“A Benn – not a Bennite”: Finally, the Blairites have someone to replace Jeremy Corbyn

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IT HAS BEEN HAILED as one of the best speeches delivered to the House of Commons in 50 years. Having urged his fellow MPs to support the Prime Minister’s motion in favour of bombing Syria, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, Hilary Benn, resumed his seat to resounding cheers from both sides of the aisle. The Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, his face a picture of both puzzlement and exasperation, did not join in the applause. No one from the Labour Party, himself included, had managed to deliver so passionate a speech on behalf of peace.

The emotion missing from Corbyn’s countenance was fear. It speaks well of the man that Benn’s noisy standing ovation did not frighten him. Someone more steeped in the realities of politics would have heard, behind the cheering of the Commons, the dull rattle of the tumbril. He should have known that his opponents weren’t just applauding the impassioned speech of a bellicose social imperialist, they were applauding the fact that, at last, they had found the person to replace the despised Member for Islington North.

It’s been the biggest problem of the Blairites all along that among their ranks there was no one who could hold a candle to Corbyn. When set against the sincerity and plain-spokenness of the front-runner, the bland contributions of the other three leadership contenders came across as utterly unconvincing. Liz Kendall, the candidate most closely associated with the Blairite rump, attracted just 5 percent support from the party membership. What’s more, in the aftermath of the membership’s resounding endorsement of Corbyn, the Labour Right’s petulant refusal to accept that Blairism had been rejected only added to the new leader’s lustre.

Yes, Labour’s parliamentarians had the advantage of a sympathetic press. United in their disdain for Corbyn the journalists and columnists of the allegedly “left-wing” newspapers – The GuardianThe Observer, and The New Statesman – never missed a chance to tell their readers that Labour could not hope to win with Corbyn at the helm. But, increasingly, the left-wing media’s hostility was being written off by the Labour rank-and-file as yet further proof that the whole “mainstream” political establishment was rotten to the core.

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What they needed was a challenger untainted by all the petulance and back-stabbing; someone who cleaved to his or her principles with the same sincerity and passion as Corbyn himself. Someone who had served time in the trade union movement. Someone unafraid to summon-up the ghosts of the men and women of the International Brigade who died fighting Franco’s fascists in Spain. Someone who was a teetotaller and a vegetarian. Someone who never fiddled his parliamentary expenses claims,. Someone whose father was, for more than 50 years, one of the towering figures of the Labour Left. Someone, in short, called Hilary Benn.

That Benn the Younger had made a point of telling his constituents that he was “a Benn – not a Bennite”, and had been an enthusiastic supporter of Tony Blair’s “New Labour” from Day One, serving in the Cabinets of both Blair and Gordon Brown, well, that only made it all the more delicious.

Not that the Blairites will be celebrating too loudly. The more intelligent among them understand that Corbyn has shoved “Overton’s Window” decisively to the left. Indeed, when History assesses the (now almost certainly brief) leadership of Corbyn, breaking the neoliberal stranglehold on the British Labour Party will be cited as his greatest achievement. If Benn wants to be Prime Minister he will have to run on a clear anti-austerity platform and to offer the voters policies that are recognisably social-democratic in tone, content and purpose.

But if Paris, as Henry of Navarre is said to have quipped “is worth a mass”, Number 10 Downing Street is worth the renationalisation of British railways and a sharply more progressive tax system. Hilary Benn has only to signal to Labour’s rank-and-file that Corbyn’s vision (minus the pacifism and all that baggage from the 1980s) is safe in his hands, and the incumbent’s already difficult position will become impossible.

As the Andrew Finney character (played by Ian McShane) says in the TV series Ray Donovan: “If you see a man getting ready to take on the world – bet on the world.” After weeks of relentless media and political assault (not least from his own side) even Corbyn’s staunchest supporters know, deep in their hearts, that the British Establishment is never going to allow their hero to become Prime Minister. One way or the other, Corbyn is going to be driven from the Labour Leadership.

But the United Kingdom is an old and devious state, and both its public and not-so-public protectors know that if they are seen to have taken out one Labour Leader, then it is not in their interest to be seen putting too many restrictions on his replacement. In return for Trident, the “Special Relationship” with the USA, and a light hand when it comes to reforming the financial system (i.e. The City of London), the Left will be given their moment in the sun. The protectors of Britain’s Deep State understand that the Westminster System requires two parties of more-or-less equal strength if it’s to go on working. Allow that myth to fail, and who knows what the long-suffering British people might replace it with?

The King is dead (or soon will be). Long live the King!

 

16 COMMENTS

  1. Lol. This is the sort of article I expect to read in the Herald.

    Hilary Benn is making hay in the wake of the Paris attacks. We need to think 1, 2, 3+ years ahead and consider how this latest bomb-dropping sham will look in hindsight.

    Do you really think that Corbyn will regret his position in 2020 at the next election?

    Tell me the difference between Benn’s position now and Blair’s position in 2003.

  2. NZ Labour’s neoliberal faction have been crowing over Benn’s speech over on The Standard.

    If anybody think thinks NZ Labour are returning to their roots, think again.

  3. While I suspect that you are right in saying that the British establishment will ultimately prevent Corbyn from taking Labour to the election, I do not think that Benn’s speech sets him apart as the person they are after – his name might help, but not that speech. It is the latest fashion in the Western world for establishment figures to employ known heroic or left wing images in support of their base intentions, and to deliver them in the rhetorical tones associated with the great speechmakers of history. The right and the Blairites might be applauding, but the people it is aimed at won’t bite. Speeches like that don’t inspire anyone to bite, they enthuse those who have already bitten.

  4. Carry on Corbyn and Sanders. The silent people are behind you. They need to find there voice.
    I have only distain for our current Labour party leadership. They are irrelevant!

  5. No wonder they are saying Hilary Benn’s father would be rolling in his grave. Look at his father Tony Benn’s speech on war, he was a long time friend of Corbyn. I bet Corbyn wanted to boot Tony’s son right up the arse. His speech was pathetically weak and had crosby-textor written all over it. The whole thing seemed rehearsed, and I suspect was a planned coup that because of the public backlash and resounding win in Oldham by-election has dismally failed.

    http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/watch-tony-benn-hilary-benns-6949171

  6. Of course Benn’s tilt at the leadership will never see the light of day when the reality of Britain’s dumb decision to start bombing raids over Syria prove fruitless .
    In fact what they have now done is involve themselves in a war that can never be won, whilst simultaneously putting a bulls-eye on the head of their own people back home.
    The biggest losers here are the British people who now have to go about their daily lives with a frisson of fear hovering in the back of their minds.
    When the inevitable bomb blast or mass shooting occurs, watch Cameron swear he will not be stopped and foolishly promise to exact revenge.
    By this time Corbyn’s popularity will have soared and the neo-libs on both sides of the fence will be finished.
    Britian will at last be ready for a ‘ big picture ‘ thinker!

  7. What was put in Chris’ tea this morning, before writing this? Is he also a tea-totaller, or has he taken a swig out of a high percentage bottle, perhaps? I am confused, Mr Trotter, confused.

  8. “Indeed, when History assesses the (now almost certainly brief) leadership of Corbyn, breaking the neoliberal stranglehold on the British Labour Party will be cited as his greatest achievement. If Benn wants to be Prime Minister he will have to run on a clear anti-austerity platform and to offer the voters policies that are recognisably social-democratic in tone, content and purpose..”

    I think that was Corbyn’s aim in the first place. He himself knew he would never become PM, so he would do the next best thing and change the trajectory of his party, handing it over to a new generation of leaders.

  9. Labours reaction to Corbyn is why a lot of my generation dont vote. Everyone says ‘we want change’ and votes accordingly and the Labour party responds by going ‘oh you dont know what you want’ and does it best to be as Tory as possible

  10. This article is also endorsing the view that Benn will take over!

    Even the left wing media is joining in the group think that Corbyn will be replaced. Corbin won the Labour leadership – the constant suggestions he will be replaced by those on the left is just as destabilising and throwing fuel on the fire.

    Syria war (like the Iraq war) is about economic interest – namely the natural gas pipeline running through Syria coming from Saudi Arabia/Qatar through Syria and Turkey.

    The west want it, the east want it and poor Syrians are in the middle.

    I applaud Corbyn for sticking to his morals and not letting popular blood thirst for war and retribution sway his vote!

    The left wing media should be congratulating him and applauding his ethics, not writing articles about his replacement.

  11. From the Telegraph UK by James Kirkup dated 03 Dec 2015

    “He (Hilary Benn) is not Labour’s Henry V, a battle-king that men and women will follow through fire towards glory. King Jeremy remains firmly on his throne.”

    Long live the King!

    HaHAA!

  12. All this requires the expectation that life goes on more or less as per usual whoever is in government. But hovering over Britain as elsewhere in the world, is a future of ecological collapse. Business as usual will not suffice and history will look back at any government in Britain that doesn’t go through a radical move to the Left now as cementing in place the death warrant of Britain as it presently exists.

    With the irreversible collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Shelf now under way, the death warrant of London has already been signed and is probably less than 200 years away.

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/may/12/western-antarctic-ice-sheet-collapse-has-already-begun-scientists-warn

  13. All I heard during Hilary Benn’s speech is the modern version of Cleon the Athenian in Thucydides’ History of the Greek Peloponnesian Wars.

    Cut through the screeds of beige platitudes and grey populist talking points, and it still comes down to this: take a look at Hilary Benn, and tell me he’s the guy you’d turn to for a strategy to defeat Daesh. Anybody? Now, as the kind of leftist who has always refused to adhere to the post-1960s pussification wrought upon us by the likes of Noam Chomsky, I just about puked when he invoked the international brigade in the name of his voluntary submission to the force of beige internationalism. Those brave men and women would never look upon the likes of Benn and see the heir to their works standing before them.

    Cleon, I tell you. He’s Cleon. Cast your stones accordingly, my dear Athenians.

  14. The problem here is that too many mistake the attitude of the Blairite labour caucus to be that of the Labour Party. In fact it is the Blair tendency that is now the minor faction. Labour Party membership has grown and there is Corbyn’s support.
    Benn may well take the Party leadership with the help of the media and the establishment, but he will lose the party, something else will have to take it’s place. The Labour Party will simply be a minority support aide for the Tories.
    There might be a lesson here for the NZ Labour Movement.

    • Correct, the problem is that news and current affairs hosts like Andrew Marr and that simpering knob from Channel 4 et al have received their orders, and dutifully treat the likes of Liz Kendal as some kind of prudential reservoir, trapped behind the socialist dam of these leftist throwbacks who didn’t get Thatcher’s memo.

      Speaking of Marr, he seems to have been cheered on like Benn for his ‘impassioned’ speech in the wake of the Paris attacks, which is apparently what you call it these days when a news host recites the name of just about every dead white guy from France who ever wrote something of note (the most of which Marr has almost certainly not read a single page). Benn made me want to puke; Marr just made me cringe.

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