NB – the views expressed in this blogpost are mine and mine alone – I do not speak for The Grim Squeaker or this blog.
Voting starts now – the ballot papers are being sent out from today, and as I write Jeremy Corbyn has 53% of the first preference votes according to the polls…..and as we know, polls can often be wrong. But it is beginning to look as though Corbyn could win, and I think this could be a very good thing.
I am not a typical Labour member (whatever that is these days) in that I have been a left-leaning liberal for 30 years. The antics of the coalition government, and in particular the betrayal of Clegg, moved me further to the left than before; I joined the party because I wanted to see Ed Miliband become PM. In fact, I still do – I think he has the makings of a statesman, and I hope he gets another chance.
Meanwhile, we have this contest. I will be voting for Corbyn. Not because I think he’d be a good PM (though that’s possible) but because I think he is the only candidate who has the clear intention of challenging austerity politics and who would be prepared to form a united opposition with other parties – an opposition that is desperately needed.
I think this is very important – people are getting more engaged with politics because of Corbyn – and if that means more people will campaign, more people will vote, more people will question the executive (whose power exists only because we allow it) then that can only be a good thing in a democracy which has been characterised by voter apathy for a long time.
So much so, that a third of those eligible to vote didn’t bother. The Tories were as surprised as anyone that they got into office again – they got 37% of the vote, 50% of the seats, and 100% of the power. And they intend to use it – they will use it to stifle dissent, they will use it to enrich their pals, and they will use it to dismantle what is left of our health, justice, and social security.
The fact that the mainstream media has published hundreds of articles about Corbyn, not all complimentary by any means, shows how rattled the establishment is by the support he’s getting.
We are hearing that if he is elected as leader, it will be the end for Labour – that is only true if those who refuse to work with him choose to split the party. We are hearing that certain MPs, including the self-publicists Mann and Danzcuk, want a coup “on day one”. We are hearing that in some quarters, Labour MPs want the vote stopped because it’s not legitimate if lots of “entryists” sway the result. We are hearing that Corbyn is ant-semitic, pals with terrorists, economically illiterate, a militant lefty, etc.etc. ad nauseam. None of this is accurate, and most of it is a flailing attempt by Labour to prevent what it calls “entryists” taking the party in a direction the heirarchy disapproves of, despite that very heirarchy voting for the new system that made it possible.
It is my view that Kendall lacks experience, lacks policies, and lacks the ability to lead. Her ideas appear to be bordering on the conservative. Cooper has not told us what her policies are, and has more baggage than a Heathrow carousel. Burnham is better, but seems to be chasing after Corbyn with policy announcements that look just like Ed Miliband’s with a bit of Jezza thrown in.
None of this is very inspiring. Whether you agree with Corbyn’s ideas or not, he has electrified this contest, and he is offering something different. He wants a more inclusive party, he wants an elected cabinet rather than one peopled by his own fans, and he has said that he will consider a leadership contest annually. He is also offering change, and with that comes hope.
Hope is a very powerful thing. If all he does is harness that hope into an agenda for change, he will have done something very important. The discussion on how our politics is done, how our country is run, what our place is in the world, how we can improve the lives of all our fellow countrymen, is a discussion that needs to be had.
It’s my view that neo-liberalism is a busted flush. People all over Europe are thinking this; there is a groundswell of left-leaning, green, inclusive, people-centred politics that is gaining traction. I like this, I want to be part of this, and I do not think that Kendall, Cooper, or Burnham do – but I think Corbyn does.
Right now, who leads the party in 2020 is less important than how this government is opposed. The election was only a few months ago, so I suppose it’s wrong of me to expect any opposition so far….but I also think that there was an opportunity for Labour to show it’s opposition on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, and I certainly think that abstention was disgraceful.
This is not 1983. Comparing Corbyn to Foot is risible. The world has changed, and we are now being governed by the frontmen for corporations. When people like Blair and Campbell tell us that we are mad to want someone like Corbyn, I have to wonder what and who they think Labour is actually for. When the old Labour New Labour has-beens tell me I must vote for one of their acolytes, it makes me even more determined to vote for Corbyn.
Will he make a good leader? I don’t know. Would he make a good PM? I don’t know that, either. But if Labour members vote for him, and he wins the contest, then the PLP must get behind him and they must take this opportunity to oppose the Tories – that is their job now, and it’s a job that needs doing urgently.
I don’t want another Blairite. I don’t want more of the same. I want to see some fight, some change, and some hope.