by Robyn Banks
They said he was unelectable. Throughout Corbyn’s rise to labour leader, those of us who supported him were continually told not to. Conservative commentators watched in angst, and told us it would never happen, and the right wing of the labour party begged members to vote for somebody more moderate, more appealing to the wider electorate, more ‘electable’. But, still, he garnered 59.5% of votes in the 2015 Labour leadership election. 87,000 people joined the labour party after his victory, and more than half of labour members this January had joined since the last election, with many signing up in order to vote for him in the leadership race. 13,000 more have joined this week to support him. It’s clear that he offers something that many people want.
In my four years in university politics, those of us who support parties and policies further to the left of Labour have had to repeatedly head off claims that we are dividing the left. The whole left, the story goes, should put principle aside and unite behind Labour, because in a first past the post voting system where the right wing vote is united behind the conservatives a united left wing vote for Labour is the only thing which will successfully keep the conservatives out.
For years we’ve looked at Labour’s paltry offerings of moderate candidates pushing more austerity, playing up to fears about immigration and the economy, and found them to be indistinguishable from the conservatives. This is what split the left vote. This is the reason the left has not been able to unite behind Labour. Blair and the Iraq war still hang heavy in the public’s mind, and the anti-austerity movement has grown to new heights under unadulterated conservative cuts.
Blair and the Iraq war still hang heavy in the public’s mind
People are relying on foodbanks, homelessness has dramatically increased, and austerity has attacked the young, the poor, and the disabled. The cuts to social services have hit women the hardest, and anti-immigration sentiment has been whipped up to the point that the conservatives felt the need to call a referendum on the EU just to get elected. After announcing a referendum they then spent six months informing the public that they really didn’t want us to take the choice they had given us, please, but the ploy backfired and Cameron stepped down, refusing to be the person who leads us out of the EU and calmly leaving it to the next guy.
So who is the person for the job? Who should take the mantle of the next UK government? Well, it’s not Labour, according to… Labour themselves? In the most absurd, self-defeating move I have seen from the party yet, Labour have decided to fall on their own sword and claim responsibility for the UK leaving the EU. Not only that, they have decided to use it as a reason to oust their most successful candidate since Blair.
This might seem all very confusing as an outsider- as confusing as your Nan still blaming labour for the 2008 global financial recession, assuming an amount of power on the part of the party that they simply do not have. An almost god-like power, you could say, considering that the labour party convinced two thirds of their members to vote remain and, so far, there has been no evidence that this Eurosceptic third have been Corbyn supporters. Considering the amount of fear over immigration played to by the leave campaign it seems far more likely that that third of Labour Brexiters were the same Labour moderates who lapped up ‘moderate austerity’ Kool-Aid from infamous ‘immigration control’ mugs.
So, Corbyn is a Eurosceptic. So what? He’s about as Eurosceptic as any socialist would be of a gigantic capitalist superpower.
But when I brought this up to Labour members in favour of toppling Corbyn in the recent Labour coup, I was told that Corbyn had ‘failed’ its young members by not campaigning hard enough on the issue. Some leaked emails appear to show that this is true, but that didn’t stop 20 odd remain flyers with Corbyn’s face on landing on my doormat, remain campaigners from the party coming over more than once to ask which way we were voting and several phone calls in a similar vein.
So, Corbyn is a Eurosceptic. So what? He’s about as Eurosceptic as any socialist would be of a gigantic capitalist superpower. The EU needs reform, and the left have always admitted this- it’s just not the kind of reform touted by the bulk of Eurosceptics, involving increasing isolation gained by backdoor concessions. Add to that the fact that, whatever the outcome of the referendum was, moderates in the party had already planned to attempt to bring down Corbyn in a series of resignations and public criticisms a cheeky whole 10 days before the referendum.
In the run up to the referendum Corbyn took a considered and nuanced stance towards the EU before jumping on the party line and in the days since he has shown incredible bravery and strength in the face of calls to resign from the Conservatives and Labour MPs alike. He won the leadership election with a democratic majority, with a tentative campaign in which he was nominated out of necessity to represent the old left of the party, and will only stand down with the same democratic mandate. For that I, and so many others I know, am grateful. The Chilcot report will soon be released, which has the potential to destroy the name of New Labour for the foreseeable future, and Caroline Lucas has reached out to Corbyn in an offer to create an alliance which has the potential to revolutionise the political landscape. After a successful vote of no-confidence, Corbyn now faces another leadership election. He will run again and I hope he will win. If not, it will be the end of the Labour party.
Whether we leave the EU or change our minds and decide to remain, there is only one person I trust to successfully negotiate us out of this mess without letting the most vulnerable in society bear the brunt yet again. The chance for the comeback of true socialism is at our feet, and I won’t accept anything less.
Header image via independent.co.uk