Lindsey German reflects on the Labour right’s latest descent into the depths of opportunist bilge
The Sadiq Khan intervention in support of Owen Smith rests on a number of pillars: the supposed inability of Jeremy Corbyn to get elected; the anti-austerity record of Smith; and his opposition to the Iraq war (!).
On the first, let's put it kindly. There is absolutely no evidence that Smith can lead Labour to general election victory. None at all. There isn't much evidence that he can win the Labour leadership.
Let us remember that Brown and Miliband both lost, so Labour hasn't won an election for 11 years. It faces difficulties in doing so, but Jeremy Corbyn is better placed than the other candidate to do so because he has policies which can appeal to the electorate. His main barrier to doing so is the constant barrage of abuse, sabotage, misinformation and dishonesty which has plagued him from day one. His anti-austerity and anti-war records are popular both within Labour and outside.
How else do we explain Owen Smith's (and Khan's) appropriation of them as his own? Because let's face it, no one had any idea that he was anti-austerity or anti-war until this election came along. Abstention on the welfare bill and working for a pro-war MP in 2003 don't exactly point in the right direction. But Smith knows that he only has even the remotest chance of winning if he adopted the Corbyn identity but professes to be more efficient and more like a 'leader'.
It's unlikely to convince many people, because why vote for the latter day convert (backed by people who probably find Smith's utterances akin to Trotskyism anyway) when you can have the original who we know hasn't bent towards Blairism over the past decades.
Sadiq Khan's ludicrous positioning as the person who is the authority on winning elections should not fool anyone. Khan's success was in getting selected for Labour, against the favourite for mayoral candidate, Tessa Jowell. He had to tack left then, because the right all backed Jowell, and was no question propelled into the candidacy by the left.
As soon as he won, his statements changed, and nothing he has done since has put him anywhere on the left. Labour would always have won against the hapless Zac Goldsmith.
You have to wonder about Khan's judgement and self respect too, to campaign for the EU alongside David Cameron, the man who led an Islamophobic campaign against him from the despatch box of the House of Commons.
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
More articles from this author
- Tories 3-0 down in the culture wars – weekly briefing
- Better safe than sorry you believed Boris – weekly briefing
- ‘Blame the Muslims’ is the new cry from Labour – weekly briefing
- What a HanCock up! – weekly briefing
- Tories fail, Starmer flails - weekly briefing
- The Ratline and The Good Germans - book review
- Trans rights, women’s rights and open debate – weekly briefing