Duncan Morrison’s irate letter (Solidarity 344) misses the point in Jon Lansman’s column in Solidarity 343 which really most calls for criticism.
Jon wrote that “no shortcoming of Ed Miliband is responsible for the rise of UKIP.” He probably meant that no other halfway-likely leader of the Labour Party in anything like its present shape could have stopped a rise of UKIP, either, which is true.
If so, that truth is only a half-truth. UKIP feeds on social despair. Social despair feeds on the perception that no large party offers social hope. That Labour offers so little social hope — no relief from cuts, from pay squeezes, from inequality — is partly down to “shortcomings of Ed Miliband”.
But Jon’s article was a guest column, and as Solidarity readers know, our guest columnists, like Eric Lee, do not necessarily at all reflect our “line”.
Duncan implies that Jon calls for us to move motions “extolling the virtues of the current [Labour] leadership”. But Jon doesn’t. Essentially he says no more than Duncan explicitly agrees with: that Miliband is “the least worst on offer” right now.
Duncan also censures the article for including its anti-cuts call only in the headline. Maybe he thinks that the anti-cuts headline was added in the Solidarity editorial office to smarten the article up. But in fact it came from Jon’s original version of the article, on Left Futures.
We might make literary criticism of the fact that Jon, writing a short article for readers he assumes to be left-wing, felt he could put an anti-cuts call in the headline without arguing it through in the text; but surely not a political criticism.
That things are bad in the Labour Party at present is true. But Duncan’s efforts to hype up that fact don’t help.
There has been “another point in the past 25 years when we wouldn’t have welcomed the opportunity [of] a leadership election”.
When John Smith died in 1994, we had no joy at the prospect of a leadership poll which Tony Blair was certain to win, and where the left ended up shrugging and voting for John Prescott or Margaret Beckett, candidates which both had no chance of winning and were not even clearly anti-Blairite.
It’s not true that Miliband could be summarily replaced by the Labour MPs. At any time in Labour’s history, if a majority of MPs called on the leader to resign, then he’d find it hard to stay on.
But, unlike before the 1980s, the leadership contest would have to give votes to trade unionists and constituency party members, and might (as in 2010) return a candidate disfavoured by most MPs.
Not my argument
Thank you for printing my letter in Solidarity 344, but I don't think the headline “Nothing to be done about Miliband” expresses what I was arguing. Rather, I was suggesting that the Labour Party structures make it difficult to do anything about Miliband through them. Indeed if anyone was arguing “Nothing to be done about Miliband” it was Jon Lansman in the original article. In fact his argument seemed to be nothing should be done about Miliband.