5 HQ with Corbyn where she raised the issue of their lack of interest in the far-Right (as opposed to hounding Muslims). A close friend of hers had been murdered by neo-Nazis.

Perfectly proper issues to have raised yet Murphy became incandescent and with Milne’s agreement she was forced out. [PM157] Corbyn behaved in a spineless fashion yet again. Murphy regularly attacked female staff for not dressing appropriately like any traditional employer.

In August 2019 as the days of the Project drew to a close staff submitted a collective grievance against Murphy.[PM273] The outcome was that Murphy was effectively sacked and forced to work at Labour Party HQ with a new glorified title. As was so often the case Corbyn could not bring himself to do the deed.

Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn was perhaps the only person who was capable of gaining the magical number of PLP nominations (15%) to be elected. It was not just an accident of fate but the result of mass lobbying on social media that caused enough MPs to nominate him. I know because my 13 year old son was one of thousands furiously lobbying MPs! Corbyn became leader as a result of a spontaneous insurgency and rebellion against the Labour Right. Unfortunately he failed to live up to the task of facing down the Right, not that you would know it from these 2 books.

Corbyn was incapable of standing up to his detractors and challenging their ‘anti-Semitism’ narrative. In interviews he simply became incoherent and angry. He was loathe to make decisions such as sacking Shadow Cabinet ministers, directing staff and taking the lead. According to Pogrund and Maguire he became a captive of his own staff, ‘protected’ by Murphy. The qualities that led to the 2017 surprise were the same ones that led to the catastrophe of 2019.

For example he was accused of supporting ‘terrorism’ by calling Hamas and Hezbollah speakers his ‘friends’ in an interview before being elected, with Krishna Guru Murphy of Channel 4. Instead of getting angry and defensive (& later apologising) he should have stuck to what he had previously said. Hamas and Hezbollah aren’t terrorists. They are the victims of terrorism, the offspring of massive Israeli violence. If terrorism means anything then it is the Israeli state violence. The problem is that Corbyn bought into an acceptance of the British state and with that comes a definition of terrorism which is that what the State does is never terrorism. It is only your enemies who are terrorists.

Corbyn and Anti-Semitism

Even the title of the chapter about anti-Semitism For the Many not the Jew, which adorned Zionist placards at the March 2018 demonstration outside the House of Commons was anti-Semitic. It assumed that all Jews were part of the few. But then Zionism and anti-Semitism have always been Siamese twins.

Pogrund and McGuire report how the Right believed that Corbyn’s support for anti-imperialism blinded him to anti-Semitism. [99] The idea that anti-imperialists are also racists is only something the press and Labour’s Right could seriously believe.

Siobhan McDonagh, one of the most stupid of right-wing MPs, believed that because most Jews were capitalists, socialism and anti-capitalism were anti-Semitic!

The ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign was based on disinformation. Pogrund states that for decades the Labour Party had been ‘the natural political home of Britain’s Jews.’ [PM320] Utter nonsense, since the 1960s, with a blip during the Blair years, British Jews had voted solidly for the Tories. This kind of nonsense permeates their book.

Corbyn’s major failure was his inability to understand the nature of the ‘anti-Semitism’ attacks. Corbyn took the attacks on him as an anti-Semite personally. For someone who had devoted his life to fighting racism it was the nastiest blow that the Zionists could make. If Corbyn had been a racist then it would not have bothered him.

One cannot imagine Tom Watson, who was a genuine racist, taking offence or losing sleep over accusations of racism. Watson, who was instrumental in the ‘anti-Semitism’ affair, played the race card in the 2004 Hodge Hill byelection, producing a leaflet which declared ‘”Labour is on your side, the Lib Dems are on the side of failed asylum seekers.”

Watson declared that he had ‘lost sleep’ over ‘poor Phil’ when the racist Labour MP Phil Woolas was ejected from the House of Commons by the High Court for having lied about his opponent during the 2010 General Election. Woolas had run a campaign which was explicitly about ‘making the white folk angry’ i.e. stirring up racial discord.

It is inexplicable why Corbyn, who had been involved for 30+ years in Palestine solidarity work did not get it that ‘anti-Semitism’ is the first resort of the Zionists. When Zionists say ‘anti-Semite’ they mean ‘anti-Zionist’. That Corbyn and Milne did not get this is bewildering.

Corbyn became an automaton He went into a routine of stressing how much he opposed anti-Semitism. It was absurd as the anti-Semitism that the Zionist Board of Deputies was talking about was hatred of Israeli racism not hatred of Jews. Milne, if he had not spent all day loafing around, would have realised this.

Corbyn took to parroting the line that those who denied that Labour had a problem with anti-Semitism were ‘part of the problem’. It was called ‘denialism’. It was a form of cognitive dissonance. Corbyn did not relate the false allegations of anti-Semitism against him to the fact that other people too were falsely accused of anti-Semitism.

It should not have been difficult to understand why the charge of ‘anti-Semite’ is made at opponents of Zionism. Israel finds it difficult to justify the torture and sexual abuse of Palestinian children or the demolition of Palestinian homes. It is easier to attack the messenger than the message. This was the context of Corbyn’s failure.

When the ‘anti-Semitism’ crisis took on a momentum of its own, Corbyn should have made one or more big speeches in which he declared that of course he opposed anti-Semitism but at the same time he opposed those who weaponised anti-Semitism in order to defend Israel. Corbyn should have called out all those Labour MPs, from Ian Austin to Watson, who were so concerned about ‘anti-Semitism’ yet had failed to oppose the 2014 Immigration Act which had introduced the hostile environment policy and thus the Windrush Scandal. Just 6 Labour MPs had voted against the Act.

Corbyn came into the leadership determined to appease the Right. No one seems to have told him that the Right could not be appeased. They could be fought, they could be deselected, but you could no more appease Austin or John Woodcock than you could pat a rabid dog on the head and get away unscathed.

Austin openly declared ‘I want to do everything I can to stop him getting into government.’ [PM162] Likewise Mandelson ‘I work every day I some small way to bring an end to his tenure in office.’ [OJ]

Of course there were a few anti-Semites in a party of 600,000. There were also a few paedophiles. But no one said that Labour was overrun with paedophiles. It was a wholly contrived controversy.

The IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism

Anti-Semitism is hostility to or prejudice against Jews according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Yet Corbyn, of his own volition, adopted the 38 word IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. In September 2018 Labour’s NEC adopted the 11 examples attached to the IHRA, 7 of which refer to Israel. The IHRA definition read:

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Anti-Semitism isn’t a perception it is also a practice. And what is this certain perception? What else may it be expressed as? This wasn’t a definition but a ramble. It is difficult to know what went through Corbyn’s mind when he adopted it but he made a rod for his own back. The definition is a model of obfuscation. In the words of Professor David Feldman the IHRA was ‘bewilderingly imprecise.’

The sole purpose of the IHRA was to conflate anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. When Theresa May adopted it in December 20016 Corbyn felt the need to follow suit.

Corbyn, who had long been friends with Jewish anti-Zionists like Mike Marquesee, must have been aware of the record of the Zionist Board which has never fought anti-Semitism. In the 30s the Board advocated Jews staying at home during the Battle of Cable Street against Moseley’s fascists. During the 1970s as the National Front gained over 100,000 votes during the 1977 GLC elections the Board chose to attack the Anti-Nazi League not the NF. As Maurice Ludmer, editor of the anti-fascist Searchlight magazine wrote :

In the face of mounting attacks against the Jewish community both ideologically and physically, we have the amazing sight of the Jewish Board of Deputies launching an attack on the Anti Nazi League with all the fervour of Kamikaze pilots… It was as though they were watching a time capsule rerunof the 1930’s, in the form of a flickering old movie, with a grim determination to repeat every mistake of that era.” (Issue 41, November 1978)

It should have been obvious that the Board, which has support for Israel embedded in its Constitution, was concerned with Zionism not anti-Semitism. When Corbyn met the Board in April 2018 he left ‘with one request ringing louder in his ear than any other’ [PM105]. They wanted the IHRA adopted in full. To Pogrund /MGuire this was ‘relatively uncontroversial’.

Yet the same Board said nothing about Boris Johnson’s 72 Virgins book which depicts Jews as controlling the media or Jacob Rees-Mogg’s references to the ‘illuminati’ – an anti-Semitic trope.

The Board of Deputies never raised the issue of Tory MEPs sitting in the Conservative Reform Group as anti-Semitic MEPs from Poland, Latvia and Sweden. The same is true with the European Council. Boris Johnson sacked Lord Balfe who complained about these people. The Board remained silent. The Board also said nothing as Tory MEPs voted alongside fascists to support Hungary’s anti-Semitic Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

When Labour’s NEC endorsed an anti-Semitism code largely based on the IHRA, the Board threw a fit. It wanted the whole IHRA adopted. Starmer weighed in to support them. [PM111]

Yet when the Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement Ivor Caplin met with Jennie Formby he agreed to the Anti-Semitism Code that amended the IHRA without any objection. [PM110-111] When the JLM Executive heard they threw a fit (Caplin was heavily defeated at the following AGM). Why? The answer was supplied by Len McCluskey in an article for Huff Post headed ‘Jewish Community Leaders Refuse to Take Yes for an Answer’. [123PM]

In other words the Zionist demands were not intended to be met and if they were then new ones would be made. This makes sense if your real objective is removing Corbyn.

Corbyn initially tried to woo the Zionists. At a hustings with Owen Smith Corbyn was asked what he most liked about Israel. Instead of responding that he liked their censorship of the press and their locking up and torture of Palestinian children he replied the separation of powers between Israel’s Supreme Court and the government.

The neutrality of Israel’s Supreme Court is a myth. It has totally disregarded international law and sanctioned the theft of Palestinian land in the West Bank and Gaza. It has never questioned the ‘security arguments that are the favourite excuse for Israeli racism.

Intellectually Corbyn is lazy. He never once bothered to understand the racist, Jewish supremacist nature of Zionism. He was simply content to give bland support to Palestinian rights.

The Witchhunt

What was most galling was the way Corbyn was prepared to throw his friends under the bus. There were a whole series of people he betrayed, such as Christine Shawcroft a left wing member of the NEC who was ambushed by Labour staff when she became Chair of the Disputes Committee. Corbyn asked her personally to resign from the NEC. Chris Williamson, loyal to a fault, was suspended on the basis of a speech to Sheffield Momentum where he attacked both anti-Semitism and the making of false allegations of anti-Semitism. His words were twisted to mean their opposite.

Corbyn stated that he wished Chris Williamson would ‘shut his fucking mouth’. [OJ253] When Chris was readmitted by the NEC there was a petition of 150 Labour scabs organised by Watson calling for him to be suspended again. Corbyn’s reaction was to ‘angrily aske(d) his aides why the decision had been made; with his support, Williamson was resuspended two days later.’ If true then Corbyn should hang his head in shame.

By throwing his friends overboard Corbyn guaranteed his own demise. Corbyn introduced ‘fast track’ expulsions at the 2019 Labour Party Conference to deal with ‘egregious’ cases of anti-Semitism. It has been used since then for all such cases, including that of Corbyn!

When Labour’s report on the treachery of full-time staff was leaked I read it very carefully. On page 306 it reported that:

Well we were all expelled. Was trust rebuilt? Of course not. The Zionists just made more demands and Formby and Corbyn rushed to fulfill them. And when they came for Corbyn there was no one left.

Jones says that LOTO ‘was unhappy with the NCC panel’s decision to suspend Ken Livingstone for another year rather than expel him.’ Ken said nothing that could remotely be termed anti-Semitic. Likewise Marc Wadsworth who introduced Nelson Mandela to the Steve Lawrence campaign. It was sad and shameful. Corbyn brought about his own suspension by bringing Sturmer back into the Shadow Cabinet despite him having walked out in the chicken coup.

How John McDonnell Stabbed Corbyn in the Back

When John McDonnell said of Corbyn that he was his best friend in the Commons, his wife Cynthia joked that he was his only friend! [PM13] That friendship was sorely tried. From being a hard line IRA supporter who refused to adopt a budget under Ken Livingstone at the GLC, McDonnell went on to become the appeaser-in-chief.

When Margaret Hodge accused Corbyn of being a ‘fucking anti-Semite’ Karie Murphy insisted on disciplinary action and Jennie Formby issued a Notice of Investigation. If any other member of the Labour Party had spoken in these terms they would have been suspended if not expelled.

I was expelled for calling Louise Ellman MP a supporter of Israel’s abuse of Palestinian children, which is documented by Defence of Children International – Palestine and UNICEF. Yet McDonnell declared that Hodge had a ‘good heart’ (OJ242). This tax-dodging, millionairess had a long record as a racist. She had even been praised by the BNP for her support for a ‘whites only’ housing policy.

In his determination to appease the Right McDonnell betrayed Corbyn. It caused ‘the most profound breach between Corbyn and McDonnell the Project would ever experience’ [PM115] Corbyn wanted to see disciplinary action taken. According to both books it led to a complete breakdown between the two for 6 months.

McDonnell also spoke out in support of reinstating Alistair Campbell after he admitted voting Lib-Dem in the European elections.

Campbell was treated no differently to thousands of others. Campbell and Mcdonnell had ‘forged an improbable alliance’. [PM195/284]

‘The defining difference between the two [was that] McDonnell obsessed over the pursuit of power.’ [PM84] There was no right-winger that McDonnell wouldn’t appease. Not once did he consider that the more he appeased the Right the stronger they became and the less likely he’d ever sit in a ministerial limousine.

When it came to international affairs McDonnell went out of his way to ‘prove’ that he was as loyal to the British state as any jingoist. When Corbyn doubted Russian involvement in the Skripal poisoning in Salisbury, McDonnell made his disagreement clear, even going so far as to Boycott RT the Russian radio station. Presumably the BBC, with its support for British imperialism, posed fewer problems.

McDonnell was quoted as ‘tearing his hair out’ over ‘anti-Semitism’ saying that Jewish people ‘were really suffering out there’. Total drivel. It is Black and Muslim people not British Jews who were suffering. Yet this man is still President of the LRC.


Brexit and its fall out dominate both books. The more that Corbyn and LOTO struggled to come to terms with it the more intractable the problem became. Labour ended up with a policy which repelled both supporters of Leave and Remain. It was a struggle of Sisyphus. Corbyn bowed to pressure from Starmer and Andrew Fisher, amongst others, to accede to the demand for a second referendum but it was never clear what the Party’s position would be in that referendum.

McDonnell had bowed down to the Right and Alistair Campbell and had become a Remainer without conditions. With McDonnell, Emily Thornberry and Andrew Fisher pushing one way and Milne, Lavery, McLuskey and Murphy pushing the other way, Corbyn came to resemble nothing so much as a cork bobbing on the water.

The problem of Brexit was approached purely from an electoralist calculus. A Marxist approach would have been to ask why so many in the northern working class supported Brexit. The clear and obvious answer was that it was a consequence of deindustrialisation and the succession of working class defeats over the past 30 years symbolised by the defeat of the miners.

Those who voted for Brexit weren’t racists but they were motivated by the belief that migrant workers were responsible for taking their jobs and undermining their wages and conditions. The fact that there was no basis to these fears made no difference. ‘Taking back control’ for Johnson meant British bosses taking back control from Europe in order that they could lower wages and conditions as we can now see with the abolition of the Working Time Directive being discussed.

It pains me to say it but Tony Blair was right when he said that Corbyn and Labour should have pressed for a referendum before an election. [PM283] As it is Johnson, against all expectations, obtained a deal and with it went on to win an election. Johnson had calculated, unlike Theresa May, that Europe and in particular German capitalism, did not want to see no deal with all the disruption. Johnson faced them down. Instead it was Burgon and Carden from the left who ‘harried their leader for an election.’ [PM291] They were turkeys urging an early Xmas, which is exactly what they got.

Thanks in no good measure to the ‘anti-Semitism’ crisis Corbyn was at the election as ‘weak, indecisive and a flip flopper.’ [OJ209]

The End

When Andrew Fisher resigned during the 2019 conference he predicted that Labour would be defeated at the forthcoming election. Internal Labour polls had forecast that Labour would do worse than at any time since 1918. By the time of the election the Corbyn Project ‘was barely a coherent entity’. McDonnell had ‘sowed a corrosive distrust’. [PM359]

It was no surprise that Keir Starmer became leader. He had the support of many ex-Momentum supporters like Laura Parker and Paul Mason. As Pogrund says, ‘Keir Starmer won power by embracing Corbynism rather than repudiating it.’ [360PM] It speaks volumes that Starmer’s record as Director of Public Prosecutions and his voting against an inquiry into the Iraq War were not part of the campaign against him. See the blog I wrote in February 2019 Keir Starmer is the candidate that the Deep State & the British Establishment want you to vote for

No sooner had Starmer become Leader then he gave Formby her marching orders and installed Blair’s adviser David Evans as the new General Secretary. It was a marked contrast to Corbyn who had embraced those out to destroy him.

Part of the problem with the Corbyn Project was that he was elected when the class struggle was at its lowest. That meant being honest with workers and telling them that Labour would fight neo-liberalism in the EU but at the same time the proposal to hand back control to British bosses who, like Dyson, were busy exporting their factories abroad anyway, made no sense. Unfortunately there doesn’t ever seem to have been such a discussion and Corbyn’s Strategic Adviser Milne was incapable of framing the issue in class terms.

Owen Jones believes that McDonnell would have been a better leader. I disagree. McDonnell has already shown that he would bow down to the demands of British capitalism. The Labour Left is incapable of critiquing the British state. That is why the Left doesn’t attack Starmer the way that the Right attacked Corbyn.

The problem today is that the left in the Labour Party is incapable of analyzing where it went wrong and without that it has no chance of regaining the leadership. That is the truth that Momentum and the LRC are trying to avoid.

Tony Greenstein

Posted in

Tony Greenstein


  1. PhilW53 on 23/01/2021 at 5:28pm

    This is an excellent analysis of what went wrong with the Corbyn leadership, but there are a couple of areas on which I have a different view. This first is on the second referendum. Until very recently, I had the same opinion as Tony, but I now don’t think fighting for a second referendum was a feasible option unless it had been pursued from the outset in June 2016 – or even earlier,m e.g. by the LP vigorously criticising its deficits prior to June 2016, on the grounds that EU citizens and 16 and 17-year-old were excluded (and not joining in the Camerons’ campaign). I think it pretty quickly became clear that the result was going to be a millstone for the LP. I thought that Labour’s going for a soft “Norway Plus” position would be a complete non-starter, but I now think that the last few months have shown that the EU would have accepted that. The fight for the left in that situation would then have been against the LP’s bad positions on free movement in particular. Winning those would have been a defeat for the right-wing racist Brexiters.

    I might be objected that this is the electoralism that Tony complains of, but our position on the EU is not one of principle and I would not necessarily have been a remainer if the EU referendum had not actually been primarily about racism, bolstering the far right and resolving differences in the Tory party. We have no particular interest in swanning about in the institutions of the EU, which is what Norway-plus would deny to the British establishment.

    The second point is about the last paragraph. As far as I’m concerned, whether we have Tony’s correct analysis of Corbyn’s demise or not, it is a good thing that it is now clear for all to see that the LP will never again allow an anti-imperialist get anywhere near the leadership. This is the lesson we need to learn: we need to make other uses of the analysis and not hope that it could be used to “regain the leadership”.

  2. David119 on 17/02/2021 at 3:27pm

    I have been rereading Caryl Churchill’s play “Light Shining in Buckinghamshire”. Jeremy Corbyn as Gerrard Winstanley and Keir Starmer as Henry Ireton ? It seems the left are never quite united and determined enough to stand up to the power of property. In modern terms we say “please sir can I be allowed to criticise Israel ?”. Why can’t we speak truth to power and say that the IHRA definition is RACIST because it supports the wholly bogus and racist “Jewish Right of Self Determination”. How ironic. The misuse of the language of the struggle of indigenous peoples against colonialism (Self Determination) to justify white settler colonialism and the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinians !

    This is what Caryl Churchill wrote in 1978.

    Light Shining in Buckinghamshire

    You great Curmudgeons, you hang a man for stealing, when you yourselves have stolen from your brethren all land and creatures.

    More Light Shining in Buckinghamshire, a Digger pamphlet 1649

    A revolutionary belief in the millennium went through the middle ages and broke out strongly in England at the time of the civil war. Soldiers fought the king in the belief that Christ would come and establish heaven on earth. What was established instead was an authoritarian parliament, the massacre of the Irish, the development of capitalism.

    For a short time when the king had been defeated anything seemed possible, and the play shows the amazed excitement of people taking hold of their own lives, and their gradual betrayal as those who led them realised that freedom could not be had without property being destroyed. At the Putney Debates Cromwell and Ireton argued for property; Gerrard Winstanley led Diggers to take over the common land: ‘There can be no universal liberty till this universal community be established.’ The Levellers and Diggers were crushed by the Army, and many turned in desperation to the remaining belief in the millennium, that Christ would come to do what they had failed in. The last long scene of the play is a meeting of Ranters, whose ecstatic and anarchic belief in economic and sexual freedom was the last desperate burst of revolutionary feeling before the restoration.

    The simple ‘Cavaliers and Roundheads’ history taught at school hides the complexity of the aims and conflicts of those to the left of Parliament. We are told of a step forward to today’s democracy but not of a revolution that didn’t happen; we are told of Charles and Cromwell but not of the thousands of men and women who tried to
    change their lives. Though nobody now expects Christ to make heaven on earth, their voices are surprisingly close to us.

    C.C. 1978

  3. Tony Greenstein on 17/02/2021 at 8:19pm

    yes I completely agree

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