I know things are tough at the moment for the Left of the Labour Party, but there seems to be a whiff of change in the air – nice change, not ‘Corbyn Resigns’ change. We’ve had a torrent of big stories today, many of which are cause for celebration.
Firstly, following a crowd-funded legal challenge by a group of new Labour members, the High Court has ruled that the 130,000 or so “new members” who joined the party after the NEC-imposed freeze-date of January 12th 2016 ARE entitled to a vote in the upcoming Leadership Election. It was deemed that the actions of the Labour Party were undemocratic and illegal, and that ALL members must be allowed to vote, as per Party Rules. The Party is now using those members’ membership fees to appeal the decision – despite being told they have next to no chance of winning – to block the members from having a vote, in what must be the sourest and most-obnoxious legal move for some time.
This ruling also means – one would expect, anyway – that those “new members” who were forced to pay the ridiculous charge of £25 to “buy a vote” through the registered supporters’ method are due a refund of this amount from the Labour Party. Also, it brings into question the legitimacy of come CLP Nominations that were made in meetings that expressly excluded new members, who were deemed ineligible to nominate as they were ineligible to vote. Many are calling for these nomination meetings to be re-run, and for new nominating ballots to take place. This would likely see a fair increase in support for Corbyn.
Also today, the NEC election result has been announced and the six “pro-Corbyn” Grassroots Labour candidates all got elected. The ordinary membership now has a clear and powerful voice on the Labour National Executive. Add to this that the bookies now have Jeremy Corbyn as favourite to be the next Prime Minister after Theresa May and you have a day of relatively good news!
Within Corbyn’s short time as Labour Leader he has overseen numerous Tory U-turns, two Labour mayoral victories, a better than expected results in local elections, a host of Labour by-election victories and a party membership that has increased by something like 350,000 or more. And yet the old cliche that states “Labour under Corbyn is unelectable” still gets trotted out by even the most level-headed of Corbyn’s critics. It simply isn’t true.
If I had a pound for every time someone said to me “I really like Jeremy Corbyn’s policies, but he’s just not going to win an election, is he? Nobody’s going to vote for him!” I’d have enough money to buy you all a registered supporter vote in the leadership election. And if everyone who said this pledged to vote for Corbyn in a general election, then the question of his electability wouldn’t be thrown around quite so freely. All he needs is the backing of people who think that a) his policies are what the country needs and b) are willing to say so out loud. We’ve been called trots, rabble, dogs – and that’s just by our own Labour comrades, but the truth is this: Jeremy Corbyn’s support comes from people in all walks of life, young and old, rich and poor, black, white, man, woman… there’s no “type”.
“Corbynistas” (never Corbynites – because the “-istas” bit makes us sound like we’re launching a latin american coup, rather than campaigning for social justice, democracy and the like) are just people like you or I. Some are quietly so because every time the topic comes up, there’s always a nice, reasonable someone waiting to tell them they’re the lowest of the low. Usually, but not always, this person will be a Sun reader, or a Daily Mail reader, or someone with a vested interest in a neoliberal economic future and this tired status quo. Someone who has also been told that Corbyn is the devil, and believed it.
Jeremy Corbyn isn’t the Messiah, he’s not a cult leader either. He’s a man – an often tired, old-looking man – who had the balls to challenge the centrist lurch to the right and offer a slate of true Labour policies in a decent, respectful and democratic way. I’ve been mocked for “going on about democracy” many times and if anything highlights the need for a man like Jeremy Corbyn’s politics it’s that.
Remember when democracy and socialism WAS the Labour Party? Remember when a democratic mandate was accepted and respected, even if it wasn’t liked very much? Remember when The People Have Spoken meant that, like it or not, that’s it?
Owen Smith says he’ll try to overturn the Brexit vote if he becomes leader then PM: undemocratic. The NEC have tried to stop 130,000 people voting because they think the people joining the party under Corbyn are simply showing “entryism”: undemocratic. (I also wonder if they’d have the same opinion if Labour under Blair gained hundreds of thousands of members, instead of hemorrhaging them, as it did?) The PLP tried first to force the resignation of the elected leader: undemocratic. Then they tried to fudge the rules to keep him off the ballot: undemocratic. When that failed for them a rich donor on the right of the party tried to remove Corbyn retrospectively from the ballot in court: undemocratic. Meanwhile we have a PM who was appointed without an election at all: undemocratic.
When did we become such an undemocratic country? Since when did the British people just sit back while their fates were decided for them by executive committee?! It just isn’t cricket, is it?!
With democratically elected left wing NEC representatives on board and a soon-to-be democratically re-elected left wing leader of the Labour Party many will yell “The Corbynistas are taking over our once-great Party!” – indeed, they already have – but the truth is far less dramatic. The truth is that the members of the Labour Party have found their voice again, after decades of it being ignored. We now have a leader who listens to us and acts according to the debates we have around issues of importance. We now have a leader who believes in the central tenets of true Labour values of socialism and democracy; it’s written on the card, for goodness sake, ignored for so, so long.
People are realising that there is an alternative to Tory austerity and this time is is a true alternative. An alternative that opposes outright cuts to public services, rather than just promising to make fewer of them. An alternative that is anti-austerity, not just austerity-lite. An alternative that doesn’t talk down to you, tell you you won’t understand, but asks you, what do you think? Gone will be the days of shameful PMQ mudslinging, this guy doesn’t “do” personal insults. Things are changing. It’ll take some time to take hold fully, but a new era in British politics is dawning. The people are about to see that they DO matter, so some politicians. They really, truly do. And the people will choose those politicians over the ones who have shown time and again that they care nothing for us.
And you can help this change happen by not smirking at Cornyn’s jacket, but by listening to his policies. Or by not joining in with the new pastime of mocking him and deriding him, regardless of fact, but by giving him at least a chance. The election is meant to be in 2020 – a long way off, really – and it would be so if it weren’t for Cameron’s suicidal EU referendum tearing the Conservative party to shreds. They picked themselves up and put Labour to shame following their leadership crisis, because our side were too busy telling the boss he was a cock rather than telling the public how dangerous the Tories are and how much more so they will be under May.
I ask this of you: Listen to Corbyn, hear his ideas, allow his supporters a chance to argue his case. You can disagree with everything Corbyn says if you want, but just give him a chance to put his case to you. Forget the nonsense about him being a terrorist sympathiser or a threat to our national security. Forget that he’s apparently both UNelectable and a very real threat to the country should he win. Forget the slurs and smears and misquotes and out of context reporting from papers we we no longer trust not to hack the phones of dead children, but are prepared to believe as though gospel about Terrible Jeremy Corbyn and his weird clique of bunkered-down frothing Trots. Forget the man, listen to the man’s words. Hear his policies (you may have to search him out on Youtube as many TV channels fail to mention what he actually believes in when they report on his bad singing, scruffy suit or romantic adventures in the 1970s) and, if you disagree with them, don’t vote Labour. But I’d love to know what it is you disagree with.
I sound like a Corbyn evangelist but I’m honestly not. I just think that, for the first time in my life, someone who holds the political beliefs I myself hold deserves my time. I believe that, for the first time ever, I trust a politician to follow through on his promises. I see that, for the first time ever, we’re seeing even the Tories “lurch to the left” (see May’s insulting and despicably duplicitous “inauguration speech”) and yet we’re meant to believe that the public won’t respond to left wing policies? Nonsense. Ordinary men and women all over this country have been waiting for a leader like Corbyn to reflect their own politics of fairness, social justice, democracy and human rights to the fore of the British political pantomime. Many have been unable to bring themselves to vote for the weak and weary alternatives to Tory cruelty offered by the likes of Blair, Brown and even Miliband.
I’ve heard it said that the changing political landscape is drawing the country away from a two-party system, with the rise of smaller parties like UKIP and the Greens. I don’t think this is true. I’m not saying every Green or UKIP voter is protesting, but I think that some of those who went to those parties did so because they were let down by a political class that promised them the world, only to shit on them from a height when they won on the back of those promises. Jeremy Corbyn IS offering an alternative these people can believe in. It’s happening now. What executives in the Labour party call “entryism” I call “winning back votes from parties we’ve lost votes to in the past 20 years” – surely this is what Labour needs?! Isn’t winning votes from your opponents the whole point of party politics? Otherwise, how would anyone win anything at all?
You’ll hear that “Cornynistas” are more than happy with Labour being a protest group of mouthy lefties in perpetual opposition. That they want nothing more than decades of Tory rule to shout about in the streets. This is simply not true. The Left simply wants a return to the traditional values of Labour that were so destructively disposed of over the last twenty years. What is evident, however, is that the critics of Corbyn, of his supporters and his politics will do anything they can to make sure Labour never wins from the left. I ask you, who are the real political vandals?