crowdsourcing politics – corbyn playing games or a real game-changer?

This has just popped into my inbox.

Labour's crowdsourcing of PMQs

It’s official stuff from Labour, barely hours after Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide election; pretty complex and strategic long-burn stuff too.

I wonder how many people within the Party have been spending precious resource in the full knowledge that Corbyn was going to win.  I also wonder how it’s been enabled, exactly.  How it’s been coordinated.  How they knew before anyone knew.

Stuff I’m not privy to, of course.  Stuff I have no data about.

Anyhow.  Dan Hodges – well-known loyal Labourite that he is – reacts thus:

And then proceeds to tweet this:

It seems to me he has a point in both tweets, but at the same time completely – surprisingly – misses the point as well.

The point being?  Corbyn beat the Blairites hands-down on precisely the ground they had once made their own:

You never beat a governing party before you beat your own.  That’s the way of politics.  Alastair Campbell, more than anybody surely, should be fully aware of this fact.

That in the midst of their sense of foggy impotence, perhaps rightly felt too (only time will tell), Hodges, Campbell, Rob Marchant & Co should – in a sense – be blaming the voters for treading where only political fools have ever gone is the most surprising thing about this astonishing election process.

For Corbyn didn’t win because the voters allowed themselves to be duped.  Corbyn and his team won – will continue to win, if they continue to do so – by the same process and journey Blair et al went through as they won all the times that Campbell properly reminds us of:

  1. within their Party, gaining the foothold on power;
  2. still to be seen of course, negotiating high internal expectations with growing and complicated realities;
  3. one day going to the country, and battling the ranged forces of media hostility, own goals to be committed (as we all end up doing), and the long ragged wearinesses of any general election;
  4. showing themselves actually capable of delivering what they eventually choose to widely promise.

Whilst the Blairites (if it is at all fair to reduce them to what now feels such a disrespectful and limiting noun) are hating the size of the victory, and find grace in defeat so challenging, at least today, at least for now, they may nevertheless have a longer-term point in their autumnal discontent.  But whilst they continue not to recognise that Corbyn has beaten them on the patch they never expected to lose over – audience understanding and connection, the machine of their politics, technical efficiency and a sheer overall competence – they will never be in a position to be able to accurately predict whether Corbyn’s Labour will win or not.

And in their lack of humility and objectivity one might also wonder if they would now prefer that such a Labour lost the next general election than won, hands-down, the eternal duel fought across the writhing bodies of us haplessly confused voters.

Not because Corbyn’s policies were better either – rather, simply because his political nous, the machinery I mention above, was ultimately able to out-New Labour everything the Blairites had once laboured for so brilliantly.

Isn’t it, then, possible and fair to suggest, Dan & Fam, that Corbyn won not because the voters were dumb, empty-headed or simplistic but, far more likely, because – in quite neutral terms – his campaign was by far the most politically effective and intelligent since the Blairites themselves showed us how it should be done?

And to be honest, if that’s the case, whilst crowdsourcing the very short and silly game that is Prime Minister’s Questions to half a million of your voters is hardly a sincere and truthfully useful game-changer (how on earth will anyone expect for their point of view ever to get through to Parliament itself?), as a way of a) ingratiating yourself with your recent voters (the very day he’s voted in, Corbyn’s already connecting directly) at the same time as b) putting the PM on the back foot (any stupid jokes Cameron makes as his wont will now generate headlines about his lack of respect for painful questions asked on behalf of pain-ridden people), it all goes to clearly demonstrate that Corbyn’s Labour will be anything but naive lead-weighted monolithic leftishnesses.

What Dan & Fam really fear, I think, though I don’t know if they’ve realised it consciously yet, is that Corbyn’s team have read Machiavelli (or is that Mandelson?) from cover to cover – to cover to cover to cover.

In this sense, Dan doesn’t really fear that Labour will lose against Cameron.

Dan really fears Labour’s on the road to beating him.

why we need jc to want bc more than tb did #labourleadership

Jeremy Corbyn has won the Labour leadership election.  That we know.

Labour leadership election results

Tom Watson, who I’d’ve preferred as leader, but who stood for deputy, has won the latter election.  In the end, I wavered between him, my original first choice, and Stella Creasy, who ended up first on my ballot paper with Tom second.

Both Stella and Tom were – and are – extremely capable, what’s more moral but not moralising, politicians.  I’ve been searching for quite a while for candidates and representatives who can take the moral high ground without their declarations sticking in my craw.  They fit the bill in this respect.  I hope Tom will see his way – hierarchically, I mean – to taking onboard the manifest strengths of Stella’s “judge me by what I do” political activism.

Actually, he, himself, over the past few years (re the Murdochs, phone-hacking, VIP paedophilia etc), is – clearly I feel – an active, a proactive, citizen made in a similarly admirable mould to Stella.

Two to continue watching for a long time to come – to continue watching but, more importantly, to continue drawing example from.

Some thoughts, then, on Jeremy Corbyn, about whom I have reservations.

I retweeted this earlier in the day from Paul Mason:

I sincerely wonder whether the left, trampled on for so long by the mix and match-ism of Blair’s Third Way, is capable of being coherent with its obviously sincere long-held tenets and – at the same time – sufficiently creative for a 21st century which demands of us creativity above all to face its many dreadful challenges.

The problem with creativity is that it continually asks you to surprise yourself.  It is not easily pursued by those who demand consistency and resilience in politicking.  How, then, can the left now in ascendancy disentangle properly the desire to be creative from the danger and risk of being perceived as exhibiting disloyalty to a heritage of (truly, frankly, clearly honestly) sustained allegiances to multiple concepts such as community, decency, humanity, kindness etc?

How can you be clever, quick-footed, quick of concept and politically witty without ignoring that which underpins attention to long-running details and commitments?

Will the terms “values”, “missions” and “strategies versus tactics” return to the fold of acceptable Labour-talk I wonder?

Can Labour win the next general election under JC without employing the verbal and conceptual paraphernalia and fireworks of TB’s New Labour?

No.

I don’t mean the policies, which – in any case – TB et al sometimes seemed to end up inventing, as is the ultimate wont of the powerful, on the back of sofa-located envelopes and notepads.

And whether these sofas are champagned or couch-potatoed really makes no odds.  The issue is, rather, whether JC is to abandon any pretence that Labour is to remain a BC – no, not as in “Before Corbyn” but as per all those good intentions to being a “Broad Church” – or, on the other hand, if he is to use his moral charisma (should we call it that?) to make the Party fairly uniquely in his own image, in much the same way as TB once used – all those years ago now – his own very social charisma to do much the same.

For TB saw “inclusion” as meaning making everyone so excited about Labour’s potential to generate change that the absolute trust gained might give absolute freedoms for the very clever and generously far-sighted.  (When in truth, it corrupted – eventually – just about as absolutely.)

It’s here I wonder if, deep down, JC is of similar attitudes and assumptions – perhaps quite despite himself.

It’s why I wanted Tom Watson to be leader, to be honest.  I wanted someone who’s in politics to do stuff with stuff that understands ideology as a tool to be learned, played with and fashioned, not a coherence of a straitjacket to be imposed for the wider good, and limitlessly justified with a medicinal fervour only the neo-liberals themselves would care to count themselves as proud of.

I hope JC wishes to do the former; that his instincts in this still hugely hierarchical body politic that is the United Kingdom will lead him to do what I am convinced Tom, given the chance, would have both intuitively and consciously striven to achieve.

But I’m afraid I fear that the suffering, both physical and intellectual, which the years since both TB’s Iraq and David Cameron/Nick Clegg’s awful awful Coalition have engendered in so many of our working-poor, unemployed, disabled, elderly, youthful and youthful in spirit will make it all too easy for the all-too-easy route of politics by numbers to become par for the course.

I don’t think JC will want Labour to remain that Broad Church I mention – probably because (hardly surprisingly) he will judge that, in truth, in reality, in practice, it generally never has been one.  More a Church of the Resignedly Tolerant than a Broad Church maybe?

When Blair took over Labour, he did so with our blessing: a saviour, himself, of the cruellest moments of Thatcherism.

Saviours are dangerous things, though.

Messy things.

The trust they demand creates expectations which can never, finally, be fulfilled.

The only real solid goal they can ever have is to keep the ball rolling for long enough for some decent good to come of the juggernaut set in motion.

But in the end such rocks, such movements, meet their hard places.  Let’s hope Mr Corbyn knows better how to negotiate Labour and the country’s needs than I expect him to.

I don’t ever like being in the smug position of an “I told you so …”.

It’s not creative in the least.

And I’m, first and foremost, above all, more than anything else, in love with the creative.  Not just in politics, of course.  But not least in politics.

It is – don’t you think? – where creativity could absolutely do the most good of all.  No?

why i’d like tom watson to be leader and stella creasy to be deputy #labourleadership

Tom Watson has a moral leadership that smacks in no way of moralistic leadership.  There are too many self-righteous people in politics at the moment for us to want any more – yet doing the right things properly, and learning from mistakes where made, are surely what we should be looking for in future leaders.

Humility is hard won and easily lost, but after his battles with the empire of the Murdochs, for all the right reasons and properly, and in a horrifyingly developing aftermath still developing horrifyingly with respect to VIP paedophilia, Watson is still more humble than most of us would be in similar circumstances – as well as focussed, also still, on the task of improving a whole society in complex and far-reaching ways few of us will ever get to perceive.

To know the awful underbelly of a body politic and yet, even so, to love it enough to want to save it from itself – without falling into the trap of a public, and self-publicising, self-righteousness – is achievement indeed.

And it ennobles him.

So rather than Deputy Leader, I’d like to vote for him as Leader.  (Even as this voting for a leader in general goes against my grassroots impulses and instincts – but more of this below …)

Where Blair, David Miliband, Liz Kendall et all were tempted/might be tempted some day down the line to tread, I think it difficult to contemplate that Watson would do the same.

He deserves a chance; we deserve that he has that chance too.

Stella Creasy has a shorter trajectory as befits her relative chronology, but has similarly been placing example before fine words.  This may lose her the Deputy election – or not; I don’t know – but, as a longer-term strategy, can only operate in the same way as Watson’s: don’t tell people what you want to do; show them instead … in fact, take the time you need – and the time your people need.

Choose your targets politically and humanely, both.

Get on with the job in hand.

Lead by that example I describe.

Lead through a careful seeding of actions.  Like growing turf over time, not laying it overnight.

Think first in private; develop your ideas in a slow-burn and sophisticated way.  Sophisticated in the sense of coherent, cogent and careful, though – not in the sense of wonkish.  Not any more.

Then primarily do and demonstrate them in practice, whether people understand yet – or not – how far ahead you’re headed.

For me, it’d be a wonderful start to a renewing Labour if Tom Watson ended up Leader and Stella Creasy ended up Deputy.  We’d then have what I’ve asked of Twitter today:

Perhaps (yes, I can see you’re desperate to do so) you would argue that Jeremy Corbyn combines the twin virtues of, on the one hand, moral leadership and, on the other, grassroots adherence – that is to say, all in one?  The easy answer too, maybe, to the tweet in question – and the conundrum I pose implicitly?

I’m not sure I’m going to allow you to convince me.  I suspect, when history one day gets told, that Corbyn’s campaign will be seen more as employing the kind of machine-politics tools we once loved about New Labour.  More rigid in its values, mind – in the sense of never swerving from them, ever – but then again, I never liked Thatcher … precisely because I’ve always valued fudge.

It seems more human, more necessary, more appropriate for complex times … where the simpleness of black and white only hurts those of us who vote hopefully for them.

So.

My choice is cast, and cannot be cast.  My dream ticket is Tom & Stella.  But Labour is unable, for me, to deliver.

At least this time round, anyhow.

At least in 2015.

What should I do?  Vote for no one this month – and wait a couple of years in hope, for another chance?

What say you – Tom and Stella?

What should I do?