With the most decisive Labour Leadership election in living memory just over a month away, we asked our readership why they were supporting the embattled incumbent, Jeremy Corbyn, in next month’s key vote.
Ever since the attempted post-Brexit coup, there have been rallies across the UK in support of the Labour leader and the ‘New Politics’ he’s looking to instil in the Labour Party. Here, we’ve published the opinions of three TLR readers. This is by no means a scientific poll, or presentation of popular opinion; we just wanted to give our readers a chance to air and express their opinions on the subject.
Paul Mone, Socialist Activist – Belfast
I signed up as a supporter of the Labour party last week in order to to vote for Jeremy Corbyn in the upcoming leadership election. I never imagined myself joining the party – it has been a party with predominantly neoliberal policies since before I’ve been able to vote. To be honest, I’ve never voted for a political party as I’ve never had any faith in the parliamentary system, let alone the parties that are in it. So why would I support Corbyn now? Simply put, I see Jeremy Corbyn as the figurehead of a party rediscovering its radical roots, and a symbol of the party’s grassroots.
On the surface that seems like a pretty naive view of the political landscape (God knows I’ve been told that enough). Fighting against austerity, defending the NHS, decommissioning Trident, increasing tax for corporations, demanding a living wage and refusing to commit war crimes are all painted as radical left positions by parliamentary politics, a parliamentary politics which pigeonhole these as firmly resisted radical left positions. The fact that Corbyn was one of the few MPs that came out against the most recent Iraq War (back when that was a pilloried stance) is enough to earn him my moral support, if nothing else. The reason I ended up voting for him is not just because of his principled stances though. Rather, it is because of the grassroots organising that propelled him into his position in the first place. His election was a clarion call to the radical left: something was a-brewing down below.
The left has been fractured practically since its existence, but most decisively in the last 40 odd-years – right before the birth of what we now call the neoliberal phase of capitalist society. Despite going through a number of crises, and being smack dab in the greatest recession we’ve ever had, the left have remained decisively beaten, always on the defence and the never on the offence, or at least not at the scale to do any more than simply stalling the pummelling for a second or two. Now, the left feels awake again. There are movements all over the UK, Europe, the world. Voting for Jeremy Corbyn, or Bernie Sanders, or Alex Tsipras, is not an end in and of itself, but part of a bigger strategy. For me, a vote to keep Corbyn as Labour leader is a vote to continue the galvanisation of grassroots politics outside of politics.
Claire Heaney PhD, English Literature Academic – Belfast
I have been asked to explain myself, but I didn’t reckon on the explanation being so elusive. As I sit down to write, my reasons, which seemed obvious until I set about trying to pin them down, now seem less secure. For one thing, I am not certain that I really do support Corbyn. Don’t get me wrong: I like him, I respect his record; I even almost trust him. I recognise in Corbyn a principled individual who has lived a life in accordance with his values, values I broadly agree with. I want Corbyn to be leader of the Labour party, and Prime Minister. I am even prepared to take steps to help make that happen, steps that I would never have contemplated prior to Corbyn’s leadership, like paying my dues to the Labour party and trotting along to party meetings.
To all intents and purposes, then, I am a Corbyn supporter. Yet I remain reluctant to identify as such, partly because it isn’t really Corbyn that I support, but the movement he represents. I am old enough to remember the euphoria surrounding the election of Tony Blair. I remember too the sinking sense of betrayal when it became obvious that his government was not going to deliver the substantive changes necessary to make society fairer. I learned my lesson. No longer do I expect to achieve structural change through the mechanism of parliamentary politics, no more can I trust leaders. Those of us on the left who are throwing our resources behind Corbyn should be very clear: he is a reformer, not a revolutionary. As such, what he offers is limited – if we are to achieve justice, we will at some point have to go beyond him.
For now, though, I endorse Corbyn because doing so provides irresistible political opportunities. Corbyn has already, virtually single-handedly, recuperated a public discourse of socialism following decades of stifling neoliberal consensus; this in itself represents a significant victory. Secondly, his leadership is likely to cause a split within the party, creating an opportunity to purge the Blairites once and for all and symbolically reclaim Labour as a voice of the Left. Thirdly, the Establishment’s hatred of Corbyn serves to intensify and heighten the existing disconnect between mainstream media and popular opinion, which has the overall effect of raising consciousness and disabling the effectiveness of the propaganda machine. Finally, Corbyn might actually win; and, although winning an election does not in and of itself constitute a victory, it can help to embolden the movement to take on bigger struggles and grander victories. To do so, we simply need to remember that real power lies not with leaders but with the masses.
Darragh O’Reilly, Chair of Fermanagh & South Tyrone Young Labour (Personal Capacity)
Since 1979 the country has been plagued with the economic disease that is neoliberalism. Both main parties have been complicit in this daylight robbery of the people. We need a radical programme to overhaul the economy to make it fairer and more efficient; we need real meritocracy and fairness at the heart of government. Owen Smith will not do that – he is simply Blairism with a human face. Jeremy Corbyn is our only hope for a radical government who will make things better for the average person on the street.
Corbyn has brought to the fold genuinely left-wing policies (for example, quantitative easing for the people, rather than hand over millions to banks). This new money would be used to bolster public services and invest in the real economy. These new Labour policies which attempt to address institutional wrongs in our society are not even that socialist, they are just common sense.
Tuition fees are a great example. It is a fact today that young people here are only waking up to the fact that they will be heavily in debt for most of their lives, unable to afford a home and being paid less than generations before. Jeremy Corbyn’s plans to abolish these fees will help to redress this generational inequality and ensure that the next generation is not sacrificed to the alter of neoliberalism.
The fact that the Parliamentary Labour Party also failed to give Corbyn a chance at the leadership and decided to brow beat him into submission – contrary to the wishes to the membership of the party, strengthens my support for Corbyn. It is 600,000 Labour members against 172 disloyal Labour MPs. The PLP are in total and utter contempt of ordinary Labour members, not only undermining their choice of leader but resorting to bully-boy tactics, calling us ‘dogs’, etc.
As a young person, I appreciate the fact that Corbyn has kept to his principles all his life, principles of socialism, Pacifism and sticking up for the little man. Unlike Smith who was once a lobbyist for Pfizer. In a time of broken promises and crushed hopes, Corbyn’s principles are a true breath of fresh air and exactly what Labour needs right now.
What do you think of Corbyn? Do you think the Labour party can be reclaimed? Tweet us @TLast_R and share your views!