Article originally published 01/08/2016: due to a technical issue this article may have resurfaced for some readers, and the original publish date may not have been visible.
Left-wing journalist Owen Jones has written a withering blog about how Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party is on the “brink of disaster” in a move that could prove hugely significant in the leadership election.
The Guardian journalist and darling of the Left reveals how he has “agonised over Labour’s terrible plight”, and spells out in brutal detail how the party under Corbyn’s leadership faces “calamitous” polling, is short of a “clear vision”, and does not have “any clear” media strategy.
He fears Labour being “wiped out as a political force”, and “anything vaguely left-wing” being “mocked for the rest of your life” and a “throwback to the discredited Labour era of the 2010s”.
Jones, a long-standing supporter of Corbyn, writes he is “beyond caring” if his criticism causes discomfort and recognises he risks being labelled a “Blairite, Tory, Establishment stooge”.
In the most significant few lines, the author of Chavs and The Establishment argues how socialists should not be embarrassed to want to hold power.
“There are some who seem to believe seeking power is somehow ‘Blairite’. It is Blairite to seek power to introduce Blairite policies. It is socialist to seek power to introduce socialist policies.”
His piece, written on the Medium blogging platform, underlines how many people who would naturally support Corbyn are now venting their frustration publicly.
In The Guardian tonight, former economic advisers to Corbyn - David Blanchflower, a former member of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee, and Simon Wren-Lewis, a professor at Oxford University - reveal they are backing Corbyn’s rival, Owen Smith, for Labour leader.
Jones does not endorse Smith but makes clear he was “in a pit of despair” over the direction the party was headed soon after Corbyn’s initial victory last summer. Underlining his left-wing credentials and the authority he can boast in criticising the top team, he makes clear:
“I not only spoke at Jeremy Corbyn leadership rallies: I introduced him at the final one. I helped choose the name for Momentum. This isn’t a milieu that I know well: it’s a milieu I’m part of.”
His opening line sets the tone:
“Labour and the left teeter on the brink of disaster. There, I said it.”
And the blog ends in a similar spirit:
“The situation is extremely grave and unless satisfactory answers are offered, we are nothing but the accomplices of the very people we oppose.”
In between, he separates himself from “the vehement media attacks on Corbyn” that “come from those who do not want the left to succeed”. “My starting point is exactly the opposite. I worry about the left failing, and even disappearing forever,” he goes on.
While warning “anti-austerity” is not enough of a message to convince an entire country to vote Labour, and questioning whether Corbyn’s policies are any different from those offered unsuccessfully by Ed Miliband, Jones reserves his most damning criticism for the Corbyn leadership’s media strategy.
“There doesn’t seem to be any clear media strategy,” he says, candidly, adding:
“Corbyn often seems entirely missing in action, particularly at critical moments: Theresa May becoming the new Prime Minister, the appointment of Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary, the collapse of the Government’s economic strategy, the abolition of the Department of Energy and Climate Change, soaring hate crimes after Brexit, and so on. Where have been the key media interventions here?”
And he dismisses a strong social media presence as a “substitute”. He writes:
“Only a relatively tiny proportion of the population use Twitter, for example, to talk about or access political news: disproportionately those who are already signed up believers.”
Jones goes on to warn how the thousands of people that turn out to pro-Corbyn rallies are having a mis-leading effect, and should not be taken as evidence that the polls are wrong:
“There is no question that Jeremy Corbyn has inspired and enthused hundreds of thousands of people all over Britain. But Michael Foot attracted huge rallies across the country in the build-up to Labour’s 1983 general election disaster. When Neil Kinnock saw the huge crowd at the infamous Sheffield rally in 1992, he was undoubtedly convinced he was going to become Prime Minister. It did not happen.”