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I fought the hard left in the 1980s.

Now Im
backing Corbyn
Ian Williams
Neil Kinnock should understand Corbyns plight he once endured the same hostility
from within his own party and the media

Neil Kinnocks 1985 conference attack on Militant video
Saturday 24 September 2016 02.00 EDTLast modified on Saturday
24 September 201606.46 EDT
The impending Labour conference in Liverpool evokes a sense of deja vu all
over again. Once more we will have a Labour leader confronting a clique that
is seeking to seize the party machinery.

Analysis Jeremy Corbyn: is he

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Opinion in Labour circles is sharply divided about whether their new leader
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Three decades ago, it was Neil Kinnock at the Bournemouth conference,
making his famous speech about Militant, while I was in Liverpool fighting an
attempt by a dedicated, well-organised group of entryists to seize the party
structure and use it for its own political agenda. This time it is Jeremy Corbyn
being denounced by Labour MPs and confronting the self-described party
Like many of the old left I frankly wondered about Corbyn when he stood
but in the end mostly found that the complete absence of personal ambition
that had deprived him of experience for leadership was one of his foremost
qualities, especially when faced with the blandly insincere, uninspiring, but
patently ambitious New Labour clones who were competing with him.
Even now, I cannot truly understand the depth of the Labour establishments
revulsion for Corbyn, because I have yet to hear or read a lucid case against his
politics, except that he is deemed to be unelectable, which would be more

convincing if it did not come from those who are working overtime to make it
The inarticulate anger about his candidacy reminds me of what George Orwell
wrote about totalitarian literary language, that it has a curious mouthing sort
of quality, as of someone who is choking with rage & and can never quite hit
on the words he wanted. With Owen Smith having stolen Corbyns policies, it
makes the rage even more perplexing.

Corbyn has inspired hundreds of thousands of formerly disillusioned
members and newly motivated activists, joining what they consider to be the
reborn Labour party. Photograph: Jack Taylor/Getty Images
Kinnock, now canonised by the pundits as the man who paved the way for
Labours electoral turnaround in the 1990s, should recognise the medias
treatment of Corbyn. When Kinnock was leader, reporters used to meet in the
pub to sort out the line for events, even before they happened, and in one
form or another I remember it was always a slap in the face for Kinnock.
However, not even in the backstabbing tradition of the parliamentary Labour
party were so many members so actively complicit in his attempted death by a
thousand hacks.
Militant was eventually beaten, by a combination of administrative action and
membership revulsion at its eminently parodiable oratorical style, pseudoscouse accents and rigid self-righteousness. It was what we would now call the
soft left, and the so-called Tribune group, that did much of the heavy lifting.
We brought in John Prescott, Robin Cook and others to speak in the Militant
Merseyside heartland and offer an alternative left vision to exorcise the ghosts
of the Fourth Internationals.

If you want some flavour of that alternative vision it is worth looking

at Kinnocks famous speech, and even beyond his call to strip ourselves of the
illusions of nuclear grandeur, to his stirring yet pragmatic invocation of
Labour values. There is no need to compromise values, there is no need in
this task to surrender our socialism, there is no need to abandon or even try to
hide any of our principles, but there is an implacable need to win, and there is
an equal need for us to understand that we address an electorate which is
sceptical, an electorate which needs convincing, a British public who want to
know that our idealism is not lunacy, our realism is not timidity, our eagerness
is not extremism. That was the Kinnock on whose team I worked for the 1987
Sadly the softness of the left was its primary characteristic. After Kinnock,
Tony Blairs people managed to swamp and dissolve the Tribune group and, in
keeping with New Labours attempts to emulate Bill Clinton in the US, turned
the party into a PO box for corporate donations. They squeezed out special
interest groups like the unions, and took the core electorate of the party for
granted while filtering out potential parliamentary candidates who might
put Labour values above their career, thereby disenfranchising the
But as Kinnock went on to say: We have voluntarily, every one of us, joined a
political party. We wish a lot more people would come and join us, help us,
give us their counsel, their energies, their advice, broaden our participation.
But in making the choice to join a political party we took a decision, and it was
that by persuasion we hoped that we could bring more people with us. So that
is the basis on which we have got to act, want to act.
Corbyns sincerity and vision is reminiscent of Kinnock in that speech and of
the party pre-Blair and Peter Mandelson: the soft democratic left of that
era,with its concern for human rights and socialism, the heirs to Nye Bevan.
Corbyn has inspired hundreds of thousands of formerly disillusioned
members and newly motivated activists, who are joining what they consider to
be the reborn Labour party because they think that their views will now make
a difference, not be ignored or pre-empted by controlling cliques from
revolutionaries of the left or careerists of the right. Entryists hate such
swelling membership rolls because they are inherently uncontrollable. They
prefer a hollowed-out organisation they can control.
So instead of engaging in McCarthyite smears against the new and renewed
members, calumniating them as entryists and disenfranchising them, those

currently sitting on the benches of Westminster should be welcoming them

and joining them on the streets to turn the tide for Labour.

Corbyn confronted by reporters at a poster launch: Kinnock should recognise
the medias treatment of Corbyn. Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters