It’s not just Iraq – the success of Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign is founded on a big Labour apology

by Stephen Tall on August 21, 2015

Apologies are in the air: Jeremy Corbyn has said he will apologise on behalf of the Labour party for the Iraq war if he’s elected leader in 21 days.

As Ian Leslie points out, this is a clever deployment of Lynton Crosby’s infamous ‘dead cat’ ruse, distracting attention from the mounting evidence of his embarrassing links with anti-Semites and the re-emergence of his at best carelessly worded qualification that “some of what [Isis] have done is quite appalling”. It also rather smartly puts his leftist rival Andy Burnham — who, back when he was an arch-Blairite (ie, up to and including 2010) was a stout defender of the war in Iraq — on the defensive. However backward-looking are his economic policies, Corbyn’s astute tactics are bang up-to-date.

An apology is an apt Corbyn strategy because the success of his entire campaign is founded on the collective wish of a growing number of the party’s members and supporters to atone for the sins of their New Labour fathers.

I wrote two days ago: ‘And to think in 2006 the Labour party conference rose in unison to give Tony Blair a rousing and emotional standing ovation. Just wow.’ That’s the point: Blair had a mesmerising ability to win over his tribe — usually against their own instincts — convincing them that not only was his way electorally successful, but that it was also righteous. And now they feel ashamed that they were so easily seduced.

It’s interesting listening to Chris Mullin’s 2005-10 diaries and his account of ‘The Man’s efforts to woo him into supporting the Labour government in introducing 90 days’ detention without charge. But having been loyal enough to suppress his doubts and vote with Blair on Iraq1)edit: Mullin voted against but also abstained on the key motions, Mullin — who championed the cause of so many miscarriages of justice during the 1980s, most notably the Birmingham Six — stuck to his guns and rebelled.

We are now witnessing a similar uprising on a mass scale. Many Labour members, both new and old, are mortified that they were talked into backing so many things which, with hindsight, they now realise they never really believed in. Paddy Ashdown once summed up his famous skills of persuasion: “Tony Blair is like Don Giovanni – he means it when he says it.”

It’s not just Jeremy Corbyn who’s saying sorry. It’s the Labour party. In fact, they’re so sorry they’re sacrificing their party’s hopes of winning the next election to prove how much they mean it.

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1. edit: Mullin voted against but also abstained on the key motions

One comment

What lessons could there be for the Liberal Democrats?

by Paul Pettinger on August 21, 2015 at 3:45 pm. Reply #

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