The story behind #IStandWithFisher (Tweets)

In my 6 November article about Jeremy Corbyn’s mature and respecful attitude at PMQs when faced with insults directed at his team (which can be seen here at The Canary), I mention the diversion tactics used by David Cameron to distract people from the real political issues of the day. Now, this red-baiting appears to have spread into the ranks of the Labour party itself (once again).

The purge of Corbyn’s policy chief Andrew Fisher has resuscitated the sentiment felt during the Labour leadership elections – when countless leftwingers were purged from the party for not having remained loyal to the Blairite elites. This time, however, the shadow chancellor John McDonnell was quick to support his colleague, saying:

The Jeremy Corbyn for PM campaign on Facebook and Twitter also chipped in, defending Fisher’s record:

Fisher

The following messages, meanwhile, showed the feelings of some Corbyn supporters on Twitter:

Others claimed that, if anyone should be purged from the Labour party, it should be those who have openly been plotting to overthrow Corbyn:

The attempts of the Labour right to keep a hold of the party are likely to continue, but I would bet that they won’t have much success. After all, they must know that Corbyn has the overwhelming support of both members and sympathisers of the Labour party. And they must know how silly they look when they enter into the red-baiting game.

purge

For more, see this petition

My posts on The Canary so far

The Fears of the Powerful and the Hopes of the Peaceful

Resistance Is Fertile

After two decades of cruising along the contaminated economic canals built by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, the Labour Party’s failure to win the 2015 election proved quite definitively that it had no fuel left (even with the oil stolen from Iraq) and was heading for disaster. Fortunately, one dissenter had a proposal for changing course and the energy to do so. His colleagues, however, maintained they were heading in the right direction, with Tony Blair himself (“the poster child of Labour’s loss of principles and integrity”[1]) calling on people to “get a transplant” if they disagreed.[2] Having sold out British workers in favour of their powerful corporate backers,[3] though, the Blairite attempts to send the “arsonist” back to “put the fire out” were useless, as most Labour supporters knew that Jeremy Corbyn was the only candidate capable of truly extinguishing the blaze.[4]

Although many…

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CorbynWatch (September 15 & 16)

On September 15:

  1. After “receiving a standing ovation”, Corbyn called Tories “poverty deniers” in a speech to the TUC.[1] He also accused them of “social cleansing” and “declaring war on organised Labour”;[2]
  2. For Kevin Maguire at The Mirror, Corbyn’s “decent, common sense and simply-explained politics” were “compassionate and sincere”, and were “under such ferocious assault” simply because they were considered such a “threat” to his “more cynical opponents”. His admission that “he isn’t all-seeing, all-knowing” was to be seen as “a radical departure in politics”, and his desire to “listen to the good ideas of ordinary people” was “revolutionary”. And finally, although he was “no great orator”, asserted Maguire, “he could change British politics for the better”;[3]
  3. With an ICM survey showing “a six-point lead for the Tories” over Labour, “down from nine points in the previous survey”, it was clear that Corbyn’s election had boosted support for Labour in the country;[4]

Corbyn’s integrity and the outdated national anthem

  1. Having released a statement to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, in which he praised the “heroism of the Royal Air Force” and the “tremendous courage and determination to defeat fascism” shown by his mother (who “served as an air raid warden”) and his father (who was in the Home Guard), he “remained silent during the national anthem” at a memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral on September 15. The Labour party later stated that he had “stood in respectful silence”,[5] while Corbyn himself said he was “thinking of [his] mum”. And, in a supposedly ‘democratic’ country of religious people, non-religious people, monarchists, and republicans, surely he was entitled to have his own beliefs respected. Forcing someone to sing a national anthem which glorifies an unelected head of state and invokes the blessing of a specific deity would surely be something one would expect to find only in an authoritarian country. The Stop the War coalition, for example, had spoken just days before about the British monarchy’s “criminal record” and “moral vacuum”;[6]
  2. On September 16, Corbyn (and a plethora of supporters on the internet) justified his actions the previous day. Adam Bienkov at Politics.co.uk, meanwhile, said “Corbyn should be applauded for refusing to sing the national anthem”, especially given that there were “several perfectly sane and reasonable reasons for Jeremy Corbyn not to have joined in with the anthem”. It was “refreshing”, he said, “to see someone stick so resolutely to their principles”.[7] Chris Blackhurst, meanwhile, spoke at The Independent about how the “avowed republican” would be “damned” if he did sing the national anthem (for “being a hypocrite”), and damned if he didn’t (for “being unpatriotic”), whilst suggesting he would have to “play by the rules” if he wanted to progress in the anti-democratic British political system.[8]
  3. The Independent’s Holly Baxter reminded readers that Corbyn had been elected as Labour leader precisely because the party’s members and sympathisers had “tired of mindless conformity”. Therefore, the “real insult” was not Corbyn’s refusal to sing the national anthem but the Tories policies which were ‘ruining veterans’ lives’. She also quoted war veteran Harry Leslie Smith who had said in a tweet that he was “not offended by Corbyn not singing [the] national anthem” but was “offended by politicians who sell guns to tyrants[9] (making an apparent reference to “the world’s biggest arms fair” which had come to London on September 15;[10]
  4. Smith himself, who in 2013 had argued that “the solemnity of remembrance [had] been twisted into a justification for conflict”,[11] stood up for Corbyn in The Morning Star, saying he was now “going to war again” to defend Britain’s welfare state. Arguing that “the media isn’t an ally”, and that the Cameron regime would “use every cynical device and cruel smear” to delegitimise Corbyn’s progressive policies, he stressed that all sympathisers should ‘help out’ on the “long but progressive march to victory in 2020”;[12]
  5. Left Unity, meanwhile, once again stood alongside Corbyn, saying that, “as a republican party”, it stood “full-square behind any choice not to sing that the Queen should be ‘long to reign over us’”. It was “entirely reasonable to show respect for the dead without endorsing the institution of the monarchy”, asserted spokesman Salman Shaheen, insisting that the “right wing media” were “playground bullies” who both hated and feared the new Labour leader;[13]
  6. Even Conservative MP James Gray defended Corbyn, insisting that, although the Labour leader was “a pacifist and not a royalist”, he had nonetheless “gone along and stood in the front row” at the memorial service;[14]
  7. Finally, James O’Brien at LBC radio left a nationalist caller “lost for words” when he rang up to criticise Corbyn for not singing the national anthem. First, O’Brien insisted that the song was about the Queen rather than the nation or its dead soldiers, before being told that not singing it was disrespectful to those who had died to protect (among other things) freedom of speech. The presenter then stressed that the caller should therefore respect Corbyn’s own right to express himself freely. Finally, when asked to recite the second verse of the song, the caller essentially admitted that he didn’t even know it;[15]

At Corbyn’s first Prime Minister’s Question Time:

  1. In his maiden PMQs, coming just a day after “tax credit cuts” had been passed “by a majority of 35”,[16] Corbyn spoke about how he had “received 40,000 repliesto his offer for Labour members to ask David Cameron their own questions. According to the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, “Camp Corbyn and David Cameron’s team” were “both happy with the outcome” of Corbyn’s first PMQs. Her use of the term ‘Camp Corbyn’, however, appeared to show significant bias against Labour, suggesting that Corbyn’s team resembled an unserious summer camp or a disorganised refugee camp (or any of the other connotations the word ‘camp’ tends to have) while the Prime Minister’s team was treated with greater formality (or deference).
  2. At the same time, Kuenssberg claimed that “asking six different questions rather than pushing the prime minister on a single point” may have given Cameronan easy ride”.[17] This seemed a fair point, as many of Cameron’s answers (particularly to do with the economy) were misleading and required a strong reply from Corbyn, which they did not always receive. For Asa Bennett at the Telegraph, the fact that Cameron was not hard pressed on specific issues had simply meant that he “barely broke a sweat”.[18] On the other hand, though, the Labour leader’s strategy did manage to cover a range of questions on a number of important issues which would probably not have been covered otherwise.
  3. Later on, Corbyn told Kuenssberg he “would not campaign for the UK to leave the European Union”, though he would “fight any moves towards a more free-market relationship”.[19]
  4. In PMQs, when Corbyn was talking about housing, it appeared that Tory MPs were laughing in a very elitist manner at the fact that Corbyn was actually asking the question of an ordinary citizen rather than one of his own. Liam Young wrote at The Independent, however, that this reaction, along with “Cameron’s stock responses”, had shown the Prime Minister up as “out-of-touch”, while Corbyn “triumphed”.[20] SNP MP Mhairi Black, meanwhile, tweeted: “Tories sniggering every time Corbyn mentions a member of the public’s name. At least they are real people, unlike those the DWP made up”;[21]
  5. For The Guardian, meanwhile, Corbyn’s “crowdsourced session” and his cool, “non-confrontational” performance meant that he effectively “stabilised his position” as leader of the Labour Party and given him “vital breathing space”. He also seemed to force more ‘civilised’ rhetoric from Cameron, who even “congratulated Corbyn on his “resounding victory””. Nonetheless, MP Toby Perkins stated that, although it had been “perfectly sensible” to emphasise that he was “speaking for a lot of people”, Corbyn’s approach would have to “evolve” in the future to put Cameron under more pressure.[22] The official Guardian stance on Corbyn’s performance, meanwhile, was that it was “promising” and “a very reasonable start”;[23]
  6. While The Guardian’s Suzanne Moore unsympathetically argued that Corbyn’s Labour was “a party without a point”,[24] her colleague Seumas Milne claimed that Corbyn (having “already transformed politics”, could now “break open the political system” if his supporters ‘kept their heads’.[25] And, with such conflicting views out in the open, it was clear that there was an internal struggle going on within a supposedly progressive paper which had, on the whole, stood firmly against Corbyn’s leadership campaign. Owen Jones, however, insisted in the same newspaper that, “without engaging with the mainstream media it [was] almost impossible to get a message to the as-yet unpersuaded” and to stop right-wing smears from sticking;[26]

[1] http://labourlist.org/2015/09/corbyn-brands-tories-poverty-deniers-as-he-attacks-austerity-in-tuc-speech/

[2] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyn-vows-to-fight-poverty-deniers-tories-as-he-vows-to-remove-the-idea-of-the-benefit-cap-altogether-10501987.html

[3] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/jeremy-corbyn-no-great-orator-6447631

[4] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/labour-closes-gap-with-tories-by-three-points-new-poll-finds-10501432.html

[5] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/sep/15/jeremy-corbyn-silent-during-national-anthem-battle-of-britain-service

[6] http://stopwar.org.uk/news/god-save-the-queen-as-she-and-her-family-lubricate-britain-s-wars

[7] http://www.politics.co.uk/blogs/2015/09/16/jeremy-corbyn-should-be-applauded-for-refusing-to-sing-the-n

[8] http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/corbyn-has-agreed-to-sing-the-national-anthem-in-future-brace-yourself-for-the-hypocrisy-accusations-10504045.html

[9] http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/as-tories-ruin-veterans-lives-corbyn-not-singing-the-national-anthem-is-seen-as-the-real-insult-10503333.html

[10] http://sputniknews.com/europe/20150915/1027019193/London-arms-fair-Dismaland-human-rights.html

[11] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/08/poppy-last-time-remembrance-harry-leslie-smith

[12] http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-43e2-Im-92,-and-going-to-war-again#.VfnjlvTuo8L

[13] http://leftunity.org/forget-the-national-anthem-get-serious-about-corbyn/

[14] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tory-mp-defends-jeremy-corbyn-for-remaining-silent-during-national-anthem-at-battle-of-britain-commemoration-service-10502930.html

[15] http://www.lbc.co.uk/disrespectful-not-to-sing-god-save-the-queen-james-obrien-brilliantly-shuts-down-caller-116323

[16] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/blog/live/2015/sep/15/jeremy-corbyn-speaks-to-the-tuc-conference-politics-live

[17] http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-34264683

[18] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/Jeremy_Corbyn/11868802/Asa-Bennett-Jeremy-Corbyn-all-over-the-place-at-PMQs.html

[19] http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-34264683

[20] http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/corbyn-triumphed-at-pmqs–while-camerons-stock-responses-showed-him-up-as-outoftouch-10503772.html

[21] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/snp-mp-mhairi-black-calls-out-tories-for-sniggering-at-corbyns-questions-from-public-10503510.html

[22] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/sep/16/corbyn-puts-voters-questions-to-cameron-in-first-pmqs

[23] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/16/the-guardian-view-on-jeremy-corbyns-pmqs-debut-a-very-reasonable-start

[24] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/commentisfree/2015/sep/16/corbyns-labour-is-a-party-without-a-point-led-by-a-rebel-with-a-cause

[25] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/16/jeremy-corbyn-politics-labour-leader-election

[26] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/16/jeremy-corbyn-labour-twitter-media

CorbynWatch (September 13 & 14)

After Corbyn’s victory in the leadership elections, Owen Jones quickly reminded the supporters of the “greatest against-all-odds victory in British political history” that their work has only just begun.[1] For The Mirror, meanwhile, the first four days after the election results would “prove crucial in shaping the direction and tone” of his leadership.[2]

Between September 13 and 14:

  1. Corbyn spent his first morning as leader honouring “a longstanding commitment in his constituency instead of going on television”,[3] while Tariq Ali told Democracy Now that a “political insurrection” had just taken place in Britain;[4]
  2. In his first meeting with Labour MPs on September 14, he stated his interest in “wearing a white poppyon Remembrance Sunday as “a symbol of peace”. A source claimed he had insisted that “any colour poppy is act of remembrance”. Since his election, meanwhile, it was revealed that “28,000 people [had] joined the party as full members[5], with the membership growing by 14,500 in just one day and sending “figures soaring to [their] highest level in decades”;[6]
  3. Corbyn called the government’s “trade union crackdown” an attempt to “shackle the unions” and “destroy another element of democracy within our society”, as even veteran Conservative MP David Davis said “some elements of the Bill were akin to General Franco’s dictatorship in Spain”,[7] calling it “Franco’s Britain”. Union leaders, meanwhile, said the bill was “Stalinist”,[8] and The Mirror said it was “opposed by two-thirds of the public”.[9] At the same time, Caroline Lucas said it was “a savage and vindictive assault on UK employment rights”, whilst asserting she would “be working with MPs from across the political parties in fighting this draconian piece of legislation” and would be “prepared to join trade unionists and others in taking non-violent direct action to resist it”;[10]
  4. US author Chris Hedges asked “Where Is Our Jeremy Corbyn?”, insisting that the new Labour leader’s “integrity, as well as his fearlessness, offers a lesson to America’s self-identified left, which is long on rhetoric… and very short on courage”;[11]
  5. UNITE’s general secretary Len McCluskey claimed Blairism was “dead and buried” and that Jeremy Corbyn (a “conviction politician willing to offer socialist alternatives to the status quo, and confident enough to say we don’t have to take our broken society as an immutable given”) was “the future”;[12]
  6. According to Channel Four’s Jon Snow, Corbyn had essentially shocked “the political system through sheer normality”;[13]
  7. For the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Corbyn was “a champion of Palestinian rights”;[14]

Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet was also revealed:

  1. Corbyn claimed his new team was “unifying, dynamic, [and] inclusive” and represented “a strong combination of change and continuity”;[15]
  2. As Corbyn faced stupid “accusations of sexism” for giving “top jobs” in his shadow cabinet to men (in spite of giving more cabinet jobs to women than the Tories did), Hilary Benn claimed that the view of the Treasury, Home Office, and Foreign Office posts being “the most senior positions” was simply an “old fashioned” one. “It all depends on your definition of ‘top job’’”, he said.[16] At the same time, Corbyn actually appointed “his party’s first ever majority female front bench” (with 16 women and 15 men).[17] Even so, Dawn Foster said at Open Democracy, Corbyn’s feminism would be “a matter of policy not appointment”, and the country would be better off judging the new leader on the policies that would improve women’s lives rather than for the number of women in his cabinet.[18] Foster’s colleague Ché Ramsden meanwhile, had previously insisted Corbyn’s political positions were “good news for women”;[19]
  3. For Gaby Hinsliff at The Guardian, Corbyn’s team may not have managed the media attacks on his first days in charge in the most experienced of ways, but he was “not a sexist”;[20]
  4. In fact, Corbyn did not even fill his shadow cabinet with allies, including as he did only three MPs in his shadow cabinet who had nominated him to be leader (with 11 others having nominated Burnham, eight having nominated Cooper, and one having supported Kendall);[21]
  5. Andy Burnham was given the post of shadow home secretary even though an undercover reporter for The Sun had previously recorded him saying a Corbyn victory would be a “disaster for Labour party”;[22]
  6. Vegan MP Kerry McCarthy was appointed as shadow secretary for environment, food, and rural affairs, in a move that suggested Corbyn’s Labour Party would be concerned about animal welfare;[23]
  7. Luciana Berger was appointed as shadow “Minister for Mental Health”, a “new creation” which had “no identical counterpart in the Conservative government”;[24]
  8. The Mirror’s Kevin Maguire insisting that Corbyn’s “gamble” on John McDonnell as shadow Chancellor showed the new leader was “good to his friends” and “prepared to make enemies”;[25]
  9. Although “not a shadow ministerial post”, Yvette Cooper was named “Chair of Labour’s refugee task force”, showing Corbyn’s clear desire to include even those who had been harsh critics of his policy proposals;[26]
  10. Veteran MP Dennis Skinner accused the BBC’s Emily Maitlis of “spinning”, asserting “you are not working for Murdoch at the BBC”;[27]

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/12/jeremy-corbyn-victory-easy-bit-grassroots

[2] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/four-days-define-jeremy-corbyns-6429695

[3] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyn-spent-his-first-morning-as-leader-visiting-his-local-nhs-mental-health-trust-10498716.html

[4] http://www.democracynow.org/2015/9/14/a_political_insurrection_in_britain_tariq

[5] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/09/14/jeremy-corbyn-plp-re-selection-boundaries-europe-poppy_n_8135584.html

[6] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/labour-membership-grows-14500-day-6434668

[7] http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/tory-trade-union-crackdown-mps-10053266

[8] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/tory-mp-david-davis-breaks-6438378

[9] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/tories-anti-strike-laws-opposed-6433594

[10] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/ill-take-direct-action-to-stop-the-tories-new-antitrade-union-laws-says-caroline-lucas-10500430.html

[11] http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/where_is_our_jeremy_corbyn_20150913

[12] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/13/blairism-jeremy-corbyn-80s

[13] http://blogs.channel4.com/snowblog/jeremy-corbyn-shocking-political-system-sheer-normality/25745

[14] http://www.palestinecampaign.org/jeremy-corbyn-a-champion-of-palestinian-rights-leads-the-labour-party/

[15] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/jeremy-corbyn-names-unifying-dynamic-6439869

[16] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/09/13/chuka-umunna-jeremy-corbyn-reshuffle_n_8130576.html

[17] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/09/14/jeremy-corbyn-pictured-on-front-bench-for-the-first-time_n_8134310.html

[18] https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/dawn-foster/jeremy-corbyn-and-women-matter-of-policy-not-appointment

[19] https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ch%C3%A9-ramsden/jeremy-corbyn-and-myth-of-hysterical-woman

[20] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/14/jeremy-corbyn-mistake-sexist-shadow-cabinet

[21] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/09/14/jeremy-corbyn-pictured-on-front-bench-for-the-first-time_n_8134310.html

[22] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/sep/11/andy-burnham-to-report-the-sun-to-ipso-after-jeremy-corbyn-sting

[23] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyn-appoints-a-vegan-to-deal-with-britains-farmers-10500157.html

[24] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyn-creates-new-dedicated-minister-for-mental-health-in-his-shadow-cabinet-10500075.html

[25] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/jeremy-corbyn-shows-good-friends-6437973

[26] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/whos-shadow-cabinet-full-line-6437650

[27] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/09/14/dennis-skinne-bbc-rant-jeremy-corbyn-_n_8133390.html

Corbyn’s Victory – The First, Hopeful Step

Positive Reactions

In spite of the media’s best attempts, and in spite of the political deceit seeking to derail his immensely popular campaign, Jeremy Corbyn has been elected with a “huge mandate”, dwarfing Andy Burnham (19%), Yvette Cooper (17%), and Liz Kendall (4.5%) with an overwhelming “59.5% of first-preference votes” (from 422,664 votes cast). After the announcement of his victory, Corbyn said: “The media, and many of us, simply didn’t understand the views of young people in our country”. In particular, he stressed, the media had at times been “intrusive, abusive and simply wrong”. Suggesting a big movement was just getting started, he promised Labour would now “reach out to everyone in this country”.[1]

“I want to be your voice”, said Corbyn, as he “invited the public to submit questions to him for Prime Minister’s Questions” by email.[2] At the same time, he made his first public speech as leader at a “huge demonstration in London”, where “over 100,000 people joined a rally to say Refugees Welcome Here”.[3] Later on, he “celebrated his election as Labour leader by launching into an emotional rendition of socialist anthem The Red Flag at his victory party in Westminster”.[4]

Meanwhile:

  • Green MP Caroline Lucas claimed Corbyn’s election was a “real boost for progressive politics”;[5]
  • Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said: “we hope to engage Corbyn and the Labour Party in discussions about the urgent need for electoral reform”;[6]
  • Ellie Mae O’Hagan at The Independent insisted people progressives should be happy because there was finally “a mainstream political figure” opposed to “cuts to public services”, there would be a “50% female shadow cabinet”, Labour members wouldhave a better chance of influencing policy”, and left-wing activism would once again enter into “communities across the country”;[7]
  • Adam Bienkov at Politics.co.uk claimed that “the scale of Jeremy Corbyn’s victory [was] the final insult to Tony Blair”, and that “the coming weeks and months [were] set to be among the most fascinating in British political history”;[8]
  • Agus Wandi, a “peace and conflict adviser with the UN”, asserted that the UK “should follow Jeremy Corbyn’s example and pick up the telephone” to resolve the conflict in Syria;[9]
  • Left Unity said Corbyn’s win was “the people’s victory” and argued that it had proved “everything is possible”. The party claimed it was a “momentous opportunity for the people of Britain… to reclaim our society, our resources, our priorities, for the good of all of us”.[10]

Negative Reactions

One big problem for Corbyn going forward was that the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), criticised by so many during the campaign for being out of touch with the electorate, showed this more clearly than ever as it “overwhelmingly backed other candidates by 210 to 20”.[11] In fact, right-wing figures in the PLP like Kendall, Cooper, Rachel Reeves, Emma Reynolds, and Tristram Hunt said they would not serve in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet.[12]

There were, inevitably, also negative reactions in the media. Right-wing Labour commentator Rob Marchant, for example, said “today is our darkest hour – we have become unelectable”.[13]

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/sep/12/jeremy-corbyn-wins-labour-party-leadership-election

[2] http://www.itv.com/news/2015-09-12/i-want-to-be-your-voice-corbyn-invites-public-to-submit-suggestions-for-pmqs/

[3] http://stopwar.org.uk/news/jeremy-corbyn-speaking-to-100-000-at-refugees-welcome-here-rally

[4] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyn-celebrates-election-as-labour-leader-by-singing-the-red-flag-at-victory-party-10497938.html?cmpid=facebook-post

[5] http://www.carolinelucas.com/latest/caroline-responds-to-labour-leadership-election-real-boost-for-progressive-politics

[6] https://www.greenparty.org.uk/news/2015/09/12/green-party-responds-to-labour-leadership-announcement/

[7] http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/5-reasons-to-be-happy-with-jeremy-corbyns-victory-10497758.html

[8] http://www.politics.co.uk/blogs/2015/09/12/the-scale-of-jeremy-corbyn-s-victory-is-the-final-insult-to

[9] http://stopwar.org.uk/news/in-syria-the-uk-should-follow-jeremy-corbyn-s-example-says-united-nations-advisor

[10] http://leftunity.org/the-peoples-victory-everything-is-possible/

[11] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/sep/12/jeremy-corbyn-wins-labour-party-leadership-election

[12] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/sep/12/labour-frontbenchers-rule-out-serving-in-jeremy-corbyn-shadow-cabinet

[13] http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/jeremy-corbyn-becomes-labour-leader-today-is-our-darkest-hour–we-have-become-unelectable-10497770.html

Corbyn’s Summer Shake-Up (Part 4)

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.

Economic Backing

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”.[1]

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.[2]

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.[3]

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-awakeningacross 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”.[4]

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”.[5]

[1] https://ososabiosbritain.wordpress.com/2015/09/09/support-for-corbyn-from-economists/

[2] https://ososabiosbritain.wordpress.com/2015/09/09/corbyns-self-defence/

[3] https://ososabiosbritain.wordpress.com/2015/09/10/support-for-corbyn-from-labour-politicians-2/

[4] https://ososabiosbritain.wordpress.com/2015/09/11/support-for-corbyn-from-unions/

[5] https://ososabiosbritain.wordpress.com/2015/09/12/support-from-other-parties-and-groups/

Support for Corbyn from Other Parties & Groups

It was not just economists, left-wing Labour figures, and union bosses who came out in defence of Corbyn, though. Even other political parties defended him, with the SNP, for example, saying he would “help it get the Trident nuclear deterrent axed”. The party’s Westminster leader Angus Robertson, for example, said the Labour MP’s opposition to Trident had been “very consistent and very principled”. Furthermore, Robertson called him “a strong voice against austerity”.[1]

On July 26, The Guardian’s Letters section included a number of comments about the need for an “anti-tribal” outlook towards politics. Tony Booth from Cambridge, for example, stressed “the need for a progressive alliance” that cared “about issues above party and short-term gaining of power”. Diane Randall, meanwhile, criticised The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland as “patronising and insulting”, insisting that “many of Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters are not young, not needing identity, absolutely sure of their politics, with long experience and with greater depth than obviously he has”. Criticising the “sham democracy” of the UK, she said that, “if elections are not about policy, nobody should waste our time with them”. Subsequently, Tim Dyce emphasised that Labour was “not electing a prime minister” but “a leader of the opposition”, and “conviction and two-way communication” had to be the priority. For him, “ego-driven, PR-manicured politicians” could not deliver such things.[2]

Stop the War Coalition

Stop the War published a significant number of articles during the Labour leadership race in support of Corbyn (the chair of the organisation). On August 10, for example, Robin Beste wrote at the Stop the War coalition website about how “Tony Blair, Jack Straw and Alistair Campbell [were] all calling for Labour to select anyone but Jeremy Corbyn as the party’s next leader”. As the “three architects of the lies and deception that took Britain into the illegal Iraq war”, Beste asserted, they had essentially “slaughtered over one million Iraqis, made four million more homeless and so devastated the country that the conditions were created for the emergence of ISIS”. And yet, comparing themselves to Corbyn (who “has never lied to his party or the electorate” and was a “central figure in opposing the illegal war on Iraq”), they somehow felt “qualified to lecture their party”.[3]

Support from the Green Party

On July 26, Kent Green Party secretary Pat Marsh wrote in to The Guardian to support the establishment of a new kind of politics. Corbyn, she said, represented “[not] a step backwards to the 1980s [but] the inevitable direction for the future”. She continued, asserting that “the Greens, the SNP, [the] Occupy movement, the Spanish Indignados and [the] Greek Syriza [were] not alone in championing an alternative to austerity and neoliberalism”. Emphasising that “nobel-prizewinning economists Elinor Ostrom and Joseph Stiglitz [had] for some time been pointing the way to what Paul Mason calls nascent postcapitalism”, she noted that the Greens and SNP had gained support in the 2015 elections not by moving right but by moving left. “Under a Corbyn-led Labour party”, she argued, “there would be a real chance of the progressive parties in British politics working together to lead this country into the postcapitalist future”.

Marsh stressed that, “in many constituencies, like mine, there are always more votes for the progressive parties combined than for the Tory incumbent”. The problem, she asserted, was that, “under the current electoral system, candidates from a united left would appear to be the only way Labour could get back into power, albeit with some kind of agreement with other progressive parties”. The party’s policymakers, she said, were “mistaken if they think they will attract many people back to Labour with Tory-lite Blairite policies from the past”.[4]

On August 24, Caroline Lucas chipped in with a letter to Corbyn in The Independent, saying “I can help you build a progressive majority”. By way of “potential electoral pacts”, she asserted, “we have a chance of beating the Tories”. It was, however, “crucial” for the Labour leadership frontrunner “to recognise the multi-party nature of modern British politics”. There was no single party, she stressed, which had “a monopoly on wisdom” or was “capable of making the transformation alone”. In twenty-first century Britain, she insisted, “a diversity of progressive voices is essential for our democracy”. For 2020, then, she argued that there was “potential in considering local grassroots electoral pacts where progressive candidates are standing, so as to give us the best chance of beating the Tories”.[5]

On September 2, Green Party member Bradley Allsop wrote an article in The Huffington Post criticising “the media’s caricaturing” of Corbyn, saying it ought to be a “concern” to all progressives, who he advised “to start seeking truth”. At the same time, he argued, “we need to start demanding more of our journalists and political news sites, punishing the sensationalists and [rewarding the thoughtful, considered pieces”.[6] Five days later, Josiah Mortimer said that the Corbyn campaign had “rattled” the Green Party because it was “the first time the UK [had] faced the likelihood of having a genuinely left-wing opposition leader in decades”. The Greens, he said, had “become used to wearing the mantle of being ‘the’ main anti-austerity party” in the country and “a party that positions itself as the voice of Britain’s marginalised left”.

At the same time, claimed Mortimer, a Corbyn victory would not necessarily mean the death of the Green Party. In 2013, he explained, “a small group of us proposed a change to the party’s Core Values to establish the Greens as a party of ‘social and environmental justice’” – a proposal which “passed overwhelmingly” (reflecting “the longer-term changes happening in the party”). Responding to Michael Chessum’s argument that “the Greens should only stand candidates jointly with Labour” if Corbyn won, he highlighted “clear organisational, cultural and ideological differences” between the parties. Green councillor Caroline Russell, for example, had stressed that she found Labour “tribal and determined not to do anything collaboratively”. And the fact wa, Mortimer said, that “most Labour MPs are significantly to the right of both Corbyn and the Greens, meaning joint candidacies would be a quagmire and a non-starter for both sides” in many places. In short, “a socialist leader doesn’t make a socialist party”.

The role of “left-wing Greens”, Mortimer suggested, could be to “reinforce the arguments of the Labour left from an outsider perspective”, thus creating “a new left-wing pluralism” that “could become a force to be reckoned with”. In other words, Greens were not about to “just climb aboard” the Labour bandwagon in the knowledge that it was “under fire” and within a political context “in constant flux”. For Mortimer, many Greens may be “excited by the prospect of [Corbyn’s] election”, but they were also “comfortable with being left-wing” inside the Green Party. In addition to this feeling, they were aware that “Corbyn may not last”, and would not “relish watching… [or] being part of… the coming storm within Labour”.[7]

Left Unity Criticises the PLP’s “Witch Hunt”

On August 7, Left Unity (a new party consisting of many former Labour members and supporters) “accused Labour of a “witch hunt” against people signing up to back Jeremy Corbyn in its leadership contest”, according to the BBC. “Labour should be “thrilled” so many people want to join rather than focusing on “people who it thinks are too left wing”, asserted the party’s principal speaker Salman Shaheen. With Harriet Harman having “emailed MPs… with a list of new members from their constituencies, asking them to check for any suspicious names”, Shaheen stressed that it was “ludicrous” to refer to potential supporters as “entryists”. His own party, he affirmed, had “many disaffected former Labour members”, and it was “no wonder that some people genuinely wanted to have a say in the Labour leadership contest” when a left-wing candidate was actually on the list. These citizens, he underlined, “fully agree with the aims and values of the Labour Party – it’s the Labour leadership who abandoned those values”. From a Left Unity perspective, Shaheen argued, the Corbyn campaign was “a genuine popular movement that the Blairites [couldn’t] stop”, and there were “just 18 Left Unity members out of the tens of thousands who [had] signed up to support Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity, true Labour politics”.[8]

Three days later, Left Unity published an article in which it insisted that Corbyn’s popularity was part of “the emergence of new parties and movements” throughout Europe and the world “in response to the capitulation of social democracy to the neoliberal austerity offensive”. As Britain was previously “immune” to the trend, it asserted, disaffected left-wingers had founded Left Unity or (in a form of “deflected radicalisation”) had entered the Green Party or the SNP. Now, though, Corbyn’s campaign expressed “the hopes of millions”, and the “alternative policies” presented were “policies that Left Unity fights for too”. The party saw the candidate’s popularity as a part of “the emergence of a real mass movement”, with “many towns and cities… seeing their largest political meetings for a generation”.

The article then asserted that, when Left Unity was formed, its members “understood clearly that to become a serious political force [they] would need to forge strategic alliances throughout the left”. And that would include supporting “the strengthening of the socialist voice and values within the Labour Party”.

The party recognised, however, that a Corbyn win would only be “the beginning of the struggle”, with a “virtual state of civil war inside the Labour Party” almost certain to break out. The “majority of the parliamentary party”, it said, would be “a serious long-term obstacle for the Labour left”. Nonetheless, the “wave of enthusiasm” in society (which had already seen “some” Left Unity members leave “in order to campaign and vote for Jeremy”) would continue to grow, as the “new movement” would continue to represent “a new political moment which goes well beyond the structure of the Labour Party itself”.

As an “activist campaigning party”, Left Unity was founded on an “aim to build a broad party of the left” and to “work alongside those in the Labour Party and other organisations where we share common policy aspirations”. The Corbyn campaign, it affirmed, was just one example of such left-wing cooperation. Meanwhile, a “‘friends of Left Unity’ category”, the organisation said, would be created so that those who had left to join Corbyn’s movement could continue to “participate in joint discussion and common action on issues that unite us”.[9]

Some Tories Respect and even Fear Corbyn

On July 26, Matthew d’Ancona spoke at The Guardian about how there were “unmistakable trends” within the Conservative Party regarding Corbyn’s leadership campaign. Some, he said, though “surprisingly few”, could not “disguise their glee at Corbyn-mania and their general disdain for the mediocrity of the contest”. However, others were either respectful or cautious regarding the Islington MP’s hopes of becoming Labour leader. For former cabinet minister and Conservative whip Andrew Mitchell, for example, Corbyn “walks tall… in an age when authenticity is increasingly valued by voters”. [Having been “friends for many years”, Mitchell and Corbyn actually “went to Washington DC in May to lobby for the immediate release of Shaker Aamer, a British resident – and detainee at Guantánamo Bay since 2002”.]

One cabinet Tory, d’Ancona said, saw “a more likely political difficulty arising from Corbyn’s defeat”, as “Corbyn’s failure, after so much hoopla, would threaten to re-define the centre ground and, by definition, make the Tories look more rightwing” (especially as “the Blairite faction, once so ruthlessly organised, [had] effectively left Kendall stranded behind enemy lines”). Even if Corbyn lost, d’Ancona asserted, he would now “remain a force in his party – and beyond”, having “stormed through the crash barriers of contemporary politics as if they weren’t there, presenting the ideals of the left as if they were… absolutely tailored to the needs of our age”. The “rules”, however, might well “have changed”, d’Ancona stressed, and “smart Tories, far from gloating”, were now asking themselves if Corbyn’s popularity was “more than an anomaly” or if it was the “start of something” much bigger.[10]

On August 3, meanwhile, The Huffington Post reported on how former Tory chancellor Ken Clarke was warning his colleagues “that Mr Corbyn’s branch of left-wing populism would be hard to campaign against”. Stressing that Corbyn was actually “not as left wing as former Labour leader Michael Foot”, he told fellow Tories: “Don’t underestimate Jeremy Corbyn. He’s a nice guy”. Disagreeing with figures saying the frontrunner was unelectable, Clarke stress it was “not certain he will lose an election”. Michael Foot, for example, “who stood on a much more left wing platform in 1983”, was actually “miles ahead before the election”, and only ended up losing because of a combination of external factors. “If you have another recession”, he argued, “or if the Conservative Government becomes very unpopular”, Corbyn “could win”.

Clarke also disagreed with Corbyn critics within the Labour Party who claimed the organisation had to “focus on wooing defectors from the Conservatives”, insisting that there “could be a large enough “anti-Westminster” body of voters to sweep Mr Corbyn into power”. With figures like Tony Blair being “very unpopular”, he emphasised, Corbyn simply fit “the bill of being anti-political”, and could be regarded as “a non-politician’s answer to the Westminster establishment”. Labour activists in particular, he said, were “very attracted to him because he sounds and looks like he believes what he says”. In other words, he was neither a liar nor a PR-trained bureaucratic robot (like the non-Corbyn candidates).[11]

On August 7, even Conservative Mayor of London Boris Johnson said his party ought to “pay attention” to Corbyn’s popularity, suggesting a number of the frontrunner’s critiques were “not wholly wrong”. For example, he agreed that there was “a problem of inequality” and “of low pay”. In short, he stressed, “it would be very complacent and wrong to ignore the truth of some of the observations he is making about ways in which society could be better”.[12]

UKIP Impressed by Corbyn’s Criticism of Europe

On September 3, UKIP’s Nigel Farage asked Corbyn to join him in the ‘No’ campaign in “Britain’s referendum on its membership of the European Union”, insisting that it was an issue that “transcends all political divides and boundaries”. Referring to how Tony Benn “understood the grave threat that the EU posed to nation-state democracies”, Farage stressed that “it doesn’t matter where you see yourself on the political spectrum, …if your vote at the ballot box no longer has the power to bring the fundamental change dictated by the will of the people, then what kind of democracy are you really left with?”

Corbyn’s “sweeping emergence on the Left of British politics”, Farage asserted, had “helped re-engage many who had given up on politics”, and that was essentially “a good thing for our democracy”. Labour now had “a potential leader unwilling to sign up to the corporatist, bullying EU agenda in the usual unquestioning manner which we saw from Blair, Brown and Miliband”. Then, the UKIP leader introduced a caveat, insisting “I disagree with Mr Corbyn on virtually every issue” before conceding that “there may be common ground” on the issue of the EU. Consequently, he extended “an invitation to Jeremy Corbyn to join [him] on stage” on UKIP’s nationwide “Say No to the EU tour”. The campaign, he said, could benefit from having “a genuinely radical voice on the Left”.[13]

A day later, Kapil Komireddi spoke at The Independent about how Corbyn had “engaged Ukip voters without ever uttering a word against immigrants”. His popularity was “striking”, Komireddi asserted, because it contained “none of the divisive dog-whistles that [had] elevated politicians in other major democracies to positions of authority”. In short, he represented “a triumph of defiantly inclusive messaging”. Therefore, while “British commentators” were “busy tormenting Corbyn”, they were “neglecting the fact that he [was] pioneering what [was] perhaps the most inclusive political movement in recent history”. If he was successful in Britain, Komireddi stressed, he would “do more to advance the cause of participatory democracy and pluralism around the world than any war ever could”.[14]

Podemos Backs Corbyn

Finally, Spanish anti-austerity party Podemos officially backed Corbyn’s campaign on August 22. The frontrunner’s popularity, the party asserted, was “great news”, as it provided “a solid alternative to socially irresponsible and austericidal policies”. Labour, it said, now had a choice – to “follow the steps of PASOK into irrelevance” or to “reverse its neoliberal drift” and “be true to its roots”.[15] For Andrew Coates, though, Podemos itself was becoming “less and less a model for the Left”, as the leadership of Pablo Iglesias (“a charismatic leader who holds the party together and takes the decisions”) had created certain tensions in Spain. “His attitude to the rest of the Spanish left” (i.e. his “dislike” for the ‘old’ Left), along with “disputes over Podemos’ stand on Catalan independence”, had apparently seen the party claiming “it needed an approach that was “beyond” the left/right division”.[16] Regardless of the defects of the Spanish party, however, its endorsement 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.

[1] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/jeremy-corbyn-labour-mps-are-plotting-a-coup-against-the-potential-leader-if-he-is-elected-10399272.html

[2] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jul/26/jeremy-corbyn-might-just-be-able-to-unite-britains-progressive-parties

[3] http://stopwar.org.uk/news/anyone-but-anti-war-jeremy-corbyn-for-labour-leader-say-war-criminals-blair-straw-and-campbell

[4] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jul/26/jeremy-corbyn-might-just-be-able-to-unite-britains-progressive-parties

[5] http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/my-message-to-jeremy-corbyn-i-can-help-you-build-a-progressive-majority-10469934.html

[6] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/bradley-allsop/jeremy-corbyn_b_8064004.html

[7] http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/elections/2015/09/even-if-corbyn-wins-theres-still-place-socialists-green-party

[8] http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-33819614

[9] http://leftunity.org/jeremy-corbyn-a-new-moment-a-new-movement/

[10] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/26/smart-tories-labour-jeremy-corbyn-mania-david-cameron

[11] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/08/03/jeremy-corbyn-ken-clarke-labour_n_7925964.html?utm_hp_ref=uk-politics&ir=UK+Politics

[12] http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-33819614

[13] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/11842358/Nigel-Farage-Join-me-Jeremy-Corbyn-in-saying-No-to-the-EU.html

[14] http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/heres-how-jeremy-corbyn-engaged-ukip-voters-without-ever-uttering-a-word-against-immigrants-10486868.html

[15] http://www.counterfire.org/news/17959-podemos-backs-jeremy-corbyn-s-candidacy-for-labour-leader

[16] https://tendancecoatesy.wordpress.com/2015/08/24/pablo-iglesias-backs-jeremy-corbyn-but-podemos-is-less-and-less-a-model-for-the-left/

Support for Corbyn from Unions

Unison and Unite

With the change in Labour’s electoral system, the unions originally looked set to lose a significant amount of influence in the party. Under the old system, for example, “trade union members and members of other affiliated societies had a third of the votes in the electoral college system”. Nonetheless, they would continue to play an important role within the party, and the 2015 leadership race was no different.

On July 29, The Guardian reported on how Unison, as “one of Britain’s largest trade unions with 1.3 million members”, had officially endorsed Corbyn’s campaign for leader of the Labour Party (just like Britain’s largest trade union Unite). This decision, the paper said, was “a major boost in his campaign”, and would “help to cement Corbyn’s position as… frontrunner”. In the opinion of Unison’s general secretary Dave Prentis, Corbyn’s message had “resonated with public sector workers who have suffered years of pay freezes and redundancies with too many having to work more for less”. Having been “penalised for too long”, he said, the choice of Unison members showed “a clear need for change towards a fairer society where work is fairly rewarded”. At the same time, however, he stressed that the decision was “a recommendation” and that Unison members were “of course free to cast their vote” as they wished.

Corbyn, meanwhile, said “Unison members are in the frontline of the impact of the government’s austerity agenda” and insisted that they provided “the services our society relies on”. For him, these workers deserved to be “valued and heard”. While he had managed to attract the support of Unite and Unison, the GMB union revealed it would not endorse any of the candidates because “there was no clear consensus” within the organisation about who to vote for.[1]

On August 18, Prentis called Corbyn’s rise in popularity a “game changer” for the Labour Party, adding that “references to ‘Corbynmania’ did a disservice” to what he considered “a left-wing re-awakening… sweeping the nation”. He insisted that it was not “just a cult following”, and that it was “across the country”. The fact was, he stressed, that Corbyn was offering real “alternatives” in the straightforward language that citizens wanted to hear. The conflicts within the Labour Party, he claimed, were “being seen through the prism of the Conservative press”, but were not as serious as had been reported”. In his “experienced assessment”, the Labour Party would “not split”.[2]

Communication Workers Union

On July 30, the Communication Workers Union (CWU), which “represents workers in the postal and telecoms sector”[3], made the decision to back the Corbyn campaign in what was “another major step forward” for the leadership candidate. With 200,000 members, the CWU was “Britain’s fifth biggest union” after Unite, Unison, the GMB, and Usdaw (which had decided to back Andy Burnham).

For CWU general secretary Dave Ward, it was clear that there were “no quick fixes for the Labour party”, but that there were “some easy decisions” (like endorsing Corbyn). “The grip of the Blairites and individuals like Peter Mandelson”, Ward stressed, “must now be loosened once and for all”. In his opinion, there was “a virus within the Labour party”, and Corbyn wasthe antidote”. With the “centre ground of British politics” having “moved significantly to the right in recent years”, he argued, the union felt it had to “reject the notion that Labour needs to move to the centre” (i.e. even further to the right).[4]

On August 11, Ward argued that “the world of work has changed dramatically in a short space of time and with the explosion of insecure employment models in recent years, there is a clear need for government to redress the balance of power between employees and employers”. In the interests of putting “people before profits” and counteracting the “worrying growth in zero hour contracts, [the] continued exploitation of agency workers through loopholes in the regulations and [the] growing scarcity in permanent full time jobs”, backing Corbyn was a no-brainer. In Ward’s opinion, the Islington MP was “proposing a solution to a 21st century problem”.[5]

The TSSA

At the same time, the transport and travel union TSSA also endorsed the Islington MP in order to “end the austerity quagmire” and “take the railways back into public ownership”.[6] The general secretary of the “white-collar rail union” Manuel Cortes insisted that the union had decided to back Corbyn because he was “straight-talking” and put forward “sensible policies which resonate with ordinary people” (including a belief that “Labour’s economic policies must move on from failed neoliberalism”).[7]

Final Day Union Surge

On August 12, The New Statesman reported on how a “remarkable 610,753 people [had] applied to vote in Labour’s leadership contest”. After an extension of the deadline “by three hours” until 3pm, the party attracted a whopping “17,755 new members, 99,703 new affiliated members (from trade unions and socialist societies) and 51,295 new registered supporters” in just one day. This “huge surge in affiliated members” suggested that unions had been “holding back members’ details until the last possible moment”. The final figure for those eligible to vote was “299,755 full members, 189,703 affiliated members and 121,295 registered members”.[8] The following day, The Guardian suggested that “around 190,000” of the eligible voters had been “recruited through trade unions, with between 90,000 and 100,000 thought to have come through Unite”.[9]

Unions Say Corbyn Is Electable

On August 21, The Mirror reported that “the leaders of six of the biggest trade unions” had written an open letter insisting that Jeremy Corbyn could “lead Labour to victory in 2020”. It was signed by: “Dave Prentis Unison; Mick Whelan ASLEF; Manuel Cortes TSSA; Dave Ward CWU; Len McCluskey UNITE; [and] Ronnie Draper BFAWU”.[10] A week later, Unite’s delegate on Labour’s NEC Martin Mayer argued that “the Parliamentary Labour Party [had] been out of touch for years”, asserting that Corbyn’s rise had meant “shock and horror for the bully boys” but “joy for everyone else”.[11] On August 30, meanwhile, Unite’s political director Jennie Formby tweeted a critique of Tony Blair’s most recent attack on Corbyn, saying “I totally disagree that neo-liberal multi-millionaire war-mongerer Blair has anything useful to say”.[12] Unite’s John Storey echoed this view three days later, writing that citizens “must stand with Corbyn against media attacks” because “the vast armoury of the Tory press is trained on Jeremy” and had “only just warmed up”.[13]

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jul/29/unison-endorses-jeremy-corbyn-for-labour-leadership

[2] http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/jeremy-corbyns-rise-game-changer-9881974

[3] http://labourlist.org/2015/07/cwu-announce-theyre-backing-jeremy-corbyn-to-be-labours-next-leader/ and http://www.totalpolitics.com/blog/450691/unions-line-up-to-back-corbyn-as-blairites-branded-a-virus.thtml

[4] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jul/30/communication-workers-union-backs-corbyn-as-antidote-to-blairite-virus

[5] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyn-says-hell-set-up-a-ministry-of-labour-to-fight-on-the-side-of-workers-10450236.html

[6] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jul/30/communication-workers-union-backs-corbyn-as-antidote-to-blairite-virus

[7] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyn-steams-ahead-in-labour-leadership-race-as-another-trade-union-pledges-support-10428348.html

[8] http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/08/600000-apply-vote-labour-leadership-contest-and-corbyn-will-gain

[9] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/aug/13/jeremy-corbyn-tony-blair-warning-responds-i-dont-do-personal-i-dont-do-abuse

[10] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/jeremy-corbyn-can-lead-labour-6296552

[11] http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-6d49-Corbyns-rise-Shock-and-horror-for-the-bully-boys,-joy-for-everyone-else#.VeeWPPTuo8I

[12] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/jeremy-corbyn-still-favourite-win-6351984

[13] http://labourlist.org/2015/09/put-on-your-tin-hats-we-must-stand-with-corbyn-against-tory-media-attacks/