The Unstoppable Shift towards Progressive Politics
Part 1 – A Political Defence of Corbyn
Following on from my outlining of Jeremy Corbyn’s policies and my summary of the media and political attacks directed against him in the corporate media, I will look a brief look below at the political support the leadership frontrunner has received from both colleagues and experts.
First of all, and perhaps most importantly given the current economic climate, I will summarise the support Corbyn has received from economists:
- Open University economics lecturer Alan Shipman has insisted that Corbynomics is “shockingly reasonable” and “hardly controversial”. Making the case for public investment, he claimed that such monetary injections into the economy usually “match or exceed those of most private projects”, suggesting they would be necessary in a country which had seen its “longest fall in real wages for more than a century”; insufficient investment; a rise in the “external payments deficit”; and “a spread of low-paid and insecure jobs”.
- Nobel Prize-winning economics professor Paul Krugman, meanwhile, insisted that “austerity policies” were not “the only responsible answer to a fiscal crisis”. In fact, he argued that “the whole austerian ideology is based on fantasy economics”, and that its “large costs” were ‘not justified’. “Anti-austerians”, on the other hand, were “basing their views on the best evidence from modern macroeconomic theory and evidence”.
- In mid-August, thirty-five economists stressed that Corbynomics was “opening up fruitful new areas for public discussion on the economy” and was echoing views “advocated by prominent economists”. Then, days later, 41 economics experts (including David Blanchflower, a former member of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee), asserted that Corbyn’s “opposition to austerity is actually mainstream economics, even backed by the conservative IMF”. In fact, they said, it was “the current government’s policy and its objectives that are extreme”.
- Finally, economist Richard Murphy, who designed Corbyn’s policies, insisted that “money printing is normal” and that “central bankers aren’t sure they understand how inflation works anymore”. Yvette Cooper and others, he argued, were sticking firm to “economic thinking that is obviously past its sell-by date” which tells them to oppose “necessary ideas for reform that could massively benefit the people of this country”.
Corbyn Defends Himself
Corbyn, meanwhile, responded to some critiques himself, insisting that:
- “Labour has to become a movement again to win in 2020”, and “the part of the electorate who we most need to speak to is those who didn’t vote – 34 per cent at the last election”;
- “Demanding tax justice” would actually be “a moderate pro-business campaign”, as cracking down on “tax dodging by multinationals” would destroy their “unfair advantage over local businesses”;
- “Many well-off people” he had spoken to had said they “would be quite happy to pay more tax” because they recognised “a more equal society is better for us all”;
- He wanted to develop “a democratic party that involves all MPs and party members” and was “more inclusive and united” in general;
- He would encourage “an open debate” through “a number of open conventions on the economy, the environment, the constitution, social and foreign policies”;
- “Some serious discussions” were needed about “de-escalating the military crisis in central Europe”;
- Talk of him being an “obscure deficit denier” was “total nonsense”, as his plans were “modest”;
- “Bringing down the deficit on the backs of those on low and average incomes” would mean only “more debt, more poverty, more insecurity, more anxiety and ultimately more crisis”;
- Claims of infiltration were “nonsense”, the only entryism that was taking place was that “of enthusiastic young people”, and his campaign was a process of “popular debate and popular discussion”;
- “Labour ought to be welcoming Greens, socialists and others on the left, instead of turning them away”;
- “A summit” should be established “involving all the nations” of the Middle East, “plus Britain, USA and Russia” in order to reach a settlement to the Syrian Civil War, as it was Britain’s “duty under UN law, but also as human beings, to offer a place of safety, and play a role internationally to share our responsibilities, and to try to end the conflict” in Syria.
Support from Labour Politicians
Ken Livingstone was perhaps the most enthusiastic Labour MP to back Corbyn, insisting that he was:
- Presenting a “credible economic alternative” to the neoliberal status quo;
- “The candidate most likely to win the general election for Labour”;
- “Unscarred by the expenses scandal and [had] never sold out his principles for a job in government”;
- “Fundamentally decent” and the “nicest person in politics”;
- “Offering hope for a better future to a generation that has no hope”;
- Representing an “unheard centre ground” and expressing “clear values”;
- “Completely in touch with how tough life is for ordinary people”;
Richard Burgon, meanwhile, insisted that Corbyn was “not “hard-left””, whilst criticising the media’s “deliberate, politically motivated choice of language”. Such suggestions, he argued, were “plain silly”, as there was “simply no evidence” that Corbyn’s economic policies would be disastrous.
At the same time, John McDonnell said Corbyn’s economic proposals were simply “sound common sense”, while his opponents’ were acting like “crisis deniers” out of touch with how austerity was affecting most citizens. Criticising the “increasingly hysterical” reaction “from elements of the Labour establishment”, meanwhile, he said party grandees had been insulting “the intelligence, idealism and judgment of our party members”.
Soon, Michael Meacher also weighed in, insisting that Blair’s abiding legacy, apart from the Iraq war” had been “to abandon the fundamental principles of the party and to assimilate it instead to the Thatcherite ideology”. Through his movement’s “deep arrogance”, “unwillingness to listen”, and “contempt for any radicalism from the Left”, the former prime minister had simply laid the foundations for the grassroots popularity existent in Corbyn’s leadership campaign.
Furthermore: John Prescott denounced Blair’s “hypocrisy” and “absolutely staggering… abuse”, which was “totally unacceptable”; Rhodri Morgan called Blair’s comments “astonishing and unwise”; Tom Watson said the contest had been “overdramatised” and that Corbyn was “no Trotskyist”; Angel Eagle stressed that “the unwelcome briefings and public prophesies of doom and destruction from senior figures are doing more damage to the party than they are to the leadership candidate himself”; and Jon Trickett asserted that shadow cabinet members refusing to serve under Corbyn had “made a profound mistake”. In fact, even Harriet Harmon claimed things had been said “which raise the temperature and they shouldn’t”.
Paul Flynn and Ann Clwyd, meanwhile, argued that Labour should welcome Greens into the party, with the latter saying “we like the Greens”. At the same time: Ian Lavery said Corbyn’s arguments in favour of “clean coal burning” were ““responsible and both economically and environmentally sensible”; Diane Abbott argued that it was “absurd” that right-winger were trying to get the election stopped just because it looked like their “side was going to lose”; Kezia Dugdale affirmed that she was “excited” by Corbyn’s leadership campaign; and Mike Hedges insisted that “you win elections when you give the electorate hope”, suggesting that Corbyn could be successful because he had managed to inspire voters.
Support from the Unions
For Unison general secretary Dave Prentis, Corbyn’s messages had “resonated with public sector workers”, and had encouraged a “left-wing re-awakening… across the country” with his real “alternatives” and straightforward language. CWU general secretary Dave Ward, meanwhile, said endorsing Corbyn had been an ‘easy decision’, as he saw Corbyn as “the antidote” to a Blairite “virus within the Labour party” because of his proposed “solution to a 21st century problem”. At the same time, TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes asserted that his union had backed Corbyn because he was “straight-talking” and had put forward “sensible policies which resonate with ordinary people”.
On August 21, “the leaders of six of the biggest trade unions” wrote an open letter saying Corbyn could “lead Labour to victory in 2020”, while Unite’s John Storey asserted over a week later that citizens “must stand with Corbyn against media attacks” because “the vast armoury of the Tory press [was] trained on Jeremy” and had “only just warmed up”.
Support from Other Parties and Groups
Finally, Corbyn received support from the SNP’s Westminster leader Angus Robertson, who claimed he was a “strong voice against austerity” and had been “very consistent and very principled” regarding his opposition to Trident. The Stop the War Coalition, meanwhile, insisted that Corbyn had “never lied to his party or the electorate” and had been a “central figure in opposing the illegal war on Iraq”, unlike Tony Blair, Jack Straw, and Alistair Campbell (who were “all calling for Labour to select anyone but Jeremy Corbyn as the party’s next leader”).
For the Green Party’s Pat Marsh, Corbyn’s campaign represented “the inevitable direction for the future”, and that a Corbyn-led Labour Party could create “a real chance [for] the progressive parties in British politics” to work together. Caroline Lucas, meanwhile, insisted that Corbyn could unite with other left-wing forces to “build a progressive majority” in the 2020 elections. At the start of September, Green Party member Bradley Allsop also stepped in to defend the Corbyn movement, saying that “the media’s caricaturing” of Corbyn should be a “concern” to all British progressives. At the same time, Josiah Mortimer argued that, although Greens were aware that a Corbyn victory would only be the first step towards “a new left-wing pluralism”, and would have to contend with hostility within the Labour establishment, many Greens were “excited by the prospect of [Corbyn’s] election”.
Left Unity, meanwhile, criticised Labour’s “witch hunt” against left-wing supporters, insisting the party ought to be “thrilled” that so many people wanted to sign up to vote in the leadership elections. Corbyn’s commitment to “true Labour politics”, the party said, had inspired many ex-Labour voters who “fully [agree] with the aims and values of the Labour Party” but had felt abandoned by the organisation’s shift to the right. Having captured “the hopes of millions”, it stressed, Corbyn’s “alternative policies” had helped to foster and harness “a real mass movement” looking for change (which went “well beyond the structure of the Labour Party itself”).
Even some Conservative members expressed some respect for Corbyn, with party whip Andrew Mitchell speaking of Corbyn’s “authenticity” and a cabinet MP even saying Corbyn might be able to “re-define the centre ground” of British politics. For Matthew d’Ancona, meanwhile, Corbyn had “stormed through the crash barriers of contemporary politics”, and “smart Tories” would do well to consider Corbyn’s popular as a serious phenomenon that could have a real impact on their own party.
At the same time, Ken Clarke stressed that Corbyn was a “nice guy”, that his “branch of left-wing populism would be hard to campaign against”, and that he could have “a large enough “anti-Westminster” body of voters to sweep [himself] into power”. Boris Johnson, meanwhile, said Corbyn’s observations were “not wholly wrong”, and that the Conservative Party should “pay attention” to what he was saying.
Even UKIP’s Nigel Farage defended Corbyn, saying he had “helped re-engage many who had given up on politics”, and that this was essentially “a good thing for our democracy”. He also revealed his respect for the fact that the Islington MP had been “unwilling to sign up to the corporatist, bullying EU agenda in the usual unquestioning manner”, and called Corbyn “a genuinely radical voice on the Left”. According to Kapil Komireddi at The Independent, meanwhile, Corbyn had “engaged Ukip voters without ever uttering a word against immigrants”, using “defiantly inclusive messaging” to reach out to a wide range of voters.
Finally, in an event that essentially turned Corbyn’s campaign into a fully-fledged member of the wave of anti-austerity coalitions which had formed throughout Europe since the global capitalist crisis in 2008, Spanish party Podemos endorsed the leadership frontrunner in late August, claiming he offered “a solid alternative to socially irresponsible and austericidal policies”.