During the Labour leadership nomination process last year – much to the consternation of Harriet Harman – 48 opposition MPs who genuinely desire an alternative to the austerity-driven policies of the Tories, did the honourable thing by voting against the the government’s welfare reform legislation.
One of the other numerous prominent Labour MPs who refused to vote against the Tories was Owen Smith. Needless to say, Jeremy Corbyn wasn’t one of them.
As I alluded to at the time, the kind of concession to the Tories made by Harman and Smith was predicated on the belief that Labour has to move to the right in order to be electable.
Given the Liberal Democrat’s close ideological proximity to the Tories during their power-sharing term, and their subsequent virtual demise following the last election, the strategic move by Harman and the party hierarchy was clearly a calculable risk.
Harman’s assumption appeared to have been that there was no longer any more political and electoral traction to be gained by appealing to a diminishing band of traditional left-wing voters. However, subsequent events proved that she was wrong and that these, as well as other voters, many of whom are young had, prior to Corbyn, been largely abandoned by the political class.
If it is to be accepted that the class structure of British society remains largely intact and that the real life experiences of the vast majority in the country were made worse under the austerity-driven policies of the Tories, then rationally the notion would be that the voices of those adversely affected by these policies would eventually at some point make themselves heard.
And so it came to pass. The rise of Corbyn gave voice to the voiceless and hope that things could change for the better by transforming apathy into a mobilising political force. Corbyn went on to oversee a growth in the party’s membership to well over half a million – making it the biggest left-of-centre party in Europe, while Harman, Smith and the rest of the New Labour ideologues are fast becoming a footnote in history.
Outside the relatively small band of Labour party dissenters, the opposition to welfare cuts and austerity in England have come from the SNP, Plaid and the Greens. Tony Blair’s election victory in 1997 predicated on a left-wing mandate, the dominance of the SNP in Scotland and the popularity of both Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon, all put the lie to many of the claims in the corporate media that you have to be right wing to win elections. The official announcement earlier this morning (September 24) that Jeremy Corbyn had convincingly beaten his right-wing rival, Owen Smith, is likely to bring this myth into even more of a sharper focus.
The reality is the people of England are inherently no more right-wing than the people of Scotland. But the mainstream media commentators who marginalise, ridicule and smear those with left-wing views, most certainly are. So it’s not a question of there being no appetite for left-wing views among the public, rather, the issue is one in which an inherently right-wing mainstream media attempt to manufacture the public’s consent through a process of propaganda and censorship by omission. As self-publicist, John McTernan illustrated on last Wednesday’s (September 21) Channel 4 News, rather than bringing political power to account, the media’s role is that of its gatekeeper.
As has been well-documented, the orchestrated and systematic media vilification of Corbyn has been virtually incessant since the moment he was elected as leader. Moreover, the decision to challenge Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership was planned by a core group in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) almost as soon as he won his landslide victory in September last year.
Corbyn’s second decisive victory within a year is unlikely to deter his detractors in their quest to smear and undermine his leadership at every opportunity. Those who pre-planned and coordinated the coup and the subsequent war of attrition against him were so confident in succeeding that they briefed the Daily Telegraph about their plot to overthrow the Labour leader.
As journalist Steve Topple has shown, the attempt to depose Corbyn continues to be orchestrated behind the scenes by among others, public relations company Portland Communications whose Strategic Counsel includes former Blair spin-doctor, Alistair Campbell. The war of attrition also involves the McCarthyite purging of Corbyn supporters, a tradition of disdain for the grass roots membership which has a long history within the hierarchy of the party.
As Corbyn’s vindication by the memberships overwhelming support of him shows, the ‘race to the bottom’ strategy of his opponents serves nobody other than the narrow careerist motivations of an out-of-touch elite who have their snouts embedded in the trough and don’t want to give up their privileges without a fight. And that, as far the likes of Harman, Smith and the rest of the New Labour establishment are concerned, is clearly the crux of the matter.
A sincere and incorruptible politician like Corbyn represents a potential threat to these privileges and the gravy train that sustains them. This explains why the New Labour bubble would prefer a Tory government over a Corbyn government. This was what the challenge to Corbyn’s authority within the right-wing of the party is really all about. It’s not that Corbyn hasn’t a realistic chance of winning the next General Election, rather, it’s more a case that the establishment will do everything in their power to ensure that he doesn’t.
In that sense, the political battle lines have been drawn, not between the Tories, MSM and the opposition, but between the Tories, MSM, opposition and the rest of us. In the weeks and months prior to the election of Corbyn, I hadn’t remembered a time when the disconnect between the political establishment and ordinary people that Corbyn’s popularity represents had been greater.
In his constituency of Islington North, Corbyn inherited a majority of 4,456, which is now 21,194. He’s one of the few Labour MPs whose vote increased between 2005 and 2010, when he added 5,685 to his majority. It’s true that Corbyn is currently well behind in the polls and it’s going to be tough – in my view, impossible – to unite the right-wing of the party that appears unwilling to work alongside him.
But it must be remembered that pre-coup, Labour led the Tories in three polls in a row over 41 days. Also Corbyn’s record at elections is exemplary. London and Bristol now have Labour mayors, rolling back years of Tory dominance, while Labour’s majorities in by-elections have uniformly increased.
Meanwhile, the party which haemorrhaged 4.9 million votes between 1997 and 2010 under the leadership of a man who lobbies on behalf of some of the world’s most brutal and corrupt dictators, claimed in a moment of Orwellian irony, that Corbyn is a disaster for the party. This can only be beneficial for the current Labour leader.
Finally, Corbyn’s Tory counterpart, Theresa May’s unpopular campaign focusing on grammar schools and the uncertain situation around Brexit is also likely to play into Corbyn’s hands.
So the implication the public don’t necessarily favour Corbyn’s politics is wrong. On the contrary, his position on issues like the NHS and the re-nationalisation of the railways is universally popular. Rather it’s more the case that the establishment know Corbyn is incorruptible and therefore feel they are unable to win him over on their terms.
Consequently, they realise that the longer Corbyn remains at the helm, the more likely it will be that those sympathetic to him and his policies will be elected into positions of power.
It’s unlikely that the Tories will call a snap election given that the proposed boundary changes will benefit them electorally at a later date. This means that Corbyn will potentially have time to initiate the changes required in order to unite the party or, more likely, rid it of the plotters before the likely election in 2020.
Four years is a lifetime in political terms and I’m convinced that if Corbyn and those close to him can see off the plotters, he can win