One of my passions is politics and last Saturday something truly dramatic happened in the UK: Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour party. For those who don’t know who he is, which until recently was most of us, he is a socialist, left-wing MP that has served his constituency for thirty years but has, until now, never had a major role. His inclusion in the leadership race was reported to have only occurred so that the left-wing agenda got a hearing and he was widely expected to come, if not last, then second to last in the contest. But that did not happen.
As the contest dragged on, and it really was far too long, something remarkable happened. He began to take the lead and no one could believe it. Indeed, I could not quite believe it myself. Given the recent inaccuracy of polls in the run up to the last election this is hardly surprising but suddenly, anytime the media needed an opinion, he was the candidate they went to. And then he did indeed win. And he did so with a huge share of the vote, nearly 60%! The closest rival barely had 20%. It was remarkable and there is little doubt that Mr. Corbyn’s inclusion in the contest made for a much more entertaining race. I think, without him, the entire thing would have been widely ignored and instead of any of the other, cardboard cut-out candidates, we now have a widely popular leader and a rapidly increasing Labour membership.
So how did Mr. Corbyn win? Well, from early on in the contest there was little doubt that he was dramatically different than the others. When asked a question, he would actually offer an answer! This was so entirely novel that he quickly gained the attention of anyone watching and people began listening to him, even those who had drifted away from the Labour party or had been turned-off from politics in general. Then he became the lead candidate and reports emerged that a great many people were turning out to hear him speak, indeed overfilling the available venues, and of young people giving up evenings to spend them working at phone banks to help his campaign. This is truly impressive and turning this success into a social movement that continues to drive up Labour membership and brings younger voters into politics is now crucial.
I for one am glad that Mr Corbyn is the new leader of the Labour party but before I go any further I should declare my own interests: I voted for him to become leader, along with Tom Watson for deputy, so I’m not unbiased in this matter. I voted Green in the last general election and, had Labour know that, I might have been prevented from doing so, not that my absence would’ve been noticed given the scale of Mr. Corbyn’s victory. My hope, right now, is that we now have an actual Labour leader, a socialist who will fight for the good of the poorest in our society who are being so relentlessly attacked by this Tory government. For that is what a Labour leader should do, in my opinion. I consider myself to be a left-leaning voter though, as the Guardian columnist Owen Jones is fond of saying, left and right seems to be becoming a more and more outdated concept.
What I care about is the issues that affect my life and those of my generation including social mobility and justice, affordable housing, renationalising public services that should have been sold off, creating good quality jobs and the green agenda. And the current Tory government is dealing with none of these issues, actually making many of them worse. Hopefully this will change, indeed it looks like it already might be. Labour must set about opposing the Tory’s austerity agenda, which is idealistic dogma and nothing more, to begin building the houses that Britain desperately needs and defending the unions that are under such fierce and sustained attack from this government.
But now that Mr. Corbyn has won, no one can decide if he will bring about the rebirth or the end of the Labour party. I’ve seen commentary articles that make both of these arguments. So either he will lead to a split in the party so serious that it never recovers and collapses in on itself or he could bring about a resurgence. I’m betting on the latter but if Labour were to collapse it could also lead to the collapse of the Tories, at least according to some sources, and possibly about a fundamental shift in politics in the UK. Whatever happens there is little doubt that we suddenly seem to be living in more interesting times.
One thing is assured: Mr. Corbyn will certainly not be in for an easy ride. The inevitable backlash from the Tories, including the 85% right-wing media, was predictable and actually amusing in the ridiculousness of the things they said. ‘Corbyn is a threat to national security, economic security’ and (almost) world security. And some of these words came directly from our Prime Minister! They are trying to brand him in his first few days before he has a chance to define what the Labour party under his leadership is about. And they can succeed. They only need to persuade a small percentage of the population that this is the case for it to stick. So the challenge for his supporters is to prevent this from happening for if he is smeared, in a similar way to how Ed Miliband was portrayed as a geek who can’t eat a bacon sandwich, then we might lose any hope that he could win the next election years before the contest has even begun.
My impression and opinion is that Britain’s Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron, is no leader. He follows where he should lead and the next five years will present a great many challenges that will test the public’s faith in his abilities. Already this year we have had the ongoing refugee crisis, rumblings in Northern Ireland, and now a new leader of the opposition party who will likely oppose this government in a manner that Mr. Cameron has not yet faced. If Labour can unite behind their new leader then I suspect their fortunes may rise. I really hope they do. The poor of this country desperately need someone on their side and that is a position that the new Labour leader is sure to take.
Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on comics, politics, self-publishing and my novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ which is out now at all electronic retailers! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!