Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Corbyn in North Wales

Last night's meeting with Jeremy Corbyn at Connah's Quay Labour Club was an insight into the potential for political change.

 Probably half of those present were curious to hear a man offering hope and a challenge to the political establishment, the rest appeared to be fervent converts to Corbynism (note the word 'socialism' wasn't mentioned once throughout the evening).

 Corbyn is refreshingly unspun. He's been an MP since 1983 and has campaigned for every unfashionable left-wing campaign since (as have many of us!). He has a consistency that has, until now, pushed him to the margins of Labour.

 The anti-Tory, anti-austerity rhetoric was good. He questioned why the rich need bonuses to perform but workers don't. He condemned Alistair Darling's call when the banks crashed to make cuts more severe than Thatcher: "Not offering an alternative to austerity is what cost us the election."

 Given his experienced Welsh campaign managers it was surprising he was so badly briefed about Wales... he mentioned re-opening the rail link from Aberystwyth to Cardiff, which got muffled applause in Connah's Quay; he attacked academy schools, ending EMA and tuition fees - which apply only in England. And, although he was spot on about privatisation and the hollowing-out of the NHS in England, his praise for the NHS under Labour in Wales cued an embarrassed silence. Nobody round here believes Labour is doing a good job of running the NHS in Wales.

A friend who was also there commented "he's the only hope Labour have" and she's right. If Labour reject Corbyn, they continue with the spin-doctored warmongering pro-austerity Labour party that has been hollowed out. 

But politics in Corbyn's world is still binary - we're Labour because we're anti-Tory therefore vote Labour. People in Connah's Quay, who had travelled from Cheshire, Prestatyn and Wrecsam to see him, could applaud that simplistic worldview but when asked by a Labour councillor if he'd work with the SNP in an anti-austerity alliance at Westminster he ducked the question.

In contrast to the earlier Llandudno meeting, there were no open questions at the end. Pre-selected Labour loyalists were invited to ask questions. It's clear that Old Labour, which never went away in places like Alyn & Deeside, is backing Corbyn to try to get rid of the parasitical New Labourites who have ruled the roost for a generation.

If Corbyn was to win, and the opinion polls all point to that, he will face a huge challenge. The backlash has already begun from Blairite loyalists and the prospect of a vicious internal civil war is very likely, not least because Corbyn wants to "re-democratise" the party.

Another Plaid Cymru member in attendance commented there was nothing he said that Leanne Wood hadn't said in the past two years and he's right. Wales already has party that is clearly offering an alternative to the Tory cuts agenda. The crucial difference is that Corbyn has yet to win over large swathes of his party to such an anti-austerity message.


Glenn Swingler said...

Labour trying to catch up. Still not much coming out about Wales. It will be interesting to see reactions after the vote (regardless of who wins) Many have made their views perfectly clear. This could actually tear labour apart.

Anonymous said...

Nice, honest review. As I suspected, totally decent guy, who has worked with Plaid Cymru on numerous occasions at Westminster; but a blind spot on Welsh Labour Government issues. The NHS is going to be Carwyn's to defend, not Corbyn's. People know its run by Wales now. Dangerous territory for Labour.