Seb Cooke lays out the importance of the battle to keep Corbyn as Leader of the Labour Party.
Jeremy Corbyn is leader of the Labour opposition in the UK Parliament. What he says makes news and has a big impact on the left and to a lesser extent society in general. It matters that he’s a principled anti racist. Immediately after he was elected Labour leader by a landslide, Corbyn addressed a refugee solidarity demo. He was the first major politician to visit the camp in Calais, much to the derision of racist Tories. In the referendum campaign, when people were falling over themselves to be tougher on immigration and freedom of movement, Corbyn stood strong. He calmly stated on national TV that there should be no upper limit to immigration. Since then, he’s said loud and proud that immigrants aren’t to blame for lack of housing and jobs, government policy is. Most of the people plotting to overthrow Corbyn make want to make concessions to racism to win votes. They’ll happily ramp you up the rhetoric if they think it’ll get them up in the polls. This fails on its own terms: it doesn’t win votes. But worse than that, it increases racism in society and plays into the hands of UKIP and the fascists. If the Labour right were in the driving seat, racism would increase. This is the last thing we need after the referendum when racists are upping the anti. If you oppose racism, you need to get behind Corbyn right now.
Millions of people have been hurt by Tory austerity. Public sector workers, welfare claimants, council house tenants, people who rely on public services, school children, young people, women, People Of Colour, the list goes on. Many of the poorest in our society, made even poorer by relentless attacks on the welfare budget, were driven to vote Leave. Corbyn was elected on a wave of anger at Tory cuts. He is the anti austerity candidate who can relate to those people. To tackle the serious issue of anti immigration and racism, we have to talk about issues such as housing and jobs. The Labour right will not do that. Instead, they will embrace the logic of austerity and blame immigrants. This would be highly dangerous but would also be a setback for Labour and the anti austerity movement in Britain. We are in a period of savage cuts and it’s not going to stop. There are major battles to come, most urgently over education in England with the NUT strike. To fight austerity, we need to support Corbyn.
3. Corbyn going would be setback for the left and a victory for the right.
The referendum has unleashed a social crisis. At the very top, Brexit has caused panic amongst the ruling class the world over. Not only will this affect Britain, but also Europe and the entire Western Liberal order. Elite commentators are falling over themselves to say how far this could go. The implications of Brexit are potentially huge. At the bottom, the referendum has opened up social issues that have built up over decades but have now come spilling over. This includes the dangerous levels of racism in British society. But there is raw also class anger and discontent. The two are linked but also separate. Millions of people who for decades have been belittled, patronised and taken for granted by those in power have suddenly forced a crisis of a magnitude so huge it’s hard to comprehend. Those people, their communities long forgotten, will be feeling a sense of their own power right now. Many won’t just want to go home, they’ll want to go further, especially when they are let down again by politicians. This political awakening will not automatically go the left or the right, but will be pulled in different directions. Corbyn, with his strong stance on basic class issues and his defence of immigration, helps us pull it towards the left. Losing Corbyn to a right wing coup would make our task of turning this raw anger to the left more difficult.
This is also about confidence. Many people are shocked and fearful. The racism in society and the scale of what we’re facing can lead to demoralisation and inaction. But we need to organise and not feel helpless. Corbyn inspires confidence on our side and for that reason we have to fight for him to stay.
4. A candidate from the right won’t help Labour win an election.
I’m sorry, it just won’t. These are the people who bought you the electoral behemoth that was Liz Kendall. Being indistinguishable from the Tories is no way to win back Labour voters, especially when you’re up against Boris Johnson. He’ll win on those terms easy. These people think it’s 1997 again. It’s not. Everyone seems to get it apart from the Labour right: Brexit confirmed a western phenomenon that politics as usual no longer applies. Putting up a candidate who reeks so badly of the establishment that you can smell their champagne breath from space WILL NOT WORK.
5. It’s a total affront to democracy.
Corbyn was elected on the back of the biggest vote for any party leader in British political history. He’s not even had a year yet, but in that time he has faced almost weekly attacks on his political authority, which is also an attack on the democratic mandate he was given by hundreds of thousands of party members. But these people don’t care about democracy; they think they’ve got a divine right to rule. Tristram Hunt said as much last year to Oxford students when he said that the 1% should lead Labour. It’s an inconvenience to him that members don’t share his views. They have contempt for ordinary Labour Party members, so will happy override their decision in any way possible. This mirrors their contempt for ordinary people who they think are just thick sheep who’ll vote for anyone who says the right thing and looks o.k, and to them this means wearing a suit and talking in bland platitudes. This is their interpretation of Brexit, that people were just blindly led by Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson. Their misunderstanding of the situation means that they’ll only mirror the worst aspects of Farage’s racism without dealing with any of the underlying issues such as housing and jobs. We need a leader on the left who will fight against racism and Tory austerity. That person is Jeremy Corbyn. No to the coup! Mobilise now!
Momentum have called a demo in support of Corbyn to coincide with the PLP meeting, today, 27 June, at 6.00pm outside the Houses of Parliament. Get along and let’s have similar events elsewhere.