With Momentum effectively finished, Alan Johnson calling on Starmer to “cleanse” the party of what he calls the “Corbyn cult” and Corbyn allies like Barry Gardiner, Ian Lavery, Jon Trickett already being booted out of the Shadow cabinet, while many other’s are choosing to step down from their roles, the Labour left might well be wondering if they still have a voice.
Traditionally, most Labour members have trusted that the way to have a voice and be able to influence party politics is to join or even create factions or movements, some affiliated, others not. Whether that’s Progress or Momentum or the CLPD or BAME Labour or Labour Friends of Israel or the Jewish Labour Movement or Labour friends of Palestine or… well you get the picture. You might think being a member of a Union gives you greater influence, but I wonder how many Union members actually felt their Union was in any way interested in representing their voice within the Labour Party? I know I didn’t.
Yes, of course, some factions can have some success for a limited period of time (Progress and Momentum being case examples) and others serve the unique purpose of uniting people who feel disenfranchised, but with so many factions and movements pulling in different directions, it does feel like the party is in an eternal state of flux. Faces come and go, policies change and then change back again, large sections of the membership feel alienated, even under attack and all this is happening in full view of the public so it’s no wonder that voters become confused and more than a little disillusioned about what the party stands for today. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised if a large swathe of the Labour membership might be wondering what the party stands for right now.
By contrast, you rarely hear about Tory or LibDem or SNP factionalism in the media and most voters have an understanding of what they are buying into. Most Tory voters backed austerity measures, hard Brexit and ending freedom of movement and they seem to have this impression that the economy is safer in Tory hands. Although they didn’t gain any seats, the LibDem vote share surged by 1,324,562 in the 2019 election. The only difference in their pitch seemed to be a clear desire for the UK to remain in the EU. The SNP have been pushing solidly for Scottish Independence for decades and have held Scotland for almost 13yrs now. They also experienced an additional surge in the 2019 election, probably because, like the LibDems, they also stood solidly behind remaining in the EU.
So, you see, a clear vision that chimes with the electorate, as well as the membership, is only part of electoral success. With Corbyn the vision was simple – end of austerity, investment in small businesses, re-nationalisation, equality, more money for schools, the NHS, social care, policing, transport and the green industrial revolution. It stood us well in 2017 but in 2019 the only show in town was Brexit and voters were no longer voting along party lines. The manifesto message was not allowed to cut through because the right wing media made sure they were going to control the narrative. News channels pitched it as the “Brexit Election” and social media was flooded with advice about ‘tactical voting’ so people would vote for the ‘leave’ or ‘remain’ candidate most likely to win, regardless of which party. So, clearly, while having a vision gets you half the way there, you also need the support of the mainstream media to get that message across but if mainstream platforms are predominantly right wing and have their own agenda, then you’re going to struggle.
The thing is, right wing media platforms also work hard to attract and retain a certain type of readership and that’s what gives them an immense amount of power. They speak directly to right wing voters who are more likely to favour right wing parties like the Tories or UKIP or the Brexit Party for example, so they focus on producing content that these people want to read. Having that kind of influence over the electorate gives them a great deal of influence over right wing parties, which is why you’ll see them collaborating closely with Tory politicians, giving them their own columns and even senior roles like newspaper editors (George Osborne case example).
Seems to me, if the Labour left want that kind of influence over Labour Party policy and they want direct access to the Labour electorate then, rather than join a faction, what they should be doing is supporting left wing media platforms. By subscribing and following left wing platforms and by helping to share their content widely (i.e. not just to closed left wing groups but to broader forums) then we can reach, inform and influence more potential Labour voters. Our ability to reach voters, coupled with a clear political vision, is what’s needed to win elections and it’s also what gives Labour members more influence over Labour policy.
So, take my advice folks, ditch those Progress and Momentum memberships and invest in left wing media platforms instead. Here’s a few for you to choose from and if you can think of any others that we’ve missed then please let us know and we’ll update this list. Just drop us an email at – firstname.lastname@example.org
Double Down News
The Daily Politik
Universal Credit Sufferer
The Jimmy Dore Show
Disability News Service
By the way, to give you an idea of the potential of independent media, I can tell you that despite the fact that the Spotlight Newspaper website has only been live for about 4 months (although the Facebook groups been going for a little longer), some of our articles are already hitting 15k shares within days of posting (see here for example). Imagine the reach we could have with a little support from our friends?