« Jeremy Corbyn’s main fault was that he sat on the fence for too long after his election as Labour Leader. He could have brought down the Theresa May’s Government by a vote of no-confidence when she was totally lost over the Brexit issue. By failing to do so he allowed the emergence of such a character as Boris Johnson to dominate the British political scene. »

PETER CHELLEN

In an article in the Independent we read that the unsuccessful Labour MP for Durham North East lays the blame on former British PM Tony Blair’s legacy for the defeat of the Labour Party at the December 12 General Election. “The Blair’s legacy hangs around the Party like a millstone”, is Laura Pidcock’s contention, according to the Independent. “The defeat of the Labour Party is to be found at the door of New Labour’s architects”, says Ms Pidcock.

The working class across the north of England had been, in the old days, predominantly Labour, but under Blair’s New Labour from 1997 to 2010, they were completely neglected and taken for granted, according to one paper. The working-class of the north had been completely alienated from Labour, for whom they had voted since the 1920s

Moreover, Blair’s middle-of-the-road New Labour policies turned this socialist stronghold into a Conservative bastion with the unions having no say. This is the legacy of Blair’s New Labour standpoint.

Yet, Tony Blair’s New Labour, at the 1997 General Election, did put an end to the 18 years of the Conservative supremacy in the UK from 1979 by a landslide victory with a majority of 132 seats. This victory is regarded as the greatest performance of the Labour Party since 1931, and the largest majority ever achieved by any party.

The paradox is that the Labour Party’s greatest achievement under the leadership of Tony Blair also marks the beginning of the decline of the Party’s popularity. Today, apart from the fact that people, erroneously, talk of Brexit as the decisive factor for Labour’s defeat at the recent General Election, it must be remembered, that the Party had been set in decline by the very man who brought it up in the 1990s.

Soon after the General Election of 1997 when Tony Blair became Prime Minister, the Labour Party was torn apart by the bitter feud between himself and his Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, to the point that even today, 20 years later, those two ex-friends are not on speaking term, it is reported. The ongoing Infighting within the Labour Party that practically started with Tony Blair in the 1990s is one of the factors that has been tarnishing the image of the Party through the years. Apart from cohabitation in Government proved difficult, Tony Blair refused to share the Premiership, as agreed, with Gordon Brown. By the time he was forced to do so in 2007, the popularity of the Labour Party had reached rock bottom. The writing was on the wall: The Labour Party could never obtain a majority of seats in Parliament again.

Blair’s legacy would mar the Labour Party’s popularity through the years after he left. The internal strife that has characterised the Party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn began with the Blair year. The Party found some respite when, for a short period, Harriet Harman took over from Gordon as Party leader when he succumbed to the David Cameron/Nick Clegg coalition in 2010.

On taking from Tony Blair in 2007 with two years left of Labour’s third term, Gordon Brown was urged by the media and the public to go to the poll, for a fresh mandate. Gordon Brown lamentably refused to do so, and there again brought down the popularity of the Labour Party. Such power-sharing arrangement between Blair and Brown would later become common practice when David Cameron without any qualm let Theresa May take the helm. But there was quite an outcry in Mauritius when a similar arrangement was done: Jugnauth the Elder giving the driving wheel to Jugnauth the Younger. ‘Papa piti siccession, the country clamoured in vain.

Anyhow, Gordon Brown had to go to the public at the end of what Blair left to him of the existing mandate in 2010. Labour’s credibility was nil. It was widely expected that the Liberal Democrats leader Nick Clegg would go in alliance with Labour at the poll. Nick Clegg, agreed to fight the election in alliance with the Labour Party only if Gordon Brown would step down as leader of the Party. Brown refused to do so.

Then, contrary to all expectations, Nick Clegg alarmingly, went into alliance with the Conservative Party and put David Cameron in power with himself as Deputy Prime Minister. The alliance of Liberal Party with the ailing Tories dealt a severe blow to the diseased Labour Party and established the Conservatives once more in power (almost for good). It has been said that the Tories are the natural rulers of Britain. Once in power, it is very hard to oust them. So these are the facts that make Labour’s attempt to unseat the Tories to be an almost impossible task. Brexit is nothing but a tiny spot on the whole picture.

Under Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Leader’s task was made almost impossible vis-a-vis any Machiavellian adversary who did not hesitate to hit below the belt, an expert newsfaker. However, the internal strife within the Party will be a curse that will always make Labour unelectable.

This in-fighting within The Labour Party was to recur after the resignation of defeated Gordon Brown at the poll in 2010. The Party again experienced a period of discord when the Miliband brothers, David and Ed, fought for the leadership of the Party in 2014. To all intents and purposes, it was David Miliband who should have succeeded Gordon Brown as Labour leader, but brother Ed stood in his way. This sort of discord diminished the seriousness of the Party in the eyes of the electorate. Ed Miliband proved to be a disaster as Labour leader and lost to David Cameron in 2010. He gave up the leadership and was succeeded by Jeremy Corbyn.

So far, i.e. until then, there was no question of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, more especially as the Milibands are themselves of Jewish extraction. But suddenly as Jeremy Corbyn took over the leadership, the Party was overnight rife with anti-Jewish activities, and this became a serious issue undermining Corbyn’s authority. It can be seen as a conspiracy.

The Corbyn-bashing by the right-wing press coupled with the proven lies of the Conservative leader gave no chance to the Labour Party at the December 12 General Election. But again, it must be stressed that the degeneration of the Labour Party started with the Tony Blair era and not from the Corbyn era.

Jeremy Corbyn’s main fault was that he sat on the fence for too long after his election as Labour Leader. He could have brought down the Theresa May’s Government by a vote of no-confidence when she was totally lost over the Brexit issue. By failing to do so he allowed the emergence of such a character as Boris Johnson to dominate the British political scene. Boris Johnson made mincemeat of the ‘pious’ Jeremy. (Former Labour Minister Allan Johnson qualifies the labour leader as a  … pious man.)

So, it would seem, according to general opinion three factors had predominantly brought down the Labour Party at the poll, namely Brexit, infighting, and anti-Semitism. This article lays stress mainly on the infighting (which is now at its zenith to find a replacement for Corbyn) and makes passing reference to anti-Semitism which seems to have been an overnight occurrence during Corbyn short leadership. It has not been proved in what respect did Corbyn encourage anti-Semitism within the Party. Many people are curious to know how does one define anti-Semitism and why does it exist.

When all is said and done, one can still sum up Corbyn’s shortcomings as leader of the Labour Party:

1) He failed to capitalise on his popularity at the time of his election as leader of the labour Party when he gave hope to young people of a new vigour.

2) He failed to capitalise when the Conservative Party was at its lowest ebb and Theresa May was seen as the worst PM in years by her Party itself.

3) He failed to move for a Vote of No confidence in the Government that would have destroyed the credibility of the Conservative Party.

4) His stance on the Brexit issue was ambivalent and too vague. He gave the impression to Labour supporters that he was himself a ‘pro-Brexiteer’.

5) He sat on the fence for too long on the Brexit issue leaving space for a fox like Boris Johnson to manoeuvre at ease.

6) His support for the Second Referendum seemed hesitant and came too late.

7) His Party was internally at war with itself which weakened his leadership.

8) The unfounded claim of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party was not forcefully exposed and denied.

9) Beyond his control, politics has worldwide moved to the Right, with Donald Trump trumpeting and leading the band.

10) Unfortunately, his militancy as a union man has had its day. He cannot bite anymore. He is no match to a buoyant Boris Johnson. Perhaps, Labour needs another Tony Blair who could take the world to war on the flimsy pretext of a non-existent Weapon of Mass Destruction. Two peacocks on a shouting match in the House would be quite a sight.