The usual political commentators and ”senior Labour figures” expressed shock at the by-election loss by Labour of Copeland and the relatively poor performance in Stoke. They were unanimous in blaming Jeremy Corbyn.
Local issues were important in both constituencies. UKIP’s newest leader, Paul Nuttall, standing in Stoke, revealed himself as a very nasty piece of work and a serial liar. Copeland is the site of the Sellafield reprocessing plant and Corbyn’s conversion to nuclear power didn’t convince.
New Labour Failed
But it is astonishing that those who constantly attack Corbyn, in particular many of the Labour old guard, are blind to how much politics has changed. Under Blair and Brown the Labour vote had already declined by four million votes. In Scotland Labour totally collapsed well before Corbyn became leader. The fundamental economic policy of the Blair/ Brown years was to pander to the market, to encourage banking and corporate excess. Inequality visibly grew while benefit payments and personal debt masked inadequate incomes. Whole regions were left to decline. New hospitals were paid forwith future debt while Labour ministers opened the door to privatisation. With the ﬁnancial collapse workers were left weaker, worse off and then presented with the bill. We all have to live with the consequences of Blair’s warmongering. That is what New Labour did.
Corbyn and McDonnell Have to Choose
Those who joined Labour and voted overwhelmingly for Corbyn want nothing to do with policies which were economically disastrous and failed politically. Labour now has to offer a strong and credible alternative not only to the failed Labour policies of the past but to the Tories, to UKIP and to the stay-at-home cynics.
That is the problem. Nuclear power will poison and mortgage the country’s future but Labour had no programme to replace those Sellafield jobs. Many Labour MPs will do all they can to undermine Corbyn yet John McDonnell’s proposal ”to listen to Progress” (the Blairite group within Labour) implies ditching radical policies. Labour demands proper funding for the NHS yet fails to say where the funds are to come from. Income and wealth inequality have to be confronted and serious taxes levied on those who monopolise the country’s wealth. The message on the doorstep from Labour canvassers should be “We will tax the rich”. That is the way to energise the electorate and to win elections.