When Theresa May opportunistically (but not unreasonably) called a snap election on April 18th, I posted this question on twitter:
The general consensus seemed to be that this election would be not just a disaster for the Labour party, but a defining one: the moment when the public truly lost faith in our ability not only to govern but also to mount an effective opposition. In the earlier days of the campaign the Liberal Democrats argued just that, and their Phoenix-like return to prominence seemed likely. The reason for our malaise? Jeremy Corbyn.
Corbyn has been the leader of the Labour party for almost two years. His unlikely and divisive tenure encapsulating the chaotic unpredictability that currently characterises world politics. Corbyn shouldn’t have been on the ballot that was produced by the PLP. His MP nominators only selected him to give the illusion of choice to the membership. He was a token, a cipher, a phantom candidate. This type of dismal political misjudgement has characterised the Labour party in recent years, and the ramifications were enormous.
Corbyn could speak to the various core elements of the Labour base: social justice and human rights protesters, pacifists, university educated socialists, metropolitan liberals. He could also energise sparsely attended CLPs meeting in non-conformist church halls on a soggy Tuesday in the shires. He is an affable everyman with a socialist conscience. Of course he won. It seems only logical now.
Corbyn’s highly effective campaign, Momentum, appeared to some to have become a party-within-a-party. Corbyn supporters were often vocal and vociferous on social media. Some of Corbyn’s more aggressive advocates sought to decide who was a ‘true’ Labour supporter, and who ‘might as well leave and join the Conservatives’. This was difficult for Labourites with decades of membership to hear from someone who has paid £3 to ‘support’ the party and vote.
Corbyn seemed to some the spearhead of an entryist movement into the party. To the majority of members he was a saviour, returning the party to its socialist principles. A civil war ensued, which Corbyn won once again. But the infighting had been damaging. He seemed cut adrift from his PLP and supported by a base that some argued was unrepresentative of the public at large. The election was called and the two rival camps within the party were still largely unreconciled.
This is clearly demonstrated by the words of two contributors to Labour Teachers, Russell Mayne and Michael Power. Although both supporters of the Labour party, they have radically different views about Corbyn. Russell expresses clearly and concisely many of the doubts that still persist about Corbyn in the mind of the electorate:
A video is doing the rounds on social media called ‘5 times Corbyn was on the right side of history’. After a 30 year career in politics, is it really noteworthy that a politician made the right decision five times? His supporters apparently think it is. The video is meant to show how moral JC is but it’s easy to find 5 times Corbyn was on the ‘wrong side’ of history.
5. He was and remains anti-EU
In 1975 he voted against the UK remaining in the common market. In 1993 he voted against the Maastricht treaty. He then voted against the Lisbon treaty in 2008. After declaring he was no ‘lover of Europe’ (about 7 out of 10 in terms of passion) during the remain campaign, he wasted no time calling for a quick triggering of Article 50 after the referendum.
A different labour leader might have fought harder against BREXIT and might have offered people a reversal of Brexit at the general election. Not JC. His supporters, who seem overwhelmingly pro-Europe, rarely mention this.
One misstep that is not often talked about is Corbyn’s views on Kosovo. Corbyn sided with John Pilger in claiming that the whole thing was a hoax. There was no genocide. As Kamm writes:
The motion repeated many false assertions and “congratulate[d] John Pilger on his expose of the fraudulent justifications for intervening in a ‘genocide’ that never really existed in Kosovo.
3. Uncritically Supported Chavez
Corbyn saw Venezuela as a poster child for democratic socialism done right. Of course, the massive mishandling of state mineral wealth and corruption means that the country has now been plunged into mass unrest. For a country with massive oil reserves this is an impressive feat. Corbyn has yet to criticise the abuses that occurred under Chavez and his successor Maduro.
2. Press TV
The very moral Corbyn appeared on Press TV, the state arm of Iran’s theocratic regime. Iran, known for murdering homosexuals, torturing journalists into confessions (broadcast on Press TV) and supporting anti-Semitism is apparently an acceptable employer for Jeremy.
He continued to appear on the channel after OFCOM had revoked the station’s licence. Corbyn recently went on ‘Pink news’ to defend his appearance on the channel, claiming he used his platform to ‘promote human rights.’ However none of the videos of his appearances available show any criticism of LGBT state murder in Iran.
When Corbyn’s pressTV stint is mentioned the usual response is ‘but but but, May sells weapons to Saudi!’ There are three problems with this claim.
1. Saudi Arabia are our allies. You (and I) may not particularly like the regime, but that doesn’t change that fact.
2. While Theresa may personally didn’t sell weapons or profit from the sales of weapons (the UK government did) Corbyn did in fact make a personal decision to appear on and profit from press TV.
3. Even if May had personally sold weapons to Saudi, how does that make Corbyn’s choices any more or less moral?
1. Support for the IRA
The IRA claim, so I’m frequently told, has been debunked! Well, no it hasn’t. Despite JC’s recent efforts to whitewash his past, and present himself as a peacemaker, the facts are quite clear. Corbyn did not want the kind of peace deal we currently have, he wanted the IRA to succeed. He opposed the Anglo Irish agreement and invited convicted IRA bombers to the House of Commons two weeks after the Brighton bombing. Despite this he claims never to have met IRA members.
All politicians have made good and bad decisions in their careers. But those supporting Corbyn seem to want to present a man who is unlike all politicians and constantly on the ‘right side’ of history. No such politician exists and attempting to portray Corbyn as ‘without sin’ only adds to suspicion that there is something cult like about the movement.
Michael Power counters:
Why should Jeremy Corbyn be Prime Minister?
Recently a school local to me lost all but the legally required minimum number of teaching assistants, one teacher has had a window in their classroom broken and flapping around in the wind for the best part of a year, departments are having to decide between equipment for the students to use or text books to teach a new GCSE. This isn’t a story limited to just one school, or even just one area. This is the reality for almost all state schools under the Conservative government. – We as teachers are not valued by the current government.
In April Jeremy Corbyn referred to teaching as most important professions in our society and now I want to explain why Jeremy Corbyn should be the man with the most important job in politics.
He has consistently been on the right side of history (an overused cliché but 100% accurate)
Jeremy was a staunch opponent of the Apartheid regime and a supporter of Nelson Mandela and the ANC. As noted in Pink News, Jeremy was an early champion of LGBT rights. At a time when the Tories decried supporting LGBT rights as ‘loony left’, Jeremy voted against section 28 which sought to demonise same-sex relationships. Jeremy went against the Labour leadership and fully supported the miners in their effort to prevent the total destruction of their industry and communities. In the 1970s and 1980s, while the UK and other Western governments were selling weapons to Saddam Hussein, Jeremy campaigned and demonstrated against it. Jeremy opposed New Labour’s introduction of university tuition fees. Jeremy argued against PFIs for funding the building of new schools and hospitals, which was used partly because New Labour had committed itself to Tory spending plans. Right from the beginning Jeremy argued and campaigned against austerity. Despite inheriting a situation where the economy was growing, Osborne’s austerity budgets plunged the UK into a double dip recession in April 2012 and by February 2013 Britain lost its AAA credit rating for the first time since the late 1970s.
He has a clear vision for the country
Jeremy wants to bring about a million good quality jobs across our regions and guarantee a decent job for everyone. Build new homes, including half a million new council houses, give people greater security in their jobs, stop the privatisation of our NHS, rebuild public services and secure quality and justice for everyone in this country. These are actually all fully costed plans within the Labour manifesto and demonstrates that Jeremy is serious in bringing about real change within our country to benefit the many not the few.
He will get us a better deal for Brexit
Jeremy Corbyn has said “We will confirm to the other member states that Britain is leaving the European Union. That issue is not in doubt, but instead of posturing and pumped-up animosity, a Labour government under my leadership will set out a plan for Brexit based on the mutual interests of both Britain and the European Union.” The plan is to stop thinking we can bully our way to getting a good deal and threatening to walk away. Instead Jeremy sets out a plan which is well thought through and will bring about mutually beneficial agreements for the UK and Europe which protects the rights of UK citizens and also those from the EU currently in Britain. Jeremy want’s a Brexit that will work for everybody not just those who can afford to carry on as normal even if it all goes wrong.
Most importantly on this issue, Jeremy is fully committed to a Britain which not only survives but flourished outside of the EU and will do everything to turn that vision to a reality.
These are just three major reasons why Jeremy Corbyn should be the next Prime Minister. There are actually many more, but I feel that these three issues are the ones which are raised most often during debates during this election campaign. I believe that with Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister our country will become more prosperous and demonstrate true leadership both on the world stage and in domestic policies having a profoundly positive effect on education.
With such widely divergent views within the party, it was widely believed that Corbyn would struggle to get the electorate to side with him. He is perceived as weak on national security at a time when that has become an election priority, and he is seen as economically naive as the country recovers from recession.
However, the public has reacted warmly to many of his ideas. Far from being relics of the 1970s, even his most electorally toxic policies, such as nationalisation, have found traction with a large number of voters:
If this were an election fought on the policies alone, it is likely Labour would win. But personalities play a part, and May built her campaign around the assumption that Middle-England would balk at the thought of Corbyn in 10 Downing Street. However, this might have been a miscalculation. Corbyn has been mauled by the press for two years,. There is nothing new that the press can say to hurt him. In fact, his gentle demeanour and thoughtful policies have impressed a public with very low expectations. May, on the other hand, was surprisingly unknown for a front line politician with so many years experience. Her robotic, arrogant, and cowardly actions during the campaign have weakened her.
However, it is not clear that the fate of the leaders with be shared by their respective parties. Although Corbyn has had a much better campaign than many expected, Labour is still expected to lose the election. Despite the government being 7 years into an austerity programme, the Conservatives will most likely win.
The end of the General Election campaign is close, and we can only hope the YouGov poll is accurate. If it is, Corbyn has performed miraculously to close an insurmountable gap and create a tight race. He has behaved with courage, grace, and dignity during the campaign. He has represented the Labour party well. If he doesn’t win, however, the vexed question of his leadership will once again be the primary topic of discussion within the party. If he fails to achieve his target, will his progress be enough?