Writing an honest account of Corbynism and its defeat: my response to Len McCluskey

Owen clearly has a personal problem with Seumas Milne, who we are corralled into believing was responsible for all the woes of the Labour Party.

On anti-Semitism this failure is displayed once again. Having given a brilliant and detailed polemic of the history of anti-Semitism, he veers away to lay blame at the Milne and Murphy, based on a distorted view of what it was like trying to deal with the constant daily attacks.

Secondly, failure to apologise for anti-Semitism in the party when pressed to do so, capping years of mishandling of this question.

When you are in a war — and be under no illusion, from day one of his leadership, Corbyn was subjected to an internal and external war — you develop methods of defence and attack that change by necessity almost on a daily, if not hourly basis. Being in your living room, observing with a typewriter, is a damn sight easier than being in the ditches on the front line, trying to dodge bullets flying at you from all angles, especially from your own side.

I would have expected him to try to understand what it must have been like running an operation in such extreme difficulties (Stephen Bush clearly understood in his New Statesman review of Left Out and This Land). Instead, he displays no empathy towards such intense and immense circumstances.

In one complaint, he says of the broadband policy that it should have been trialled in the previous 18 months, failing to understand the battles taking place that sucked so much energy out of Corbyn’s team.

In Len McCluskey’s opinion, far from being embraced in working-class communities, billions for free broad- band was seen as an absurd joke. ‘There spoke the desperation, the hope that if you come up with all kinds of policies and push Brexit aside in people’s minds, they’ll be interested in policies,’ he tells me. ‘It was the exact opposite; people thought it was ridiculous.’

Len McCluskey was damning about the campaign: ‘It was a mish mash of policies which, in my opinion, was determined by people who don’t live in the working-class world.’

Owen is obviously a fan of John McDonnell, as am I. I agree with his description of John as “Labour’s lost leader”, but it was John who ran the 2019 election campaign strategy, for which he has honourably stated “I take full responsibility”, not Murphy or Milne.

And on the one issue that brought about the tensions and schisms in the top team, Owen fails to point out (with the benefit of the only exact science — hindsight — something he uses often in the book) that it was Milne and Murphy who were proved right, and McDonnell and Fisher (and Owen, reluctantly) who were proved wrong.

We now have an incompetent, dangerous Tory government in office. They’re going to have to come to some kind of agreement with the EU, but it’s already proving difficult to achieve. We could have done things much better. Was there a better way? Well, obviously the party could have just reiterated the 2017 policy, which was one of respecting the referendum result and working to build a relationship with Europe in the future. But the strength of support within the party for a second referendum was absolutely huge — as was reflected in the pressures of the 2018 conference. The result was the compromise reached in 2019.



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Owen Jones

Owen Jones


Author of 'The Establishment' and 'Chavs', Socialist, Guardian columnist. Losing my Northern accent. My views etc... https://www.youtube.com/c/OwenJonesTalks