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Now the leadership circus is over, Labour must unite behind Corbyn
On Saturday Jeremy Corbyn won 62% of the vote in a landslide victory against his challenger, Owen Smith, for the Labour leadership election. The result shows once and for all, if anyone was in doubt, that Labour members categorically back Corbyn and his vision for the Labour Party and the country. It is a plain fact that Labour MPs for the past year have failed to grasp. Even with Corbyn͛s original mandate of 59% last year, for the past 12 months MPs have systematically attacked his leadership, from votes on the Syrian airstrikes to a vote of no confidence in the aftermath of Brexit. Foreign intervention in the Middle East, something New Labour after the Iraq war lost the election on in 2010 and which Corbyn was elected to oppose as well, is just one example of the hypocrisy of those on the Labour right who justified bombing ISIS in much the same language in which they justified invading Iraq.
New Labour MPs sit in their safe seats in Westminster, under the protection of the National Executive Committee that prevents them from being de-selected, a lack of accountability which allows them to be wildly out of touch with the values of real people within the party. Owen Smith͛s own local Labour Party constituency endorsed Jeremy Corbyn. It begs the question- who is he representing? Maybe his own imagined view of what New Labour thinks the British public would elect, but it is impossible to believe that they have any idea what the British public actually want when they backed Ed Miliband and Gordon Brown. Corbyn, on the other hand, is a person the British people could given the chance actually connect to and like – any video of Corbyn’s daily routine, meeting people in the real world outside Westminster and press conferences, can attest to him being a principled and decent man.
As for Corbyn’s extremist policies… Trident is no way independent as it is reliant on American infrastructure. It would destroy life on earth if ever used. It is not needed in industrialised nations like Japan and Germany. And it is costing billions while the government cuts the disability living allowance, and abolishing Trident is considered extreme. His not so radical policies are backed by the British people by large majorities. These include raising the minimum wage to £10, renationalising railways, water and other utilities, and a 60p tax rate for income over £150,000. (61%, 58%, and 52% respectively, with less than 23% in each opposing, YouGov 06/08/2015).
A charge levelled against Corbyn in this leadership election is that he failed to convince enough of the public and Labour voters to switch to remain. This is misguided considering the majority of newspapers backed Brexit and have been fear-mongering about immigration for the past few decades. Secondly, global capitalism has impoverished vast swathes of this country, reducing education and political understanding, which are bulwarks against prejudice. These two factors created a ripe ground for the likes of Farage and Johnson to spread misinformation, most infamously the lie about an extra £350 million pounds being able to be spent on the NHS. The idea Jeremy Corbyn against a flush of propaganda from the major newspapers, misinformation, and a lack of social citizenship among British people generally, can simply convince Brexit voters to change their minds is absurd.
Britain on economic policy is a left wing nation, yet majorities of people support right wing UKIP style social policies (see poll above). The rise of the far right is not a problem that neo-liberalism, Hillary Clinton, liberal elites, the Conservative Party, or many future LSE alumni can fix, for that group through its mismanagement of the economy helped create the problem. The only way is to go back to the tried and tested methods of social democracy pioneered by Roosevelt and Atlee, where the working and middle classes prospered, university was free, and there were no major financial crashes. Corbyn already has the British public backing his policies; he simply needs to convince people to vote on economic issues over social ones, to vote with their head and not their prejudice. Ironically it was Bill Clinton whose campaign slogan understood this; It’s the Economy, Stupid!
Brexit, by showing how fundamentally decayed our social fabric has become through neo-liberalism, is ever more of a reason to support Corbyn. But without Party unity, a Labour government in 2020 or 2017 is an impossible dream. Before the leadership election Labour was starting to draw near to the Conservatives and even overtaking them in many polls (2016-03-13 to 2016-07-05, ukpollingreport). Since the renewed post Brexit attack on Corbyn by the media and the establishment, legitimised by the leadership campaign and attacks from within his own Party, this lead has shrunk considerably. This shows above anything else that the Party is shooting itself in the foot.
For the past year infighting has reduced Labour͛s chances. But Corbyn has received an unprecedented second mandate and is stronger than ever. The reasons to support Corbyn are clear; the time to support him is now. The Party can win with him, but it must be united in order to do so.