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David Stubbs - 27 Sep 2018


I think yesterday's final conference speech, and Labour's conference as a whole, represented a palpable change in British politics. Corbyn spoke with a certain calm he didn't have a few years ago; the calm of a leader of a party slowly and inevitably being energised from below. The idea that Labour is a "cult", the instrument of the High Sparrow's will, doesn't fly. (If that were the case, Labour wouldn't still be opting for Trident, something I disagree with also). If Corbyn does secretly harbour EP Thompson-inspired Lexit dreams, then he was disabused of the idea that most Labour share those secret dreams also. That's as it should be; the Labour Party isn't about him - he'll move on in time - but the membership, what's coming after him, a movement growing in numbers, confidence and competence, who, far from being "hard left" are helping pull back the centre from the right. A movement with youth on its side despite the age of its current leaders. Ideas that under New Labour would have been considered pie-in-the-sky lunacy are now taking their proper place in the mainstream of feasibility.

I know Brexit is perilously unresolved (I'm as pro-Remain as they come) but this country does have a future of some sort and I see every reason to believe that Labour will be leading it some time very soon. And I think it's about time some on the Labour right acknowledged this and stopped wasting their time and energy trying to fight it, as if the restoration of the likes of Caroline Flint and the rise of people like Stephen Kinnock is some sort of actual existing possibility. There's more chance of a Lib Dem resurgence than that happening. Face it - your people lost.

There's a diagnosis by some of what's happened to Labour; that everything was fine and functional and then, the membership turned unaccountably moron and decided to elect Corbyn. There was further astonishment when he didn't capitulate under the relentless sniping and manoeuvring of establishment Labour groups like Labour First and further astonishment still that he achieved the share he did in the 2017 election. And yet, denial that this has anything to do with a sincere sea change, that it's not the 1990s any more, persists.

I have all kinds of doubts about Corbyn's personal abilities, foibles, etc but none at all about the direction he's taken the party in, and am impressed that he hasn't capitulated to relentless efforts by assorted centrists to wrest back power and restore it to the "grown-ups" as they love to describe themselves, with a condescension whose charms many in the Labour movement find bafflingly resistible.

Sustained by a massive, massive sulk that they have been displaced, they don't engage on any soul-searching or any sense that they might actually in some way to blame for their own demise. No, it was just an outburst of looniness. Why, you only have to look at Twitter to see that! And so, dredging the depths of Twitter, they come up with plentiful examples of someone somewhere who said something stupid to console themselves with the utter idiocy of their opponents. Surely, any day soon, common sense will be restored. So wistful and intense and amnesiac is this feeling that people, grown-up people, are actually wondering why we can't have Tony Blair back (what did he ever do that was colossally catastrophic?) or fete Margaret Hodge - Margaret "give natives priority for social housing" Hodge! - as a paragon of anti-racism. 

Look - an idealistic movement like Labour in its present incarnation will attract cranks, twits, a few lingering tanks and yes, even anti-Semites. But to damn the entire possibility of opposing the prolonged and ever-increasing inequality that is pulling the UK apart on those grounds is to wilfully ignore the vast numbers of decent people working in good faith and with no other agenda than a desire for social justice. Why abstain from that? Of course, Corbyn is imperfect - but whose fault was it that when it came to picking a left-leaning leader, he was the only choice on the menu? New Labour's, for a deliberate systematic (and, as I saw with my own eyes, corrupt) selection process for Prospective parliamentary candidates. 

And yes, he did Press TV. But here's what I'm talking about when I talk about wasting time. I wish he hadn't done Press TV, I wish he'd handled having done it better but a) it's not quite so bad as a war in which over a million people died, which apparently we're supposed to regard as water under the bridge and b) the electorate doesn't give a toss about stuff like this. It's nothing to them. You will not topple Corbyn with stuff like this. Also, the mooted idea that it shows how "dangerous" such a man would be once in power - are you serious? What, you think he's going to declare himself Ayatollah?

Blair is history, Corbyn will be soon enough. It's what's coming after that which interests and excites me. I think everyone, from centre to centre left should be a part of it, neither exclude themselves or be excluded. Labour is the future.

My book 'Mars By 1980: The Story Of Electronic Music' (Faber & Faber) is out now


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