Oh dear. Oh dear. Owen Jones

22nd January, 2013 8:52 am

I like Owen. He is a very bright, personable and decent chap. In terms of the Labour Hard Left he is the most talented polemicist and communicator they have had for a generation. I also know as Hackney North CLP Agent that he is not an armchair theorist but while he was living here rolled up his sleeves and did more than his fair share of canvassing and leafleting for Labour.

But his column this week in the Independent was execrable cobblers.

On the plus side Owen seems to firmly discount the idea of a left-of-Labour party emerging, which has been a matter of discussion, and doomed initiatives (Socialist Labour Party, Socialist Alliance, Respect, TUSC), ever since the New Clause IV was adopted by Labour in 1994, dropping a paper commitment to state ownership of the economy.

This is quite significant as Owen has been closely associated with the Labour Representation Committee, which the more paranoid amongst us saw as being a prototype or incubator for a breakaway left Labour Party, what with its constitution, conference, policies, national executive, geographical branches and affiliated trade unions.

But much as Owen seeks to dismiss the party-building of the Leninists, he is transfixed by them and can’t stop writing about them.

He spends the first two paragraphs discussing the imminent demise of the SWP, critiquing them admirably frankly, but suggesting they are important. This is a curious phenomenon on the Labour hard left – caring about what happens to the SWP and what SWP members think. It’s bizarre because this grouping is absolutely unheard of amongst ordinary voters, particularly ones who are either a) “workers” or b) consider themselves “socialists” (which for normal people is another way of saying “I vote Labour”). Their main function is to provide a kind of ritualised annoyance factor to mainstream trade unionists and student unionists, and to give rival (even smaller) Leninist grouplets someone to write snide articles about.

It took me my first 15 years in Labour politics to work out that the reason why my Labour Hard Left colleagues took the SWP seriously was they all drank together in the same pubs in Clapton, and from the purity of their existence outside the Labour Party and its messy compromises with actual working class voters, the SWPers take the piss mercilessly out of their Labour counterparts. I mean imagine, having to canvass people rather than sell them newspapers, and being part of an internal party democracy which requires you to debate and win votes against evil social democratic sell-outs like Luke the Nuke Akehurst, rather than just do what you are told by the Central Committee… ugh the thought of it. This embarrasses the Labour lefties, and makes them feel compromised and impure, implying as it does that their socialism is half-hearted and tainted.

Owen goes on to say, of Labour, that “there is a battle to be won in compelling the party to fight for working people.” This is frankly insulting to everyone who represents Labour. It implies we are not fighting for working people now. He claims that “the opponents of austerity are scattered and fragmented”, obviously choosing to ignore that the Labour Party itself is opposed to austerity and proposing a different economic strategy based on growth and jobs.

He looks with envy on UKIP as a model for mobilising political discontent, ignoring the lesson that yes, UKIP has garnered about 10% of voters, but it has marched them off into the political wilderness to shout bar-room platitudes at their TV sets and protest vote, simultaneously weakening the mainstream party, the Tories, that might have actually advanced a watered-down version of their beliefs.

Owen says that “What is missing in British politics is a broad network that unites progressive opponents of the Coalition.” I’m sorry but I thought he and I were both members of a “a broad network that unites progressive opponents of the Coalition”. It has the support of 40+% of voters, 200,000 members in branches in every constituency, millions of affiliated members in trade unions, won 258 MPs and 29% of the vote even in a catastrophic year, has thousands of councillors and controls dozens of local authorities, and won 3 of the last 4 General Elections. In power it created the NHS and the welfare state, and between 1997 and 2010 it introduced progressive reforms by the bucket load, created a minimum wage and redistributive tax credits, spent record levels on year-on-year and capital investment in schools and hospitals, and had a bold reflationary response to the global financial crash.

It’s called the Labour Party. We don’t need another “broad network”.

We need to persuade people that the way to change the country is to work tirelessly for a Labour government and Labour representation at every other level too. There is enough work to be done in what will be a tough General Election and in the new community campaigning model we are rolling out, without wasting energy creating a “broad network” which would be used and abused by every extremist sect as a recruitment and paper-selling target-rich-environment, or become a
talk-shop for abstract theoreticians, like Compass did.

What insults me though (because I think Owen and I should be in the same broad party working together) is the composition he suggests for his “broad network”. He actually defines it as something both lots more narrow and lots more leftwing than the Labour Party. He defines “progressive opponents of the Coalition”. as “those in Labour who want a proper alternative to Tory austerity, Greens, independent lefties, but also those who would not otherwise identify as political, but who are furious and frustrated.” So people who fight to stop Labour winning elections like the Greens are in, but people like me who work their socks off for a Labour government are not to be included in this “broad network”. We are not, apparently, “progressive”. Presumably nor
are Ed Miliband or Ed Balls. This is using the word “progressive” like the old Communist Party did: code for “people that agree with our line”, and anyone else is written off as “reactionary”. Thanks a bundle Owen, very comradely.

Owen says he has “met thousands who want to do something with their anger” about the Government but “Until now, I have struggled with an answer.” Did it not occur to him as a Labour Party member that the answer was to join the Labour Party and work for a Labour government?

The objective for Owen’s “network” would be to “create political space for policies that otherwise does not exist”. There’s a good reason why far left policies don’t exist in the programmes of social democratic parties. It’s that they are unpopular. Democracy leads centre-left parties to, often by trial-and-error after an election defeat or two, adopt policies that people, or at least a plurality of them, want.

I worked this out in 1986 in a library when I first looked at pages 130-136 of the Economist World Atlas of Elections and got my teenage head round how few votes and seats my beloved Labour Party had garnered in 1983 on the Hard Left programme I – and my then Bennite mum and dad – had admired so much.

I was 14 when I got my head round how fantastically far removed my tribal anger and knee-jerk leftism were from ordinary British voters. I had the humility to realise maybe if my views were so marginal that they could only win three seats outside of London in the entire south of England, maybe I was wrong, and needed to spend a bit of time working out what the people Labour seeks to represent want from a government.

Although out of his teens it’s not too late for Owen to come to his senses. He can waste his time in a leftwing echo chamber being a hero to a minority, speaking and writing eloquent claptrap, making the angry angrier without helping them actually change anything, or he can make the compromises with the reality of the electorate that might lead to him making a serious contribution to a future Labour Party that can win power and make real changes to people’s lives. I hope he does. He has too much talent to waste his life competing on the political fringe in a popularity and political purity contest with the SWP or whichever organisations succeed it.

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  • You are spot on about the SWP. Were it not for the indirect state funding they receive via student unions would they exist? They don’t appear to organise in areas where there isn’t an FE or HE colllege.

    • Redshift1

      To be fair to student unions, they don’t and can’t just put money into SWP societies (or pick one political group of any sort for that matter, as a charity). They tend to give a limited grant to every society that affiliates to them – including Labour Clubs/Labour Students groups. The only political groups that tend to be controversial in this sense is far-right ones which they do refuse to let affiliate to them (and rightly so).

      • I’m well aware of how student unions work, I used to be the president of one.

        • Redshift1

          Good for you but others may not be aware and would find your comment misleading…

  • Redshift1

    Whilst more balanced than comments I’ve seen from others on the right on the party, I think this is still a bit harsh.

    The message of Owen’s piece is to non-Labour-Party-left and saying:-

    ‘look if you can’t bring yourself to join the Labour Party, fine, but for christ’s sake make sure it is something that can on a practical level can actually help defeat the coalition rather than fannying around creating tiny minor parties representing pointlessly niche ideological positions’

    Or in other words, if we can’t get all these activists to join the Labour Party, let’s at least get them involved in the mainstream labour movement, fighting for working people rather than selling newspapers.

    His suggestion is (probably intentionally) vague, but he certainly has a point.

    • Luke is correct in his characterisation of the fantasists of the ‘revolutionary’ Left – in my experience their involvement in the Labour movement is usually destructive and, of course, if they had much of a clue they wouldn’t have a declining membership and be as irrelevant as they are. For example: in addition to the current self-inflicted scandal, during the outbreak of rioting a couple of years back they issued a call to drive the police off the streets. Pure idiocy.

      A loose network already exists through groups like 38 Degrees, Ukuncut and others such as those campaigning to to safe Lewisham Hospital. As an opponent of the privatisation of the NHS I attended a meeting of my area’s Clinical Commissioning Group – 27 38Degrees supporters were present against only 1 LP member. I attended another anti-NHS privatisation meeting last week, over 50 people were present – many of whom gave voice the pointlessness of relying on Labour to save the NHS. The writing is on the wall for Labour. As Owen said: “… a new movement is waiting to be born.”

  • LondonStatto

    “It implies we are not fighting for working people now.”

    An understandable conclusion given the party’s belief that benefits should rise faster than wages.

  • Aside from the usual rightwing workerist nonsense we would expect from Luke (and being quite patronising about Owen, as most of his opponents seem to be) the interesting bit is where Luke complains that “people like me who work their socks off for a Labour government are not to be included”.

    Why do you assume that, Luke? Owen specifically includes “those in Labour who want a proper alternative to Tory austerity” and if, as you say, this includes you, why are you complaining about being excluded?

  • trotters1957

    “ignore that the Labour Party itself is opposed to austerity and proposing a different economic strategy based on growth and jobs”

    Is that a joke? Alaister Darling said he would cut harder and faster than Thatcher. Labour’s approach has been that the Tories are cutting too much and too deeply. Labour are in favour of austerity just not as much and not as fast.

    Labour have already admitted they won’t reverse most of the cuts.

    Luke you don’t know your own parties policies.

  • Charlie_Mansell

    This and Owen’s piece are both very interesting articles about the role of social networks – both offline and online. For example Owen’s point about wanting a comfortable social network of like minded people to work with and Luke’s point about the people drinking in the same club in Clapton. It’s perfectly natural for people to self-select people who are like themselves to hang round with. Its what we do as human beings. People in the Labour Party and the wider left tend to have wide social networks generating lots of bridging and linking social capital. The problem we face is that in many poor communities there tend to be lots of people with bonding social capital built round families and a mix of extended relatives and close connections such as past relationships. This can tend to create the conditions where people will hold views that are reinforced by word of mouth messages that play up ‘proximity’ issues such as immigration and notions of ‘benefit undeservedness’ as opposed to ‘distance’ issues (ie one that are not near the people concerned) such as bankers bonuses. Thus more culturally traditionalist values tend to be generated and reinforced, making people more likely to listen to the ‘proximity based messages’ of the BNP and latterly UKIP (in their case ‘Europe’ is all about the local petty annoyances they claim people face). It also makes communities less resilient and prone to greater public health challenges. If the majority of people who surround you are unemployed, you are more likely to stay unemployed, as you will not have the word of mouth networks that generate job offers bearing in mind the research that shows many more jobs come from acquaintances rather than friends. Research I was involved in an East London Borough showed 50% of local jobs in small businesses were never advertised and came from word of mouth contact, which many in the area were not connected into. Thus the social networks we need to engage with are those in places that have weaker social networks than certain pubs in Clapton. This applies to the Labour Party and also to our public institutions and is what is really meant when we talk about a ‘Relational State’ as only when we go beyond the comfort of the values within our self-selected networks can we engage with people who should be Labour, but are currently not. For more information look at http://www.thersa.org/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/402755/RSA_Power_lines_FINAL-110511.pdf as well as
    http://www.thersa.org/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/565411/NEW-NEW-COVER-Beyond-Big-Society-report-V10.pdf and also http://connectedthebook.com/ as well as
    http://www.thersa.org/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/333483/ConnectedCommunities_report_150910.pdf and http://www.thersa.org/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/330258/RSA_Pamphlet-publicpolicy.pdf

  • AlanGiles

    Akehurst and Richards have two things in common – both sound like trainee reporters for the Daily Telegraph and ever since they both became failures (Richards failing to become PCC for Brighton and Akehurst leaving the NEC) they get nastier and shriller with every week they scribble on LL.

    Why would people like Owen, or myself bother to rejoin the Labour party while it is full of right wing reactionaries like this pair and Rob Marchant?. What can Labour actually offer accept this constant harping one about “one nation” which we all know won’t come about with Miliband and his bunch of Brown/Blair rejects and their variations on a theme of coalition ;policy.

    As for Owen coming to his senses, perhaps it’s time your sort came out of the closet and joined the Coalition.

    You freally do come over as a condescending little man – damning with faint praise while sticking the boot in..

    I am sure “the party” sycophants will accuse me of making a personal attack, but that is exactly what you have done in this peevish dismal article to Owen.

    Therefore, I say to them – and you – don’t dish it out if you can’t take it.

    • Redshift1

      Owen is a Labour Party member!

      • AlanGiles

        Well, in that case, Akehurst’s personal attack is all the more repulsive.

        Akehurst, Marchant and Richards all really want a variation on a theme devised by the coalition – nice “safe” new New Labour and they can’t stand anybody who doesn’t feel the same way – the patronise and damn with faint priase like Akehurst does in this paltry little article.

        • Redshift1

          I agree with you there. Indeed, Richards and Marchant are worse than Akehurst.

          • I find Alan Giles to be the worst, an enemy of the working class.

            It is people like you who could doom us to another term of the Tories.

          • John Reid

            You talk Alan as if you not being in the party is somehow, the aprties fault, we’re doing very wel opposing the BNP in Havering at the moment thank you very much, but the thing that’ll do it for us is not getting back disilusioned left wingers, but losing the centre ground as we follow some far left ideal the public don’t want, It reminds me of Tony benn after the ’83 election saying “ah.. but 8 million people voted for socialism,”as if it was some sort of victory losing millions of votes,

        • Gabrielle

          Miliband has been very clear about drawing a line under the New Labour era. I think he will prove to be a very radical left wing Prime Minister.

          However, in the meantime, he has to make Labour appealing to people, mainly in the south, who still think it’s only the Tories who understand business and want people to be successful.

          I don’t know where you’re coming from, AG – I don’t think you actually want a Labour government at all.

  • Chilbaldi

    Luke – its quite simple.

    Look into your crystal ball and you will see Owen Jones sitting on the back benches in a few years time. He’ll be wearing a scruffy jacket, unpolished shoes, and will be sporting a beard (if he can grow one by then). He will be the next Jeremy Corbyn.

  • NT86

    If there’s any criticism I have to make about Owen himself, why is he a Labour member when the party is clearly away from his own beliefs? I’d like to see a proper centre left Labour party, but not a hard left one like bloody Respect.

    That said, what a shame this article serves as yet another immature, tribalistic rant by Luke Akehurst.

    A bit like the division in the Tories between the dries and the wets on who’s more aligned to the party and who’s not idealogically pure…

    • Redshift1

      Because unlike some, he knows enough people in the Labour Party to know that there’s a good portion of the membership that agree with him and probably a majority that are at least say, closer to his views than they are to the Blarite wing.

      He certainly belongs in this party. Given his ability I’d like to see him be a Labour MP sooner or later.

      • Chilbaldi

        Good number of party members close to his view eh? No surrender to the electorate and all that.

        • AlanGiles

          At least Owen thinks for himself – unlike so many of “the party says” lickspittles who infest the Labour backbenches at Westminster – and elsewhere. He has a bit of fire in his belly and principles: people like Akehurst should look those terms up in the dictionary some time.

          • Winston_from_the_Ministry

            He does have that in his favour.

        • Redshift1

          Firstly, it’s not like you can claim the right of the party has never done anything unpopular has it? Secondly, whether or not the party nationally endorsing all of his views would be electorally viable (and it probably wouldn’t), that isn’t to say that some left-wing policies aren’t more popular than others (renationalising the railways for example is incredibly popular) or that left-wingers such as Owen (and myself) can’t make a contribution to the party or in his case, I think the PLP.

          A couple of months back people were debating whether we should be voting against the welfare uprating bill or not. Owen was on the correct side of that argument both in principle and on a practical level. Many who share a good portion of your views were actually wrong on all accounts.

          Mindless triangulation doesn’t always equal electoral success. Learn to think instead of imposing your Blairite dogma under the guise of electoralism.

      • TRUSSY66

        Have nothing but admiration for the kid. Fights the cause and obviously has deep principles which are there for everybody to see. For sure I’m not as left wing as Owen but he gets his message across and in a good way. A message that will probably appeal to 2010 lost left wing voters.

        About time Labour realised that an awful lot of it’s left wing stayed at home at the last election, most probably sick and tired of being ignored by first Blair and then Brown.

        Whilst the left wing is an irritant to quite a few New Labour stalwarts, maybe they should realise as the Conservative vote is a staple 33% that you need it to win.

        Room for educated and appealling young Men like Owen and his ideas in the Labour mix as there is for the Blairite alternative…and nice to see someone who is interested in Political idealism and not just Politics as a career.

        Good luck to him.

    • ColinAdkins

      NT86, Because Owen’s views can be comfortably accomodated in a broad church social democratic party like Labour. Leninist parties seek to impose democratic centralism for people who have views which differ from that of the leadership. Colin

  • Owen Jones, a classic case of claiming a working class pedigree and spending your life around middle class academics and theorists discussing dinner party issues.

  • Aaron D Highside

    Where the aim is ‘state ownership of the economy’…why not just say it? Communist.

  • Luke: I wouldn’t expect you to agree with Owen and some of the points you make are quite reasonable from your perspective, which is clearly different from Owen’s. What I object to are

    (1) that you persist with a student politics sectarianism towards groups to the left of Labour – you may disagree with them (as I often do too) but they provide the movement with activists that do much good work as shop stewards, as anti-racist and anti-fascists activists, and campaigning on a host of other issues alongside Labour Party members, and they have a right to their views. Personally I find your form of sectarianism just as irritating as theirs.

    (2) that you persist with your exaggerated, trivialised and out-of-context references to the 1983 defeat. The 2010 defeat was very nearly as bad in spite of the lack of a recent Labour breakaway party and in spite of a very much weaker conservative party. I suspect you are not so daft as to share the Progress view that the 2010 defeat was because Gordon Brown abandoned New Labour politics
    (see Richard Angell at https://twitter.com/RichardAngell/status/293138712567611392)

  • David Parker

    It is a pity that the points in Luke Akehurst’s which might provide the basis for a serious discussion are swamped by his condescending style and his complacency about the achievements of the Labour Party. Simply saying to those – and Owen Jones is right about their numerical significance – who are somewhere on the left of the Labour Party that they should join it because it is the only game in town is not good enough. If the achievements of the Blair years were so remarkable how does Akehurst explain why the huge influx of new members was not only reversed but the proportion of the population voting Labour steadily sank to a record low and why the optimism of 1997 gave way to
    widespread disillusion. Instead of dismissing those who feel that Labour is not fighting as it should against austerity he needs to engage with them. It would certainly be worthwhile to discuss his assertion that the reason social democratic parties do not embrace left wing policies is because they are unpopular. But the tone of his contribution suggests a mind as closed in its own way as the Stalinists he castigates

  • Let me try again…. Owen Jones, a classic example of a person who makes play of his working class pedigree (something some of us have and have had for longer than his tender years and yet feel no need to reference every time we speak/write a book/ earn monies from the Independent or Guardian/buy a pint) but who spends his time with Middle Class academics and theorists, worrying about and pontificating Dinner Party politics (and thus is becoming increasing irrelevant to the hunt for real practical solutions). Frankly I prefer my class war warriors in the (slightly outdated) Harold Best style, much more grounded and realist on what could happen. (hope I’m the right side of the moderating line here Luke, not attacking OJ’s personality just highlighting the influences).

  • Pingback: Owen Jones, the SWP and Networks. « Tendance Coatesy()

  • Jeremy Poynton

    If the likes of Jones and Penny actually had anything to contribute, they’d be out there doing it. Instead, they sit on the sidelines criticising. They are both stereotype Lefties whose forebears date back to the 60s. If they didn’t exist, the Left would have had to invent them.

    Also, he’s not very bright. Witness the Brillo interview in which he confuses income and assets.

    As for the SWP. Titter. Thrice titter.

  • Really good piece Luke. The only thing that the likes of St Owen and co will achieve is dividing the party and making it unelectable. History tells Labour wins elections when we capture the centre ground.

  • I agree with you Luke and share stronger feelings about Len McCluskey’s (estimated salary £150k) comments that Labour cllrs (average allowance £13K) being too interested in their own pay to object properly to Coalition cuts

  • Luke writes of the Labour party: –

    …it created the NHS and the welfare state, and between 1997 and 2010 it introduced progressive reforms by the bucket load…

    Slight slip of the fingers there on the keys was it? I think he meant between 1997 and 2001.

    Everything stopped after the first term and the next 10 years were just a gradual slide towards inevitable opposition..

  • “There’s a good reason why far left policies don’t exist in the
    programmes of social democratic parties. It’s that they are unpopular.
    Democracy leads centre-left parties to, often by trial-and-error after
    an election defeat or two, adopt policies that people, or at least a
    plurality of them, want.”

    Why do you think what they want changes with time?

    Why do you think in our case, it shifts rightwards every time?

    It’s what Thatcher called the ratchet effect.

    UKIP might be crap ultimately, but by a combination of carrots and sticks, they with their ideological stablemates Tory right are now able to write European policy for the Prime Minister, despite the natural electoral antagonism between them.

    The right are all about controlling the scope of debate as well as attaining power itself – ideological hegemony for their ultimate worldview and direction.

    This is something the Labour right has far more suspicion of than interest in.

    More fool them.

  • won’t get fooled again

    Working class people who want to get a better life need working class people in the Labour party looking out for them, not middle-class lefties telling them what to do. The boy Owen is the last type, even if he means well.

  • Owen Jones is a decent man , his insight into the way that ordinary people have been abandoned by the political mainstream including New Labour deserves respect. As an older person who has seen the far left for 25-30 years I’m not sure why anyone could form an alliance with them , they enjoy the margins and meetings far too much . Labour’s mission is simple , to create a just and more equal society this may mean public ownership at some point or it may not the outcome is the most important thing . It is to our disgrace that in three terms of a Labour government that the gap between rich and poor was allowed to widen as some very foolish politicians allowed themselves to be seduced by the rich and powerful. Even worse some have used the party as a vehicle to join the elite themselves , we all know who they are yet many still respect them I find that frankly astonishing

  • Monkey_Bach

    What is the point of an article like this? Owen Jones is a journalist, with his own opinions, who is also a member of the Labour Party (as far as I know). He is not a Labour Member of Parliament, let alone a member of the Shadow Cabinet, SpAd or some other kind of “officially recognised” Labour Party wonk: Owen Jones is a private citizen with a political view which he has every right to express, on a paid and unpaid basis, wherever and whenever. So why the bitchfest? Colour me confused. Eeek.

  • UKAzeri

    New Labour = Tory Lite

    Now… to disagree with the above is an insult to even an average
    intellect. The deficit wasn’t the biggest problem – market worship was!! It was
    new Labour that brought in so many of the horrible ideas that have been
    expanded by the Coalition to finish off the working people in UK. I can’t believe
    we proudly mention Tax credits as a ‘redistributive measure’ !! It did
    redistribute – from taxpayers to private sector profit margins. .. anyways this
    post is not about ranting…

    Owen Jones has probably brought in thousands of new members
    into the Labour party though his written work. Everyone who read his work
    including this article knows exactly what he means. One Nation Labour in its
    current form is not defined and doesn’t want to articulate what being ‘anti- austerity’
    actually means. Are we planning regulation, more progressive taxation etc … in
    other words is One Nation Labour left of centre or right of centre?

  • PaulHalsall

    Owen is right because of people like Liam Byrne, Alan Milburn, James Purnell, Frank Field, and so forth, who are hardly worth re-electing, are doing little to actually oppose government attacks on the poor and the North and whose types have repeatedly led Labour governments to fail to live up to their potential.

    In foreign policy, although Owen has some real suspicions about the EU (for reasons I share), he clearly wants to reject the Atlanticist policies followed by all British governments since WW2.

    And we really do need, along with the Greens, to assess the environmental impact of perpetual “growth” – which is impossible in a world with limited resources.

    I don’t see Owen has “hard left” – like Militant (which is the implied slur here) – so much as “straight left” – a person unwilling to see capitalism as a good thing.

    Meanwhile it is a bit embarrassing to see people here (all “high information” commentators one assumes) discuss the SWP as a “Leninist” Party. It is is quite clearly a Trotskyist group.

    • WillieEckerslyke

      Well said you! Owen shows a passion that excites and envigorates Labour and none our members alike, whereas apparatchiks and careerists like, oh so many Blairites such as Jacqui Smith, Mil urn, Purnell et are in more in touch with think-tanks, lobbyists and pollsters than people.

    • Daniel Speight

      Meanwhile it is a bit embarrassing to see people here (all “high
      information” commentators one assumes) discuss the SWP as a “Leninist”
      Party. It is is quite clearly a Trotskyist group.

      I’m not sure if you are embarrassed by the ‘party’ or ‘group’ designation, or the Leninist and Trotskyist part. If it’s the latter then surely the problem with the Trotskyist groups, parties, whichever, is that they are Leninist and bring with them the organizational idea of democratic centralism. This democratic centralism is a problem that New Labour suffered with as well, but hopefully the top-down organizational approach is now on the way out.

  • Daniel Speight

    Luke, is Owen Jones really wrong to suggest that there is room for a ‘popular front’ type movement bringing together all those opposed to the economic policies of the present coalition? I’m not sure what you are really arguing for. Would you rather have the Leninists inside the Labour Party? It didn’t work that well in its last incarnation and probably brought about the rise of Tony Blair from which the party continues to suffer.

    At this point I should say regarding the ‘broad church’ that we both consider the party to be, that if there is no place for Leninist revolutionaries in the party, there is also no place for an organization funded by an extremely rich man who in the past has also financed the SDP which caused the party so many problems with its split decades ago.

    I think it’s always good to go back and look at definitions of what being a social democrat actually means. This I think is far more important that even arguments over Clause 4, the EU and such as it should be the very core belief of the Labour Party and why it was formed.

    Social democracy is a political ideology that considers itself to be a form of reformist democratic socialism. It advocates for a peaceful, evolutionary transition of society from capitalism to socialism. It asserts that the only acceptable constitutional form of government is representative democracy under the rule of law. It promotes extending democratic decision-making beyond political democracy to include economic democracy to guarantee employees and other economic stakeholders sufficient rights of co-determination. Common social democratic policies include advocacy of universal social rights to attain universally-accessible public services such as: education, health care, workers’ compensation, and other services including child care and care for the elderly. Social democracy is connected with the trade union labour movement and supports collective bargaining rights for workers. Most social democratic parties are affiliated with the Socialist International.

    Now we can all argue about what socialism actually means and I think there are good reasons for saying that the idea has to change with time, and that Marx or even the Milibands’ father would not have exactly the same thoughts now as what they had when alive. But it does give the root from where the party starts, and far more dangerous to the party’s future than the few voices from the left are those trying turn it into a British version or the US Democrats.

  • Winston_from_the_Ministry

    Outside of the westminster bubble and those interested in politics the voice of Owen Jones is naught but a squeak in the night.

    He seems alright in a strident studenty type manner, comports himself fairly well when he is delivering a considered written response, but has a tendency to make a bit of a fool out of himself when emotionally provoked.

    He’s ok. Crap book though.

    • Gabrielle

      Owen did very well on Question Time which has a pretty large audience. He has many admirers outside the Westminister bubble.

      However, I agree with Luke’s argument that Owen needs to accept that the left needs to be united. The only people left disunity helps are those in this government which is the most right wing and incompetent I can ever remember.

  • This is all too reminiscent of student union politics of the 70s to 90s. Leave it behind Luke it was 20 – 30 years ago.

  • JonathanHoffman

    Would that be the Owen Jones who – despite an Oxford education – can’t distinguish between Income and Wealth?

  • Having read and heard Owen he is “somewhat” patronizing in tone and content as if addressing a bunch of discontents outside the work gates from the seventies and eighties. He awaits the new working class Nye Bevan to emerge and take over the labour party. Alternatively he may see himself as that new reincarnation. But that sense of community and solidarity have gone along with the sort of common work experience that gave it meaning… The spread of higher education has lifted many out of that fixity of location and employment; on the other hand there is an emergence of the X generation, who are despite higher education finding themselves in part time, unskilled jobs. and become the educated poor and mincemeat within the job/benefits mincer. Some may become attached to parties such as the Greens, or submerge themselves in Young Labour, where they will be apprenticed clones, but not many Those on the sink estates, the busted no-hopers have been pissed on since they were babies and are the butt of the Tories contemptible benefit revision. I think his Chavs highlighting was apposite, but his expectation that a new left of labour party will, or needs to arise is but a cloud of . confusion. It is labour that needs to change from the closed institution, resembling in many cases a patronising and controlling middle class bunch of do-gooders, frightened of a change of perception lest it fall apart, to an open party with more than its own ideas of the Good Society. A party which listens to people and recognises their capabilities. I recall working on David Milliband’s Campaign for Change -a thousand .community leaders. A well thought out campaign which was soon taken over by the established labour party members. It was clear that many of the people one met were keen to show what they could do – their qualities, but that was soon put aside. What mattered however was local Councillors showing their leadership qualities, rather than learning how and what people could do. When the Coalition got in the local Ward meetings were full but after a while emptied again as did the number of people helping leafleting and door knocking They soon got the message they were there to help the labour party, not that their voice,and experience counted. So in one sense Owen is right to see the exclusion, but wrong to think it is another group “the working class”, that is excluded, it is people with their own particular aspirations that are ignored and very wrong to see the ultra rigid SWP as catering for their exclusion. The challenge for labour is opening itself to diversity with a common aim rather than espousing a concern for the underdog, but not wanting them spoiling the party pitch.

  • AlanGiles

    It is the parties fault in that far too many right-wing Labour supporters try to paint anybody even vaguely on the left as being somehow dangerous, and it is the sort of supercilious article like this one of Akehurst’s who have driven them out.

  • AlanGiles

    If you say so, Mr. Blackshaw. I am of the working class, and worked all my life, getting my hands dirty. But still I am sure you know better than myself what I am.

  • AlanGiles

    Miliband is so keen to draw a line under the NL years which is no doubt why he still has ardent Blairites in positions of aiuthority in the party?

    • John Reid

      Blair ,had loads of former trots, or admirers of the 74/79 labour gov,t in his cabinet, so criticising miliband for having BLairites in his front bench, is irrelevant.

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  • What miserable, defeatist, cynical clap-trap. Labour has not only *failed* to provide an adequate opposition to the coalition’s class-spite austerity, it has systematically *betrayed* its core support but it’s relentless and unashamed embracing of neoliberlism.
    To the point now where its senior figures are on record, all over the place, stating they’d cut just like the Tories only, perhaps, a little less quickly and a little less deep.
    Is that it??? That’s your sainted network that opposes austerity, is it?

  • James

    This article utterly distorts what Owen wrote in his own piece. It is written in a tone that is breathtakingly conceited and is ironic in that poses the notion that Owen has a future in the Party by listening to the electorate yet, by virtue of what is says reveals a detachment from the electorate, and even the Party’s own rank and file, that is actually hard to comprehend.

  • James

    This article utterly distorts what Owen wrote in his own piece. It is written in a tone that is breathtakingly conceited and is ironic in that poses the notion that Owen has a future in the Party based on listening to the electorate yet, by virtue of what it says reveals a detachment from the electorate, and even the Party’s own rank and file, that is actually hard to comprehend.

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  • AlanGiles

    John was there nothing to admire the 74/79 Labour government for?

    Perhaps I might remind you that Harold Wilson created the National Enterprise Board, which helped a great number of struggling companies (one of which I worked for) after the catastrophe of Ted Heath’s 3 day week in 1973 and the rise in oil prices at the end of that year. Labour inherited a terrible hand in 1974.

    And one other thing – we did not involve ourselves in wars at the invitation of the U.S. president in those years.

    I frankly feel that you are so prejudiced towards anybody who isn’t a mainstream right-winger that you do a disservice for your party by being its prominent Havering spokesperson. Perhaps you feel the 1979 government led by Mrs Thatcher was better than Harold and Jim?

  • ‘Owen says that “What is missing in British politics is a broad network that unites progressive opponents of the Coalition….It’s called the Labour Party. We don’t need another “broad network” ‘ WRITES Luke Akehurst. Sorry Luke Akehurst but I must inform you that in Scotland it’s called the “Yes” Campaign!!!

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  • Paul

    When at the age of 14 you had this moment of enlightenment in the library, maybe you were not mature enough to realise the power of the media to control people’s opinions, and set the political agenda. This then caused you to abandon your political beliefs, which you you should have kept, & like Owen had the energy to try and spread your message past the right wing press. You lost your way in the pursuit of power, but power without conviction is useless. I suggest you read the ragged trousered philanthropist, were another Owen battles to get his opinions heard, to workers indoctrinated by the right wing press, owned by billionaires. Just because the majority of people disagree with you, does not mean that you are not right. In the not so distant past, if you had opposed slavery your voice would have been one of a few. Does that mean you were wrong to oppose it! change only happens if people stick to there convictions of what is right. Sometimes you have to have the strength of you convictions.


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