10 thoughts on Jeremy Corbyn’s win

1.Whatever you think about Jeremy Corbyn, it is kind of astonishing to see a party leader who goes straight from being elected to participating in a march for refugees’ rights. I’ve grown up used to Labour leaders who pitch themselves at Middle England while assuring us Party members sotto voce that they’re one of us really. It feels weird to have a Labour leader pitching himself at me.

2. I do though wonder about ‘polarisation’ and the risk of issues becoming partisan where they weren’t before. Look at climate change. Once there was a consensus on this; now, it’s arguably the single biggest dividing line between left and right, partly because us lefties made it ‘our’ issue (thanks, Naomi). Is the same thing going to happen on more issues if a leader like Jeremy Corbyn champions them? If so, would that be a good or a bad thing?

3.Which leads me to a bigger underlying question: now that Jeremy Corbyn is our leader, do we have a plan for reaching out to the public and taking them with us? Or is this going to be like all our Facebook walls, where we just talk to ourselves?

4. The right clearly takes the latter view and is giddy with excitement. Janan Ganesh in the FT today: “If David Cameron showed up to parliament in his Bullingdon Club tailcoat to announce the sale of Great Ormond Street children’s hospital to a consortium led by ExxonMobil, his Conservatives would still be competitive against Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour at the next election.” It would be nice to defy these expectations.

5.  For the right / New Labour / Blairites, and not a few Brownites, this means they need to (how to put this?) shut the f**k up and acknowledge Corbyn’s overwhelming mandate. They were the first to expect loyalty to the leader when they ran the show. For them to be muttering about ousting Corbyn – as lots of them are privately, and some even publicly – is totally inappropriate.

6. For the left / people who voted for Corbyn, the quid pro quo – one that will be just as hard for them as shutting up will be for the New Labour folk – must be that they have got to let go of this instinct to denounce any questioning of anything Corbyn says / does / has ever done / has ever said as part of a conspiracy to ‘smear’ their guy. Heaven knows Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have never felt shy of living out their view that debate within the Party is healthy…

7. …which is just as well, because we have a lot to debate right now, and it would be nice to be able to do so without being at each other’s throats. Truth is, I feel deeply conflicted about the result. I voted Kendall, Cooper, Burnham because I want Labour to win elections; yet my main feeling about the Blair and Brown eras is one of disappointment. Sure, there were successes – but bloody modest ones, given the scale of the 97 landslide. I want a radical alternative for the 21st century.

8. But I feel uneasy that so much of the Corbyn agenda seems so 20th century: more Socialist Worker than New Economics Foundation. I want us to build new institutions, not just defend the old ones. Above all a lot of it seems deeply statist where I’ve been hoping for something that’s much more about decentralisation and communities. There’s been a lot of good thinking about this in recent years from people like Jon Cruddas and Paul Hilder (see this piece of mine from back in May for links to their stuff). I don’t see much of it represented in Jeremy Corbyn’s platform.

8. On that note, as much as the media try to spin this as New versus Old Labour, there’s actually something much more interesting going on here, as Paul Mason noted a few days ago. Jeremy Corbyn surged to victory by talking about “progressive, left, green, feminist and anti-racist values” – messages that appeal to Party members who are “metropolitan, multi-ethnic, networked and … young”. What none of the leadership candidates really spoke to, on the other hand, was the ‘blue’ Labour agenda of “‘reconnecting’ with the working class base … old Labour voters worried about migration, declining communites etc.”

9. Whereas Tom Watson does align much more with these ‘blue’ Labour values. So for me the question I’m most fascinated by is this: will the ‘red’ and ‘blue’ Labour worldviews and their new standard bearers, Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson, be able to work together? Is there some kind of synthesis out there waiting to be found between these two very different takes on what the left should look like? Or is it just a matter of time before the gloves come off? I hope the former; even then, it may not be enough. But let’s go for it.

10. After all, who the hell knows about anything any more. Everyone was wrong about the general election. Everyone was wrong about Corbyn’s chances of winning the Labour leadership. Maybe they’re all wrong about his chances in the next general election too. (As the Daily Mash put it, “A man who just defied expectations to get elected definitely could not win an election, it has been confirmed”.) For sure if there’s another financial crisis then all bets are off: the Conservatives won’t have Labour to blame this time, and with nothing left in the kitty to bail anyone out it could look a lot nastier than the last one.

Set Research Free

The absurd price of  online access to academic journals is a scandal.

It costs $15 to look at this paper I co-wrote for Science on HIV/AIDS (for just 24 hours, too!) and £20 to buy this World Economics paper of mine. As a co-author, I wasn’t paid for either of them – the benefit from the copyright accrues solely to the journal publisher.

This absurd situation is made far worse when work has been funded by the taxpayer. Alex and I wrote a paper for the Foreign Office which Palgrave wanted to reprint in one of its journals. Again, no fee was on offer, but they wanted worldwide copyright until 70 years after Alex and I are both pushing up the daisies:

In consideration of us agreeing to publish the contribution referred to below (the “Contribution”), you assign to Palgrave Macmillan the copyright in the Contribution in all media throughout the world for the  full term of the copyright including all revivals and reversions.

Palgrave even has the cheek to argue they are doing this to protect my interests. “Ownership of copyright by the journal owner facilitates international protection against infringement of copyright, libel or plagiarism, it argues, “It also ensures that requests by third parties to reprint… are handled efficiently in accordance with our general policy which encourages dissemination of knowledge within the framework of copyright.”

It also generously offers to let me “make and distribute copies of the contribution to colleagues, for the personal use by such colleagues (but not commercially or systematically, e.g. via an e-mail list or list serve).” Gee, thanks guys.

Although we refused to sign the rights away, online access to the Palgrave version of the paper will still cost $30. Our fee from the government was small, but the same principle holds for scientific research on which millions of pounds of public money has been lavished. The public pays. The academics do the work. And the public pays again if it was wants access to the results. Who benefits? The publisher and non-one else.

At the moment, Tom Watson is canvassing suggestions for his Digital Manifesto for the upcoming British general election (he is standing for re-election in West Brom East). I added the following pledge for him to consider:

As a commenter on Tom’s User Voice site points out, this would mean boosting “open manuscript repositories, open access journals, and/or new hybrid publication models.” The government would be using its buying power to push much more research into the public domain, where it can seed further news ideas and create a dynamic knowledge commons.

If it joined with a few other governments, it could permanently change the academic publication model almost overnight.

As Iain Dale has pointed out, Tom Watson is setting himself up as the unofficial Member of Parliament for the Internet – and is very keen to hear what web users have to say. So do head over to his site to comment and vote on this and other digital economy ideas, or to add your own suggestions…